The Fear of Doing Nothing
Notes of a Young Therapist
In the spirit of Mikhail Bulgakov’s A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Sandeep Jauhar’s Intern, a deeply honest, searching examination of psychotherapy based on the experiences of a young sceptical trainee in New York City.
Born to a family with six generations of doctors, Valery Hazanov knew he was breaking with a long tradition when he decided to pursue psychology. What he didn’t know was that, over the course of his training, his own doubts about his chosen field would overtake his family’s scepticism. Try as he might to seek answers and reassurance, he kept returning to the same fears: therapy is bullshit. It does nothing, and helps no one.
Through ten linked stories, we follow Hazanov as he navigates the maze of psychological theories he’s been taught and manages complex, often fraught relationships with his first patients: a dying patient who can’t separate from his family properly because they don’t understand him; a formerly brilliant scientist who becomes psychotic and mistrustful; an older man who finds a first girlfriend at the age of 67, only to be dumped by her a few months later; a couple that loves each other with limitations. What Hazanov eventually realizes is that these patients achieve in psychotherapy not a complete transformation of their lives, but rather a more truthful way to exist.
‘What is the meaning of life?’ asks Lily Briscoe in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. She proceeds to answer: ‘The great revelation had never come.... Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.’ In The Fear of Doing Nothing, Hazanov illuminates the intimacy, vulnerability and messiness of the therapeutic encounter. These moments are – ultimately – his best answer to the question of what psychotherapy is and what it can achieve. Struggling together with his patients, Hazanov discovers his own sense of purpose and in doing so overcomes his biggest fear: the fear of doing nothing.