My clients are really good at letting me know when they feel rejected. They reject me and refuse to come for sessions. A gentleman I’ve been working with has recently allowed himself to begin to express his strong feelings toward me. The feelings seem to be a general melange of “take me home with you” and “take care of me”.
A few sessions ago he chose to sit on the floor and he kept wanting to hold my hand (through much of the session). When I let go so I could use the guitar, he actually clung for a moment to my skirt (I had a rather billowing long skirt on that day). I reacted with such a surprised look , he immediately took his hand away (so much for the notion that people with autism are not good at reading nonverbal cues). The action (holding on to a fold of my skirt), when I thought about it, was just so sweet and child-like to me that the image has stayed with me.
I, of course, reminded him a number of times that we have a music therapy relationship, because I had a sense that, while there was a definite “I need a mom” quality there was also the adult feelings going on as well. I reiterated to him that he could express his feelings (preferably in the music) but that we would not be acting on his feelings.
Well, not surprisingly, I think he felt very rejected. This seemed to be the impetus for the last few “sessions” we’ve had- or hadn’t, as it happens. These were sessions where he didn’t actually get to the Music Room, ran off a lot, or left his cottage with me and then indicated that he wanted to go back shortly thereafter.
He looked so utterly depressed today it was hard not to want to jump into rescue mode. I feel kind of dorky now (and I’m not sure that I was necessarily helpful to him), but I got into this “don’t give up” mode in a major way as we progressed through our session.
Sometimes it really rots being a music therapist. It’s hard to be cast in the role of the “rejecting mother” or “the friend that wasn’t” and variations on those themes. It’s hard to convey care to someone who has such a strong need for love without it seeming like a total rejection when I try to maintain therapy boundaries.
What makes it all the more impossible is this: what if I’m wrong? I’m understanding all of this from his actions and interactions with me, but what if he really doesn’t have these feelings at all, and I’m simply assigning these various thoughts and emotions to him, and they’re not really his?
Hmm. I don’t know. Truly, I don’t know.
I mean, I don’t think I’m entirely incorrect. As much as he implied a wish to leave the session (he kept messing with the door handle as if he wanted to go) he ended up wanting to sit on a bench for a little while as we walked back to his cottage after our time ended.
Yalom talks about the therapist being “love’s executioner”. There you have it. That’s what I am, I guess. Ugh. What a lousy distinction sometimes. It so goes against my fantasy of being “the good music therapist who could make it all better.”