My purpose is to present original, creative and helpful psychotherapeutic ideas. While “pessimistic” may seem a provocative or self-sabotaging quality, it is actually a facet of optimism. Just as a physician would harm a patient by ignoring injury, and helps the best by facing the worst, so must a therapist know that we grow from roots bent by psychic injuries in our past. Optimism must be based in this reality, not on a cloud of wishful thinking.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Dry humor, or wet seriousness #3: The Lady Shop
anything we can make of the fact that a counseling practice I’m familiar with –
in fact, have joined part-time* – has an overwhelmingly female clientele (maybe
ninety percent) who want to see a female therapist? I am the one male at a
Lady Shop that is quietly Amazonian in feel. I believe I have an attitude about
this, thought it remains unplumbed and open to reason.
EMDR, womanly empathy, sisterly encouragement, motherly-like love. The natural
camaraderie. The comfort of not sitting with a man while opening up about
sexual abuse five or twenty years ago. Pretty offices with imperative-inspirational
slogans on the walls (“do what you love, love what you do”; “yesterday
NOW tomorrow”; “You are worth your weight in [gold bar image]),” and
many pillows. Where is the floaty go-nowhere music and aromatherapy?
One of my big
ignorances about the history of psychotherapy is: I do not know when the drastic
surgery of psychoanalysis and depth therapy turned into happiness promising and
quick-fix making. When did shrinks in their cloistered offices turn into
sunshine and lollypops, smiling ads and mouthwash commercial promises of joy,
life course redirection, and healing?
I wonder but do
not know: Is there a causal link between the two – the rising of the sea of female
therapists and the sea change to love and positivity?
I have for once
held a deliberately depressing session. The client, mid-forties, had been adequately
successful, worked as a handyman, had many abilities. He would also
periodically lose what he’d gained through neurotic relationships, becoming
bored with a town and moving on, sabotaging himself in small fry ways (hobbled
by warrants after failing to pay parking fines, for example). One day he got in an
automobile accident that caused him some mild-to-moderate neurological problems
– decreased alertness, iffy depth perception.
He never worked
In sessions, he
sullenly described his incapacities, the unpayable warrants, his helpless
attorney, the Disability Income litigation limbo, his failure to get a break of
any kind. I listened, offered encouragements and empathy. And when he
finally asked – with masked frustration – for some feedback, I said:
‘People such as
you and I came from a depressive home that blocked and bled our natural energy, our capacity
for a passionate true north. So as adults we carry within us an empty anchor.
We are held back at the root. And this root makes success feel subtly tragic, some
kind of wrong. Now you have gotten hurt, and the early injuries of your
childhood have been re-proven. Once again no one is there to see or care. You
can no longer move on. You “can’t work,” though I am sure you could if you
could ignore your inner truth.
‘I think we have
to know our anchor, and how our horizon has been narrowed by our childhood. If
you then have compassion for yourself, you can look outward from your lower
hills and valleys. You won’t be punishing yourself for mountains that don’t
exist. You can then find smaller fruits, maybe some gold nuggets. You’ll be in your own
world, not the one that was supposed to be.’
My client fell
into this session, participated at a deeper level than he had in the months
before. I’m not assuming, as we exited the office, he was happy. But he seemed
to have something new moving inside, which I can hope will turn benign and