Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Lisa Benjamin, Tuesday, March 24, 1998 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, welcome. Ms. Benjamin I presume?
Ms. Benjamin: Hi, Doctor Balis. It's nice to meet you.
Dr. Balis: Please sit down.
Ms. Benjamin: Do I need to lie down or anything?
Dr. Balis: If you think that would make you more comfortable.
Ms. Benjamin: Um, actually no. I'll just sit.
Dr. Balis: All right. Let's get started.
Ms. Benjamin: Okay.
Dr. Balis: What have you come to see me about?
Ms. Benjamin: Well, I'm having...I guess you could say I must be having a lot of unresolved anger or something. I've been getting really mad at all kinds of people lately.
Dr. Balis: Friends and family?
Ms. Benjamin: Yes. But it's more just people on the street. I've practically gotten into fights a few times in the last couple of weeks. Mostly when people whistle at me or make some comments. I get so mad because...
Dr. Balis: Yes?
Ms. Benjamin: See, this is where the confidentiality thing really comes into play with me. I work at SII during the day. I started there as a temp right after college. And when they offered me a full time job, I really didn't know what else I wanted to do with my life, so I took it for the benefits. And, of course, that's how I can afford to see you today.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Benjamin: But I also have another job. I took it mainly to pay off some credit card debts I managed to rack's ridiculous how they just hand these things to college kids, and I wasn't too responsible with mine. Well, it was more just a matter of being broke all the time. And my salary at SII just doesn't cut it.
Dr. Balis: So what is your other job?
Ms. Benjamin: I started stripping at this place called the Lusty Lady. Do you know it?
Dr. Balis: No.
Ms. Benjamin: Well, good. If you did, I would have to walk out of here right now.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Ms. Benjamin: Well, I really like my job. In fact, it's one of the most interesting experiences I've ever had. And I really love some of the women I work with. They're all so right on...well, it's hard to explain. And the Lusty is a great place. It's owned and managed by women--there's even an employee's union.
Dr. Balis: That does sound unusual for a strip club. Do you believe that if I knew this establishment, it would...
Ms. Benjamin: If you knew about the place, I would assume that you were a customer. And no matter how you upgrade the sex industry, I think the customers will always be the same--a bunch of sorry, lonely losers with no respect for women at all.
Dr. Balis: I see. Isn't it difficult working in an environment like that?
Ms. Benjamin: Well, the environment backstage is fantastic. Standing around the coffee machine in nothing but pumps and garters is hilarious, I think. And the conversations are a lot more interesting. I guess I'm just not really a corporate person. I've never been happy in an office, it doesn't matter what the business is. I had to temp during the summers to get through college, and I was always miserable.
Dr. Balis: Did you try other professions? Other ways of making money?
Ms. Benjamin: Well, I tried waiting tables, but I'm probably the worst waitress in the history of the world. Aside from the obvious errors I made and the many things I forgot and spilled, I just basically had an attitude problem. I can't stand serving people. I snapped at my customers and never got any tips. I was just a little piece of misery as a waitress. I think it was bad karma for me.
Dr. Balis: If I had to guess, I'd say it sounded as if you were angry at your customers for having to serve them.
Ms. Benjamin: Definitely. Yes, that's very sharp actually. And even now, I'm still in a position where I'm serving people. Look, I don't want you to think I'm stupid or something. I know what I'm serving. And I know that it's very personal and sort of raw. But if there's a way to work through it, I'd like to find it. Because other than this side effect, stripping is the best job I've ever had. I'm even thinking of quitting SII to do it full time. I mean...well, I probably won't quit for a while.
Dr. Balis: I see. You want me to help you work through your anger, so you can feel better about serving your customers as a stripper. Did I get it right?
Ms. Benjamin: Yeah, but I'm impatient. My whole life I've been this really good girl, and I'm sick of it. I have no interest in remaining in this whole SII corporate sphere. I feel trapped in it. And I feel different from all the women at work, at Lusty's I mean. Well, not all the women, but the cool ones anyway.
Dr. Balis: Who are the cool ones?
Ms. Benjamin: I sounds so dumb. They are basically the tattooed and pierced ones. I think I must have a lot of cool envy. It's sort of straight out of junior high. I just never feel quite right around those girls. But maybe this is one of those long-term therapy issues, because I never feel comfortable in most social situations. I always feel on the outside of any group, and I never seem to have what it takes to make make myself the one who's at the center.
