Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 05/15/98

Saturday, May 9, 1998

Sunday, May 10, 1998

Monday, May 11, 1998

Tuesday, May 12, 1998

Wednesday, May 13, 1998

4 pm. Forty-Fifth Session with Katherine Lippard. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but after complementing me effusively about my performance as her therapist, Katherine asked if it would violate my ethics if she gave me a hug at the end of the session. Of course, I said a hug would be okay. I was expecting some casual, shoulders-only kind of hug. Instead, it was a long, full-body hug during which she took a deep breath and exhaled in a silent sigh. I was somewhat taken aback. After the hug, she didn't look at me. She just said softly, "See you in two weeks," and she left. She wasn't trying to be alluring or seductive, when she spoke. She was just subdued. It was a remarkable display of affection from Katherine, whose crisp, businesslike manner usually even constrains her most emotional outbursts. The session itself was a patchwork quilt of observations and Katherine analysis. She discovered that her set appointment on Wednesday afternoons has resulted in a long-standing policy of the financial department going home early on Wednesdays. She had a dinner with Jake where they were both supposed to act as friends only. Although it started awkwardly, it seemed to end on a good note, with both of them more comfortable in the transition to a new role. Katherine, in a blaze of self-insight, realized that she had manufactured objections to Jake solely for the purpose of making it easier to break up with him. The truth, as she sees it now in hindsight, is simply that she wasn't in love with him. I think it's a bit more complicated--bound up in Jake's emotional reserve and inability to commit to Katherine--but I didn't argue with her. Katherine has been invited to Alex's parents' wedding. She was contemptuous to discover that Larraine has registered for extravagantly expensive crystal and china at Nordstrom. Katherine believes that Larraine's desire to obtain these luxury items is just a futile, pathetic attempt to buy social status. Katherine is planning on getting them a crock-pot or something equally sensible and, presumably, fitting to her conception of their low social ranking. Katherine hinted that she's now phenomenally rich from the sale of SII stock options and she mentioned being interested in buying a house. She's also interested in starting a charitable foundation to "enhance the safety of America's youth." I'm surprised that she chose that issue--it's the first I've heard of an interest in the problems of youth crime. In a fiery soliloquy which she delivered with every indication of sincerity, she related the purposes of her foundation to the feelings that she had of being abandoned as a child. I'm not sure I understand the connection, but Katherine was adamant that the foundation was all about making the lives of kids better. Katherine spoke about her father again. She recognizes that I believe she should attribute some blame to him, but she's unwilling to do so. She says that she loves him too much to be mad at him.

5 pm. Forty-Fifth Session with Alex Rozzi. The burst of sexual feeling that Alex and Camille felt for each other scared them both. Regina, Camille's lover, senses that something is awry, but hasn't yet identified it. Alex is afraid that Regina will become violent if she ever discovers what happened. Camille has avoided Alex since the day when Luke discovered them together. And Alex has been left shaken in his sexual identity. Alex's friend Tony thought that Alex was making too much of it. He said that these things--"crossing over"--happen all the time. Tony said that Alex was too concerned about appearing the tough guy. And Alex said that he had another dream where Roly appeared to him and told him that he was too easily swayed by how other people perceived him. Alex should follow his own heart. I think Alex is feeling the pressures of growing up. He no longer feels immortal--we talked about a few traffic accidents with teenage injuries and fatalities. And although he looks forward to the emancipation of being 18 years old, he also is worried about the added responsibility. Alex spent time talking with Luke. He described the conversations as unsatisfactory--they go over and over the same material--but he seems glad to have some connection. I pointed out to Alex that even if the relationship won't mend, at least this communication will allow him to have positive closure on his relationship. Even our discussion about Luke seemed to me to be about Alex taking some personal responsibility and acting more like a grown-up. Luke tried to suggest that perhaps Camille's great beauty acted as some kind of magic spell over Alex. But although it would have been a lot easier to agree and to disclaim responsibility, Alex insisted that he was also responsible for what had almost happened. He was unwilling to put his sexual interest in Camille all at her feet.

Thursday, May 14, 1998

4 pm. Eightieth Session with Anna Green. Today we talked about the underpinnings of Anna's relationship with Kathy and, tangentially, with Martin. Although Kathy is clearly using Anna to help her now financially, Anna is also using Kathy in an attempt to feel superior to her. I pointed out how that's been a recurrent theme in her relationship with Kathy from the beginning--when Anna felt superior, she was able to be generous but when she did not, she had an uncontrollable desire to beat Kathy. Anna even considered marrying Martin merely to win in her battle with Kathy. I think that Anna might have agreed with some of what I said, although she still feels an inexplicable debt to Kathy, somehow. I urged Anna to move beyond this relationship, based as it was on assuaging Anna's generalized feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. At the end of the session, Anna told me that she was enjoying a substantial degree of additional popularity at work, primarily based upon exaggerated rumors of her sex life. She said that she likes the additional attention.

