Rafael Santandreu’s week
The psychologist has just released a book where he swears against obsessions, triggered in a pandemic. Among the missions that are imposed is to campaign for sunbathing, “but naked, you need a lot of vitamin D”
Rafael Santandreu is a psychologist who masters the gears of communication as well as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, which is no small feat in the scenario that we have to live.
It says that in a pandemic 16% of Spaniards have suffered panic attacks. Few seem to me. While his book ‘Without fear’ colonizes the shop windows, this 51-year-old from Barcelona declares himself an apostle of sunbathing “naked, nothing with just his arms”, meditation, hiking in the Pyrenees, healthy food – what not exclude a steak now and then – and, very important, make love twice a week “at the very least.” Do you want the recipe?
6.30 hours. I don’t need an alarm clock. The first thing I do is take a walk for an hour listening to music, it is my way of meditating. I do what I call ‘rational visualizations’. For example, that of the homeless. It starts with a question: ‘Rafael, if you couldn’t work and had to live in the public hostel in Barcelona, without money, would you be happy?’ The required answer is ‘Yes’. So I wonder what I would do to get it.
I would go to the library and start studying medicine, I would collaborate with an NGO, I would make friends among the volunteers and users of the hostel … I imagine so many desirable possibilities linked to that scenario, that I almost end up wishing to become one of those homeless people. What do I get like this? Free myself from tensions and face my day to day with a peace of mind that you shit.
12.30 pm. I have had 45 patients a week, including Saturdays, but now I see far fewer. They are chosen, people who suffer from a specific pathology that I want to study. In recent years, for example, I have focused on people with obsessive-compulsive disorders (in tune with his recently published book) as a way of research, of learning. 45 minute sessions, no more than three a day. We have been serving many by video call for some time, but the pandemic has exacerbated that trend.
8.00 hours. I try to take care of my diet, which is as varied as possible, with seasonal products. Today I had a combination of strawberries, mango, pear and kefir for breakfast. And ready. I confess that when it comes to dressing I am a bit flirtatious, yes, neither jackets nor ties. Let’s say I like to go formal but comfortable. Some girlfriends have told me that I have more clothes than the average person. It’s true, but I see that kind of beauty as a little game, something to give the right importance. I can go to the hairdresser, wear something that feels good, work my muscle tone in the gym … Although I would never have a cosmetic surgery operation. Risking things for something so futile is absurd, the only thing that matters is loving what you have in hand.
12.30 pm. I’m not from the couch
the patient sits in an armchair and I behind my table. I am surrounded by ficus, many and large, to bring nature to the office. I have a painting of Stephen Hawking, the scientist in a wheelchair. I take it out when a particularly complaining patient comes. I say to him: Do you really think it’s the end of the world?
9.00 hours. The day always starts with a training session among the team members, whether they have just entered or have been in for 20 years. It helps to feel more passionate, more ‘on fire’ than is said now. You become aware that you are learning all the time.
14.00 hours. I’m meeting my friends Françesc (Miralles, the writer) and Ferrán for lunch in Teresa Carles, near Las Ramblas. I go to healthy restaurants a lot, not necessarily vegetarian but with local cuisine. First course vichyssoise followed by green beans, with tomato sauce, mushrooms and tofu sausage. To drink, a beet, orange and blueberry juice. Be careful, I don’t disgust a fresh sea bream, with baked potatoes, or a half-kilo ‘Tomahawk’ steak and even more, but one thing or another only once a week.
16.00 hours. Every afternoon I dedicate two or three hours to research, collate data, separate the chaff from the grain … (consult his ‘ebook’, “so I have everything alphabetically arranged”). It may take two years for another book to come out, but I am disciplined.
Now my focus is on anorexia and bulimia. Kathrym Hansen, for example, views this problem as an addiction. I feel like it has opened my eyes.
6.30 p.m. I’m going to do sports: cycling through the Turó park, with ups and downs, and weights or push-up tables in the gym. A couple of hours, every day. By the way, I have several missions in my life and one is to end tobacco use. I do campaigns periodically from my social networks. Any day I go on a tour of Spain giving free seminars. It’s a scam that enslaves you, I know it because when I was young I was a smoker.
11.30 am. The pandemic has been brutal, we are all overwhelmed. Psychologists are missing for the first time, something that has never happened before. Also, the emotional problem continues to grow. It is a kind of second wave, a post-traumatic stress that takes time to manifest itself. People have become afraid of the fear that happened, and that feeling haunts them now.
– And what is Santandreu afraid of?
– Nothing, I assure you. Wanting is power, although suppressing fears is more difficult with some than with others. Of course, it is a job in which you have to overturn, be tenacious and systematic, but the reward is brutal. What’s more, the most acute fears are deactivated by surrendering to them, making yourself their friend. This is the only way to develop the necessary courage that allows you to regain your freedom.
21.00 hours. I spend at least a couple of days a week making love. And enjoy it. Not always with the same person, but usually at home. It is more comfortable, you have everything at hand. There is a terrace with plants, candles that you light at night, sun loungers to look at the stars in summer. I am convinced that the best sex is lived integrated into an experience of friendship: you talk, have a drink, tell yourself about your life, watch a movie … And without being bound by schedules. Married couples compartmentalize everything more.
12.00 hours. I reserve the weekend for hiking, often in the Catalan Pyrenees. One place that I especially like is Estanys de la Pera. It is a route of fourteen, fifteen kilometers, that should not take more than three hours but that lasts all day. The sandwich, chatting … I am very freaky about sunbathing but naked, nothing just my arms, my legs … Also in the genitals, to stimulate testosterone and estrogens, which play an important role in ten thousand functions of the body, not only in the sexual. Covering the private parts is bad for your health. No sunscreen so that it does not impede the entry of vitamin D, but only 20 minutes.
21.30 hours. I have a salad with vegetables for dinner and go to bed for an hour reading until I fall asleep. I am a lot of history, essay … Everything that is non-fiction. Now I am with a book by my friend Francesc, ‘The wolves change the river’, a hilarious and tender autobiography at the same time.