Tag Archives: empathy trap

Countertransference vs Empathy vs Compassion

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Countertransference vs Empathy vs Compassion

I had the most interesting insight today. To be honest, I will probably be reconciling and revisiting it over the next little bit. As I sat listening to a client today, I made note of a realization I had to contemplate later. Lucky you, I am doing that now.

I’ve noticed over the years that I am able to connect with people because somehow I am able to find something in them, experientially or otherwise that I can empathize with. I used to joke that I was a good social worker because I could identify with every Lana Del Rey song. More sad than funny now, I suppose, but still true enough ha.

During grad school, I often allowed myself to feel badly about this, as it was labeled countertransference. And if I am honest with myself, sometimes it may have been negative countertransference, for sure. But we learn to check our biases, as much as we can, as continually attempting to be informed humans. And the dance between empathy and countertransference is certainly a tricky one to navigate.

But what got me today, was realizing how easily I could understand the reasons, internal and external, subconscious and conscious, that this client was making the decisions that they were making. And I realized that I understood them because I had made the exact same decisions once before, for the nearly identical reasons.

All the parts of my personality and situation were right in front of me…

All the parts I have hated, questioned, forgotten, burned, and buried…

All of them.

And I felt no hatred, no questioning, no judgment for the client. It all made perfect sense.

But it was a grace I have struggled to provide within. As if I didn’t deserve compassion at all, let alone from myself. I have always felt a certain level of shame about some decisions I made in my earlier adulthood; even shame regarding smaller decisions I have made, more recently than that.

I have rarely felt any animosity or disdain toward a client, as I feel like I can understand so much of the reasons people do the things they do. Regardless of whether it is experiential understanding or trauma informed book learning, I can still understand most situations that humans end up in. (Mind you, I said MOST not all).

Yet the amount of doubt, anger, loathing, disgust, and pity I have felt for the younger versions of myself?

Vast. Expansive. Shifting. Sinking. Consuming.

I have BEEN Artax.

And yet, looking at myself, tonight, as I would a client?

Never before seen footage of a grown ass woman heffalumping sobs of forgiveness and understanding. That was a long drive home. Good gracious.

Oof.

Who even the eff am I?

 

 

 

 

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