Patient: “Tell me what to do. You have to tell me what to do.”
Therapist: “But I can’t.”
Patient : “Are you sure that it’s not that you could, but you won’t?”
Therapist: “I’m sure. These are your decisions and they are precious. I don’t know what you should do.”
Patient: “I know these decisions are mine and that this is my life. I own it or it owns me, but I don’t think these decisions are precious. I think they are torture. It’s
like choosing between one life or another. Either way one life gets killed off. I’m not real happy about being backed into a corner where whatever I do I’m turned into a murderer.”
Therapist: “I know that’s how you feel.”
Patient: “….which is why you should tell me what to do. Don’t you have any responsibility in this? You should take some. It’s cowardly not to.. Some times I think you just sit there and take pleasure in how mixed up I am, how I’m a human traffic jam.”
Therapist: “…which is why you keep coming back?”
Patient: “I keep hoping. I don’t even know what I hope, but it’s something. You know I think about quitting every day, but maybe it’s something as pathetic as that I’m not alone when I come here. I can’t stand my own company. I never have been able to stand it and when other people say I’m so much fun and have such a great sense of humor, I have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Therapist: “But you listen…”
Patient: “I listen to everybody about everything, which might be why I’m so messed. up I listen to everybody about everything and I can see every side of every argument, maybe a few more than actually exist. The reason you should tell me what to do is that I’ve never known how to tell myself. I don’t even know if what I think is really what I think or if I just think that I think that because I’ve seen it on some bill board in my head.”
Therapist: “Might there be a danger in knowing what you want to do and saying so?”
Patient: “You bet there is a danger. If I knew what I wanted to do and I said it, I could piss a lot of people off big time. You know, I don’t even have to say it. If I just know it and think it, then in my mind I piss them off. You may not know this, but when you piss people off, then the world becomes much lonelier and mine always has been lonely enough.”
Therapist: “So dwelling in confusion and dithering and not making decisions, not saying yes or no, is really an appeasement policy. It’s the best you can do in a world where you’re overmatched?”
Patient: “Of course, I’m overmatched. I think I told you that the very first day I walked in here.”
Therapist: “And you tyrannically insist that I believe you. Or maybe I should say that you tyrannically insist that I join you in underestimating yourself?”
Patient: “I really don’t know how to make this decision. It’s not a pose. I’m not playing a game. I do not know what to do and I am at wit’s end because I don’t know what to do.”
Therapist: “Maybe at wit’s end is where some new beginnings become possible.”
Patient: “Haha,, very clever. You do like to play around with words and concepts, to stand things on their heads like they were a troupe of acrobats. But it’s stupid. It doesn’t go anywhere. I know it’s stupid because I like to do it, too. It’s a tame enough game when you think of all the games that you can play.”
Therapist: “When you’ve got yourself surrounded and stymied, maybe that just means that all the old familiar stuff doesn’t work, so you have to find another way to put the pieces together. You’ve trapped yourself and you have to be creative.”
Patient: “Why can’t you tell me what to do? What’s wrong with you? Is it that you just don’t want to get your hands dirty. If you look around this office, it’s easy to see that you are pretty fastidious. If you told me what to do, then I could roll it around in my mind and see if I disagreed and then you would really have been some help rather than just sitting in that rocking chair like a very large owl.”
Therapist: “Why can’t you do that for yourself?”
Patient: “I set out for yes or no and I end up in the land of maybe where the fog never lifts. Then I get mad at him for putting me in this predicament. I get really mad. But it’s not his fault that I’m me. It’s not his fault that I am the kind of person
that I am. I wonder if he even knows what kind of a person I am. Or has he just made me up out of whole cloth. I think I know who he is because I’m such an intense unrelenting observer. It’s not very kind. Sometimes I think I’m a species of predator with the one exception that I never pounce. I do all of it but that.”
Therapist: “I’m not sure that it’s your fault that you are the kind of person that you are.”
Patient: “I know. It’s just a bundle of happenstance. The sex is good. Sometimes it is very good. I don’t forget about myself for long, but I do forget about myself, so that it is a tremendous shock when I come back to myself.”
Therapist: “I can follow that.”
Patient: “I think that I’m more lonely because I was less lonely for just a little bit. Sometimes I like coming here because it makes me feel just a little bit less lonely and sometimes I hate coming here because it makes me feel so much more lonely. My words are like birds that fall out of the sky half way on the trip to you and then lie there on the carpet, expired, and reproachful.”
Therapist: “Sometimes it’s hard.’
Patient: “Can you see me married and in Mumbai for the next four years? I’m disoriented here. Imagine how I’d be there where everything looks different and smells different and sounds different and where the air feels different. If I say no, then he’ll go anyway. This is big for him and he really wants it.”
Therapist: “Do you want to say no or is it that you’re afraid to say yes?”
Patient: “That’s a very good question>”
Therapist: “Not one you haven’t thought of .”
Patient: “That’s true enough. But I haven’t stooped and faced it square on. I’ve only buzzed on past it, afraid to stop and look at it. I do this with a lot of things.
It’s a habitual cowardice. “
Therapist: “But can it be changed?”
Patient: “You would say yes. In fact, you’ve staked your life on that proposition . I would say something like maybe or possibly or if the conditions were right or near right. I need to be stopped in order to start.”
Therapist: “But can’t you stop yourself and start yourself?”
Patient: “I’m afraid to say yes and afraid to say no, because either way I can’t imagine my life. I can’t imagine myself. “
Therapist: “Is it possible that we have to live our lives in order to imagine them every bit as much as we have to imagine our lives in order to live them?
Patient: “If I went to Mumbai, I’d miss you.”

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