Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Rich, Beautiful, Brilliant People Talk About In Psychotherapy

On on Boy Doctor / Girl Doctor post, one reader wrote about my novel, Home Inspection:

I was kind of surprised and amused by how mundane much of what Tom and Polly talked about in therapy seemed. These characters were far more attractive, intelligent, accomplished and worldly than I am, and yet their sessions often didn't sound all that different than my own.

Ah, so I do see some amazing people for psychotherapy and this got me thinking about a few things.

First off, let me remind you that Polly and Tom aren't real, they are fictional characters and some of their dialogue is not about being a realistic therapy session, it's about progressing the plot.  Each chapter is a therapy session, and while the length varies a bit, sometimes the space just needed to be filled for the sake of the format.

Second off, let me tell you that rich, brilliant, gorgeous, accomplished people talk about the same things that dumb ugly people (oh please forgive me, I don't actually think of my patients as dumb and ugly!)  talk about in psychotherapy.  The degree of detail and the propensity to want to talk seems to be a feature of individual personality, and not a product of money, brains, luck, or good looks.  Smarter people sometimes use bigger words.

This is what everyone talks about in psychotherapy:
  • Interesting things they've done or places they've been since the last session.
  • Distressing interactions with important people in their lives, so if they feel dissed by someone, that tops the list.  Wealthy, gorgeous, smart people feel disrespected and misunderstood in the exact same ways the non-beautiful people do. 
  • Anything that's upsetting or aggravating.  If you've never been in therapy, let me assure you I hear a great deal about technology fiascos and car/home repairs.
  • Sometimes people actually talk about their psychiatric symptoms, but less often then you'd think, and sometimes only when specifically asked about them.  They do talk a fair amount about medications.
  • Their medical issues and the medical issues of their family members. Sometimes the medical issues of friends and co-workers.
I'm sure I'm missing some things, you'll fill it in.
There are no more free days to promote Home Inspection, so it's selling for 99 cents for a few days only.
Double Billing is getting hundreds of downloads and I couldn't be more pleased.
If you're interested, the books are listed  here 


Sarebear said...

gah. I tried to type a comment, like I've tried for the last three posts, and can't do it. Something's wierd with me these days, but I'm still around.

Some of the subjects are really applicable to me, even, but . . . I either can't pull it together, or don't want to feel so vulnerable or exposed, or I don't know what.

I am just not my usual self these last two weeks.

Just poking my head up to say I'm still here tho, and at least these posts have me thinking.


Jane said...

Guess that makes sense that a lot of patients talk about similar things, regardless of background. That could get boring and repetitive after a while. But at least some patients probably make huge changes and that's the really interesting part. Polly was really uninteresting to me until she finally realized that she could go get the shack on the bump and not the house on the hill with the 2.5 kids and white picket fence. She was so depressing. Everything was about what she couldn't do and not about what she could do. And it wasn't even a shack. It was actually kind of a nice little house. You could theoretically fit in 2 kids. Tom's barracuda should have moved in there.

If rich, smart people and dumb, poor people talk about similar stuff I hope that means they are similar enough that they all have the same shot at making good changes in their lives like Polly and Tom.

George Dawson, MD, DFAPA said...

Workplace stress and stress with the significant other are predominate themes for folks with depression and anxiety. The workplace issue is so common, I can't believe that there has not been an initiative to teach bosses and managers how to be more human.

Dinah said...

Hi Sara! I'm glad you are here.

So Jane, I didn't see why Polly was depressing. She embodies all the people who give you all the reasons why they can't change and use these reasons as excuses for their inertia. When she concedes to the cottage on the bump, she isn't throwing in the towel on ever getting the house on the hill, she is finally making a move and the rowhouse she buys (which really is a rather nice place) signifies movement, being unstuck, a stepping stone towards her dream. She's only 35, this isn't her final residence. She is now unstuck and she can strive towards all sorts of bigger and better things, it was not meant to convey permanent surrender to an inferior goal. And you're to believe that once she and Tom have their 2.4 kids they will move. Maybe you have to know Baltimore, Hon, but Fells Point and Canton are where the young people live, the married people with kids move to the 'burbs.

