Be Still My Heart

What was rumored a few weeks ago is becoming a reality — In Treatment Season 4! Uzo Aduba (Emmy® winner for “Mrs. America” and “Orange is the New Black”) will play the lead role of the therapist at the center of the season, Dr. Brooke Lawrence.

Back in 2008 when the series first ran and this site was new, I became a big fan and wrote about each episode as it ran. You can find these posts still by selecting In Treatment above and choosing the season you wish to read about. If you haven’t seen this series, I urge you to do so — it is available on DVD and if you subscribe to HBO Max, is available there. And of course, do read my posts and ask questions and comment — more discussion is welcome.

In my mind, this is the best dramatic presentation of therapy I have seen. Of course the therapy is compacted and made more dramatic for purposes of the drama. But still, it is faithful to the basics.

In sadder news, Daniel Menaker, who wrote my favorite novel about psychoanalysis (this is a genre, you ask??), died this week. His book,The Treatment, which was also made into a movie, is based on his own analysis. The book is funny and moving and well worth the read.

Good News!

Photo of Paul
Photo of Paul

Back in 2008 when Jung at Heart was still pretty new, HBO began running a series about a psychotherapist and his patients. The show was called In Treatment. I loved it from the start and I set upon myself the task of blogging every episode, no small feat given that in the first season, there was a new episode every weeknight. I thought then and still believe that it is the best dramatic representation of therapy done to date. If you want to read what I wrote, just click on the In Treatment link at the top of the page — season by season, al the posts are there.

Friday I ran across this announcement — Big news! HBO plans to reboot the series. You can bet I will be watching and writing about each episode. In the meantime if you have questions or comments about the series or what I wrote about it, please post in the comments here.

Week 4: Frances

hBO Intreatment cast Frances

Paul is outside with Rosie talking about colleges. She drove Max back from Baltimore. She tells him Steve took Max to D.C. on Saturday to see the Calder exhibit. Rosie asks if that is weird for Paul. He says that doesn’t fit with the way Max talks with him about Steve. He asks her what she thinks about their relationship. She thinks they connect over art. Rosie tells Paul Max loves him, he came to live with him.  They hug. She leaves.

Frances has cut her hair, which Paul notices and says is becoming. She says it is becoming for the character. She talks about how she and character are similar — her character is recently widowed, sex starved. Paul asks if that might be why she struggles with her lines, that similarity. Paul recalls she was terrified she would fail last week. Is she still worried about that? Is one of the scenes the ones she wanted him to do with her the scene she was worried about? She says she understands why he kicked her out last week. He says that is not how he remembers it. She says she asked him to read lines with her, it made him uncomfortable and then she felt sorry for him. She says it must be strange treating someone like her, someone famous. He asks her what she feels when she is doing the play. She says she felt disconnected in rehearsal but now she feels present in previews and it lasts through the play and the applause is loud and good.  Paul says that must feel satisfying but she looks sad. He asks what happens between then and now. She says she goes home — the apartment is dark, the  fridge empty and she opens a can of soup. And then she asks if he wants to come to opening night. Paul asks why she would want him want him there. She says he  could see that she is good. He says he knows because he has seen her films. But he has never seen her on stage, she says. He tells her he has to say no. She asks if it is because of a policy. He says it would interfere with the work they are doing in therapy. He asks if she invited Patricia. She says no. And when he asks why, she says she went to see Patricia and apologize for what she did when she was in college. Patricia brushed it off. She says Frances e did her a favor  because she got to live a real life. Seeing the expression on her face, Paul says that hurt,  did you tell her? No she didn’t because Patricia is sick.

Paul asks what Frances thinks of the life she chose? Paul says he thinks she is very invested in how others see her. She says she thought she had a deep connection with her husband at first but she always felt she had to prove herself to him and his friends, that they thought there was no there there. 

Paul asks if she is upset that he won’t come to her play and thanks her for inviting him. Isn’t there someone  else she would like to invite? How about Izzie? Frances sees that as hopeless but Paul tells her that is the way with teenagers, that they will come back. Did that happen to you she asks him. He tells her yes it did, with his daughter. She says she is still reading her daughter’s emails. She knows they have’t had sex yet and she wishes she could tell Izzie to preserve the mystery. She wants to tell her lots of things. The boyfriend saw one of her movies and said she was amazing and Izzie responded that she is amazing. But Frances turns that away.Paul observes that the more applause she gets playing others, the less confidence she has in herself. 

She says wishes her mother could be there, that this is the first time she has been on stage since her mother died. Her mother always went to her performances, even when she was very sick. The last time she saw her mother was right after a premiere her mother came to. Paul says she had told him she went back and forth to the hospital while her mother was sick. Frances says she told herself for so long that’s what she did that she began to believe it. She says she was inept in the hospital, didn’t know what to do for her mother when she was in pain. She ended up throwing up and it got worse after the premiere. Patricia said their mother got worse after the premiere and she thought she blamed her.

Paul says she blames herself. Frances  says she never said goodbye to her mother, she wasn’t there. Paul tells her her mother couldn’t have been disappointed because she didn’t know she wasn’t there. The disappointment comes from herself. And now her sister is dying and she is terrified again. Is she afraid there is no there there as Russell said. Paul tells her she needs to ask herself what is or isn’t there inside, how does she measures her own worth. She smiles wanly and gets a compact out f her purse to repair her makeup. At the door she tells Paul there was someone in the waiting room when she left and she doesn’t want to see anyone. She leaves. 

Then there is a knock. It is Frances — she tells him she got the test results from the genetic test but hasn’t opened them. They can talk about them next week.

The opening tells us again about the triangle involving Paul, Max and Steve. And in this episode we learn more about how the triangles in her life have affected Frances. The issues in Frances’ life are unfolding more slowly than with Jesse or Sunil. This pace feels normal for therapy to me — a kind of slow reveal of where the wounds are rather than dramatic episodes. This week we begin to see more of how sad Frances is and how insecure. And as she reveals more of herself, she seems to become less flirtatious with Paul. Notice that early in the session when Paul asks how she felt when he would not do lines with her, she is a little flippant and says she felt sorry for him and contrast this with her vulnerability at the end when she tells him she doesn’t want to see anyone in the waiting room.

