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What's Behind the Closed Door?

Deepening Intimacy in Psychotherapy: Using the Erotic Transference and Countertransference
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This article was published in dr. rosiello's sedona times psychology column in 2010.

There is a natural fascination that we all have with things or feelings that are hidden away from us.

In psychology, we know that children are drawn to what is not known, as though curiosity and secrecy are bedfellows for the developing child.

It’s a familiar taunt toward secrecy that children use against each other when they play hide and seek, or ask another to ‘guess what I’ve got?’

We like having a secret at times, and yet, in the next moment, we can feel burdened by the same secret. We enjoy the power of having it, and the control of using it. We often intrigue others with a secret desire, or flaunt that we will never show our secret; no matter how much it is desired.

We all have places where we lock our secret.

Sometimes we hide it in the closet, sometimes we hide it where everyone can see it, sometimes we hide it so well that we forget we have it, or we pretend that it’s just not a secret, but an entitlement of privacy.

Sometimes the secrets of others have a profound effect on us when we are told, because a secret is not just play, or power, or control, or intrigue,; sometimes it is a determined withholding.

Sometimes a secret is kept away from others because of the shame of its disclosure.

Do you remember or do you know someone, who when visiting friends or family, looked behind the bathroom cabinet door to see what lotions the hosts use, or what perfumes?

Do you remember the secret surprise when you saw the medications stored behind the cabinet door?

"For nearly ten years, he has been addicted to tranquilizers. This patient is in the health care industry, and under a great deal of stress, or so the story goes to his doctor." ~FR

This story of secrets is about the medications that live next door to you, in your neighbor’s bathroom cabinets or in the bedside table drawer. It’s the medications, the prescriptions, the legal drugs that we abuse, that is a national secret in the degree and susceptibility of people we know who use them to addiction. It’s the secret of the user and it’s also the secret of the doctor who prescribes them who isolates the secret in his or her mind, so as to not be aware that they are prescribing addictive medications to patients who have a secret – a secret addition to the drugs the doctor is prescribing.

One of my patients, who has given me permission to write about this, told me his secret story. For nearly ten years, he has been addicted to tranquilizers. This patient is in the health care industry, and under a great deal of stress, or so the story goes to his doctor.

But, the stress my patient really encounters is where to get the next tranquilizer.

He moves through his pills quickly, swallowing them in a somewhat binge-like quanity. His family knows that there is ‘something up’ with my patient, but they’ve determined he’s detoxing from his prescription drug addiction.

The ‘something up’ is the secret of his being absolutely stoned on prescription drugs and pretending, or secreting, his addiction behind the presentation of ‘I’m just tired,’ or ‘There’s just too much on my mind to really focus.’ Or, ‘No, it’s just that I’m still detoxing.’

The stress comes from keeping the secret away from his wife, his 3 small children, his brother and sister and his older parents.

My patient is a serial secretor in that if he finds his doctor won’t prescribe him tranquilizers, that he can go to another doctor, and another doctor, who he will manipulate either with their collusion or not, to give him more medications. But, in a pinch, if he needs to keep some pills in reserve, or if someone has found his stash through a sleuthed abortion of secrecy, if someone has found him out, my patient can always go hunting and gathering…at his neighbor’s house.

And, this is what he did, and does, having graduated from the detox center a little bit ago. Since his release from detox, he visits friends or family members and swallows whatever prescription bottle looks most full of pills.

One day, he found that a doctor had given his friend a new prescription drug, and my patient swallowed nearly all the pills in his excitement at the secret treasure. He was found out, and confronted by his friend, who I believe to be a friend, because this friend did not keep the secret.

This friend just ratted on my patient to anyone would listen.

This was the moment when my patient actually became my patient; but just for that moment. And then, I watched him begin his secret all over again. I watched his behavior become more preoccupied, I watched his face become harder to read and his emotions became mismatched to his words.

A direct question on his return to drug use resulted in a direct ‘No, I’m not using, at all.’

What is my patient doing? What is his real secret?

His real secret is his unhappiness, his sadness, his self-devolvement, and his notion that he is less than other people around him. His secret is that his emptiness is exquisitely profound in that there is a blackness, a deep hole that lives inside him that never fills up, a hole that continues to stay as an unwelcome guest, a parasite to its host’s body.

His medications make him feel better, for a while, and then he becomes preoccupied with his need to find more drugs for the rest of the day.

There is a secret within our society that we keep from ourselves because prescription drug use maintains a particular system. This system keeps money going to the pill-making industry and it keeps emotionally empty people needing more and more.

This is a secret - and it shouldn’t be.