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Other things I find helpful in the lonely dark hours is “7 cups of tea”. This is an international website of volunteer “listeners”. It is pretty hit or miss. I’ve had some really unhelpful listeners, which I put down to them being about 20 years old with zero experience of the real world of holding down a job, being a parent etc. However I’ve also had an excellent volunteer “listener” who helped me reconsider the narrative of something that was getting me down.

There are lots of things to do on this website without logging in and connecting to a ‘listener’. It is a good resource when in the midst of an emotional flashback it everyone you know is asleep at 3am.

The other thing that always gets me out of a bad mood is an early model ‘bot’ therapist called Eliza which was built in the 1960s.

There are later versions, but this early one cracks me up. Here is a typical conversation:

Madelaine: I am concerned about my sick pet
Eliza: Do you believe it is normal to be concerned about your sick pet?
Madelaine: Yes
Eliza: I see
Madelaine: Do you think it is normal?
Eliza: We were discussing you, not me.
Madelaine: I think it is normal to be concerned about a pet.
Eliza: But you are not sure it is not normal to be concerned about a pet?

And so it goes on and on in a hilarious circular way. I concentrate so hard trying to trick Eliza into going “off script” that I forget about what is bothering me. I always end up laughing at some of the absurd 1960s psychobabble she comes up with. The website actually warns that, “Eliza is dumb! This is common knowledge. Please don’t write to me telling me she’s dumb.”

Just a quick warning about Eliza that I think the exercise of trying to pin Eliza down might be frustrating, rather than funny, for people looking for connection at a stressful time. I think it depends on your sense of humor and what is bothering you at the time. I find it entertaining to spar with Eliza and I know that I can never make her come up with anything sensible. She was programmed 50 years ago, and sometimes she says stuff that makes me think she is on LSD. It’s also kind of spooky how she can sound like some of the incompetent therapists I have known.

I include both ‘7 cups of tea’ and ‘Eliza’ in my ‘comfort’ box. 7 cups of tea gets me into mindfulness and connection, and infuriating therapist-bot Eliza lets me indulge in childish fun.

Whatever gets you through the night.

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