Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 8/01/97

Saturday, July 26, 1997

Sunday, July 27, 1997

Monday, July 28, 1997

Tuesday, July 29, 1997

1 pm. Fourth Session with Kester Langford. Kester began the session by confessing that he had felt a great deal of anger and hostility towards me over my refusal to display his marks on my office wall. As we talked about it, it became clear that Kester's anger really originated elsewhere, although I provided a focus. He talked about his family and revealed that they had introduced a great deal of insecurity into his life through their tendency to frequently change their minds about their jobs and living arrangements. Because he moved several times a year as a child, he never knew whether he was going to be able to keep any of his friends. Finally, Kester almost thanked me for being unyielding in my decision not to display his marks. He seemed to appreciate the limits that my decision set on our relationship. Kester said that he believed that most of his pain and anger were self-motivated, but it almost seemed like pop psychology talking rather than any deeply felt conviction on his part. Kester didn't want me to think that he blamed another for his problems, although he probably has a host of resentments towards specific individuals in his life. However, Kester said something that I thought was quite interesting. He said that he was afraid that if he wasn't angry, he would forget the people who were most important in his life--as if they are constructed in his memory out of a series of painful episodes. When I pressed him on it, he told me that when his parents passed away, he lost a certain ability to function. It was as if their enthusiasm and support for his ideas and projects were an essential emotional safety net in his life. Kester answered an ad and got a job of sorts providing security for an art gallery in exchange for a studio apartment above the gallery. Apparently, he can only live there six nights a week and must vacate the unit on the seventh night of each week. Kester is hopeful, of course, that the gallery will ultimately display his marks, but he is savvy enough to realize that he should take it one step at a time. I asked Kester to take a blood and urine test and he seemed quite willing to comply. Specifically, I'm interested in making sure that his thyroid and kidneys are operating properly prior to considering a somatic treatment for bipolar disease. Specifically, I ordered a urinalysis, serum electrolytes, BUN, serum creatinine, and serum T3 and T4, together with a routine drug screen on the urine. I also asked the lab to run a ECG to give us a baseline against nonspecific changes frequently caused by lithium carbonate that don't reflect cardiotoxicity. Kester avoided referencing the sexual problem that he alluded to last week, although he did indicate that he ran into an old girlfriend of six years past. She reawakened quite a few old feelings in Kester, but apparently her current life situation is such that a renewed relationship with her seems improbable.

Wednesday, July 30, 1997

12 pm. Tenth Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex is having trouble understanding his feelings regarding Benny and his incarceration for child molestation. We spent most of the session trying to explore those feelings in ways that I thought Alex would accept. If I had asked Alex head on to talk about this issue, I think he would have shut down. But by talking around the issue, Alex revealed a great deal of violent anger toward Benny. He described a particularly violent fantasy where Benny was getting publicly flogged by his victims and their families. He clearly tried to get a reaction out of me as well by describing the fantasy in gory detail. Alex said that he's finally getting some sleep although he's not using the quazepam which I prescribed. And Alex reports that he quit smoking cigarettes. Marnie, Alex's ex-babysitter, surprised him by showing up unexpectedly where Alex is living. Alex clearly has a lot of affection and respect towards Marnie, although I somehow doubt that she's everything I could desire in an adult role model. But perhaps I'm wrong. We talked a bit about Benny's pornographic tapes which depict minors surreptitiously caught on tape engaging in sexual acts with Benny. Apparently, Alex has burned a number of the tapes, particularly the ones that depict either him or Roly. I urged Alex to turn any remaining tapes that he had in his possession over to the police. But Alex resists that suggestion. Alex brought up the time that his house was broken into while his mother was away in Canada. Alex believes that Benny broke in to find a misplaced video cassette showing Benny engaged in a sexual act with some minor. Benny was apparently frantic to get his hands on the tape, but ultimately, it turned out that the tape had been discovered by his wife. It was she who turned the tape over to the authorities, precipitating Benny's arrest and incarceration. It was also the reason Dora left him and took their child. Alex said that while he was getting Benny's tapes, he also picked up some drawings of cars that he had made and given to Benny. Apparently Alex has some artistic abilities. When I asked Alex to tell me a little more about his artistic efforts, he was very enthusiastic, saying that no one, including Benny, had shown any kind of interest in his talent before. Alex said that he primarily uses pen and ink for his creations, but lately he has been experimenting with color. What with his culinary ambitions and his artistic aspirations, Alex appears to have a creative bent which should probably be explored. I asked Alex to show me some of these drawings and he said that he'd bring some in.

