Thursday, 5 May 2011

Sexualising the shrink

He was talking and when I say talking, I don't mean with me, I mean at me. There he was babbling away, waxing lyrical about esteem and the self and all I could do was look at his shoes, his ugly plain brown shoes. He didn't notice that I was 'analyzing' his shoes or even know that I like to think I can tell a bit about a person by looking at their footwear. But then why would he? Psychoanalysis isn't really about you, but rather what you think of the analyst.

At some point during the session I had switched off and when I looked at his gums flapping and the pencil between his fingers being flicked this way and that, the absurdity of the scenario suddenly hit me. I was in therapy with an analyst who needed more therapy than I did, who loved the sound of his own voice and who was consumed with his own 'expertise' (yes expertise, on the first session he told me he was the resident expert, I should've walked out then) that he had no idea what was really going on with me.

His rigid adherence to the freudian model of psychoanalysis left me with a big problem, everything I said or did during those sessions reduced my entire life down to two things: sex and my relationship with men. Which of course isn't so unusual if you are familiar with freud but extremely patronising and enraging if you are a woman.

It went a little something like this ~

Ugly shoes: "You mentioned you have a problem with body image"
Me: "No I said sometimes I feel unattractive"
Ugly Shoes: "So that would tie in with your low self esteem"
Me: "Would it?"
Ugly shoes: "Yes, So for example, If an analyst said to you, 'you look radiant today', you'd think 'He's just saying that to make me feel better as part of his job'.
Me: "No I'd think why is  an analyst telling me I look radiant.
Ugly shoes: "Yes exactly, you'd dismiss it as an attempt to make you feel better
Me: No, I'd..............

There wasn't much point in continuing, I stopped listening as soon as I heard this. He had made reference to my appearance before, even though I was not there to talk through an issue about body image. I was angry, so angry I imagined emptying the contents of his potted cheese plant over his head. I wandered how many other women had come to male analysts like him and had to endure veiled come on's disguised as psycho babble.

The thought made me shudder, you see psychoanalysis ignores how women really think and feel and instead focuses on the transaction between analyst and client. However you behave towards your analyst is seen as a recreation of a previous relationship you have had, usually your father. If you are unhappy with the analyst and say so, you are angry with your father and so on.

This rigidity, coupled with my anger at ugly shoes for using his 'power' to excuse his completely inappropriate behaviour, taught me a valuable lesson. Women are much better off seeking therapy from another woman.

How can a man ever know what it is to be a woman, the struggles we face, the dilemmas we have the objectification we are subjected to. In my case particularly, how could I have been given quality therapy by this punk after he had reduced everything down to my 'radiance'.

 John Berger sums it up ~

"Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women, but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she feels like an object....".

I left the sessions that day and didn't go back. It occurred to me though, what would've happened if I had sexualised the shrink?

Me: You look radiant today
Ugly shoes: You are complimenting me
Me: Yes, I think you look radiant, but you will probably think I am just saying that because you are haughty and stand offish and my father never gave me enough attention so really what's happening here is that I am trying to recreate a scenario in which I had all my fathers attention.
Ugly shoes: Yes exactly that
Me: No, I really think you look radiant and attractive
Ugly shoes: You are making me an object of obsession, I am the object of your phantasy, this is not appropriate, I will refer you to another analyst who is better able to help you.

You see my point right? This experience hasn't put me off therapy though, it has, however made me realise that not all therapists are good therapists and that you really need to do your research, Psychoanalysis isn't for everyone.

And as for sexualising the shrink? Please, I could never shag someone who wore crap shoes.

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