Transcript of 26th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, June 12, 1998 at 4:00 pm.

Mr. Darden: Hi, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Hold on a second, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Oh, you're on the phone. Sorry.
Dr. Balis: Sorry about that, Tom. Please have a seat.
Mr. Darden: No problem. I think I ran a little early.
Dr. Balis: How have you been?
Mr. Darden: Oh, I've had better weeks...well, at least that's what I'm told. I can't seem to remember back that far.
Dr. Balis: I see. Anything specific that's troubling you?
Mr. Darden: It's just that I'll never be more than a co-worker to Rachel and I'll be forced to watch helplessly as other men in my department vie for her womb.
Dr. Balis: I see. What I find interesting, Tom, is that I've come to believe you aren't as jealous of the other men who flirt with Rachel as you are jealous of Rachel herself.
Mr. Darden: What is that supposed to mean?
Dr. Balis: I think you're jealous of Rachel's infectious charm and her ability to easily socialize and make friends.
Mr. Darden: That's a load of crap. I'm upset that these fucking "pretty boys" are all over her like she's wrapped in vagina-scented fly paper. Last week, I saw her in the lobby entrance with two guys who looked like they'd just stepped out of a GQ magazine. She ended up going to lunch with them.
Dr. Balis: So?
Mr. Darden: Players! All of them. Do you think they give a damn what type of person Rachel is or that she has feelings or hopes or fears? No, they're just looking to get laid. Those two guys had probably placed a bet to see which one would get in the sack with her first. Or maybe, they'll end up doing a train on her. Then they'll be deciding who gets to be the caboose vs. the "little engine that could."
Dr. Balis: Say what you will, Tom, but the fact remains that you wish you could make friends with the same ease Rachel can. It eats away at you. When you told me about your cousin from the Navy, you were overtly jealous of his sexual experiences and the ease at which he could attract and pick up women.
Mr. Darden: I'm not jealous of my cousin.
Dr. Balis: You are. Your frustration with your own inability to socialize has made you bitter at those who don't have that problem.
Mr. Darden: Why are you telling me this? What difference does it make who I'm jealous of?
Dr. Balis: It's important that you recognize the source of your frustration. You are too focused on what others are doing, when you should be paying attention to what Tom Darden is doing.
Mr. Darden: I know all too well what Tom Darden is doing--nothing. Fucking zero. He sits at home every night by himself and drinks beer and wishes that he'd just pass out and never wake again. There's no changing me, I've come to realize that now. I've been like this ever since I can remember. I've always been afraid of people, afraid of rejection, afraid of failure.
Dr. Balis: And afraid of success.
Mr. Darden: What?
Dr. Balis: I find that you seem to be more fearful of success than anything else. That's why you don't take risks. You don't try to stand out. You're afraid that if you do take a chance, and happen to succeed, that success will only be temporary. Because it will put you in the spotlight and soon people will discover what a real failure you are, making your rejection that much more intense.
Mr. Darden: Well, it's about time you finally saw me for what I really am: a failure.
Dr. Balis: No, I don't believe you're a failure, Tom. I'm simply interpreting how you feel about yourself. And it's self-defeating to think that way.
Mr. Darden: You don't get it, do you Charles? I'm not someone you can apply your stupid psycho-labels on. You may have helped a lot of people with similar problems, but I know I'm different. There's no helping me. I've been to see you how many times now? Twenty five? Thirty? And where have I gotten?
Dr. Balis: I feel you've made a great deal of progress, actually.
Mr. Darden: Bullshit. You'd say anything to justify having me stick around to help pay for your next vacation. I know people who've spent years in therapy. Years! And they've gotten nowhere. You'd think they'd had realized that after the first year.
Dr. Balis: The pace of therapy is usually determined by the patient's willingness to be helped.
Mr. Darden: Well, then I guess it's going to be a long while before I change.
Dr. Balis: Perhaps, perhaps not. It's completely up to you.
Mr. Darden: Look, I don't mean to sound like I don't want your help, it's just that I'm very frustrated. I've been coming to see you for a while now, and I don't seem to be getting anywhere. I know I've got to put in a lot of effort myself, but I just don't know where to begin.
Dr. Balis: Have you tried getting out of the house and going out more?
Mr. Darden: There aren't a lot of places for a single guy to go that would make him feel comfortable being alone, Charles. In an age when everyone seems to be encouraged to embrace their individuality and independence, it's ironic that single people are treated like pariahs. Have you ever gone to a nice restaurant alone, Charles? Have you ever caught the stares and heard the whispers of people seated near you? Have you ever gone to a movie theater alone, waiting in line, looking at the couples all around you, holding hands, kissing each other, almost as if to highlight the fact that you're with no one? The world has no place for singles. Hell, even the government treats us like second-class citizens. Married couples get far more tax breaks than I'll ever see. The discrimination never ends.
