Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Peter Hossfeld, Monday, January 6, 1997 at 10 am.

Dr. Balis: Hi, I'm Dr. Charles Balis. And you are...?
Mr. Hossfeld: Peter Hossfeld. Call me Pete please.
Dr. Balis: Sure Pete. Is there anything particular you want to talk about, or would you like me to just ask you a few questions to get started?
Mr. Hossfeld: Uh, yeah, the questions.
Dr. Balis: I know it can be a little uncomfortable to sit down with a total stranger and talk about all the most intimate issues in your life; but give it a chance--you might be surprised at how helpful it can be. Why don't you start by telling me a little bit about yourself? Let's see, you work at Silicon Impressions as a programmer? How long have you been doing that?
Mr. Hossfeld: Gosh, it must be four, five years now; ever since I got out of school. But I just started at SII last year.
Dr. Balis: Do you enjoy programming? Is your work-life satisfying to you?
Mr. Hossfeld: You're kidding, right? It's a job, that's all. I don't know why I'm doing it. I guess I was smart enough in college so I got pushed into the right classes, and I figured it wouldn't be too hard to get work when I got out, so I went along with it. But no, it doesn't do a thing for me, especially the simple coding I'm doing here. It's like my mind can do it using such a small fraction of its hardware that I've been having out-of-body experiences right in my cubicle. I guess it's a good meditation technique, but it's a little scary.
Dr. Balis: Is that what you came here to see me about?
Mr. Hossfeld: That and some other stuff too. I figured I've tried everything else, I might as well try Western psychotherapy too.
Dr. Balis: What else have you been trying?
Mr. Hossfeld: You name it: Zen, Shiatsu, acupuncture, Hinduism, homeopathy, Rolfing, TM, iridology, colonic irrigation--should I go on?
Dr. Balis: I think I get the idea. San Francisco is certainly a good area to be exploring that sort of thing. Was there some medical problem that your doctors couldn't help you with?
Mr. Hossfeld: It's hard to say what's mental, what's physical, and what is spiritual; but the spiritual is definitely missing from Western medicine--not that I'm blaming you personally, Dr. Balis. The medical doctors I went to said there was nothing wrong with me that they could find; they seemed to think I was causing them a lot of trouble for nothing. They just couldn't accept the idea that somebody could be sick without showing a lot of symptoms, ones that they could recognize anyway.
Dr. Balis: You don't have any physical symptoms, then?
Mr. Hossfeld: I don't know, compared to what? I'm twenty-six years old. I should be overflowing with energy. I should be full of creativity, having the best ideas of my life. I should have figured out some kind of spiritual connection that works for me. I should be at my physical peak. Instead, I'm tired, blocked, lost, and weak. I don't think my body or my mind have broken down or anything, but I don't feel happy or well either. I should be full of enthusiasm, and instead...well, I get jazzed about something for a little while, like I think it's going to change my life, then I just throw it on the heap with all the other shit I've tried. Maybe I expect too much all at once--that's what my irrigator told me--like all these impurities have to come out that have been building up all this time, and you have to expect to feel worse before you start feeling better, but I just keep feeling bad. It's probably my own fault for not sticking with it, but I just couldn't face another session with her. Anyway, one more failure.
Dr. Balis: It sounds like you're blaming yourself every time one of these religions or therapies doesn't work out for you, and that makes you feel even worse. Maybe you should give yourself a break, Pete. Nothing works for everyone; everything works for someone. Maybe you're just discovering this for yourself. If a curative effect doesn't show up in double-blind tests, then you're mainly talking about the placebo effect, in any case.
Mr. Hossfeld: That's what you doctors always say; you can't accept something that goes beyond your narrow, linear, left-brain mindset. Don't you believe there's something in people that you can't measure with your machines? Have you really got it all figured out? What about the soul? Can you pluck it out and keep it in a jar?
Dr. Balis: Take it easy, Pete; I'm on your side. I don't use any machines, we just talk here. It's really a very ancient method of working with the human soul, if you think about it. It's true I trained as a medical doctor, but that doesn't enter into it very much. Sometimes I prescribe certain drugs for certain reasons, just like shamans and healers have always done, but basically this is a talking cure, and it does work if you're willing to meet me halfway.
