Gavriella’s parents were deeply concerned about their 17-year-old daughter, and as a result they were considering therapy. They were a religious household, but Gaviella had declared herself to be an atheist long ago and had stopped observing anything. Her parents had been understanding and respectful and had made an agreement with Gavriella. She would go through the motions around her younger siblings, in return for being left alone to do her own thing the rest of the time. They hadn’t made a fuss when she seemed to spend most of her spare time asleep, and even some of the time when she should have been in school. They hadn’t complained when she’d shaved her head over the summer for fun. There was no open objection to her multiple new piercings.
Yet they worried constantly. They worried that all of this together was a sign of some deep-rooted unhappiness and they didn’t know how to get to the bottom of it.
I am not unhappy at all!
Gavriella would always deny that there was any problem. “I am not unhappy at all! Actually, I am supremely balanced. My approach is entirely rational. I see things for what they truly are. Life is objectively meaningless- (or worse for people who are less privileged than we are). I don’t want to live in a bubble of denial like everybody else. But everything is fine, there’s nothing to worry about.”
But when Gavriella’s mother started to suspect that her daughter was self-harming, she couldn’t stand by any longer and so she picked up the phone to Kav L’Noar.
Therapy is so bourgeois
Gavriella was willing to see our therapist to keep her mother off her case. But, she said, she felt guilty about wasting everybody’s time. “There’s nothing anyone can say to me that’s going to change how I think or behave, so why am I here?” she asked the therapist. Kav L’Noar’s therapist replied that she had no interest in changing Gavriella. She was interested in getting to know her and exploring together what lay beneath the surface. But Gavriella wasn’t convinced. She still thought that this was an entirely pointless exercise. “Therapy is so bourgeois,” she would say.
It took a long time for the therapist to get past Gavriella’s super strong defenses. Gavriella would only ever share fragments of what was in her head or snippets of past experiences, and it would all be mixed up with anger, sarcasm, jokes, and pseudo-philosophy. But the therapist refused to be put off. Very patiently, she reflected back what Gavriella was really trying to share as the sessions wore on, and helped her start to join the dots. Very slowly, Gavriella came to acknowledge that she was, in truth, hurting all the time. As the weeks went by, she started to understand some of what lay behind this wall of pain.
“I told her she needs to go to therapy,”
Two years later, the therapist received a phone call from Gavriella. She said that she was calling because she was worried about a friend. She thought that her friend was seriously depressed and could do herself harm. Gavriella wanted to know what she could do to make sure her friend stayed safe. “I told her she needs to go to therapy,” said Gavriella. I told her that life is better than she thinks and she just needs a bit of help to see that for herself. In addition, I told her it’s worth the effort, that she’s worth the effort. I hope she calls you.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.