Have you been in therapy and had nothing to say? It happens. It does and it’s ok. As a therapist, I can always find something to talk about. I can dig into my training or something I’ve read and fill an hour with information. But I’m not sure you’re there to listen to me monologue and as we know from “The Incredibles,” it’s usually our downfall so I try not to do that. But then what? You sit down and shrug. Things seem OK, nothing’s pressing, nothing’s really all that urgent. It feels like we should just wrap things up early and head home to catch “The Voice.” But you’re here and we should be doing something so we talk. That’s when then things get good.
Recently, I gave a group of therapist friends the challenge to write 600 words on anything. Well, anything therapy related. It was a wide-open target and I tensed with fear that I myself might have nothing to say, because, I mean, really, what do I know about anything? Right? The more I thought, the scarier it became. The harder it was. But I was at the gym this morning listening to Marc Maron interview Alan Alda on the podcast WTF and they were talking about associations. Not the kind that require you to wear a jacket and tie but the kind that spark ideas. Alda was talking about it terms of acting and responding to others on the stage. Associations, Alda said, come when you let yourself be open and that’s where creativity happens. It started me thinking when I wasn’t thinking at all
Later, I was trying to think of someone’s name and for some reason (which could not possibly have anything at all do with age, right???) I could not remember it. It was one of those times when you have the name on the tip of your tongue and you know you know it, but can’t get to it. It’s like a marble that’s rolled under the couch and is half an inch beyond your fingertips. You know you’re going to have to move the couch to get it. Except the couch is heavy and it’s going to be a lot of work and there are going to be angry dust bunny-monsters and lost socks and really this is in your head so there’s no couch to move anyway. Well, no literal couch. So you work at it for a while. You try to remember the name by thinking of the last time you saw that person or where you were or who you were with. It’s hard. Then later, after you’ve finally given up it pops into your head out of nowhere. And you wonder, wtf? Why did that couch (and yes, I’m flogging this metaphor to death, but hang with me) suddenly move?
I knew I could write 600 words on this with my eyes closed (I’m kidding, I’m nowhere near that good a typist) because these are my favorite moments in therapy. Some of the most fruitful therapy sessions happen when my client walks in and says, “I don’t really have anything to talk about.” Those are the moments when we give up trying to be furniture movers and instead relax into being people. We become open and we associate and the couch starts to move and suddenly there’s the marble (or Lego or pebble - chose your allusion depending on how old you are) ready for us to grasp. So go ahead, come in with nothing to say. Believe me, it’s OK.