Here’s a snippet from my therapy with Vanessa, a counsellor in Headingley who I saw for 9 months 20 years ago… My most memorable moment when seeing Vanessa occurred when I was feeling particularly frustrated with this whole ‘therapy’ process. I had a gnawing feeling of dissatisfaction but didn’t have any words to put to it. Having been brought up to be a nice well-behaved boy, I was often too polite to express any resentment about anything, but on this occasion I managed to be more expressive than usual. I let Vanessa know a bit more directly how I was fed up with the world, and, yes, fed up with her, too.
I was talking vaguely about needs. I can’t remember how the conversation developed, but she ending up saying ‘I am trying to put you in touch with your needs’. Well, it had never occurred to me that that was what therapy might be about, or at least, one of the important things in my therapy: getting in touch with my needs!
For some people that’s no problem at all: they are quite aware what their needs are, but might have some other problem, or a difficulty in tolerating the frustration of needs. I had been brought up to rein in my needs, hide them away or even pretend that they weren’t there: if there was one biscuit left on the plate I certainly would not take it. So it was a big learning point for me that needs have to be known about, acknowledged, accepted and not batted away. Only then can we make conscious choices about what to do with these needs, which of course we all have. If I don’t know what my needs are, how can I possibly ask for anything? If I never ask for anything, I might spend my whole life waiting for good things to just turn up!
This is true story: I have changed Vanessa’s name.