We were both listening for the unsaid, the nearly said and the accidentally said. We were both patient and analyst at the same timeby Anna Blundy / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
A wintry walk. Two black Labradors—one seven years old with an arthritic elbow and a grey beard, the other seven months old, lanky, pantheresque, fluid. A psychoanalyst friend of mine—tweed jacket, walking boots, solidly built, open face. Me, in my dad’s old leather jacket, trying to manage the dogs in a bluster of leaves, dishevelled hair and… is that actually a snowflake?
It ought to be odd stomping around talking about Freud, but it’s Hampstead Heath, so most of the huddled couples straining against the wind in their sensible coats were probably doing the same.
My friend smiled at someone in pink wellies and a Barbour.
“Do you know her?” I asked. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I have a facial awareness problem.” “I know two people who have that. Both men and both find it mainly applies to women,” I remembered.
This is true. I was once at a crowded swimming pool with my teenage daughter and one of these men. Half way through our day together he mistook a woman in her thirties for my 13-year-old because of a faintly similar bikini. Much embarrassment.
As we made our way across the semi-frozen mud my friend suggested his problem was a symptom of knowing so many varied women through the school run and the slightly over-enthusiastic middle-class neighbourhood (Kentish Town). I couldn’t help trying a psychoanalytic (ish) interpretation.
“Isn’t it a depressed mum thing? If the face that comes towards you as a baby is sometimes the mummy you know and sometimes seems like someone else, absent or malign, then mightn’t that confusion last a lifetime?”
“Oooh, that’s good,” smiled my friend, mulling over the idea. “You probably just hate all women,” I suggested. “I think that may once have been true,” he laughed. He has had more than a decade of analysis now, so has no excuse for hating anyone—ambivalence being one of the major achievements of treatment.
“Well, I like you,” I said. “So you must hate us.” “Misogynistic dad?” he asked. “Yup,” I nodded, pushing on through the weather. “So the man’s leather jacket and the impressive manhandling of the big dogs is… an attempt not to be female?” he wondered. Now he was interpreting. “Maybe I’m womanhandling the dogs?” “No,” he insisted. “Manhandling.”
We got to a puddle and I offered to lay down my jacket for him, playing the chivalrous man to full effect.
We stopped for lunch and I had some much-too-sweet soup. He ordered sausages. “Really?” I smiled. “Sometimes,” he said, adapting Freud’s famous cigar quote, “a sausage is just a sausage.” “No. It isn’t,” I stated. “Oh, you’re just jealous because now I’ve got three,” he said. Two on the plate. “Touché.” [NB. Penis envy joke]
We talked about sex (past lovers, current attitude) and death (both bereaved) without embarrassment, and about the recent suicide of a mutual male friend. (Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that of 6,233 UK suicides in 2013, 4,858 were men, and a recent Samaritans survey found that 48 per cent of surveyed men said they felt depressed over Christmas.)
Getting into my car in the dark afterwards it struck me that what was so strange about this whole encounter was that we were both listening for the unsaid, the nearly said and the accidentally said, both interpreting, both speaking with excruciating honesty. We were both patient and analyst at the same time. And analysts marry each other, I thought! Exhausting. (Interpret that. Or don’t.)