Sometimes I call my therapist just to check she’s doing OK. ‘Hello!’ I said cheerily when she picked up. ‘Hi,’ she replied cautiously. ‘So,’ I said cajolingly. ‘What have you been up to?’ My therapist is oddly reluctant to talk about herself, which leads me to believe that she has done lots of dreadful things. I like to help her by randomly mentioning this when we speak. ‘So you know when you flunked out of college?’ I ask her. ‘And that’s why you’ve come to live in London?’ My therapist laughs. ‘Oh sorry,’ I correct myself. ‘I meant when you had to leave New Zealand because you didn’t want to pay taxes.’ ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ my therapist asks politely. ‘Classic deflection,’ I think to myself. My therapist is so textbook. (I know this, because I have bought an ‘Introduction to psychology’. Well, ‘bought’ might be an overstatement. But I certainly read at least 2 Amazon reviews of the book, so I’ll probably be setting myself up in private practice pretty soon).
‘Oh no,’ I replied. ‘I was just calling for a chat.’ (My therapist likes to play hard to get, and pretend that she sees other patients and has a ‘real’ job and so on. I’m still looking on Wikipedia for the correct term for these delusions). There is audible sighing on the other end of the phone. I assume this is a sigh of relief, that precedes the inevitable unburdening of her troubles. ‘So, how’s the writing going?’ she asks me. (My therapist finds sharing difficult- probably because she comes from a large family. I am still working on this). ‘Oh,’ I reply. ‘Yeah, pretty well thanks. Done something on fatness. I’ve called it fatness: being and feeling. They’re different things you know.’ ‘Um,’ my therapist replies. ‘Yes, I do know a little bit about that.’ ‘Is it because your adolescence was ravaged by an eating disorder?’ I inquire politely. ‘No,’ my therapist replies. ‘Probably more from graduate school, and being a clinical psychologist.’ ‘And a bit because there were so many children your parents couldn’t afford to feed you?’ I ask sensitively. My therapist changes the subject. ‘So,’ she says. ‘Have you had a good week?’ ‘I really have,’ I tell her. ‘I might go on a date with someone I met yesterday.’ My therapist asks me a few questions about this chap. She is unconvinced. ‘It’s only a date,’ I explain kindly. ‘You know you don’t have to marry someone just because you go on a date with them.’ My therapist is silent, and I remember that she herself has recently got married. ‘Um,’ I say awkwardly. ‘I probably should have mentioned this earlier. Sorry about that. Well, I think we both have a lot to think about. Speak soon!’ My therapist tells me that she’s at a conference for the rest of the day. ‘Don’t worry,’ I say reassuringly. ‘This is a safe space. I’ll call you tomorrow.’ (I know that when people feel threatened, they tend to retreat into established patterns. For my therapist, this is pretending she is an actual therapist). It’s early days, and we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I think we’re making progress.