My therapist is making faces at me

She squints and leans in like she's pretending to care.


Cary Tennis
July 20, 2007 2:20PM (UTC)

Hi, Cary,

I started seeing a new therapist lately. And she does this thing that annoys me no end.

Whenever I tell her something emotionally important, she'll squint her eyes, lean forward, and act like she's really listening.

Now, I am sure she really is intently listening to me, but the squinting and the leaning in really distract me and make me think she is acting.

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I want to tell her, but don't know how. Should I? Thanks.

Unnerved,

Dear Unnerved,

Yes, I think you should tell her. But that's the difference between me and a therapist: I will actually tell you what I think you should do.

Doesn't it drive you crazy the way a therapist will never tell you what to do? You'd think every now and then she could just tell you the answer.

It's like, what should I do here?

Well, what do you want to do?

Well, I want to avoid the fucking DMV.

Is there any reason in particular why you want to avoid the DMV?

Yes. Those fluorescent bulbs! It's like a military induction center. It makes me feel sad.

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So you want to avoid going to the DMV because it makes you feel sad?

Yes. Sort of.

And what will happen if you avoid going to the DMV?

Well, my license will expire.

Uh huh.

And I'll get pulled over.

Uh huh.

But but fuck the DMV!

Uh huh.

Because the DMV sucks!

Uh huh.

I am hoping the therapist will say, Just go to the goddamned DMV, you moron, and get your license renewed. But I've never had a therapist do that. They're always interested in whatever fucked-up reason I have. But isn't that why I'm there in the first place? Don't they already know that I'm full of fucked-up reasons for not doing stuff I'm supposed to do?

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So then I thought, what if I brought an extra hundred bucks?

Here's an extra hundred. I won't tell anybody. Just between you and me: What the fuck do I do now?!

But they turn it back on you and ask about your feelings.

OK, but face it: Isn't that what we really want -- to have somebody ask us about our feelings?

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I mean, therapy is probably the only place in the universe where for a few moments you can confront, in a novel and concentrated way, the actual "you" that is causing so much grief, and get a good look at it from all sides -- prompted, of course, by the therapist, who keeps encouraging you to observe and investigate this troubling, chaotic self that is causing you so much trouble. It is a somber and high honor, actually, to confront this self so thoroughly. It is often as though you are seeing it for the first time, and it occurs to you that without all that infuriating and seemingly idiotic prodding, maybe you would never really see this self that is at the root of so many of your problems. Maybe you would never really see it, that is. So maybe it's worth it, even if confronting your true self requires you to cross a certain line you are not used to crossing: To say clearly what you see before you.

In many ways, saying clearly what you see before you is taboo. You are not supposed to do that.

But what if, for instance, the therapist were to pull out a gun and point it at you? Would you say clearly what you see before you?

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And the therapist says, how do you feel about that?

Well, it puts me in mind of the possibility of dying, actually.

And what is this encounter between you and the therapist anyway, if not a life-and-death encounter? Why are you there, anyway, if not to face your deepest fears?

I'm not saying your therapist should pull a gun on you.

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I'm saying this: It is taboo to say what we see.

It is unbearably intimate.

We are not supposed to tell anyone what we see when we look at them. So I suggest you break the taboo and tell her.

After all, you buy an expensive ticket when you enter the therapist's waiting room. Where does this ticket take you? It takes you across the gulf of taboo. It is an expensive crossing. Make it worth it.

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