That remark is interesting because we aren’t certain what it means for her. Is she saying she doesn’t want anyone to see her leaving his office, especially when she is upset? Or perhaps does she want the illusion, as many patients do, that she is the only one, that he is there just for her? I suspect both though the second is pretty unconscious for her. She has always been in competition with someone else for love and attention. It was her sister their mother chose to take in bed with her. It was her sister who was with her mother when she died. It is her sister her own daughter is choosing now. As for the first, as Paul says she is quite dependent on the views others have of her and so likely would not want anyone to know she needs a therapist.

I find I have less to say about Frances than about Sunil. In many ways she is a more typical patient than most we have seen in this series. Yes, she is famous, but her issues with aging and facing possible illness and death, with a rejecting teenager feel very familiar. And Paul’s work with her seems spot on. 

Week 4: Jesse

Jesse rummages in his backpack as Paul asks how his week was. He says kind of weird. Then he tells Paul he got a letter from his birth father — Paul has a big sneeze which he says is an allergy. Paul asks when it arrived and Jesse says a few days ago. He says he married his birth mother. They got pregnant when they were 17, broke up and got together again after college and married. He says he wrote on Karen’s behalf because she is depressed that he has not responded to the phone call. He wants Jesse to respond and let them know if he will contact them. And he says he loves Jesse. Jesse is angry and says he thinks they may be assholes. And he may be getting a B in algebra, which he says is a miracle. Paul asks if he studied for the test and he says yes, Roberto helped him. Paul says Jesse must have told him about the suspension. He says Roberto thought it was no big deal. Paul says he thought Jesse was nervous about how he would react but Jesse says he was cool. He told him about Nate and why it happened. Paul gropes for the right term and Jesse mocks him. He says no he did not tell him what Nate was doing. He wants to know why Paul won’t leave it alone and let it be a nice thing that his dad helped him and he got a B.

Paul goes back to the letter. He asks what his father’s name is. Jesse says Kevin. He thinks it is inappropriate for them to contact him and to want in to his life when other people have raised him. He has one set of parents and that is enough. Paul asks if maybe they are seeking some other relationship like friendship. Paul asks if he told his parents about the letter. He says he wrote a response. In his letter he says Karen’s call distressed his parents and he does not want to be in contact with them and asks that they not contact him at his home and he signs it with his full name. He says he took an Adderall to write it and he thinks it came out well. Paul notes it is pretty formal. Jesse says he is smart and wants them to know it. He thinks Paul doesn’t like the letter. 

Paul asks what about the week was weird, besides the letter. Jesse says Marissa was weird. She didn’t get out of bed and when he asked, she said she was sick and asked him to close the door. He and she have not talked at all about Karen’s phone call. Marissa told Roberto and he blew up and said it was inappropriate and he wanted to call the cops. Jesse says he had never seem him that angry. Jesse says he used to try to make Roberto angry when he was younger.  Now Jesse claims to understand why Roberto withdrew a bit from him, that he was overwhelmed with work and family demands. Paul asks him what he feels about Roberto’s response to the letter. Jesse liked it because he feels he cares. Jesse is furious with the birth parents because they haven’t earned a relationship with him. And Roberto and Marissa have earned that. Paul asks if he thinks he was difficult to raise and he says yes, he has ADD and is a slut. Paul asks how did Roberto react to Kevin’s letter — Jesse says he didn’t tell him after the way he reacted to learning about the phone call. Jesse puts his head in his hands. Paul suggests he is feeling a lot of pressure — how is the static and Jesse says it is very loud.  Jesse thinks Kevin is left-handed like he is because of smudge marks on the letter. He shows the letter to Paul. Then he sees how similar the handwriting is on both. He is distressed and asks what he should do with that information. Paul asks how it feels. Jesse asks if Paul thinks Kevin looks like him. Paul says maybe you look like Karen. Paul says he thinks he is still interested in a private relationship with Karen and Kevin but Roberto’s reaction shows he cares about him and so he is caught between them — if he reaches out to the birth parents, he will lose Marissa and Roberto. 

Then he says Paul was wrong about Marissa and the Church. He went into Marissa’s room and saw Marissa in the closet on her knees and praying. Paul says she is scared. That she is afraid he is slipping away from her and she turns to her religion for comfort. Maybe she is afraid he will think she is choosing the Church over him.

Jesse says he can’t believe they married each other. What is their house like? Paul suggests they talk more about the letter next week. And think about he wants to respond to them.  Jesse says okay and that he thinks it will all be okay for some reason. Paul says good and Jesse leaves. Jesse asks him to keep the letters.  He is afraid Marissa would find it in his bag. Jesse leaves.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot of relief about Jesse this week. His bristly defensive anger was far less in evidence and he was able to allow Paul to see some of his vulnerability. It can be very difficult to make empathic connection with teenagers when they get caught in their very real need to assert their independence at the same time that they need to be cared for. Jesse allowed Paul in enough to be able to let down a little and we see the result in how he feels at the end.

What Paul was able to do this week was help Jesse to have a more nuanced attitude toward both sets of parents, to begin to entertain the idea that Marissa and Roberto care about him and their reactions stem from that caring and to begin to consider how he might want to connect with his birth parents. This is a big step from his very either/or thinking of previous weeks and early in the session. And this builds on the relationship Paul has with Jesse which we know began before we met Jesse this season. 

Jesse has yet to face squarely into how much it hurts to now know his birth parents gave him up and then married. that their lives have gone on without him, leaving him to wrestle with how it feels to be abandoned by his parents. Today is the first time we can see that he is attached to Roberto and Marissa, fragile though that attachment may be at times. In instances like this, there are psychic wounds all over the place — the adoptive parents and their inability to have a biological child and their fears about birth parents appearing and snatching their child away from them. The birth parents desire for the child they gave up and wanting somehow for that to have turned out well. And Jesse’s issues of abandonment  by his birth parents and fears that he cannot have a relationship with both the birth parents and his adoptive parents. And these wounds will not heal quickly.

