Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 01/30/98

Saturday, January 24, 1998

Sunday, January 25, 1998

Monday, January 26, 1998

4 pm. Third Session with Olivia Stillwell. Olivia took a new job at SII, partly to escape the pressure of being under her father's thumb. We spent most of the session talking about her relationship with her adoptive father, Eric. Olivia explained that he adopted her after her mother died out of a feeling of guilt. He had been asked to look after Melissa, Olivia's mother, when she was just 15. She was raped by an intruder, and although Eric tried to fight him off, he was knocked unconscious and rendered ineffectual. Melissa, completely traumatized by what had happened to her, died in childbirth and Melissa's grief-stricken family wanted nothing to do with the infant Olivia. Eric adopted the baby and moved to California and got involved with computers. Olivia tells this story without emotion--totally dispassionately. Perhaps it's an evil thought, but I can't help but wonder if Eric really doesn't have a genetic relationship with Olivia. But regardless, now Olivia feels smothered by the overly protective nature of her father's attentions. She finds it difficult to say no to him, so we talked about saying "maybe." Olivia's Internet stalker Jonas has apparently been arrested for hacking, so he is apparently not a problem any longer. Olivia is very excited about the new job that she's taken at SII. She's doing package design--something called "Marketing Imagery." She was quite methodical about her transition from her father's company to SII. She even found me by discovering that I was part of SII's health plan. That's why she chose to use my services. She wrote out procedure documents for everything she does so that a new person can get up to speed quickly. And she saved her vacation time so that she could be absent during her two week notice period. I found the methodical nature of her plans extremely revealing. Her relationship with her father is now strained, but she is conscious of it and is trying to put things right there. She doesn't evince any particular desire to eliminate his involvement in her life--just in diminishing his ability to influence her decisions.

Tuesday, January 27, 1998

Wednesday, January 28, 1998

4 pm. Thirty-Second Session with Katherine Lippard. Katherine and I discussed her father during this session. She brought in a picture of him standing next to a wing-over, single engine bush plane. He was wearing a leather aviator's jacket, a scarf, and a heavy hat with ear flaps. He had a foot up on the step of the plane and was looking jaunty and confident. He was a strongly built, red-faced man with the beginnings of a beard. When Katherine talked about him pursuing his dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, there was a strong sense of pride that he had the courage to pursue his dreams, even if she personally paid a heavy penalty. Katherine told me that she quit smoking, but she was never really a heavy smoker. Jake gave Katherine a gift of a sculpture that he created--of tulips. Katherine was thrilled at this show of affection. Actually, it made me feel that Jake starves her emotionally--any gesture on his part makes a strong impression on her. Katherine still thinks of her father with a great deal of sadness, and I explained that was natural and that, while in time, she may balance that sadness with happy memories of the past, she should not expect the sense of loss to ever disappear. Katherine told me that she is recalling long forgotten memories of her past with her father. All of her reminiscences were positive in tone--flying a kite, sitting in his lap as they drove a car, teaching her to tie her shoes. Katherine is still toying with the idea of finding him now; she fantasizes that he is still alive somewhere, watching her success with pride from a distance. But if he is alive, Katherine can't understand why he hasn't contacted her, now that she's an adult. Katherine has tried to pretend that he's dead, but she knows that her pretense is just a mental trick--she really doesn't know his fate. And until she knows, she feels that there is no closure. I tried to convince Katherine that there is an end point now, but I can tell that Katherine was unconvinced. Katherine seems determined to hire detectives to find her father, and I'm actually surprised that she's hesitated as long as she has. I'm concerned, however, that their conclusions, whatever they are, will not do much to help resolve the situation for Katherine.

5 pm. Thirtieth Session with Alex Rozzi. Roly committed suicide. He was the one who had triggered Alex's dreams of Benny at his bedside--it was Roly, coming in from the streets, trying to reach out to Alex. But Roly wouldn't actually wake Alex, he'd just climb up to Alex's window and into his bedroom and then watch him sleep. He left a suicide note in Alex's room and then threw himself in front of a BART train. Alex counts him as another of Benny's victims. Roly's suicide has triggered a strong emotional response from Alex, but surprisingly directed inward towards memories of his own past history of being the child victim of vicious sexual abuse. He's been having an upwelling of dreams and memories about Joe, the man who repeatedly raped Alex at knife point. Alex feels a great deal of guilt because he sometimes felt physical pleasure while being assaulted by Joe. Alex has been repressing his memories of these sexual assaults for years, but now that they are coming to the fore, they are having a strong impact on every part of his psyche. Alex complains of feeling unclean, of feeling itchy. He's compulsively scratching at himself. He can't sit still and says that he can't get comfortable. He feels unprotected. He feels like he is infested with bugs. He is unable to enjoy normal sexual relations with Luke--now the thought of sex makes him feel nauseous. His heart races, and he feels as if he is having difficulty breathing. He's even had a dermatological reaction--a rash on his neck at the point where he remembers Joe holding a knife blade. While Alex is reluctant to discuss Joe--he says he doesn't want to relive it again--I think it is essential that we uncover this issue. Alex's current emotional crisis could be a disaster in the making, or it could be an opportunity to make a real breakthrough in Alex's therapy.

Thursday, January 29, 1998

10 am. Eighth Session with Sharon Lough. We covered a range of topics today, and Sharon evinced more willingness to talk with me about sensitive issues in her life, although she is still clearly guarded. She told me about a deep hatred that she holds for her father, even fantasizing about being the instrumentality of his death. She told me a little about the abuse that she suffered at his hands--physical and emotional--although she bristled at my inquiry as to whether there had been sexual abuse. The vehemence of her negative reaction made me more suspicious that there may have been a sexual component to the abuse she suffered from her father. In a sharp insight, Sharon saw that there might be a connection between her involvement in the S&M community and her feeling of being victimized by her father. I suspect that is one of the reasons that she has such a strong reaction against the S&M community and sexuality in general now. She's overcharged those normally emotional issues into volcanic upwellings of potent feelings. She's imbued her sister with some of the negative feelings that she wraps around her father--there seems to be a host of sibling issues that stem from childhood interactions and now continue into adulthood. Her father's abuse is still the subject of nightmares and "flashbacks" for her--unbidden memories which torment her suddenly without an obvious trigger. Her self-image is quite poor--she sees herself as an antisocial, miserable, "cranky bitch." She also sees her perceived status as a "loser and victim" as an unalterable part of her destiny. When I pointed out that by seeking therapy, she was showing a willingness to overcome her "destiny," she said that it was hopeless and that at 30, she was all washed up. Sharon told me a bit about a birthday dinner that she had to endure with both Charlotte and Robin at a trendy Japanese restaurant. Basically, Charlotte embarrassed Sharon through her condescending attitude towards the Asian waitress and through her table manners, although it sounds like Sharon might have reacted more to the underlying emotional subtext rather than to Charlotte's overt behavior. I wondered whether Sharon's half-Asian ancestry would become an issue during therapy--specifically if there are any cultural issues of which I should be aware. I know there is a cultural tendency towards self-deprecation which might come off as a poor self image if it came from someone from a western culture. However, Sharon's poor self image is clearly beyond any cultural norms. While I have a laundry list of issues that I believe Sharon needs to work on in therapy, I'd be interested to know what she thought were the pressing issues that she needed to address. I suspect that her antipathy towards sexuality, for example, or her low self image generally won't make the list.

Friday, January 30, 1998

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