A lot of therapy involves accepting what we are actually like instead of punishing ourselves for not being how we’ve been taught we ought to beby Anna Blundy / February 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
The traditional way of writing about patients is to disguise them to the point of unidentifiability, usually by conflation, and then to refer to them as Miss A or Mister B. The background and problems of this essentially non-existent patient will be outlined in incredibly general terms and then the therapist’s most brilliant (and probably equally non-existent) interpretations will be quoted. Following these gems of infinite wisdom, we are told, Miss A and Mister B went on to live marvellously fulfilling lives as a result of their therapist’s unsurpassed excellence. In real life though, patients often get stuck or are extremely hard to reach, so well defended that it can feel as if there really is no way in or, from the patient’s point of view, no way out of the carefully constructed lead sarcophagus.
One hugely popular defence that serves to reinforce the aforementioned sarcophagus is: “Well, everyone does that… don’t they?” I’ve got a patient at the moment who will tell me something awful, say, about being bullied at work, and then she’ll say, “Well, all bosses are like that,” and refuse further discussion. If I say, “That sounds very upsetting,” she gets irritated. “Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never had a difficult boss?” She then feels she’s won the argument, parried examination and been declared “normal.” By extension, I have been proved unnecessary and useless. She can continue with her life-long grin-and-bear-it coping strategy. This goes on session after session. Nothing is up for discussion. Everything unpleasant is simply “normal.” And yet she keeps coming, because some part of her is desperate for change.