Pavlov’s dog goes to see a therapist and says…

I see a therapist called Philip. Did I mention this? He’s fantastic. He charges me half his normal fee because I’m a public-sector worker and don’t earn much. Of course, Jo is well paid, but I pay for this myself, which is empowering, because I’m not burdening the floundering NHS with a condition that I suspect is self-indulgent nonsense. By paying, I can justify wittering on about myself, something you don’t get much opportunity to do in a loudly vocal family.

I saw Philip last Monday. As always I felt apprehensive and reluctant to go, thinking I’d nothing to say and was an imposter. As always, afterwards I felt more wholesome and healthy, though in a very slight, almost unnoticeable, and unspectacular way.

We talked about disenfranchisement, I guess – how, perhaps, I view anorexia as my job: “This is Jo, she’s a deputy head and history teacher at a large comprehensive, and this is her husband, Xan. He’s an anorexic.” Can I identify myself as an ex-anorexic and writer, instead?

I’m very honest with Philip. Surprisingly so, even about thoughts and desires that do me little credit. Perhaps the act of talking about the things that congest my mind – expressed in inner dialogue, but never coming out of my mouth – unclogs me, emotionally. That seems self-evident when you write it down. Anyway, I’d recommend counselling to absolutely everybody in the world. In a perfect society everyone would be counsellor to everyone else. Perhaps that would be the duty you’d have to fulfil to earn universal basic income, because it’s impossible to reach adulthood without sustaining psychological damage: everybody’s wounded; everybody’s been fiddled with, at least a little. At best, we knock bits off each other as we bump together, or rub ourselves against each other.

But, if therapy works, what did we do in the past? All historical societies seem pretty traumatic to me.  I guess the whole of human history has been perpetrated, and recorded, by the psychologically traumatised.

Of course, the people closest to us have the greatest opportunity to knock the corners off us, emotionally. I guess this is why therapists are always supposed to ask you about your relationship with your mother.  And the biggest culprit of all is going to be yourself, and the humiliating betrayals you have inevitably inflicted on your better self, over the years.

Jo and I had one of our periodic moments of emotional sensitivity, last night, where we skip away from each other like alarmed gazelles, spooked by something we can’t properly identify.

On the surface, Jo took fright because I wasn’t very enthusiastic about possibly spending some of my savings on a new sofa. She worries, I think, that if I even conceive of our money as being separate, it suggests that, conceptually, I see us as living separate lives and thus, in some psychological way, I have my bags permanently packed to leave her. I was alarmed by the idea I had upset Jo and made her question the solidity of the relationship that I rely on almost exclusively. For both of us this rawness is the consequence of past wounding, largely perpetrated by my former ambivalence about being in a relationship. Long past, but clearly deeply internalised.

Incidentally, I think I’m more aware of the working of my own brain, these days. This may be due to habits of internal dialogue developed by seeing Philip and writing my diary and blog. I’ve realised that I immediately identified the origins of our sensitivity last night, but then, just as immediately dismissed it as fanciful. For some reason, this dismissal made it very difficult to return to as an explanation for how I was feeling. Or is it fanciful, but writing it up gives it solidity and plausibility? Hmmm.

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