When I was three years old my brother died and due to the bouts of depression that ensued, my mother mostly neglected my upbringing. It was due to this that the task of raising me fell onto my elder sister who was merely fifteen years of age at the time.
My sister was very stern and critical with regards to my upbringing and I would require her consent to do anything. When at times I attempted to subvert her authority I would have to bear the consequences. She would not talk to me for days, which resulted in me mostly feeling lonely and isolated.
My Independent opinion was discouraged, and the lack of approval towards fulfilling my own desires led to me feeling guilty. Rebellion against my parents and sister was completely crushed as going against their will was considered taboo.
I faced a dearth of praise and acceptance which shattered my self esteem and made me very shy and conscious. I had an immense fear of authoritative personalities. I had become extremely indecisive and I was always in pursuit of approval, until I went into therapy.
The role of therapist in my life;
When I resumed therapy I was wounded. My therapist with her empathic presence slowly encouraged a self sufficient behavior, and developed a sense of trusting my own decisions in me.
I was able to address my fears and overcame them through self awareness. At times there used to be a lot of transference from me towards my therapist.
My therapists eyes used to remind me of my mothers eyes (as a child my mother used to scare me with her eyes) I started to fear my therapist, and also began to please her.
My therapist through free association, her empathetic, warm and non-judgmental presence assisted me to realize that I was re experiencing my past, and helped me become conscious of my present moment. She provided a safe space for me to connect to myself. (2.7)
Empathy played a major role in my relation with my therapist (Kohut and Rogers).
My role as a therapist:
As a therapist I face many challenges working with clients. There is a lot of resistance shown by them initially, and also at times with high defenses used by them it gets challenging at times to hold the space.
As a therapist, I use empathy as an important tool along with the core conditions of working alliance proposed by Carl Rogers, to help facilitate my ongoing encounter with the client.
A few months back, I visited a jail. A lady sat in front of me. At first she stayed quiet so I decided to stay with the silence. When she started talking, she was pouring out her emotion in a language which I didnt understand. I told her that I couldnt interpret what she was saying.
Even though I informed her of how I felt, she continued to talk. At first I noticed that I began to panic, unaware of what I should have done. Habitually I hold a tendency to immediately rescue someone if I see them in pain, or if I sense them feeling trapped. There was a sense of incapacitation seeping in me at that moment, an urgency to make her feel better immediately. (6.2)
Later through self- awareness and being aware of my counter-transference I decided to connect with her by just being available for her and quietly listening. She started to cry, and it was as if all her emotions were being transferred into me, I began to feel emotional as well. (5.5)
As Fairbairn points out, (Fairbairn, 1952) insight develops only inside a positive therapeutic relationship. It is therapeutic, when it is achieved in the moment of genuine meeting. This experience is transforming for both psychotherapist and patient because it is surely never happened before (that is transference) but what has never occurred before, a genuine experience of relationship centered in the here and now.
It was a beautiful experience for me, because I understood that sometimes you dont have to do anything but to make yourself available for the client just with your unconditional presence and empathy.