Dr. Balis: Have you been in therapy before?
Ms. Benjamin: Well, yeah. But it never really worked out.
Dr. Balis: Tell me about that.
Ms. Benjamin: Well, in school they had a therapist at the clinic. But she was like a dinosaur. Really, she even looked like a big old lizard. And she would just sit there and listen while I went on and on about my family and how poor I was. I talked to all my friends about her. Sophomore year, we all confessed that we had gone to see this woman. This lady had tried to convince all my gay friends that they were really straight. And vice versa. So I don't know what she was about.
Dr. Balis: Where did you go to college?
Ms. Benjamin: Berkeley. I was an English major--as in everybody speaks it, but nobody pays for it. I had no idea what I wanted to do after school. Or, for that matter, why I went to school. I was pretty much just hell-bent on getting away from home.
Dr. Balis: Why was that?
Ms. Benjamin: Because my folks are both completely crazy. Uh, I hope we won't have to talk too much about that. But I guess I'll have to take you through the whole ugly story.
Dr. Balis: I would like to know about your family and those relationships.
Ms. Benjamin: The thing is I'm pretty settled on all of that. I really don't think it's affecting me anymore. In fact, I grew up in a really weird situation, but now it seems to have really settled itself. I've made peace with my folks for the most part. So I sort of feel like I'm here about things that are going on in my life now, like getting mad at people I don't know. I constantly want to say, "Look, not on my free time." I get hassled enough at work, and I don't want to deal with it on my off days.
Dr. Balis: I'm not sure I'm following you. Are you talking about your personal life? Are you getting angry at men you date?
Ms. Benjamin: I get enough of it at work, thank you. But I get really angry, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: So you want to find a way to control your impulse to anger?
Ms. Benjamin: Yeah, I guess that's it. I feel like eventually I'm going to get myself killed in a bad, bad way if I keep this up. Most people ignore this kind of stuff. But I just have to make a point of saying something about it. I can't control myself.
Dr. Balis: I gather we are talking about sexual advances, right?
Ms. Benjamin: Not only.
Dr. Balis: I see. Mostly I would try to get at the underlying cause of the anger and try to squelch it from understanding those causes better. But if control is all you're after, maybe you can try the old counting to ten technique.
Ms. Benjamin: Is that an official prescription?
Dr. Balis: We're just getting started. There seem to be a lot of issues that we need to explore. And until we spend a bit more time and go deeper into all of this, counting to ten before responding to an angry impulse seems like it's worth a try. When you feel yourself becoming angry, try to delay your reaction. You might also want to try to free associate a little bit and see if the particular anger-provoking situation reminds you of anything else in your life that made you respond similarly. Maybe you're not really responding to the situation in front of you, but something's triggered a memory of a situation in your past.
Ms. Benjamin: Well, I definitely know what makes me feel the same way.
Dr. Balis: What's that?
Ms. Benjamin: My job. What I need is a way to separate my feelings about work from my feelings about the world.
Dr. Balis: Have you ever considered taking some time off from work?
Ms. Benjamin: Yes, but it's really my job at SII that I would like to take some time off from.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Benjamin: You see, I started getting involved in some things that are really interesting to me. There is this very interesting place where they make videos, and I wanted to explore the possibilities. But I have no time at all to do any of that stuff. There's no one there who has a real day job. People who work there arrange their own schedules and can make time to do their videos and stuff. I want to be able to do that, too. I just feel like I'm close to people who live the way they want to live. Like my roommate--she got me into this Lusty job in the first place. She's just so much cooler, from where I'm sitting, than anyone I work with at SII.
Dr. Balis: I see. Lisa, we got a good start today, but our time is up. Try out my suggestion. The next time you feel an angry outburst coming up, count to ten and see if you can control your outward expressions of rage.
Ms. Benjamin: I guess I can try to do that.
Dr. Balis: Good. Would you like to come in next week?
Ms. Benjamin: I was kind of interested in coming every other week. My schedule is pretty crazy--two jobs and all. Maybe when things open up a little, I can come more often.
Dr. Balis: Every two weeks will be fine. Our next appointment then will be Tuesday, April 7th, at four in the afternoon. Does that work for you?
Ms. Benjamin: That's fine, thanks. I'll see you then.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Lisa.
Ms. Benjamin: Goodbye.
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