Transcript of 7th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, April 25, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello Tom, come on in.
Mr. Darden: Thank you, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Is everything okay?
Mr. Darden: Why, do I look that bad?
Dr. Balis: You called me "Doctor" for the first time.
Mr. Darden: I did?
Dr. Balis: Yes, which is fine, but it threw me off guard since you've never called me that before. You do look particularly depressed today. What's going on?
Mr. Darden: Do you ever feel like you have absolutely no control over your life?
Dr. Balis: Well, there are brief times when I feel that way--most people experience periods of helplessness on occasion.
Mr. Darden: You have no idea what I mean. I don't ever recall feeling in control at any time in my life. I hate who I am. I hate my life and where it's going...or where it's not going, as the case may be. My job sucks, my social life sucks, my loans and bills suck, my haircut sucks, my vacuum cleaner doesn't suck--nothing goes right for me. I don't know why I'm alive. People protest against toxic waste and nuclear waste and how that affects our environment, but what about human waste, Charles? Shouldn't that be a crime, too? There are millions of us worthless people out there, living day to day, accomplishing nothing yet wasting precious resources by staying alive. People in Ethiopia are starving because American businesses use their land for cattle grazing to support our beef demand. That same land could have been used to grow crops to support the people in that country. I'm a beef eater, so that makes me partially responsible for those lives. I'm also wasting precious rental space that could have been used for someone who really needs shelter. I'm tearing up the ozone layer driving my car around aimlessly because I have nowhere in particular to go. There's no point to my being here. I'm simply a waste of human flesh.
Dr. Balis: What makes you less important than anyone else?
Mr. Darden: I have the luxury of certain items and opportunities others don't have. And I don't deserve those luxuries, Charles, because I don't take advantage of them. Why don't I? Because I don't know where to start. I don't know what route to take. I feel trapped in the life I lead, being tossed around in a swift current of failure that leads me nowhere. I wish I could be dead and start my life over. I'd like to be reborn into a wealthy, stable family where I can live a pampered life and have Mommy and Daddy pay my way through some expensive school and call my broker four times a day and scratch my nuts while I wait for my checks to roll in.
Dr. Balis: Do you feel that's possible? That if you were to die, you'd be able to start over in a new life?
Mr. Darden: No, of course not. I don't believe in reincarnation any more than I believe in God or Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I know there's only blackness waiting for me when I die--that's what makes my situation that much more unbearable. I'm only alive because I'm not dead, you know? There's no reason, no purpose to my existence. Is that why so many people get involved with religion, Charles? Because the reality of our lives is so terrifying and pointless that we desperately cling to this notion that there's some elaborate, magical realm somewhere in the cosmos where we'd live throughout eternity?
Dr. Balis: That's an argument that has plagued the minds of scholars for ages, Tom. I feel that you must trust your instinct and your heart when it comes to this area. If you find peace in your own belief, or your lack of one, then it is the right answer.
Mr. Darden: Then what you're saying is that I should turn to religion because right now I don't find peace in the fact that there is no God?
Dr. Balis: No, that's not what I'm saying. Your feelings of inadequacy are not necessarily dependent on your religious beliefs. You feel a need to start over in order to correct what you believe are mistakes made during your life, but you can start making the changes now, Tom, to get the satisfaction out of life you need. You don't have to start over.
Mr. Darden: You ever watch Star Trek?
Dr. Balis: From time to time.
Mr. Darden: I can't stand it. They always use this bullshit technical terminology to explain away just about every unique phenomenon that occurs in each episode. Whenever there's a crisis, there's this android on the show who'll tell the Captain: "The hexadecimal Blaupunkt mounted horizontally will cause a static warp shell to beam lasers out of our assholes at approximately three million bits per second" or some such gibberish. Anyway, I used to watch the show when I was younger and actually liked it. Recently, while I was flipping through the channels, I caught a recent episode. It was the one in which the Captain is killed and some character named "Q" gives him a chance to go back and change the course of his life, to prevent his death.
Dr. Balis: What happened?
Mr. Darden: The Captain accepted the offer, but when he made changes to points in his life he thought were mistakes, it reshaped his future to the point that he never became Captain--instead, he led his life doing menial, forgettable tasks as some junior-grade Lieutenant. So once the Captain realized what his changes had done, he told Q that he'd rather die as a Captain with all his mistakes intact than be the boring, drifting loser he was the second time around. When I saw this episode, it had a tremendous impact on me. I felt like I was that loser. I felt like I had made all the "safe" decisions and avoided taking risks in life. I had so many chances, Charles, to become more than what I am now. And I blew it.
Dr. Balis: Why do you feel you've failed? You work for a reputable company, you have good technical skills and hundreds of employees depend on you, you graduated with a journalism degree--do you not feel these are tremendous accomplishments in and of themselves?
Mr. Darden: No, because they don't make me happy. I don't have what I want.
Dr. Balis: What do you want?
Mr. Darden: I want...freedom--to be free of it all. I feel like abandoning everything.

