“My patient’s delivery is breathless and excited; she is jumpy, often leaping out of her chair to act out a scene from her life”
For 18 months I have been seeing my patient for weekly therapy. She has been assigned to me as part of my two-year training to become a psychotherapist. Our first anxious session seems a long time ago. I was extra early, I arranged and rearranged the chairs, read and reread her notes, adjusted the lighting, practised sitting in my chair in a psychotherapeutic manner. Legs crossed? Arms folded? Scarf on or off? Psychotherapists always wear scarves. On. There is an unspoken rule that female therapists should wear skirts. I obeyed it. But this particular Tuesday morning I was not wildly energetic. My own 50 minutes of psychoanalysis—an obligatory part of training—had been gruelling. I am on the couch five times a week, my male and betrousered analyst sitting behind me with his notepad, occasionally venturing a “quite” (he is Kleinian—you probably wouldn’t get even a “quite” out of a Freudian analyst).
When my patient marches in, plonks herself down, grins and begins her usual monologue about how she’ll soon be a famous actress I feel wearier than ever. Her delivery is breathless and excited; she is jumpy, often leaping out of her chair to act out a scene from her life, and, although she meets my eye, she seems not to see me. She talks. And talks. And talks.
I recross my legs, adjust my scarf and think about the coffee I will make myself iiin… I surreptitiously check the clock… only 8 minutes now! I try, as I have been encouraged to do in supervision, to ignore the content, to concentrate on the effect. How is she making me feel? I decide she is making me feel like a cup of coffee. I wonder if I should take this countertransference seriously. Is she projecting her desire for coffee into me? No, that’s ridiculous. She is making me feel…utterly irrelevant to her. She probably feels as though she is utterly irrelevant to me too.
I remember from my own analysis how baffling it was when he kept on about my feelings towards him. “Feelings?” I thought. “I hardly know you. I don’t feel anything.” Of course, this was rubbish. The way we approach our therapist is…