Last week I skipped a session with my analyst, withholding from him my reason for doing so. I went to an introductory session on counselling using something called the Human Givens approach. Interesting, deciding not to tell him where I was going, but going anyway.
I never really get to see the analyst. He barely greets me when it’s time to start. There are no pleasantries. Even payment takes place by an almost wordless exchange of brown envelopes. I have to lie on a green velvet couch. A piece of cloth covers the end of the couch where my feet should go, if my legs were long enough. There’s a clock on a bureau that I can see, but otherwise there is just the door. In case I need to make a quick exit. He sits behind me, out of sight. He waits. Lets the silence hang heavy until I start to speak. He doesn’t say much, this analyst of mine. He used to say much less. Hardly anything. Never anything nice or encouraging. Never a “well done” or “good”. Just nit-picking criticisms. Pointing out the flaws in my thinking. Telling me I thought too much. Telling me that I told myself too many stories to explain people. Knocking everything down. Making me feel superficial, all frills and victimhood. No care. No warmth. Nothing. Grim. I used to hate going, though I still went, as if it was my duty, something I had to do. I felt bad after every session, cried a lot, and it would take me a day or two to recover my equilibrium.
I enjoyed the beginning of the Human Givens course. We had to brainstorm “nominalisations”, words that mean everything and nothing – like “joy”, and “fulfilment”, and “love” and “security” and “success” and “acceptance” and “happiness”we saw how these positive words could be combined to promote a religion, a cult even, and how much we want to believe in them, invested as they are with all our self-specific hopes. I know all about nominalisations. How we think the other person understands what we mean by a simple four letter word only to discover that they have no idea what the word means. A bit like Prince Charles who, when asked whether he loved Princess Diana, replied that, yes, he did, “whatever in love means”. Still, all that talk of joy and love and acceptance was making me feel quite blissful.
Then we learnt about the attributes of a good counsellor. Someone who would quickly establish a warm, accepting therapeutic relationship with the client. Who would mirror the client’s body language. Who would practice active listening and reflect back accurately what the client had said, so the client knew that the therapist had taken in what the client had said.
And I began to feel very bad, very sad, and full of panic. I could see that the analyst was a million miles away from the picture that had been painted of the fuzzy, cuddley counsellor. These Mindfields Human Givens people would have described his behaviour as “abusive”, and yet I was choosing to return to see him week after week. What did that say about me? What masochistic motivations were taking me back there to be hurt again and again in that cold desolate desert of emotions?
I was exhausted and flat when I got home, and so my mood stayed for two whole days. I spent most of it in bed. I thought about not seeing the analyst any more: I turned the decision over and over in my head, thinking too much. I thought about going to see a Human Givens counsellor instead who would massage me and stroke me and encourage me and tell me I was doing brilliantly.
But I decided to stick with the analyst, because I already knew about transference, and because I think I am strong enough to see it through, to come out the other side. And I think things are getting a lot better already.
It’s awesome, transference. But you wouldn’t know that unless you’d experienced it. And you probably wouldn’t want to experience it unless you’d ruled out everything else. It’s a remedy of last resort when you finally have to face what you have turned your back on all these years. It’s something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.