"It's not about you, Paul. They're human beings. They're struggling with profound problems. If only you could find courage to sit with the fact that what we do is hard, and sometimes it makes you feel like an idiot. It's a humbling profession, and if you lack anything as a therapist, it's humility." -Gina
This week is when all the chickens have come home to roost for Paul, when he hits the wall of not being able to make anyone better or happier or be in less pain. Paul would do well to heed what Gina said to him or as Jung put it:
"The principle aim of psychotherapy is not to transport one to an impossible state of happiness, but to help (the client) acquire steadfastness and patience in the face of suffering. " (Jung, CW, V. 16, p.81)
This is not a message most people want to hear. It is tough to accept that suffering is part of life, that it is meaningful and unavoidable. It is hard for patients and often hard for therapists as well to stay with what is painful, to resist the urge to dart away into what is more comfortable, soothing, or easy. This way of understanding therapy also flies in the face of a feel-good orientation which seems to dominate American culture. We want to medicate, meditate or otherwise eliminate suffering, not face into it, sit in it and explore its meaning.
Paul is on the phone talking with someone about his father's estate. Every place he calls puts him on hold and he becomes frustrated and throws his phone which starts to ring just as Gina comes to the door.
Paul tells Gina that he is trying to get his father's estate settled but he keeps being put on hold. Paul asks if Gina will proofread a letter he wrote -- then tells her about meeting with Alex's father. She is astonished that Paul wrote the letter. Paul says his attorney says the letter will end the lawsuit and the insurance will pay everything. Otherwise it could go to court and he will lose because according to the lawyer, everyone hates therapists. Gina expresses skepticism about the lawyer. Paul tells her he thinks he is not helping anyone anyway and he wants to send the letter and find something else to do. Gina corrects him and says he does more than just listened to. Paul says they want love, a parent, things he can't give them.
Gina asks if what he wants to do is make people happy. He says absolutely yes, he does. He says he will become a life coach and give advice. Gina says to Paul that if Mia, as an example, were able to accept love, she wouldn't be coming to him. Paul attacks Gina for not being willing to accept responsibility for her patients. She says that doing what he says makes patients dependent on therapists and unable to decide for themselves.
Walter is in the waiting room. He has a hospital ID band on and his daughter is with him. He tells her she is not going in with him. Paul comes to the door to greet them.
Walter tells Paul it is good ti get out. He says his wife and Natalie have taken him out for lunch. His wife cried over lunch. He is humiliated that he has to have his daughter or wife with him to leave. Paul says it is because he is a danger to himself. Walter does not like the hospital -- the staff is not very bright, he thinks, not like Paul. He says the staff talks to him like he is a child. Paul says he feels patronized and Walter uses it as another occasion to compliment Paul. But Paul points out that in fact Walter seems annoyed by him and does not like how he works. Paul asks why he is sucking up to him.
Walter's face gets hard. Then he shows Paul a potholder he made in OT. He speaks scornfully of the whole program -- group therapy and what the other patients say. He says he cannot relate to them. He does not believe that he belongs with those people. Paul suggests he is angry that Paul couldn't save him from the depression he fell into. So walter counters by telling him that one of the psychiatrists said Paul was reckless and opened Pandora's box at the wrong time. Walter then bullshits about how highly he thinks of Paul. And finally he says he wants out of the hospital. He pleads with Paul to call them and tell him he can go home. Paul says first they need to talk, that he has to become honest with him.
Bess and Oliver are in the waiting room. Luke arrives. He and Bess trade barbs. Paul invites them in but Luke says he and Bess need to talk with him first. Oliver is not happy about this.
Luke and Bess sit far from each other. Luke reports that Bess called and told him she is moving upstate. Bess says she got a job offer. She has an opportunity to adjunct at Bard College but did not tell Luke until she made all the arrangements. Paul confronts Bess with the problem of not having talked with Luke about it. He asks her why this job is so important to her. She says it is a chance to get an inside track on getting a fellowship to complete her degree. Paul says it is a huge change for Oliver. Luke suspects she wants full custody of Oliver but Bess wants him to stay in the city and live with Luke. Bess thinks the best plan is for Oliver to live with Luke until June and then they can see where to go from there. Paul says this is a huge change from not wanting Oliver to stay one night with Luke to wanting him to live with him. Bess tries to make Oliver's best interests her reason. Luke says it is impossible for him to take him on full time because they can't get along. They are now fighting over who has to take care of Oliver. Paul points out that neither of them wants to take care of Oliver right now. They fall silent. He tells them they have to figure out a way to look after their son. Paul reiterates that they need to find a compromise. Luke suggests Oliver stay with Bess during the week and take the train to the city weekends. Bess thinks he is too young to go on the train by himself. Paul tells them it is potentially harmful to Oliver to uproot him. Paul keeps pushing them to think about it but Bess and Luke want to tell Oliver right now, They refuse to take time to think it through.
April is on the far end of the couch. She is angry. Paul says he is afraid that what happened last week changed their relationship. April says they have no relationship. She says she has dumped people for less. Paul suggests she wanted to tell him in person. She is furious with him. Paul says he had to tell her mother because she was delirious. She was taken to the ER with a very high fever. He tells her if it happened again he would do the same thing. She tells him she was leaving therapy.
Paul tells her he did not think it was right to leave her there alone on the brink of death. April says he does not understand what he was to her. Then she asks what her mother said to him when he called. He tells her that her mother was surprised because she didn't know April was seeing anyone. She would meet him but she did come to the hospital. He says he recognized her because they look alike. Paul tells her what he told her mother. April asks if she cried or was angry. Paul says not at all. That she had a hard time believing April would keep something like that from her. They spoke for just a few minutes because she wanted to see April.
Paul opens the door to find Mia in the waiting room. She says it is over, that she is no longer pregnant.
She says she isn't feeling well and she called in sick. She complains of being tired and not being up for the whole session. She does not want to move into the office, preferring to remain on the couch in the waiting room. Paul offers to fix her tea but she declines.
She tells Paul she started bleeding Friday and it didn't stop. Paul asks how she is emotionally. She says she's numb. That she had felt different for a little while, that she had a purpose. Being a mother answered all the questions about her life. Paul suggests there are other ways to have a child if she wants one but she rejects adoption or artificial insemination. She says she never found the right man or she pushed him away and now she has no man and no child.
Paul asks if she called anyone. That she could have called him. She says she spoke to her mother. Paul again suggest they move into the office. She follows him. Paul asks about the conversation with her mother who called when she did not attend her niece's piano recital. She had been paying for the piano lessons. Paul suggests she wanted to be certain music was not taken from them as it had been from her. When she didn't answer her mother's call, she came over and asked if she had the flu. She cried when her mother asked and her mother says maybe that's nature's way. Her mother attempted to make a consolation toast and said she was proud of her, because she is independent and has a career. She told her mother that was odd given that she always accused Mia that she had ruined her modeling career. Her mother told her she never actually had much of a career, that she lost her mind not her looks when Mia was born. She told Mia she stayed in her room because she was afraid she would kill herself and didn't want to do that to her. Her father moved into the living room when this happened but got no help for her. Paul suggests she had no mothering for a year. Mia said her mother told her when she came out of it she had a rush of feeling and wanted to be close to her but Mia was close with her father and didn't want her. And her father couldn't forgive his wife.