I don’t propose to make an attack on psychotherapy here. I’m not competent to do that. But I can speak about my experience at least.
The therapist wore very ugly shoes. Indeed they were the cheapest looking shoes I had ever seen. Different pairs, he had, all of them ugly. Always unpolished, sometimes with shoelaces untied and sometimes actually dusty. Sitting there in the corner, like a rather boyish Buddha, he cut an unimpressive figure. Well, I wasn’t going to condemn him for that, of course.
I have heard of people who have floods of tears during therapy. I find that odd. My sessions couldn’t have been less upsetting. It was always the same. I would sit there chatting away quite openly, telling some story in great detail and this guy would say “well time’s up”. What WAS impressive, was that he could remember and refer to all these stories. I assumed he had some method to facilitate memory.
I did once or twice feel some emotion during these sessions. But it was anger, not grief. Once arriving at his house I met him coming home – he was late. He got completely flustered and couldn’t even greet me properly. He handled it like an embarrassed schoolboy. Settling down a few minutes later in my accustomed chair, I tackled him quite angrily on the subject.
There were some other ludicrous moments. In the beginning he asked me to tell him about the dreams I was having. I did that happily because I like my dreams and they fascinate me. After several weeks of doing this he suddenly snapped “why are you trying to impress me?”
Then after two and half years of talk (95% me talking 5% him talking) he said that the health insurance money was coming to an end and that if I continued with him, I would have to pay more. I said I would think about it and I discussed it with my (new) partner, who said that I didn’t have the ability to make a judgement about a therapist as I had no idea what he might be trying to do. It might seem like nothing, but maybe it was actually something. Nevertheless he felt that two and half years should be enough time for this guy to have made an impact. So I went back to the therapist and told him what my partner advised. At that point he blew up and said “this is insulting”. He added that we could have found a way round the money problem and that he had not at all finished with me. I found this tantrum absurd coming from a man who was supposed to be my therapist. Why didn’t he say these things in the first place instead of simply telling me that the fee was going to go up?
Looking back on this after five years I am quite clear as to what I was trying to achieve with Mr X. I wanted to know why I had lost my peace of mind and how I might restore it. I got no answers to either of these questions. Not from him and not from myself. Indeed I still have the same questions.
By the way, the partner I found towards the end of this course of therapy was himself a kind of therapist and that is why I sought his advice on the subject. I was quite astonished when Mr X claimed some credit for my having found a partner……as if I were incapable of reaching out to someone, back in 2000. It was yet another ludicrous moment. Oh dear.
On the plus side, I found the man both kind and sensitive. And he seemed to respect me. He also appeared highly intelligent and it was nice to be with him. Very occasionally he would make a joke. Once, when I had been droning on about my family for the umpteenth time, I asked “do other people talk about their families?” And he replied “that’s all I ever hear about”.
I do believe what my then partner said to me……that in such a case, you cannot know what is being done and therefore mustn’t leap to judgement. And there were some insights. Once, when I had been lamenting the importance of money in the breakdown of relations with my family, Mr X came up with an unusually emphatic statement: “Geoffrey, money is love”. These moments were nice, and stay with me.
Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer;
Be thou still my strength and shield;
Be thou still my strength and shield…………………………