My supervisor—a senior training therapist who helps me with my patients—crossed her ankles and adjusted her glasses. I was reading out an account of one particular session. I was exhausted all over again just remembering it—what the patient had been wearing (bright things), how she’d started (loudly), what she’d said (a lot), what I’d said (nothing useful), what I’d felt (help!), what I wished I’d said but didn’t think of (still haven’t) and everything else I could cram on to the page immediately afterwards, hunched scribbling over the desk in the institutional consulting room (quickly, before I forget).
When I’m actually with a patient, I feel quite good at building up a rapport and my interpretations seem insightful and understood. Then, when reading out my notes in public, I find I was manically talkative, blind and wide of the mark. I say—“I haven’t quite captured the essence… It wasn’t really like that… I mean, I think the patient knew what I was getting at…”
A slight smile from my supervisor and a cough. A thunderstorm seems to be darkening the sky outside. “You should say less,” she tells me. “I hardly spoke!” I complain (though in reality I said even more than I wrote down). She told me, kindly, that when she trained as a psychoanalyst herself, her supervisor said the same every week, once when she had spoken only twice in the reported session: “Say less.”
Anna Blundy on the daughter-father relationship
Anna Blundy on getting to know new patients
Anna Blundy on other people’s feelings
I used to be maddened at how little my own analyst says, wondering why I was forking out for him to sit there mulling over ideas for decorating his house in France while I maundered on from the couch. “Oh, say ANYthing!” I thought, day after day, week after week. I found the silence hostile, a sneering presence behind me, even a potential attacker. It was years before I understood that this was my own projection and that it had no bearing on present reality. Another patient might have found silence soothing, unjudgemental, even liberating (who are these people?).
A supervisor once told me to point out a patient’s anxiety during the silence, as in: “The silence at the beginning of the session seems to make you anxious.” I obeyed and the response was fascinating. The patient remembered a magic box he would…