In Treatment-- Walter, week 3

We hear Walter yelling on the phone outside the door.

Walter is still on the phone when he comes in. He tells his secretary not to call for 40 minutes. There is a business crisis. Paul offers to reschedule. Water says they have already rescheduled from earlier in the evening. Walter tries to hand him cash for his time. Paul asks if he is paying for the session in cash, but he says no, for the time lost to the rescheduling. Walter's phone rings.

Walter tells Paul about a power struggle in the office. Paul asks him to slow down because it seems like he is in the middle of a breaking crisis. Walter goes on again about what happened. Paul says he seems unable to focus and maybe they should refocus. Walter says no, he needs him now and it could be a month before he could talk again. 

Walter tells Paul he spent the last 44 out of 72 hours on a plane. He tells him he flew to Rwanda to get Natalie because he knew she was in trouble. She didn't ask him to come but he knew there was trouble. He and Natalie had talked or emailed every day of her life but a week before she emailed her mother full of worry about him. He couldn't believe the way she was writing was her voice, that there was something wrong. When he got there he found she had cut off all of her hair. He says he didn't know who he was talking to  -- no shoes, very thin, a child in her arms. He stood there looking at her and she asked why he was there. He says he is taking her home. She says no, she is busy. She suggests he lie down in one of the shacks there and he is appalled by the conditions. He took all of her stuff from the shack. She gets furious and screams at him for this. He got very angry. She started to cry and he held her. He tells her again they are going home. She told him to go fuck himself. Walter says she broke his heart with that.

Paul asks Walter why he thinks she was so angry with him. He says he got an email from her that he is domineering and controlling and much other similar. Paul connects this to the way he came into the office, 2 phones, handing Paul his bag. He notes that when he is in a situation in which he is not totally in control, he is very uncomfortable - like with Natalie or being a patient. Paul asks if it might not be good to let her go, pull away. Paul asks him to look at how he responded to her. Walter gets up rummages through his coat and gets a bottle of Xanax and takes one. Paul asks if he took a pill after he saw Natalie. Walter says he woke up from a nightmare not knowing where she was, thinking he was in his parents' house in Tommy's room and then he remembered the pills.

Paul asks if he has been thinking about Tommy since Natalie left. Walter denies that he had pain, says it was his parents who had the pain. Paul suggests that maybe Natalie is doing something Walter was never able to do, to separate. But to Walter it feels she is doing what Tommy did, leaving him. When he read her emails he realized she didn't need him at all, that she was done with him. He tried to help Walter see that before dismissing him, Natalie wanted to talk with him but he wouldn't do it. Paul asks how they left it. He said in the morning the business crisis crashed over everything.

Paul's phone rings. It is for Walter. Walter gathers his things and leaves, saying he'll be okay because they can't get rid of him because he is the glue. His daughter can survive without him but the Donaldsons can't.

Listening to Walter is stressful. His speech is pressured, he can't settle down so we feel more of the anxiety he is experiencing than he does. He needs for Paul to know how deep the crisis is that he is battling but also that he is on top of it. But Walter is another boy needing his father -- like Oliver and Paul himself. And the only way he knows how to cope is by taking control because otherwise he is thrown back into his brother's bedroom again, the place where he was essentially left by his parents when Tommy died. He knows who he is so long as he is able to take care of everything and do things for the people in his life. He can hardly express the loss he feels in his daughter's rejection because he keeps covering it up with the details of the business crisis. And now he uses Xanax to further blunt the anxiety that is mounting as the business crisis deepens and as he becomes more distant from his daughter.

Paul is not able to do much with Walter in the state he is in. He is too agitated to be able to hear much if anything that Paul tries to say to him. But we know that Walter is finding some value in coming to see Paul because he is making the effort to reschedule and plans to return next week.

Just getting that far with someone like Walter is an accomplishment because until he can slow down enough in session to consider what he is saying and what Paul is saying, nothing can penetrate the armor he has encased himself in. We know that Paul's speculation about Natalie and her separation from him found its mark because it was then that Walter jumped up to take the Xanax. But we may not hear more about it from Walter for some time. Work with someone like him requires patience and an strong ability to delay gratification.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2016. All  rights reserved.