Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 03/27/98

Saturday, March 21, 1998

Sunday, March 22, 1998

Monday, March 23, 1998

3 pm. I received a letter from SII's Legal Department. Apparently, Peter is suing SII for wrongful termination and is citing the American's with Disability Act as his authority. I know that it can't really be Peter. Unless he's gone through a dramatic reversal, in his current state, he couldn't possibly be pursuing a lawsuit. But he could have hired an attorney when he was terminated and these things have a way of grinding on by themselves. Clarence Livingston, associate general counsel for SII, wants me to testify that there was nothing wrong with Peter. I can't do that, but I don't think SII was in the wrong for terminating Peter. I would have preferred that they gave him disability leave, or something, but it seems to me that they were within their rights. Peter was clearly incapable of doing his job. So I'll write back and let Clarence know that I'll testify that he was very sick and that SII probably had cause to terminate him.

Tuesday, March 24, 1998

9 am. I wrote a letter to SII's Legal Department respecting Peter Hossfeld.

4 pm. Initial Session with Lisa Benjamin. I met Lisa today for the first time. She's attractive but has a nervous quality. She looked a little disheveled, with her hair unbrushed and her office clothing wrinkled. She spent the session fiddling with her hair, twirling it around her finger tighter and tighter until it almost seemed as if she would pull some out by the roots. She had a few blemishes on her face that had been compulsively picked at. She's very thin, and spoke rapidly and earnestly. She bobs her foot up and down at high speed. I noticed that she apparently had some pupillary dilation. From her general appearance, demeanor, and mannerisms, I would guess that Lisa has been abusing methamphetamines. Lisa works at SII during the day, apparently as a secretary, although that wasn't clear. At night, she works as a stripper at the Lusty Lady, a strip club downtown. She praises the management and workers at the club--it's all owned and run by women. But she denigrates the customers whom she feels are losers who don't respect women. But she said that she really likes the work. In fact, she's thinking of quitting SII so that she'll have time to strip full time and to make videos, presumably pornographic. Lisa said that she has some serious issues from her childhood but she believes she's resolved herself--she wants to spend her time in her sessions with me discussing issues that are only in her present. Her main issue which motivated her to come and see me is that she has an inability to control her rage. Although it is unclear precisely when or how this rage expresses itself, apparently something triggers her to physically violent outbursts. She describes these rages as often provoked by strangers on the street who whistle at her or make some sexually suggestive remark. Although we didn't discuss it, it's clear that she's sitting on a potential time bomb. It's only a matter of time before someone from work recognizes her from the Lusty Lady. I can see it now: a group of guys in trench coats, an appreciative leer, and then a horrified gasp, "Oh, my God! It's Lisa!" I don't know how anybody is going to deal with that situation, but from my experience with the gossip mill at SII and the general maturity level of the people who work there, Lisa's secret will be bandied about, and she'll be subjected to all sorts of indignities from strangers at work. I don't have any idea how she'll respond to that. We talked about control a bit. I'm much more interested in getting to the root causes of her anger. I suspect that her anger really is with something far removed from whatever the present trigger may be. And that anger from her past is clearly unresolved, no matter how at peace she may be with her past. But for the time being, I suggested that she conciously choose to delay action a bit by counting to ten. It's an old chestnut, but it does seem to give people a chance to reflect on what they are about to do, rather than acting reflexively. We talked a bit about the people she admires. At the core, it seems that she most admires people who are rebellious against societal norms. She likes the "cool" girls at work--she defines the cool girls as the ones with tattoos and body piercings. It was interesting that while she admires body mutilation, she apparently hasn't done this herself, at least not where it's visible during her day job. She also said that she is uncomfortable in social situations. And what I found particularly surprising, she bemoaned the fact that she was unable to make herself the center of attention. I found that hard to reconcile with her stage performances as a stripper. How much more attention can one crave than that received while dancing naked in front a group of lecherous men? She is excited by the prospect of doing the videos. She is tired of being a "good girl," which she says has made her feel trapped her whole life. She is in a period of rebellion--against what, I cannot say. And if she is indeed using speed, her entire world view will be warped by the drug. I looked up the DSM-IV criteria for amphetamine intoxication. It suggests that I should be alert for maladaptive behavioral or psychological changes (e.g. euphoria; affective blunting; changes in sociability; hypervigilance; interpersonal sensitivity; anxiety, tension, or anger; stereotyped behaviors; impaired judgment; or impaired social or occupational functioning). It also indicates that I should watch for tachycardia or bradycardia; pupillary dilation; abnormal blood pressure; perspiration or chills; nausea or vomiting; evidence of weight loss; psychomotor agitation or retardation; muscular weakness, respiratory depression, chest pain, or cardiac arrhythmias; confusion, seizures, dyskinesias, or coma. (Well, I'll certainly be on the lookout for coma.)

