Discussing expectational sets in therapy with Frank Farrelly
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for”
FRANK: Exactly. Well for a lot people, therapists and clinicians, would say ‘Well it’s plugged into health’. Symptom substitution and they’re just going to develop an even worse blah, blah, blah. And I say How about this. She’s being going around and around like a broken record and after several decades of this, client’s, patients, patients families, spouses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wives, husbands, children, co-workers, they just can’t wait for change. So the patient is ready for change, like 98% ready for change, and the matrix of their significant others, all important people in their lives, they’re ready for the person to change. They’re sick and tired of this crap, you know. And so if the person changes, people say ‘Flied into health’. Flied into health my ass. They were ready. I mean they were way beyond ready. They’d been ready you know. Jesus. God Almighty. By their approach you shall know them, the man said. Carpenter once said that. And you don’t gather figs from thistles you know. So when you get changed behaviour and changed ideational patterns and change … and this stuff is spontaneous and coming out quickly too it’s not this paper thin sounding made up kind of … Insight and stuff like that. I have gotten so many people who have been to a dozen different therapists, a dozen different therapists.
I had this one woman in New York and she said after the first session, I can’t believe my ears. Do you actually help people by talking to them this way. I said ‘Help. Who the fuck’s talking about help. I mean you know, talking you can get help, but help is harder to come by. Phrase patterns kind of stuff, because I had all these Jewish graduates in New York (Yawk). Anyway I said talking you can get but the help is harder to come by which is proved by the 12 dried out husks of therapists that you’ve left in your wake. She was like … I pictured her as a blood sucking, what are these things that suck out the juices of some insects … just leave the dried husk. But boy did she change. She changed. Jesus H Christ boy. And people get into patterns you know. Patterns of having to … they are so sick and tired of having to … when I see someone who is a certified government inspected loser, clinical failure case, I mean it’s … ‘I don’t know what to do with her will can have her’? and I said ‘Sure, bring the body in as long as it’s still warm we can do therapy with it’. This one psychiatrist he burst out laughing he said ‘God Frank. Thank God for you’. But this woman. She had 25 suicidal attempts. I mean you could hear the death rattle in her throat kind of stuff and her family had to run around to every … She’d go these motels you know, and sign herself in, and then take all these different kinds of drugs and stuff to say goodbye cruel world kind of thing. And they would find her. They had these pictures and they got this thing down to a t.
FRANK: The quickest person to ever learn provocative therapy was a student nurse. And she came in to me when I was a social worker and I would talk about the patients, the families and all this kind of stuff da da da. Then I got to talking about if you didn’t have your nursing supervisor looking over your shoulder and filling up your diary on this patient, what would you like to say to them? Boy you should have heard the stuff coming out. I said ‘What would your supervisor say if she could her what your saying now’? She said ‘God, I’d be kicked out of the class’ etc, etc. So I said ‘Why don’t you tell the patient this’. She was a cute little thing and stuff like this. Anyway I said after she’d had the interview with them to come in and talk to me again. She came in and I was in stitches and I said ‘Yeah well thanks a lot nurse. I wouldn’t have worked my balls off for 5 years to find you, diddy-bop in here in 15 minutes and get it. God this is depressing’. And she said ‘Oh Frank don’t get so upset about it, if it makes you feel any better this is the way we think and talk in my family so you know I’ve been studying this for 19 years’. Thank you nurse it helps. It did. They think this way, they talk this way. Things don’t have to move in steps, digital, sequential movements you know to get from a to b to c to d and then arrive at e. Fuck it. Just boing boing. The human mind works like this a lot of times, I mean, not certain people who have got a mind like a constricted anal sphinture, but the rest of us, our minds works like this. You can call it increased association of ideas and difficulty in reaching and all this other kind of thing. Oh god, you know. Some sweet Jesus. You know sometimes this aarrgghh this tight, digital, sequential, logical, rational, data, problem solving.
I find that very constricting and stuff like this. Landing in an aeroplane, and my niece is flying these like gasoline stations in the sky, and she’s not in it, she’s piloting it. I call her the general. I guess she’s captain or something like that. What a girl. Just a petite little something. She had us in stitches telling us about survival in the desert when her compatriot or someone had died. They were supposed to go kill a snake, chew its’ head off or something like that and spit its’ head off and eat this raw snake meat. They’d been out there a week with nothing, just a knife and they learnt how to make fire and stuff like that and roast the snake. Wow, whoopee doo. And how to cut the pulp out of some certain kind of cacti and chew and suck on this stuff to get some liquid. Oh my God. Anyway she knows how to do digital, sequential and stuff like that, but she also had us in stitches talking about experiences she had and all that kind of stuff. Captain Jennifer Farrelly, what a girl. Any rate. People who can be spontaneous, who can have some respect or who can acknowledge others. And who could listen to other people and who could have a sense of fun and a sense of humour. And who believe like the Chinese proverb says ‘Gaiety is wiser than wisdom’ and ‘Laughter is the sound of victory’ etc. And who can see the comic side of things and the sad, tragic side of things. Because you know there’s that too.
Any rate in Berlin they were saying ‘Could you tell us, 78 Germans, and this one guy who was a psychiatrist asked if he could stand up and I said no he could sit down but they said let him stand because we can hear him much better, not just talking into the hair. So he would say ‘Frank could you give us the pre-requisite of a person who would make a good provocative therapist’ and I said ‘Yes’. He said ‘Yes’? And I said ‘Oh you want me to do it? Alright number 1 (hold up the right index finger) to begin with it helps to be born Irish. They all tilted to the right or left of me. And I thought of that student nurse, because her ability to just play with words. That words are fun to play with and you can, and we did this on her family, if you said something that was a turn of speech, or a comparison or mispronounce something and it was funny, pretty soon you were being quoted all over the family and other people. Then they would forget who said it and it just became part of the family. So it’s playing with words, having a sense of humour, being able to play with your own thoughts and feelings, being able to easily share your thoughts and feelings and there are a number of other factors. I haven’t gone down and made a list in rank order and stuff like this. I don’t know. When it happens it happens.