The Life You Save May Be Your Own

DID, knitting, sci-fi, and strong opinions

Privilege and Therapy January 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 9:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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.


5 Responses to “Privilege and Therapy”

  1. Bourbon Says:

    I have to say I’ve never really been able to put a word to it but you’re right it is about privilege and I can understand why you were getting more and more frustrated yesterday with her words. You always give me little gems to think about. Thanks xx

  2. This is so on-target. Thank you. I remember reading a while ago (can’t remember where) that Americans rarely shift social/economic class – basically that you stay in the class in which you were born.

    Like you, I have goals that involve ascending social classes but they simply seem impossible. It’s hard to explain that to a person who clearly lives in the high class.

    • weordmyndum Says:

      Well, you can definitely slip down into a lower socioeconomic class. That’s what happened with me–my grandfather is VP of Investments for a big brokerage you’d probably recognize the name of. But my disability has put me firmly on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder.

      It’s ascending that ladder that’s nearly impossible, aside from the occasional “inspirational rags-to-riches story.”

  3. That’s a highly intelligent remark you made there and a testimony of the fact you do are a very smart person. You’re aware of your problems so much, and even though you have a point in saying your therapist is privileged, I do hope you won’t lose faith in your dreams. Sometimes they’re all what keeps you going, and you’re awesome enough to beat the odds.
    Good luck and supportive hugs,

  4. strangelings Says:

    I’ve had issues (mainly with this one- intern therapist who was working with me, and stupid psychdocs) with priviledge and therapists. And intense frustration about that.

    And yes, statistically people have a hard time going up the socieoeconomic ladder. But- that also depends on various things. For example- you vastly under-estimate your own abilities, and I think you know that. I do too. My therapist, L., really believes I can go to school and be a clinician. In some ways, I do too. I can’t- imagine it, but- I know I could do the work. It’s *getting* there that’s the struggle.

    I think the same thing is true of you, too, only you haven’t had the kind of help and consistency with someone I’ve had with L., and the time being diagnosed and *dealing* with the DID (and being *able* to deal with the trauma because of that) to be able to even look clearly and *see* any part of your own abilities.

    I get upset when someone who doesn’t “get it” asks me to envision those things- but when someone who *does* asks- it’s more about- what little steps can I take now? What your *doing* is work towards that- my therapist told me to look at my time away from school as a Sabbatical, especially because I want to be a therapist and by doing this work I’ve learned/am learning far more then I ever will in school.

    You’ve got a “flying mind”. You’ve just never had opportunity to spread those wings- it’s not impossible.

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