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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Sooner Or Later It All Gets Real

There are basically two schools of thought about writing and therapy. Of course, I’m speaking in general terms. The first: that therapy saps the writer of his creativity. That you fuck with the subconscious and you essentially give up some mystical part of the process, or interfere with it. Therapy is like a vampire that sucks your creative life blood. The other school would counter by arguing that more awareness, more consciousness, more investigation leads to more clarity in the work. Knowledge is power, so to speak. Going to therapy helps a writer get in touch with the darkest part of himself, and bring it forth. Or you could go to therapy for a third reason, as I do, to hear yourself carry on like a pussy sock puppet and pay for the pleasure. It’s degradation minus Jack Nicholson. It’s a burnt offering, the head of fish with a death stare, it’s mumble core, Albacore, saving arse, er face, it’s trying to mend a broken shoe lace, trying to pull the panties out of your ass after a five hour train ride. Did I say five hour? I meant fifty minutes.

Therapy. Good, bad, fugly?

73 Responses

  1. i do not understand how anyone survives their life without therapy.

    at all.

    it’s like trying to take a bath without water; i can’t imagine it.

    (this is 100 percent a judgment of myself and nothing more. good, bad or fugly, i can’t live more than six months without it.)

  2. I think it does bring out the dark side but has helped me understand my issues more and I think I am better for it!

  3. First off, who told you there was such a thing as a sub-conscience and why do you believe it? The rest will follow like a broken promise that has your name written all over it. A grotesque, no doubt. And some people think there is nothing to write about. God, how I love you, Betsy. You have a kinda weird, neck cranking gift. I’m not gonna think too much on it ’cause life is pretty weird. Yet, rather pretty, when you look at it.

    • Jeff, the sub-conscience does exist. It’s the basement level immediately below the conscience. It has neither light nor heat, so when you go there, be sure to dress in layers and bring a big flashlight. There is no telling who you may meet down there, or what may be expected from you. Fill your pockets with candy and thumbtacks before you go, just to be on the safe side.

      • Oh, wise-man, no doubt, injun-touched, do not try to train me to be your vengeful father unless you understand what the word consciousness means. You cannot have a sub of what is not. If the sub-conscience really exists, show it to me, brave warrior. In the mean-time, go fuck yourself, professor. And I mean that wholeheartedly: You have been abused miss-used and confused. Again, don’t pull the Indian shit on me; they would get rid of you on general principal. And it would have nothing to do with words.

      • Let there be light.

      • My girlfriend, god help her and guide her, she’s obviously fucked-up, told me that I went a little too hard-core honest on old Tetman. I’m going with it because I want peace in my life. The only offering I can give up is this, and I hope, once again, you, Tetman, take it to heart: http://youtu.be/-cmo6MRYf5g

  4. Never been in therapy. No plans to. Writing gives me more than enough access to the sound of my own voice.

    I’m more of a vision quest kinda girl — put me up on a mountaintop with no sleep for a week and see what happens.

  5. Therapy is a little girl with a little curl.

    When it’s good, it’s very, very good, even if you leave wrung out, with tear-burned skin or an assignment that you don’t want to do or annoyance that that little man in the chair won’t let you get away with anything.

    When it’s bad, it’s far, far worse than fugly.

  6. Therapy “good.”

  7. >>Therapy. Good, bad, fugly?<<

    The first time was for anxiety disorder. It didn't really help, but maybe I should have stuck with it longer. Hashing out the causes of my fear did not remove it, but seemed to make me more anxious. Fear isn't rational; action is the only antidote to fear. As Steven Pressfield says, there is never a day when the athlete isn't in pain, but he trains anyway, so you can't use your pain as an excuse not to do your work. The part of me that writes is not the same as the part that's in pain, but as a writer, I draw from that well.

    As long as I'm in this material world, I'm going to be damaged one way or another, so I ought not wait to be "healed," before stepping out to live my own life. Maybe we're equating healing with comfort, but we're going to die anyway, so what's the point of chasing after such a grail? Isn't writing defined as sitting in front of a blank page and opening up a vein? The writer voluntarily wounds himself, performing a transfusion, not of blood, but of experience, to the reader whose anemic inner life impels him to read books. Just writing that sentence drives home how much I've used reading to avoid living (and writing).

