Perhaps because I have to descend stairs I feel like I am entering a secret underworld. In Bratislava I always have to go up the stairs, never down, to arrive somewhere. This is the only exception. To reach my destination I need to go down. Down to meet the lady in the lighthouse. If she’d be wearing riding boots till way above her tanned knees, she could pass for a pirate and this therapy room could pass for a ship. We could ditch the chairs and swing in hammocks as we hunt for treasure. Is a glamorous female pirate with curls waving in the breeze a Jungian archetype? And what would it symbolize? No signs of any rum consumption so far. Though of course, I don’t know what she spikes her tea or coffee with. Could explain her smile.
All that’s left for her to do is to say that I’m incredibly lazy and quite skilled at pretending I’m being productive, because I write a hell of a lot. Friends have always been impressed by the sheer volume of my output. But it’s lazy writing. This is not the kind of material that gets turned into an HBO series. There’s no plot, because a plot requires work. If jotting down everything you’re thinking is work, ok, yes, then I do work. My fingers are just being the telex machine to my head. No effort whatsoever. I can do this and watch the series ‘In Treatment’ for a second time, chat with friends and help some people with emotional emergencies all at the same time, because it’s not work. Also in therapy I don’t do any real work, except perhaps when I tell her how I see her, because that’s tricky business.
Is a laziness diagnosis in the DSM? Maybe in the next edition. They need to get a particularly fancy sounding label for laziness, because otherwise you never have a chance to tell your client that he/she is lazy. Application Deficit Syndrome. Oblomov complex. By the way, how well read is my therapist? Has she read Oblomov? I hope not, it’s a useless except for people who like to throw words around as a way to avoid any kind of labor. I’ve read Oblomov. Six or more hours I could have spent contributing to society. To read Oblomov you have to be an Oblomov.
My therapist does read. She’s the only one I’ve met who’s tried to read a certain Slovak book that’s supposed to be great literature, but is frigging dull, because the writer suffers from the same disease I do. He’s fucking lazy and concentrates more on overly flowery language to show what a great writer he is than in actually telling a story. Anyone can throw around adjectives, that’s the easy part, and it’s the gaffe. Great writers are stingy with adjectives. Great writers tell a story, they don’t jerk off on the page and ejaculate adjectives. His sentences are too long. Always a sign of lazy self-indulgence.
Sometimes I leave the therapy practice and the main thing that gets stuck in my mind are colors. The color of her clothes. Not much else. Could mean nothing. Anyway, for the future of psychological research: how does a woman decide what to wear in the morning? On what basis do they pick the color? I don’t know, all I know is that they seem meticulous about it. Or how important is the setting to therapy? How does it influence therapy if instead of sitting here we walk along the beach for 50 minutes? Or if we do this lying in the middle of a strawberry field with an occasional rabbit hopping across us? Or classic settings like stuck in an elevator or the back of a van driving along route 66. Irvin Yalom does house visits from time. Which wouldn’t lead to any useful revelations in this case. We don’t own much else besides books… The cheapest portals to escapism. Well, she could leave a message on the mirror written in flaming red lipstick: ‘You’re lazy. Work or stop complaining about not working. But in any case, do vacuum once in a while…’
She probably likes to have things clean, but not too clean. You don’t become a psychotherapist if you don’t have at least some fascination for the dirty side of human life. You gotta like the work or you end up damaging patients with your apathy. It won’t ruin you as a psychotherapist, lots of patients will faithfully keep returning to a marble statue with a degree and an intelligent looking frown. But you can only turn misery into gold when you love it. However cruel, however gut wrenching the stories from clients get, you have to have a certain voyeuristic streak, something that is like a sponge that is eager to soak up every bit, the horror and the bliss, of human experience. You can’t keep going otherwise. You have to want to get your hands dirty.
Her hands stay pretty clean in our work. I don’t have graphic revelations to make. I rarely see her wince, there’s not much to wince about. Sure, it’s sad, sure, I did suffer and I still suffer. But not exactly in the way the 6000 girls that got thrown on a cold floor today to undergo FGM for example. That’s the stuff that makes me wince, but nothing of that order happened to me. Nope, after our sessions her slender hands with the delicate fingers are still pretty clean. Her hands itch to get some work done, but there’s no truly shocking mess to grope around in. And just concluding that am lazy which may not change without some severe external pressure is just to easy for her. That won’t satisfy her.
She carefully avoids labels by the way. That’s one sign of an overly insecure or rigidly trained therapist: they mark you with a label as soon as possible. Makes them feel their job is done. No labels here. No borderline, no dopamine production deficiency or whatever you may call that, not even narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps some PTSD, maybe some survivor guilt. The closest we’ve come to stapling a label on the stiff back of my neck is the word addict or junkie.
She reminds me of Vera Farmiga in her role of the psychiatrist Madelyn in The Departed. Witty, big eyes, outspoken, contained fire, hungry. Her patient’s name in the movie is William. Coincidence. The most moving line in the movie comes from her: ‘I have to say your vulnerability is really freaking me out right now, is it real?’
Yeah, it’s real.
We could poke around in my wounds a bit more. I almost closed the door to that putrid avenue by stating: ‘Every human is on a journey and every person has exactly the qualities and characteristics he or she needs to finish that journey’. Almost there, almost at peace. But not really, what if you want a different journey one you do not have the right characteristics for?
In the end there’s a religious dimension to therapy and you hit that puzzling crossroads, you need the strength to change what you can (and want to) change and you need the wisdom to accept what you cannot change, no matter how much you’d wish to have it differently. The therapist is to help guide in that struggle. You can save a person years of frustrations or support them in a fight they can never win. Or help them enjoy the journey. Maybe, as YouTube show claims, it’s all about the journey, whether it leads to success or failure. Obsessing about the outcome only paralyzes.