Transcript of 2nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, March 14, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Tom. Good to see you. How was your week?
Mr. Darden: Today's payday, so I guess I'm happy.
Dr. Balis: No argument there. Have a seat.
Mr. Darden: Thanks.
Dr. Balis: Pardon me a moment while I close up your session file here.
Mr. Darden: Nice laptop, Charles. The company gave me one like that to work on at home but I hardly use it.
Dr. Balis: You work on an on-call basis?
Mr. Darden: Not officially, but if someone does page me, I usually feel obliged to log on and help out. If I were busier after hours I'd probably gripe about it. Being on salary, I'm definitely not compensated for that time. Do you surf the net on that thing?
Dr. Balis: No. I use this laptop to store session information and notes only. Because it's got sensitive information on it, I am careful to keep it isolated from any computer networks. I do have a computer at home with a modem though, but I don't have as much free time as I'd like to have.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, it must be terrible making a hundred bucks or so an hour and not having the time to spend it.
Dr. Balis: There are drawbacks but I find there are many rewards to my work.
Mr. Darden: Hmm. So, did you find anything interesting in your file on me?
Dr. Balis: Actually, I'd like to go over a couple of comments you made during our first session together.
Mr. Darden: Sure.
Dr. Balis: You mentioned last week that the routine you have now is rather mundane.
Mr. Darden: I believe I said it sucked.
Dr. Balis: Quite right. You also said that you don't socialize anymore.
Mr. Darden: Yes, that's true, for the most part, anyway.
Dr. Balis: What prompted you to stop?
Mr. Darden: I don't think any one thing prompted me to stop. I've always felt that going out and interacting with people in the social arena is a big game. There are a lot of people out there who are good at playing the game, and some more ways than one, might I add. But that's all it is, really. I don't think people go out for the sake of going out to enjoy themselves. I think they do it for status. It's a test to see who can speak the most eloquently or be the most athletic. It's not about being yourself. And I found that I was also falling into the trap. When I was in public, I would act...differently. I felt different, like I was putting on an act, especially in conversation.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Mr. Darden: Well, when I meet some of my co-workers at that bar down the street after work, and we start talking about our lives, I have this tendency to stretch the truth. It's like I know they won't accept me for who I am, so why bother? I take an ordinary incident in my life and turn it into some elaborate soap-opera episode.
Dr. Balis: What are their reactions?
Mr. Darden: They believe me. At least I think they do. They don't say anything if they don't. Why wouldn't they believe me? None of them knows exactly what I do or don't do, as the case may be. And really, they could probably care less if I had just told them I have no life and sit around watching TV on weekends. Yet I find myself exaggerating every aspect of my daily routine.
Dr. Balis: If it's any comfort to you, Tom, I think it's very common to have a tendency to embellish, especially around co-workers. The old "I caught a fish this big" story didn't come about because there was a particular group out there who hates fishermen. Humans are, by nature, competitive creatures. Some people are more animated about it than others, but the competitiveness is still there.
Mr. Darden: I suppose so. I just feel that sometimes I find myself taking it to the extreme.
Dr. Balis: Give me an example.
Mr. Darden: Well, recently on my way to work, a woman rear-ended my car. She didn't really cause much damage but she was really torn up about it. A few days later, her insurance company cut a check for me for $350 to get my bumper fixed. She called me that night at my house and apologized again, saying she didn't realize she had done so much damage to my car. I told her it was okay, no harm done, these things happen. Then she kept going on and on about how nice I had been to her in light of the situation and how she hates this city and all the traffic and that she's going to take a different route from now on. I sensed that she was trying to carry on the conversation but I was kind of cutting her off just to get off the phone, as if I had something better to do. Anyway, my mind turned it into something more.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Mr. Darden: I was talking with some people at work and the subject came back to my accident. All of sudden I found myself telling them that the woman had called me and asked me out on a date, and that I turned her down.
Dr. Balis: You said you turned her down?
