In Treatment -- Laura, week 2

It's Monday so we see Laura again.

The episode begins with Paul fussing with a plunger and the toilet. At least once last week he was also fussing with the bathroom. Paul and his wife have a brief squabble about the problem. The session begins against the background of this marital disharmony.

Laura announces that she said yes to Andrew and the wedding is in June. Paul fidgets with his hands and looks a bit uncomfortable -- no doubt remembering his talk with Gina. He confronts Laura with the rapid change in her mood since last week. She protests and he compares what has happened to a diver getting the bends from a too rapid ascent from the depths -- he wonders if she has come up too quickly from where she was last week. She latches on to the diving metaphor and uses it to see them as having something in common. She firmly resists looking at anything that will take her again into the mood of last week. Paul tries several times to relate what she says to last week but she pushes him back.

Despite her professed delight at getting married, at becoming a "we", she expresses dismay about what she sees in a couple she and Andrew know who have recently had a baby -- domesticated, she says and she looks appalled at the thought. And in the midst of her discomfort about domesticity, she decided to say yes to Andrew, certainly not a good sign. Paul asks where the yes came from. And she replies because Paul said no to her. And they return to the issue which has been hovering in the room the entire time.

Paul asks her what she had imagined might happen when she told him she was in love with him. And asks her to talk more about what happened after her mother died when she lived with a couple she liked, especially the man. And Paul connects her desire for him to her desire those years ago for David, the man of the couple. She then says she wants to pee and wants to use the bathroom but Paul tells her she cannot because the toilet is broken. She wants to use a bathroom in the house, which Paul objects to and suggests that they end early. Laura believes he is doing this to keep her from seeing or being seen by his wife. 

Gina was right -- they are in the soup.

Laura says she knows when she turns someone on. And she tells him when she first saw him she thought he looked like a dead man and she wanted to take his heart and bring life into him. Paul tries to redirect back to her relationship with Andrew. Laura insists that Paul is turned on by her. Paul ends the hour. At the door she demands he tell her if he wants her. Paul says no. She leaves. 

What was going on here? Once again we have the problem of the erotic transference. Laura does want Paul and does believe that she can make him happy, and he can thereby rescue her from her problems, as David could have rescued her from having to deal with her grieving and depressed father after her mother died. We can speculate, with some good reason, that Laura does not have much faith in men, in their ability to care for her rather than depend on her. She becomes almost scathing about Andrew's interest in domestic life and she believes she can revive Paul by loving him. But where does this leave her and her need to be dependent as well as depended upon?

All well and good and the stuff of therapy. BUT Paul's own issues are getting tripped here. In the way that some patients have the uncanny ability to do, Laura sees a truth about Paul which he is only barely able to see himself. Her projections about him are projections but as is always with projections, they hold an element of truth, and in this case the truth is that Paul's marriage is in trouble. Her projections, her declaration of love for him makes him uncomfortable precisely because his own marriage is in trouble and though he has no intention of acting out with her in the way she wishes, his anxiety already is making it difficult for him to hold his therapeutic stance with her. One hopes he will again call Gina very soon.

None of this makes Paul a bad therapist. He is simply human and this show is allowing us to see more of what is going on with him than we usually see about the therapist. Any of us in this field knows the experience of having a spat with our spouse or an issue with our kids or an annoying household problem just before a patient arrives. We have to push that stuff into the background, find and maintain our focus on the person sitting in front of us. It is something we are used to doing and it is not always easy. Paul's struggle is not especially unusual in that respect. But we have to maintain a level of awareness of these issues in the background in our own lives so that we can get help when they begin to intrude. And this is where Paul is right now.


© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.