Wednesday, March 25, 1998

4 pm. Thirty-Ninth Session with Katherine Lippard. Apparently, Katherine has made a decision to break up with Jake. It wasn't a single precipitating event, rather she says that it's just her sense that he isn't "the one." Katherine feels odd to be in the position of the one initiating the break up. She was always the "dumpee" rather than the "dumpor." That's led to her feeling that she's always been abandoned by men. But not this time. One of the reasons that Katherine gave me for breaking up with Jake was that he wasn't educated enough for her. She said that she needed to edit her vocabulary when she was around him. That reason would have just been added to the pile of other faults that she attributed to Jake in my mind except that it's the second time that she's used that same phrase. Last week, she talked about how much she liked meeting Andrew, the Anthropology professor, because he was so well educated that she didn't have to edit her vocabulary around him. Somehow, Jake and Andrew are linked by some comparison of education which didn't favor Jake. Does Katherine have a romantic interest in Andrew? I had the impression he was in his seventies, but I'm not sure that's accurate. If he does have a romantic interest in Katherine, it would explain his eagerness to ply her with drugs right after their first meeting. Katherine came to a pretty quick decision to dump Jake soon after meeting Andrew. I'm not sure that it's a fair characterization, but it seems to me that women are more likely to end a fair but unexciting relationship with a man only when they have an alternative in mind. I don't think that's as true for men, but I could be mistaken. In any case, Katherine might not even be aware of her attraction to Andrew, and she denies that she has another waiting in the wings, so to speak. But when she first met Jake, she was attracted by his knowledge of art and poetry and his reckless free spirit. Those elements don't seem to weigh very heavily in his favor now that she met the professor. Katherine said that she was deeply affected by the tragedy in Arkansas yesterday where a group of kids and their teacher were shot to death by two of their classmates. Katherine felt a link to these kids because they were about eleven years old at the time of their calamity and she was about eleven at the time of hers. In the early part of our session, prior to announcing her intention to cut it off with Jake, she described a fantasy account of how Jake would have died heroically trying to subdue the shooters in Arkansas. When I probed and asked her how that would make her feel, her response was that she would have respected him and even been proud of him. But when she talked of Jake's death, there was no sense of loss. Then she described how lucky he was in avoiding serious injury during a bad motorcycle accident last week. I was struck by how she seemed almost angry at Jake for not getting seriously hurt. I found all this odd, until she told me of her decision to end the relationship. Katherine is not one of those women who will be interested in keeping up a friendship with a past lover. Instead, I think it likely that she falls into the category: "dump them and then hope that they drop off the face of the earth." She's clearly separating herself emotionally from Jake. Katherine is exploring lucid dreaming with Andrew, which seems harmless enough, I suppose. If Andrew is attempting to seduce Katherine, he certainly has a unique approach: peyote, camomile tea, a raven's feather, and plenty of bedtime activities. I guess he's an anthropology professor: you work with what you've got. At the end of the session, Katherine said that I should stay abreast of what's going on at SII and tossed some wire service stories at me. This is the second time that she mentioned something about SII's financial affairs. The wire service stories indicate that SII is buying back its own stock. The article speculates that SII wants to bolster their stock price. But SII's stock price didn't sound like it particularly needed bolstering. So SII must be buying its stock because it thinks that it's a good buy. And SII isn't guessing, it knows its own value; the rest of the stock market are the ones who're guessing. Why was Katherine so cryptic? I figure that it must be the insider trading rules. If nothing was up at SII, Katherine could tell me that the stock was undervalued and urge me to buy. But if something is up at SII, Katherine can't come right out and tell me to buy SII stock because then she'd be violating the insider trading rules. She knows something's up which will likely cause SII's stock to rise in the near future. But she can't be faulted for showing me articles which have been published in the business press. Now I have a moral quandary. If I buy SII stock now, aren't I trading on inside information? I certainly have a tip from a highly placed executive at SII, even if it wasn't an overt tip. I have to think about this good and hard before I call my broker.

