In Treatment -- Laura, week 8

Will Laura be back this week?

Today opens with Paul standing outside a cemetery. There is a funeral. We see people in Navy uniforms. Is it Alex who died? Paul signs a guest book.

Yes, it is Alex's funeral. There are two ebony objects on the casket. Paul introduces himself to Alex's wife and others standing near the casket. We see people we can guess are Alex's gay friends. And Paul's son, Roy.

Paul sits down next to Roy outside the chapel and talks to him. He tries to assure Roy that thinking angry thoughts or crying is okay. Roy says he doesn't want to cry. Paul tells him he doesn't have to be strong. Roy says his father told him he had to be strong, be the man of the house when his father wasn't there. Paul says he understands that but that maybe he and his mother could help each other feel better. Paul tells Roy that he recognizes the chess piece he put on the coffin and Roy says it represents his father's favorite chess move.

Laura comes in. She thanks Paul for calling her. She asks if he is all right and Paul says he hasn't slept well, that he hasn't had a patient in therapy die while in treatment. She urges him to take some time off.

She asks if that was Alex's son that Paul was talking to. Paul says it is hard to see so many people in pain and not be able to help them. Laura say maybe it is easier to help than feel the pain. Paul remarks that his mother is buried in that cemetery. Laura asks is he comes there often and he says no, that they named their daughter after his mother and he can't bear to come and see her name.

Laura says she almost didn't come because she doesn't want to create a problem for Alex's wife. They are walking out and someone gives them directions to the gravesite. He asks if it is he whom he spoke to on the phone and Paul says yes. He introduces himself as Daniel, that Alex was staying with him -- this is one of the gay friends. Daniel says everything he ever thought about Alex got turned on its head eventually.

An older man approaches Paul and asks if he knows him. It is Alex's father. He talks about how terrible it is to pick out a plot for your child. He shows him where it is on the map. He mistakes Laura for Paul's wife. 

Paul and Laura are sitting on a bench outside. Laura remarks how quiet it is and she reminisces about her mother, about liking having her shoelaces tied tight and her sheet tucked tightly. She says she likes the feeling of something holding her in. Paul apologizes for not having introduced her to Alex's father. He says his stepmother used to be mistaken for his wife because she was so much younger than his father. His father was proud that a young beautiful woman was with him. Laura asks how they met and Pal tells her that she was a patient of his father's. He says it was a nightmare and that as a teenager he was always in trouble. He says his father was a really selfish man, always took what he wanted without regard for anyone's feelings.

Laura says Paul should go to the graveside without her. Paul looks surprised. She leaves saying no one knows her anyway. Paul says he knows who she is.

I gather from what was said that Alex died while flying. Was it truly an accident or perhaps the result of his interior conflicts? I think we'll never know.

When Paul remarks that he has never had a patient he was working with die while i treatment, I could understand well his distress. This is not something most of us expect. Relatively few therapists experience the suicide of a patient and most of us see people in good or reasonably good physical health. That and the intimacy of the therapeutic relationship make the death of a patient feel a lot like a death in the family. And it gets complicated by the fact that we cannot reveal our actual relationship with the person who died.

We can see in this episode some of the reasons that Paul is drawn to Laura. She is indeed beautiful and she pays very close attention to him and expresses concern about him. Contrast this with the climate of his relationship with Kate, who is angry and pulling away from him. The quality of the personal interaction today makes a resumption of therapy pretty much impossible. Paul has invited Laura too far into his life and in doing so only fed her fantasies about him. But do note that she is taking care of him, as she did her father, and she is mistaken for his wife, as his beautiful stepmother once was also. So the theme of their fathers hovers over them as they talk.

Did Paul recognize himself as he told Laura about his father? Did he catch a glimpse of himself in the behavior of his father that so enraged him? That remains to be seen.

As much as I like this series for its relative fidelity to the reality of therapy and therapists, I am very much aware in these most recent episodes of events that are more about dramatic impact than they are faithful to the beginning of the series. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.