Social 5 October 2018 | 13:48

Where should we begin?

05 October 2018 13:48

Psychotherapy is having a bit of a moment. Its reputation as an inaccessible, expensive, naval-gazing indulgence is giving way. No more the hushed admission of being in therapy with a dusty pale male analyst in Hampstead, for fear of personal weaknesses or flaws being exposed. Stigma be gone!

In its place is a cultural shift, a collective curiosity about what goes on behind the therapy room door. There is a hunger to understand the inner workings of the mind, not just to become happier but to increase emotional resilience. Could the importance of ego strength one day rival that of core ab strength? Admitting to being in therapy is fast becoming a badge of honour: Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, Lily Allen have openly discussed it. Last year Katy Perry live-streamed a therapy session. People like them more because of their un-perfect-ness, not less.

So, it is with open arms (and ears) that we welcome the third podcast series by ‘the people’s therapist’ Esther Perel called ‘Where should we begin?’, in which she provides relationship therapy to couples dealing with painful and seemingly insurmountable difficulties, after infidelity, impotence, sexlessness and loss.

Perel, 60, Belgian, based in New York, offers a new wave of wisdom via podcasts and TED talks – her 2015 talk ‘Rethinking infidelity… a talk for anyone who has ever loved’ has been viewed 10.8 million times. Her voice is syrupy, her turn of phrase as neat as it is enlightening, Perel offers a modern take on the age-old conundrums of relationships.

Marriage: ‘We will have many relationships over the course of our lives. Some of us will have them with the same person.’

Infidelity: ‘It isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person, as much as we are looking for another self.’

Listening to Perel is like listening to the answer you didn’t realise you were searching for.

In this third series, ‘Where should we begin? The Arc of Love’, Perel focusses on couples at different stages of development in their relationships and in their lives, from young and just forming, to dissolving, as well as a parent/child relationship. Through the simple act of talking (and her 60 years of experience) Perel builds a bridge for emotionally estranged couples to reconnect.

The podcast is not staged or scripted. Couples have applied to Perel’s Facebook page in their thousands to share with her (and her 10 million podcast listeners) their most intimate thoughts. What should feel titillating and gossipy, is in fact deeply humbling and informative as the listener learns and explores alongside each couple.

Perel holds up a mirror to her clients, but also to our current social climate. The six episodes encompass love complicated by immigration status and politics, divorce, sexuality, non-binary identity, suicide. The podcast’s title question addresses the all-familiar emotional stalemate of not knowing how or where to begin to unravel such complicated issues. And thank god for Perel who lights the way in making sense of things for each couple, and for the rest of us too.

The third series of Where should we begin? The Arc of Love is available exclusively on Audible. Series 1 and 2 are available on Apple Podcasts. 

To buy tickets for Esther Perel and The School of Life Present an Evening on Making Love Last, London, 4 December 2018, £35, visit theschooloflife.com