Charles Balis' Journal for the Week ending 11/14/97

Saturday, November 8, 1997

Sunday, November 9, 1997

Monday, November 10, 1997

2 pm. Third Session with Jesse Trent. Jesse is making me see the therapeutic counseling process from an outsider's perspective--a powerless feeling, actually. Jesse is watching his wife turn away from him and believes that much of her attitude can be traced to the other members of her rape support group. They've apparently formed a group independent of the Rape Crisis Center which meets without a mediator. Together, these women share their anger and pain. There's a power there, and it multiplies with their solidarity. In my experience, however, if that power is unmediated by someone who has the ability to retain perspective, it usually acts a destructive force. I've counseled rape victims before, both here in San Francisco and back at Columbia. I've even done some couple work after a rape. But I've never been wholly on the outside of the situation, dealing with just the partner of a rape victim. And without access to Maddie herself, I don't really know how to counsel Jesse. I can make him feel better about himself, perhaps, but I can do little to relieve his actual complaint, which is reasonable--how does he get his wife back? I'm hopeful that if the rapist is captured, Maddie will be able to redirect her anger towards a more appropriate target. Apparently, another woman in the building was recently raped as well, perhaps by the same attacker. Jesse told me that the police believe it may be someone who has key access to the secured building in which they live. Maddie's reaction to the new assault was predictably intense. Jesse told me that, prior to the rape, he and Maddie had some mild fertility problems--difficulties conceiving--but they had only tried for about five months. However, Jesse noted some strains had appeared in their relationship--most notably, Jesse felt that Maddie had little sympathy or understanding over the sexual performance difficulties that he began to experience when asked to perform on cue during Maddie's ovulation.

Tuesday, November 11, 1997

1 pm. Eleventh Session with Kester Langford. Kester avoided the real burning question in his life for a while with some preliminary game playing, primarily designed, I think, to test whether or not my concern and regard for him is genuine. But finally he told me that his brother Chester has arranged for Kester to take a trip to Paris so that they can meet and establish the relationship that they never had. Kester is torn. He wants to go to Paris--Chester has even held out the additional carrot of an art dealer to represent Kester's work--but he doesn't want to give up all that he has gained. Kester told me that, although he hates the night shift hours that he works at the gallery, he has become pretty comfortable with his life. He cites his girlfriend Me, the place that he's living and the job he has, and the group show in which he is to participate. He's afraid he has to give up all of that to take Chester up on his offer. I pointed out that he can talk to Chester and try to restructure Chester's offer so that it isn't as costly for Kester to accept. He seemed to like the idea, and thought that he could arrange for Me to travel with him if his brother will consent. I tried to explicitly give Kester permission to go, if that's what is holding him back from accepting.

Wednesday, November 12, 1997

4 pm. Twenty-Fifth Session with Katherine Lippard. This was an interesting session, filled with optimism and denial. Katherine is a master at self-delusion and she has it running on all four cylinders in her life right now. She was named the CFO by the board of directors, effective as of the first of the year. The tidy orderliness that she finds in her work life tends to spill over into her perception of her home life. So she's reached a point in her relationship with Jake which she thinks of as extremely healthy--one in which both parties are not expecting anything of the other--no goals, no long term commitments. She professes to be content with that arrangement and yet, through our many conversations together, I know better. She admits that she's still uncomfortable opening up and displaying any vulnerability to Jake--he's professed admiration for her independent spirit and competent manner, and she doesn't want to do anything to shatter his image. This is true even with respect to the most important issues in her emotional life right now--coming to grips with her father's abandonment of her when she was an eleven year old girl. She said that she has been thinking about how she feels about her father, and while she feels mildly aggrieved, she is unable to feel any true anger. Katherine is clearly feeling with her head. She lists all the reasons that she is justified in feeling peeved at her father, but hasn't felt any of the heat of those feelings, primarily because she's just intellectualizing rather than actually feeling. She's decided to hire a detective to try to find his present whereabouts. She has tried on the various possible outcomes for size--he may be dead, or disinterested, or unlocatable--and says that she is comfortable that she can handle her feelings regardless of the result. Katherine seeks closure, which I think is ultimately wise. But I think her quest could lead her much further into herself than she currently anticipates.

5 pm. Twenty-Third Session with Alex Rozzi. Alex described a two day ramble--wandering around the city, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, wandering around Sausalito, sleeping under the bridge girders and then walking back and through the city. When Alex first talked about it, he said things like he was lucky that he hadn't been hit by a car and that it was like he was sleep-walking. Obviously, I thought it possible that Alex was in some form of fugue state. I said as much to Alex and he seemed intrigued, but ultimately he rejected the suggestion. Alex insisted he just spent the time thinking and that he was aware of events around him. Alex is still obviously fatigued and is reluctant to even try the quazapam I prescribed because he is sure that he'll feel drugged. I suggested he try melatonin. Alex told me that Ralph was hospitalized, but apparently because of food poisoning rather than the flu. Lately, he's substantially recovered. But Ralph was just a trigger for Alex's pensive meandering. He is also preoccupied with worry over Benny and Tony, particularly. He walked past Jake's gallery and noticed that his painting had been taken down, which surprisingly didn't upset Alex too much--he said that he would never have been able to top the success he'd have felt if the painting had sold. I think it possible that Alex has a mild form of situationally antagonized clinical depression. I noticed a good deal of psychomotor agitation during this session, and Alex told me how he was unable to sleep because he was unable to rest his racing, worried thoughts. I gave Alex a pamphlet on depression and suggested to Alex that he might do some further research at the library.

