You get up at 4.30 am. Not to go to work, but to go and tell every intimate detail about yourself that you feel needs to get out. Any shameful thing you carry around. Every thorn that makes your step a little agonizing.You prepare for this weekly emotional purge through never ending fictional conversations every waking moment. A bit like having bulemia, but stuffing yourself with emotions all week long to come and vomit in the flower vase on the table with the tissue box. And then you go home buzzing from the acidic release. Rinse and repeat.
You’re not always picky as to what you choose to share once you’re there, so the morning sharing session always plays out differently than you had imagined. A process for which you pay 50 euro for 50 minutes. One euro per hour. If you were to spend one full day, 24 hours here, you would have to pay 17280 euro. That’s the equivalent of hiring 35 escorts for one day.
The person you do all this intimate sharing to, sits across from you in a chair and the two of you always maintain a distance of at least two meters. Like you’ve both agreed to a mutally binding restraining order. You are not supposed to know much about the person you’re doing all this self-disclosure to. And the person has lots of rules, but there are basically two very strong ones: 1. the person cannot seek to seduce you, or impress you or use you to flatter his or her own ego 2. the person cannot seek to punish you, hurt you on purpose, or try and live your life for you. It’s mostly one-way-traffic. Before starting it’s useful to agree on a goal, something that the therapy sessions should accomplish, some finish line in the distance. In my case the goal is something like: use my brain cells to generate money. Preferably in line with my set of values, and in a way that I enjoy. You could say I’m in therapy to find my ‘ikigai’. The Japanese have a way of saying complicated things in one word. To be more exact: I know what my Ikigai is, to be a psychotherapist who writes in between seeing clients, but I’m too lazy, too proud, too scornful of degrees – my dad was blocked in life because he didn’t have a degree, so I despise our degree and certificate fetish- to get the necessary credentials, and as to writing: I’m too scared and too lazy to finish any novel I start. Is it because I’m internally not allowed to surpass my father? That would be classic. Am I subconsciously aware that too much success would turn me into a monster?
To get to that elusive Holy Grail, your ‘purpose’ in life as it sounds so vague in our western culture, you get on a tram, you walk ten minutes, climb something like a steep mountain in the hilly side -where the money is- of Bratislava and then descend the steps to a therapeutic basement. As though the road to the therapy office is to simulate life’s life’s ups and downs.
Once in the therapy room you smell flowers. I don’t have anything with flowers except that I associate them with commercial victories like Valentine’s day on the one hand and the flower power of the sixties on the other hand, mostly with flowers shops and pesticides though. Oh, and my grandfather who killed himself did so after ruining the family business: growing flowers on something resembling a plantation in that most dreary of all settings, the Belgian country-side.
I’m not going to use flowery language to describe my therapist, not this time. She is beautiful. That’s it. She is a beautiful woman. Some days this is mostly a joy to watch and some days it’s mostly torture. All days it’s a source of wonderment. She seems to sow Spring wherever she goes. Lady Spring Awakening. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be her. How you learn to handle the power to have a certain effect on men. She’s in control of it. She’s not a slave to her own appearance, she let’s it serve her. One of the things that sets her apart from those dolled-up twenty-somethings you see prancing around everywhere as though the world is something they visit from the heavens, but don’t want much to do with it. That’s when you realize that beauty can have a disgusting aftertaste. Not Laura’s beauty. No disgusting aftertaste. More like the kind of beauty that when you’re no longer looking at it, makes all the rest seem dull in comparison. I’m always deeply reminded of my mortality after looking at her.
It could be a major source of distraction, but we manage. So she sits across from me. She doesn’t take notes. That’s good. She retains most of what I say. I’m a writer, and I hand in pages, almost every session. She bundles them, and has them within arm’s reach. Unless I come up with something truly alarming, she is one big smile. There are some people and you look at them, and your face cracks open into blossom, in a smile. I have that with my best friend whom I love and hate at the same time. He’s here in Bratislava too and one of those people who truly don’t need therapy. If he ever got any therapeutic treatment he got it from me, in those years we lived together. My therapist and I share some mischievous spark. Like we’re about to do something rebellious or are pulling off a joke only the two of us see the humor of. It throws me a little out of balance, I’m supposed to sit here and groan about how awful life is. I mean, I repeat my Kurt Cobainesque ‘I hate myself and I want to die’ all the fucking week and then you bump into that smile of hers and you wonder what the fuck there is to complain about. So you look away and out comes the emotional garbage. If I wanted to smile I’d spend that 50 euro on a ticket to a comedy show. Though I doubt there’s any comedy here in Slovakia with the potential to make me laugh. People get very easily offended around here. Very low shock threshold. Too bad I’ve left my ‘shock fetish’ behind me. Blew up in my face once too often. You could do a lot of damage here. Anything that would totally shock the crap out of say, people in the US anno 1960 would still raise a number of blood pressures around here. You don’t need much. Gays should be allowed to adopt kids. That sort of thing. The Catholic Church killed more people than the nazis. ‘Pope Francis has revealed that around one in every 50 Catholic priests is a paedophile.’ They won’t lynch you. This is a very restrained sort of people. Except when they sit behind the wheel of a car this must be the most quiet, most introverted people in Europe. With the shortest skirts and shortest shorts east of the Rhine. Funny, the women look like porn stars and all those that I meet complain of having bad sex. Maybe sex in this country is purely copied from porn, which must indeed result in bad sex. It’s in the air in the summer. The feral feromones of a sexually frustrated nation. Women don’t need to orgasm in order to get pregnant so you do see a striking number of young catwalk models pushing prams. These women have such good genetics that even after giving birth to several children they stay hardbodies. That will confuse the mind of the western male… Rampant catholic repression and the women’s only compensation for all that suppression is: how little textile can I wear and still be considered dressed. The men have two reactions. 1. They are extremely critical of women’s bodies. Because if they find a flaw they dismiss themselves of the responsibility to try and seduce that woman. And they always find a fault. In this country the women select the men. 2. They drink themselves to death. The alcohol culture is not as aggressive, not as lethal as in Russia, but it’s there.
That’s how we all operate. We are a cart, made up of a horse, a driver (teamster) and some authorative person in the back yelling at the driver. My horse wants to fuck other horses and be eternally high and bask in luxury, my driver would like to give that horse as much as it possible wants, but without crashing the cart, and the person in the back is screaming that the cart should be used to change the world for the better. What a mess. And that’s how we all operate. You could say that psychotherapy is a process in which the therapist helps the client to get the horse, the driver and the passenger in the back cooperate much more smoothly. Example: The passenger in the back urges the driver to found a foundation to help Syrian refugees. The driver goes: hmm, there’s no money in that, the horse won’t be happy, so he decides to try and write a bestseller about sex and use part of the profit to help Syrian refugees, and thinks that the money will help to get the horse laid. The horse doesn’t have patience and rams smashes the cart against a wall or runs towards the edge of a cliff. Can my therapist tame a horse, make a driver more systematic and focused on the road ahead and teach some patience and longterm vision to the passenger in the back?