“Why is that important to you, Theresa?”
“Doctor, that’s just a simple question. Is it so hard for you to be human, to answer a simple question?” The woman leaned backwards in the chair, her arms folded across her chest. “With all that I’m paying you’d think I could get an opinion from you that any teenage boy could give!”
The man sat quietly, knowing better than respond. They had been through this cycle of behavior many times and he knew that Theresa would recognize the pattern.
“I know, I know.” The woman sighed, shaking her head in dismay.
”Seductive behavior, rejection, anger. My personal triad. Jesus, am I so fragile?” She looked at the box of tissues on the table between them, then glanced at him, as if expecting his comfort, expecting her reward, as a puppy would sit at her master’s feet,
Rather than respond with a tissue, the man spoke. “And its importance to you?”
She spoke slowly, softly, “I know….” Theresa leaned forward, extracted a tissue and daubed at her eyes, which were not tearful. As if redefining her boundary, gaining her substance. She closed her eyes, withdrawing, processing; her breathing grew deep and measured.
Waiting, the Doctor reflected back on earlier times when Theresa first came to him. A year and a half ago. Theresa had been very depressed following the breakup of her long term relationship with Sean and was hoping for relief from the pain of loneliness and despair that the breakup had engendered. As always, the tricky part of psychotherapy was to offer symptomatic relief yet present the possibility of characterological change. To help Theresa be rid of those circular, downward spiraling thoughts that strip her world of color, yet offer to her the possibility of basic change in her relating to the world; that is, the woman’s ingrained defensive posture intended to alleviate anxiety that also severely restricts growth, maturity and meaning in her life. And, if she is able, to face his own anxieties once again in helping her see what it is to be human, to acknowledge her finiteness.