About six months ago I was buying coffee by my office and I started talking to the barista. The coffee joint I frequent was playing the Beastie Boys and that's what got us started. The barista then asked me what I did.
"I'm a therapist," I said. "I work down the street."
He looked at me, surprised, almost like he was waiting for me to say just kidding.
"I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't that."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well," the barista paused for a moment. "You're cool," he said with a shrug.
"I'll tell you a secret." I said. "Therapy makes you cool."
The idea of coolness, being cool, is something that has always been of interest to me. Like the supreme courts definition of pornography, we can't define coolness, but we know it when we see it. And at one point or another in our lives, we've all wanted to be it. As a therapist it is a topic I think about often, because I believe it is the thing that often keeps people out of my office. For many people, therapy ain't cool. I vehemently disagree. You want to be like Fonzie? Get into therapy.
Now I'm not saying anyone who seems cool doesn't need therapy, not at all. But If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, coolness is in the body of the feeler. And we'd all like to tap into our inner James Dean once in a while. Coolness has many different flavors, shapes and sizes, but I believe there is one common denominator that is the furtive soil which all coolness grows out of. Whether it be Brando, Elvis, or Gwen Stefani, what they all share, and what we respond to in them, is a comfortableness in their body. This is also the important work that good psychotherapy can do; bringing you back to your body in a deeper and more connected way.
For many people, therapy ain't cool. I vehemently disagree. You want to be like Fonzie? Get into therapy.
In much of the work that I do, what I often find people struggling with is some form of battling their body. Be it intense anxiety, deep sadness, or a painful numbness, these experiences are visceral and bodily based. Though we think of our brain as the source of much of our suffering, so much of our pain is felt and held in our body. When our body is an unpleasant place to be we flee, either into our heads, or to some kind of disconnected place. This is where psychotherapy borrows from shamanism. The shaman's role is to bring the soul back into the body, have it connect and live within the body, and grow roots.
What they all share, and what we respond to in them, is a comfortableness in their body.
"Why am I so crazy?!" Asked Dawn, a 25 year old who had been living a chaotic adrenalized life to escape the pain of the severe neglect she experienced growing up. "I hate it. I keep making the same mistakes over and over. I feel crazy, why am I so crazy?!"
"The problem isn't that you're crazy," I told Dawn. "You were born crazy. The problem is that there was no one around to make you not crazy."
My words happened to hit Dawn, right place right time. I saw her eyes well up and her inner metronome slow down; she didn't move. You know what's cool? Watching someone who has run from a feeling their entire life, stop running. They don't fight it, they just wear it. Dawn's chaos stopped, and what took its place was a rooted presence that was undeniable. She wore her deep sadness like a broken in leather jacket and it looked great on her. That is what's cool.
The problem isn't that you're crazy. The problem is that there was no one around to make you not crazy.
A week ago I was back at my coffee place, this time they were playing Sam Cooke. The barista handed me my coffee, then motioned for me to come closer.
"I started therapy," he said.
"Yeah? How is it?" I asked.
"Good." Said the barista. " It's cool."
"Cool." I said back. "Very cool."