Attitudes Towards Sex And Religion

There are other culturally packaged notions which the Filipino patient assumes that the therapist shares with him. These have to do with attitudes towards Sex and religion. I, being a woman, am presumed to be “soft,” expected to be sensitive and, perhaps, sentimental. I am supposed to view sexual pleasure as a male prerogative and therefore, as a woman, will be defensive, diffident, and even indifferent about discussing it.

The patient may ask the therapist, if the information is not yet known to him, whether the latter is married and has children. Depending on the answer, the patient assumes another set of cultural notions, having to do with wifely and motherly attitudes. (These questions are not likely to be asked as part of transference phenomena, although in certain contexts, they definitely are. The therapist therefore, unless he correctly appraises the situation, runs the risk of committing a faux par with the wrong interpretation.) Knowing that the therapist is married and has children, the patient may summarize his feelings with a brief, “You must know how it is.” Should the therapist answer “I don’t know exactly how it is; perhaps you had better tell me,” the patient is likely to smile and acknowledge that he, as well as the therapist, knows this is merely a device to keep him talking.

The Roman Catholic religion with its absolute dogmas has much appeal for patients who need strict guidelines and irrefutable rationalizations. So that when the patient asks the therapist, “You are Roman Catholic, aren’t you?” he is compelled to affirm it if he is; otherwise he would be in the ignominious position of one who is denying his religion. Once the therapist has acknowledged that he is a Roman Catholic, the patient assumes that he condemns birth control, separations from the spouse, adulterous impulses, any doubts about God, and sin in all forms. Many patients, incredulous about a Roman Catholic therapist who presents an open-mindedness about such issues, often turn to a priest for ultimate clearance or confirmation. Since priests sometimes vary in their interpretations of what God wants, patients do have room to look around for one who is more attuned to their emotional needs. I am for avoiding the issue of setting spiritual ground rules for my patient and to refer him, instead, to a knowledgeable priest for enlightenment. Again, the Western-trained psychiatrist may find it disconcerting to have his patient and, consequently, the transference, split by this arrangement. But as one patient puts it: “If you cannot take care of my soul, I’ll have to see a priest. After all, I have to be covered from all sides.”