Transcript of 7th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. George Landau, Monday, March 24, 1997 at 2:00 pm.

Mr. Landau: Good afternoon, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Good afternoon, George. Thank you for calling in last week. I enjoyed talking to Melissa. She sounds very fond of you.
Mr. Landau: She is. That's one thing I have got right, Doctor. We're a close family.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad to hear that.
Mr. Landau: Melissa thought it was funny that you called her "Ms."
Dr. Balis: Funny amusing or funny strange?
Mr. Landau: Amusing. She's used to being called Mrs. Landau. I think she rather enjoyed the novelty of it. I remember when I was a child, I enjoyed getting letters addressed to "Mr. G. Landau". It made me feel very grown-up.
Dr. Balis: Do you feel grown-up these days?
Mr. Landau: Ah yes. When we had the children, I came down to their level for a while, but now they're getting to the age where they want to be adults. It's a shame, isn't it? If you could view your life as a whole, you would hang on to childhood for every last minute.
Dr. Balis: I think that's often true. But I also believe that as adults we often romanticize our childhoods.
Mr. Landau: Hmm, perhaps you're right. I wouldn't like to go to school again. You never really escape though, do you? I'm fifty-two now and I've still got someone telling me what to do.
Dr. Balis: Our friend Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Landau: Oh, let's not start that again.
Dr. Balis: Last week, we were talking about those training courses. The ones which make you ill.
Mr. Landau: Yes.
Dr. Balis: Can you describe for me how you visualize the course? I mean, what the room will be like, what people will be there, and so forth.
Mr. Landau: I imagine a small room with space for a teacher and six students. We are all cramped and pushed together. The blinds are drawn.
Dr. Balis: Will you each have a computer?
Mr. Landau: Yes. The room will be stuffy and hot from the black blinds and the horrible machines.
Dr. Balis: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Landau: Uh, I mean the computers. They will all heat up until the room is stifling. There will be nothing to drink in order to protect the computers.
Dr. Balis: Why did you say "the horrible machines?"
Mr. Landau: I wasn't thinking. The teacher is a man or maybe a girl, much younger than me. Yes, perhaps a girl, with a business suit and a practiced presentation manner. She uses jargon without explaining what she means. Every five minutes she asks if everyone has understood. The first couple of times I raise a hand and she explains again, more slowly, but I still don't get it. Quite soon I stop interrupting and pretend I understand everything.
Dr. Balis: That's a very vivid picture of your fears.
Mr. Landau: It gets worse. They have a practical session after an hour or so, when each of us turns to a computer and has to work on what we've learned. The tutor comes around to see how we're doing and I'm still sitting there, trying not to look at the blank screen. She offers quiet suggestions, but her tone changes as she realizes I haven't taken in a word. The other students are young whiz kids, flying through the exercises, their fingers chattering on the keys. The tutor tries to help me with the very basics. She is very polite on the surface, but it's obvious from her voice that she thinks I'm a stupid old man, and the others look over at me. Possibly I faint...Doctor, I feel like crying again.
Dr. Balis: That's understandable, George. Look. We're working with powerful images here. But this kind of visualization is necessary for us to fight your terrors. Fears are stronger if you don't confront them.
Mr. Landau: At the agency, they'll know I'm the one who keeps not turning up. They'll all ready have noticed. I'll be a curiosity before we even start. And what if one of the juniors in my department is there too?
Dr. Balis: Okay, there are three things we have to remember. First, you're not a stupid old man. You're a talented manager who has been good at his job for years and excels at dealing with people. Second, operating computer systems is not a matter of common sense. It's a very specialized skill which becomes easier to pick up with previous experience. It doesn't sound like you've had any experience with computers before, whereas your younger staff probably grew up with them as teddy bears.
Mr. Landau: What's the third thing?
Dr. Balis: Third, this training course is not the only way you can learn to use the administration computers. You are a senior employee and you can expect a reasonable amount of accommodation. You could ask for a relaxed, one-on-one session tailored to your needs. I'm sure Mr. Taylor would be delighted to make special arrangements if it meant you picked up the necessary skills.
