In treatment -- Mia, week 4

Mia comes in and heads to the kitchen because she wants breakfast. Paul tells her no because he doesn't have sessions in there. Paul says he doesn't understand why she can't eat in the other room as she sits down at the table and then asks for a napkin.

She continues talking about her weekend. Paul tells her she is speaking rapidly but she does not slow down. He gives in and half sits on a stool against the wall. She tells him about having spent the night with a musician. Paul asks if it is her intention to shock him, as she continues to describe the sexual acrobatics with the musician. She compares that guy twice to Bennett. She tells Paul that that evening she was his favorite and ten reveals that the next night she was with a cop. She describes him as taking charge and she liked that. She wants Paul to ask for details. Another comparison to Bennett. She disdainfully describes how she had to tell him what to do. Paul suggests they move into the other room and she seductively asks if he wants her on the couch.

Paul tries to explore with her what triggered the weekend and being with 2 different men. She says Bennett asked her to have lunch with him and told her that he was leaving his wife for his girlfriend, who is the receptionist that she spoke disdainfully the previous week. Mia cannot acknowledge that she is hurt by Bennett's betrayal. 

Paul asks if she said goodbye before leaving the men. She uses it as a reason to get angry with Paul, assuming he is angry at and disapproving of her. She wants him to tell her not to behave that way. So Paul says please don't do that again because it is dangerous and she will get hurt. For a moment she softens and then gets annoyed again. Paul suggests the musician was a symbol for the opportunity she lost when she left the drummer 20 years earlier. Paul asks how the cop made her feel and she says safe. She found out when the cop wouldn't drive her home that he was married.

Paul tells her that when she has sex with a married man, he has secrets with her, secrets from his wife. He points out the similarity to her taking her breakfast into his kitchen so she could feel different from his other patients, special. Paul reminds her that she told him about having coffee with her father at his store, that it was secret from her mother. Then she tells him that her father came over and had brunch with her. She reveals he father seemed not himself -- that he didn't notice her. And she took care of him -- like a parent, Paul observes. And she wants her father to take care of her and love her. She says she can't find anyone as good as her father. Paul reminds her that her father is married to her mother and asks if she thinks that has anything to do with her relationships with married men. 

Paul says he thinks there is something about the relationship with her father is not altogether comfortable and compares it to her going into the kitchen -- how her speech was rapid and she knocked over the milk. He asks her if maybe she is not entirely comfortable being alone with her father, is she his? She becomes very uncomfortable and says he made her  feel bad. She says she does not want to feel like that, to have this be her life. 

Nicely done, Paul! I was concerned at the beginning when Paul allowed Mia to stay in the kitchen and sat down to talk with her there. But he did an excellent job of  letting her go on and then later interpret the behavior in a way that registered.

As I watched this session I thought about ways that Mia would behave differently with a woman therapist. Her behavior with Paul has been at least in part a replication of the pattern she learned with her father. This compulsion to repeat this pattern -- to be made to feel special by a man and to hold secrets with him -- is the only way she knows how to relate to men. Even letting him know last week that she knows about Laura is a repetition because now she and Paul have a secret from Laura, whom she assumes he had an affair with.

With a woman therapist she would more likely be believing the therapist resented her and was envious of her. Of course, we can't know this for certain, but she almost certainly would not be doing what she attempts with Paul.

From Paul's patience with her limit testing, we came to learn how sad she is really -- that she wants a different life, to have a family and the things she always dreamed of but she is afraid she cannot have them. What she knows how  to have are illicit relationships with married men, relationships in which she and the husband share a secret hidden from the wife. But these relationships never give her what she wants. 

When Mia was in the kitchen, Paul noted her rapid speech. And she knocked over the milk and attempted to make a joke of it. Both are strong indicators of her anxiety. She is aware of having transgressed and is waiting for Paul to make her behave, to be  the firm daddy with her. Her references to Bennett are filled with contempt about his lack of sexual prowess and weakness -- which serve as a handy cover for her pain at having been discarded by him, not for his wife but for the receptionist she sees as less than she is. When Paul manages to connect this behavior with how things were with her father, he manages to penetrate her defenses enough for her to allow herself to be vulnerable, at least briefly, and admit to what she wants.

In the universe of the very tight frame, Paul would not allow her into the kitchen, but then again, he would not have his office in his home. And remember he left the door to the kitchen ajar last week thus inviting her to see into the private area of his home. Paul's unconscious is at work in this also.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.