WTF Is That Shrink Doing?

by Bill Brenner on December 16, 2010

A friend of mine recently started going to a therapist, and he’s puzzled as to why the therapist keeps making him rehash the week. Here’s my theory.

Mood music:


He’s asking a lot of redundant questions to dig up patterns. They seem like stupid, recycled questions. But when you have to answer the same, stupid questions over and over again, no matter how infuriating that is, something important happens. The stuff that’s really haunting you comes out.

You don’t even realize it’s happening. But it does.

One of my favorite TV series, The West Wing, captured this quite nicely in the episode where Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman undergoes a long, brutal therapy session:


Josh didn’t want to answer Dr. Keyworth’s ¬†question about how he cut his hand, but the doctor kept dragging him through it until the truth came out.

That’s a dramatic example. But it makes an important point:

When we’re troubled, we keep things buried deep within ourselves.

And it takes what seem like the dumbest, most repetitive questions over and over again to get the real pain to the surface.

Those stupid questions will last for years. Get used to it.

And be patient, my friend.

You can’t see it now, but it gets better.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Erin Brenner December 16, 2010 at 4:11 am

Well said. We tend to think telling our story over and over does nothing, but it does. It helps us “remember it without reliving it.” It helps us put things into perspective and understand what it really means to us, even if we don’t want to face it. Talk therapy works.

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