In Treatment -- Alex, week 6

We open today with Paul carrying in the mail. Kate remarks that he never gets the mail and she asks if he is expecting a love letter. She tells him she saw Laura. Kate says she thought Laura quit therapy. Paul says she did but that she had called and asked to see him because her father was in the hospital. Kate angrily tells him he should have told her she was back. Paul says all she had to do was ask. She asks if he thinks he deserves her because of what she, Kate did to him. Then the time for the next patient arrives and she says he is saved by the bell again.

Alex arrives. Paul tells him he is glad he came back. Alex says it went against all of his instincts. Paul ask what were his instincts. First was to come back and beat up Paul and then he said he fell back on something he learned in the Navy, think like the enemy. Alex says he believes Paul is threatened by him, that he thinks of him as a murderer.

Paul asks if there is something people see in him that they react to. Alex says he believes Paul wanted to strangle him  as soon as he came in the door and finally he had a chance to try last week. Paul says Alex treated Paul as he did in order to get the response he expects. Alex denies that it was important to him.

Alex demands an apology which Paul gives. He tells Alex he was very offended by what Alex said. Alex tries to claim the I-can-say-anything card. Paul says that Alex wanted to hurt him and he was hurt. Alex invaded Paul's privacy, spoke of his family disrespectfully. Alex reacts by saying he guesses therapy is over. And that if he were Paul he would have kicked himself out long ago. Paul says that isn't going to happen.

Then Alex remembers a dream. He is on the ground, on a road to the airport in Iraq. He sees a MIG being followed by an American fighter and he wonders why the American isn't firing. It drives him crazy that the American isn't completing the mission. Then they both fly away.

Who is the pilot, asks Paul. Alex says maybe it's him. Maybe he didn't shoot because the other pilot isn't dangerous. Paul presses for who the other pilot is, who is the enemy. Alex says maybe it's his father. Paul suggests that Alex is the other pilot also, which Alex grabs and starts to respond to. He says he sees the other pilot as a coward because he runs away, where he, Alex, wants t kill him, wants to put a missile up his rear. Then Alex pauses and says, "Say it, say I am a faggot" and says his father thought that. Alex looks stricken, as he grasps his own dream. He says it fits, it all fits. 

He talks about having seen his wife over the weekend and she wanted to get back together. And he tells her he can't. He tells Paul he was going to spend the time with his gay friends. Paul asks why and he says he likes their humor and he likes being around them. Paul asks if Alex envies his out friends for being so open? He says he likes that they don't demand anything of him. Then he tells Paul they watched some gay porn and his friend told him he hadn't lived until he had had anal sex.

Alex looks at the boats Paul has on his shelves and asks what they mean about him.

He says his father was a lifetime Democrat and he knew when he went off to the Navy and became a pilot that would bother his father. Paul says he keeps doing things that bother his father, that he never does things for himself and doesn't know what he wants.

Paul asks if he has ever had a homosexual fantasy.  He denies it. Alex characterizes as gay talking about feelings, being in therapy. Paul asks how he gets along with his father.

Alex talks about having gone to an elite private school and on the weekend his father took him into the city to see the difference between what he had and how others lived. One weekend his father was talking to someone and he went out to play basketball and another kid beat him up and stole his shoes. He went to tell his father who slapped him and made him walk around barefoot the rest of the day. Paul asks how old he was. Alex says he was 11. The next weekend his father took him to a gym where the instructor told him he would learn to fight. And for four days a week he went and learned to fight because he was not going to let that happen again. And the next time a kid came after him, he beat him to a pulp. Alex, now upset, says  you have to control your fear to control your life. He gets up and goes outside and starts to cry. Paul remains in his seat. Alex looks around to see if Paul is there. He returns to the office and closes the door again.

Paul asks if he is all right. Alex says he doesn't think he can do this, therapy. That he needs a break, it is too much for him. He says it isn't leading anywhere. Paul asks where he wants it to lead. And he says someplace where he isn't ashamed of himself. He misses flying, because he can focus on the mission and it is quiet, Paul asks if it is possible to get that feeling on the ground. Alex says he doesn't know.

Alex says he got a call from his wing commander to see how he is doing, if he is ready to return. That there are all sorts of tests first and he asks if Paul thinks he is ready. Paul says no, he isn't. Alex says maybe he should go back to his wife because his gay friends don't understand the Navy and the Navy doesn't understand them. Paul suggests that what came up today is important and they should look further. Alex says he is going to call to schedule some of the tests and will be in touch. He leaves.

I was thinking as I watched this session if I could have tolerated the return of a patient who had so grossly violated my privacy. For me, that feeling of anger and violation would be very much in the room and needing to be dealt with along with the need to apologize to Alex for having acted out the anger. One way of looking at forgiveness is that it gives future to a relationship, but for that to happen, for the transgression to be able to be put into the past, there must be not only an apology but a real recognition of what was done and how that injured the person it was done to. Alex wants Paul's apology, feels entitled to it -- and he is because acting out that way is not acceptable -- but he wants it without having to deal with his own behavior, his intent to hurt and anger Paul and that what he did in investigating Paul was a serious breach of trust.

Now, Paul did apologize but that transaction -- the dealing with what happened between them the previous week -- is never completed. Once Paul tells him that he is not going to kick him out of therapy, as Alex expects him to do, wants him to do, Alex goes on and tells his dream. And in the dream, the American pilot does not complete his mission. Alex doesn't succeed in his mission to destroy Paul nor does Paul destroy Alex, take him out. Both Paul and Alex though latch on to the homosexual imagery they see in the dream and they turn away from their relationship. Where they do go with it is important, but they leave what seems more immediate, their relationship and how the dream relates to it, untouched. The dream as it relates to their relationship remains unexplored. And in my mind that is perhaps the more important piece of it. I wonder if the homosexual theme, because it is more dramatic, grabs both of them because it is less threatening than dealing with their relationship and what has happened between them.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.