Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 5/09/97

Saturday, May 3, 1997

Sunday, May 4, 1997

Monday, May 5, 1997

2 pm. Tenth Session with George Landau. One of his wife's friends has cancer, and that's causing sleepless nights for his wife. George is also experiencing sleeping difficulties, with a recurrence of his nightmares. So, as a couple, George and his wife are getting very little sleep. But George's relationship with Melissa is close enough to weather the rough spots. And the understanding showed by Simon Taylor at work is allowing George a bit of a breather there as well. I began our work today with an extensive discussion of just where the trigger for George's fear of machines lies. George recalled the spook train rides in an amusement park. He describes the sensation of being swallowed whole by some diabolical machine--able to work its will while the rider is hurtled about in the dark. George was groping for some proper expression of his feelings about machines. He talked about machines as being sentient and malevolent, not because he believes intellectually that it's true, but rather because it is how he feels about them. He described his actual sensations when confronting the machine as a wave of fear. He says that he can't breathe or move. More than just feeling threatened, he feels exposed to the machine, as if it can read his every pore and thought. George has become very open with me, not afraid to articulate his feelings even when he realizes that they make him sound foolish. I think he's ready to actually confront the object of his fear under controlled and non-threatening conditions, which we'll start when next we meet in two weeks.

5 pm. Telephone Conversation with Luke Howard respecting Eliza Raven. Luke called looking for Eliza. Apparently, Eliza moved out of his mother's house, taking all her possessions but leaving him his ring along with the incriminating photographs and a video, the contents of which are still mysterious. Luke has filed a missing person's report with the police, and when I refused to give him any information, he proceeded to personally threaten me in the most violent of terms.

I got a call from Katherine Lippard. She sounded different somehow, as if she had been thinking things over and didn't like the outcome of our sessions together. She said that she might not have been as candid as she would have liked during our sessions. I told her not to get into it on the telephone and we scheduled an appointment for Wednesday at 4 pm.

Tuesday, May 6, 1997

12 pm. Tenth Session with Eliza Raven. Eliza is living as a prisoner inside the palatial walls of her mother's plantation. I had no idea that there was so much wealth in her family. I had pictured small, clapboard houses--instead, what greeted me was a huge old mansion with tall pine trees lining a cobblestone drive. Eliza is living in fear of Luke, and after her description of him as sometimes following through with his threats, I'm not completely calm about the things he said he'd do to me either. He seems to be stalking Eliza, although she's having a hard time admitting it. But he's threatened to kill her, he's followed her in his car, he's parked his car across the street overnight. At one point, she even said that she still cares about him and that she had to stop herself from calling him to apologize for leaving. Eliza said that she's experiencing something akin to grief over the loss of Luke. I thought Eliza should seek a restraining order. Actually, I might seek one. I certainly will if I see a red Ferrari hanging around me. Eliza has also been afraid to call Peter. I thought at first that she was afraid for Peter's sake--that she didn't want to get him involved in Luke's rages. As we explored the subject, though, at first Eliza indicated that she was afraid of Serena answering Peter's phone. And then Eliza told me something that I hadn't learned in the previous nine sessions--she has problems calling people on the phone in general. Her mind keeps asking "what if" questions, until she can't go through with her intention to call. Interesting. Eliza gave me her journal which I haven't yet had a chance to read.

4 pm. Thirty-Eighth Session with Sylvia Bows. Sylvia went back to work part-time and is having some adjustment problems at SII and leaving the twins. Tom wanted her to stay at home with the boys, but Sylvia felt that she needed the intellectual stimulation of being back at work. Her mother, who is still frail, has virtually moved in with them. She scolds Sylvia for abandoning her grandchildren, but Sylvia believes that she is secretly delighted to find herself able to become so involved with them. When Sylvia returned to SII, she found her department in disarray. Nils has been playing corporate games in a big way--he actually got a restraining order against Richard and is trying to use that as leverage to get a bigger office and to reorder the company to his specifications. And Sylvia's staff has apparently been giving Sylvia a sort of celebrity status. When she was at a meeting, she heard a baby crying on the radio and her breasts reacted by "letting down" and soaking her blouse with milk. Although a completely normal and instinctive reaction, her staff took it as part of the Sylvia mystique. As we talked about the let down reaction, Sylvia's breasts started to react, so she asked to end the session early.

Wednesday, May 7, 1997

4 pm. Third Session with Katherine Lippard. Katherine returned to therapy and made a breakthrough. She was able to consciously drop the corporate facade and admit that she has a problem with control issues. She said that the need to exert control was causing her a great deal of unhappiness, although she never expressed exactly what that unhappiness was. The only issues she really mentioned were about fits of smoking and drinking, which paradoxically, are about not having control. She seemed liked a different woman from the corporate executive who left my office last week. She looks the same--her perfectly matched business attire and careful grooming--but she was much less confident and more hesitant in her manner. Katherine spoke softly, sometimes hesitantly and sometimes in a rush, with a great deal more emotional inflection than the voice she uses when acting the cool professional. Katherine tends to approach therapy with a certain voraciousness. Once she's decided upon a project, I have a sense that she needs to consume it--a trait which, together with her intelligence, probably accounts for much of her success. When she came in, she was very intent on saying what she needed to say, as if she was afraid that she wasn't going to be able to get it out. She interrupted almost every comment I made during the first part of the session. When she finished explaining her problem to me and got my approval, she grinned like a child that was proud of having mastered a new and difficult task. She really did make a turnaround in attitude, although she has a tendency to slip back into her corporate persona. Katherine has a tendency to overreact. It was her original complaint, with the seat in the sushi bar incident, and it was coming through in the session again. She clearly believes herself to be suffering from greater psychological impairment than I would guess she actually has. She even inquired about medication. She mentioned Philip as an important figure in her life. He was directly responsible in getting Katherine to seek therapy. But it wasn't clear if he is a boyfriend, a brother, or a close friend. I'm afraid that Katherine is seeking an instant fix for her problems and that she might be disappointed if the therapeutic process takes a bit more time. As a professional, she's used to seeing milestones met by specific dates. Unfortunately, therapy refuses to abide by those types of timetables. In any event, I'm glad that Katherine came back and that my stratagem of forcing her hand was ultimately effective. To be quite frank, after last week, I was afraid that I had blown it and sent a woman away who clearly was looking for my help.

