A Short Story from the April 2004 issue of the World Socialist newsletter
Please, psychotherapist, I am tired of talking, talking, talking about my problems, about my narcissistic father, and about my feelings. What I want is to have more fun in my life. What I want is to take off some time to see the world. What I want is to be sitting in your chair telling you for a change what would really make a change!
For a start, it gets really depressing living in this world. You cant turn on the damn TV without hearing about more people dying in wars abroad and in our inner cities, about kids cruising their territories guns in hand waiting to blow the brains of other kids in the wrong place at the wrong time, about young women too young to even know about sex prostituting themselves or getting raped by their step-fathers. You can’t even go for a walk without smelling foul rivers too filthy to fish in and without guiltily admiring gorgeous sunsets painted by the refractions of light in poisonous gas. And that doesn’t even touch upon how depressing it is to go to work let alone just sit in traffic going to work. Who can rest from the year of working in weekly chunks of two days each, and annual chunks of two weeks each?
Who would not be sad? Who would not get anxious? Who would not feel angry? Who would not find it really hard to concentrate, to focus in class, to keep your mind on the job, who would really be brimming with joy? I mean, joy comes in little places in the modern world, doesn't it? We look for fun in our sex lives (although the stress of society reduced to couples raising the worlds children can take a toll on that sex life), in escapist movies and video games, in lucky getaways for a few hours or days from the congestion of the city and the congestion of our lives. But that is the whole point, isn't it? We try to find meaning and joy elsewhere , in a splitting off of our life, not in the entity of the life itself. And here you are teaching me to cope better with all this crap. And there what can you do, therapist? I mean, here you are trying to change my feelings, as though they were disconnected from my being. If life is depressing, violent, disturbing, imposed, ordered, priced, frightening, lonely, then why are you trying to change me, and not change how we live?
And yet, my life is not much different from yours. We live in the same city, we eat the same food, we visit the same parks, our kids go to the same schools, we read the same papers. Yet here I am sitting in front of you. I am talking to you because you got a degree in therapy. You studied psychology, social work, counseling.You are allowing me to bathe in your understanding and your empathy at a price. Would you be as empathic for free? Would you work with me to make this a better world or would you simply give advice and your listening time for the price the insurance company is willing to pay? How empathic can it really be if this is your job ?
Psychotherapist, what I really want you cant really give, can you? I want freedom. I want to feel that this neighborhood is really mine. I want a world in which there are no wars, no prices, no people bossing me around, no children dying for lack of food, no traffic jams, no junk food, no boxes they call homes, no homeless, no lack of anything for lack of money.
I don't want to think different, feel different; I want to stay just the way I am until the world is better. And when the world is better, then maybe I wont have to feel this way again.