A few words about psychoanalysis:
Well, not real psychoanalysis. I have a friend who was, as they say, “analyzed”–he likened it to having a massage several times a week, and only stopped the process (one wants to type “process”–god it’s hard to take the shrinky lingo seriously, isn’t it? The one exception, to me, is the expression “well defended.” I could go around saying people are well defended all day long) when his elder child began to attend private school, thus depleting monies formerly set aside for Freud’s disciples.
The practitioner of mental massage I have seen, off and on, since the bell began to toll for my marriage, is the very person an astute children’s author would invent if she wanted to have a psychiatrist as one of her minor characters. She has a Roald-Dahlesque name (as does her husband, whom she met her first day of medical school, and whom she frequently mentions) and an absolutely charming, antique demeanor. She wears cardigans and sensible shoes and below-the-knee skirts over lisle stockings, even in summer. Her graying hair is drawn up in a post-Victorian–shall we say Edwardian?–topknot, and her office décor is what I can only describe as mid-century Bugs Bunny modern, as imagined by Chuck Jones. Orange wall-to-wall carpet, paneled walls. Low ceilings. “I am always so surprised that the magazines in the waiting room are current,” said a friend of mine who also sees her.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have more occasion to talk about her, and I’m procrastinating dreadfully right now, so allow me to cut to the chase: I have gone to see her twice in the last month; before that, it had been a year since my last confession, er, visit. She had seen my ex-husband for a while, too, back before we were separated and then through those gruesome early days, so she knows him, and there was plenty to talk about. By the second session we were mostly caught up.
Which meant I was ready to talk about the fucking cottage.
“I want to let go of this, I really hate being this stuck, it’s some kind of cathexis, I think,” I said, sagely using the term one of you commenters tipped me off about. My psychiatrist laughed. (She’s admirably well defended, but she has a wonderful sense of humor. Making her laugh is one of my favorite parts of seeing her.) “I can’t stand being bitter and negative, you’ve got to give me some new way to think about all of this,” I said.
She smiled, and folded her hands in her lap. “Let me put it this way,” she said. (That phrase is one of her favorites. Another is “I’m just going to make fun of you a little bit.” Both usually precede something brilliant.) “Your ex-husband was very angry when he had to move out of your house. But he moved anyway, because that was what was best for you and for the children. And you have felt very guilty about that ever since. So in a way, you took away his favorite house, and it has haunted both of you.
“But now you gave him your favorite house. You found it, and you gave it to him. So you’re even. You don’t need to feel guilty, and you don’t need to feel angry. Your debt is fully discharged.”
I drove home grinning like an idiot. And the thought or sight or mention of that perfect little cottage hasn’t bothered me since.