Yesterday I accused my therapist of rich privilege. She won some points by understanding what I meant and agreeing with me.
She was asking me to detail for her the life I want. I can do that pretty easily–I want to be an attorney, working on civil liberties/Constitutional law, particularly as it intersects with mental health law. I want to live by myself in suburban Boston. I want to keep doing martial arts. I want to stay involved in politics.
I know what I want, but as she was asking me for details, I found myself getting more and more frustrated and resentful. See, I know what I want, but I don’t really believe I’ll get there because I have such limited resources. But this woman with a nice house and office (her office is in her house), a good car, and a comfortable life is implying that of course my imaginary life is achievable, telling me I should believe in/rely on the slim possibility that it could happen.
I told her I knew I was making some big assumptions without knowing her life story. I have no idea if she’s ever struggled to survive, but I assume most upper-middle class people have always had financially comfortable lives. They don’t realize how hard it is to survive without the financial resources they’re accustomed to, so when they ask me to assume I’ll have the comfortable life they have, I get angry. I feel disconnected–how can I really connect with someone who’s living in a different universe?
There’s also an element of sane privilege. My disability is psychiatric, and the treatments (particularly ECT) have intensified the disability. Just because I’m smart doesn’t mean I can easily go back to undergrad and then do law school. And people who struggle with mental illness are much more likely than non-mentally ill people to live in poverty.
I never see the issue of privilege in the therapeutic relationship being discussed. To be honest, I’d never really thought about it until yesterday, but now I’m thinking a lot about it and how it can impact the client-therapist relationship. Maybe I’ll do some more writing about it.