Transcript of 4th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Phylis Birch, Monday, September 23, 1996 at 12:00 noon.

Dr. Balis: Phylis, you're your old self again. Please come in.
Ms. Birch: Hello Doctor. Sorry for the surprise last week.
Dr. Balis: Are you talking about Martha or leaving early?
Ms. Birch: Martha, but I take it you were not very happy with me for leaving early.
Dr. Balis: Let's just say that I wouldn't like you to do that again. After all, we are trying to work through some of your problems.
Ms. Birch: I appreciate that. It was simply too tempting.
Dr. Balis: So how was your visit to the local place?
Ms. Birch: Thank you for not asking the name. I'd like to keep that information to myself. Frankly it was a little disappointing. Nobody that I had ever met was there. Even the bartender was new, apparently the woman who used to be there was fired for stealing from the register.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Birch: That's what the new bartender told me.
Dr. Balis: Did you talk about anything else?
Ms. Birch: The weather. You know, nothing in particular. I was more interested in listening to other conversations, or should I say waiting for other conversations to happen.
Dr. Balis: It was rather quiet then?
Ms. Birch: Yes. Then some kids came in and I left. I had to get back to work anyway.
Dr. Balis: Tell me more about Martha. How long has she existed?
Ms. Birch: The name I've used from the very beginning, ever since I started to do the stage make-up. My friend, the one who taught me how to apply it, wanted some inspiration the first time that he made me up--a name that he could work towards. I came up with Martha on the fly and it stuck.
Dr. Balis: What about the persona?
Ms. Birch: That I filled in over time.
Dr. Balis: Have you ever known anyone like her?
Ms. Birch: Not exactly. One of my roommates in college was adopted, and she hired a detective to find her birth mother. The woman turned out to be an alcoholic, not doing much with her life. This woman, whose name I don't remember anymore, was from the mid-west. She had my roommate when she was eighteen and gave her up when my roommate was three years old. She wanted a new chance at life, she told Jessy. That was my roommate's name--Jessy. This woman had a P.O. box that Jessy's parents agreed to write progress reports to, but I guess she fell behind on her payments or something, because the letters started to come back. At least that's what Jessy's parents claimed happened. The woman, the birth mother, didn't want anything to do with Jessy. They met once in a bar, talked for a couple of hours, and as far as I know, never saw or spoke to each other again. Martha is loosely based on this woman's story.
Dr. Balis: I see. Did Jessy ever find her natural father?
Ms. Birch: No. She only found out that his name was Frank.
Dr. Balis: Let's get back to you. Have you thought about talking to Jack about what you've been doing?
Ms. Birch: Well, the crisis seems to have passed for now. I have been more careful about when I go. I try to be less spontaneous and plan in advance instead. That's helped. I've also tried to be more attentive to Jack and to our relationship, and I think that's having a reassuring effect on Jack.
Dr. Balis: And what effect is it having on you?
Ms. Birch: I feel like things are a little more in control now. I'm less anxious.
Dr. Balis: So you plan to continue keeping Martha a secret?
Ms. Birch: I just don't want to upset Jack unless I absolutely have to.
Dr. Balis: Then being secretive is entirely for the benefit of your husband, or are there more reasons?
Ms. Birch: It's mainly for Jack's benefit, but I confess that I like having a secret life.
Dr. Balis: Do you see it as something romantic? Something out of a novel?
Ms. Birch: A little. I sometimes imagine having a biography written about me. That is, if I do something extraordinary in my life that would warrant one. And then I imagine reading it. Up to now, it would be pretty boring.
Dr. Balis: And Martha makes it more interesting?
Ms. Birch: Don't you think so?
Dr. Balis: Perhaps. But then again, I'm a psychiatrist.
Ms. Birch: Yeah, well there's that.
Dr. Balis: Do you really think that's the real reason for the bars and for Martha? To make your life appear more interesting?
Ms. Birch: It's more complicated than that. That alone would be stupid.
