Transcript of 23rd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Katherine Lippard, Wednesday, October 29, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Katherine.
Ms. Lippard: Hi, Doctor Balis. How have you been?
Dr. Balis: Fine, thank you. What about you?
Ms. Lippard: Not too bad. The board meets tomorrow to confirm me as CFO. Unless someone decides to raise a big stink, it's just a formality. Frank gets to give his input. Lloyd does, too. I don't expect Lloyd to be too overjoyed, but then again, he's not likely to be satisfied with anyone. Besides, they don't have another qualified candidate. The search was perfunctory--just for form's sake.
Dr. Balis: Uh huh.
Ms. Lippard: What?
Dr. Balis: So how do you feel about this?
Ms. Lippard: Good. I feel good. It's the culmination of my career, I've hit the top--stock options, corner office, executive perks, thinking more than doing, being creative. Yeah, I think the creative thing is what's going to be the best about it.
Dr. Balis: I see. So what about your personal life? How are things at home?
Ms. Lippard: At home? Um, organized. You know, things weren't as bad as I expected when I got back to the office. I had left it in pretty good shape, and Jeff knows his job. So even though he wasn't there for part of the time, things got done. I just had a little mail to answer, a few loose ends to tie down, and the office was running like a clock again. So that wasn't as bad as I expected. And I've been getting things at the house back in shape--fall cleaning, really sprucing up the place.
Dr. Balis: Uh huh.
Ms. Lippard: I've been shopping, restocking, and giving everything a real thorough cleaning. I even rented a steam cleaner for the carpets. It's amazing how much grime can still be in there even after vacuuming every week. And I'm thinking about painting.
Dr. Balis: Why is there this frenzy of activity?
Ms. Lippard: Um...well, I think I'm bored, really. Work hasn't been too engaging, and I can't see Jake every night. So I've been slipping back into my routines a little.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah.
Dr. Balis: Katherine, is there anything else on your mind?
Ms. Lippard: I know I seem a little scatter-brained today. Sorry.
Dr. Balis: Katherine?
Ms. Lippard: Yes?
Dr. Balis: Am I going to have to drag it out of you?
Ms. Lippard: Hmm. No. I just have to get up the nerve.
Dr. Balis: Okay.
Ms. Lippard: She told him to stop calling.
Dr. Balis: Your mother? Really?
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. I've been trying to understand it, trying not to be mad about it. And I can, really--I really can understand her logic. She said she was disturbed at how upset I'd get every time daddy would call or send a letter. It took me days to recover--I'd just mope around, cry sometimes, feel sorry for myself for a while, until I got over it. Then in a week, or two, or a month, he'd call again, and I'd go through the whole thing again. She said she thought I'd never get over him as long as he kept calling and stirring it all up over and over again. So she asked him to stop calling. So I could heal, she said.
Dr. Balis: I understand her logic even if I don't agree with her conclusion.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. It is logical. But I can't help but be mad about it. I mean he was my father, for Christ's sake. She knew how much I loved him. She knew how I cared about him and how important it was for me to hear from him. And she fucking told him to leave me alone, to drop out of his daughter's life altogether...well, of all the kids. He was the most important thing in my life, and I had a chance to keep him there--a little at least--and she took even that.
Dr. Balis: So you're angry.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. Except I don't think I should be. Mama's never been mean to me--never to any of us. I know she did what she thought was the best thing for me, and I kind of agree with it, you know? If I had been in her shoes, I may have made the same decision.
Dr. Balis: Katherine, don't invalidate your own emotions. Feelings aren't right or wrong and don't always have to be justified. Give yourself permission to simply feel what you feel, honestly. No one can say what you should feel in this situation. You feel the way you do. Period.
Ms. Lippard: Well, I don't just feel one way or the other. I feel them both. On the one hand, I think she took away my last link to my father--the most important person in my life--and I'm mad as hell about it. And on the other hand, I can understand why she did and forgive her for it. But the forgiveness doesn't stop the anger.
Dr. Balis: You shouldn't expect it to. The anger is something you're going to have to experience on it's own terms and to work through in due course. You have an excellent head start--recognizing your mixed feelings. This is much more than you were capable of when you started therapy just a few months ago.
Ms. Lippard: Hmm. Thanks. So are you saying it's okay to be mad at my mother even though it doesn't feel justified in light of the circumstances?
Dr. Balis: Do you need my permission?
Ms. Lippard: Apparently so! I asked, didn't I?
Dr. Balis: Katherine, I can tell you all day that it's okay to experience your emotions, but it doesn't really mean anything unless you tell it to yourself.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, yeah, all right. So I'm mad. We'll table the question of whether that's okay or not for the time being. So what do I do with it?