Mr. Hossfeld: So we talk five or six times and I'm not going to feel lost anymore, I'll be well-adjusted? All this confusion and misery is going to blow away like a puff of smoke, and I'm going to be cured?
Dr. Balis: Well, I'm not promising anything; but good things have been known to happen in the course of a therapy program. You may not be ecstatically happy at the end of six sessions, but you might have worked through some of your problems and have gone on to others by then. It's a process of learning about yourself. It isn't focussed on cures per se, although some conditions can be outgrown. The important thing is to get some perspective on yourself, get things started, and see where it leads you. You never know until you give it a try, right?
Mr. Hossfeld: That's what I said before I dropped acid the first time. I guess this is just another trip, right Doctor?
Dr. Balis: I suppose you could think of it that way, but this isn't a passive sort of experience that just happens to you, it's more like work you need to do. You have to drive the process if you want it to help you. I'm just here to facilitate things and keep you on track. But I'm here to help you if you want to be helped.
Mr. Hossfeld: Help, right. Help comes with every software program, but it's hardly ever helpful. I've written enough of it to know. Do you think it could ever be that simple?
Dr. Balis: Of course it's not simple. I didn't mean to imply that it was. It's different for every person, that's what makes it interesting.
Mr. Hossfeld: Well I hope all this stuff that's tearing me apart is enough to keep you entertained; I'd hate to think I was boring you with the same old problems you see every day...
Dr. Balis: Look, this is my job. I do this for my living, and also because I can help people. Whether it's entertaining doesn't really enter into it, but it is interesting to me; I don't think it would work as well if it were not. Do you have a problem with that?
Mr. Hossfeld: Sorry, I just didn't like thinking I'd be putting on some kind of a show for you, that's all.
Dr. Balis: You don't need to do anything but be honest . The first thing is to stop worrying about how you're coming off. Just be yourself. This isn't a job interview where you need to impress me a certain way. This is just for you, and you get out what you put in, okay?
Mr. Hossfeld: Yeah, okay. Maybe I'm just over-sensitive. I've put in a lot of time trying for some kind of personal growth, and I feel I'm farther than ever from any spiritual awakening at all. Maybe I'm just stupid, thinking I can be enlightened; maybe I'm just neurotic.
Dr. Balis: And that's why you came to me, to check on that possibility?
Mr. Hossfeld: Yeah, I guess so. I don't know if I really believe in psychiatry, though, so in a way it doesn't matter what you say. I don't mean to sound disrespectful, I just think you're coming from a really limited world-view, that's all.
Dr. Balis: Are you sure you aren't generalizing in advance of the facts? I don't think we've discussed my world-view yet, that I recall. But let's talk about yours; it seems you have thought about this sort of thing a lot and that's good, even if I won't necessarily agree with you on every point. Let's see. If you don't believe in psychiatry, what do you believe in: God?
Mr. Hossfeld: Not the old guy with the white beard, if that's what you mean. But if you're talking about the Godhead--a universal spiritual force pervading our souls and connecting us with everything else--then sure, I believe in that. And if I want to get in touch with it, feel its power running through me, does that make me crazy?
Dr. Balis: Well, we psychiatrists no longer use that word for the various conditions we are called on to deal with, and no, that in itself is not necessarily a sign of mental disturbance. Religious yearnings are perfectly normal, but I'm not sure I'm the person to help you with all this. Maybe you should talk to a priest or a minister...
Mr. Hossfeld: No, I've had it up to here with organized religion. Everybody just wants to sign you up with their program, and then everything's supposed to be okay, except it's not, it never is. I've been in a lot of cults, I could tell you stories...don't get me started. I just want to get my head together, get out of this state of confusion and despair. Sure, I want to believe in something, I just don't know what it is at this point. There just has to be more to life than eating, sleeping, and going to work, you know what I mean? I feel I'm here for some reason, I just don't know what it is. So I keep trying anything that seems like it's going to lead to some kind of healing, or self-improvement, whatever you call it. And I guess that's why I'm here, okay?
Dr. Balis: Sure, that's fine. How about coming in once a week? We'll see if we can work through whatever's bothering you. I can't say I've really got a handle on it at this point, but we've made a start. But we're out of time now--let's talk some more. Is the same time next week okay?
Mr. Hossfeld: Well, if you think it's going to do any good, sure. See you then.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye.
Mr. Hossfeld: See you.
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Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

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