Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Beverly rushes into my office and throws herself into the chair across from me. “You know,” she begins, “this is just too hard for me. All this running around. I have too many things on my schedule. I mean I know I don’t work – I have no idea how people who work ever manage to get here – but between golf and tennis and bridge and painting – it’s just too much. I need to come on a Saturday. That would work better for me.”
Although I am more than a little annoyed at both Beverly’s demand and at being relegated to the bottom of her list, I decide on an initial non-confrontational approach. “I’m sorry, but I don’t work on Saturdays.”
“You don’t work on Saturdays? How do the people who work get to see you? I suppose they just don’t, right?”
“You’ve been coming for almost a year, Beverly, and you never seemed to have difficulty getting here before. Why do suppose it’s suddenly become an issue for you?”
“I started taking painting lessons. I hadn’t been doing that before.”
“And since you knew you had such a busy schedule, why do you think you decided to add something that might make it harder for you to get here?”
“I didn’t think about it in terms of getting here. I just wanted to take painting lessons.”
“It feels to me, Beverly, that you’re wanting to dismiss the importance of our work together, that you’re saying it doesn’t matter.”
“That’s not fair. You’re the one who won’t see me on Saturday!”
“I think we need to take a step back here. Was there something that happened in our last session that made you feel uncared about? Were you angry with me?”
“You always do that. You always make it about you. It has nothing to do with you.”
“Okay. Then tell me what it does have to do with other than with your schedule.”
“My sister.”
“I remember we talked about your sister last week, about how I saw her as being competitive with you, but that you thought that wasn’t true, that she loved you and always wanted the best for you. And I said both could be true, that she could love you and want the best for you and still be competitive with you.”
“You took her away from me. No one in my family gave a damn about me except her. I was an extraneous being. But Joyce cared about me, looked out for me. And you just took her away.”
“So you are angry with me.”
“I guess. And at her. I’m furious at her. How could she take herself away from me when I relied on her so much? But I decided to show her. She’s the painter you see. I decided I’d become a better painter than her.”  
“So I guess you’re saying you feel competitive with her.”
“No. I’m just getting back at her.”
“Beverly, I want to point out that nothing out there in the real world happened or changed between you and your sister. This is all happening in your mind. You came to see your sister differently. And although you’re entitled to have your feelings, it would be helpful to you if you could hold onto the love and stability your sister provided for you in your chaotic childhood.”
“You’re taking it all back!”
“No. We’ve talked a lot about your living in a black/white world, with no shades of gray. Right now you want your sister to be the perfect sister – whatever that might mean to you – and you want me to be the perfect therapist who would see you whenever you want to be seen. But there is no such thing as a perfect person. You can get a lot of good from one person, but you can’t get everything and that doesn’t make either that person or you bad. And you can feel competitive towards your sister or towards me and that doesn’t make you bad either.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me. If she’s competitive with me how could she always be on my side? Sometimes she’d be on her side.”
“Well I suppose that’s true. But if she wanted, just let’s say, to be a better painter than you, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t want you to be a better golfer or to find a loving husband or to take great joy from your children. Because there was so much cruelty and rejection in your childhood, it’s difficult for you to believe that someone can be in your corner and still take care of themselves. That’s like me saying I’m here for you, but I don’t work on Saturdays.”
“That makes me mad all over again.”
“I believe you. We’ll keep working on it.”

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