Termination (III).

Her phone began to ring as she was putting socks into her luggage. It was him.

“Hey,” she greeted.

“So I can’t take you to the airport. Something came up.” He sounded distracted.

“Oh.” She paused, waiting for him to elaborate. He said nothing. “Can we still meet for lunch?”

“No, something came up last minute. I actually gotta go soon—”

“But I was hoping that we could spend some time together before I move. You know, to say good-bye.”

“Yeah, so was I, but this thing came up and I just can’t. I’m sorry.”

She frowned.

“Look, I gotta go,” he said. “I’m sorry about this, but I’ll call you in a few days to make sure everything went okay.”

“I don’t know when we’ll see each other again. Is there—”

“I really gotta go. I’ll call you. Have a safe flight!”

She heard a click, then silence.

Malan (p. 220) remarks:

[One] pattern is that when the therapist starts talking about termination the patient announces that he doesn’t want to come any more. [A]lthough the patient suffers by losing even more therapeutic time, he gains by retaining control of the situation and turning the tables on his therapist by leaving rather than being left.

Sometimes patients don’t attend their final appointments with their therapists (or good-bye parties, graduations, etc.) so they can avoid feeling emotions—”positive” or “negative”—associated with termination. If you don’t have to talk about it, that means you don’t have to think or feel anything about it. In this way, avoidance as a coping strategy works.

If you never say hello, you will never have to say good-bye. That also means, though, that your experience of the world—and of yourself—is limited. Some people want that. Many people don’t.

(Read more about termination in part one and part two.)