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My girlfriend argued no man could be treated by a female therapist because complications due to sexual desire would impede every discussion. One night less than two years ago, intoxicated on cheap wine and infuriated by a long fight, I lay naked next to Clarice, my girlfriend at the time. In my opinion, the cause of our argument was ridiculous. Earlier in the evening, Clarice had made the claim that no man, under any circumstances, could be treated effectively by a female therapist.
I asked how come. Complications due to sexual desire, explained my girlfriend, would impede every discussion. A man would never be able to tell his doctor the whole truth, either by exaggerating his accomplishments or by abridging his mistakes, because he would want to present himself in the best light possible.
The therapist would be trying to get in his head while the man was trying to get in her pants. I'd been seeing Dr. Phillips, a female therapist, for a little over a month. It was my first attempt at therapy. Despite the large of people out there who currently see a psychiatrist, I considered my decision to get help particularly courageous, mainly because I was raised in the South, where psychotherapy is, by some if not by most, considered akin to snake oil.
My mental problems were more than legion. Not only had I suffered anorexia in an earlier period of my life, but I'd recently been coping with an anxiety disorder. I had issues with self-esteem. I had issues with substance abuse. I had issues with depression. Therapy was a big step toward getting healthy. That's one of the reasons I got so angry with Clarice. I wanted Dr. Phillips to fix my brain; I did not want to fuck hers out.
Another reason I got so angry was that one of the most frequent topics of discussion with the doctor was my relationship with Clarice. Now I faced a dilemma. Should I tell Dr. Phillips about the argument? On the one hand, telling her might compromise the integrity of my treatment because, possibly, she would wonder if I really did want to sleep with her, and on the other hand, not telling her might compromise the integrity of my treatment because, definitely, I would be lying to her by omission of the complete truth. The funny thing is I had thought about that very same issue before I was forced to deal with it.
Shortly after I began treatment, a few friends, members of my writing group, said something over dinner that took me aback. All three of them agreed to its veracity. Even when I expressed shock, telling them my situation was different, my friends repeated the statement with odd disregard, as if explaining the humorous nature of the Pope's headgear, the defecation of bears, or the constructive material of Howdy Doody's testicles.
Such a thing, ironically, seemed insane. Lying to your therapist discredited the whole point of therapy. In her book, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession , Janet Malcolm ventures the claim that her titular subject, the first practice to be called "psychotherapy," has had the biggest cultural impact since Christianity. The comparison to religion seems apt in light of what I was told by my friends at the restaurant. No one likes to think of something so influential to modern society as having been founded on lies.
Until the fight with my girlfriend, I had been totally honest with Dr. Phillips, especially about my relationship with Clarice. I'd told my therapist about the hotel room where my girlfriend tried to slit her wrists with the tines of a room-service fork because of my own childish inability to confront our emotional straits. I'd confessed about the night I passed out during a blow job, and I'd admitted to having later claimed it was only me faking it. I'd told my therapist about the clinic where my girlfriend listened to those sucking sounds while holding her sister's hand instead of mine because of my stupid need to maintain distance.
Only after I claimed to be honest with my therapist did I become dishonest with her. I never told Dr. Phillips what Clarice had said about us. Doubt began to corrupt my belief that I did not want to sleep with Dr. Although I had been aware of her physical attractiveness since the beginning of my treatment -- if only she had been some wrinkled, gray-haired lady creeping toward retirement -- I now found myself doting on all of my therapist's attributes, her slim figure, her long limbs, the way she daintily tugged a cardigan around her delicate shoulders.
Soon enough I questioned everything I said to my therapist. Would I have catalogued my sexual partners from throughout my life if her belly were stratified with fat rolls? Would I have referenced my publication history in such detail if her face were perforated with acne scars? Therapy started to drive my crazy.
In addition to wondering whether, during our sessions, I treated my therapist like a woman I was trying to seduce, I also wondered if I had, in the past, treated women I was trying to seduce like therapists. Could I have been not a womanizer but a therapizer in my love life? My girlfriend in college, Lara, once tried to break up with me, claiming I wasn't "complicated" enough for her, after which I told her about the time in junior high when I dropped 45 percent of my body weight.
