Transcript of 5th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, April 11, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Tom, come on in.
Mr. Darden: Hi Charles.
Dr. Balis: Is anything the matter? You look tired.
Mr. Darden: I'm okay.
Dr. Balis: Have a seat.
Mr. Darden: Sure.
Dr. Balis: So how have we been this week?
Mr. Darden: Oh, we've been fine.
Dr. Balis: Are you sure you're feeling alright--have you been getting enough sleep?
Mr. Darden: Honestly, I'm...
Dr. Balis: Because you don't look too well.
Mr. Darden: Nothing's...
Dr. Balis: I could get you some coffee or some water or...
Mr. Darden: No I'm fine, believe me.
Dr. Balis: Very well.
Mr. Darden: [Laughs].
Dr. Balis: What? What are you chuckling about?
Mr. Darden: Just life, Charles. The whole idea of it.
Dr. Balis: Sounds like you have something on your mind.
Mr. Darden: You ever wonder what a copy machine thinks, Charles?
Dr. Balis: Come again?
Mr. Darden: A couple days ago while I was at work and was using the copier, I imagined what it would be like to be the machine. All those reports, all those spec sheets and tables, copy after copy, day after day, nothing changing except for the text and the paper size. It accomplishes so much but for all it does to make our lives easier, it's probably the least appreciated device in the department. People take it for granted. We expect it to always be there for us--we never stop to think that it might need another ream of paper or a toner cartridge occasionally.
Dr. Balis: You're beginning to feel like the copy machine.
Mr. Darden: Am I that transparent?
Dr. Balis: Everyone feels that way from time to time. You think there aren't times when I don't feel appreciated? We all have days when we wonder if what we're doing really matters to anyone. There are six billion people on this planet, Tom. That number rises each decade. It becomes more and more difficult to separate the single voice from the masses. But regardless, each of us is unique and has something special to offer.
Mr. Darden: I'm not so sure. I want to be that person in the spotlight; I want to be recognized for my achievements.
Dr. Balis: But?
Mr. Darden: But, I'm afraid.
Dr. Balis: Because if you were to be recognized for your deeds, it would mean enduring the pressure of being singled out from the crowd.
Mr. Darden: Exactly. Am I contradicting myself here? Why is it that I want to bask in the glory yet at the same time hide in the shadows? I do a lot at work. There are many problems I solve behind the scenes while others accept credit for the work they do and get recognized for their achievements. Damn it, it's not fair. If I were just more outgoing, things would be different.
Dr. Balis: You're not contradicting yourself, but you are challenging yourself, and that's good. I would be more worried if you were content with being perpetually anonymous. I think if you continue to challenge yourself actively--socially--you'd be surprised at what you could accomplish. You're shaking your head. You don't believe me?
Mr. Darden: You don't know my past history in the social department, Charles. I've had a lot of bad luck during the times I actually do go out, almost as if I weren't meant to be around people. It just seems that every time I try to peek out of my shell, there's something waiting to bite my head off.
Dr. Balis: Something happened this week, didn't it?
Mr. Darden: Jesus, Charles, you must be able to see the wall behind me when you look into my eyes. Yeah, something happened.
Dr. Balis: You want to talk about it?
Mr. Darden: Well, it's no big deal, I guess. It's just amazing to me how strange things seem to happen only when I make an attempt at socializing. Last week at work, a couple guys who sit near me were talking about the big scandal with our VP.
Dr. Balis: Scandal?
Mr. Darden: Maybe I shouldn't really talk about it. Let's just say that there were rumors about this woman's involvement with some people in the department and recently the rumors were confirmed in a big way. In any case, eventually I started participating in the conversation just to be, you know, one of the guys, and then we started talking about going out after work for a few beers. No biggie. Rob, a friend of mine who sits in the cube next to me at work, basically talked me into going. We used to hang out together more often than we do now, which is never. I think he doesn't fully understand how uncomfortable it is for me when I go out in public. But, he's probably the closest friend I have, so I agreed to tag along. We went to The Bull Market after work--it's that little bar and grill with the Old West-type atmosphere down the street, across from the Pacific Stock Exchange.
Dr. Balis: I've been there a few times. Good food.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, the more grease, the better. Anyway, Rob, Chad and I stayed there a lot later than we should have for a Monday night. Between the three of us, I think we had about seven or eight pitchers of beer. Some other people from work were also sitting nearby and Chad, well, he's sort of the company hound dog--hitting on anything remotely feminine and all. He decides to walk over and start talking with a girl from work whom we all know is very married. Another hour passes, and Rob and I are busy complaining about work and about our ex-girlfriends and about a thousand other topics that start spewing out of your mouth when the alcohol hits your brain. Chad's still working on this girl when her husband walks in. The husband is pretty cool at first, sits down near us and joins in on a conversation nearby, while all the time keeping an eye on his wife and Chad. Now, I don't know what the hell Chad was thinking next, but before we knew it, the girl was heading toward the ladies room and Chad was following her in! Rob suddenly says to me, "Uh oh," and I turn around to see the husband right in Chad's face. At first they were shoving each other around and shouting obscenities--the bartender and a couple cooks were trying to break it up--then all of sudden the two of them were rolling around on the floor bashing each other's head in. Rob's the type of guy who will instinctively go out of his way to mediate disputes, so he gets up and pulls the two of them apart. I don't know how he did it, but while he was holding back the husband, who was still flailing away, he was able to talk to Chad and calm him down. It looked like the trouble was over.
