“She’s helped you a lot,” my husband said to me. He didn’t elaborate, didn’t say Exhibit A, but he didn’t need to. Since beginning my work with Ronit, one of several noticeable changes was the improved relationship I now had with my husband’s family. To wit, he and I were in the car on our way to Herzliya for a family event, and I was looking forward to the evening.
“I know she has,” I said, “but at what price? Can you believe what she said to me? I have to quit before I’m fired. I must.”
“Maybe she was quitting before she was fired,” he said.
It was a thought I’d had myself, but it struck me afresh. Could it be? Could Ronit have been afraid that upon hearing the news that she was closing up shop in Jerusalem I would also close up shop – with her? I allowed myself to contemplate the idea, but not for long. No. This kind of “misunderstanding” had happened too many times already. I was done with her.
It felt good to be done with her. It felt good to be independent again. I remembered how much pain I’d been in when she’d uttered that fateful line – another option is to use this time to work on separation – but I no longer felt it. Maybe she had done me a favor; instead of slowly peeling back the bandage she’d ripped it right off. Now I went to my sessions and hardly talked. So much better! I could suddenly see the appeal. I’d always wondered how people had the self-control to keep it all in, but now I understood the benefits. I’d always wanted to be someone who didn’t get all crazy-attached – who felt the same way about her psychotherapist as she did about her ophthalmologist – and now I was one! I had successfully detached!
On the other hand, it seemed kind of ridiculous to pay for the talking cure if I wasn’t going to talk.
Ronit fought the good fight. “But I’d be glad to see you in Tel Aviv,” she said.
She still wasn’t getting the point. How did I manage to find the one therapist in the world who made it all so very optional? Who didn’t actively encourage me to continue? Who could, essentially, take me or leave me? Here and there, from this friend or that one, I’d heard about therapists who suggested more frequent weekly sessions, who suggested a continuation of treatment even when the patient thought she was ready to stop. Why hadn’t I gotten one of those? Come September Ronit might never see me again – and that was okay with her? Did she know what she was saying? I did: that she could live without me.
“I thought you might not want to make the trip,” she continued. “Remember the time I offered you a session in Tel Aviv and you said you didn’t know how you’d find the clinic? You didn’t know if you’d be on time or if you’d be early or late? You weren’t sure what the office arrangement would be like? Whether there’d be a waiting room or a bell?”
She spoke the truth; I had said these things. Nevertheless, I didn’t budge; I was unmoved. She still should have allowed me to be the one to introduce the topic of separation if the topic of separation had needed to be introduced.
“You’re right,” she said. “It was a mistake. I’ve made a lot of mistakes.”
This wasn’t good enough for me. Nothing was.
“Who’s to say what could happen here – right here – over the next nine months?” she said. “I certainly can’t. There is a possibility that you would be ready to stop before I leave.”
“How convenient,” I said. “That I should be ready to go just when you need me to be.”
“So this is all about what I need,” she said.
“Looks that way to me,” I said. “As long as you’re still coming to Jerusalem, I might as well fill one of your hours. But when you leave, I’m on my own. Maybe I’d like to leave now – on my timeframe.”
“My need was to move,” she said. “My need is to close the practice here. I realized after the first few months of this winter that I just wouldn’t be able to keep doing the drive. I thought I would; I’m sorry that I can’t. My needs may not be the best thing for you, but within the boundaries we now have, I’m trying to think of what is.”
“You know,” she said, “letting someone go can also be seen as an act of generosity. We should look at why you can only see it as an act of cruelty.”
“All therapy ends sooner or later.”
None of this was doing anything for me, but it didn’t matter. I’d already decided that she couldn’t hurt me anymore; I wouldn’t let her.
Finally she said, “I think it would be a very bad idea for you to quit now.” And then – a major statement for her – “I wish for you to stay.”
Well, she was getting closer. But not close enough. It was too little, too late, and while a statement like that would have meant everything to me only a few weeks before, I didn’t seem to be the same person I’d been a few weeks before. I considered another one of my father’s life lessons, the one about not letting hope triumph over experience. My experience so far with Ronit was characterized by some intensely crushing moments. Why would that change? So we would get through this crisis only to arrive at another one. Maybe it was as simple as this: maybe we made a bad (analytic) couple. Maybe ours was a marriage that, despite the best intentions on both sides, could not be saved.
Later that day I finally did it. I took action. I remembered how Ronit had reacted when I told her I was going to the Self Psychology conference: how she had said there was a big difference between reading books about psychology and actually going to a professional psychological conference. Likewise, there was also a big difference between thinking of finding a new therapist and actually taking a step to do so.
I got the name of someone. I emailed this person. This person responded. It was perfect: this person’s clinic was practically around the corner from me! Forget about schlepping to Tel Aviv – I would barely even need to cross the street! This person provided her phone number and suggested I call her, something I planned to do just as soon as I tied up loose ends.
It was to be my final appointment with Ronit, though she didn’t yet know it. I took a check with me; I would pay and be finished. I had made my decision. I had considered every single thing she could possibly say to me, and I was resolute in the face of each one.
And then, after I laid it all out for her, told her that I didn’t trust her, didn’t feel secure with her, couldn’t free-associate freely in her presence; said that we had irreconcilable differences, that we were incompatible, that we had communication problems; told her that we weren’t a good fit, that she was too Israeli, that she was too tough; said that she had been irresponsible in taking me on, that she must have known she’d be moving, that she should have referred me to someone else . . . after I’d said all of this and more (for I too could be cruel; when hurt, I could be very cruel indeed), Ronit said, simply: “I feel very sad that you’re ending this therapy. Very sad.”
I had considered every single thing she could possibly say to me. Except that.