Tuesday, 10 May 2016

My therapist doesn't like you

Actually, that's probably not true. I shouldn't flatter you. My therapist, in all likelihood, has no true opinion on you. After all, she's never met you, or anyone that I have mentioned. She's spoken to my Dad, which is usually enough to turn anyone against him, but I suspect she harbours no bad feeling toward him. Rather, she's met the version of you that I have described and insofar as I am impacted by the different people I speak about, she cares about your actions. And, of course, she cares about how you make me feel, which, to an extent, is the same thing. The formula, I suppose, is quite simple. If I say positive things, her opinion will, probably, be positive and vice-versa.

I find therapy bizarre, right from the word 'therapy' itself to the whole procedure and what being in therapy entails. I cannot quite work it out. The best way I have managed is as mix between 'a bit of a chat' and a bit like when you tell your parents/best friend about something your friend or that person you hate has done or said but with more objectivity. And much like your parents/best friends will have vibes about certain people, my therapist does too. That's what intrigues me. Those vibes with the added element of objectivity. She's never met any of the people that I mention and almost certainly never will. (Though, if you feel like you need a therapist, she comes with my highest recommendation). Yet, of course, she will still have opinions on you based on what I tell her. She qualifies any remarks she may make about you by reminding me that she's not met any of the people I mention. But she makes the remarks. I suppose that's her job. But no, she doesn't like you. Or maybe she does. Depending on what I have said. I told my Dad recently my therapist defends him in our sessions. Or tries to explain why he does what he does, even if I find it irritating at times. It was my way of reassuring him that this blog post was not aimed at him. Indeed, this post, insofar as it is about my experience in therapy in general and my therapist's differing responses to everyone I bring up, is not aimed at anyone. Chances are, I will not have mentioned you in my sessions. It's nothing personal, honest.

My meetings are, on my request, completely confidential, so I enjoy teasing my Dad by suggesting I regularly talk about him in a negative light. So much so, that his most recent message to me, at the time of writing, is that he expects me to tell my therapist how nice he is really. Where would the fun be in that? But, in all seriousness, requesting our meetings be confidential was somewhat pointless given it takes approximately 2.7 seconds for my parents to ask me what I spoke about and how it went before going on to provide their own assessments and opinions. I suppose 'therapist' is part of the parental job description. My Mum is always very understanding of what my therapist says. My Dad often disagrees. Or, to be specific, he disagrees with some of her comments about his reaction to the whole situation because, alongside the long optical career; semi-retired legal consultancy work; the frequent glasses losing; and frequent 'heated' phone discussions (see #TheDavidLevyDrinkingGame on Twitter) he has, unbeknownst to me, acquired a BA in Psychology and years of experience in the field. Actually, I should probably just save myself the journey and sit in his office at home and have my weekly chat with him. Would be the only therapy session where the patient cannot get a word in edgeways.

Jokes aside, as I said, I find therapy bizarre. I guess I had no idea what to expect. It began weirdly, back in February, over whatsapp when I could not speak. I was scared. Confused. Resistent to the idea that I needed therapy. I remember the first email she sent me. I thought she had completely missed the point. I actually told my Dad speaking to her would clearly be pointless and that I wouldn't do it. Well, I typed it because I could not speak, which somewhat undermined my point. A couple of months in and I actually enjoy the sessions as well as finding them helpful and useful. Imagine the owner of a failing restaurant on Kitchen Nightmares who initially resents Gordon Ramsey (despite applying to be on the show) and hates all his ideas before eventually, after an expensive remodel and one of those pep talks where Gordon uses the f-word more than any other, repeatedly slaps the back of his hand in the palm of the other and calls the owner 'big guy', magically changes his tune and comes round. They appear to be, as I said, a chat. And we chat about all sorts of things. She, as I am sure most psychologists do, personifies the idea of listening to actually understand, rather than listening simply to respond. We all need that opportunity to talk to someone who just listens. I have friends who I can rely on for that too (I think my therapist likes them), of course I do, but having someone whose job it is to listen has its advantages. And, of course, there is also the panic element of why I am talking to her, which she is equipped to talk to me about and hopefully deal with.

I think I find therapy bizarre because it has transpired to be absolutely nothing like I imagined it would be. Granted my main idea of therapy comes from Two and a Half Men and the very sarcastic relationship Charlie has with his therapist, but still. I do sit on a couch. And I talk. I think that's where my expectations and reality diverge. I speak a lot and, for some reason, I expected to speak less. As if it would be about her drawing on her wealth of knowledge and expertise and, in using it, speaking to me at great length, rather than actually about me. I expected it to be more 'pschology-ish'. I expected more psych talk, more references to Freud and Bandura (indeed, the only references to Freud have been made by me) and it generally to be a bit more technical. I realise now that would be utterly pointless. No doubt my therapist references established theories but she usually does so only by name and does away with technical details. What benefit would they be to me?

I also expected not to enjoy it. I guess that was a mix of having to admit something was wrong, not wanting to speak to her, or anyone, in the first place and, as mentioned, having no idea, really, want to expect. I could not have been more wrong. Perhaps I am lucky in that I have a lovely therapist who, despite my initial judgment, completely understands what I talk to her about. But I have also benefited, I think, from a genuine love of Psychology and Philosophy. Sessions have afforded me the opportunity to speak about topics that I enjoy. I suppose that's not the point. Or, at least, not the main idea but who cares? Sure we talk about people and how I feel. We talk about my week and how different things that have happened have impacted me. We talk about panic attacks and my response. All of that has been very useful, but as much as I do enjoy hearing her opinions on the different people in my life, nothing compares to our discussions about topics in Psychology and Philosophy. Normally when I bring up Philosophy, I fear people react with an impending sense of doom and scan the area for the nearest exit. Indeed, I worry that my chances of securing pupillage at Lord David Pannick's chambers who spoke recently at J-Soc, have taken a severe hit after he saw me smiling with glee when he mentioned Socrates' death for corrupting the youth. Not so in sessions and I think enjoying them as certainly helped them to be useful.

So, my therapist probably does not like you. Or maybe she does. But it's fine, because we're probably talking about Plato's Symposium anyway.