In Treatment -- Laura, week 4

This week we first see Laura with Alex as he kisses her -- but then we see that the scene is in Paul's imagination, as Laura speaks his name twice.

Laura is describing her encounter with Alex -- she says he was tentative and did everything she did. She seems to be mocking him a bit -- Alex is weak because he isn't aggressive? Her demeanor is seductive, teasing Paul with the information.

Laura asserts that Alex doesn't like sex, that it was as if it were an assignment for him. (And I think about Alex talking about spending the weekend with his gay friend and wonder.) Laura says she brought herself to orgasm when Alex returned from the bathroom using him by riding his thigh. And then she says she felt terribly sad for him. She expected a sad orgasm but said she was surprised by its intensity and she thought Paul would be proud of her, for connecting with herself.

Paul confronts her with the fact that she began a relationship with his patient and his suspicion that she was getting back at him. She tries to deflect that but he points out that she told him she was thinking about Paul when she was with the man in the bathroom, and that was the session in which she told him she loved him. Paul suggests her sadness was because she was not with the man she wanted to be with. And we see a sadistic element in her telling him about it.

Laura says she is tired. That when Alex left, she couldn't sleep and she had a craving for cheesecake, like the kind her mother used to make. She says when her mother started chemo, she stopped baking. She tells of wandering the halls of her apartment building looking for that smell of cheesecake. She cries. 

Paul asks her why that memory the other night. She says she looked for a recipe but couldn't find one. Then Alex called and told her he had a fantastic time, that in fact Alex will be picking her up after her session. Paul asks about Andrew -- she says they have broken up. Andrew thanked her for telling him, that she had saved him from a long and terrible relationship. Laura is upset but makes an attack on Paul. She claims she and Paul have been together for a year, that their relationship is more intimate than most couples have. Laura argues for the reality of her love for him and that it is not because of the therapy.

Paul asks how she sees him -- you are a perfectionist, You are not at ease with your body, your profession, restless, she says. And that she loves him the way he is.

"And you can fix me," he says, "so then I can fix you."

She says she will be 30 soon and she has hated herself for 30 years. Paul is surprised by this because she has never said so.

She asks if he ever hated himself -- and he tells her that he did when he was a kid and had to care for his mother, because he couldn't make her better.

When she leaves, Alex greets her at the street and they embrace. She looks back and see Paul is watching from the window.

I'm sure that some therapists when watching this episode will jump on the self-disclosure Paul makes at the end, about his mother and his feelings of failure. But I actually think that part's not so bad because it could be a way to link to her feelings about not being able to make her father better, or her mother either for that matter. But, Laura is not interested in anything Paul says that might be of therapeutic value to her because she pulls everything into her love for him.

The question in my mind is how long Paul should attempt to continue with her, given her behavior and his own difficult situation and resultant countertransference. I want him to call Gina and start talking with her -- and listening to her -- about how best to handle this very volatile situation. And if not Gina, then someone whose skill he trusts. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that if Paul can hold the boundary tight, this could be worked through without transferring her to someone else. But I don't see how he can do this without having regular supervision and he has not yet established that with Gina. For now, it is fraught with danger for both Laura and Pal.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.