By Amy Phillips Penn

Years ago, I was applying for supplementary health insurance. After being given a “surprise” drug test, and filling out reams of boring questions that could make an Olympic athlete’s blood pressure rise, I was given the dubious privilege of speaking to an agent on the phone.

She repeated every question I had just answered, with a tone of voice that implied that if I countered even one question not to her liking, there’d be no policy for me.

She grilled me as to my family’s health history, going back more generations than I could count.

The game was on, how to choose the right multiple choice answer, to cover my hide, or hide my cover, in case my polo pony went AWOL on me, and I needed to have my stuffing re-stuffed.

Her tone became craftier.

“Have you ever seen a psychologist or psychiatrist?”

I knew the answer to this one: a big N-O.

Instead, a resounding “yes” came out of my phone cradled mouth. I’d had enough of the BS.

Dead silence.

Then she asked a simple question: “May I ask why?”

“Because I’m from New York,” I lobbed back.

A deathly silence on her end, and then… years of repressed laughter came ha-ha-ha-ing on out.

The policy was mine.

There is a well circulated story about two psychiatrists who pass each other on Fifth Avenue.

“How are you?” asks the first one.

“What do you mean by that?” answered the second.

Enough said. Or maybe, not enough.

A friend of mine who has gone from Freudian to Jungian and back again gives us the low down.

“A Freudian wants you to talk about yourself and a Jungian wants to talk about himself.”

See, simple.

If you’re lucky enough to have a good shrink, the relationship may border on the spiritual.

An associate of mine asked her therapist when would be a good time to leave the nest. They settled on her birthday, months away.

When her birthday approached, she had to move her appointment to the next day.

A friend called to wish her “happy birthday,” and asked if she had spoken to her shrink.

“No,” she replied, and her friend replied that she wouldn’t be again. Her psychiatrist had died on her birthday.

One of my closest friends had a shrink who wanted to go into business with her, because he considered her to be smarter than him.

She moved on to a woman psychologist who she found in the phone book. She picked the doctor because she had a Latin name, and my friend was dating (euphemism) an Argentine.

See, “smart.”

As for me, I’ve stumbled on a few doozies and kept moving on.

Finally, I met my psychoanalytical soulmate, through a friend of mine I rode with. Horses bring the best people into my life.

None of this, “who hurt your feelings in kindergarten?” stuff. She went right to issue and zapped it.

I described a member of my family who I found loathsome.

“Would you really want to know this man?” she asked.

End of discussion.

A nice compact session that provided a high and relief.

She is in her mid-nineties now and, from what I can Google, still practicing.

I’ve tried to reach her to send her my love but her answering machine is all I get.

She, has been an invaluable friend and a spiritual guide, who reminds me, when I spin off into the “he said, she said,” and hamsters on the wheel of life to “put the power in myself.”

Guess it has to go somewhere.


Featured image courtesy of Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection via Elle

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