‘I should be souvlaki in love’

Therapy is about love. Freud himself even asserted that psychoanalytic treatment ‘is effected by love’. Here, Freud really meant the therapeutic relationship. The relationship between a client and a therapist is so important – it’s the part you feel the most.

When I’m in the room, the stories I feel the most are those of love. The therapist Irvin Yalom calls himself ‘Love’s Executioner’ and he is just that; he does not like to work with clients who are in love. But I love to listen to love stories. They warm the room. I get to be enchanted and moved, because nothing ever stands still in love. These are the stories of searching. Of longing. They always leave me wanting to know more.

The following is a love story I have come to know well:

This is never going to work, she thought. She knew well enough that opposites don’t attract, that myth was debunked from her first social psychology lecture at university. She was with a man. She was on a date. She also had a funny feeling in her tummy, which could have been due to any of the following: 1. She was in love,  2. She was hungry, 3. She was having a ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response because she was worried about what her date was going to think of her choice of restaurant. He was practically German royalty and she was from the north London village known as Palmers Greek. He lived in Chelsea but they were now in a part of town that was a little less manicured. They walked up Myddleton Road, a rung on the ladder that connects Palmers Green and Wood Green, following the smell of charcoal in a Hansel and Gretal-esque way. They arrived at their destination. Knockin’ on kebab heaven’s door was imminent. Now the feeling in her tummy was clearly identifiable as butterflies of excitement because here they were at the ultimate kebab home: Vrisaki. She had to consciously stop herself from shouting ‘ta-da!’ to her date. At that point, however, something else had taken his attention; he had spotted the döner kebab. It was a sight to behold: the vertical rotisserie mesmerically turning, the juicy meat getting its slow-cooked suntan from the heat lamp behind it. ‘They don’t pre-buy the döner here, they make their own!’ she told him, like she was a proud mother talking about her child. He looked impressed, and curious. He was German after all, so he knew a thing or two about döner kebabs. Ok, at least we have some culinary common ground to build on, I wonder if this could work?

That love story is about a client. That client is me. Even though I’m a therapist, I am still a client too. That is a tale I have told many a time in my own therapy. It is about love, and how food can be part of how a relationship develops. With food comes wonderment, of who we are, and what we are. That night I had experienced the feeling that something magical had happened, not only had I potentially found my soul mate, but my tummy mate. Research finds that feelings of attraction, connection and closeness are linked to similarity in food preference. It was this sameness, however, that allowed for us to start being curious about our differences – that’s when a real relationship develops. Relationships are not just about love. They are about curiosity. And kebabs. Sometimes.

This story was the inspiration behind my watermelon tzatziki.

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