I have no idea what the very first part of the episode is about, why Paul was sniffing the herb bottles but I trust it will make sense when we see the next episode with Adele.

Week 4: Paul and Adele

Photo of Paul

Paul is putting the couch back together. He finds Wendy’s bra on the floor.

What she told you was hard to hear — Adele seems to be referring to what Rosie told Paul about Max’s relationship with Steve. Paul seems to feel betrayed by Max. Adele asks if he has spoken to Max but he says they haven’t talked about much at all. He hasn’t felt like talking to Max after what he heard from Rosie. He sees from last week that he was getting his son to worry about him so Max can’t tell him about Steve because he doesn’t want to hurt Paul. Paul wonders if Max would be better with Kate and Steve, though that is  hard for him. He sees life with him as dreary and lifeless. He wishes Rosie hadn’t told him about the relationship between Steve and Max. 

He says everyone he knows has some kind of passion but he doesn’t. He says he tries to pretend he does.  Wendy stopped by at lunch because she knows he has time then and they haven’t had sex for a while. She wanted to have sex on the couch in his office and so they did. But he says he was distracted, thinking about other things. Adele asks what? He becomes evasive. He says he has a boat in his office and he stared at it after he and Wendy finished. He says he used to have about 26 of them. She asks if he likes to sail but he says he has never been. He used to love those models and he and Max used to love to go looking for them in antique stores. Adele asks why only one left — Paul says Max lost interest and when he moved, he left them behind. He sees the one left over patients’ shoulders. But everyone of them has a real passion. She asks if he sees all of his patients have something he does not. He says yes. He cites Frances and Jesse and Kate and Gina. And he says she, Adele does also. He says isn’t this, what you do a passion? He says she seems engaged in her cool detachment. She says yes, her work is important to her. How did he arrive at that impression, she asks. He says he was online and started to search on Parkinson’s and then searched for her. And found a list of things she has written and done. What did that mean to him, she asks. He says he last wrote in 1998. Why did he stop, she asks. He asks about her name — is it Dutch? She says her mother’s father was from Holland — he says he doesn’t believe it, she answered his question. She asks again why he stopped. He says he no longer shares that professional passion. She says he means the way he thinks she is. He says he used to publish when he was her age, he used to think he could save people. 

He tells her that with Sunil he had a flash of that Monday. He says they were talking over tea — she asks about the tea and Paul defends the tea as helping Suil feel more at home, feel better.  He calls her on her questioning of his work as silent supervision. He wondered why Sunil couldn’t have the passion he felt when he was young again. She observes the session had a powerful effect on him. She asks if Paul ever felt that kind of romantic passion that Sunil felt. He says with Kate, when he fell in love with her.  Even with Wendy at the beginning. He sees a pattern, that he seeks out people with a passion for life and then feeds off them. He allowed Wendy and Kate do his feeling for him. He holds himself back.  

Adele observes that when he talked about Sunil he became engaged, he came alive then he stopped himself. She asks if he does that often, holds himself back. When he first told her about the dream, she asked if he stopped himself and he became angry. Then he says it was the school — the fence was around the boarding school he went to. He was not there long, just a term and a half. His parents were fighting and they sent him away to boarding school. She wonders if he was unhappy there and he says not at all. He felt torn away from school by his father when they went to America. Adele asks what was so nice about the school. He says it was filled with activity — clubs, teams, all kinds of things. She asks if he did any of those things. He says he was going to. He says the point is that he was happy there. She says in the dream he was running outside the gates and was feeling excitement. She says he didn’t join those things — he says he didn’t have time. She says he could have but he insists his father took him away from there. And then in the States his mother became ill and he had to take care of her. She reflects that like Sunil he felt alienated in his new country. He watched the kids in his new school intently trying to learn about them because he wanted to fit in. She says he stayed on the edge there too. He says he didn’t have a chance to join. How long before his father left, she asks. He says a year and a half. He says before that he was expected to stay home with his mother.  He says it was a terrible blow when his mother became ill and his father left. She asks if it was really. 

Adele says he insisted the first day that he and Gina had it all figured out. She says yes, it was miserable taking care of his mother but it also kept him from having to risk outside. She points out that he keeps himself in his apartment and office. She says he has to move past the stories in his life at some point, look at himself again and look for real answers. He shakes his head. You are so young and yet so confident, he says. That she thinks she  sees him clearly. She says she would like to see him clearly but he is expert at obscuring the view. He says he told her he was distracted with Wendy. He says yes, he does hold himself back. He says he was thinking about her, about Adele. He hears her voice a lot. He admires her clarity, that she sees him. He noticed she does not wear a wedding ring and imagines she might understand his life and his loneliness. Then he dismisses his feelings as textbook transference. She says she is glad he told her. He says she looks shocked. She says he is holding himself back again, calling his feelings ridiculous. Between now and next session he may want to think about why he does that, hold himself back from his feelings and that this will be a good place to start then. She shows him the door, says they will talk next week and she wishes him a good weekend.

Adele is very good with Paul and we see she is gradually gaining his trust and confidence as each week he is less hostile toward her. In fact this week, all of the patients, Paul included, have been less hostile and have softened and allowed themselves to be vulnerable. We do not know if Paul saw anyone other than Gina before this. If so, this may be his first real therapeutic relationship, that is one without myriad boundary issues and dual relationships. And as he allows himself to experience it, allows himself to sink into this kind of care, he forms an attachment to Adele. She occupies his thoughts and he believes she really sees and understands him. This kind of positive transference is of great value in establishing a solid therapeutic relationship, though we can of course expect more storminess in the weeks ahead.

Adele is very good at not getting ruffled or defensive when Paul tries to get a rise from her, as when he said she was silently supervising him when she gave the slight indication of disapproving of him serving tea to Sunil. Or when he reveals he did an online search on her. Or when he makes one of his frequent mentions of her age and relative lack of experience. She does as we hope any of us would do and not take any of it personally, though that is sometimes easier said than done. In general her technique, her frame is more formal than is Paul’s. Paul needs this tighter frame, this kind of secure hold in order to relax enough to do the work he needs to do. It will be interesting to see what he does with the suggestion that he consider why he holds his feelings back. 

