Monday, February 04, 2008

In Treatment: Episode Number 6......the sub-blog


What is a "sub-blog"? My husband says he invented the term. And Laura, the patient with the erotic transference who sat in the dark for 4 hours waiting for her appointment in a little black dress, will return.

Episode 6 starts with a clogged toilet, an irritable psychotherapist who can't unclog it, an annoyed wife who doesn't get why the patients can use a different bathroom. Bathrooms play a bigger role in this show then they do in life as I know it.

Laura announces she's getting married, she talks about wanting to invite Paul to the wedding, he's a bit uneasy, "a kill joy...that congratulations was a bit labored."

Paul talks about diving, coming to the surface to quickly. Laura is a certified diver, she's happy they have an interest in common. "I don't want a depressing session, I want a happy session, show a little support."

Laura talks about a visit to her fiance's ex-girlfriend's house, her baby, how she breastfeeds the baby and how the ex-girlfriend is now a domesticated animal. Laura talks about sex, she is provocative, she flirts with Paul asking him about post-marital sex, he is clearly uncomfortable.

"You didn't answer my question, Laura. Where did this "yes" come from." Paul wants to know why she's agreed to get married.

"It's because you said "no" to me."

"We're still talking about the reality that I'm in love with you, Paul." She's insulted when he talks about fantasies.

Another uncomfortable session. Roy, Roy, please email me a Xanax. I feel for Paul, for the corner he gets painted into, for the pressure of Laura's flirtation, for his difficulty in not squirming.

Paul takes Laura back to the summer she spent in San Diego when she was 15 after her mother died. She stayed with a couple, the man was a life raft, Laura wanted him to adopt her. "Perhaps I'm an alternative to everything that Andrew represents."

Laura has to pee. The toilet is clogged, Laura wants to use another bathroom in the house. "I prefer my patients to use this bathroom." She is annoyed. She stands next to a bookshelf with a video on it labeled in marker "Wedding."

"Look, I know when I turn somebody on. The first time I saw you I thought you looked like a dead man, I wanted to take your heart in my hands and pump life into it....Just my being here has brought you back to life....and you deny it. I know it happened and you know it happened."

Paul responds...oh so cliche..."I think we're out of time, why don't we talk about this next week when you come back."

"Just tell me, I think you owe it to me, do you want me."
"No."
Oh, but we know he means Yes.
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Okay, so someone out there is going to ask if this happens in real life. Roy, you have some of Paul's unflappability, his gentle patience that's hard to ruffle: Do your patients announce their love for you? Never mind any patient, Laura is hot, she's a doctor, she's smart and sexy and she scuba dives. She's raw and longing, injured from adolescence, someone I imagine a man might want to repair.

I've never had the male equivalent of Laura come on to me like this. Kind words, a general sense of (often mutual) affection or respect or fondness, but no patient has ever come on with a strong and crass "I want to sleep with you." And if I get through my career without such an event, it will be just fine. Of course, I'm not as hot as Gabriel Byrne.

Paul's office is in his house, it's cluttered with his stuff, he's not a blank screen. He wears a wedding ring. Some psychiatrists don't wear wedding rings-- I've only known of men who don't, yet I've never met a married female psychiatrist who doesn't wear a ring. And maybe it's only been psychoanalysts who don't wear rings, who don't want to open the session to questions about their personal life. If you ask me, it's a dumb idea-- the presence of the ring removes an element of possibility from most people's realities. Laura doesn't care about Paul's marriage and, in a way, her high pressured appeal for love and sex is sociopathic and narcissistic. The whole bathroom thing is weird, but we knew it was coming from the tension between Paul and his wife and his edginess right from the start about what bathroom his patients would use. Laura is on to something when she talks about how Paul doesn't want her to see his wife or his wife to see Laura.

The reality is that male psychotherapists get into trouble with sexual boundaries much more often then women. Perhaps it's simply because more psychiatric patients are women, maybe it's because there are women like Laura who are so seductive, maybe it's because men are more susceptible to....oh my, I'm going to get myself in trouble here.

So a little less plot synopsis, a little more commentary. How'm I doing?