Therapy

Surely that chair is designed to antagonize! It is almost as though it is deliberately placed at a confrontational angle to the client.

Saloni lowered herself onto the double sofa tentatively, the husband already having registered his impatience at this couple therapy by rudely plonking ahead of her. He made a show of adjusting his coat and jiggling the Honda Civic keys. Without saying a word, he was in fact shouting out aloud, “I don’t know what I am doing here.” The rude bustle eventually died down under the Psychotherapist’s assessing gaze.

“Such beady eyes, those. Why is she looking at us as though we are specimens under her microscope? I don’t like her,” Saloni told the voice in her head to shut up, they were obviously expected to begin talking, there would be a charge of Rs 1000/- for a fifty minute session. She cleared her throat, watching her husband’s right hand go in tandem to his forehead.

The therapist leaned forward, pen ready on the case sheet, “May I use a recorder?” The room recoiled with the couple’s joint gasp of horror, “Oh no, there really isn’t much to say!”

“Well, you have driven a long way to be here, surely there is some expectation of this session,” the therapist’s tone was even and calm. Saloni kick started her throat for the second time, casting a tentative look at the man waving her to proceed.  But the brakes came slamming down again. The room remained quiet for a good nine minutes during which Saloni shredded a Kleenex and her partner scrolled his social network on the smartphone.

“Perhaps the memories are too painful,” the couple nearly jumped out of their skin at the carefully modulated voice of the professional facing them. “Well, actually everything is fine but it is just that I feel sad all the time,” there, it was out. Just as the therapist settled back encouragingly, the hitherto busy mobile phone was slapped down on the peg table, “I don’t understand this feelings business. I earn well, I don’t drink, nor smoke, I am a faithful husband and I don’t approve of physical violence. We have two daughters whom I dearly love. Please explain what is missing.”

Another eleven minutes of silence. “I need to go to the washroom,” Saloni made her escape. Once safely inside the closed door, she looked at herself in the mirror over the sink, scolding her own face, “This is a mistake. You have no idea what to say and he is not helping. But the talk meter is running and you better not let his money go down the drain.” She stepped out with renewed resolve, just a wee bit bolstered from her time alone.

Taking a place diagonally opposite her husband this time, she squared her slim shoulders and looked the therapist in the eye, “It is the little things that hurt the most. There is nothing major. But he brushes me off, makes me feel small in countless ways. Every night, he throws back only his side of the counterpane, as though I do not exist. He calls a simple hug a waste of time. He considers himself a first rate husband because he is not stopping me from being myself! Rather than feeling proud of my accomplishments, they make him feel small. Any sound of alarm from the passenger seat is taken as a personal challenge to his driving skills. He does not reassure, offer hope or lose any sleep over me. He told me once that he could have made do with any woman and that there really wasn’t anything special about me. There is no compassion or kindness, almost as though I am already overcompensated, what with the boarding, lodging and domestic help.”

The man pushed himself up. “Let’s go. Personal happiness is not as important as the larger picture. There is the family, our responsibilities, the society. We have a good marriage. And therapy is not in our culture!”