Oh, and apparently Paul was sniffing the bottles of herbs in the previous episode because he believes he is losing his sense of smell which is another potential symptom of Parkinson’s.

Week 3: Frances

hBO Intreatment cast Frances

Paul in bed on sofa bed  with Wendy who has spent the night. The alarm goes off and Paul says she has to go because Max will soon be up. Paul has been awake for some time reading. Paul asks her if she thinks he has a happiness deficit. She asks if it is because of the novel. He looks tired and sad. He asks her again and she kisses him and tries to turn him on but he stops her.

Paul is napping on the couch when Frances arrives and knocks. He gets up slowly, opens the door and Frances comes in.

She tells him she went to see Patricia and told her about seeing Paul. Frances asks if he going to check up on her and he says no. She archly says he believes her? He says he has no intention of talking with Patricia to check.  Paul says she is giving him a choice —  he can call Patricia and Frances will be jealous or not call and she will be angry. She says she is already jealous. She then holds up a scarf of Izzy’s she took from Patricia’s because Izzy is spending a lot of time with her. She is thinking of inviting Patricia to opening night but her sister doesn’t like such things. Frances complains about Patricia hounding her about the genetic test. Paul asks if she told Tricia she had scheduled it. She says yes, she is going having the test and no, she hasn’t told Patricia. Paul says he thinks Frances interprets her sister’s anxiety as aggression. Frances thinks Patricia is trying to punish her. She tells of when her sister was in college and got the lead in a college play and was excited. Frances seems condescending about it. Patricia wanted her to come see the play. Paul asks how it was and she says it was fine. They went to dinner and Patricia told her she had always thought of being an actress and she was thinking she might really try it. She wanted Frances’ opinion. Frances tells her not to do it, that she didn’t have the talent. Patricia was crushed and never did another play. Frances says she could have encouraged her and didn’t. Paul reminds her she had asked for honest opinion. 

Paul observes they had well defined family roles and asked if her mother treated them differently. Frances responds very prickily defending her mother.  Associates to her name — her mother named her after Frances Farmer who was institutionalized by her mother. Her mother’s defense was that farmer was so beautiful. She says she didn’t look like her mother though people said she did. Mother was obsessed with looks but Frances understands why. She likes to remember her mother when she was beautiful not how she looked in the hospital.. Paul reflects how her mother still wanted to look her best and he says how she wanted to wear her signature lipstick. Frances says she never told him that, that Patricia must have. She clearly is angry. She has barely mentioned her mother, she says.  Paul says maybe she is right. He apologizes. Frances says she does not want to be confused with her sister. She is angry and hurt.  

Then she wants to know Patricia’s version of how it was when their mother died. Frances felt excluded by her sister, pushed away. She saw one morning that Patricia climbed into the bed with their mother and she connects that to what happened after their father died and her mother would come in at night and get Patricia who was 1 and take her to bed with her to sleep. But never Frances – she always chose Patricia. Paul says that must have been painful. Can Frances see how Patricia was cast into the role of caretaker by her mother?  Frances says she was wonderful in that play – Paul says she could still make amends.

Then she wants Paul to do lines with her. He asks if that isn’t what she did with  her former husband. She says he was an asshole. She leans over close to Paul and he says no, this is not a good idea. Frances gets angry and says no one is willing to help her and she leaves. Paul closes the door after her and goes to the window to watch her leave.

To me, the opening scene with Wendy is revealing. Though Paul seemed adamant that Wendy not yet meet Max, she is sleeping in the apartment on the couch with Paul. Neither of them has any idea if Max might have seen or heard them them during the night. In a response to one of the commenters last week, I said I believe Paul’s stated choice not to introduce them was a good one. I support the often given recommendation that a new partner not be introduced to children until the relationship is a committed one that is likely to last. This is because it is hard on kids to form attachments to adults who then leave when the relationship with the parent fails. So I am curious about Paul’s rationale for what he is doing. Wendy seems rather like the typical choice of a man in mid-life crisis and not all that well matched to Paul.

The depth of the competition between Frances and Patricia becomes clearer this week. Frances relied on Paul’s prior relationship with her sister to make the connection with Paul and now she wants him to choose her, as her mother never did. We know now that her father died when she was five and that in her grief, Frances’ mother clung to the baby Patricia for comfort seeming to ignore Frances’ aching need to be chosen also. It may well be that Frances was daddy’s little girl and that his death left her without a champion.  And now, with her own daughter, she is again locked into a competition with her sister for love and attention. Frances’ fears about her fading career make sense in this light because what she has always had is the love and attention of her audience and if she cannot remember her lines, she stands to lose that as well.

When Paul refuses to do lines with her — an appropriate decision because to do so would be to abandon the therapy for the remaining time in the hour — wanting instead to explore what that was about, Frances gets angry because she again feels abandoned. The recurring themes of abandonment and of competition for attention and fears about losing what she so desperately wants and needs — love and attention — is the center of the work with Frances.

Now about Paul’s lapse in remembering something Patricia had told him as something he heard from Frances. All therapists make mistakes and Paul is certainly no exception. It would fall to Paul to reflect for himself on how and why this lapse occurred because, as I keep saying, such behavior is meaningful. There is another dimension as well. It is said that we fail our patients in the way they unconsciously need us to fail. Certainly this lapse surfaces in a vivid way the competition between Frances and Patricia that dates to their early lives. And it illuminates a bit of what may underlie Frances’ use of Patricia’s prior relationship with Paul. As I consider this, I have in mind Jung’s classic diagram of transference and countertransference:

Jung Diagram

Which suggests that these unconscious forces created a field which led to the error.

Week 3: Jesse

Jesse is in the waiting room with Marissa. He is playing with a paper airplane and wearing sunglasses. Paul comes out and Jesse takes off his glasses. Jesse says she came, just like you wanted. He greets Marissa and she returns the greeting. Paul suggests Jesse come in alone first to discuss how to proceed. Jesse said he knows Paul wanted her there so he’s cool.

