Main | Thursday, May 19, 2005

How Does That Make You Feel?

Gentle readers, I have something to confess to you. Something you'd never expect. Something that probably sets me apart from every other middle-aged gay New Yorker.

I have never had therapy.

Nope. Not one hour on the couch. Ever.

"Oh, but JOE!" You might be saying. "You really could benefit from some therapy."

And I hear you, gentle readers. My friend David, who is a therapist himself, always says "Everybody can use some therapy, including therapists." And I agree with David, really.

But.

Why should I shell out $100/hr when I have you, gentle readers? Wait....let me lie down on this comfy blog.

That's better.

It all started when I was six years old, when I first started having those dreams about my naked father chasing me with a giant loaf of French bread. I know, I know. Everybody has that dream. Right? RIGHT?

Wait. That's not what I wanted to talk about.

I want to talk about the act of blogging as a potentially potent and valid psychological therapy. I mean, all we're really doing here is talking things out, right? Telling our stories to a hopefully receptive and engaged audience? An audience that listens to what we're saying and reflects back some of our emotions, while occasionally offering supportive criticisms? Isn't that really what is at the heart of most pyschotherapy?

Is blogging cutting the income of shrinks nationwide? I haven't seen any articles saying that, but I'd believe it if I saw it. When friends of mine have had a crisis recently, I've encouraged them to write about it, even if they don't publish it on a blog. When I've written about some of my many friends that I've lost to AIDS, I've wept when reading over my own words, but I always come out at the end feeling stronger. And isn't that really what is at the heart of most psychotherapy?

This topic of The Blog as a healing pulpit, a thinly screened confessional booth, has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks, ever since I wrote the "Chances" story. (The story tells about a friend of mine whose boyfriend cheated on him and contracted HIV). When Phil told me his story, I had several reactions. First of all, I wondered if telling his story through me would help him process his mountain of strongly conflicted emotions. Secondly, I thought that his story might serve as a valuable urban parable for some my readers. But thirdly, and I fear, most strongly, I felt I needed to write the story to process my own feelings about several close friends who have also seroconverted in the last year.

Was that selfish of me? I think it was, to a degree. Some of Phil's friends have angrily charged that Phil couldn't have possibly been in the state of mind to properly decide whether he should have his story told here. That I was using or hijacking his situation to satisfy my own need to talk about relationships and betrayal and disease. And that troubles me greatly, because I think there's some truth there.

Phil has told me that he has benefited from telling his story and from reading the comments. And that he'd like to come back here sometime soon and offer you folks an epilogue of sorts, an update of his situation. But he also understands his friends' anger with me.

Maybe I need to find a non-virtual couch.


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