Dr. Balis: By the way, it's not true that there is a tax break for married couples. In fact, it's quite the opposite--there's a penalty. But to get back to your point, I am single and I've gone to the movies, and restaurants, and done other activities as a single individual. But I never notice any sort of discrimination based on my single status. As we've discussed before, it's all about perception, Tom. If you view the world through a filter of paranoia, you're bound to notice things that you can use to justify your own insecurity. I understand that it's difficult for you to socialize and be around people. And I'm sure that anxiety foments your paranoia and self-consciousness. But venturing out into the social world is a risk you must take if you're ever going to overcome your fear. Your problems are not going to be solved by staying home, drinking beer, and playing with your cat.
Mr. Darden: Amazing. You're the third person to say that to me. A couple of my co-workers--Gina and Jennifer--said that to me when I was complaining about my love life.
Dr. Balis: Well, maybe you should take it to heart. They obviously recognized what you're doing to yourself and were honest enough to tell you how they felt about it. Think of your problem as you would think about a fear of heights, for instance. You would never be able to overcome your fear of heights if you don't try to climb. Every time you think of your fear of social situations, just substitute it for fear of heights. You'll be amazed at what you might uncover that way.
Mr. Darden: I guess so. It's just so hard to get out of my routine. I wake up, go to work, come home, hop on the computer, whack off, watch some TV, and go to sleep. In fact, when I get really bored on the weekends, I spend a lot of time whacking off. I figure if I'm going to spend all my time alone, I might as well make myself feel good.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Darden: I can't believe I'm telling you this. How many guys do you talk to who openly admit to beating their meat?
Dr. Balis: More than you'd think. There's nothing wrong with talking about masturbation with your therapist.
Mr. Darden: I didn't even start pounding my pud until I was around seventeen years old. People at school joked about whacking off, and I had no idea what they were talking about. My first orgasm came by accident, no pun intended. I was in bed on my stomach and just starting thrusting into my mattress, then pow! It was like I'd discovered gold or something. For the next few weeks, I think I was masturbating so many times I almost tore the damn thing off. I've been whacking off at least twice a week ever since. Though recently, it's been a lot more often.
Dr. Balis: How much more?
Mr. Darden: About five to six times a week--once a day, keeps the...never mind. I start thinking about my lack of love life and how I'll never find another woman who will want to be with me ever again, and it just depresses the hell out of me. What the hell, life sucks so I might as well whack, right? Then I'll start fantasizing about women I've known and jerk off, even if in real life I'd never even think about having sex with them.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Darden: It's funny.
Dr. Balis: What is?
Mr. Darden: I just realized that I've never really fantasized about Rachel sexually. Don't get me wrong, I do fantasize about her, but my fantasies have always involved how we'd interact as a couple.
Dr. Balis: When do you usually have these sort of fantasies?
Mr. Darden: In bed. I know, I know. But it's not like that. My thoughts of her are always very emotional and tender. Sometimes, it makes it easier for me to fall asleep if I place a pillow lengthwise along one side of my chest and wrap my arms around it, imagining that I'm holding Rachel. I'll whisper to it occasionally and kiss it. I'll say to the pillow, "I love you" and hold it tighter until for a while, I actually start believing the fantasy. Then I drift to sleep.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Darden: While in college, I had a psychology textbook that talked about a study done on a young chimpanzee. The researchers placed the chimp in a sort of solitary confinement for a few weeks. The chimp was noticeably agitated from the lack of interaction. Finally, the researchers placed a mock chimp made of wire and covered over with carpeting into the cage. The baby chimp immediately started clinging to it as if it were holding its mother. It was really rather pathetic and sad. I remember bursting into tears when I first read about this. The doctors were attempting to prove the psychological need for human interaction and affection. When I hold my pillow at night in the way I described, I sometimes think about that poor baby chimp and how much we have in common.
Dr. Balis: I know it's difficult being alone when all you want is companionship, Tom. But you've got to start making a reasonable effort to participate in more people-oriented activities. Otherwise...
Mr. Darden: It's so damn hard to do, Charles. I have very few friends I can hang out with. No one misses me when I'm not around. I don't matter to anyone. So there's not a lot of incentive to be outside my apartment.
Dr. Balis: What I suggest is that we work on a little project together.
Mr. Darden: Project? What type of project? Does it involve construction paper and paste? A paper doll, perhaps?
Dr. Balis: No. In order to overcome your uneasiness socializing, I recommend you build a pyramid of socially-related activities, beginning with some simple and more comfortable ones all the way to the most feared and difficult for you to accomplish. Then, at the top of the pyramid, I want you to create your ultimate social goal. It will be whatever you feel is the most appropriate for you. Once you have the pyramid laid out, draw it out on a piece of paper and bring it in with you next time so we can go over it.
Mr. Darden: You can't be serious.
Dr. Balis: You know I am.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, and it scares the hell out of me. All right, I'll humor you. But don't expect any earth-shattering revelations next week.
Dr. Balis: I'll leave it in your hands, Tom.
Mr. Darden: All right. But I warned you.
Dr. Balis: See you in two weeks?
Mr. Darden: Okay. At least I think it's okay.
Dr. Balis: It will be. Take care, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Bye.
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