I worry I didn’t describe the process well enough to him at the beginning, but it’s almost impossible to describe what relative wellness feels like before it has happenedby Anna Blundy / September 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
“I’ve got nothing to say. I don’t know why I come,” he begins with a big sigh and an eye roll to the polystyrene ceiling. “I mean, how many sessions will it take?” he asks, leaning forward. This is a challenge. He smiles in an “I’ve got you now, huh?” kind of way and folds his arms.
Every week he wonders what the point of this whole therapy business is, when he’ll be better, why I don’t give him a progress report. He wants me to say; “Well done. We have finished Unit A and are now onto Unit B. Only two more units to go until you’re completely cured!”
So, every week I’m under pressure to defend psychotherapy, at least to myself. “Well, you do seem less anxious,” I say, trying to award myself points. “So, have we finished?” he asks.
This man’s mother died when he was five and his father went for a Victorian grit-your-teeth-and-get-on-with-it-lad approach. He wants me to tell him he’s a good boy, doing brilliantly at therapy and that I won’t ever leave him. He, however, is desperate to leave me.
In order to make absolutely sure I know he wasn’t looking forward to his session and didn’t want to come to my party anyway, he always opens with his misgivings and how he wants to stop. He then presents a breathless barrage of material as though he has been saving up every moment of the week to relate to me in our 50 minutes. At the end he tells me how interesting and helpful it has been and I think I am supposed to feel reassured that he did want to come to my party after all.
But then he left. I’d thought all his acting out was a routine we’d repeat until we got to the bottom of it, but I was wrong. I know I’m not supposed to be upset, that patients leave therapy for all kinds of reasons. I stormed out of my own analysis more than once, sure I’d never go back. (I did). There is the “flight into wellness” stage (“Bye. I’m all better.”), but it seems to me that patients more often leave when therapy gets too hard to bear.…