Thursday, November 13, 1997

10 am. Tenth Session with Decker Jenkins. Decker came into the session sick because he drank tequila to excess the previous evening. I lectured him in the sternest, most paternalistic of manner, that he can not mix his medication together with alcohol. He waved me off, assuring me in a breezy way that he would behave himself in the future. He was annoyed with my warnings, rather than angered by them. He feels comfortable with his new friend Telso, and they went out drinking together. Decker also told me about his date with Christina. He said that he believes that she really likes him--and he affirmed that he really likes her. The way he describes the date, he comes off as impossibly shy, but she apparently used her ignorance of baseball as a lure to draw him out. He plans to ask her out again. I'll find out from Christina how she viewed the date. Perhaps she was not as enamored of him as he was of her. Decker looked quite tired, with large rings under his eyes. I told Decker that I wanted to explore his childhood years with Karen. Decker jauntily answered, "Fine." I half expected him to protest against that change of subject, but the prospect of discussing Karen with me didn't seem to faze Decker.

4 pm. Sixty-Second Session with Anna Green. Anna was in a very bad mood during our session today, so I let a lot of things slide that I otherwise would have been quick to follow up on. Her body language was cold and forbidding--her arms remained defensively folded across her chest during most of the session. Anna started by telling me, through the use of an elaborate metaphor, about how I had spoiled the relaxing benefits of our last therapy session by interrogating her and bringing up painful issues about her relationship with Kathy. She likened therapy to a mud bath--the relaxation that the sessions brings helps her to cope with her problems. Although I have a different view of the significance of our sessions together, I decided not to directly challenge Anna on her views. Instead, I decided to press onwards. Martin is leaving town for a week--Lloyd Major likes him and has personally selected Martin to talk to some technologists at MIT. That leaves Anna alone with Kathy all week, and Anna already said that Kathy believes Anna is acting strangely towards her. Apparently, Kathy thinks that Anna is still mad because of Anna's feelings after catching Kathy making love to Martin. I was under the impression that Anna had just told me about her feelings that day and had hidden those feelings from Martin and Kathy. Apparently, not so. Anna tried to explain away her behavior by ascribing it to PMS--since Anna just started taking some new birth control pills, she believes they understood. Anna didn't really want to talk about Kathy with me, but I pressed. Anna is clearly not looking forward to spending a week alone with Kathy. She said, "Licking my clit is Kathy's way of saying, 'I love you.' " Anna is clearly expected to have sex with Kathy alone, without Martin's involvement. Anna is also clearly apprehensive about the prospect.

5 pm. Twenty-Third Session with Christina Herald. I'm not certain that I'm doing Christina any real good. Sometimes, it feels like we're just two friends who get together to talk once a week. I guess I'm feeling a bit guilty because she spent much of this session educating me about cat ownership. I asked her for the kitten who I've named Portia and I received some invaluable consulting from Chris on cat food, entertainment, and nutrition. The one area that I might have actually been of some use to Chris--warning her away from her budding romance with Decker--is ethically foreclosed to me. And yet I'm very concerned about his possible violent tendencies. But I have nothing concrete at all, just the circumstances of his mother's death--he was cleared by the police--and his statement that there is a woman in Chicago who may have wrongfully accused him of rape. Perhaps I should spend some time with Decker exploring whether he has any violent ideation. Chris, in the meantime, positively gushed over her date with Decker. I think that if I did have actual knowledge that Decker was a danger to Chris, I would warn her--ethics be damned! She was also inordinately pleased with herself when I confessed that I wanted the kitten. Her student, who was pregnant, suffered a miscarriage. Chris has also been escaping--almost time traveling is how I think she put it--into the trunk which contains the journals and possessions of her great aunt.

Friday, November 14, 1997

10 am. Second Session with Sharon Lough. We spent much of the session talking of Sharon's feelings about her co-workers. Sharon describes herself as fundamentally anti-social at work--she hides behind her computer and tries to avoid talking to people. But Sharon has little sympathy for either the ineptitude or personal commitments of other people. Sharon became quite passionate in her antagonism to single mothers who require special dispensation in order to be able to balance the demands of their children with those of work. Sharon expressed the opinion that single motherhood is a burden on all of society, and that kids who are not wanted are a particular tragedy. She doesn't like it that society puts single mothers on a pedestal, what with birth control, abortion, and adoption as viable alternatives now. In the midst of this denunciation, Sharon mentioned that she might feel so passionate about these issues because of her own "screwed-up" home life. Sharon disclosed that she believes that she is sterile as the result of an ovarian cyst. At the same time as she expressed her happiness at not being burdened with motherhood, she described herself as feeling "defective." And Sharon was particularly hurt by an inexperienced therapist's seemingly flip reply to her emotional tale of being physically abused by her father. Sharon has a number of issues related to motherhood and her own childhood which will need to be carefully explored. Specifically, although she is reticent to explore these issues, her father's physical abuse has resulted in a lifetime of nightmares and anger. She says that she can't stop her painful memories from flooding back at inopportune times. I need to gain Sharon's confidence in order to be able to conduct a realistic suicide assessment, which I think is critical. I am hopeful that after a couple of more sessions, she'll be more forthcoming about her foundational issues.

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