4 pm. Thirteenth Session with Katherine Lippard. Katherine came in prepared to talk about her father today, but she clearly had something else on her mind--her relationship with Jake. Katherine, for all her financial sophistication, doesn't have a lot of experience in the dynamics of male/female relationships. Apparently, Katherine dove in head first and told Jake that she was in love with him. Jake did not respond the way that Katherine had hoped. Instead of verbally reciprocating, Jake very seriously asked her if she was sure and then gave her a hug and a kiss, leaving his true feelings ambiguous. Now that Katherine is in love, she feels obligated to start planning out a future which includes getting married and having children, even though she isn't sure that she wants either. For Katherine, that's what being in love means. She seemed somewhat dubious that feelings can just be for their own sake. I pointed out that she's only known Jake for about six weeks, and although I'm a strong believer in honest communication in a relationship, I thought that she should probably take it quite a bit slower. Given Jake's lack of response, which clearly hurt Katherine, she seemed ready to accept that advice. Katherine said that she didn't want to end up like her mother who loved her father passionately and then was devastated when he abandoned her. We talked about the dynamic of Katherine's family subsequent to her father's departure. Her mother doted on her oldest son, Joey, who Katherine described as a Mama's boy. In previous sessions, Katherine had explained that, emotionally, each of her parents had taken possession of one of the kids. So Joey, the eldest, was her mother's child, and Katherine was her father's. Phil, the youngest, was not particularly either's. Katherine felt that after her father left, her mother focused the majority of her affections on Joey and she was left with no one. Phil was placed in Katherine's charge. Even though only a child herself, Katherine took on the responsibility of raising Phil. She thought of Phil as her own. Katherine believes that Phil is the most well adjusted of the three of them and I pointed out that Katherine deserves a substantial measure of credit for that--a notion which seemed to both surprise and please Katherine. At the end of the session, Katherine, who had dreaded spending time speaking about her father, admitted that she thought it had been good to talk about him, although she didn't really believe that we were working through any significant issues in her life. I pointed out that we were merely laying out the groundwork and trying to identify the issues that we would later work through during this process.

Thursday, July 31, 1997

4 pm. Fiftieth Session with Anna Green. If you take two programmers and you make them into lovers with a need to resolve their interpersonal and sexual difficulties, perhaps they'll come up with a similar solution to Anna's and Martin's. Anna told me that Martin and she are taking all of their difficulties relating to the differences in their sexual desires, and reducing them to sets of numbers purportedly designed to equalize their respective needs for sexual satisfaction. They've devised a database of sexual acts and have subjectively rated each of those acts on three scales: the amount of sexual pleasure that each derives from the act, the time that the act requires (including set up time), and the difficulty of the act. They have a form of sexual currency so that if one partner becomes sexually indebted to the other, that partner will have to perform a series of sexual acts of the other's choosing until the debt is paid. Anna was very proud of her sexual barter system and recommended it for me to use with other patients. While a system like this might work for dividing household chores, I believe that Anna has underestimated the emotional content of her sexual life with Martin. Does Anna believe that an algorithmic approach to her sexual fulfillment is really going to work? I certainly don't think it will. Given my experience with Anna, I think it likely that Martin will end up getting what he needs out of the relationship, but that Anna will ultimately end up with her emotional needs unsatisfied. Sex in a relationship is about communication between two people who love each other, and if one partner is just going to engage in an act in order to earn points, it's just not going to work. The picture of an evening of passion preceded by the two of them making calculations on a wall chart of sexual acts does not mesh well with an image of an emotionally healthy relationship. Given both of their sexual tendencies, I can imagine Martin negotiating with Anna: "If you spank me, honey, I'll let you give me a blow job." Given their professional predilections, I wouldn't be surprised if all of this data ends up in computer program somewhere which keeps their sexual scores straight. We also discussed the relationship between Martin and Kathy which makes Anna jealous, mostly because she wants to be at the center of their interactions with each other. But my take is that she is basically overreacting to Martin's efforts to befriend Kathy. Anna and Kathy made the initial moves towards making up, with an apologetic conversation on the telephone, but they haven't seen each other in person since before the disastrous July 4th barbecue and Anna wants Kathy to grovel a bit. Anna was quite sick with a cold during our session, so we cut it short.

Friday, August 1, 1997

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