Opinion: Visiting a Therapist with My Narcissistic Father Was Unpleasant

Walter Rhein

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My mom tried her best to provide a good home. She understood that my father was abusive. So, she found a local therapist and arranged a family session.

I was eleven.

Nobody talked in the car on the way. The trip felt like going to a funeral.

It was clear my father didn’t want to be there. He was a large man. He intimidated people.

He looked like a grizzly bear. He hunched his shoulders. His expression was aggressive. It was like resting bear face. I could tell he thought the appointment was unnecessary.

The therapist was a pencil-thin man. My mom talked for a while. The therapist turned to my father.

“The ball is in my court?” my father asked.

The therapist didn’t approve of this comment. He suggested that it sounded flippant and dismissive.

I could tell by my dad’s body language that he felt this was an unfair reaction. He put on his hurt face.

I had observed many of the interactions of my parents. I knew that my dad deflected from important conversations with flippant remarks. He said things designed to minimize statements.

I liked it when the therapist called my father out on being flippant. Even though it was a common saying, it was a way to dismiss the therapy.

The therapist didn’t pursue the issue. My father spoke. He complained that we should treat him better.

The therapist turned to me. I talked for the rest of the session.

At the end of the session, we drove home. The car was silent.

My mom scheduled another session a week later. The second session was as miserable as the first. This time I didn’t speak.

I’m not sure why I didn’t speak during the second session. Maybe I was trying to send a message to the therapist that my father had punished me for speaking the first time.

He didn’t pick up on that.

Years later, after my parents were divorced, I asked my father about those sessions.

“The therapist decided that there was nothing to work on with me but that your mother needed to go back,” he said.

That was the way he talked. He implied other people had mental issues.

When my relationship continued to deteriorate with my father, he began to pressure me to seek therapy. “I have a therapist you should see. I’ll pay for the sessions.”

“You’re saying the ball is in my court?” I asked.

He didn’t reply.

I didn’t go to his therapist.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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