Jesse looks rather sullen sitting on the far end of the couch away from Marissa — he has pillows between them. She tells Paul Jesse got beat up at school. Jesse doesn’t tell what happened. She tells Paul he was jumped in the men’s room at the Whitney when they were on a class trip. Jesse interrupts and tells her Paul has something to tell her. Marissa says the school suspended Jesse which she thinks is wrong. Jesse denies it was an attack, that he knew the attacker. Jesse had not told Marissa that. Paul asks if it was Nate. Jesse had let Nate know that his class was going to the Whitney. Nate suggested they meet in the men’s room. They went into one of the stalls and kissed. Jesse clearly wants to make Marissa uncomfortable by describing the scene in graphic detail. Nate said he missed Jesse and Jesse sloughed that off. He insulted Nate and Nate began hitting him. Jesse claims it felt good. Marissa reaches to him, Jesse pulls away and tells her not to touch him. Marissa thinks the school acted as they did because he is gay. She defends him and he disdainfully insults her. Paul tells him he cannot talk to his mother like that in his office. Marissa thanks paul.

Paul asks why Marissa came with Jesse that day. She says he told her Paul wanted her to. Paul asks if there is anything she wants to say to Jesse. She asks isn’t there something Paul wants to tell her? Jesse looks to Paul to tell Marissa about the birth mother. Paul does not do it. 

 Paul suggests that in the week Jesse is suspended, the time is there for him to tell his parnets some things. Marissa says he could tell his father. Jesse is surprised he didn’t know. Marissa says both of them are worried about Jesse, about him getting into college. Then Jesse angrily says he is going to Westchester where his birth mother lives and tells Marissa that Karen wants him back. Marissa is upset and wonders if that is why Paul wanted her to come. Marissa says clearly they have a lot to discuss and she would be in the way. Paul tries to get her to say. She leaves.

Jesse looks upset and a bit sullen. He says he told Paul that she didn’t care about him. Paul asks if that is the way they usually interact. Paul says Jesse was angry and abusive. Jesse denies and then admits he is angry. His social worker says that bringing his mother is a condition of his suspension. 

Paul asks what was in the pictures Jesse took of the family that he mentioned last week — why did Marissa hate them. He asks Jesse who gave him the camera. Jesse says Roberto. Jesse tells of  being at the beach with his parents and photographing two men and then finding a rusty nail and deliberately stepping on it. One of the men was calm and helpful and took Jesse to the hospital and they spent the day together until Roberto found him — he had told Peter, the man from the beach, that he was an orphan. Paul asks if that was the first time he made up a story about his parents and he says yes. Jesse showed his pictures at school — Marissa asked teacher to take the photos down because the men weren’t part of the family. The teacher told Jesse the photos were good. Did Roberto see them? No, but Marissa told him. Why does Jesse think that?  Because he changed toward Jesse, he says. He stopped taking him to Coney Island and stopped driving him to school. Jesse says Roberto hasn’t really spoken to him in 4 years. Paul reflects that Roberto shut out Jesse. And asks why he think he did that. Jesse is certain it is because he is gay. Paul says maybe he suddenly seemed different from Roberto and maybe that was why — Jesse is an artist and he didn’t understand. Paul says he sometimes has trouble understanding Max because he is an artist. Paul tells Jesse he sees Marissa defending him — Jesse protests that she is pretending and hates him because he is gay. Paul says he saw a woman who does not how to talk with Jesse and yes, they let him down. And now Karen’s call and Jesse is afraid that they will pull away from him again. Paul says Jesse is upset that Marissa left. Paul says he spoke to the social worker  that morning and she said nothing about wanting his mother to come. Paul says it was Jesse who wanted her to come. 

Jesse is silent. Paul asks what is happening in him then — he says static. Then he says he bets she is at church because she loves church and he used to go with her every Sunday when he was little. She stopped going after Jesse came out — he says because she was too ashamed. Paul asks if it might be that she was no longer willing to support a church that won’t include her son. He says no. Jesse cannot take in the possibility  that Marissa  looks and sighs at the church because she misses it so he imagines she went there and wants to get back in. 

Paul asks if he has heard more from Karen and has he thought about calling her back. Jesse says that is all he ever thinks about and he leaves.

Jesse managed to ambush Marissa this week despite Paul’s efforts. I am puzzled that he didn’t insist on talking with Jesse before they invited Marissa in to the session rather than letting Jesse set it up as he did. 

It is very clear that Jesse is defining himself as someone no one wants or cares about and thus blinds himself to any efforts by Marissa especially to show him care or concern. Striking out at her as he does is not all that unusual with teenagers, who desperately want that care at the same time they are trying to be independent and pull away. Under the best of circumstances this can be very trying for parents and teens. With Jesse this is compounded by his sexuality and the inability of his parents to talk about this with him. So Jesse is able to decide that they hold the same condemnatory attitudes toward him that the Church does and perhaps that on some level Jesse himself holds. So he cannot see anything that Marissa or Roberto do as indicating that they love him. 

The knot that he has to find his way through is a knot common for adopted children — what was so bad about me that my mother gave me away? Because so long as it was something bad about the child, there is the possibility that he can find what that is and change it and somehow undo it all, which in its own way is less painful that recognizing that it wasn’t anything he did or about him, but a choice over which he never had or will have any power. It isn’t only adopted children who encounter this. Many of us unconsciously prefer to be bad rather than weak.

I want to think that had Paul started the session with just Jesse things might have gone better, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. He did set a limit on how Jesse could talk to his mother in his office but not before Jesse had managed to find his target in her. Not knowing what Jesse wanted from this and not discussing it with him before inviting Marissa in allowed Jesse to go at Marissa in the way that he did and Paul must carry some responsibility for that.

Week 3: Paul and Adele

HBO Intreatment character Adele

Paul is singing along with loud rock (which my Expert in All Music©, aka my husband, tells me is “Firework” by Animal Collective) as he finishes the dishes. Max tells him to stop. Max is looking at a map online about someplace they are going when Max discovers Paul’s Parkinson’s searches. He looks stricken. 

