Psychotherapy Beyond the Fringe

PSYCHOTHERAPY Out of Bounds, continued
The second thing Felicity noticed came from the interpreter. During the initial conversation together, while Felicity and Passionato were becoming acquainted, the interpreter rendered what Passionato said on three occasions using the English word ‘contaminate’. Now this word is rather rarely used in ordinary social conversation. Felicity had heard that word used much more frequently by obsessives than by any other group of people. Consequently, the second time it was used by the interpreter, Felicity stopped him and asked him the Tamil word for ‘contaminate’ that Passionato had used. The interpreter gave a word. Felicity asked what the literal English translation of that word was. The interpreter was clear that it meant ‘contaminate’. Later, just to confirm that the obsessive pathology did not belong to the interpreter, Felicity asked a couple of other Indian friends what the Tamil word meant. They agreed it meant ‘contaminate’. Now Felicity was really interested. Could it be that something in a particular psychological habit system could result in a kind of idea which is common across cultures, and which results in a common word usage to express the idea regardless of the language used? Who knows? Felicity doesn’t.
Felicity wondered if there were two interacting processes going on to maintain this man’s muscle symptom. Could he have developed self-doubts about the perfection of his playing, or have felt resentment that his work wasn’t appreciated enough, so that he was frustrated or angry enough to resist performing? And could he be trying too hard to relax as a way of ‘fighting off’ any anger or frustration he might be feeling – to keep his feelings under control? Both ideas would tend to fit with how obsessives react. Of course, these ‘brilliant’ psychological interpretations didn’t help Felicity to figure out what to do. They were just further examples of thoughts Felicity had which didn’t interest him.

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