Tag Archives: Discernment

The Art of Listening In HBO’s In Treatment…

12 May

Listening is truly a lost art.

In Treatment Dr Paul Weston's Hand Gestures

How often do you encounter people in life that you can tell are obviously not listening? It is the most common experience.

Sadly, it has become rare when someone actually listens to you and values what you have to say. 

In Treatment Talk To Me

In Treatment was a half an hour drama on HBO that starred Gabriel Byrne. The show was about the art of listening, psychotherapy, dysfunctions, neuroses, ethics, fears, self-sabotage, mental illness, relationships, conflict, trauma, pain, suffering, healing, resilience, etc.

Compassion and humanity are at the root of psychotherapy and In Treatment respectively. They speak about the deep need to be listened to without judgment. I have a great respect for psychology. It was one of my areas of study and I have intuitively known it is my vocation since childhood.

In treatment was even studied in universities at the time {I am not sure if it still is}. Counselling psychology students discussed in treatment in classes. Its pedagogical purpose was to teach students how to live their potential as psychologist and to help their clients heal.

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In Treatment is like a prism that reflects the spectrum of humanity.

It can be Shakespearean in its dramatic storylines, intimate revelations and profound intellectual discussions.

{Side note: this is Paul’s wave machine in the introduction}.

It is a cerebral show that dives deep into the Alice in wonderland rabbit hole of the psyche. In treatment relies heavily on the art of acting. Gabriel and the rest of the cast really shine in this thirty-minute drama. The skilled actors play off the script, each other, emotions and body language. They have no special effects to rely on- just their acting skills. {Side note: Gabriel won a golden globe for his performance. Many other actors and the show itself were nominated for numerous awards}.

Gabriel’s character is the compassionate Dr.Paul Weston.

He is the wounded healer, secret keeper, listener, teacher and psychologist.

In Treatment He's Listening

Psychotherapy is based on trust and vulnerability- spiritual and emotional nakedness. There is a strong emotional connection between Paul and all of his patients. First, he has to earn their trust and convince them to trust him and open up.

He must analyze their issues beneath the masks they wear.

He has to discern the truth from lies, distortions and projections.

All of his patients have complex problems and dysfunctional patterns of behaviour.

Some are based on the complexities of being in a relationship and sharing a life with someone despite conflicting personalities or desires. With Jake and Amy, Paul is a mediator between them. He uses conflict resolution, helps them clarify their real issues/emotions and helps them decide on their course of action.

Others are more individual problems with roots in childhood.

Regardless of how the trauma manifests itself, what is evident is that Paul is responsible for his patients.

In some cases, he is the only person that his patients have to rely on. 

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In treatment examines many themes. One is the issue of transference.

Transference can happen in the therapeutic process. The psychologist has to maintain their boundaries and respect their professional code of ethics.

How do you treat a patient that thinks they are in love with you?

What if they insist on their declarations of love?

What if they play mind games and employ manipulation?

How do navigate that?

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Intergenerational trauma is another topic that is examined in the show.

Alex is not even aware of the impact of how his father murdered his grandfather traumatized him. He is also not conscious of how his childhood and his father’s toxic masculinity traumatized him.

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How do you deal with the emotional impact of listening to people’s problems all day?

Many psychologists go to their own psychologist for therapy and to consult about their patients. Paul goes to Gina for this purpose. Their relationship is quite strained but he desperately needs that outlet.

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Some quotes from this video stood out to me in particular…

“It is hard to see so many people in pain and not be able to do anything to help them in some way.” -Paul

“Maybe helping is easier than feeling the pain.” -Laura

I can attest to this feeling of helplessness. It is very painful for me to see or know that someone is in pain without being able to do anything to ease their suffering.

Laura’s observation has some merit. Sometimes it is easier to help than feel. Sometimes it just hurts too much.

“We are not Gods, we can’t save anybody.” -Gina

Gina’s statement is true.

We cannot save anybody.

We can only help them to save themselves.

“It is possible to live in a world where people panic, where people let each other down, where they disappoint each other but still help each other out.” -Paul

I think this is the most realistic observation.

It is still possible to help each other despite our flaws and limitations.

Paul asks Alex where he wants his therapy to lead him. He answers painfully, “some place where I feel less shitty about myself.”

There is something in Blair Underwood’s voice when he says “some place where I feel less shitty about myself.” We can all relate to this sentiment.

“I thought that is what we are on the earth for- to help each other- to step up to the plate when somebody needs us.” -Paul

I have to agree with Paul.

I think it is noble to derive your life’s purpose from altruism and compassion.

Finding meaning in helping others is something I can deeply relate to.

“There are other places where you can feel safe and here in this room is one of those places.” -Paul

The therapist’s office is like a sanctuary from the chaos of the world.

Paul really wants to help his patients find their own answers to enlighten themselves, empower themselves and solve their problems.

With Sophie, Paul wanted her to have her own epiphanies.

In this scene, Sophie has empowered herself enough to confront her father on his abandonment and absence as a father.

Paul’s role is not to be the judge but to guide them to reconnect and re-establish their relationship. The journey is painful but worthwhile.

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Paul’s observations/analysis is incisive.

He really gets to the root of his patient’s suffering.

{It reminds me of Robin Williams’ character the psychologist Sean McGuire in Goodwill Hunting}.

His patients always challenge him and often test his boundaries.

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It should be noted that Paul has his own problems to contend with.

I think it is vital to observe that psychologists are human and imperfect. They have to deal with their own life and its challenges while trying to help others heal and figure out their life’s labyrinth.

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Happy birthday to Gabriel Byrne today!!!

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Further Research

Gabriel Byrnehttps://www.byrneholics.com/

Gabriel Byrne’s Internet Movie Database Page

In TreatmentIn Treatment’s Internet Movie Database Page

In Treatment’s HBO Page

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Have you watched In Treatment?

What did you think?

You can watch it on HBO’s website {for a price}.

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Rest in peace to Irrfan Khan who recently died {April 29th, 2020}.

He brilliantly played Sunil in the third season.

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Peace & Compassion,

-V.