Paul is in Adele’s office rubbing his temples. He wants aspirin or something and she says she has none. Paul is annoyed. She says he feels she is denying him. Why would she do that? He says — Cruelty? Power? Control? Youthful clinging to protocol? He says his father did that, would never write out a prescription.  Adele asks about headaches. Paul says that is a symptom of Parkinson’s. She observes he has been researching and he says yes, online but he stopped. He is determined that he has Parkinson’s. He won’t accept any other explanations for his headaches. She asks how are things at home? 

Paul says Jesse showed up with a black eye and got suspended. Adele asks why he brought up Jesse when she asked about home? He defends again saying he is worried he is the wrong person to be seeing him and maybe he should refer Jesse to her. Adele reminds him that he said Max was the reason he returned to therapy. Paul gets up and asks if she has been reading Gina’s book because she said he got invested in his patients at the expense of his family. Paul says he took Max last night to see his favorite band. He says he will make the connection with Jesse if she lets him finish and tells her what happened yesterday. Paul says Jesse was right — he took the mother’s side. He explains to adele that he felt for Marissa — that Kate’s fiance is swooping in and trying to take his kids like Karen is with Jesse. Paul wonders if she thinks he is losing his objectivity. Adele says what he is asking is one for a supervisor which was common with Gina but she is not Gina. She says he is having trouble connecting with Max and she asks about Steve. Max says he is a warlock and a Republican, an opinion Paul seems to share. As soon as Kate got engaged, Steve wanted everyone to move into his house which was far from Max’s school. Kate and Steve are not happy with where Max is going to school in Brooklyn and want to send him to an expensive private school. He says sarcastically that maybe he should let Steve raise his kids and he can retire tomorrow. Adele asks if he wants to retire and he says sometimes and that he has been trying to talk with her about failing with patients. But she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to discuss it. She says she thinks he is afraid he is failing Max too.  Adele points out that unlike Jesse with his parents, Max has not rejected Paul but moved closer. Paul says all he does is draw and sleep. He can’t connect with him. She asks about last night — he asks if she knows Animal Collective, Max’s favorite band. Paul saw that they were playing in NY so he got tickets. Other kids were excited. Max stayed pinned to his side and would come back to check Paul when he pushed him to go closer. Adele asks why it was hard for Paul to watch him do that — she asks what it felt like to watch him? Why does he think Max did that, check on him. Paul refers to Sunil — how Sunil would see it. Adele says surely he was not the only parent standing uncomfortably in the back. Paul looks upset. Then he says that he let Max use his computer and that he hadn’t clear the history and Max saw the searches he had done for various Parkinson’s sites. Max asked him if he was sick. Adele asks what he said — Paul said no, that he was searching for a patient. But Max is bright and catches lies. Max looked at him and he thought Max is scared and felt it important they go to the concert. Paul had been worried about how to tell Max and then it happened that way. They hadn’t spoken about it again. Paul tells her when they got home, he had several drinks and didn’t wake up until Max called him for school. Paul says now she knows why the headache. Adele picks up that Paul slept through. She asks about the dream? She asks if it is the first time he slept in months? She asks if Max usually wakes him up — Paul gets very defensive. Paul asks if she thinks he intentionally left the history there. 

She suggests they talk about the effects of Max finding out has on him. She asks if that reminds him of how he had to take care of his mother and now Max taking care of him. Paul says he wishes he could tell her to go fuck herself. He wonders what she must think of him. Paul says he is subjecting his son to what he went through and getting some comfort in it. She says when she looks at him she sees a man concerned about his son. He has to pick Max up to get him to the train to visit Kate. He is afraid of looking at Max — Max will pretend everything is fine when he knows he is worrying Paul is dying. He is afraid Max is afraid Paul is unfit to be his father. She asks if he is. She points out that Paul has tried to get her to take care of him the whole hour. She says she is beginning to understand how the dynamic with Gina developed — supervisor, therapist, mentor, mother.  She wonders if maybe he convinced Gina he was incapable as he is trying to convince himself too. Why would I do that he wonders? Paul is sobered. She says she will see him next week.

Adele does a good job of holding her ground with Paul despite his repeated efforts to get her to gratify his needs and wishes. Paul sees this and seems to resent it, but I suspect he comes back exactly because he cannot seduce her into blurring boundaries and acting out as he did with Gina.

Notice that Paul gets up and does what Jesse did with him last week when he responds to Adele’s pushing him by getting up and going to the shelves and fingering things on the shelf. He is angry but reins it in with more skill and control than Jesse but the basic action is the same. Jesse did it with Paul when Paul suggested he might be envious of Max and now Paul does it with Adele when she interrupts his attempt to talk about Jesse and turns the talk to Max and Paul’s feelings. Adele doesn’t know about this symmetry but we can see in it that the direction she took was exactly the right one.

It will be interesting to see if Adele is able to help Paul see why he is so invested in having Parkinson’s. We can begin to wonder if he needs it in order to justify what on some level he wants to do, which is to stop doing therapy. Because after all if he is on a downward slope, he cannot be expected to continue to do this kind of work — or so he may believe.

And there is much for us to learn about his relationship with Max and his feelings about having him there with him. As much as he complains about Kate and Steve displacing him, he does not seem to be able to connect with his son, who came to be with him, wants him. And how does all of this relate to his unmet desire for and anger at his own father?

My Expert in All Music©  noted that despite what Paul says about the concert and feeling   awkward and out of place there, in the opening of the episode he had the music cranked up pretty loud and he was singing to one of their songs which apparently he knew and seemed to enjoy doing so. 

Week 3: Sunil

Max is drawing as Paul comes into his room. Apparently he is sick. Paul takes a piece of paper from Max’s room, opens it in the kitchen and sees a somewhat disturbing drawing of a huge bird (eagle?) looming over buildings.

Sunil brings Paul tea. Paul gives him the photo he left. Sunil asks if he is familiar with “Survivor” and when he says no, he describes it. Sunil is astounded by the show — that participants are willing to compromise all of their values for $1 million. Paul asks if he is concerned that the show will taint his own dignity because he watched? Asks if he plans to watch again and Sunil tells him the time it is on. Paul comments on Sunil’s animation as he talked about it.

