Mutual Struggle

I forgot that he was stuttering. He’s my patient, my client, in this psychoanalytic psychotherapy that has lasted more months than I can count at the moment. Perhaps the blue sky outside helped me to forget. This Monday session was the first of two for us this week. I imagined him announcing that our Thursday session would be his last. He’s done with this. This last sentence frightened me. What was happening to me? I had a good weekend, a great one, which ended yesterday with an unforgettable seaplane flight from the San Juan Islands to Seattle, and the December sunshine fooled me into believing, for a moment, that it was summer and seventy degrees outside. The twenty-nine year-old seated across from me continued to stutter, as if he were speaking a foreign language. A foreign language to whom, I wondered. Maybe everything in his mind felt foreign, threatening, as if he were trapped in enemy territory. I’m a stutterer, though not often anymore, or maybe more often than I wish to admit. Maybe my own inner experience during the session felt as if it were happening in another mental universe. Our experiences in this room are connected. We were having this experience together. It was a mutual one. His struggle to pronounce words overcame my forgetfulness. We’ve worked together for a year. His sexuality is one of the things he struggles with. Listening to him, it felt like a life and death struggle, which might explain my forgetfulness. This struggle, in the here and now, overwhelmed me. Fortunately, this overwhelming feeling came, then left. I survived. The experience of this fifty-minute hour neared its end. He was no longer stuttering. Every word that left his mouth felt alive.

 

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