Gets caught out psycho-babbling to an old friend
Therapy-speak and psycho-lingo have soaked through everything on both sides of the pond, permeating our souls with a gloopy empathy that’s more irritating than useful
As I hand over a Kleenex to stem the fresh tide of Kirstie’s tears, two clear but conficting thoughts lodge themselves in my brain. The frst is: ‘I would do anything in the world right now to make you feel better.’ And the second: ‘Please God let you be so distracted, so wild with grief, that you didn’t register what I just said.’ Too late. Even as she’s pulling the curtains of her hair a little closer around her face (the most efcient camoufage for every Female Crying in Public) I see a lip curl forming. ‘“Free up some headspace?”’ she says, dry-eyed all of a sudden and scrutinising my face closely, as though trying to locate something – anything – there that might loosely resemble the girl she grew up with. ‘What’s with all the therapising?’
Until that moment, until I heard myself respond in a soothing monotone that it was ‘quite normal’ for Kirstie ‘to be lashing out at me’ in her grief – ‘and quite honestly defection is a healthy reaction’ – I had thought I had it under control. After all, it was a couple of months ago now that my husband frst pulled me up on my habit of asking him how he was feeling, (‘really feeling’) more frequently than was necessary – and nodding as frenetically as the Churchill bulldog throughout his response. That, my insistence on using people’s Christian names at least once in every sentence, answering a question with a question, and the single occasion we’ve agreed never to mention again when I actually said the words ‘let’s bring it back into the room’ (and wasn’t referring to either an inanimate object or a household pet) had become an issue. I’d see a therapist about it, only that would be like a compulsive eater enlisting in choux-pastry-making classes.
Now clearly I’m going to blame LA for all this, although I’m not entirely sure that’s fair. Because therapy-speak and psycho-lingo have soaked through everything on both sides of the pond, permeating all of our souls with a gloopy empathy that’s more irritating than useful to anyone you’re trying to help. The problem is that it feels great. And I mean eight-handed-hot-stonemassage great, with a bit of cranial osteopathy thrown in. There you are, this all-knowing, all-understanding Elysian being, encouraging those around you to confde freely (or give up the juice, as I’m secretly thinking), before scattering some of your healing dust (phrases like ‘your inner critic is sabotaging again’) on their bowed heads – and ta-da! That’s them fxed and you restored to your rightful position as one of the world’s most virtuous human beings.
Of course it took Kirstie explaining all this for me to fnally understand what my grotesquely self-serving motivations were. ‘You don’t think you’re projecting?’ I fing back limply. ‘Nope,’ she responds frmly. ‘But I would like us to “open a dialogue” about just how much more of your cretinous imported behaviour we’re all going to have to deal with.’ And I think that might have helped our relationship grow, but sadly our time was up.