Transcript of 8th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sharon Lough, Thursday, January 29, 1998 at 10:00 am.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: Hi, Doctor Balis. I'm really sorry about our last session. I don't know what got into me.
Dr. Balis: I have to say that I was concerned and a bit puzzled. I wasn't sure why you were so upset.
Ms. Lough: I don't know either. I've been in a weird mood lately. I've been cranky and irritable. How was your vacation?
Dr. Balis: Very relaxing. So nothing in particular triggered your mood?
Ms. Lough: I'm just a cranky bitch.
Dr. Balis: That seems a bit of an oversimplification.
Ms. Lough: Well, I am. I really am a miserable person, Doctor Balis, just like Ebeneezer Scrooge or the Jack Nicholson character in "As Good As It Gets."
Dr. Balis: Both those characters achieved redemption.
Ms. Lough: My father is a miserable person, too. He's in the hospital now. I got a phone call from my sister. She told me he was rushed to the emergency room with chest pains.
Dr. Balis: When did this happen?
Ms. Lough: Last week Tuesday. At first, it looked like a heart attack, but it turned out to be only an anxiety attack coupled with some serious indigestion. But my family is pissed at me now because I didn't rush out to his bedside like my sister did. She's only sucking up to him because she wants him to die so she can get the money.
Dr. Balis: I see. Why didn't you go to visit your father?
Ms. Lough: It wasn't that big a deal; it wasn't like he was on his deathbed. And even if he was, I wouldn't have wanted to see him anyway. I really, really hate him. I wish he was dead.
Dr. Balis: I see. Are your mother and sister aware of your feelings towards him?
Ms. Lough: Yeah. I told him what I thought of him when I moved out. My sister, of course, took that opportunity to tell me once again what a loser I was, how I had no sense of filial responsibility, and how I was just a leech sucking the family dry.
Dr. Balis: It sounds like your sister was angry.
Ms. Lough: And I said, "Fuck you, fat ass!" and hung up the phone. My diplomatic skills have never been finer.
Dr. Balis: You obviously have a great deal of negative emotion towards both your father and your sister.
Ms. Lough: They're carbon copies of each other. My mother and Linda used to tell me, "You're just like your father." But it's Linda who resembles him the most. I'm much more quiet and passive, like my mother, except when I'm screaming obscenities into the telephone. My sister is loud and abrasive and critical, like my father. She drinks, too.
Dr. Balis: You mentioned previously that your father was abusive and an alcoholic.
Ms. Lough: Yeah. He doesn't deserve to live. He's just a waste of space sucking up resources.
Dr. Balis: Was your father abusive towards your sister and mother as well?
Ms. Lough: He used to hit my mother and me but not Linda. Linda was a frail and sickly child. She was really small for her age. My parents always gave her preferential treatment; she never had to do chores, or get good grades, or do any of those things. I don't think they ever hit her. They used to hit me when she had done something wrong, because it was my responsibility to look after her.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. I remember in previous sessions it made you very uncomfortable to talk about your father. How do you feel discussing him now?
Ms. Lough: Angry. I get so angry I can't stand it. I'm glad I don't own a gun, or I'd put a bullet through his head. That must sound pretty sick.
Dr. Balis: It's quite normal for victims of abuse to experience feelings of rage towards their abusors.
Ms. Lough: I wish I could forget what he did to me. I still have nightmares about it. Sometimes, the memories come back, and they're so intense. And I'm full of anger and hate, and there's nothing I can do about it. I get these flashbacks out of the blue, out of nowhere--like when I'm formatting a spreadsheet at work--everything will be just fine, and then bam! Nothing in particular seems to trigger them.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: Maybe if he died, they would go away.
Dr. Balis: Could you describe the flashbacks?
Ms. Lough: No. I already told you I don't like to talk about it.
Dr. Balis: Is it very upsetting for you to discuss it?
Ms. Lough: I don't see the point. You're acting like you don't believe me, like I'm just crying victim to get attention like the guests on the Jerry Springer Show.
Dr. Balis: I believe you, Sharon. And I want to help you with this. I know the memories of your father's abuse are a painful issue for you, but I think it would be worthwhile to explore this area. I realize you've had some bad experiences in the past with other therapists, but I hope that you've grown to trust me enough...
Ms. Lough: My father hit me, you know. He spanked and whipped me when I was bad or, sometimes, for no reason at all. I guess that's not so unconventional. But it wasn't enough for him to beat me physically. He made me do things that were really humiliating. And he loved to tell me over and over again that he was ashamed to have me for a daughter, that I was a mistake and was never meant to be born, that he wished he'd never had me, that I was worthless, and that I'd ruined his life because he had to get married because of me.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Lough: Is that enough? Do you need to know all the gory details?
Dr. Balis: You only need to tell me what you feel comfortable with.
Ms. Lough: I reached puberty early, and he gave me a really bad time.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Ms. Lough: I don't want to say it. You know what I mean.
Dr. Balis: Did your father abuse you sexually?
