When I stopped waiting for the magic, healing happened.

When my previous therapist invited me to imagine murdering someone, I knew I needed another therapist.

Haje Jan Kamps
6 min readJan 4, 2021

My previous therapist’s visualization exercise to help me deal with my history of being bullied involved imagining holding the main bully underwater.

Drowning, he said, because people can’t speak when they are drowning

Drowning him with my foot on his neck. Drowning him, he said, because people can’t speak when they are inhaling water. Drowning him, he said, because it was a good visualization. Drowning him, he said, because he deserved it. Drowning him because getting rid of him would feel good. It would bring healing. Drowning him because it would give me the upper hand over him and all other bullies in my life.

That was one of our last sessions together. Many things didn’t work for me with that therapist, but between that exercise and a few others, I decided I’d had enough.

I’m sure my therapist had no way of knowing that I have one of these certification cards. But it turns out that asking me to imagine drowning someone was a lot more traumatic than the trauma the exercise was meant to heal.

I can see how there’s a difference between reality and the real world. I can imagine how that exercise could be powerful. But it didn’t work for me on many levels. On any level.

I’m a rescue diver, and I’ve had a bunch of training in dealing with drowning victims. I was a police officer in a past life. I’ve seen a lot of violence over the years. The visualization exercise of murdering someone who had bullied me… Maybe identifying how I wasn’t okay with the exercise and discussing it with my therapist would have been a healthier thing to do — but instead, I decided to do self-care by not going back to that therapist. Come to think of it, it was a poor fit long before that time — he was already on notice for telling me he was gay and then asking me a bunch of questions about my sexuality that didn’t seem all that relevant to the work we were doing at the time, which didn’t strike me as the most professional approach.

Where’s the reveal?

The big impression my previous therapist left me with, though, was that something big has to happen for therapy to work. A big reveal. A big a-ha moment. A breakthrough; a showpiece.

Haje Jan Kamps

Writer, startup pitch coach, enthusiastic dabbler in photography.