A patient we don't know is talking to Paul about having sex with a classmate in the law school library. There is a noise outside and when Paul investigates, he finds Oliver in the waiting room an hour and a half early. He claims to have gotten out of school early. Then he says he ran away from school. Paul says he can stay there but he will have to call Luke.
Oliver asks Paul if he is angry with him. Paul asks why he ran away from school. Oliver says he had a bad day. But why did he come to Paul's office? Oliver asks if Paul has ham and Paul offers to fix him a sandwich. Oliver tells him someone put dog shit in his locker. He says when he came to his locker at recess he found it, smeared all over everything in his locker. Paul tells him he's glad he came there to talk about it. Oliver tells Paul that his dad is mad at him too, that they fight all the time. Oliver thinks Luke broke up with Nina and he thinks it is his fault because Luke and Nina fought over Nina saying he needs more rules. Oliver hasn't told his mother about the fights with his dad.
Luke bursts in angry with Oliver for leaving school. Oliver yells that Eric put dog shit in his locker. Paul suggests Oliver wait in the waiting room while he talks with Luke.
Luke is upset that Paul was not available last week because Bess extended her vacation. Oliver is refusing to do his homework. Paul tells him that Oliver feels powerless and so he does those things he can do, like refuse homework. Luke is concerned about junk food Oliver has been sneaking, Paul tells him overeating is not uncommon with kids in his situation. Luke knows about the bullying but he says anyone can see why it happens -- Oliver is fat and smells bad too. Paul says Luke is trying not to feel the pain Oliver is experiencing so he gets angry and frustrated instead.He says Nina has sided with Oliver and not agreeing with him. Nina used to be fun but then started scrutinizing him. Paul says he thinks Luke likes having fun with Oliver but doesn't want to enforce rules and wants the women in his life to be the rules makers and enforcing.
Luke says the second Bess left town, Oliver's behavior changed. His perfect behavior didn't make his parents stop fighting or get back together so now acting out may be an attempt to get his father's attention about how he feels. Paul tells Luke that Oliver sometimes wishes they would give him away as they did the baby they were going to adopt. Luke asks if Oliver loves him, because he didn't love his father. His father's love was conditioned upon excellent behavior and when they did not conform, he withdrew from them. He talks about discovering his father having an affair and his father just screamed at them. The marriage ended then and so did his relationship with his father. He never met Bess or Oliver before he died. Luke says that lately he feels his father is laughing at him. Because he has done everything right and he is in the same position his father was in, losing his son.
Paul brings Oliver back in after telling Luke he has choices and needn't be like his father. Luke says he is sorry Oliver had such a tough day and suggests they get pizza and go to a movie, because Oliver had enough that day and deserves a break.
Again in this session, as in the previous two this week, we have layers of fathers. Present emotionally with Paul and Luke are both Paul and Luke's fathers -- Luke carrying his memories of his dad and fears that he is becoming like him and Paul, aware of his own father and fathering. And we have multiple sons present as well -- Luke, Oliver and Paul are all wounded sons of troubled fathers. This interplay of conscious and unconscious currents in depth treatment, the interplay of issues present for both therapist and patient is a key element in depth psychotherapies. And beautifully displayed here.
Notice that Oliver asks Paul for a sandwich -- on the symbolic level, he trusts that Paul will feed him what he needs, which is to be listened to on an emotional level so that his pain can be known and he can be helped. The ham sandwich is not so important in and of itself. What he is telling Paul is that he wants more of that good nourishment Paul gives him. Which this week Paul provides directly, by understanding Oliver's distress and by helping Luke to be a better dad to Oliver.