Why Don’t You Try Something Different?

The man sits on a leather couch. He keeps his phone at arm’s length and facedown. His therapist is how you picture a therapist—a sweater, salt and pepper hair, glasses, trim, legs crossed, leather shoes, a steno pad on his lap and a pen in his right hand.

They are two-thirds through the session.

“So let’s go back to the dreams.”

“Sure. The most vivid one involved Dad showing up. I know he’s back from the dead, but he’s sick and is going to die all over again. And he wants to play a helicopter video game with me. Of course, I don’t want to play a game. I want to know what being dead is like. I want to know why he’s sick again, why he’s going to die again.”

“And what does he say to that?”

“He gets annoyed. Knows he was dead and is now back but has no memory of being dead. Has no idea why he’s back. And he doesn’t want to talk about it.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“In the moment, it’s aggravating. And I’m sure it has to do with the fact that it’s all in my mind and I don’t really have the answers to much about his death.”

“Ok.”

“But the real issue is that I wake up and feel like I lived his last week all over again. It’s 18 months later, but it feels like it just happened.”

“Why do you think you feel that way?”

“I think it’s a trauma reaction. Part of the reason I picked you is you do EMDR. I’d like it to stop.”

“Hmmm. EMDR may be appropriate. We can get into that later. What do you say to him when he puts off your questions and asks to play?”

“I keep asking him why we can’t talk about it.”

“And what does he say?”

“That he has no answers and since he doesn’t he just wants to enjoy being together.”

“And you find that frustrating.”

“Yes. And ridiculous. And it’s not like him. He ruminated on everything. He would talk about anything. So I know it’s just my brain grappling with this.”

The therapist looks at his watch. “We’re close to time. But before we finish, how often do you have dreams like this?”

“Once or twice a month.”

“Ok. Well, if it happens again before we meet again, why don’t you try something different?”

“Ok.”

“If he offers to play a game, tell him yes and play. See where that takes you.”

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