For me, it’s been a particularly difficult and traumatic last few months of 2021. Not simply because of the whole covid situation, or the usual stresses of work; but because I started taking therapy over the Summer. I know that I’m a mess of hang-ups and inhibitions, and have a lot of difficulty expressing myself emotionally: I’ve spent over two years trying to address those issues with a variety of self-help techniques; but with very limited success. So I finally realised that I needed professional help if I was going to make myself more open.
I found a therapist here in Amsterdam that takes on English-speaking clients; and feel like I’ve been making progress with her. It’s been a painful experience, she seems to have an instinct for homing in on the things that I don’t say; and perhaps it’s the traditional Dutch bluntness, but she’s exposed a few memories that my mind has preferred that I forget, and made me explore them and the effects that they’ve had on me. One in particular going back to my teenage years; another from the mid-90’s when I was living in Manchester; and most recently a third incident in my life from about 25 years ago, which is germane to this post.
I’d just had a particularly difficult week, and received some news that I was dreading; and my mind simply couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything; so I decided to treat myself to a spa day to help clear my mind. I booked in for a full day at Spa Zuiver near Amsterdamse Bos, complete with meals and a relaxation massage; and found that they had a regular schedule of löyly (or aufguss) sessions in the Finnish sauna, which I particularly enjoy. The smell of the scented oils, the blasts of heat: it’s a wonderful, invigorating experience. It was also fun trying to identify the aromas; and amusing that I was identifying the individual smells (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, almonds) aloud in English; and the guy on the bench next to me was putting the ingredients together to get speculaas. The last oil was the trigger for me: I identified anise and liquorice, and when I realised it was sambuca, I had to leave the sauna early to get some cool, fresh air. I don’t drink alcohol, I haven’t done so in over 30 years; but that wasn’t the issue: my mind was just swamped by memories of that incident from 25 years ago.
I’d spoken with my therapist about my intent to visit the spa in my previous session; so naturally in my next therapy session she asked how it had gone: my telling her about walking out of the aufguss is where things got particularly interesting.
Therapist > But you said that you always enjoy the aufguss; so why did you leave the sauna early?
Me > It’s hard to explain; but it triggered a wave of memories that just overwhelmed me, and I needed to escape.
Therapist > Try to put it into words for me. What was your Inner Monologue saying to you?
Me > My Inner what?!?
That’s when she had to explain to me what an Inner Monologue was. And it took some explaining; because I’ve never experienced an Inner Monologue, so the whole concept of the mind giving a verbal commentary on its thought processes was very difficult for me to understand.