Friday, August 8, 1997
3 pm. Initial Session with Alan Kurtz. I wasn't sure why I felt such a sudden antipathy towards my new patient, but I have to be aware of it and guard vigorously against allowing it to cloud my professional judgment. Alan is a 28 year old male, about six feet tall, of medium build, with dark hair and brown eyes. He is employed as an engineer with SII, charged with trying to make their software as user-friendly as possible. But they couldn't have picked someone with less empathy if they tried. He has such a palpable disdain for the end user that he approaches the job completely from a technical standpoint, with no sympathy for the problems of someone wrestling with a piece of software for the first time. Alan is seeking his MBA and he intends to work at SII during his graduate studies. SII has a good program to encourage its employees to seek higher education opportunities, which Alan intends to take advantage of during his schooling and then immediately leave the company upon graduation. In his own life, he has focused on his rationality to the strong detriment of his emotional side. Alan's nominal complaint is that he is having difficulty sustaining a romantic relationship for longer than about three months. Alan attributes the short duration of his relationships to a "maniac magnet" which he says causes him to attract mentally-unstable women whom he described as "women who can't cope." And yet, when Alan described his actions which precipitated the break-up, it was clear that she left him because he displayed a remarkable lack of sensitivity towards her needs and desires. Alan invited a previous ex-girlfriend to move in with the two of them, without consulting her ("It's my house!") and then, when she was expressing anxiety about switching jobs and housing, he told her that he didn't want to hear any more of her whining. He told me that the reason that he's seeking therapy is that he is tired of making an investment of time into these women without a payoff--he wants to be able to recognize cues which would indicate that a girl was insane. I had a feeling that he regarded the session with me as analogous to hiring a plumber. But in that case, one would be acknowledging that something needed to be fixed, and Alan will have none of that. I suggested that we might look for patterns in his past relationships to see what we could learn that way, but he told me that he didn't need anything fixed in his life--he's certain that he's fine. It's the women who are crazy. Alan is very status conscious and sought to impress me with his wealth--he clearly believes that the measure of a man is by the thickness of his wallet. He described his friends who are in the arts as "flakes" because they have no money. While it's clearly too early to be thinking about a diagnosis, and while I haven't seen many of the criteria that would allow me to solidly make one, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Kurtz suffered from a quite rare Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Specifically, I observed a grandiose sense of his self-importance, and a strong lack of empathy making him unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. Furthermore, he showed an arrogance often associated with the disorder. Interestingly, once I've put my finger on a possible disorder for Mr. Kurtz, much of my antipathy has vanished. It's as if I've collected an insect which disgusts me, until I've pinned it onto my collection board, and then can study it at my leisure. Not a particularly flattering image of myself, I'm afraid, but there it is.

Friday, August 15, 1997
3 pm. Second Session with Alan Kurtz. The ever-charming Mr. Kurtz came for a session today, and immediately told me that he was going to have to cut it short. He really wanted to let me know that he was just far too important to talk to me. His condescending and churlish tone remained through most of the session. When I questioned Mr. Kurtz on what was keeping him so busy, he informed me that it was office politics, rather than work, which had him in a snit. I'm getting a better picture of Mr. Kurtz. His primary motivation seems to be getting what he deserves--and in his view, he deserves it all. I was startled at how up-front Alan is with his basic feeling of superiority over everyone and everything. In his view, his universe--the people he interacts with at home, at work, in his family, and in his social life--revolves completely around him, and that's as it should be. If any person or situation doesn't match his expectation or fall into line in orbit around Alan, he denounces it as stupid, misguided, or sees it as proof of deliberate malice against him. So, for example, another employee in his department was given a perk: a company junket to the Bahamas. Alan was outraged and has embarked on a campaign to rectify this gross injustice--at least for next year. Alan is convinced that the only reason that the man is going instead of him is that he has seniority, or he is sleeping with the boss. At no point did he even entertain the possibility that the man was more deserving than he was. Alan sees his department head as an obvious incompetent because he didn't have the smarts to be able to pick out Alan as the appropriate candidate. Alan also wanted to continue to develop a strategy to "weed out the losers" among the women he dates. Alan has compiled a list of the faults that he believes his various girlfriends have shared--they have trouble accepting good advice (his), are poor listeners, refuse to do what it takes to get the things they want, are easily sidetracked, don't have their act together, and keep messy apartments. Alan bristled at the notion that he was a patient of mine--he continues to be completely unwilling to admit that there is anything within him that needs to be fixed. I had to invent some bullshit in order to convince Mr. Kurtz to even allow me to know his own impressions and feelings about the failed relationships. Alan told me a bit about his family. He says that he doesn't have much use for them, although they fawn over him. They live in Portland, Oregon. Alan also has a sister who studies at Reed, a liberal arts college. Alan believes that a liberal arts degree is useless--he derides his sister's philosophy major, saying that she'll end up as the "best-educated burger-flipper at McDonald's." There were times when his cold malevolence was almost palpable during the session. All in all, Alan continues to be a real charmer.

Friday, August 29, 1997
3 pm. Third Session with Alan Kurtz. Alan is happy because his assistant Susan has been promoted and Alan--who relates everything to how it will benefit him--sees it as a net plus for his career. Against my strong advice, he also intends to make a sexual overture to her, now that she's no longer a lowly department secretary. In Susan's case, he doesn't need the "insanity filter" because of his intimate familiarity with her over the months that they worked together. He finds her level headed and career oriented, which were his criteria for "girlfriend material." I suspect that someone who had been Alan's assistant for any length of time would be anxious never to see him again, but I could be wrong. Perhaps, as Alan insists, Susan really is interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. But when I suggested that Alan be cautious to avoid a sexual harassment claim, Alan blew up--disproportionately, I thought, to my suggestion. Obviously, Alan had considered the same issue--he had the sense to wait until she was no longer directly under his control. I think it likely, however, that this attempted relationship will blow up in Alan's face, unless he handles it with a deftness and sensitivity which he has never demonstrated in my dealings with him.


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