photo by Christian Ferrer
Bragging to your friends, “I lied to my therapist”? But deep down, feel uncomfortable about it? Or worry if therapy can work for you?
Editor and lead writer Andrea Blundell discusses this common issue.
I lied to my therapist because….
Many of us in the modern Western world are just never taught how to have a healthy, trusting relationship.
Growing up in dysfunctional families, we learn to hide how we really feel. To ‘win’ love by being inauthentic and feeding into others needs instead of recognising our own. Or learn that we must use anger and manipulation to get our needs met.
Perhaps we even faced abuse or neglect, and are sure the world is a dangerous place with no one who truly cares. Trusting seems incredibly dangerous.
“I lied to my therapist because I have never trusted anyone. And the truth is that I simply don’t know how.”
The terror of being listened to
A therapist is listening to you. Properly listening. Not interrupting, leaving space for you to hear your thoughts. And then asking questions that make you really think.
It sounds ideal. But it can also be something you’ve not experienced before. It can feel intimidating and even terrifying. In other words, we feel vulnerable.
When we feel vulnerable, our natural instinct is to protect ourselves with defence mechanisms… like lying.
“I lied to my therapist because I suddenly felt uncomfortable. I wanted to be listened to and be open, but it’s harder than I thought. And sometimes I feel defensive, then I distort the truth.”
Therapy is a relationship
At heart therapy is a relationship.
Yes, you pay them. And they are not a ‘friend’, as they don’t share much about themselves, or get involved with your life outside of the therapy room.
But it’s a relationship all the same. And if we have issues with relating, which most of us do when we go to therapy, those issues don’t magically vanish just because the person across from us works as a counsellor or psychotherapist.
All our issues with relating will be triggered by him or her just like they are by anyone else.
“I lied to my therapist because I have problems with relationships. And those patterns and issues play out in the client therapist relationship, just like they do with any other interaction I have.”
The art of transference
Perhaps because the therapist is focussed on making it all about you, and doesn’t talk about their own life, they can in some ways seem a blank slate.
A blank slate that can lead to something called ‘transference‘, where we transfer a relationship pattern or an issue we have with someone else onto our therapist.
This could look like unconsciously seeing the therapist as one of your parents who you have issues with. Suddenly you are furious at your therapist and want to punish them, such as by lying. Or you want them to love you, so you are not honest about things you fear being judged for.
Or it can look like transferring all our romantic fantasies onto him or her. We lie because we want the therapist to like us.
“I lied to my therapist because I am unconsciously seeing them as someone else I want to punish or impress.”
Why should I even try when I am beyond help?
You are not beyond help just because you are engaged in deceiving your therapist. Far from it.
Often we are lying in therapy as deep down we have a limiting belief that we are so terrible that even a therapist won’t accept us. So we try to make ourself seem better than we are.
A good therapist will not be shocked or even surprised if you admit you haven’t been honest. Good therapists understand human nature, in all its various shades.
And don’t forget your therapist is human. He or she has a past too, and have also has experienced difficulties. They might even have lied about similar things themselves at one point in their life.
What do I do now?
1. Don’t use it as an excuse to quit.
Again, don’t use this as sabotage. Lying to a therapist is less of a big deal than you might think. It’s actually quite par for course.
2. Forget about trusting your therapist for now.
If you have gotten to adulthood never having trusted anyone, you are not going to waltz into a therapy room and suddenly be different. Therapy is a process. It is going to take time to learn trust. What is important is not to trust your therapist immediately, but to feel they are at least the sort of person you’d like to trust, or feel you one day might.
3. Tell them what’s been going on. Yes, really.
“But I could never!”. Yes, you can. It will feel scary, but it might lead to the biggest breakthrough yet. Don’t overdramatise it. Just explain that you realise you have not been very honest and you’d like to explore that.
But I am lying as they are a bad therapist
Therapists are people. They can make mistakes or overstep boundaries.
But if your therapist is in any way sharing what you share with another person without your permission, or harassing or threatening you, this is against any code of professional conduct. If in doubt, seek the advice of your therapist’s employer or a professional advisory board.
Ready to work with an accredited, registered, and highly experienced therapist you can trust? We connect you with London’s top talk therapists. Or use our booking platform to source UK-wide and online registered therapists.
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Andrea Blundell is the editor and lead writer of Harley Therapy. When she began therapy decades ago, she hid a lot of things from her therapist in an effort to be liked, and had to learn the expensive way (as in, many sessions that went nowhere) that that doesn’t make for good results. Find her on Linkedin.