Jane said...

Oh, maybe my comment was unclear. I meant that she was depressing and uninteresting UNTIL she decided that the shack on the bump was okay...because it wasn't actually a shack. Tom's barracuda would have been happy there, but the barracuda didn't have the same wake-up call that Polly did. Up until the decision to get the "shack", Polly was a pretty depressing site because her idea of happiness was so wrapped up in things she couldn't realistically obtain. She was a lot more interesting and less depressing when she modified her idea of happiness and saw that the "shack" wasn't actually a shack after all. It's too bad the barracuda couldn't be more flexible.

She's ONLY 35! I thought women were supposed to avoid having kids after 35? Isn't that the age when everything starts to go downhill for women reproductively? At least she can always adopt the two and half kids.

I'm probably biased though. My eldest sister had her first baby at 20 and the other one had her first baby at 19. They have five kids between them and had them all in their 20s. I'm the old maid :( 26 and no babies and no marriage. Coincidentally, I was thinking about what I will do if I hit my 30s and I am still unmarried and childless. Freeze my eggs? Adoption? 30 is only 4 years away for me. My brother is 28 and has no kids, but it's different for him! Guys can be elderly and have kids.

Oh well. My brother and I were the only ones that went to college, so I guess there is an upside to being unmarried and childless in your 20s. We have a lot more freedom to do as we please while our sisters were tending babies.

Like Polly, I need to be flexible and be happy with my nieces and nephews, cherish them, and maybe one day I will have my own family. I have to stop dreaming of babies, drooling over Anne Geddes pictures, and just get a pet fish that I can baby at home. And shower my nieces and nephews with lots of aunty love of course!

Jane said...

Dinah, I was thinking about how Tom has a problem with just letting everything happen to him. And it reminded me of a story called "Mark the Shrink" in Augusten Burroughs' Magical Thinking. Augusten dated a psychiatrist named Mark and he has a problem with just kind of letting things happen to him...even though he's a psychiatrist. It might be something you would find to be a good read.

It's a sadder short story in the book, but it was still really good...and Burroughs doesn't normally praise shrinks

Anonymous said...

Are the rich people always beautiful and brilliant? I have not found this correlation. Perhaps if your practice focused on celebs... Are there many celebs in Baltimore? Does Obama make the drive in to see you? He is reasonably wealthy, not bad looking and clever, probably not brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I agree a person's personality seems to determine how talkative they are or how much detail they tend to use in conversation. I guess my Boy Doctor/Girl Doctor comment didn't make that clear. And I imagine "the beautiful people" do talk about the same things in therapy as those of us who are less blessed do. Unfortunately, my sessions wouldn't make interesting fiction reading, and I felt the way Polly and Tom’s were written didn't make them very interesting either. Granted that's only my opinion, but it was meant as honest feed-back. The premise of developing Polly and Tom's characters through their therapy sessions had great potential, and I wanted to find them engaging, but I didn't. The elements were there to make them interesting, but they felt flat. I thought Julius came across with more depth, possible because of the first person narrative, and consequently I was more invested in seeing where the story would take him. I don't feel characterization should suffer for the sake of advancing plot, especially given the kind of story you were writing in Home Improvement, but again that's just my two cents. Best of luck with Double Billing.

Anonymous said...

Dinah wrote of Polly's character:

"She embodies all the people who give you all the reasons why they can't change and use these reasons as excuses for their inertia."

Sue Grafton opens one of her books with this marvelous observation about the capacity to change:

"The basic question is this: given human nature, are any of us really capable of change? The mistakes other people make are usually patently obvious. Our own are tougher to recognize. In most cases, our path through life reflects the fundamental truth about who we are and who we've been since birth. We're optimists or pessimists, joyful or depressed, gullible or cynical, inclined to seek adventure or avoid all risks. Therapy might strengthen our assets or offset our liabilities, but in the main we do what we do because we've always done it that way, even when the outcome is bad... perhaps especially when the outcome is bad."

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that what I'm reading... "dumb, ugly people"? "non-beautiful people"? I assume that this "person" writing this is also a character of some sort. I can't imagine an actual professional speaking this way. Yuck.