Week 2: Paul & Adele

Paul is leaving a message for Gina -- he has left a message before and hasn’t heard from her. He says she has made some pretty interesting character choices in her novel and he wants to talk with her about that. The message time runs out.

Paul back in Adele’s office. He thanks her for seeing him. He says he knows he was difficult the last time. He says his situation has changed -- his son Max is now living with him. Kate is furious with him for allowing Max to stay. Adele asks how it is for him to have Max with him. He says it has been 2 years since he lived with them. This is the first time he will be playing the role of primary parent. She asks if he feels pressure. He says yes. Paul says he noticed his hand started to shake when he passed the cereal to max. He knows he has to tell Max but he needs help with that and why he came back. She starts to ask him something...

Paul interrupts. He says she was right that he has no one to talk with. Now he can’t have Wendy sleep over with Max there. Wendy wants to live with him and keeps asking to meet Max but he says no. He thought Rosie would have a harder time but she seems fine. Adele again starts to ask something...

Paul interrupts again and says she was also right about Gina and her judgement. He has been reading her book and says she has been completely selfish and indiscreet. Adele asks if that makes it okay if he makes Gina wrong and her right. He is sure he is the source of the major character in the novel and he is furious -- Gina won’t return his calls. His voice is full of contempt as he describes the novel. Adele says he is reading it as a personal attack. She asks which part is most upsetting. He refuses to go there. He does not want to talk about Gina. Then he says he will get back to it when he finishes the book. He flexes his hand and she asks if it is bothering him.

She returns to the subject of telling Max about Parkinson’s. She asks if  Paul saw the neurologist. He says he went to the top specialist. But he did not order a CAT scan or MRI. He told Paul it is a hard disease to diagnose. The doctor says he does not exhibit enough symptoms to make a positive diagnosis. Adele says he doesn’t seem relieved -- he says he had called Wendy and asked her out to dinner, and sat across from her and wondered why he doubted her. He says he has an appointment with another neurologist in 2 weeks. He says he has had the symptom for months so he thinks he should get a 2nd opinion. Adele says he is genuinely frightened about being sick. She asks about his sleep. Is he still waking after a few hours? Still the same dream? He says yes and asks if she is fishing for another compliment -- because she was right about the dream.

She asks what he has been dreaming. He says in the dream he has been running along a tall wrought iron fence outside. He is in a field it is daytime and it is bright.  He senses a gate up ahead. He is excited. Then his legs get heavy and he slows. He can’t move and it feels like he is in quicksand. He senses something behind him and he turns his head and it his father lurching toward him then he wakes up. He says he has been having the dream for months. He says he thinks he is becoming his father. He gets up and walks to the window. He is being overtaken by his father. He says he can’t ignore it any longer, that he is becoming him.

He sits again and says the other night he went to check on Max when he woke up. He says he can’t bear to think about what he is passing on to his children. Adele asks how is the relationship with Max? Paul says he is worried about him because he keeps his head in his sketchbook all the time. He tells her what Jesse said about him. 

And then that Jesse wants him to go out with the social worker because she is sad like he is. Adele asks if he is sad -- and is he worrying about passing that on to max too. Adele says he feels the weight in the dream is the Parkinson’s -- Paul says he is being pursued by his father and his illness. She asks for associations to the field and the fence. He says he is excited about possibility and his father is stopping him just like in life. She points out he slows before he sees his father. She says he is angry when she asks about his self agency. And he makes a sarcastic remark to her. He is determined he has Parkinson’s, he didn’t ask to have it, didn’t ask to be sick. She asks what it would be like if he does have it. He describes how it was with his father. She asks if there is anything comforting in that fantasy? He asks if that is a joke? She points out that he takes it to being like an infant needing care. He says he should have found a therapist who had more experience. Attacks her for not being as old as he is. She takes it. She says he is 57 not 80 and was told he probably does not have the disease yet he remains invested in it. Does he find it comforting to be protected this way, by doctors caring for him? What is he being protected from? She says she is there for him as long as he wants to talk with her. 

She asks one more thing -- the excitement in the dream -- when was the last time he felt that. He says he has no idea. 

He asks her if knew the reference he made to Bartleby. Because he needs to be understood. She says”the Scrivener”. Satisfied, he gets up to leave. He says he gave Wendy a book, The Memory of Running -- she thinks it is about running though she hasn’t read it. Adele says its not? He leaves.


Paul would be fun to work with because he is so difficult. In my own practice, I have worked with patients who are also therapists and they are usually challenging, though not usually as hostile as Paul is. This week he does a bit of undoing, something we see young children do sometimes. It is not uncommon for a young child to get very angry and then want to hug the person she was angry with, as a way of undoing the possible harm of the anger. Paul was pretty relentlessly hostile and attacking this week and this week he makes a bit of an attempt to undo that by telling Adele things she was correct about the week before Which is fine except that in each case he interrupts her to do so.

Adele works hard to get Paul to talk about and look more deeply at his conviction that he has Parkinson’s. She correctly identifies that he seems determined that he has it even though he has not been diagnosed. He objected very strongly to the portrayal in Gina’s book of the character he believes to be him as self-defeating, yet his determination that he is ill is exactly that. For reasons not yet explored, he wants to be taken out of the race and sees his father and his legacy from his father as the vehicle for that. We may guess that in the wake of the failure of his marriage and the bitterness he feels toward his father and toward Gina and they role they played in how he came to his career, he may be headed toward a crisis about his work, the crisis that was never really resolved after he was sued. These issues -- his fury with his father, his wish to be taken care of even if it means being an invalid, and the attendant failures in his life -- are the key issues he must deal with. So far, Adele seems up to the task.

Paul may be right that the character in Gina's book is based on him. Now if it were a professional paper that she wrote, she would have had an ethical responsibility to him to show him the paper and talk with him about it and ascertain that he could deal with it. That this is a novel and we don't know if Paul is correct or if he is projecting. He remains furious with her despite his defense of her last week and none of that has ever been dealt with. One hopes that Gina will eventually be willing to talk with him about it, albeit not as his therapist. And Adele is going to have to stay with this to help him see what he is defending against. Of course we also do not know what happens with the character in the novel or whether he is portrayed sympathetically.

Incidentally the book Paul mentions is a real one. Here is the blurb on it from Amazon:

Smithy Ide is a really nice guy. But he's also an overweight, friendless, womanless, hard-drinking, 43-year-old self-professed loser with a breast fetish and a dead-end job, given to stammering "I just don't know" in life's confusing moments. When Smithy's entire family dies, he embarks on a transcontinental bicycle trip to recover his sister's body and rediscover what it means to live. Along the way, he flashes back to his past and the hardships of his beloved sister's schizophrenia, while his dejection encourages strangers to share their life stories. The road redeems the innocent Smithy: he loses weight; rescues a child from a blizzard; rebuffs the advances of a nubile, "apple-breasted" co-cyclist after seeing a vision of his dead sister; and nurtures a telephone romance with a paraplegic family friend as he processes his rocky past. McLarty, a playwright and television actor, propels the plot with glib mayhem—including three tragic car accidents in 31 pages and a death by lightning bolt—and a lot of bighearted and warm but faintly mournful humor. It's a funny, poignant, slightly gawky debut that aims, like its protagonist, to please—and usually does. 

So, how do you think that fits in with what Paul is about in his life?

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.