Mr. Landau: That sounds fair.
Dr. Balis: You don't sound quite convinced.
Mr. Landau: It's not quite that simple.
Dr. Balis: What other complication is there?
Mr. Landau: I'm scared of the machines.
Dr. Balis: The computers?
Mr. Landau: It's not just the embarrassment of being last in the class. It's not just about feeling old and out of date. The machines, the wires, the sound they make...they are like an ordeal that I can't escape. My life keeps dragging me back to them.
Dr. Balis: Can you describe the feeling to me?
Mr. Landau: Imagine you were trapped at the back of a cave with a hungry lion just sitting there, staring at you. That's the way I feel about my computer. I plug it in sometimes for show, so it looks as if I've been working with it. But then it distracts me and I can't concentrate. I never feel comfortable in my office any more. Things are a little easier when it's not plugged in. But I keep expecting it to come on by itself even then.
Dr. Balis: That was why my laptop made you uncomfortable.
Mr. Landau: Your computer, Taylor's computer, the elevator panel, the telephone every time I call you...
Dr. Balis: So it's not just computers which make you feel this way?
Mr. Landau: Oh no. The world is filling up with things which do.
Dr. Balis: Okay, I'd like to understand exactly what frightens you. How about if I name some objects and you tell me how you feel about them?
Mr. Landau: Certainly, if it will help.
Dr. Balis: An electric kettle.
Mr. Landau: They make me shudder. Who knows what they're doing inside?
Dr. Balis: An old tin kettle, to use on a stove.
Mr. Landau: I feel fine about that.
Dr. Balis: An aluminum can for a soft drink.
Mr. Landau: Fine.
Dr. Balis: A computer printer.
Mr. Landau: Terrifying. It lets them move objects in the real world.
Dr. Balis: A washing machine.
Mr. Landau: Awful. I imagine a small animal trapped in there, peering out, as the machine switches itself on, trying to make its victim dizzy before drowning it.
Dr. Balis: A gas station pump.
Mr. Landau: Makes me a little uncomfortable.
Dr. Balis: A network.
Mr. Landau: What, you mean of people?
Dr. Balis: No, the wires which connect computers together.
Mr. Landau: Awful. They can talk to each other without us hearing.
Dr. Balis: An electric light.
Mr. Landau: Quite uncomfortable. Actually I've just had a nightmare which involved an electric light.
Dr. Balis: Do you want to tell me about it?
Mr. Landau: It seemed to be on a space station or in the future somehow. Melissa and the children were there. We had been having a nice time, although I don't know what we had been doing. I stepped through a doorway and a glass panel slid down behind me to cover it. It was just a small cupboard with high-tech devices all over the walls. It was red. I turned and tried to open the door. My family stared at me. I pushed my fingers up against the glass. There was a light bulb above the doorway on either side. The bulb inside came on and there was a hum. Melissa looked sad. I asked her to open the door and she said she couldn't. She said I had been exposed to...something. Dexter sinister...something which sounded like that. Slowly she said goodbye and led the children away. She said I would never be able to go near them again.
Dr. Balis: Sinister and dexter are the Latin words for left and right.
Mr. Landau: Yes. I don't think those were the actual words. I can't remember them clearly.
Dr. Balis: We've covered a lot in this session. But I'm afraid we are out of time.
Mr. Landau: I feel a little weak. I think I might go to the park for a walk.
Dr. Balis: That sounds like a good idea. You are making great progress, George, and I know how difficult it must be. The next training course will be in two weeks, is that correct?
Mr. Landau: Yes.
Dr. Balis: Next week I want to work out a strategy for dealing with it, and build on what you've told me today.
Mr. Landau: All right, Doctor. I'll give it a try.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad to hear that, George. Enjoy your walk, and look after yourself this week.
Mr. Landau: Thank you, Doctor. You too.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, George.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

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