We got physically intimate for the first time that night. My girlfriend in grad school, Tatum, could not commit to our relationship, saying she was too "damaged" for someone like me, after which I told her about the time my father drunkenly almost killed my mother in a car wreck. She called me her boyfriend for the first time that day. Although I believe my motives were far from malicious -- I genuinely cared about those girlfriends and simply wanted them to care about me, too -- I'm still compelled to question my past relationships as well as my recent ones.
Did I manipulate Clarice into loving me? Clarice and I met through an online-dating service. Our first date was at a bar called Spain. The athletic build of a former college soccer player and the cup size of a former high-school cock tease, Clarice struck me as outrageously beautiful, but what I found most attractive were her physical imperfections, hair a bit on the frizzy side, voice a little hoarse, skin a touch dry at the ts. Every man loves that one crooked tooth.
That night I did not therapize my way into her pants. We waited until the second date. Some people think of that as being a gentleman. I think of it as letting the woman dictate the terms. The question remains of whether I used the murk of my psyche to trick Clarice into wanting me. Even though each of us had made personal confessions to the other, the reciprocity of those confessions disinclines me to consider my motives sinister. I was not trying to manipulate Clarice into feeling a certain way like Hannibal Lector beguiling her namesake. Over the next six months, Clarice and I underwent the usual trajectory of a romantic relationship.
Those first, hesitant declarations of love were followed by the later, habitual postscripts to phone calls. We house-sat for her parents while they were away. She came as my guest to my friend's dinner party, and I came as her guest to her work's office party. We took a weekend trip to visit my little brother in college. Our conversations, however gradually, began to assume a future in which our lives, at least physically, were closely interwoven.
Favorite breeds of dog are rarely discussed in a short-term affair. Certainly we were not without our problems, but neither of us dwelled on our difficulties very long. The truth is, I never considered my relationship with Clarice as it pertained to my past relationships, the similarities and the differences, the positives and the negatives, until I first met with Dr. Phillips roughly eight months after that night at the bar.
My relationship with Dr. Phillips was as rough to begin as my relationship with Clarice had been smooth. We met twice a week, each session 45 minutes. Our therapy was part of a program to train residents in psychiatry. The program consisted of one year of intensive therapy, free of charge to the patient, followed by a group examination with fellow doctors.
In order to qualify, I'd taken round after round of tests and sat for round after round of interviews, all of which were meant to determine, more or less, whether I was messed up enough for the treatment. If only college admissions had been so easy. Although at first I took well to the therapy, describing my recent problems with panic attacks, explaining my past issues with self-esteem, I soon began to dread our scheduled appointments each week.
Every Tuesday and Thursday became an excruciating countdown to in the afternoon. The most obvious reason was the sheer amount of time I had to spend talking about nothing but myself. Psychotherapy is inherently solipsistic. Going into the treatment I was aware of that key trait.
I had no problem with it. The trouble that arose during my therapy was that not only am I inherently solipsistic but I also do not like that about myself. I've written a dozen essays about the inconsequence of my love life. I've spent hours at the bar boring friends with anecdotes. I've written a novel that didn't even veil its autobiographical sources. In therapy as in life my brain began to throw up warning s whenever it seemed as though I were becoming self-indulgent by discussing matters of little importance.
It was not simply that I was reticent in talking only about myself. If I were going to have to discuss my problems, so went my thoughts, then they at least better be the really big ones. By the tenth week of treatment, though, I'd run through all of my greatest hits. Therapy became a contagion for me, irritation its consequent antibodies, all of which was supposedly a cure. Nevertheless, two times each week I had to sit in a white room, discussing myself.
If I had a hard time thinking of something interesting to say, then I would have to talk about that very inability. The only thing more irritating than being forced to talk about yourself when you find it difficult is being forced to talk about your difficulty with talking about yourself.
Still another problem I had with therapy was that, due to exposure to movies, television shows, and books that portrayed the process, I was aware of the various tactics therapists use. Noticing the strings does not make a puppet show more enjoyable. Unconsciously I would cross my arms whenever Dr. Phillips said, "Tell me more about that," and consciously I would grimace every time Dr. Phillips asked, "How did that make you feel?Beautiful older ladies wants seduction South Carolina
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