Sunil tells Paul he would be pleased with him because he is trying to be different. Trying to express his frustration. Two nights ago, Julia was in her exercise room and he couldn’t read because of noise of her music. He went to ask her to turn it down. He couldn’t ask her though because of the level of her activity and how punishing she was to herself. Paul says he watched her for quite a while then? Sunil says Paul must find that amusing. Paul reflects that he uses the same kinds of words to describe the female contestants on Survivor that he uses to describe Julia. He shows excitement when he talks about both the show and Julia. Sunil gets out his tobacco. 

Paul recalls Sunil talking about Arun’s visit to india with Julia and how excited Arun  was. Sunil says Arun  seemed excited that a woman like Julia would be his wife. Kamala had found a Bengali girl she thought would be a good wife for Arun  and  Julia was a great contrast to her. Paul asks if Sunil finds Julia beautiful. Was it hard to watch them being affectionate? It was more than affection, Sunil says. He says Julia kept adjusting her sari and it kept falling off her shoulder. Arun kept trying to help her, his hands touching her skin and Julia responded. Kamala saw it and was embarrassed and left the table. But Sunil stayed.  The next day as soon as Arun woke up he was off to see Julia. They were to meet the couple at the hotel. Sunil went to their room and as he reached the door, he could hear them and they were being intimate. Sunil becomes emotional as he recalls what they said to each other. He stayed there. They came out, saw Sunil and Julia was horrified and fled. This was what precipitated the argument with Arun . Sunil says her behavior, her intimacy with Arun was not acceptable, that Julia was not a good match for Arun .

This past week was the 30th anniversary of his marriage to Kamala. Arun and Sunil prepared a meal and garland of flowers. Julia came and tasted one bite and then said she had to go to a dinner for a young author. Sunil thinks she placed her personal desires ahead of family by going. The author was handsome and young. Julia speaks often with him on the phone. He says she left wearing a very provocative dress. Julia sat next to him and looked him in the eyes, took his hand and kissed his cheek and said she was sorry she had to leave. Arun took care of the children. Sunil is very disapproving. He could not sleep, wondering if Julia would still be around in a year. Paul asks if he thinks Julia is having an affair. Sunil asks Paul if he thinks she is. Because if it is true she will bring great shame on the family and deserve a harsh punishment.

Sunil says in America the culture has turned people into consuming monsters. He knows it is a struggle to put family and honor first. Paul observes how intense Sunil’s feelings are. He asks where those feelings come from. Sunil relates how he became close to a classmate not long before he met Kamala. He was smitten by her. They became a couple. Paul asks what happened? Long silence. Sunil says they stopped seeing each other before graduation. It had become very intense very quickly. Paul asks if he chose to be with someone of the same caste. It was what was important, Sunil says. And he had never told anyone about this until he told paul. He tells Paul he must never tells anyone about this. Paul reassures him. Sunil presses on what circumstances he would reveal. Paul again reassures him. Sunil lights his cigarette again. 

Paul asks if it would have mattered if he had told Arun about his own experience.  No, he would have married Julia anyway. Sunil says he has no patience with those who do not live a principled life. Paul suggests that even as he honored her memory and had a good life with Kamala, he might also have regret that he ended with the woman in college. Paul says he suspects Sunil was disturbed when he heard Arun  and Julia in the hotel but he stayed. He stayed because he was intrigued. And even a little jealous. Sunil asks why he would be jealous of a marriage with a vain woman having an affair Paul asks if Arun is jealous of the other man. Paul notes how detailed was his description of Julia when she went out. He wonders if Sunil feels betrayed by Julia and not just on Arun’s behalf but personally. Sunil reacts very strongly by crying. He then says what an interesting theory and gives Paul a check and asks him to check that the amount is correct.

Paul says he is sorry about how the anniversary evening turned out for him. Sunil gets up and thanks him as Paul is in mid sentence. He touches Paul and thanks him and leaves.

The episode starts showing us Paul being solicitous and gentle with Max who, as Paul said to Adele last week, is making rather dark heavy pencil drawings. The one Paul takes with him seems ominous but we do not really know what it is about.

Almost immediately we see Sunil’s concern about corruption of values and loss of dignity as he talks with Paul about Survivor and Julia. Paul does a nice job connecting the two as Sunil has discussed them and also that it is when talking about these things he disapproves of that Sunil becomes animated and intense.

I haven’t gone back to check, but it is my impression that each time Sunil has talked about Julia and Paul suggests that Sunil has feelings that go beyond disapproval of Julia, Sunil takes out his tobacco and smokes. I would love it if Paul made this observation, because what Sunil does is meaningful behavior. Think about it — smoking   smoke  fire  desire.

Also recall that last week, Sunil talked about encountering Julia in her towel and this week we learn that he stood outside the door when Julia and Arun were being intimate in the hotel in India. He cannot acknowledge his own voyeurism but he makes the association to his own ill-fated attraction to another woman when he was in college. For Sunil, duty and doing what is appropriate trumps desire and pleasure but that does not mean the desire disappears, only that it becomes Shadow for him.

A little Jungian theory here. Consider what Jung said of the anima:

There is [in man] an imago not only of the mother but of the daughter, the sister, the beloved, the heavenly goddess, and the chthonic Baubo. Every mother and every beloved is forced to become the carrier and embodiment of this omnipresent and ageless image, which corresponds to the deepest reality in a man. It belongs to him, this perilous image of Woman; she stands for the loyalty which in the interests of life he must sometimes forego; she is the much needed compensation for the risks, struggles, sacrifices that all end in disappointment; she is the solace for all the bitterness of life. And, at the same time, she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws him into life with her Maya-and not only into life’s reasonable and useful aspects, but into its frightful paradoxes and ambivalences where good and evil, success and ruin, hope and despair, counterbalance one another. Because she is his greatest danger she demands from a man his greatest, and if he has it in him she will receive it.[“The Syzygy: Anima and Animus,” CW 9ii, par. 24]

Now, think about Julia and how preoccupied with her Sunil is. She is carrying what we call an “anima projection” of Sunil’s, which is to say that he sees in her this inner feminine side of himself, of which he is unconscious. And she activates the struggle, set aside when he chose to marry Kamala, between duty and desire. Sunil must see Julia as wrong, as dangerous, as a bad wife to his son because she calls into question the choice he made for himself so very long ago.

