Reverse Psychology

My doctor had shrugged and prescribed me some anti-depressants but having popped a pill daily for several months I still could not shake the gloom that has afflicted me for as long as I can remember.

I therefore decided to consult a counsellor. Perhaps I could talk my way out of this perpetual depression. I booked an appointment with a Dr. Hadley, a therapist I had found in my local area. My first session was on a Wednesday. I had taken the afternoon off work. I told my boss that I was going to the dentist.

Dr. Hadley greeted me warmly. He worked from home, a small, picturesque cottage at the end of a cobbled, tree-lined track. He was a tall, slightly greying, distinguished looking man with an open yet authoritative mien. He led me through the low-ceilinged hallway to a door. His office was lined with bookcases and there was an old oak desk and a selection of chairs and a sofa. He invited me to sit. I sat on the sofa.

"Right then," he said. "Shall we begin?"

I shuffled on the edge of my seat, fingers intertwined in my lap. "I don't really know where to start."

"You say you are depressed."

I nodded.

"Then perhaps you should start with when this all started."

"I don't really know. I guess... well, I have always been a melancholic person."

"Hmm," he mused. "Have you recently experienced a traumatic event? The death of a loved one, say, or a distressing mugging?"

"No, no, nothing like that."

"Oh dear," he said.

"Perhaps I should tell you little about myself? Or my family? Something like that?"

"Ah," he perked up. "Were you abused as a child?"


"Father never stuck his hands down your pants? Mother never brained you with a broom handle?"

"No, nothing like that."

"Oh," said Dr. Hadley, visibly deflating and speaking in what I can only describe as a sulky tone.

We both fell silent. Dr Hadley ground his teeth and drummed the arm of his chair with his fingers. I braced myself to speak but nothing came to mind.

Eventually Dr. Hadley spoke. "Are you... absolutely sure that you don't have some kind of drug addiction... or that you have been interfered with... sexually?"

"Quite sure."

Dr. Hadley rolled his eyes.

"Is there a problem?" I asked.

Dr. Hadley shrugged and pouted.

I didn't know what to do or say. Was this some strange new therapeutic technique that he was using? Had I offended him in some way? I studied him closely to try and gauge what was going on but all I could sense was that he was a bit grumpy.

Eventually, I said, "I'm sorry, is there a problem?"

"Well, lets face it, there are hundreds of people like you bumbling around harbouring your kind of vague, wishy-washy, non-specific dissatisfaction with life who really should just get their fingers out and get on with it."

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, come on, there are lots of people much worse than you who have been robbed, raped, kidnapped, stabbed, shot at, attacked with lawnmowers, run over by cars, blinded, branded with hot irons... But do any of my patients come to me with anything juicy like that? No. All I get, day in, day out, are people like you without a single legitimate grievance other than some half-baked, la-de-da, pitiful, no-reason-to-be-miserable-but-I-am sob story. Honestly, I don't know what you people expect a trained professional carer like me to be able to do for you. Frankly, I'm beginning to find it all rather depressing."

Taken aback by this outburst, I found myself apologising.

"I studied at Oxford, I'll have you know," he snapped.

"Did you?"

"I did. I have a PhD and everything."

"I'm sure that you are an excellent doctor."

"I am! I'm a bloody good psychiatrist!"

"Yes, yes, clearly," I stammered, trying to placate him.

Dr. Hadley sighed heavily and then said, "Could you pretend?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Yes, yes!" he beamed. "Couldn't you pretend that something really, really awful has happened to you? Something terrible? Something that I could really get my teeth into, something that will challenge me to utilise every little piece of my expertise?"

"Um... I could try."

"Yes, yes, go on then."

I looked around the room, seeking inspiration. "I... er.... Okay, when I was nine years old, I was in a bus crash...?"

"Hmm," said Dr. Hadley, not convinced that this was the best I could do.

"Oh... and... um... everyone died but me... and I was discovered by a tramp... but instead of helping me, he sexually assaulted me... and stole my lunch money."

"Oh yes, yes!"

"And after being trapped in the wreckage for seventy two hours, I was rushed to hospital and a doctor told me I had been infected with HIV."

"Oh, splendid!"

"And then the doctor accidentally injected me with a kilo of heroin!"


"And then an aeroplane crashed into the hospital, killing everybody! So I had to drag myself out from under the rubble but a falling iron girder cut off both my arms!"


"So I dragged myself along using my legs and my lips until I got outside and there were my parents but they were suddenly attacked by muggers who stabbed them to death right in front of my eyes!"


"And then... and then...."

"Yes? Yes?"

I floundered. "I... I'm sorry, I can't think of anything else."

"Oh well, never mind, that will do for now. Yes, yes, lot's of issues to deal with there, yes." Dr. Hadley began to furiously scribble down notes and muttered excitedly to himself.

I looked at my watch. The session had come to an end. "Um... we appear to be out of time," I said.

"Oh right," said Dr. Hadley. "So... same time next week?"

"Yes, same time next week then."


I stood up and headed for the door.

"Oh, Mr. Kane?" said the doctor.

I turned to face him. "Yes?"

"Thank you ever so much. This has been really helpful."

"No problem," I replied. "That's what I'm here for."

About the author:

Steve Kane lives in England and is a freshman at this writing business. His work has appeared in Flush Fiction Magazine but other than that he does done very little of interest. He gladly accepts any donations of cash or beer.