Ms. Lough: No! Of course not! That's disgusting! I can't believe you said that.
Dr. Balis: All right, Sharon. Calm down.
Ms. Lough: The funny thing is that I'm sure this is the reason why I got interested in S&M.
Dr. Balis: That's quite common as well. Adults who were abused as children frequently reenact the abuse either as victims or as perpetrators.
Ms. Lough: But that doesn't make any sense. Why would I return to something that was so horrible, something I wanted so much to forget?
Dr. Balis: Survivors of childhood abuse learn to substitute pain, rejection, and insecurity for love and affection. They've been conditioned to do so by their perpetrators, especially if those perpetrators are their parents. People return to what is familiar. And if a person has a history of abuse, physical and emotional pain would seem normal to that person. Have you had relationships with abusive men?
Ms. Lough: Yeah. I'm an asshole-magnet--meaning I attract men who are jerks. I don't know, I take that back. I do know why. But I'm powerless to change it.
Dr. Balis: What makes you say that?
Ms. Lough: It's written in the stars, you know? It's part of my genetic code. Some people are destined to be losers and victims.
Dr. Balis: I think by coming here, you show that you're willing to overcome what you perceive as your destiny. You want to stop being a victim, you want to put a stop to your self-destructive behaviors.
Ms. Lough: I think it's hopeless. I'm thirty now. I'm all washed up.
Dr. Balis: Happy birthday. I hardly think your life is over at 30.
Ms. Lough: I'm a fossil. I'm old and decrepit. An old geezer. I hate being old. Let's talk about something else.
Dr. Balis: How are things at home?
Ms. Lough: Charlotte and Rob are not on good terms. They took me out for my birthday, and it went badly. They haven't talked much to each other since.
Dr. Balis: What happened?
Ms. Lough: Charlotte wanted to try this new Japanese restaurant. She read about it in the pink section of the Chronicle and heard it was a trendy new eatery. Of course, there was a long line; we waited nearly an hour before we got a table. When we finally sat down, we were crammed in a tiny space. And Charlotte's not exactly petite. Then Rob knocked over his cup of tea, and Charlotte started snapping at him. She was in a really foul mood and was argumentative and irritable.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: And since I'm a half-Jap, she wanted me to impress the waitress by ordering in Japanese. The waitress looked Americanized enough to me. I told Charlotte I was a little rusty, and she launched into a tirade--how valuable knowing a foreign language could be, how I could broaden my career opportunities and even work overseas, and blah blah blah. I was relieved when the food came, so Charlotte could stuff her face and leave me alone. You know how to eat sushi, don't you?
Dr. Balis: Sure.
Ms. Lough: I've never seen San Franciscans so clumsy with Japanese food. Charlotte picked up pieces of futomaki with her fingers, for Christ sake! And she took pickled ginger and placed it on top of the futomaki--like she was putting cheese on a cracker--and then slopped soy sauce all over it and ate it that way! She couldn't stuff that whole mess into her gaping maw, so she tried to eat it in bites and got rice all over the table. It was disgusting.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. I think you might be over reacting a bit to her...
Ms. Lough: When the miso soup came, Charlotte asked for a spoon. A spoon! She pantomimed spooning soup in to her mouth for the waitress, while saying loudly, "You know, spoon!" That was pretty condescending; the waitress' English was just fine. Charlotte must subscribe to the belief that Asians can understand English only if it is spoken loudly and slowly and with appropriate hand gestures. I don't know why it bothered me so much. I was embarrassed, I guess.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Lough: Anyway, Charlotte nagged and complained throughout dinner. She sent back her food twice--she's a picky eater. And she complained all the way home. When we got home, I went to my room, while she started on Rob. He's usually pretty quiet, but after a while, he started yelling back. I couldn't hear much, but I heard my name come up a few times. I heard a door slam when Charlotte left.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lough: Rob didn't mention it the next day. He gave me a new coat, though. He said it was from him and Charlotte for my birthday. It was really nice--a London Fog. I haven't had a new coat in years.
Dr. Balis: How are you and Rob getting along?
Ms. Lough: We're both painfully shy, antisocial, and neurotic--we get along fine.
Dr. Balis: I see. You've talked about some difficult subjects today. How do you feel now?
Ms. Lough: I'm all right. I feel a little weird about it. It still bothers me, kind of...
Dr. Balis: What bothers you?
Ms. Lough: That you know so much. That you might tell the people that I work with about my sordid past.
Dr. Balis: You know that won't happen
Ms. Lough: Yeah, well...I'm a little paranoid.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad that you were willing to take this step, Sharon. It shows that you're making progress.
Ms. Lough: Yeah, but I'm still a loser--a thirty-year-old loser.
Dr. Balis: I don't agree with your self-assessment. In my professional opinion, it's a little too soon to diagnose yourself as a "loser," even if you've reached the ripe old age of thirty. However, I understand that there are issues you want to work on--that's what brought you to therapy. Change doesn't take place immediately. Growth is a gradual process.
Ms. Lough: Okay, Doctor. See you next week.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: Bye.
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