5 pm. Thirty-Eighth Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex testified in Benny's trial. It doesn't sound like he was a uniformly positive witness for the prosecution. However, he couldn't have helped the defense much either. Alex reports that he was on the stand for two days. He lost his temper a few times and scored some humor points at the expense of the prosecuting attorney. He also said that he was threatened with contempt by the judge at one point. I must say that I'm surprised that Alex went through the experience without any apparent scars. He told me how Benny looked and how he apparently forgot that he had set fire to the surreptitious sexually-explicit videotapes of himself. But all in all, I was expecting far worse. Alex said that he feels numb about the experience. He heard a phrase somewhere which he kept repeating over and over: "kiss me, kill me." He apparently interpreted it to mean that you can't win. As Alex left the stand, Benny made an outburst in court saying, "I didn't mean to hurt you, Alex." Alex was stunned, but he dealt with his feelings by painting for hours until finally, Ralph went down to get him. Then Ralph tried to coopt Alex into helping him to commit his future suicide. When his illness advances and reaches unbearable levels, Ralph plans to end his life. Ralph wants to use a combination of drugs and asphyxiation. He wants Alex to actually place the plastic bag over his head, but Alex is understandably resistant to that idea and even questioned its lawfulness. Luke is out of town, and Alex clearly misses his intimacy, even if he didn't mention the sex. I think that Alex is finally reversing his previous antipathy towards sex. Alex painted clouds on scenery at the Art Alliance and enjoyed it. I think Art Alliance will become a large part of his life. It will give him a sense of belonging to a community and provide him with another safe alternative to the life on the streets, although I don't believe Alex will ever return to that way of life. Alex also told me that his mother and father are getting married. He said that's what he's always wanted. Although now, he believes that its too late for him--he's almost an adult. But Mark hinted that he wanted Alex to move back home in with them. Alex is justifiably skeptical about such an arrangement.

Thursday, March 26, 1998

4 pm. Seventy-Fourth Session with Anna Green. Anna is still determined to end her relationship with Martin and Kathy in two weeks time. Although she's formed an intention to leave, she really hasn't taken any of the necessary steps--like informing Martin and Kathy, finding an alternative place to live, packing, or even making many of the emotional shifts that she'll need to make in her own psyche. She has been absorbed in some big, secret project at work which has enabled her to duck any real involvement with Martin and Kathy over the past week. Freedom through work--it sounds like a socialist slogan. Anna has been using her absorption in work to avoid even thinking about these issues. Anna said that if she thinks about leaving too much that she'll "flip out," and when I suggested that she might accelerate her time table, she expressed disbelief--that would mean that she would have to deal with these issues sooner rather than later. In some ways, Anna is living in fear. She describes having the symptoms of a panic reaction to hearing her telephone ring at work when she thinks it's a call from Kathy. But two weeks is almost upon us. She has this magic sense that somehow things will be better in two weeks. It felt more true, perhaps, when it was four weeks. I wonder if she'll start to panic by next week. Anna would like to keep her apartment and get Martin and Kathy to both move out, but she realizes that isn't likely. More important than keeping the apartment is ending the relationship, so Anna's promised to start looking for an alternative place to live. Anna told me that David, a programmer from work, expressed an interest in S&M, so she took him to a dungeon party. Apparently, David gets around. I think he was briefly involved with Sylvia Bows, if I'm not mistaken. But Anna's move was calculated, in a way, to get back to Martin. Here she was taking another man to an event in a community to which Martin belongs. He's bound to find out about it. Perhaps Anna felt that it was fair turnabout for Martin's supposed infidelities, but when she got to the dungeon party, she realized that the woman in the Martin's portrait that she showed me last week was a submissive and not a dominant. Clearly, Martin was not having sex with her, even if he might have stayed with her while trying to avoid Kathy. I was hoping that after the relationship with Martin broke up, Anna would separate herself from the S&M community completely. But it sounds like Anna has found that there's something there which she wants to experience more fully. Anna described experiencing a sexual charge derived from feeling like she has no control. I worry that when Anna is single again, she might seek out the dungeon scene as a social venue and as a way of feeling sexually desired. It's one thing for a woman who is sure of her own sexuality to explore S&M if that is what she desires. But Anna is sexually malleable and could easily be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous dominant. Martin protected Anna from much of this because they were a couple. If she is single and becomes part of the S&M scene as a submissive, she may be swallowed up whole.

