I hear this quite regularly from readers of this blog. Usually there is a fair bit of distress around the topic. Not knowing how to deal with the feelings. And wondering if they are appropriate.
I resisted writing on this because I saw it at first as a “niche problem” with not much to offer people who are not facing this particular can of worms. And it is a can of worms.
But as I have mulled it over my thoughts have expanded.
My thinking (influenced by many writers and colleagues) goes something like this:
We are born seeking satisfaction. The satisfaction of milk, of urinating and shitting, of seeing something new and taking it in, of being held.
The seeking of satisfaction is experienced as excitement. An upswing in nervous system energy.
When or if this seeking of satisfaction is related to genital activity we call it sexual. (This is a big simplification but I hope you will allow this as a general statement.)
The energy towards satisfaction is common to sexual and non-sexual endeavours: the eagerness to raise your hand and comment/question, the desire to reach out and hold, the excitement to bite into or sip.
In this context a crush on your therapist is one of many possible excitements in an adult life. Other examples that come to mind: The book or film we can’t stop reading or talking about. The new project or idea that occupies our mind. The new friendship or travel destination that captures us. And in fact excitement happens all day long. I pause for a moment in my chair to think about what I am writing. And then thoughts come and I feel my body pick up the pace and my fingers rush for the keyboard and they move quickly as I type, trying to get the thoughts down, excited by what has come. And then another pause. A satisfaction – small but present. And then more thinking and then – oh – I am excited again and have more words for you. The closer I stay to my physical experience, the more interesting this gets.
In the context of therapy, a crush could be a reawakening of a long dormant wanting. Perhaps for romantic love and sexual passion. But perhaps also a long dormant need to be seen and cherished – to be the apple of someone’s eye. Whether that was your childhood experience or not, the experience of therapy can awaken these desires in a powerful way.
Our excitements will often have their roots in deep feeling. What is happening is precious creativity, an expression of vitality – your being is offering yourself a chance to expand. These surprising excitements bear great fruit when they are welcomed and articulated into being. The fear associated with going there is part of the excitement and part of the discovery.
The boundaries of a therapeutic relationship are the perfect place to see what unfolds from this kind of exploration. To see what deep voice is speaking and what new satisfaction it is seeking.
But all excitements in and out of therapy are worth this kind of noticing and respect. Maturation is the process of being able to bear in our nervous systems and our souls the unfurling of an excitement, a sensation. With no immediate satisfaction. And seeing where it takes us.
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