Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dry humor, or wet seriousness #3: The Lady Shop

Part I

Is there 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.

Life coaching, 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?

Part II

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 again.

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 stronger.

What do you think, ladies?

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* I have since resigned.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.