Do you have any friends who “unload” or “dump” on you, who dominate phone calls or monopolize dinners together by talking about their problems forever and showing no interest in you? Do you dread these encounters because you always feel “shitty” afterward? Welcome to the toilet function of friendship.
When Freud first developed the “talking cure,” he recognized that his patients experienced emotional relief after psychoanalytic sessions during which they discussed their difficulties; what he didn’t at first understand was that many of his patients were unconsciously using those sessions as a way to evacuate their pain and unhappiness rather than to gain insight about them. I’m not sure that he ever truly recognized this phenomenon, though he did grow more pessimistic about the possibility of psychological change over his lifetime. Many other theorists have since described this problem; many psychotherapists have the experience of very devoted clients who come into the office overflowing with pain, who fill up the session with endless words about what’s bothering them, go away feeling relieved then come back for the next session and do the same thing all over again.