Friday, May 15, 1998

10 am. Seventeenth Session with Sharon Lough. Sharon came in on crutches with her right foot in a cast. She told me that Charlotte had accidentally backed the car over her foot, breaking several bones. Sharon is taking Tylenol with Codeine. I was concerned that the emergency room physician might have given her a preparation with hydrocodone without knowing about Sharon's past drug problems, but I think the codeine in low dosage is not likely to trigger a relapse. Sharon showed a surprising animosity towards the disabled. She particularly seemed upset about the parking privileges afforded those with disabled placards. When I probed, she dismissed it as jealousy. She said that she sees herself on the cusp, but not quite sick enough to benefit from government disability payments or get special parking privileges. I told her that she probably qualifies for a temporary disabled placard because of her foot. That seemed to cheer her a bit. Sharon clearly felt antipathy towards the woman in her office that visited her when she was in rehab. Sharon calls her "Godzilla"--an unkind reference to her obesity. Godzilla seems relentlessly cheerful, despite apparently suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Sharon views the condition, together with its vague symptoms, as nothing more than malingering. I assured her that wasn't the case. Sharon is interested in discontinuing her attendance at the rehab group's meetings, paradoxically because she is attracted to Tony, one of the men who goes there. When I asked her if she normally went out of her way to avoid people that she's attracted to, she said that she does. Sharon wants to avoid social interaction for rather unspecified reasons. But she said that's why she feels envy for those on disability. She'd like to stay in her home drawing a meagre income and not face the world at all.

3 pm. Twelfth Session with Rachel Tanner. Rachel wrote a poem about her OCD, perfectionism, and her mother's suicide. The poem sparked a discussion about Rachel's childhood. Rachel says that she feels she was always trying to please everyone around her. Her father was rarely happy the behavior of anyone in his family, so she gave up trying to please him. But her mother leaned on her. Rachel said that, towards the end, she felt like she was her mother's mother. Rachel believes that she was robbed of her childhood. I hadn't realized how incapacitated Rachel's mother was towards the end of her life. Comparing herself to her mother, Rachel sees how much more competent she is than her mother was. She says that her mother was jealous of Rachel's competence and responsibility. I told Rachel that the obligation she felt to somehow compensate for her mother's deficiencies probably contributed to her obsessions. The rituals were designed as a system to guarantee methodical behavior which would produce a successful outcome. And it worked for a while, but when they failed to work, fault was found in the rituals themselves. More and more complexity was added to make up for perceived deficiencies in the rituals. And then the rituals were too complex to be performed properly, so any failure could be blamed on an improperly conducted ritual. And, once she accepted the causal connection between the rituals and the outcome, Rachel could take the blame for any harm, even those that logically she could have nothing to do with. At one point, Rachel felt overwhelmed and we changed the subject. She's enjoying her yoga class--she even proselytized for it. And she wrote her future vision of herself which she read to me. It was quite realistic, actually. She sees herself mostly independent of therapy, although still on medication. In her imagined future, she is living in Sausalito and doing poetry readings in bookstores. Her grandmother moved away to take care of her sick sister leaving her and her brother alone. And she imagines that she will still have rituals, although she says that she controls the OCD and not the other way around.

4 pm. Twenty-Fourth Session with Thomas Darden. Tom is caught deep in the clutches of self-fulfilling prophecy. He is terrified of going further with Rachel because even if he's momentarily successful with her, she's bound to rip his heart out as soon as she discovers what a terrible person he is. That fear paralyzes him so that he stands at the sidelines and bubbles with jealousy when Scott, his hated rival, oozes self confidence as he chats with Rachel. Thomas began the session with what turned out to be an elaborately detailed violent fantasy where Thomas vanquished Scott in an unprovoked fist fight. He told it as if it had really happened, and I sat stunned, trying to determine how to get Thomas involuntarily committed. Fortunately, it was just a fantasy. Thomas explained that he felt especially jealous of Scott because of his "type." Thomas believes that everything comes easily to Scott. He described it as Scott possessing a "get through life free" card. Thomas contrasts Scott's easy victories with his own lesser conquests that are the result of such hard fought struggle. To hear Thomas describe it, it's an injustice which is being perpetrated upon him. I tried to convince Thomas that, by asking Rachel out for lunch, he had made a breakthrough. He had taken a risk despite being afraid. Thomas isn't buying it. He told me that he's been invited to a wedding of co-worker and that Rachel is going to be there. Thomas isn't looking forward to it--his last wedding was a less than stellar social showing. But although I'm certain that Tom will be nervous, I'm happy that he's at a social event with Rachel. Perhaps something good will come out of it.

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