    That said, I don't find any fault with therapy as a process. I'm just wary of the mindset that sees it as a prerequisite. But who knows, maybe I need to give it another chance.

    • TP,
      Love this.

    • I don’t think you need to give anything another chance. I think you are very right and if you use your intelligence to make excuses for things that you damn well know are bullshit, you accordingly will need therapy, and deserve it! If you submit to this pain, you are obviously a soda-masochistically. People, there is nothing wrong with you, fuck psychology, there is every reason to be angry, get used to it. The problem I have is with people that make movies and publish books who have jumped on the psychology wagon: They are using it to use you to make money. For instance, Ron Howard. He is a piece of human garbage, a zombie, to say the least. We won’t get into his abuser, Andy Griffith, We’ll just leave it as you know you have every reason to be angry, but he is going to tell you you need therapy to understand that everything he does is part of God’s plan and if you don’t understand his honest approach, you need to pay a therapist and therefore create yet another economy, despite your health. The therapists are his friends in money, by the way.The guy’s a piece of shit.

    • I’ve suffered crimson blotches and clammy palms, heart beats that just about tear open the buttons of my blouse. I’ve tried all sorts of drugs, run fast around the track and then further away, across oceans. Writing and talking certainly take the edge off but the key to it all is remembering my breath.

    • beautifully said TP

  8. Sometimes therapy gets you a book deal with your dream editor for your YA psychological drama, and that book deal is announced on Publishers Marketplace on November 10, 2011. Sometimes you model the shrink in your book after your own therapist. You spend entire sessions reading chapters out loud so you get the details right. Sometimes you go to group therapy in addition to your individual appointments. You’d be surprised at what you learn in group therapy–enough to fill a whole chapter. Then you dedicate the book to your therapist–it’s only fair.

  9. I like to dip into the therapy thing now and again (in that binge/purge way). I definitely live better when I’ve got a trained, expensive professional singing back my bullshit, but I think I write better fucked up.

    For what it’s worth.

  10. Therapists and priests are much the same in that you shop around until you find one that tells you what you want to hear.

    My writing does not come from my sub or unconscious. It is scraped off the top of my brain with a favored old putty knife.

  11. I would go if there was any hope that I could get to the bottom of anything with someone I don’t know. No chance.
    Instead I count on my old friends to be better adjusted in the areas that I lack and vice versa. In our circle, a new person can only join if their neurosis is not one that someone else currently has.
    Anything for balance.
    Unfortunately, we have most areas covered…

  12. crikey, it’s november. ides of march, my eye. ides of november and we’re tattooing our eyelids.

  13. I prefer retail therapy.

    • Today I’m setting my sights on its distant cousin: revenge shopping.

      • Details, please!

      • Yesterday my beloved husband took advantage of my good faith and left me alone with the children way past what was fair. Let me just say, to all single parents everywhere, I bow to you.The only fitting way to get back at him is to go spend his hard earned money.

      • To MSB: thank you! My ultimate single parent effort, though, was trying to care for my then five-year old child while confined to a wheelchair for 4 months. We now laugh about the logistics of getting anything accomplished during those crazy days. At the time, though, there wasn’t enough GNP for the retail therapy I needed!

      • No jury in the world would convict you, MSB! Have fun!

  14. Therapy is good for those who seek it and then find the right person to fulfill their particular needs. Of course there are always pills.

    I could wax on about this one but I’m retired and lazy. If it works for you great. If you’re against it don’t go. As for the creative process, I’ve worked with many artists, musicians and yes, even writers. In each case their work was enhanced by the therapy process (their opinion) and not once did I hear that therapy had impaired their creativity.

    Although there are some who say that a lack of therapy can lead to angry blog comments.

  15. In the past I have had romantic visions of going to therapy, of pouring out my heart and replacing it with solid ground but I have deep seeded issues that I hold dear. I would never dream of sharing them with just anybody.

