In Treatment -- Oliver, week 4

Oliver and his mother are at the door. Bess tells Paul that they were kicked out of their apartment and then they laugh and tell him she is going on vacation. Luke has not arrived, but Bess says he will be there to pick up Oliver.

Bess talks with Paul alone first. She tells Paul that after the last session, she and Luke took Oliver out to dinner and explained about the adoption. She says that since then everything is fine. Bess is going on vacation with her friend, which she can do because Oliver is doing so well. Paul says he doesn't think that Oliver has changed as much as she believes, that it would be unusual for his problems to clear up so quickly. Paul tells her that Oliver changed his behavior so that Bess and Luke won't see him as their problem. Bess interprets this to mean that she cannot go away without Oliver. Paul says he isn't saying that.

Why now?, Paul asks. And Bess attributes it to Luke having a girlfriend. She believes she has to create a new life, that she has never lived by herself. Paul asks how she and Luke got together.

Bess says she got pregnant the last semester of college and moved in with Luke. They got married.  She was crazy about him and wanted to marry him. Her parents were furious until Oliver was born and then they had eyes only for him. For the first few years, they saw little of each other -- Luke was working and Bess took care of Oliver and then she went back to school. But she couldn't leave home behind and felt meaningless.  So she dropped out. She has never worked and now has to do so. Paul suggests this is a opportunity to reconnect with the self she left behind. Again she accuses Paul of telling her she is not taking good care of Oliver.  She looks out the window and sees her friend has arrived. She looks for assurance that Oliver will be fine while she is gone. Bess anxiously asks Oliver to say he will be all right. Oliver looks uncomfortable. She leaves.

Oliver sits on the window seat and looks a bit glum. Paul asks how he is and he says fine. Oliver tells Paul he made  new house for the turtle. He keeps looking out the window. Paul asks if he is worried about her going away. Oliver denies any sleep issues. Oliver seems a bit testy and evasive.

Paul reminds him about the bully he told him about a couple of weeks ago. Oliver tells him about Maya who is his friend. Last week the bully told everyone Oliver was in love with her but she won't go out with him because he is fat. Oliver tells Paul he won't stay fat because he stopped eating. Paul asks him how he is making it through the day without any food. Paul tells him he needs some help to know how to lose weight. Oliver tells him he doesn't need help and he doesn't want to talk about it.

They move to the main part of the room. Paul tells him he knows they told him about the adoption. Oliver had expected that they would tell him he was adopted because he doesn't look  like them. His parents gave the baby away because they were fighting and he thinks they might give him away if he does not behave. He wishes he was adopted. Paul tells him he used to feel like that when he was a kid, which Oliver is glad to hear. He wishes they would give him away because all they do is fight and he believes they are not going to stop. Paul asks where he would go and he says maybe he could go where they would want him. Oliver notices his father should be there. Paul offers to call but Oliver says he can do it. As he thought, it goes to voice mail. Paul tells him he can hang out here if he likes because his next appointment cancelled. He offers to play blackjack with him. Oliver says he is starving. Paul asks if he would like a sandwich and they go into the kitchen. Oliver looks around as he enters the kitchen. Oliver asks for ham and swiss cheese with mustard. Oliver asks where the doors in the kitchen lead. He asks if Paul's son drew the picture on the refrigerator and if it is the house where he lives. He enjoys the sandwich. Paul asks if he is still hungry and he nods.


This session is quiet, soft. In the beginning with Bess, we begin to get the picture of the family Oliver is a part of. Two parents thrown together by an accidental pregnancy who married young, not really knowing themselves, much less each other and then distracting themselves with the business of making a life. Bess mentions in passing that once her parents saw Oliver they forgot all about her for him -- suggesting that she feels displaced with her own parents by her child. And we can guess that at least some of Bess's persistent anxiety about Oliver comes as a result of her ambivalence about having had him in the first place. For it is Oliver who caused her to derail her life and get married and end up where she is now, uncertain about how to create an independent life for herself.

Oliver feels he is not wanted by his parents, at least unconsciously, and he is at least partially correct. It can happen with children who are unplanned and not altogether wanted that they pick up on the ambivalence of their parents and see themselves and their existence as the source of their parents dissatisfactions with their lives. And, in a way, they are correct but it is not their responsibility. So we see Oliver wishing his parents would give him away to parents who would want him -- so both he and his parents would be happy.

Luke shows his own ambivalence by being late to pick up Oliver, and on some level confirming what Oliver feels. His parent both seem to be trying to both cling to and get away from their child as an outgrowth of their ambivalence and their conflicted relationship.

So why is it okay for Paul to invite Oliver into his kitchen and feed him? Yes, it is a boundary violation, but the boundaries with kids on things like this are not as tight as they are with adults. Oliver has not eaten so he is in fact hungry, though the hunger e has is emotional as well as physical. And he has had a tough time talking with Paul this session. So offering to make him a sandwich allows Paul to show Oliver he can really hear him and meet him where he needs to be met.  Oliver has a chance to see that Paul does know about being away from his kid so he just might understand how it is for Oliver. In the last scene, Oliver is exploring Paul, checking him out as he hasn't really so far. The sandwich is good and he enjoys it but, as he tells Paul when he asks, he is still hungry. And Paul understands.

It is a pleasure to watch Paul patiently stay with Oliver in this session.


© Cheryl Fuller, 2016. All  rights reserved.