Some of you may remember a while back that I was having difficulties with my therapist who was very against my decision that I am sane and healthy enough to stop going. After much wrangling, I finally got him to agree, provided we went through a ‘leaving process’. Well, I daresay you will not be surprised to learn that the leaving process is going precisely nowhere. He is still trying to encourage me to engage in a different kind of therapeutic experience: why won’t I, he asks, just sit there and allow thoughts to arise in my mind so that we may both see what they are, without there being some specific goal or problem to solve? To which I replied that I thought that was just life; you had a look at what you were thinking and then went and did something about it, or not, as the case may be. Therapy is what happens when you have a problem or are unhappy with the conditions of your life and you need help and support while you change them. In the last session we had I asked him point blank (and not for the first time) exactly what it was that he felt I needed to do. Could he explain to me why it was so important that I continue with therapy? Upon which, he fell silent for a while and then said, no, we only had a few minutes of the session left, he couldn’t formulate his thoughts in that time. And I thought, for crying out loud, we’ve been discussing this since September. You mean to say you haven’t managed to put it into words yet?
Only I confess that politeness is so ingrained in me that I did not say what was on my mind. But I felt cross and frustrated. I put it all behind me for the time being as this has been a very busy week indeed. Then suddenly, yesterday I seemed to be having conversations about it with everyone I saw, and I realised I would have to do what I have tried so hard to avoid: make a unilateral decision and leave. I’ve written today, paid up what I owe, thanked him for all the good work we have done, and said I won’t be coming any more. I have a horrible suspicion this will not be the end of it, and he will try and ring to persuade me to continue. I hate the thought of that. I really, truly did not want to end things this way. I see that I’ve been hanging on in the hope of an experience I was longing for, of having him support and encourage me in this decision. To wave me off cheerfully, if you like, with his blessing.
All my life I have tried my utmost to please other people. In fact, I’ve done it way too much, and often at the expense of my own interests and wishes. In an odd kind of way, I can see this is a trial of my courage and the strength of my convictions. What might look like a very simple decision is not so to me, as it feels disloyal and more than a little scary. But then my therapist knows this, and so his refusal to either empower me, or to explain upfront what it is I still need to do, seems ever more churlish and unfair. Without him saying, okay, you’re fine, off you go, there is a small part of me that is afraid I will wake up tomorrow morning with chronic fatigue again for having been so badly behaved as to recklessly displease. There, I had to make myself write that down because I don’t really want to own it, it’s so illogical. Of course the illogical thoughts exert the greatest hold over us, precisely because they will not bend to reason. Whenever I have this conversation with myself, I end up thinking that I really should go ahead and do what I want, if only to prove to myself that the sky won’t fall in.
I’ve been reading The Pastor’s Wife by Elizabeth von Arnim, and the main protagonist, Ingeborg, is on a long, slow journey to self-realisation, hindered because she has no will of her own, so great is her desire to please others, so enormous is the imperative not to rebel. I’ve had sympathy for her up until the past fifty pages or so. It seems to me you can make several serious mistakes in life by bending to the stronger will of others, but that you have to wake up at some point and take your own life in hand. I’ve often felt that the feelings aroused by reading are in some sense our most genuine ones. There is no force of circumstance or obligation to make us feel anything other than what we most secretly feel in our innermost hearts in response to the behaviour of the characters. If I’m fed up with Ingeborg at the moment, then I must to some extent be fed up with my own willingness to let others dictate terms to me, and longing to take full control over my own life. Well I am, I know that’s true. Mister Litlove’s take on the matter is that we all have to recognise at some point that no one will look after us better than we can ourselves.
Anyway, I’ve done it now. We’ll just have to see what happens next. (One thing that will happen next is that I will eventually catch up with my comments and my emails – I’m so sorry! I’ve fallen behind with them all, it’s been such a busy period.)