Therapist, heal thyself

A couple of days ago I was out for another gallivant on my bike around Valencia. (In an interview with El Mundo newspaper last year I embarrassingly referred to it as my ‘Rocinante’, but there you go, we all make an arse of ourselves sometimes.) I was lost in the streets at the northern end of the city when I saw a shop front with the words Crash Therapy plastered across the roll-down shutter. It being Saturday afternoon, when in most other countries everywhere is open, and this being Spain, where even shop owners think they deserve Saturday afternoons off, the place was closed. Ahh…nice to know the world financial crisis isn’t hurting everyone.

Anyway…Crash Therapy. I couldn’t help wonder what it is. Is it therapy from when you’ve had a shunt in the motor? Or maybe it’s one of those catch-alls that means a crash course in therapy, a sticking plaster for all that ails you? Hmmmmm….

Over my decades I’ve experienced a number of therapies – in a purely journalistic way, you understand. I’m no nutter, it was all a matter of research so that I could pass on my experiences to those who actually were nutters, or those with ‘emotional difficulties’ as I should probably more correctly say, to avoid discriminating against the poor souls who need a shoulder to sob on and the (occasional) weirdos who bamboozled them and charge large rolls of the folding stuff for the pleasure of doing so – theirs not the suffering nutter’s.

One of the weirdest – and, frankly, the stupidest – therapies I came across was laughter therapy, a therapy so devoid of any natural humour that it is as much akin to a jolly good giggle as gouging out eyeballs is to giving you better night vision. We were encouraged to try the Lion Laughter, where you stick your tongue out and hold your hands like claws , No Money Laughter, which I should be pretty good at but as far as I’m concerned is no laughing matter at all, and, my favourite, Stick Your Arse in the Air and Feel Like a Total Twat Because That’s What You Look Like Laughter, and no, you won’t find a video about it, but it would sum up the whole friggin stupidity of Laughter Therapy.

The nearest I came to any short of crash in a therapy wasn’t so much a ‘crash’ as a bit of a thump. Gestalt Therapy is, according to Edwin Nevis “a conceptual and methodological base from which helping professionals can craft their practice”. No idea who he is, but he must be clever because I don’t understand a bloody word he said. Anyway, as far as my (thankfully very brief) experience of Gestalt went, the therapist leading the group sat a volunteer who was feeling intense anger at a family member in a chair facing another chair, on which a cushion sat. The cushion represented the person the volunteer was angry at, and they were directed to vent their anger at the poor, harmless piece of stuffing. As they were encouraged to let their emotions flow the anger poured out, along with a lot of spittle, even to the point of grabbing the cushion and punching it. We were told that this was to allow us to bring up past hurts and get them out without doing any actual physical damage to ourselves or our anger recipients so that we could face them and calmly say what we felt to ease our pain. This may have been the intention, but by the time we finished there were a few of those who had had a good pillow shouting experience bobbing about on their toes like a prize fighter at the beginning of a championship bout, ready to go out and give someone a bloody good smack. From moderately peaceful they had gone to raging bulls, and, as has often been my experience with therapies, were let out on the world with this new life experience without being prepared properly and without any support, unless, of course, they wanted to shell out the readies for a proper – and probably very long – course of treatment.

But I’ve wandered off Crash Therapy.

When I checked online I found a place used more for a ‘fun and feisty’ way of letting off steam than dealing with the lost inner child. It took me back to my youthful days in Manchester at the Kosmos Restaurant in Fallowfield where, if you booked a birthday celebration, you could indulge in the ancient Greek wedding tradition of smashing plates. (It’s also said that the tradition comes from when two lovers had to part. They would break a plate in half so they could match them together when they met years later. Have you ever tried to break a plate in half? It shatters into a dozen pieces – a bit like most of my relationships, come to think of it.)

You are stuck in a soundproof room, dressed in a boiler suit and safety visor and given the free rein of various destructive instruments such as hammers and baseball bats to give some whelly to twenty-five everyday items, including computers, printers, bottles and crockery, to the accompaniment of whatever music gets you in the smashable mood. The basic fee is €20, but for another tenner you get thirty-five pieces of destructables. (Although, frankly, the girl in the video doesn’t seem to handle bottles too well.) When all lies in ruins around you, you rest in a Zen room for post-smash chill-out, and you get a DVD of your smashing time as a souvenir. What a welcome break from the daily sanitised grind, and I’ll be back their toot sweet to relive my Manchester youth.

As far as I’m concerned, therapies and therapists are worth every dig they get, but oh! I do wish I could have come up with this, the best ever piss-take of therapists I’ve ever come across.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, Derek Workman, and Spain Uncovered. Articles and books can also be found at Digital Paparazzi.


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