I don’t remember when I first learned the words “transference” and “counter-transference.” What I do remember is that my therapist did not want to discuss those words or their definitions, and she definitely did not want to discuss my relationship with Dr. Overinvolved in those terms. I wanted to. I liked those terms because they offered such a convenient and scientific way to explain it, though they offered no way to overcome it.
When he first began paying attention to me, I felt so special and so alive (even as I repeatedly pushed his penchant for frotturism out of mind). Everything was magnified, I felt like I saw all of the colors in the world for the first time, in bright, dazzling detail. I thought, is this what it feels like when it’s real? When someone feels sincere emotions towards you and expresses them? I used to say he had an open heart and that he wasn’t afraid of feeling. I have been called stoic, bullet proof, indestructible, harsh, and probably, without my knowing, “heinous bitch.” I saw Dr. Overinvolved as enlightened compared to me, not emotionally stunted or fearful like me. This was my chance to learn to not be afraid anymore.
When I told him what happened to me, I told him in writing and I purposely bled (hypothetically) all over the pages of that letter. I was trying not to be afraid anymore. The story was too raw to tell completely in person, though I had tried. He told me he had PTSD as well. That he had terrible nightmares and that he consoled himself after waking from these terrible nightmares by thinking, “Thank goodness that was just a dream.” I remember looking up at him and it was the first time he ever really appeared human to me. It was the expression on his face; he had softened considerably. He wanted me to be okay, he needed me to be okay.
When he received my letter he called me, overexcited and wound up, saying, “I wish I had been there” and I nearly fell out of my chair. Finally. Someone wanted to save me.
There were so many nights, back when I still had my own horrific nightmares, when I would be awake at 3am, staring west into the night sky, elbows on the window sill, thinking of him and wondering if he was up as well.
This is what I think of when I think of him fondly; all of this is what I was thinking of when Dr. Second Opinion said he knew him and that he was a good guy and I agreed. This is what likely kept my PTSD from being worse than it is.
I thought he hung the moon.
But to believe that, I had to push the sexually overt and covert aspects of his behavior out of mind, the things that he said that were too sexual, the physical examination where he was too close to me and too languid and sensual with his touch. These incursions I enjoyed while simultaneously knowing they were in direct conflict with his proscribed role in my life. That is not an easy place to be as he was still the authority figure; still the one with all the power.
Dr. Overinvolved brought so much light, but so much darkness as well. Far from being an Alaska summer or winter, where one or the other wins out, it was more like autumn, the day filled with equal parts of both. I accept it, but I cannot stop digging for an explanation in the pile of crispy, golden fallen leaves that litters his suburban lawn.