Transcript of 12th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, June 13, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Good afternoon, Tom. Come in.
Mr. Darden: Hi, Charles.
Dr. Balis: How was your vacation in Pennsylvania?
Mr. Darden: Uneventful and wet. It either rained or threatened to rain most of the time there.
Dr. Balis: How long did you stay?
Mr. Darden: I left Tuesday morning, the day after our last session, and arrived back in San Francisco this morning. I decided to take my full two weeks off. I return to the regular grind at SII Monday.
Dr. Balis: You went camping or something, right?
Mr. Darden: Well, I guess you could call it that, but I cheated. I rented a cabin that comes complete with a kitchen and a shower and a TV. It was in the woods near a lake but I definitely wasn't "roughing it." I did some fishing, grilled some steaks and watched it rain. I got fairly bored after the third day but at least I wasn't staying at my Mom's.
Dr. Balis: Did you visit your mother at all?
Mr. Darden: She picked me up from the airport. As usual, we managed to talk civilly for about ten minutes and then we ended up in an argument over something ridiculous. This time it was over religion.
Dr. Balis: How did you get on that topic?
Mr. Darden: Mom's boyfriend, Jeff, has a grandson who's two years old. Basically, this means Mom considers the kid her grandchild, too. Mom and Jeff are both into Christianity now and shower the grandson with little religious trinkets and Christian storybooks and crap like that. She said she sent similar gifts that week to Jordan, my brother's son, and Alex immediately sent them back. This, of course, greatly upset Mom, even though she knows that neither Alex nor I believe in a god. Alex and Martha had already told Mom not to try to influence their child with religious articles but Mom presses on anyway, hoping that eventually we'll "see the light and be saved." Such bullshit. That's what I said in the car. "Religion is bullshit." The argument soon followed.
Dr. Balis: Were you arguing more over the idea of religion or over the fact that your mother persists in trying to impose her religious views on Jordan?
Mr. Darden: We fought about religion in general. Alex and I stopped believing in God at about the same time--while we were in high school. From a practical standpoint, the existence of some divine force controlling the cosmos and granting miracles seemed very silly to us. Mom has known that we don't support her beliefs, and it's been very difficult for her. When we tell her we don't believe in God, she starts crying and making us feel guilty. "I want us to all be together in a happy place when we die and when you talk like that you're preventing your salvation, " she'll sob. Give me a break! So here we are, in the car, and I basically scold Mom for sending religious gifts to Jordan when she knows Martha and Alex are Atheists. She looked over at me in shock, like it was the first time she had heard that. Then she went on about how we're too young to fully understand the concept of creation, blah, blah, blah. Yet because she lives with her boyfriend and is assumably having sex, she's living in sin herself.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Darden: Alex made that point to her. Religion breeds hypocrisy. There have been more wars waged and lives lost in the name of some God than anything else, yet these gods supposedly do not permit the taking of a life. You don't need to have religion to have morals, but people seem to think that without religion there'd be chaos. I say religion causes chaos. Anyway, it was a long ride to Mom's house Tuesday.
Dr. Balis: I'm beginning to see why you chose to rent the cabin.
Mr. Darden: It was worth the money in that sense.
Dr. Balis: Anything else happen during your vacation?
Mr. Darden: Not really, except I saw Sharon.
Dr. Balis: I'd say that's pretty significant, wouldn't you?
Mr. Darden: Yes. I never expected it to happen.
Dr. Balis: Did you approach her?
Mr. Darden: No, she actually walked up to me. I was shocked. I thought for sure she hated me and wouldn't want to set foot near me again. I had rented a car early Wednesday morning and drove to the grocery store to get food for the cabin, and there she was.
Dr. Balis: How did the conversation go?
Mr. Darden: It was very strained at first. She had changed a lot in two years. Her hair was very short and it appeared more blonde than I had remembered. I guess she bleached it out. She also seemed to have gained some muscle and she seemed very toned. When I first saw her at the other end of the isle, she was looking at me, and was basically waiting for me to react. I think that if I hadn't smiled or if I had looked away, she would never have approached me. She smiled back slowly and then walked up to me. I asked her how she was doing, and she said she was fine and that she was still going to school. She was surprised when I told her I had moved out to San Francisco. I had figured she would somehow find out about it but I guess I was wrong. She congratulated me, but seemed a little down, almost disappointed. It was then that I told her how sorry I was about sending her the scathing letters, that I had felt frustrated and hurt at the time and did it without really thinking. She seemed to blow it off like it no longer bothered her. It was at about that time that I noticed the engagement ring.
Dr. Balis: That would certainly explain why she'd be so quick to forgive you now.
Mr. Darden: Yup. Sharon saw me looking at the ring and told me a little about her fiancé. They met in Poli-Sci class and have been dating for two years. She opened up her purse and pulled out a picture of him, and the guy looked a lot like me. He had short brown hair and was slightly more muscular in build. They're getting married in three months. I congratulated her, wished her the best, and then we hugged. I don't know how long we held each other, but in those moments all the feelings I had for her rushed forth at once. I realized that this was going to be the last time I would ever hold her and it ended up being in the canned foods aisle. We said our goodbyes and I checked out my items. As soon as I stepped into my car and shut the door, I started crying like a baby.
Dr. Balis: I see tears welling up now.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, so they are. Funny how life goes. Sharon loved me once. I could have been that guy she's marrying if I had just been a few years younger. Even though I'm living in San Francisco, I still felt that somehow I'd end up back with Sharon. Now she's really gone forever.
Dr. Balis: Do you think Sharon is truly the woman with whom you'd want to spend the rest of your life? From what I've heard so far about her, you had very little in common.
Mr. Darden: She was my first and only love, Charles. No other woman has ever been in love with me. I turn 26 in August. Under the circumstances, I don't think I have many options. In a few years I'll be 30 and if I haven't found someone by then I might as well hang it up.
Dr. Balis: I have to tell you that's absurd. I'm 37, and I'm not ready to hang it up. As we've discussed before, you're not giving yourself opportunities to meet people, Tom. Staying at home and keeping yourself secluded from the outside world is not exactly conducive to finding romance.
Mr. Darden: Well, I went to that coffee shop and bombed when the redhead tried to flirt with me.
Dr. Balis: You didn't exactly bomb, you simply chose not to talk. That's what you need to change. You're self conscious. You worry about how someone is going to perceive you when you speak and that worry is inhibiting your ability to talk to people.
Mr. Darden: I just don't want to make a fool out of myself, you know?
Dr. Balis: Would you agree that the girl at the coffee shop probably didn't feel too highly of you after you said nothing and turned away?
Mr. Darden: Yeah, she probably did.
Dr. Balis: And would you also agree that if you had answered her when she spoke to you, the chances of getting to know her would have been much greater than how you chose to handle the encounter?
Mr. Darden: Probably. But it's so hard to speak to someone like that. I don't know how to articulate to you the fear that I feel when I'm in those situations. My body wants to either fight or flee, and I always choose to flee.
Dr. Balis: I'm sure she felt uneasy approaching you, too. But she was able to take the first step. If you simply tried to take the first step, Tom, you might find the results in your favor. At least give it some thought.
Mr. Darden: I'll try.
Dr. Balis: All right. And we can work on making you more comfortable talking to people--trying to reduce that feeling of self-consciousness. How would you like to schedule the next session? Same time next week?
Mr. Darden: That's fine.
Dr. Balis: I'll see you then.
Mr. Darden: See you later.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Tom.
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