Whenever I get to a new therapist’s office, the first thing I do is study all the furniture so I can figure out how it's different from my father's office. That's a strategy I learned from another therapist. Because usually the first thing I notice is that it's not that different at all, and why are all psychiatrist’s office the same, but then I try to let that go and instead I focus on the fact that this furniture has a cherry finish, not teak. The ceilings are higher, bigger windows. Way more light. The carpet is kind of plush. There isn't any art.
This therapist, Barry, isn't actually a psychiatrist, but he's a PhD psychologist so my parents will still pay for it. They don't know that he specializes in hypnotherapy. And yes, he has a beard and glasses, just like my father.
Right away I tell Barry that I'm getting ready to confront my father, so I want to go right to the memories that I'm aware of but I can’t always feel. I want to figure out everything that happened, I want to know exactly when and where and I know maybe that's impossible but if I can't know then at least I want to feel it.
I tell him about my last therapist. I thought I was pretty clear with him too, but then whenever I started to talk about memories he would back away. Or, I guess I never talked about the deeper memories — I would just share something small, maybe I was testing him to see what he would think so I would tell him about how, when I was a kid, I would be taking a shower and my father would unlock the bathroom door with a scissors and I would scream get the fuck out, hide my dick with a sponge, but he would just laugh and say he needed to piss. I always hated that word, piss, because of my father. He had his own bathroom, and even if my mother was in that bathroom then there was another one downstairs.
And the last therapist, Bryce, who also had a beard and glasses, but lighter hair, almost blonde, although probably not natural, the last therapist said: Maybe that was just horseplay. And right then I froze, didn't know what to say, couldn't speak, felt like a little kid all broken and scared. But then, when I left Providence and decided to stop seeing him, and I asked him about this, and all the other times when he moved away from the abuse I was trying to talk about, he told me I was giving him mixed messages.
Barry says he hears what I'm saying, we can always check in about everything, this is an active process. He tells me that with hypnotherapy, I always have control. I'm the one that puts myself into a trance, he's just there to guide me and I can always come out of it. He asks me to close my eyes and lean back in the chair that's kind of like the chairs in my father's office, but fancier, fancier and bulkier and uglier, but more comfortable, lean back in this chair and imagine a relaxing place. Right away I think about dancing, the music all around me, the darkness and the lights and everyone kind of floating to the sky, oh that was easy, I'm floating to the sky all calm but then there's my father in a corner, what's my father doing in this club and Barry says where would you like him to be? So then I put my father in a big cylindrical box in the center of the club, but he keeps reaching his hand out of the box and there's my mother too, maybe if I make the box bigger? But it's already time to stop. Barry asks me to bring things that make me feel safe to the next session — music, objects, whatever I want. Of course I think about bringing drugs, but I know that's not what he means.