Mr. Darden: Well, I guess that was a defense mechanism. I mean, if I hadn't turned her down, then I'd have to create new lies about the date and how it went and so forth, and I suppose I didn't want to drag it out and risk being caught.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Darden: But after I told the lie, I started justifying it to myself, making myself believe that this really was the woman's intention when she called me.
Dr. Balis: Do you think that might have been her intention?
Mr. Darden: I don't know. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. She was somewhat attractive--seemed a little older than me, but attractive, nevertheless. Except she smoked. I hate smokers. I wasn't looking for rings on her fingers at the time, so I have no idea if she was actually married. I guess it's just nice to imagine that she really was interested in me. I think I created the whole story to make myself seem more interesting to the women I work with. You know, make them think that I wasn't such a loser.
Dr. Balis: Have you been dating lately?
Mr. Darden: Yeah, right.
Dr. Balis: It's not a subject you want to talk about?
Mr. Darden: What's there to talk about? I don't go out. I don't socialize. I don't have any really close friends. I'm not exposed to any social situations that might lead to a relationship with someone. I don't go to bars except maybe once a week; I hate parties--I'm a homebody. I sit around, watch television, read books, whack off occasionally and that's about the extent of it.
Dr. Balis: You don't look too much like a home body.
Mr. Darden: Neither do guys in prison. All they do all day is shoot hoops and lift weights and make sure they don't drop the soap in the shower room, right? Same idea. My apartment is my prison cell. I'm confined to those walls when I'm not at work. I try to keep relatively fit, although I do have a beer gut from all the weekend binges. But I try not to turn into Jabba the Hutt.
Dr. Balis: For health reasons?
Mr. Darden: That and the fact that I at least want to have a chance should the right person come along. I mean, I don't want to be too unattractive. But I don't really think I have too much to offer a woman, to be honest. With what little money I get from SII, I'm definitely not rich and I can't think of anything about me that would be even remotely interesting to a sane woman. Hell, I don't even know if I could go through a relationship again. I mean, it's pretty stifling, isn't it? I'm too used to living alone now. I'd have to make too many compromises. I don't expect a woman to move in on the first date, mind you, but you know it's inevitable. And I don't know if I could deal with that. I like doing the dishes when I feel like doing the dishes; I like having the freedom to fart or pick my nose without somebody being there to say how crude it is. It does get very lonely at times, though.
Dr. Balis: What do you do when it's lonely?
Mr. Darden: Drink. Especially on weekends. That's always the toughest. I listen to my neighbors leaving to go out and have a good time and I wish I could do that. I usually just buy a case of beer and down as many of them as I can. That's when I start bawling. I get really stinking drunk and then whip out all my pictures of Sharon and say things out loud to her like, "Why don't I have a life?" and "What's wrong with me?" Then I wake up the next morning with cottonmouth and a horrendous headache.
Dr. Balis: Have you always had difficulty socializing?
Mr. Darden: I guess so. I don't know. My mother says I used to be a very happy person until I was about ten years old, then everything sort of went downhill. But I have bad memories dating back even before then.
Dr. Balis: Let's discuss some of those memories. Are there any that stand out?
Mr. Darden: I just remember being a really passive, trusting kid. Not a good mixture for a rough neighborhood. I was picked on fairly regularly. Not because I was ugly or because I was smaller than they were. It was because I let them. Maybe it's genetic--being a wimp. I remember being chased around by groups of kids, some of whom had been my playmates earlier in the day. Then they would just suddenly decide to gang up on me. I never really understood why. Very strange. It was like I had a neon sign flashing on my head that said, "Abuse me, won't you?" It wasn't a regular occurrence--I only recall it happening a few times--but it made an impression on me anyway.
Dr. Balis: What were your parents like then?
Mr. Darden: You're not going to ask me to tell you about my mother, are you? I thought they only did that in the movies.
Dr. Balis: Well, it is a psychologically valid starting point in the evolution of certain types of behavior, Tom. There are many factors usually involved in the development of our perceptions later in life. These include social, environmental, and even political conditions that are present day-to-day. They all serve to form the tapestry making up each one of us.
