The proper study of mankind is man

We had 1:1 therapy once a week. I had my session with Jamie on a Tuesday. These tended to deal with similar issues to the workshops. I guess this is unsurprising: the therapists usually ran with whatever was on our minds, which was often something thrown up by the workshops.

Tuesdays felt like hard work, and it was a relief not to be languishing around doing nothing, for once. After a couple of workshops and a therapy session I’d be exhausted, my mind a whirl of confused thoughtlessness. I’d spend the rest of the day staring dully at this laptop. Ok, that’s what I normal did, but at least, on Tuesdays, I could justify it. I’d often wake at 3am and be unable to get back to sleep. That’s kind of like work stress, right?

I (sort of) looked forward to therapy. I knew I’d be listened to for an hour by somebody who was professionally obliged to take an interest. It must be a uniquely satisfying privilege to know that your abject whining is earning someone their salary or their sense of professional pride. It did nothing to assuage your sense of guilt at your cost to the NHS or your occupation of a bed that could be put to better use, but this was a constant, whether you were in therapy or not.

On the other hand, as the time approached for these 1:1 sessions, I’d scan my mind for any evidence of anxiety or anguish, or odd behaviours or beliefs, that I could use to prove my madness and demonstrate that I wasn’t a time-wasting fraud. I guess we probably all crept sheepishly in to our sessions, thinking, “I’ve no idea what to talk about. I’m fine, apart from my attention-seeking. I’ll be unmasked. I’ll be denounced.”

I felt I needed to produce the goods for Jamie, or he’d hurl me bodily from the door, followed by my bags, roaring, “As I always suspected! Get thee gone, thou Fraud! To think of all the time I wasted on this pretence! Hast thou not seen the waiting list for beds?” (A condemnation of King James biblical proportions.) I’d crawl off wringing my hands and whispering, “I know. I know. I’m sorry.”

I still have this worry when seeing my therapist, Phillip, now. I’ve even tried writing things down in a notebook that I could brandish in my defence, so I have something to say. I tell myself that it’s just a record to aid my memory, but what I really mean is, a prompt to aid my performance. This goes against the spirit of analysis. Phillip says I need to just turn up with a willingness to explore, and implies this very anxiety is symptomatic of a lack of a sense of self. What and how people think and feel, and how they enact this, is of interest, not what they remember to profess or how they’ve decided to act or to view themselves. You are who you are, here and now. It takes a long time, and a lot of therapy, just to realise that the mind is never idle. Even the deepest sleep is just another mode of processing. The very fact that you think your mind is empty, and there’s nothing to say, and that you are a charlatan, is worth discussing.

This all makes sense, consciously, but my hind-brain remains unconvinced

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