Thursday, May 8, 1997

I got a message from the service. Decker Jenkins moved his session to Friday. He said that something really big had come up and he needed to stay quick on his feet. I tried to call him back, but there was no answer at Karen's. I didn't feel comfortable leaving a message there, so I just hung up. I assume he'll come at his normal 10 am appointment time.

12 pm. Ninth Session with Christina Herald. Christina got her hair cut and it certainly alters her appearance. She appears much older and more sophisticated with her chin-length short hair, although still with ringlets. She referenced Little Orphan Annie, but she doesn't look it. Christina's most serious dilemma is with Malcolm, whom she slept with again. She didn't start out to, but it sort of happened while he was making his apologies. Christina is having a hard time reconciling the Malcolm she knows with what she has been told about his past and run from justice. After their night of passion, Christina fell asleep and didn't wake up until after Malcolm had gone to work. She overheard the answering machine pick up a call from someone who appeared to be Malcolm's mother, and she played the message back so many times that she memorized it. The woman, an older New Yorker, was leaving a message for her son Michael. The gist was that she was happy that he now had a girlfriend after his two years of grieving. Christina doesn't know what to think. On the one hand, the fact that his name isn't Malcolm but Michael and the reference to grieving add credibility to Eliza's story about the murder of his fiancée. On the other hand, not many people on the run from the police and the mafia are likely to have their mother calling them long distance, expecting return calls as a matter of course. I suggested that Malcolm might actually have suffered some tragedy in New York and felt a need to leave those memories behind and create a new persona with some extra mythology as a way of dealing with that tragedy. I think that Christina had already come to a similar conclusion. I told her that she was going to have to confront this issue with Malcolm if she wanted to continue her relationship with him. But Christina doesn't know which direction she wants that relationship to go. Christina met Eliza for lunch yesterday. I hope that I don't end up with conflicts between them. Today, she was met at my office by her aunt Sarah and cousin Gavin. As they strode off down the hallway, arm and arm, they looked like a very close-knit family.

4 pm. Forty-First Session with Anna Green. Last week, Anna really had me worried. I thought she was exhibiting the beginning of a really serious depression. But Anna told me this week that she has been taking Vicodin as a pain killer. They were prescribed for her at the emergency room for her neck after her car accident. I hate that drug. Patients, at risk for depression anyway because of pain, always feel terrible while taking it. I think that's why practitioners like it. There's little risk of anyone becoming addicted to Vicodin because it makes patients feel so lousy. It clearly had a large effect on Anna. She's tapered down to about one a day now and it shows. She's improved in her mood and seems to have gained some perspective on her experience with Gray. I urged her to try to eliminate the Vicodins altogether and try ibuprofen instead. Anna went to see her parents and stayed there with Kathy, the girl from the adult book store. They shared a bed in her parent's house. While they were going to sleep, Anna told her about the dreams that she's been having about being dominated by a gigantic shadowy figure who has her in restraints and frustrates her attempts to reach orgasm. Anna told me that after hearing the dreams, Kathy uncovered herself to allow Anna to watch, and started to masturbate in the bed with her. Kathy is either extremely uninhibited about her sexuality or she was trying to seduce Anna. If seduction was her intent, Anna was completely clueless. Anna's been getting a number of messages from Martin and is conflicted by them. On the one hand, she cheated on him, so she feels bad, but on the other, he pushed her to it, so she feels anger. In any case, she doesn't want to talk to him.

Friday, May 9, 1997

4 pm. Ninth Session with Thomas Darden. Tom came in to the session today intoxicated and I was unhappy to discover that he had driven himself. He assured me that he drove better when he was drunk. Right. But in vino veritas? Thomas made an interesting discovery about himself: he almost likes the emotional pain that he feels. Like the tooth that is loose in childhood and, even though it hurts to touch, compels us to wiggle it, Thomas is compelled to experience the seducing pain of emotional trauma. He recognizes when the experience is a negative one, and yet he understands the pain and there is something familiar about it to him. It is as if happiness would be foreign to him and he wouldn't know how to assimilate it into his experience. But he knows how emotional trauma unrolls itself in time. He feels more in control when the emotions are negative. He wonders now if he was trying to prolong his pain by allowing Sharon, after the break-up, multiple opportunities to twist the knife. I think that is probably revisionist in retrospect, but I take his point. He describes himself as a junkie of pain, but I think he overstates it, although he does seem to study the nuances of the pain he experiences. There are people who really do require the feeling of emotional scarring, but I don't think Thomas is one of them. His fear of social settings seems to be completely separate from his attraction to negative emotions, although there is an element of control and the lack of it in social situations, that infuses both. He was less reluctant than previously to consider a somatic treatment, so I prescribed him Librium, 5 mg. three times daily, and told him to cut way back on the alcohol. I think that the mild anti-anxiety effect of the benzodiazepines may help Thomas endure social anxiety better. I wouldn't let Tom drive home himself, so I called him a cab.

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