Dr. Balis: For now, just allow it. Don't tell yourself it's not proper, just let it come of its own accord and see where it leads you.
Ms. Lippard: It wants to lead me into a confrontation with my mother.
Dr. Balis: Does she know how you feel about this?
Ms. Lippard: No. I tried to keep it real factual, to keep my emotions out of it. I thought I'd get more reliable information that way.
Dr. Balis: Yes, I remember you explaining that plan to me.
Ms. Lippard: So I didn't say anything then, and afterward I just couldn't decide exactly what my feelings were on the matter. Do you think I should tell her?
Dr. Balis: Do you think it would help you resolve your feelings?
Ms. Lippard: I don't know. I think it would make her feel bad, and I don't want that. Is it really fair to blame her for decisions made a lifetime ago? She felt bad about it at the time, I don't want to stir all that up again now when it can't possibly do any good. All it's likely to do is make her feel bad, and we've all had enough of that already.
Dr. Balis: I appreciate your compassion for your mother, but you have to consider what being unable to resolve this is doing to you, too.
Ms. Lippard: I am, I am. It's a cost-benefit analysis, right? Will my venting at her make me feel enough better to justify her feeling worse? I don't think so. I think I can get over this without doing that. I can vent at you, if that's what I need.
Dr. Balis: Fair enough. Did I understand you to say that your mother felt bad about it at the time?
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. I used your trick and said, "And how did that make you feel?" She opened right up. She agonized over this decision, considered how it would feel to me to think my father had just abandoned me, and decided it wouldn't be as bad in the long run as what it was doing to me at the time. I guess she got that one wrong, hmm?
Dr. Balis: Well, the long-term effects of abandonment can be much more significant than the short-term traumas you were experiencing. She didn't allow you any closure with your father, no chance to come to terms with the reality of the separation.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, well, she wasn't a psychiatrist, was she?
Dr. Balis: No, of course not. Did she get you any counseling at the time?
Ms. Lippard: No. Mama was raising us to be strong and independent, remember? Besides, it was twenty years ago. Seeing a shrink in the 70s wasn't widely accepted. There was a stigma attached, which I'm sure Mama didn't want us kids to have.
Dr. Balis: Hmm, yes.
Ms. Lippard: Still...
Dr. Balis: What?
Ms. Lippard: You know, I find myself defending her decisions even though I don't agree with them. She just made mistakes, that's all. But they were mistakes that fucked me up all the way here--all the way to what should be the pinnacle of my life. I would have liked to have known that my Daddy still loved me, you know? That he cared, and he wanted to see me. I would have liked to visit him and to have him at my graduation and to be able to call him next week and tell him I've made it--I'm the CFO. And I would have liked to know that he was proud of me. Here I go again, goddamn it, feeling sorry for myself over something I can't possibly change.
Dr. Balis: Katherine, it's perfectly normal to feel grief at such a significant loss. You weren't able to come to terms with it when it happened, you've been suppressing it for almost twenty years. And even now--when you are starting to feel it--you're invalidating your emotions and trying to shut them off. You're not going to get over feeling sorry for yourself until you allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself. Just as you're not going to get over your anger at your mother for the mistakes she made until you actually feel that anger as it comes--unadulterated. Katherine, stop judging your feelings and just accept them, experience them. I've seen you do it a little already. You can recognize what you're feeling, express it, even explain it. You can come in here and talk about it. But I don't think you're allowing yourself to really experience it. You've never gone all the way though the grief process naturally associated with the loss of your father. You're stuck in it, and that's why it keeps coming up so strong and feeling so uncomfortable.
Ms. Lippard: I'm stuck in the grief.
Dr. Balis: Right.
Ms. Lippard: Because I won't get into the grief.
Dr. Balis: Because you cut it short and don't let yourself go through it.
Ms. Lippard: So next time when I get to feel this way, I should just go with it.
Dr. Balis: If you're in a safe place, yes.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. Well, it wouldn't do to get into that at work, would it?
Dr. Balis: No, but it would be fine here or with Phil or Jake.
Ms. Lippard: Well, I don't know about Jake. But I understand what you're saying. I don't like it. I can't promise to do it. But I understand.
Dr. Balis: That's a good start. We're about out of time. Are you okay?
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. Yeah, I'll be fine. Look...uh, if I do get all into these feelings and it gets to be a bit much, can I call you?
Dr. Balis: Certainly. Just call the office number, the service can always find me.
Ms. Lippard: Okay. Thanks. Good night, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: Good night, Katherine.
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