Dr. Balis: But they started fighting again?
Mr. Darden: No, the cops arrived. As soon as Rob saw the cops, he sort of mumbled, "You guys are on your own now" and let go of the husband, who immediately leaps toward Chad. The police officers grab the husband and try to get him to calm down, when all of a sudden he throws a punch at the one of the cops! I couldn't believe my eyes. The four cops pin the guy down to the floor and spray mace in his face. Then they handcuff him and arrest him for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
Dr. Balis: Sounds like a very entertaining evening!
Mr. Darden: It was shocking. Obviously, the whole place sort of became subdued after that--with the smell of mace in the air, we all got out of there. I really think that Janet--the girl--was sort of egging the whole episode on. Rob and I walked out to the parking lot and had nothing to say to each other, we were so stunned. As we approached our cars, we just sort of looked at each other and shook our heads.
Dr. Balis: Do you feel somehow responsible for causing the fight?
Mr. Darden: Well, no. I didn't know Janet, after all.
Dr. Balis: No, I mean do you feel that if you hadn't accepted Rob's offer to join him for a few drinks, that the fight would not have occurred?
Mr. Darden: I know it sounds crazy, but yes I do. Based on everything else that's happened to me, I really do believe that somehow this episode was related to my being there. I mean, I had been interacting with Chad that night, perhaps something I had said at the table prompted him to get up and start hitting on women, I don't know. But I definitely believe that my presence somehow evokes negative forces. To me, it makes complete sense, Charles. The world is, after all, made up of positive and negative energy, and our existence is based on their perfect balance. I feel that, for whatever reason, I was destined to be a negative force. I emit negative vibes. Not literally, of course, but socially. Somehow, I affect those around me. And it's for that reason that I believe I should just stay home and not deal with it.
Dr. Balis: I believe you're being a bit unrealistic about that. You're needlessly accepting responsibility for the actions of others around you. Don't you think the alcohol most likely played more of a role here than anything else?
Mr. Darden: Oh, I definitely agree that the beer had a great deal to do with it, but I also feel that makes us even more vulnerable to those around us in terms of social pressures. Basically I either make people upset or I simply push them away. I somehow bring out their negative side, and they act it out in strange ways. One time last year, Amanda and her boyfriend, Trent--I work with both of them--invited me to their party. I was really, really afraid, Charles. But I decided to be strong. I tried to overcome my fear of people and accept the invitation. I was one of the first ones to arrive there, which was easier for me. I feel more comfortable being the first instead of showing up when there's a million people stumbling around. I was still very, very nervous. I remember breaking out in a cold sweat and trying to come up with things to say to the few who were there. The first hour, I drank about five or six glasses of beer from the keg just to calm myself down. Later that night, as the group grew to a crowd, I became increasingly drunk. There are many periods of the night that I don't even remember. From what Rob tells me, I was having a good time. He said I was making a lot of the women nervous because I was going around trying to kiss them all. Anyway, I passed out. Well, at a party, you wouldn't think this was such a big deal. When I awoke, it was about 4:30 and I'm laying on a couch in Amanda's apartment and it's pitch black and I have no idea how I got there. The last thing I remembered was playing darts with Trent. So I look at my arms, and notice that someone had written all kinds of words and designs on them in magic marker. I got up and went to the bathroom, and realized there was also marker designs on my face. Someone had even written "cute butt" in magic-marker on one of the back pockets of my jeans.
Dr. Balis: How did this make you feel?
Mr. Darden: I felt like crying. I felt like I had been betrayed. These were my friends. These were people I thought I could trust. But there I was, getting picked on again, just like when I was the new kid in Scranton. There were so many people at the party that night, and I finally felt comfortable and felt like I fit in, and then I wake up and realize that, while I was passed out, I was made the outcast once again. I didn't know what to do at that point. I just grabbed my keys and drove home.
Dr. Balis: Did you talk to Rob or Trent about what happened?
Mr. Darden: Yeah, they thought I was overreacting. Rob didn't think it was a big deal. He told me how his frat brothers used to put makeup on him when he passed out and sat him on a chair in an elevator so passengers could see. It wasn't too comforting to me. I don't think he can possibly understand where I'm coming from. It's not fun for me to go out. It's work. I have to concentrate hard on socializing. I have to prepare. And when someone does something like that to me, it gives me less incentive to continue to go out.
Dr. Balis: I understand. Tom, I'm convinced you're not a negative force. These incidents aren't happening because you're somehow influencing others around you to act out against you. There is, however, such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you feel that something negative will happen, it will happen, Tom. It is a chore sometimes to be positive, but it can be done. Think on that.
Mr. Darden: I will.
Dr. Balis: And all your socializing involves large amounts of alcohol. People tend to act unconventionally when they're drunk. Anyway, I'll say this: you definitely look better now than you did coming in here.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, I seem to feel a lot better talking about this stuff than letting it cycle through my own head every day.
Dr. Balis: Talking is a start. Acting on what we've discussed will come later.
Mr. Darden: I look forward to it.
Dr. Balis: I'll see you next week? Is Friday, April 18th at this time okay for you?
Mr. Darden: That'll be fine.
Dr. Balis: Okay, then. See you later, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Later.
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