Six months of therapy in 1,500 words
How long can you keep ridiculing yourself and swiping anything that might point to any kind of talent you might have under the rug, if you’re undercutting yourself in the presence of a trained, focused and continually improving and unusually cheerful Guide Through The Dark Recesses of the Human soul, who thinks all this self-denigration is -admittedly a little funny- but mostly a sad waste of energy that could be directed more meaningfully?
Our current record stands at around 25 sessions or about 21 hours. A drop in the bucket.
This is still one hour less than the longest date I’ve ever had with someone. Seems almost impossible, after all these sessions, we still spend less time together than my longest date. When I first met Sabine, we spent 22 consecutive hours with each other. Then I got a short nap, she went to see a friend or something, came back to my room, woke me up and we talked some more. Then a Saturday went by and on Sunday evening we had sex. It was my first time.
21 hours, not in one day, evening, night and early morning, but drawn out over the course of six months. Some people around me think that if 25 sessions don’t lead to a significant breakthrough there’s no point in continuing. We did all grow up with a microwave oven. My wife -last of the real Christians- isn’t as impatient and keeps repeating how she sees small breakthroughs. Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.
So what do you solve in therapy? The little confrontations with yourself. How I feel uncomfortable on someone else’s territory, it’s not just dogs that do territorial pissings. How I can’t touch anything when I’m there. How I don’t register anything except people’s faces. Unless I look around with the intention of writing about it. How disconnected I am from my body. Something that’s to be treated like some cheap car that gets you from point A to B, but that you don’t want to be seen with and hate to put gas in. Knowing how clever your escapism can be. The risk that therapy itself becomes a fancy form of escapism. You can be so engaged in therapy that you start to live for therapy instead of being in therapy to do some actual living…
The fact that there’s some click between us that we hardly put to use during the sessions, because I try to avoid seeing the whole picture, so I won’t start digging around in her, looking for some blind spot, something she’s missing, some deep lingering fear, a crack to crawl through, a wound, her wound, not mine, like a hammock between us to sleep in, wounds feel like coming home. I understand trauma, I do not understand happiness. Not healthy happiness anyway. I know the happiness of alcoholics, of food addicts, of cynics, of of rebels, I don’t the happiness of people who aren’t misfits. Andrea the lawyer who’s moved to The Netherlands as though it’s an aquaparadise where you get to swim with dolphins for the rest of your life and picknick in the shade of old windmills. Laura the therapist who’s almost always smiling. And not as some trick she’s learned in some westernized buddhist workshop. I’ve come to have very mixed feelings about that smile. It undermines my protective Roman testudo formation or Viking shield wall or Macedonian phalanx (if you always feel embattled you develop a thing for expressing yourself in military terminology).
Hard to convince yourself there’s no reason to smile, ever, and you should always be like a cut off city under siege when that smile can dig a tunnel under your breastworks and make everybody inside wonder if there’s really a siege going on. Or who exactly is doing all the besieging? If I was satisfied with the besieged state I would of course stop coming here. You can want to be helped and be deadly afraid to let go of what you’re used to. Sitting on pins gets familiar if you’re afraid of chairs. Especially if you don’t want to do any work finding those chairs. There are so many roads to avoid work. I would be much more productive in a monastery for example, without access to internet, I’m a very dilligent worker in a factory, because the work itself doesn’t threaten me, I am decent worker when: my ego is not involved and the work still always me to day-dream.
We rarely examine just how negatively the culture I’m swimming in influences me. Slovakia and Flanders is cold, neurotic, contact-avoidant, individualized, fear and consumption driven, catholically repressed, addicted to things and keeping up appearances. You see barbie dolls walk around who seem to have the perfect life on their Instagram accounts but who will tell you in private that they often think about killing themselves. There are the fitness freaks, the catwalk models and there’s the ‘look at my big car and my Terminator-like facial expression’ schmuck. How’s that supposed to nurture anyone? Of course, it’s my own responsibility to look beyond that and orbit towards the tiny clusters of people who care about spiritual matters and want no part in this narcissistic freak show. My therapist suggests which kind of people I should contact, but when I run across the list of likeminded people they are only available online. No, that’s not entirely true. For some reason I’m just hiding away like a recluse. There have been weeks that I talk face to face with only two people: my wife and my therapist. And my wife is like my therapist and my therapist is like my wife. A very similar vibe. Your vibe attracts your tribe.
A friend asks what I possibly hope to accomplish through therapy. Will I suddenly start working like a maniac, be fearless, know exactly what to do, be satisfied in all areas of my life? According to him it’s time for my therapist to tell me that there’s no hope. That the only option is to just struggle onwards. Abandon all hope, he says, don’t wish for anything to ever get better.
How different is an other friend who believes that ‘our thoughts materialize’. He thinks about having amazing, mind-blowing sex and he does have porn-like fuckfests often enough. At the same time he’s in no state of mind to create space for the intimacy of a marriage, for example. If it’s true that thoughts materialize I should wake up tomorrow as a 90-year old in the cell of a frugal looking monastery. My thoughts want to kill me. And if they can’t kill me physcially, they can at least impair my existence to such a degree that it comes very near to a spot on death row.
Just talking about this ever shrinking engagement with life in therapy or anywhere else can’t bring about any change. In Gestalt therapy they believe in ‘the paradoxical theory of change’, we have to fully accept a state before we can evolve into a different state. So perhaps I have to stop beating myself up and accept that in this phase of my life I don’t do much else besides writing and reading one book after the other about psychotherapy. In the past, when I got obsessed about certain topics, it also seemingly led nowhere. Until a tsunami came out of me and I wrote a play about that obsession or connected with lots of people through that obsession, sometimes I even landed a job thanks to one of those obsessed periods, months or years after the obsession had already faded into the background. It’s how I operate. My therapist sees this as the total lack of any systematic approach. We had quite a nurturing, stimulating environment growing up, especially considering the fact that we lived in a lobotomized cultural desert, but the course ‘systematic approaches 1.01’ was not part of my childhood curriculum. There was love, but no discipline. A child gets discipline from having loving, disciplined parents, and sometimes -because the child always longs for discipline- the love is enough and it builds its own discipline, which I did. Until my dad died. Therapy can’t bring my father back. There’s not one therapist on the face of this earth that could -not even in transference- take up the role of my father, since I sort of deified him, so the wind is out of my sails. The biggest pity could be that my worries push my sense of humor to the background, my clearest sign of aliveness and ‘de-armoring’. Again, I’m convinced that the best road to recovery is to have a deeply authentic relationship with my therapist. If she can ‘defrost’ me, if half of the time I make her laugh, she’s done her job.