Like the two well brought up adults that they were, they rose respectfully as the therapist entered. She flicked them briefly with her narrowed eyes, directing them to rearrange their seats to her line of vision. They waited while she pulled out her register and found the fresh client page. A bright yellow post-it went on the leaf. The only sound in the room apart from their hearts beating was that of the staid grey clock as it struck the minutes off their paid talk time. They waited patiently for the magic key this lady would help them find. It had taken them nearly six years to agree to seek help. A property dispute was cleaving their family down the middle and they were rapidly losing focus and mutual affection as boundaries blurred, stances hardened and the environment in their home turned noxious. The specialist methodically unwound the safety chains on her metal framed spectacles before finally clearing her throat.
“What are your names? Where do you work? What is your company called? Are you in the business development or the human resources department? How long have you been with this organization? What is your exact designation? Where all have you worked earlier? Where did you do your schooling? Where are you from?”
The couple answered with an eager deliberation and she wrote down the replies painstakingly. “This feels like we are being interviewed for a job,” it crossed the woman’s mind but in time the counsellor gestured for the man to begin. Overcome with the grief of the family dynamics they had come to discuss, his wife made a tentative sound that the therapist swatted upon like you would a fly, “Let him speak first please!”
With no markers for guidance, the subject meandered, beginning with their courting days, their childhood cultures, the differences in their temperament and her initial resistance to settling down in a joint family. It was a good thirty five minutes of this sluggish verbosity before he wound down with, “I think we are two very different people but the one thing I am certain of is that we both love our family equally and to the core of our hearts. We would be willing to work through this peacefully, there are no two ways about that.”
At this, his wife began tearing, hot salted drops welling down her cheeks she made no attempt to brush away. She had come to accept and acknowledge her pain, letting it ravage and wash her all at once. Their therapist glanced briefly at the defeated woman before turning back to the man facing her.
‘Why do you say what you just said?” Reticent by nature and someone of few words, he struggled to recall every bullet point in the word document he had been writing for a week in preparation of his first therapy session ever. He repeated himself a few times before the expert changed her line of questioning. “You said you were a practical kind of guy. What specifically did you mean?” His chair scraped abruptly as he broke eye contact, “I would like a glass of water.” He was pointed to a flask and two neat overturned glasses on the cabinet by the entrance door, “Didn’t you see that when you came in? I always have fresh water laid out there for my clients”, the lady was short at this unexpected bump in the narrative, looking pointedly at the clock.
Ignoring the agonized shifting of weight towards her right, she flipped open her black buttoned down planner, “When can I slot you next?” He met his wives eyes uncertainly, hers shining with unsaid emotions, his with just a flicker of anger at the mortification just experienced. “Please hurry up with your reply. I have a session beginning in fifteen minutes,” without giving them a window to mull, the expert began showing them the door, “Here, please pay attention to how this latch works! You can then operate it yourself when you next come. Lift this lever here, turn the knob right, remember right please and wait for the click, have you got it? Let me know your next date soon so I can give it away in time, there are a lot of people who need help and I work only twice a week and only for six hours each.”
They came out feeling whipped, cheated, exposed, and small and none the wiser or lighter. Just as the heavy door clanged shut behind them, they turned to each other. “Our clinician seemed so unsympathetic!” she hissed. “Isn’t this something we can sort out among ourselves, sit down with the family and thrash it out,” he thought aloud. “I feel worse than I did before the session,” she was certain. “I am not sure what help she can possibly be in our domestic concerns?” he expostulated.
Turning into the stairs leading down, the wife drew back pulling at her husband to retrace. There was a banner on the wall they were facing now, they had missed it in their pre-session anxiety. The two stared at the bold words in green then mouthed them slowly, “In therapy as with everything else, it will invariably get worse before it gets better!”
– Neerja Singh
Severely addicted to learning, Neerja Singh is an author, blogger and a teacher. Her chief fuel may have been a constructive kind of discontentment.
Some links to her work,