Anna-Leena Harkonen



Mending the Mind

I used to watch In Treatment, a show starring Gabriel Byrne as a psychiatrist. The show was broadcast daily, and I grew fond of the sympathetic therapist.

Whenever I was feeling edgy, I imagined myself sitting on his sofa, and I immediately felt better.

THE ACTOR later played a Viking chieftain, which was simply wrong. His jovial face didn’t fit the role of a violent chieftain.

All the time, I just wanted to shout: “Get out of there! Now! You belong in a practice in New York.”

WAS THIS therapist able to help people? Sometimes. In couples therapy, he was careful not to take sides, but little gestures and expressions revealed what he really thought.

Before my first divorce, my then-husband and I decided to try couples therapy.

“How long have you been together?” the therapist asked.

We disagreed on our history. He thought we had been together for nearly nine years; I said ten.

AFTER OUR FIFTH session, the therapist looked at us tiredly and said:

“If you cannot reach agreement even on whose turn it is to vacuum, you should break up.”

And so we did.

THERE MAY BE people somewhere who fight constructively, but it seems that no one has ever met one.

We are also encouraged to talk openly about our feelings with our partner, but that’s the last thing we should do. The result could be utter and complete chaos.

There is a language barrier between men and women. Men are tougher; nothing is a big deal for them. After a fight, they calmly continue with whatever they had been doing. Women cannot stop crying.

I may have generalized there. That’s how I make a living as an author.

THE STIGMA around mental health care is easing, but continues to exist.

People who for some reason are ashamed of going to therapy may try to resolve the inner conflict by calling therapy by other names. More trendy names: coaching, sparring, healing, and so on.

Perhaps electroshock therapy will soon be called a pampering spa treatment.

Anna-Leena Harkonen

Adapted from a collection published by the Booksellers Association of Finland

Published with permission from the author

New Terrain Press 2024. All rights reserved.

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