Thursday, 29 July 2010

Future perfect

Could I really be afraid of the future? I decided to take the problem to my esteemed therapist Dr Melissa Flinch, at her luxurious consulting rooms in leafy South Belfast.

She offered me a herbal tea and an oatmeal cookie as I reclined in the well-padded armchair among a dense thicket of overgrown pot plants.

Nick: I'm afraid that I'm afraid of the future.

Melissa: Don't be silly. You can't be afraid of something so unbounded, so intangible. It's like being afraid of the weather, or speech, or a blank sheet of paper. You can only be afraid of something specific. Like spiders. Or flying.

Nick: But I'm afraid I'll be overtaken by some awful disaster in five years' time.

Melissa: Then you're just afraid of disaster. That's natural enough. But you're not afraid of some wonderful pleasure in five years' time, are you?

Nick: No, of course not.

Melissa: In fact, you must think pleasure is a lot more likely than catastrophe?

Nick: I suppose so.

Melissa: Well then, you're just a sunny optimist with occasional fits of pessimism. You allow for the very realistic possibility that you can't have pleasure 100 per cent of the time. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes they go very wrong. That's life, baby.

Nick: I guess you're right.

Melissa: Of course really you're just afraid of yourself. You're afraid of your inability to cope with any disaster that comes along. You're afraid of your own inadequacy, your own helplessness, your own confusion.

Nick: I'd never thought of it like that.

Melissa: Well, that's what I'm here for. I've seen a thousand tortured souls like yours. I know what's going on in your murky unconscious. I can unravel the tangled strands, lead you out of the psychic morass, restore clarity of thought.

Nick: What would I do without you?

Melissa: I shudder to think. That'll be £100 plus VAT. Mastercard as usual?

Nick: Cheap at the price.

I skipped happily down the front steps, the heavy burden lifted from my shoulders. All at once a rosy future beckoned.

A new British survey says almost one person in five has consulted a counsellor or psychotherapist. Some 95% of those polled believe it is a good idea to seek counselling or psychotherapy for a problem before it gets out of hand, while 88% thought people might be happier as a result of doing so. Some 88% believe counselling and psychotherapy should be available to all on the NHS. This is a huge change in attitudes from six years ago.


  1. Tell Melissa that there is a much more lucrative practice awaits her in India and I shall gladly be her business manager.

  2. Ramana - I'm sure in these hard times she's on the look-out for new business opportunities and lots more bulging wallets. I'll give her the tip about India.

    Seriously though, I have a lot of time for psychotherapy, I'm not really knocking it....

  3. You know the Jaycee Lee Dugard story? Part of the reason her award was so large (they say) is because they had to factor in the cost of lifelong therapy.

    But...$20 million?!?

  4. Megan - I was just catching up on the story. I see the $20 million wasn't just for therapy but for a new family home, education and long-term investments for Miss Dugard and her daughters.

    (Note for others: The State of California was supervising convicted rapist Phillip Garrido but failed to notice for 18 years that Miss Dugard was hidden in his garden)

  5. I am sorry if I offended you. I did not realize that you were into it. My sincere apologies.

  6. Dr Melissa sounds like a very sensible woman.

  7. Ramana - You didn't offend me at all. I'm sure psychotherapy helps a lot of people to sort out their personal problems, but I also enjoy making fun of the more dubious aspects of it - like the sometimes hefty charges.

    Eryl - She's extremely sensible. She knows a thing or two about the human psyche. She's not Lady Gaga's closest confidante for nothing.

  8. Shame she didn't point out that you only have a problem if your fear becomes debilitating...

    My invoice will be in the post....

  9. I think all shrinks should take a lesson and offer their patients oatmeal cookies. There would be a higher success rate.

    : )

  10. Love this. Good to see you skipping into your future. Clearly I'm in the wrong industry . . going to check out a post grad in psychotherapy. I'll have the mortgage paid in no time.

  11. Macy - Good point. Big difference between a fear that's just hovering in the background and one that disrupts your life. And that invoice is outrageous....

    Leah - Oatmeal cookies are very revealing. If you pick up all the crumbs, you're obsessive. If you don't even notice the crumbs, you're self-centred. If you only eat half the cookie, you may have an eating disorder.

    Baino - Oh yes, I'm still skipping happily along. Problem solved! It's funny, therapists may charge a lot but I don't know of any therapist millionaires. Maybe those couches cost a bomb.

  12. More therapists should call their clients "baby". Hipness heals.

  13. Tattytiara - You're right. Enough of the pretentious psychobabble, let's use language we can all feel comfortable with. That's where it's at, sweetheart. Just hang loose and take five, petal.

  14. All patients should bring their therapists cookies, that's what I think.

    Just to let you know, I had to change URL's. My avatar links to the new site.

  15. Secret Agent - What, cookies on top of the fee? How about cookies instead of the fee?

  16. I think more therapists should tell it like it is, like your Dr Melissa.

  17. I take Medicare, Medicaid, and sliding scale - don't talk to me about high fees! I want the damn cookie!

  18. Liz - Yep, call a spade a spade, I say. Tell the patient she's a malicious scheming cow and have done with it. Oh hang on, she might not come back for another session....

    Secret Agent - Very well, I'll bring a box of cookies to my next session with you. Do you prefer chocolate chip or blueberry and cinnamon?

  19. Secret Agent - Okay, I'm just off to the very best cookie shop in Belfast. See you in half an hour.