Even thinking of myself as a stuck record makes me feel ancient. My children have never heard a stuck record. I lie there on the couch (turntable?) at my therapist’s house, staring at the bookshelves—Bion, Winnicott, Klein, Freud in all his many-volumed magnitude—the dusty, blunt needle crackling against the scratched vinyl. “I hate lying here. I can’t afford it. I don’t know why I come. I hate the area you live in. It’s depressing. I’m depressed. I need coffee.”
I see patients myself and I can hardly imagine how disheartened and bleak I would feel if one of them said this to me even once, let alone everyday. My analyst “takes it in the transference” (listens to how I make him feel) and says something like—“I think you feel disheartened and bleak this morning.” My reaction to this is, “Of course I bloody do. It’s 7.30am. It’s dark. I’m in an attic off the A1. My windscreen wiper just broke under the onslaught of grey rain.” Crackle, crackle, crackle.
You might think that someone who has chosen psychoanalysis, someone training in the field, knowing the cost (financial, emotional, temporal) and gains (emotional) would want to go to sessions. But maybe, I think, rigid as a corpse, analysis isn’t really for me? Horseriding might do me more good! Fresh air, soft noses, mastery! I mean, I get the idea—early life and its consciously forgotten but long-lasting effects blah, blah, blah. And yet, my analyst reminds me, I know it’s done me good.
“But,” I say. “I feel awful. It’s like chemotherapy. The hair has to fall out before it grows back. I don’t know if I can stand it.” He argues. Sometimes it feels brutal, he admits, but at other times don’t I feel contained, thought about, held? “Just because the chemotherapy is administered by someone affable doesn’t mean I’m not flattened by it,” I snap. “I’m not saying it hasn’t been transformative, I’m saying I’m not sure I’ll survive it!” I mean it.
For, it’s one thing to start therapy, but staying is a whole other kettle of fish. We can all leap into bed with someone heavenly (or delude ourselves that we can), but far fewer of us can truly involve ourselves in someone without losing ourselves, and stick it out for better or for worse. We know our patients might cut and run at any moment. It’s the opposite of addictive.
Last week, finding the vulnerability of lying there with this guy looking at me humiliating and hard to bear, his tone insufferable as he picked my stitching apart, I stormed out. “It’s over,” I thought. “I can’t go back.” Horses beckoned.
“I’ll keep your sessions open for two weeks,” he told me by email. I sullenly skipped two but I didn’t go riding. I called people who obviously don’t want to speak to me, desperate for a chat. I drank too much white wine in front of The Bridge. I knew I was acting out instead of thinking, that everything I was doing was a defence against thinking (most things are—even some kinds of thinking) and that I would have to go back, to process instead of enact. This time I didn’t lie on the couch, but sat opposite my analyst in the chair wearing jewellery (armour?).
“It’s odd sitting facing you,” I said, not sure where to look, missing the bookshelves. He smiled slightly and I took a deep breath. We talked and thought. For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…