What Makes Therapists Think They Are Better Experts Than YOU About YOUR OWN Life ?
One of the things that hurt me the most about my therapy was not that therapists made mistakes and grave ones. It was that they made these mistakes after promising to not make them, after essentially claiming to be infallible or at least to know more than me and be less fallible than me. They gave me bad directions of how to manage my life and I did not appreciate that. But what hurt the most was that their directions and analysis of my situation were even worse than I could have done in directing and managing my own life. They knew nothing about what they were talking about, they knew less than me (surprise surprise, you know less than someone about their own life) and yet they had claimed to know more than me, to know better than me about how to manage my life.
This was true about all of them, even my favourite and the most helpful ones. And it really hurt me. Also when their advice didn’t work and hurt me and took a horrible toll on my life, their having set themselves up as the experts took a horrible toll on my self esteem. I felt horrible and “unfixable” and like something was terribly wrong with ME when their advice did not work. That really hurt.
Another thing that is really painful is that it’s quite damaging when a therapist sets themselves up as the expert and then goes on to use that power and authority they have seized to deny your trauma. Probably you are in therapy because you are in unbearable pain from society denying your trauma, you cannot find the support or someone acknowledging your trauma and believing you. If it is out there it is literally a needle in a haystack.
And this run of the mill garden variety denial of your trauma by society by people who aren’t “feminism experts” or “child sexual abuse experts” or “rape experts” or “oppression experts” or “homophobia experts” as therapists set themselves up to be certainly hurts. It’s as if you have walked miles and miles in an African savannah and your throat is parched and you need a drink of water and no one will give it to you (or maybe having to live with an eyelash in your eye for years is a better analogy to the pain). You don’t get the water which you desperately need. That hurts, that takes a toll being forced to live dehydrated and no one giving you water.That lack of water is what drives people to therapy.
However it hurts so much more when someone who has set themselves up as an expert and an all gracious kind (or insert the anti oppressive stance like feminist, non homophobic, anti racist) person denies your trauma. That is utterly and tremendously humiliating. To continue with my African savannah runner parched throat and no water analogy. It is as if after running you come upon a highly equipped modern medical station in the middle of the desert. They decide that they will treat your dehydration medically. You are excited, if no one else can or will help these people surely can. They certainly have the technology and know how. Unlike the people who simply declined to offer you a cup of water (even when they could have), these people know how the human body works as well. So these seemingly medically technologically advanced people, take you in and pump you full or armloads of saline water, which seems to you to be nutrient water. Imagine your disappointment when you feel no better and are still “starving” for water and dying of thirst. Imagine how it makes you feel permanently damaged and unfixable. If a whole medical team and all the technological advancement in the world cannot quench your thirst, it’s humiliating, you must be a problem. You must have a very severe problem. You must have and be an almost unfixable problem. And all those people who refused to offer you a cup of water, well you were always the problem anyway. What you were asking them for to quench your thirst was outlandish and undoable anyway. Your parched throat and unquenchable thirst is truly a problem internal to you and it’s clearly your own intrinsic characteristic to be suffering this way. The failure of an “technologically advanced medical unit” to treat your problem has confirmed it.
It’s much MUCH easier to criticize the simple people who refused to offer you a cup of water. They were just ordinary stingy, selfish people who didn’t care enough. It’s humiliating (which is probably the root of your pain in the first place) but not that humiliating. Put more kindly maybe they were ignorant, but it has little bearing on you. You are less likely to criticize yourself or blame the problem on yourself. However being told that someone is technologically advanced and then them not be able to treat your problem is much more humiliating and likely to put the problem with you. Meanwhile you still are dying of thirst for simple lack of water (only this time you are blaming yourself for your unquenched thirst. If only you weren’t such a chronically pathologically thirsty person).
Why is it that therapists (who in my opinion are overly certain and overconfident in themselves) think that they are better experts that you are on your own life ? Why why why do they think that they know more and have better advice for you to follow on how you should manage and direct your life ? What makes them so confident AND OVERCONFIDENT in their all knowing abilities ?
I think that this idea that therapists can know about someone’s life and what they ought to do with their life BETTER than that very person living inside of their life is abusive and also exploitative. Survivors of trauma who cannot find support in society (the glass of water after running in the heat) already grapple with a society that is in denial, who thinks they know how bad the trauma hurt, and how much of a struggle it was to not die of it, while they don’t know. Therapists assuming that they KNOW what is it is like to fight for your life and almost die of abuse, then form a further layer of the problem. No amount of psychology study in the world can actually give a therapist that knowledge and it’s a self important and grandiose assumption to think that a therapist understands. (And since it is almost impossible to gain this knowledge from a book, I hardly think that many therapists would take the alternative offer themselves up to be repeatedly raped so that they can get the experiential knowledge of what it is like to try not to die of rape). That inaccurate assumption on people’s part that it’s not that bad, that you’re just running your life badly is why it hurts, that is why it is humiliating.
Personally it also added to my pain when society denied my abuse as a child and pretended that the pain I was in from it was something that was wrong with me and my not knowing how to manage my life properly. What an insult to a survivor of violence! Then therapists reinforced this idea (denial of the truth really instead saying) that there was something wrong with the way I was managing my life (and they could teach me how to manage it better) rather than it being something deeply wrong that was done to me. Therapists helped reinforce the denial of what was really the root of my problem, the violence that had been done to me. How are therapists really any different from society in its failure to stand up for the truth and challenge injustice ? The only difference is that their failure to stand up for the truth and betrayal may be all the more painful and humiliating since they set themselves up as knowledgeable and moral experts. When someone sets themselves up as a moral expert and convinces you to buy into it that they are especially moral, it can be all the more humiliating when they betray you, since they have set things up for you to blame and shame yourself for their betrayal.