  16. I found therapy very useful, very helpful. Also the 12 Steps. But I got to the point where I needed to leave it all and strike out on my own. I know the 12 Steps says stay and help others, but it was dragging me down, remembering all the time and telling my story. I got really bored with my story. But I’ll always be grateful that they were there and listened.

  17. The best.

  18. I’ve tried therapy and end up telling the therapist what I think they want to hear. Come to think of it, some of my more creative answers happened in therapy.

  19. Well, poysonally, I need someone else to live my life with me. How else am I to make sense of it?

  20. Last week, my wife said enough. This week, I’m seeing a psychiatrist about drugs. I’m concerned that they’ll take the edge off my workaholism, and that’s the only edge I’ve got. But it’s just too fucking hard. I can’t keep doing this.

    • Ever tried yoga?

    • nothing wrong with pharmaceuticals, august.

    • What prompted her to say enough?

      p.s. most doctors over medicate so keep that in mind. The right meds are critical, but the right dosage is as important. Most of us need far less than the recommended dose to stay sharp, get boners, and be stable. That’s thirty five years of experience talking.

      • She doesn’t like to see me in pain. She thinks it’s possible to live without so much effort and so little pleasure.

        And that’s good to hear. My inclination is to start as small as possible. I don’t want to overcompensate and start giving a shit about all the murdered babies on TV.

      • YES!! This doc agrees 100%. The minimum effective dose rule should always apply. Start low and go slow is my motto.

      • I find that the right dose is important, but remembering to take it, even more so. My family can tell before I can, that’s how I know it works. Good luck August.

      • A half-hour to an hour of moderate to somewhat-intense cardio exercise every day can change your life. I hate exercise, but my ass was spreading too fast, so I hopped on the elliptical and started doing pushups. Recently, I had some minor surgery and was prohibited from working out for two weeks. My natural tendency toward inertia kicked in and the two weeks turned to five. The result: instant depression. I didn’t even realize the connection until this morning when I finally went back to the gym. So many things are affected by exercise or the lack thereof: circulation, digestion, the endocrine system. Our bodies have not evolved to cope with the extreme sedentariness of the lives we live today; we are made to move, at least a little bit more than we might want to. We are not our bodies, but since we live as though we are, we have to honor the body/mind connection, especially as we age.

    • August, you don’t need me to tell you nothing’s free. I’ve found life hard to cope with since I was about nine years old. Worried that doctors might take my edge off, I started medicating myself at age seventeen. I don’t know if it took me decades to get the dosage right or if I needed to be clamped down tight for all those years so that I wouldn’t explode. I didn’t get as much done as I might have wanted to get done during that time, but I made it through and now I’m on a dosage that keeps me even-keeled. And I’m older, middle-aged now. The things that once were important to me aren’t important anymore so they don’t torment me as they did for such a long time. The things that are important now are things I can better manage.

      Should I have taken another path? I’ll never know. I took the path I took. Worrying that doctors might take my edge off, I took my own edge off in my own way. It took what will probably prove to have been most of my life, but I made it through to a calmer place where I still have intensity and focus but am more forgiving, of myself and the world.

      What I’m trying to say–maybe trying too hard–is that there is a way and you will find it. And none of us travel our ways alone, no matter how lonely the journey may seem.

      I’m getting sappy here and my boss wants me to do some work. Gotta go.

    • @August. I do think they take the edge off. I write all this sweet lovey dovey stuff when I am on the brand name Welbutrin and I wrote practically porn when I was on the junky yellow generic. I kinda liked it.

  21. What I meant to say, but was too cranky to do so last night, was whose artwork is that? It’s pretty perfect.

  22. My professional therapy adventures have all wound up in the tangled high grasses. First, there was the marriage counselor/therapist who tried to convince me that my philandering, medically-depressed (then) husband’s issues were not the problem: I just needed to be more sympathetic. Twenty-five years later, he is still seeing this charlatan — every week. She has probably paid off her house on his patronage alone. Then, after a catastrophic accident, I was diagnosed with PTS and sent to another therapist. A nice, plump woman, who offered no counsel, but did admit I had more than enough reasons to be traumatically sad. After several months of listening to my monologue, she asked me if I would want to be a gardening buddy and swap plants. I dropped off a bucket of assorted sprouts and seedlings and never went back.

