Navel Gazing

I used to think psychoanalysis was self-indulgent, middle-class claptrap. Those people I knew who spent a fortune and several hours a week on therapy were more bonkers than the rest of us.  They were manifestly not getting any better from it.  And, what’s more, they were always the ones who, if they could stop talking about themselves for a moment, felt called upon to diagnose and prescribe for the psychological deficiencies of others in a smug, annoying way.  I concluded that it was a money-making racket and did not work.

It remains true today that most of the people I know who are in therapy are madder than a box of frogs and irredeemably self-obsessed.

Yet I long to return to it myself. Yes, it is self-indulgent. And expensive and time-consuming. And I can’t afford it.  But when I tried it I found it fascinating and helpful. I got a year of weekly (term time) sessions with a psychodynamic analyst. I felt we were just starting to get somewhere when, for reasons of NHS rationing, it had to end.

There are so many questions.  I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Why do I do that?‘ all about defense mechanisms.  So interesting.  I don’t pretend that understanding why I do and think things will magically stop me from doing the unhelfpul ones.  And I am absolutely aware of the truth that it can be easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of behaving.  Maybe knowing ‘why I don’t do this’ would be a good place to start though.

I’ve put off getting therapy because….  well, for a number of reasons.  Lack of funds.  Feeling that I can’t embark on such a serious, long term commitment while I don’t know how I am going to earn a living or even pay my subsistence bills.  And lethargy or depression.  Same reason I don’t get exercise, sort out my car or roof or rat problems and so on and so on.

Writing this blog is a therapy of sorts.  When I started the weekly sessions and the analyst mostly said nothing at all, I sometimes used to think that if I was going to be talking to myself, I might as well stay home and do it.  But it was not just talking into a void, even if it often felt like it.  Though she was largely silent, it was clear that she was listening.  And her infrequent interventions gave me a little jolt, each time.  A tiny, tiny forward movement of the internal cogs.

And, actually, it is jolly nice, even when disconcerting, to be listened to.  I was going to say ‘especially if you are single’ but, in fact, I was never listened to when married.  And nobody listens the way your analyst does.  Learning from the analyst, you start to listen to yourself better as well.  I certainly did.  But I am not fixed yet.

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Both images taken from Prospect Magazine; along with the New Yorker, by far my favourite source of cartoons, as well as being good reads generally.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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