A Poem: The World Needs a Good Shrink

Reading about all the gun violence and resistance to gun control, I looked for a poem about how the world had gone mad but would somehow be OK. I didn’t find one, so I wrote this.


The World Needs a Good Shrink
By Valerie Reiss

I would give the world a good referral, someone who really helped me/my friend/my aunt out in a time of great need.

Someone wise, calm, compassionate, insightful, and evolved in her own life—with many tricks up her sleeve.

The world would come in every Wednesday at 12 (telling her boss she’s at lunch) and, understanding the cancellation policy, the fee, and what insurance will cover, will sit on the beige or brown sofa.

The therapist will sit across so the world doesn’t have to crane her neck. The therapist will sit far but not too far. About six feet away in a comfortable chair, a notepad balanced on her knee. She will open with something like, “So, I know we spoke a little on the phone about your stress and concerns about balance and a mild depression, but tell me some more—what brings you here today?”

The world will cast her eyes down because she’s not used to being asked questions so directly, to being seen like this. She’s never been comfortable in the spotlight, even though the galaxy has been watching her and her massive population and dwindling forests and polluted waters and declining wildlife for years. Truth is, what the world feels right now is shame. A shame she’s had since childhood, really, if she thinks about it.

“Um,” she says. “Well, things have been extra-hard lately. The humans are really out of control. I mean there’s less war, but there’s so much misery and violence and suffering that seems unnecessary. And I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault.” The world starts to cry, a salty tear streaming down an ocean on her face.

The therapist nods, connecting with the planet’s pain. “That sounds really hard,” she says slowly and softly. The planet nods, almost in spite of herself. She’d been resistant to going this route because to her, getting help was a sign of weakness. I mean, she’s the world! She could handle these feelings and problems! But lately, even spinning through the day had felt like a strain. So a friend suggested coming here and it turned out her insurance would cover 80 percent after the deductible.

And now, with the nice lady with the present eyes nodding, she was glad she came. It felt like a relief to get herself off her shoulders even for a moment. She began to sob. The therapist stayed, quietly, comfortably. After a time she asked, “What else?” The world told her more—about the children dying and the people who value guns above lives and the lack of kindness. And then a whole new sob shook the world. “What are you feeling?” asked the therapist.

The world couldn’t quite believe it, but now she was actually crying tears of bittersweet joy. In between sobs she said, “It’s not all bad. I’ve been seeing it that way lately, but also, there is such enormous kindness happening in me every day. People helping, people sacrificing, people protecting, people aligning with love, making art. Kids laughing, strawberries growing, people falling in love, people protecting vulnerable creatures, creating cures, tending to the ill, governing rightly, and all of the hugging and dancing and celebrations. And puppies, of course.” The therapist nodded again, tears streaming down her own human face. The best therapists allow themselves to be moved by their patients.

After some time, the therapist explained that she thought she might be able to help the world with a combination of narrative therapy and CBT and connecting the dots from the past to the now. She thought this might all help the planet release some stress and become more in balance—and thus help all that lived and grew inside of her. “That sounds good,” said the world, meaning it.

“Great,” said the shrink. “That’s all our time for today,” she added gently.

The world nodded, grateful. All in all, it was a good first session.

Valerie ReissA Poem: The World Needs a Good Shrink