Living rooms

Office with gray couch, gray table and two blue chairs

My office now looks like a living room, an idealized one that has much less clutter and much nicer furniture than I’m willing to shell out in my everyday life. Therapy offices are essentially living rooms with desks, and in the space between ten minutes to and ten past the hour you’ll see all the little living rooms open up in our office space as the therapists run out for a quick bathroom or coffee break. My building is next to some nice apartments and my window faces the windows of several of these, up on the 5th floor. I had a client briefly stop talking once and tell me he got distracted because there was a woman walking around in her bra, and another simply tell me there was a really hot guy behind me. I wonder if those two are in the same couple, and if they know that they entered our therapy world unwittingly just by having their windows open and living life at 6 PM.

When people are talking and I try to imagine them at home and realized that I unconsciously place them into pseudo versions of my own home when I do. A retelling of an argument with a spouse is taking place in a Twilight Zone of my own apartment, and when they slam a door and walk out for a cool off it’s my own door that opens backwards so they have to edge themselves around it, cursing, to get to the front. Their dishes and laundry form different piles but I imagine my dishes and clothes. I think this is an element of empathy, that we can’t see fully outside of ourselves and we place what we know of ourselves into our understanding of others. I remember imagining Europe as something like Minnesota before I’d been there, with square intersections and small wooded areas but old marbled buildings on every intersection instead of squat houses and modern apartments.

Every time I’ve moved, setting up my living room there were certain hopes and images for things that would happen there that came along with the process. I’d picture myself studying in a corner set aside with a desk, reading at a specified chair, and having beers with friends on the couch. I’m sure everyone does that. Now I’m at a phase of life where I feel I should be getting more sophisticated furniture, things that match and weren’t just given to me or dumped by previous roommates. I feel like the next place I move I’ll end up with a “sophisticated” aesthetic that consists of a tufted fainting couch and some stone gargoyles with one really expensive Moroccan pouf that my rabbits chew the stuffing out of.

It’s funny to do therapy in a pseudo living room, from my perspective, because as the therapist I’m supposed to make the experience more about the other person than about me, but they’re entering my space. Some therapists walk around without shoes (not my thing), watch TV on their computers, or nap on their couches (definitely my thing) when they have down time between sessions, not to mention that we pop in to each other’s offices eating snacks and chatting. It’s sort of like the dorms in college except we all sleep somewhere else. Maybe that’s what’s so nice about this job – there isn’t a feeling of going to an office because it’s like you’re going to your second home. This home feels mine even though I share it with dozens of strangers, and they feel less like strangers just by virtue of coming in here.

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