In Treatment-- Alex, week 7

It is entirely expectable that Alex returns this week -- and that he is in uniform, given the ways he has acted on his impulses in prior weeks.

And show up he does. When he opens the door Paul jokes that he feels he should salute. Alex comes in and says this is his last time at least for now, he wants to settle up. He offers to pay for next week as well and makes a crack about the gravy train ending. 

Paul asks what happened and Alex tells him that he was asked to come and train new pilots. Alex tells him about how he can intimidate the younger pilots but also that he doesn't feel the project can succeed because there is too little time. Paul says it must feel great to awe the others and he shrugs and goes on to tell another way he betters them with his skill. Much bravado. Alex says he never panics. He keeps fishing for recognition of his superiority from Paul. Then he says he has pushed to be able to return to combat flying. Alex is not happy when Paul seems not to agree this is a good idea.

He tells Paul  the Navy will be contacting him because he told them he was seeing him about his marriage. He asks Paul to tell them all good things because he needs this. Paul asks if Alex expects him to lie. Alex says he knows he can handle it. Paul asks if he can handle the emotional stress.  Alex says it is the fault of the enemy that civilians get killed. Paul challenges him on his feeling that he is ready, that he can handle another civilian target getting hit.

His phone rings and he answers. It is Alex's wife. He tells her he will call her back. Alex says she is eager for him to fly again because he has upset her sense of order. She and everyone in his family want him to return home, including his father. Paul asks about his father's opinion. Alex says his father says a man gets back to work. Alex becomes uncomfortable.

He starts to talk about a birthday part for his son, Roy. Only family was there at Roy's request. He felt awkward realizing his father had been at his house a lot while he was gone. He says though that he is good with Roy. Roy didn't see his son much while he was gone and Alex thinks he finds it easier without him around. He describes Roy as happier without him. Paul asks if maybe Roy was happy he was there. If maybe Alex projects his feelings about his own father onto Roy.

Then he tells about a chess game they started but Roy abruptly withdrew from the game and went to his room. Alex followed him to his room and he sees Roy and it broke his heart and he turns and sees his father behind him. His father tells him that Roy had known that in three moves he would beat his father and didn't want to embarrass him. Then he pulls him into a room and rips into Alex and tells him how disappointed in him he is. His father suspects it is Paul who has turned him into a failure, a wimp. When his father left him, he felt he had been hit by a train. He locked himself into the bathroom and sat and pulled himself together. Roy was playing chess again with his grandfather. No one noticed Alex. 

He left the house and drove and drove to where his gay friends had taken him and he watched the gay men and says he felt like bashing them in.

Paul asks him what became clear the day of the party. Alex says that he needed to be in Navy again where everything is clear and ordered.

Why that bar, asks Paul? He says he wanted to beat one of them up but he didn't. Paul asks if he was there because none of them would ask him to be anything but himself. And wouldn't it be better for him to deal with these things while he is on the ground not flying again? 

Paul says he has decided and then he asks Paul what he would do. Paul says if he were Alex he would stay in therapy rather than continue to sweep his issues under the carpet because they will come up again. But he will not tell Alex not to fly. Alex begs him to tell the Navy he is okay because he needs that world.

Alex gets up to leave.  Paul gives him his card with his cell phone number and tells him to call day or night if he needs to talk about anything. He tells Alex he has done brave work there and he wants for them to continue. Alex says good-bye.


Paul is again doing good work with Alex; they seem to have recovered from the acting out of two weeks ago, though we know that what happened then must still hang between them because they never talked about it really. Still, Paul continues to develop a therapeutic alliance with Alex and we get the sense that even though he is leaving for now, he will be back, because he found a safe place with Paul. In this sense, that Alex seems to be developing a feeling of safety there, the acting out that he did could be seen as having had positive effect. Alex threw the best he had at Paul and Paul did not abandon him or humiliate him.

Paul correctly sees how fragile Alex is and how risky it is for him to return to flying. One hopes he can find a way to respond to the Navy psychiatrist without lying or undermining Alex. I am not certain how he can accomplish this, however. It will be interesting to see if Alex does get back up in the air as soon as he wants to as it does not seem advisable given what is driving his desire.

Notice that Alex's wife, Michaela, and his father are close and in fact seem almost interchangeable for Alex. And we still have no idea how much of his engagement with his gay friends is about his desperate need for acceptance and how much is genuine attraction.


© Cheryl Fuller, 2007. All  rights reserved.