Parts of Leonard Cohen’s song “In My Secret Life” (mostly the mood and some phrases) make me think of the strange life of a modern-day psychotherapist (of course, just from my own view from within):

It’s a life of absolute secrecy, a fearless witnessing of fellow sufferers in a rushed flow of existence, an ever-evolving dance of emotional intimacy, an all out effort to be there for an otherwise random stranger, a relentless pursuit of two-way authenticity, and a battle against oversimplification, and a battle for boundaries, and, yes, a war against the Dealer of Duality. And all of it from a comfortably lonely orbit of metacognitive distance…

Sometimes there is more to it and sometimes there is much less. What a strange life!

Here’s Leonard (I’ve highlighted in bold the verbiage that relates to what I am saying; some of these lines express my point-of-view, others seem to capture the fragments of clients’ thoughts, the frequent-flyer sentiments, if you wish; I’ve also added a couple of notes at the bottom):

I saw you this morning.
You were moving so fast.

Can’t seem to loosen my grip
On the past.
And I miss you so much.
There’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In My Secret Life.

I smile when I’m angry. I cheat and I lie.
I do what I have to do
To get by.
But I know what is wrong,
And I know what is right.
And I’d die for the truth
In My Secret Life.

Hold on, hold on, my brother.
My sister, hold on tight.
I finally got my orders.
I’ll be marching through the morning,
Marching through the night,
Moving cross the borders
Of My Secret Life.

Looked through the paper.
Makes you want to cry.
Nobody cares if the people
Live or die.
And the dealer wants you thinking
That it’s either black or white.
Thank G-d it’s not that simple
In My Secret Life.

I bite my lip.
I buy what I’m told:
From the latest hit,
To the wisdom of old.
But I’m always alone.
And my heart is like ice.
And it’s crowded and cold
In My Secret Life.

“There is no one in sight” – intense focus.
“You were moving so fast” – minds in motion.
“Grip on the past” – minds stuck.
“I smile when I am angry” – a delicate battle over how much to express, how much of your own affect to expose.
“I do what I have to do” – as a generalist, the therapy room is like a batting cage of the unexpected and I must stay (process-wise) with whatever is.
“I’d die for the truth” – a battle for authenticity.
“Hold on, hold on, my brother, my sister, hold on tight” – relating, reassuring, co-enduring.
“I finally got my orders” – moments of clarity, finally getting the client, sudden knowing of where to go next.
“Moving cross the borders” – the delicate balance of the process (relationship building, guarding the boundaries – your own and of your clients).
“Nobody cares if the people live or die” – witnessing suffering, witnessing indifference, witnessing despair.
“And the dealer wants you thinking that it’s either black or white…” – this is one of my favorite lines, a metaphor for Duality, how minds get boxed in, how minds box themselves in.
“Thank God it’s not that simple in my secret life” – this captures my therapeutic stance: I battle self-deprecatory oversimplification of my clients’ thought process, trying to help them rediscover themselves in all of their perfectly imperfect subtlety.
“I bite my lip” – non-judgment.
“I buy what I am told” – taking client’s narrative at face value (at least initially), a gift of validation, non-judgment.
“But I am always alone” – stance of neutrality, a carefully calibrated (but ever dynamic) interpersonal distance that allows you to both maintain a modicum of objectivity and a modicum of care.

Here’s another video (less artistic, but almost more effective in its raw homespun effort); and, importantly, it has the forth stanza of the song: