What, then, is this?

Other people’s words about … therapy

Sometimes I wonder why I come here [to see my psychoanalyst] when the coming is so iterative, so forced. Having to come here sometimes feels like the biggest problem I have. I feel like a lonely man visiting a brothel, the money changing hands, paying for understanding as some people pay for love. And just as that is not love, so this cannot be understanding. What, then, is it?

from ‘Aftermath
by Rachel Cusk

As I’ve mentioned here before, I spent several years in and out of therapy, being treated for anorexia and its aftermath. I will be forever grateful to the therapists I saw during those years. They treated me with respect, patience, warmth and compassion. And they listened. Oh, they listened.

But I stayed in therapy too long, I think. I believed at the time that I was seeking a cure for my constant sense of malaise. That cure seemed terribly elusive. Now I think it was elusive because, subconsciously, I knew there wasn’t one. What I was really reaching out for was understanding, and that is not something I found in therapy sessions.

Therapy is a strange process. It is, as Rachel Cusk says in the passage above, a transaction of sorts. When that transaction starts to make you feel worse rather than better, when you feel lonelier leaving the therapist’s office than you did on arriving, it’s time to stop. It really is as simple as that, though it took me some time to figure this out.

Post-therapy, am I still seeking understanding? Yes, of course — just like everyone else. Have I found it? Not really. Perhaps no-one ever does. What I have found, though, is solace. I find solace in pots of tea, and walks along the beach, and wanders through the bush. I find it in cakes I bake, and books I’m reading, and holidays I plan to go on. I find it in birdsong, and in leisurely bike rides, and in the company of friends and family and pets.

And I find solace in other people’s stories.

Tell me, then, where do you find solace?

4 thoughts on “What, then, is this?

  1. I came to the same conclusion with therapy. They are paid to listen to your problems and sadly, too few have the gift of asking the right questions to bring you awareness to see a way out. What I realized is that I needed a woman friend who ‘got’ me and didn’t judge – a rare bird indeed. It took years but I found a good walking buddy and we listen to each other, which is often all we really need.
    Otherwise, I find solace in quiet music, a book, a cup of tea, in nature– the forest, sitting beside flowing waters and in my kitty’s purr.

    1. Ah Eliza, thank you for your lovely, insightful comment on my thoughts (as always). I think you’re right: most of us just need a friend, or mate, or companion, or, yes, walking buddy, who will listen, and to whom we will in return listen. The rest is a matter of just doing the time, seeing things through, letting them go if need be, and, most of all, accepting that sometimes you have to co-exist with suffering rather than cure it — or that’s what I think, anyway. Give that kitty a little stroke from me! xo

      1. You’re welcome. Yes, acceptance of suffering rather than resistance to it paradoxically lessens it.
        My sweet kitty sleeps next to me as I type. We share a beautiful, spiritual bond for which I thank the universe everyday. ❤ 🙂

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