I also located the El Greco painting which Sunil mentions in this episode. Consider what he says he sees in it and then see the image for yourself.

El Greco: Lady with a Flower

In Treatment Season 3 Week 2 Frances

hBO Intreatment cast Frances

Paul is seeing a doctor who is doing neurological tests. 

Paul and Frances are in session. She says he looks tired. She apologizes for saying that. She shows him a prompter, an ear piece to help with lines. The director wants her to wear it in performances. She says everything is fine and then … Paul asks if she is going to wear it — she says she told the director she is seeing the finest psychoanalyst in NY. She says the stage manager keeps talking to her about her own memory problems. She says he must think she is frivolous worrying about memory problems and menopause. Paul says she keeps saying things like that. He asks why she uses language like that to describe herself. She says she didn’t plan to talk about those things. And he asks what she is here to talk about. 

Then he asks if she paid attention to what happened when she lost the line, where her mind went. She says she doesn’t know.He tells her to try. She says 2 days ago she remembered she needed to talk with Izzie. Her ex said Izzie is spending time with patricia, whom she likes better. She says Patricia introduced her to her ex.  He was smart and funny and she liked that. And he has — she pauses — Paul asks what. She says she was overwhelmed the first time. He was the one who wanted to marry, that he wanted it more than she expected. She says she got pregnant to please him. She says the clock was ticking. Paul asks if she had wanted more time alone. She says she was afraid he wouldn’t want her anymore but he did, he liked her pregnant body. She was afraid that after birth she would be destroyed for sex. She thought she would never recover. He still wanted her. Took pictures of her nursing, thought she was beautiful, but she thought she was fat and ugly. Then she fell in love with nursing, she had a purpose then. Paul says now it seems Izzie doesn’t need her anymore. She says Izzie pushed away when she was 6 or 7. Frances says she lost Izzie a long time ago, but she was surprised to lose her husband when he had an affair with a student. 

She then confesses she hasn’t had sex since the marriage broke up and says he must think she is pathetic. Paul points out she did it again and asks about the period of celibacy. She tries to make a joke then says Izzie is about to have sex , that she is reading her emails after hacking into her account. Paul asks if that is a good idea — she says she has no other way to know what is going on. Paul asks if she thinks the boy is pressuring her. She says he says he will wait. But she thinks it is a con. She asks if Paul worries about his daughter. Izzie just talks to Patricia. Paul asks if she talked with her mother about sex. She says Izzie even looks like Patricia — Paul says she feels excluded again as when her mother was ill. Frances says she is jealous and begrudges her sister the time with her daughter. She says she had an awful thought — maybe when Patricia is gone, Izzie will be hers again. Paul asks if she believes she has been usurped. She says Izzie prefers her sister. 

Paul asks if she has spoken to her sister. She says once. Paul asks if she knows he spoke with her — Frances asks why — he says he had heard she was ill and asked if she had a therapist which she does. Frances asks if he told her sister about her. He says she was not mentioned. Paul says she told him Patricia referred her and said it was all right for her to see him. She asks if he is saying she lied. She says she was afraid he wouldn’t see her. He tells her it is important to be honest, therapy is a relationship. Frances says he is getting the sort end — all the crazy, none of the sex. She says she will tell her sister — Paul says before the next session.

She brings up the genetic test again. She says she scheduled the test and says they recommend prophylactic mastectomy. She says her sister had that done and said it made her feel powerful — but she cringes and says it looks horrible. When she saw it, she couldn’t breathe. She won’t have it done. She says if her life had been different, if her ex had stayed — couples get closer in things like that. She says but who would want her, would Paul? 

Paul reflects how much loss she has had and now the threat of losing her breasts, which have been so important to her sense of herself as a woman, just as Izzie is becoming a woman. Frances reacts to this and asks wearily if she could sit there a little longer. Then she asks how long? He smiles. She holds out her hand for him to help her up which he does.

She asks if he tells anyone she comes to see him. He says of course not. She leaves.

Again with Frances we have the doubling when we see Paul being examined by the neurologist, though we do not learn the outcome of the examination, as Frances does not know if she carries the gene for breast cancer. Both of them haunted by the spectre of debilitating illness and death.

Frances’ fears about her waning appeal are evident throughout as she makes flirtatious gestures and somewhat coyly attempts to get Paul to correct her negative views of herself. Though he challenges her on why she does this, he does not connect it with her need to feel attractive and desirable. It would be premature for him to do so at this point.

The jealousy between her and her sister and her envy that her daughter prefers Patricia is, along with her fears about death, the central issues that she seems to be bringing to Paul. And of course they are connected. It is, it seems, intruding thoughts about her daughter, and probably her sister, that lie at the heart  of her blowing her lines. And the more it happens, the more she fears her own waning abilities and losses. Which then makes her anxious about death, her sister and her daughter. Round and round they go in a vicious circle. And it appears that Paul’s best entry point is through her feelings about her sister and her daughter. 

Paul confronts her pretty strongly about the fact that she led him to believe her sister had referred her to him and that she was fine with her seeing him. She at first tries to deny this then acknowledges it and then confesses she was afraid he wouldn’t see her if she hadn’t said that. This was the ideal time for Paul to drive home the point that therapy is a relationship and depends on honesty. It’s not clear that Frances really gets that but she is afraid of having her sister know she is seeing him. Will she really follow through on telling Patricia as Paul told her she must do? 

At some point, I am guessing Paul will have to find out more about how and why Patricia and Frances talked so much about him. We know that she learned from her sister quite a lot about him, but we don’t know what all of that was about. This is important because there is meaning in Frances choosing her sister’s former therapist at a time when Patricia seems to be stealing Izzie away from her. There is a parallel here that deserves exploration.

While I think Paul was spot on in his final interpretation about all of Frances’ losses, the end of the session seemed to come very abruptly after that. And at the end, Frances succeeds in getting one of her flirtatious efforts met when she holds her hand out to Paul and he takes it. That seemed off coming so soon after connecting her fears about losing her breasts with her own sexuality and Izzie’s emerging sexuality. Gratifying her in this way at this time felt a little off to me.