Her eyes were beaming with hope. When she talked about her boyfriend in Austria whom with she had a relationship through Skype, those and the moments when she spoke about leaving for Austria were the only ones in which she was filled with hope and joy.
"Irene... you always speak of him with such great faith and hope.. Are you truly convinced that your leaving to Austria will solve all your problems?"
I could not help but cringe at her naivety of hoping to find paradise and exemptions from all her troubles by running away to another country. Also her experience with intimate relationships had been (unsurprisingly, given her childhood experiences) very little as she kept away from male company. The relationship with her boyfriend in Austria had all the hallmarks of relationships at a distance: an "accidental and circumstantial" lack of intimacy due to distance. But this was never an accident. Almost all such relationships are a cover for deep issues regarding intimacy. The partners involved in such a relationship are almost never aware of their subconscious tendency to run away from or reject intimacy.
When and if at some point real intimacy does appear when they move in together and start a "real" relationship, almost invariably all hell breaks loose, as the issues surrounding intimacy surface and each of the partners brings his own demons from the past to the table. Most of these relationships do not survive if the partners are not actively engaged in working out their personal issues. And with Irene, I knew that once she and her boyfriend would get more accustomed to one another, she would start projecting her father onto him, and punishing him for all her messed up childhood. This would probably lead to a breakup, perhaps she would even subconsciously push him towards cheating on her as her father did with her mother, and all this would lead to her reinforcing her life scenario of intimacy that brings only pain and of men that are not trustworthy.
I saw all this in my minds' eye and sighed. What could I do? Not much. There was too little time. And she was too love struck to hear me. I decided to follow the advice of my supervisor and just let the session unfold naturally, unattached to the end result.
"Look, Irene, I am in a dilemma here with you..."
Irene gazed at me, her smile lessening as she sensed that I am not in a joyful mood anymore.
"We have talked about your frustrations in the past, we have talked about your childhood and also the way that the frustrations from the present are mere projections and continuations from those of you as a child. Given all this, I am at a loss as to how to wake you up to the cruel reality that you are still in your own repetitive story, in which you are still running away from your life - yes, that's right you ARE running away! - and that what you bestow right now with incredible power, the relationship with your boyfriend, is right now 90% fantasy and only 10% or less reality. But once you get to Austria what do you think is gonna happen? Do you think your troubles are linked to living in Romania?!"
"Well... uhm...! I..." she stuttered as she tried to ascertain what was going on. She was not alone in that - I was trying to figure out the same. I was surprised as to how quickly my holiday mood had changed into the beginning of an open confrontation. I had never had this attitude with Irene before. This usually worked only with patients I had had time to build and consolidate a relationship with and whom I knew well. Irene fell in neither of these categories. I knew my motivation, I wanted to see significant change in her before she left. I also knew there was little time to achieve that. But nevertheless, our relationship should have been at the forefront, and compromising that by engaging too early in a confrontation with her modus operandi would have been the unhappy end of our therapy. I should have been more careful, less challenging.
"Ahm... I don't think I am running away", Irene replied, still surprised by my attitude.
"I mean, people in Austria are just different, they are more..."
"More what, Irene? More careful towards you?" I continued with little patience for her own self-deceiving.
"Well, they are nicer, life there is.. nicer, here people don't care about you, I always get people staring coldly and despisingly at me here. It's not the same there. I know that, I have been there. And also, that's where he is, and I think he is a really nice guy, and I want to give this relationship a chance."
"Look, Irene, you are running away."
"No I am not!" she tried, but there was no stopping me anymore. I couldn't believe my ears, the words that started coming out of my mouth were almost not mine.
"Irene, mark my words! You are running away just like you have always done." Those words were cold and cutting, as I looked into her eyes with the most piercing and prophetic look. I knew that what I was about to say would send shivers down her spine. Down mine as well.
"You have witnessed your father coming home drunk after cheating on your mother, his disheveled shirt with lipstick and womanly perfume, your mother crying helplessly to see that once again she had been deceived, their intimacy invaded, compromised, trampled on. You as a child sensed that this was not right, and you wanted your mother to take action, to stand up to herself and make things right. You wanted to see her take attitude and kick him out, you wanted her to do the right thing. But what did she do? She collapsed helplessly and the same old story repeated itself again and again. All this time you amassed anger and frustration. And what do you do now? You are an angry and frustrated young woman, who just like her mother fails to face life and just keeps going on and on, being belittled by people, being neglected, being taken advantage of, and just like your mother, you fail to rise. Where is your anger, Irene? Where is your spine? Where do you rise up to life? You think you are going away to a better life? You are so dead wrong about that! The problems you are facing - where do you think they live? Do they life in Romania? No, Irene. They live in you. When you move to Austria what do you think will happen? They will move in with you. There is no escaping them unless you confront them directly. Do you think it's a coincidence you haven't been able to find a suitable relationship in Romania but you "magically" found your prince in another country? Oh, Irene, you are so down for a disappointment with him! He may be the nicest of guys, but it is you who has a problem with men! And that is because you are not truly ready to be a woman!"