Friday, March 27, 1998

10 am. Eleventh Session with Sharon Lough. Sharon's been sick with bronchitis and she seemed tired during our session today. But she seems overly interested in starting up again with illegal drugs. She admitted to some marijuana use just before she got sick and I have the impression that she would not be adverse to taking her drug use to a higher level. Sharon is an escapist; she said that she's happiest when she's "fucked up." I wanted to persuasively argue to Sharon that she should avoid these drugs, but I couldn't argue about the deleterious health effects because she wouldn't have cared. She argued that Paul Prudhomme, the very heavy Cajun chef, was happier and more appealing before he took to dieting. And, while she admitted that she didn't want to repeat her mental breakdown of last year, Sharon believes that drug use is somehow part of her destiny. So I told Sharon about the dopamine studies which indicate that part of why drugs work to make their users happier while they are under their effects is that they artificially increase the dopamine levels in their brain. The problem is that once the dopamine is used up, it's gone. The user becomes incapable of experiencing pleasure--at least that's what I said. I had hoped to give Sharon a picture of using up all the pleasure that life has to offer over the course of a few weekends. Sharon sees her own life ending early, so she wasn't as concerned as I would have hoped about using up her "measure of pleasure" all at once. Truthfully, I'm not convinced that those studies apply to occasional drug users--all the studies that I've seen only addressed hardcore drug addicts--or that dopamine levels can only be depleted like a bank account which allows for withdrawals but not for deposits. It's interesting that, with the best of motivations, I was willing to possibly exaggerate the dangers of drug use to try to stop Sharon from embarking on what would clearly be a disastrous course of action for her. It gives me some insight into the reason that physicians have lost a lot of credibility on this issue with the drug-using public--an example of the "Reefer Madness" approach backfiring. While I pleaded with Sharon to allow the Prozac to have a chance, she airily waved me off.

3 pm. Ninth Session with Rachel Tanner. I think Rachel is turning into a success story. She seems to have come to grips with the rituals in her life. Although she hasn't eliminated them entirely, I believe that the Fluoxetine has enabled her to reduce their obsessional quality. She's achieving some success in her return to school and now she's interested in broadening her social contacts. She feels somewhat freer with her writing--the breaks I suggested seem to help--and she did well on her tests. Her hardest class is a speech class; she has difficulty preparing for public performance. She was videotaped making a presentation and she noticed that she fidgeted a lot, playing with the broken trim on the podium. Actually, I've seen myself lecturing on videotape and it just served to prove to me that there are situations where one can have too much self knowledge! Today she came to her session dressed to kill. She had clearly dressed with a great deal of care and the effect was really somewhat provocative. She claimed that it was a test to see if she could generate some attention from me--sexually charged attention is clearly what she was aiming for--before trying it on the population at large. I think she will get the attention that she's seeking. She's lost some weight, and although she was never overweight, it's now obvious that she really has quite a striking figure. It doesn't hurt now that I see her in something other than the baggy sweatshirts that used to characterize her dress. I must be attentive, however, to the possibility that she might overdo the weight loss. We talked about the possibility of ending therapy at some point, although not in the immediate future. I tried to elicit from Rachel some of her goals for therapy--what it is that she's hoping for that she feels she eludes her right now. Rachel said that she desires a feeling of being "normal" although she doesn't know what that feeling really entails. She said that she's lonely, and wants friends and a career. Unsaid but palpable was her desire for a romantic relationship. Now that her immediate OCD problems are under control, I suspect that we can begin to reach the issues that really plague Rachel, and it is to those foundational issues that we should now direct our attention.

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