    Ironically, gardening is now my therapy. The catharsis of pulling weeds, the symbolic satisfaction in dead-heading flowers, the pleasure in watching a transplanted rose shrub bloom – all these tasks bring inner calm and allow me time to think/sort out Important Stuff. Thankfully, too, I live in a Zone 9 climate. It may be November, but I’m still mowing the grass and planting bulbs.

  23. For a few months, ten years ago, I started investigating Buddhism in an attempt to rid myself of negative chatter and the negative feelings I have towards others. Then I realized, wait, I need that stuff. I don’t want to defuse it or diffuse it. I need the vivid details of every ugly emotion I’ve ever felt in order to ascribe it to characters.

    • I’ve been investigating it for a little over a year. It seems to me the idea isn’t to rid yourself of anything, just to be aware. I’ve had more vivid, deeper, darker images while sitting than I ever had on drugs. It’s just about being okay with all of it.

  24. Therapy is fine, good even, for short periods of time. To get you through a difficult period or give you a kick start to moving forward. But I’ve seen too many people mired in therapy — I was one of those people. Worse, I’ve heard “you have more work to do” said by therapists to virtually every person who tried to quit. Perhaps they –we — did, but at some point you need to stand on your own two feet and take a step forward. That probably sounds harsher than I mean it to be. I just wish that someone had said to me, “You’re smart and attractive and well-educated. You’re just scared. Go out and do what you’re scared of. It will be fine. And you can spend your money better elsewhere.” Life isn’t easy, but it isn’t easy for anyone. It will be okay.

  25. The more you know, the more you write.

  26. crap. i just started seeing a new therapist. you know what really sucks the life out of creative ambition… SSRIs. but if i don’t take them i want to kill myself. it’s a hard knock life.

  27. I think it’s an answer for many, but not all.

    On the good days I’m sure I don’t need it, and on the bad days I’m sure I don’t want it.

  28. I’ve never been to therapy in my life, but I am married to a rugged saint who thinks my psychoses are adorable, and he’s also my pharmacist: he’s a winemaker.

  29. Well, I go to therapy when I can’t stop crying over the country music awards even though I don’t particularly like country music, or when I catch myself driving up one way streets the wrong way a lot, or if I stay in bed for more than 3 days without watching television, or when I spend a week getting up at 1 AM to shove buttered saltines in my mouth at the speed of light until I’m sick, or when I get divorced from my husband and think I might be gay, or when my medication for depression masked as peri-menopause has zombie-like side effects that take 6-months to detect, or when I have to hold my mother’s hand on her death bed and lie that we’ll all be fine and she was a good mother, she can leave us now.

    Other than that I see no reason for it.

  30. Oh, and did I mention my first therapist asked me if I ever had any sexual fantasies about him?

    Does wanting to tie your penis in a knot at this very moment count?

  31. Writing can be a substitute for therapy, but when that writing-as-therapy gets published and marketed as something polished and complete, something that might be worth my time, THAT really chaps my ass. Some of the worst books I have ever read were by authors who should have talked some of their shit out before signing on the dotted line and flashing a forced smile for the photographer.

  32. I don’t know what to say, except that you crack me up! And trust me, I needed a laugh today. Sock puppets? Fugly? Too funny.

  33. Hmm…..I’ve never tried therapy, although I am seriously considering it. Right now I’m trying a pill — I don’t know how far it will get me, but it does keep me from crying at work, which is a plus…..I have really come to love this blog and all the crazy people (like me) who comment here.

  34. Therapy saved my life – literally. I spent years in therapy and counseling. My last therapist helped me put the pieces of the puzzle of my life together. Much of my memoir is therapy dialogue to help sort out the past. So I am getting double duty from my therapy.

    Have a blessed day.

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