Dr. Balis: Not stupid Phylis, but you have to carefully consider whether is is really worth enough to jeopardize your marriage.
Ms. Birch: I repeat, this is not the only reason for my doing any of this.
Dr. Balis: What would you say is another?
Ms. Birch: You're the psychiatrist, maybe you can tell me?
Dr. Balis: I am the psychiatrist, but I think that you have more information on this matter than I.
Ms. Birch: Can't I just like it? Can't I just have a taste for the dark side?
Dr. Balis: Would it be fair to say that through Martha you are exploring your own dark side?
Ms. Birch: Well naturally to some extent I am. But I think of it more as getting a glimpse into other people's lives. People that I otherwise would never get to meet. And it isn't that they are so different from the people I interact with in my daily life as Phylis, it's that they have different problems. Different problems and a different perspective on things. Not necessarily a healthy one, but there is always a logic to it, often a twisted logic. The trick is getting into a mind frame where you can easily follow it, where it starts to make sense. I think I have grown a lot through this experience. When I strip myself of the mind that I am used to and make room for Martha, I am able to sympathize without feeling pity. There's compassion, but it's eye to eye. My having a statistically successful life--marriage, my career--no longer gets in the way of humility. It's funny, I'm even becoming more politically-minded nowadays.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Ms. Birch: Just in terms of issues that I support, and sometimes even speak out on.
Dr. Balis: I see. Have you ever considered the fact that while you adjust your thinking to be more in line with the people that you're meeting, and thus encourage an uninhibited discourse, you are blatantly deceiving them?
Ms. Birch: You have such a way with words.
Dr. Balis: It wasn't meant as an affront.
Ms. Birch: I know. That makes it worse. What I do, I do without malicious intent. Furthermore, I do not believe that I cause harm unintentionally. I simply make myself less threatening in their eyes.
Dr. Balis: Does that include Martha's personal history?
Ms. Birch: Yes it does. When people think that I am worse off, then they are more likely to have a real conversation with me. It's a kind of ice breaker.
Dr. Balis: What reaction do you suppose you would get from your new friends...
Ms. Birch: Acquaintances.
Dr. Balis: Very well, acquaintances--if they were to find out your true identity?
Ms. Birch: First, they never will. Second...what's the point of this? It will never happen.
Dr. Balis: The point is in order for you to able to start reconciling your two disparate faces, you will need to be able to answer such questions to yourself. It will also help you if you ever choose to discuss this matter with Jack, which I would still suggest as a sensible thing for you to do.
Ms. Birch: Perhaps you're right. But I just don't think that I could do it with the results I want.
Dr. Balis: I am quite confident that you can do it, Phylis. However, you would be welcome to bring Jack here in order to tell him in a more controlled environment.
Ms. Birch: It would have to be a complete surprise. He hates therapists.
Dr. Balis: That is entirely up to you.
Ms. Birch: I would want more time or at least not to have to go back to work afterwards. Would it be possible to arrange something in the evening.
Dr. Balis: It might be. You would need to call my office when you know Jack's schedule and then we could choose a suitable day.
Ms. Birch: All right, I'll give you a call in a couple of days.
Dr. Balis: I would like for us to meet at the usual time, 12 noon next week on the 30th of September, regardless of what we schedule with Jack.
Ms. Birch: Okay. I think that I would want to see you in any case.
Dr. Balis: Good. Now what about the homework that I asked you to do?
Ms. Birch: You mean the journal?
Dr. Balis: The journal, some sketches, anything that you elected to do.
Ms. Birch: I'll bring you something next week, I promise.
Dr. Balis: I look forward to seeing it.
Ms. Birch: I guess the session is coming to an end.
Dr. Balis: Yes. Unfortunately we're running out of time.
Ms. Birch: Well thank you Doctor. I definitely have some things to think about.
Dr. Balis: Monday then.
Ms. Birch: Monday. Have a nice week.
Dr. Balis: Thank you Phylis. And you too.
Ms. Birch: Bye.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye.
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