In the movie “Enough Said”, the central female character, Eva, is a masseuse. As such, although she is not a counselor in the usual sense of the word, she can be asserted to have a therapeutic relationship with her clients. She listens to them, no matter how boring their utterances, and no matter her own personal emotional pain.
For example, towards the end of the movie, she realizes with tears flowing that she may have lost Albert, but must nonetheless put up with the narration of one client’s apparent ceaseless home decoration struggles . She is also under some of the same constraints as other practitioners who have intimate access to a client’s personal life and information1.
In a therapeutic counseling relationship it can be helpful to identify Core Conflictual Relationship Patterns in the client’s life and interactions with those around them. This movie allows characters to tell stories of themselves. The elements of CCRT can be inferred from these conversations.
For Marianne, the Wish that she expresses is for someone to whom she can “bitch about” the deficiencies of her ex-husband. She says this specifically when she and Marianne have a conversation about her marriage. She objected to her husband’s sloppiness and unwillingness to take actions that she saw as reasonable, such as installing bedside nightstands. She was also conflicted over their differences in parenting Tess.
Marianne additionally objected to Albert’s “clumsy” sexual performance. She may also experience a good deal of self-questioning about why she married Albert in the first place, since she states that she feels that few people “get” her poetry .
Her Response of Other (Albert) was his eventual dissolution of their marriage. Her Response of Other (Eva) is Eva’s attraction to her neediness for a receptive listening ear, and awe over her stylish home furnishings and taste in iced tea. She is says that she has few friends, so it is possible to infer that the Response of Others (the rest of the population) is a bit intimidated or put off by her high standards.
Her Response of Self is to criticize, demean, and withdraw, as she does often with regard to her ex-husband. She is also extremely close to her daughter Tess, according to Albert. This closeness (in the context of her lack of adult friends) may be a reflection of her resentment of others who cannot understand her poetry and also do not meet her high expectations in their own personal style .
For Eva, the Wish is that she is “tired of being funny” in all her relationships. She is still hurting from the divorce and fearful of being hurt again.
This is evidenced by the fact that she thinks all the men at the party she attends are unattractive. The look on her face as she watches her ex-husband and his new wife over dinner suggests that she wishes she had a relationship that was more compatible than the one she had with her ex-husband .
Her Response of Other is usually that she is not necessarily taken seriously. Her ex-husband did not take her desire to avoid her temptation towards bread seriously. This hurt her feelings, as is clear from the restaurant dinner episode of the movie .
Her Response of Self is to be funny and self-deprecating. With Marianne, she does not reveal all that much about her current life, especially since she can’t do so! She unfortunately responds to her interactions with Marianne by repeating those criticisms to Albert, hurting his feelings. For example, while it is true that Albert needs to be eating healthier, offering to buy him a calorie counter book is hurtful .
In the relationship between Eva and Marianne, it is possible to see elements of countertransference. Summers and Barber define countertransference as “the feelings, perceptions, and ideas the therapist has about the patient that derive from the patient’s presentation and the actual therapist–patient relationship, as well as from the therapist’s earlier life experiences.”
Eva wants to be a good listener, but in some ways also wants to emulate Marianne because she is so glamorous and stylish and intellectual. She also seems to want to emulate Marianne in her criticism of Albert. She probes her for more details of her past relationship, even more detail than Marianne offers unprompted.
Eva is trying to avoid repeating the pitfalls and potholes of her first marriage, using Marianne as a relationship “trip advisor”. She could have avoided some of the problems by being more transparent about her relationships with both Albert and Marianne. This would be required in a formal counseling situation.
It is quite possible that neither of her friends would have objected to he being close to both of them IF they had known of the full details of the situation. Additionally, Eva needed to be more aware of the burden of fear and pain that she was carrying around from her first marriage.
Acknowledging and being conscious of this sensitivity, she might have been able to avoid being triggered by Marianne’s idiosyncratic perceptions, to fear this new relationship.
As suggested by Gelso and Hayes, as cited by Tishby and Wiseman, “therapists of all persuasions have soft spots that can be and are touched upon in their work” . Eva could have saved herself and the others some pain by acknowledging the relationship as well as her own painful history.
Azpiazu, S., Bregman, A. (Producers), Holofcener, N. (Writer), & Holofcener, N. (Director). (2013). Enough Said [Motion Picture]. USA.
New York State Education Department. (2014). Practice Guidelines. Retrieved from New York State Education Department: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mt/mtguide.htm
Summers, R. F., & Barber, J. P. (2012). Psychodynamic Therapy: A Guide to Evidence Based Practice. New York: The Guilford Press.
Tishby, O., & Wiseman, H. (2014, March). Types of countertransference dynamics: an exploration of their impact on the client-therapist relationship. Psychotherapy Research, 24(3), 360-375. doi:doi=10.1080/10503307.2014.89306
1 For example, in the state of New York, a masseur/masseuse is required by regulation to “safeguard the confidentiality of all patient/client information”. Thus, many of the same precepts apply to her relations with her clients as in a counseling relationship.