It was about 25 years ago when I went searching for a new therapist that I recognized some deep vulnerability … and some gifts. I knew going into my relationship with the therapist I’d been seeing for many months that it would be a short relationship. She told me in the initial interview that she would be moving at the end of the year. Sharon was my first and only therapist and I was anxious about ever finding such a good fit again. She referred me to a male colleague, which felt odd since so many of my issues were related to the abuses I’d experienced at the hands of men in my life. I sat in the chair he directed me to, and then he sat in his rolling chair and before we had exchanged more than a few sentences he rolled himself in front of the door. The only door. The only exit. My only escape. I asked him to move away from the door, which was probably just what he was trying to get me to do so he could then explore my issues symbolized by having the door blocked. Somehow, I’m not really sure how, I found the where-withal to get up and excuse myself from the session. I did not go back.
The next therapist was a young woman who spent our hour telling me, with her large dog sitting on the floor between us, how much she had wanted to be a veterinarian but her parents didn’t approve. I’m not sure I got to say more than a few words. I did not return for a second session.
I had similar experiences with other authority figures in my life – a teacher, a professor, a minister. I learned to start questioning authority, learning the different kinds of authority, and realizing that I had to get in touch with my own authority in order to navigate the world. These experiences offered a valuable lesson. I had agency – personal authority. In the face of assumed or positional authority, I could make a choice to forge my own path. It also taught me to be aware of how my positional authority can be perceived by others and to do my best to hold it gently. I also learned that being vulnerable was the path to becoming stronger – allowing myself to open up, go deep, and my true self to grow into her own authority.
~ Rev. Jan Taddeo