Saturday, March 29, 2008

My new name

"I have a new name for you, Ayelet!" said Jackleen, one of the clients I rarely work with, as I trudged into the office.

"What would that be?" I asked, smiling dutifully at her and more spontaneously at Elizabeth, a client I adore for reasons I don't quite understand.

Psychoanalysts label clinicians' feelings about their clients "countertransference." It can be positive or negative, and apparently it's based on whom the patient reminds you of. It can't just be how you feel about them for who they are; in analysis, nothing is ever that obvious.

As far as Elizabeth and I are concerned, though, it's a mystery. I racked my brains, and I really can't think of anyone she reminds me of. I see her every day when she comes in for medication, and we chat, and I just love her. And of course she loves me -- I'm not her caseworker, and I never try to make her do anything she doesn't want to do. She's joining a group that I co-lead, however, which involves regular homework assignments, so her feelings about me may well change.

But Jackleen doesn't really know me all that well. She's not on my caseload or Melanie's, and she's not one of the additional clients I've taken on for individual or group work. I've only seen her at a few events. So I was curious that she felt she knew me well enough to nickname me.

Also, I was in a rotten mood. I'd spent 40 minutes shivering outside the Bronx Criminal Courthouse, waiting for a client to meet me there to pay a misdemeanor fine. It was raining, so I huddled under the small overhang with a couple of chain-smokers, inhaling enough secondhand smoke to give cancer to 50 social workers. My knees didn't appreciate the cold or the standing around, and I didn't appreciate being stood up. I got on the train to go to the office and it went way past my usual stop, so I had to get off and transfer to a train going the other way.

So most of the morning had been completely shot, and I was open to any form of amusement or distraction. Jackleen has a strong and quirky personality, so I figured any name she gave me would at the very least be interesting.

"'Bubbly'," she said. "Cause every time I see you, you're smiling."

(You don't see me much, do you?)

"That's true," said Elizabeth. "Every time I see you, you smile."

"Of course I smile when I see you guys," I said. "I'm always happy to see you!"

And that made team meeting and the rest of the day a little more bearable.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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