Who is this person in whose mind I might occupy a small space and to whom I’ll tell my actual dreams?by Anna Blundy / June 18, 2015 / Leave a comment
It was a grey, low cloud London day. I stomped down the road from where I’d parked to my psychoanalyst’s remarkable-for-being-unremarkable house. I have been for supervision at other analysts’ houses—one super-modern thing down a track by Hampstead Heath, another a soft-lit, creamy mansion in Maida Vale. My analyst lives near motorways, a massive football stadium, a kebab shop. My analyst.
The first time I came here I parked right outside. That’s how long ago it was. Before parking restrictions. I probably had a shaking hangover; I certainly hadn’t slept for three nights in a row; I was dressed up to look confident, properly held together, sexy and intimidating. I believed myself to be all those things, ignoring as extraneous to my personality my fear of the Tube, lifts, flying, tunnels, night-time, unexpected noise, terrorism, fire… well, you get the picture.
I climbed the carpeted stairs in 1994, probably sneering at the house’s location (aforedescribed), décor (neutral), the style of the coats on the pegs (outdoorsy), the art on the walls (prints of buildings). How on earth could someone so obviously ordinary be of help to someone so obviously extraordinary (me)? There is literature in psychology about “the freedom to be ordinary” and, 20 years later I have a labrador dog and an estate car, teenaged children and a buggered-up ankle from running. Arriviste?
Yesterday I was comforted by the smell of the house, climbing the stairs of a family home in which the kids have grown up and gone in the years I’ve been visiting; art on the walls that documents the places that are precious to this family; coats in which they’ve been for rainy walks together, carpets trodden by friends and relatives of all ages… and patients, too.
Relieved now to be in there instead of outside alone, I looked at my analyst, at the bowls and ornaments, paintings and books, so familiar and so odd (what even is that by the vase? A seal? An otter? Just a smooth stone?). Not for the first time, I raised the question of my applying for training at the revered Institute of Psychoanalysis, o hallowed place of… well, psychoanalysis.
A more intensive treatment AND training than psychotherapy, involving daily on-the-couch treatment over years. The very long training is free, the cost being the student’s own analysis—five times a week, 50 minutes a day for at least five years, at a minimum cost of £50 a day.
“I won’t be able to be your training analyst,” he said, taking a sip of water. I saw him three times a week for two years in my twenties, five times a week for two years in my early forties, dropping in during the fallow periods. “Because of age. Mine, not yours,” he qualified. What? He’s going to DIE before I finish training? “Well, retire, perhaps,” he smiled. Oh God! “What do I do?” I asked, suddenly four years old, lost in a shopping centre.
As someone recently separated, facing the impossibly exhausting, uninviting prospect of sharing stories of childhood, books read, films seen, people known with someone new (How? How would I even begin?), the thought of finding a new analyst has horrible parallels. Who is this person in whose mind I might occupy a small space and to whom I’ll tell my actual dreams? I feel as though I’m putting myself up for adoption and can’t imagine anyone choosing this ragged specimen.
He will help me, he says, so it’s not the last time I’ll shut the door behind me, wonder what happened to the torn off gate, the bell that didn’t work for 18 years. But when I walked back to my car yesterday up the grey, suburban street, I knew something, yet another thing, was ending.