Our group of therapists required supper at this point. We had to talk. Over lamb and rice, we agreed that the demands of drama had jacked up the circumstances in which Paul was foundering, despite his years of experience. For example, after more than a year of therapy, how could he be surprised by Laura's confession of love? And when she gives a detailed account of her sexual subjugation in a cafe restroom, why doesn't he raise the question of her self-destructiveness? A woman therapist would never fall for the titillation, we agree. How could he be as passive as he is with the macho martinet of a Navy pilot? Why does he let the negativity go on and on with Jake and Amy? It's supposed to be a third session, and he should have more of an alliance. And how could he be so unconscious about renewing his difficult relationship with Gina? We work harder to be more self-aware, we all agree. Don't we?
I detail bits of this group assessment over our supper because I think it starts to illustrate something about what it's like to be a therapist: the layers of questioning, the arguments back and forth, the looking and looking again. "A good story, but bad therapy," one friend says. "You really think so?" someone else asks; "I could teach from this show."
Reviewing the episodes, we found ourselves questioning the writers, our own assumptions, the varieties of therapy. We entered and reentered the membrane of the story. That's what we do, we therapists: we give up our longing for certainty; we keep a liveliness about our own not-knowing, what Keats called "negative capability"—what we might experience as a curious mind, open and aware one moment, closed and groping the next.