Season 3: Reflections -- Paul

No doubt in the next couple of weeks, more thoughts will come to me about this season, but let's start with these.

Though I fervently wish for another season, I do believe that this was likely the last. I have not seen mention anywhere of a possible season 4. So, I am operating on the premise that we will not be seeing further episodes.

Earlier this week, I was talking about the ending with an analyst I know. And he feels that having Paul leave as he did is cynical and a terrible comment on the possibilities that therapy offers. Of course, we don't know if Paul returns and we likely will never know. I am of divided mind about Paul's leaving. Dramatically, I think it works. But as I have thought about it, it doesn't work for me as something a man who has spent his life as a therapist would do unless the crisis he is in is even deeper than he and we know, because to leave this way is a repudiation of everything he has done in his life. 

Leaving seems to me the gesture of an angry disappointed child who, when he finds he cannot have his way, packs his toys and goes home and then to top it off, in effect says "I never liked you anyway." He stormed away from Gina and now he is doing essentially the same thing, let down by yet another woman who would not give him what he wants, a mother who can care for him. I want to believe that in time -- a week, a month or even in a year -- he will want to return and get down to work in earnest in therapy. I'm sure that he did indeed benefit from his analysis with Gina but it was a complicated relationship and became problematic because of the many different relationships they had. 

It isn't uncommon for someone who has been in analysis to decide some time after finishing that more work would help. Any of us can only go as far as we are prepared to and readiness to tackle issues previously neglected often comes after, and in part because of, an earlier analysis. So it is not a marker of some major failing that Paul at this point in his life does seem to need therapy again.

I do believe that on balance Paul is a good therapist. We see his errors, yes, but I believe that they help us to see him as human rather than some extraordinary therapeutic genius. I daresay that if any of us who are therapists had our work closely scrutinized in the way Paul's is by us, we would also be found to be guilty of a wide variety of errors. Because psychotherapy is a human enterprise.

As you can see, I have a soft spot for Paul, even as I am critical of some of what he does. He needs to develop more of a life outside of work. This is essential for any therapist  -- to have friends, interests and activity that are away from therapy. Just as I tell my patients that therapy is not a way of life, so it shouldn't be for the therapist. Movies, reading, hobbies, social gatherings, friends and the like are all essential elements in a balanced life. Paul gets into trouble at least in part because his life is too narrowly confined to his work.

Tomorrow: about this season's patients.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.