I want to have the freedom to get up from my cubicle at work, walk over to the manager's office, say "fuck you" and never step foot in the building again.

I want the freedom from my school loans that keep me tied to this horrible job because otherwise I wouldn't be able to maintain the payments.

I want to have the freedom to drive out to the beach and watch the sunset and fall asleep and wake up the next morning and not have to worry about whatever worthless fucking report my superiors want just so they have something to whack off to.

I want my girlfriend back so I can hold her and make love to her and go away with her to places I'll probably never see in my lifetime.

I want to write really torrid cheesy romance novels that thousands of women will swoon over and provide me the income to buy a boat so I can sail across the Pacific.

I want to live in Australia, and I want to own a brewery so I don't have to keep stocking my fridge.
Dr. Balis: Sounds like a nice life.
Mr. Darden: It's fucking Disneyland, is what it is. It will never happen. None of it. I'm stuck in the dreary life I lead. There's only one way out, in my mind. I just want to die, Charles. Is that so much to ask?
Dr. Balis: Tom, we both know you don't want to die. You may feel like you have no control over your destiny, but that is because you've really made no effort to change or to do those things you wish you felt comfortable doing.
Mr. Darden: I thought you were on my side.
Dr. Balis: I am, Tom, believe me. But no one can make those changes for you. You have to motivate yourself to go out and face the world and take charge of the path you lead. Avoiding people--shying away from social activities--will prevent you from achieving a large portion of the goals you've set for yourself.
Mr. Darden: I know. You're right. It's just so hard to do. I get so frightened in public, Charles. My mouth gets dry, my palms get sweaty, I feel sick to my stomach--I start to panic. All I want to do is get out of that environment and go home. I feel comfortable only when I'm alone, yet I hate being alone. Damn it, this is so hard. Why can't I just be like everyone else? Why do I have to be the type of person I am? I don't want to remain a hermit. I want to meet people and make friends and go places and do things. It's just not possible for me. I've been this way for too long to change, I think.
Dr. Balis: That's not true. You're already changing. You've come to see me and you've identified points of your life that you feel have made you the person you are now. You did this almost completely on your own. It may not seem so, but that's tremendous progress, Tom. Your next step is to venture out more often and push yourself into those uncomfortable situations. That is the only way you're going to overcome your fear.
Mr. Darden: I wish I could just stick a tape in my VCR and watch some instructional film for a couple hours and be cured of all this.
Dr. Balis: I know. It's going to be tough. I'm not going to fool you into believing otherwise. You seem to put yourself down before giving yourself a chance. You expect defeat. That attitude is your undoing. You believe in forces that don't necessarily exist. It is your interpretation of events that many times leads to failure.
Mr. Darden: The self-fulfilling prophecy again.
Dr. Balis: Yes. You said in a past session that you sometimes go out with some of your co-workers. Does that make you feel more comfortable, because you have an idea of what to expect from them?
Mr. Darden: I guess so. I definitely don't enjoy walking into a room full of strangers. But I'm still uneasy being among any group.
Dr. Balis: For the most part, though, being with co-workers in a public place is easier than being in a place with people you don't know?
Mr. Darden: Sure.
Dr. Balis: Okay, let's do this. There's a rock concert being held at the Hotel Utah tonight. I was invited and have an extra ticket, and I know a lot of SII employees are going, too. Why don't you come? We can call this a test run, if you will.
Mr. Darden: What time does this concert start?
Dr. Balis: About 9, but the main band gets on about 11:30 at night. Can you make it?
Mr. Darden: You're going?
Dr. Balis: Yes.
Mr. Darden: I don't know. I really don't feel like...
Dr. Balis: ...having fun?
Mr. Darden: You're going to make me do this, aren't you?
Dr. Balis: Of course not. It's entirely up to you. You've come this far, Tom, but you'll have to decide when it's the appropriate time to start developing some social skills.
Mr. Darden: Okay, I'll be there.
Dr. Balis: Very well. Then I'll see you tonight. Is next Friday at 2 pm all right for you? That's May 2nd.
Mr. Darden: That's fine.
Dr. Balis: Good. Take care, Tom. See you at the concert tonight.
Mr. Darden: Goodbye.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

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

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Button to Thomas Darden's Patient File Thomas Darden's Patient File

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