Mr. Darden: I'll go along with that. Well, I know my father was very much the opposite of what I am. He was a much bigger guy than I am now, probably about 50 or 60 pounds heavier and three inches taller. Very outgoing, very intimidating fellow. He definitely didn't take any shit, from what I recall. Mom's personality is more along the lines of my own. If you were to inject my mom with some testosterone, you'd have me. She's very polite, very passive. Now I don't mean to say that being nice means you necessarily are a pushover, but she is. She gets exploited a lot. It's a shame that people like her are treated that way.
Dr. Balis: I noticed you spoke of your father in the past tense.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, well, he died when I was 10 years old. There was a chemical explosion at the plant where he worked--incinerated about 35 people instantly. They were the lucky ones. Dad spent about three weeks in the hospital and was in a coma for the last one. I remember Mom taking us to see him; my brother and I would get all dressed up in our good clothes like we were going to church...or a funeral. I'd walk into his room and see him all bandaged up--didn't even seem like my dad anymore. He couldn't speak, but could move one arm, and he'd motion it like he'd want me to come to him, but I couldn't. I was scared. My brother would go up to him and talk to him like there was nothing wrong. He'd keep asking, "When are you coming home, Daddy?" like he couldn't see the bandages or something. But he was too young to really understand. I'll never forget the look my Dad would give me, laying there. Like he was sorry. "I'm sorry, son."
Dr. Balis: It must have been very hard for the three of you.
Mr. Darden: My Mom was devastated. I think she deluded herself into believing that he'd actually pull through. But she had to have known. Even I could see that he wasn't doing well. The funeral was one of the worst experiences of my life. I vowed never to attend another funeral and I haven't to this day. Mom was the first person to walk into the viewing area and she collapsed right there. She spent two nights in a psychiatric hospital after that. My aunt Denise went to see her and told me years later that Mom had been completely oblivious to everything. She didn't even know Denise had been there. Mom would just sit on the edge of her bed and rock back and forth. Then she just snapped out of it and it was if it had never happened.
Dr. Balis: What was your family life like after his death?
Mr. Darden: It was...confusing, especially for a child. We moved around a lot. There were a lot of men in Mom's life after. Hell, she must have seemed pretty easy, being in the vulnerable state she was in. All three of us had neon signs by that time. I was "Abuse me, won't you?" and Mom was "Fuck me and leave me" and my brother, Alex, was "Ignore me." Of course, I never called Mom by her neon name or I would have gotten slapped.
Dr. Balis: So she never remarried?
Mr. Darden: Yeah, she did, two years later. I don't know what she was thinking. Maybe she was just testing out all the men to find the perfect asshole. She succeeded. I mean...
Dr. Balis: What? What is it?
Mr. Darden: Look, I know where you're leading me here. I mean, I know my childhood was screwed up. Don't you think I'm aware of that?
Dr. Balis: Tom, I'm not trying to lead you anywhere. I'm simply trying to get some background information from you. If you don't feel comfortable...
Mr. Darden: No, that's alright. I apologize. It's just that I know my life wasn't all that great growing up. I know that probably has something to do with who I am now. I feel like the simple fact of knowing what has caused me to be this way should enable me to change who I am. I'm sorry. I know time is running out. Let's get back to this next week, if you don't mind. I need a drink.
Dr. Balis: As you wish, Tom, but I really believe you shouldn't turn to drinking when...
Mr. Darden: Don't say it, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Say what?
Mr. Darden: I'm not an alcoholic, you know. I don't need booze. I am just aware of the fact that alcohol is a depressant and will help my body calm itself. Nothing more.
Dr. Balis: Tom, I wasn't about to accuse you of anything.
Mr. Darden: Fine. Next week then?
Dr. Balis: Next week it is.
Mr. Darden: Good evening, Charles.
Dr. Balis: You too, Tom. Take care.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

Button to Thomas Darden's Transcripts Transcripts of Thomas Darden's Communications
Button to Thomas Darden's Patient File Thomas Darden's Patient File

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