Standing On A Chair

Telling it like I see it…

Rants from the Chair: On What Happens When You Marry Your Shrink – Part 4: The Marathon continued…

As I look back, I realize The Marathon was something like basic training in the Marines.  Isn’t that where they beat the men down to a bleeding, sniveling nub, and then they re-build them into something else?

Given how long ago this event occurred, and given the limitations of “Blogdom,” I will attempt to provide the important highlights of that…uh, transformative weekend:

As the regal Dr. Andrew Rosenberg presided over the group from his winged, green-leather chair, every so often doing his ‘therapist’s nod,’ all attendees had their turn on the hot-seat. 

Effie stressed out over her studies as a Ph.D. student.  Effie stressed out over Lee never saying anything.  Effie stressed out over Marcus and me.  I remember by the end of Saturday, we were begging Andrew to let Effie take a Valium.  More than one even.  She was screechy and disruptive, bouncing off walls, vomiting vitriol from her down-turned maw.

Finally, after the millionth time she attacked me for being white and blessed and with unfair advantages, I snapped. 

“Goddamnit Effie, you said you are working on your Ph.D.  Me?  I have no degrees at all.  Doesn’t that make you superior to me by about a mile?”

Effie looked at me with round, surprised eyes.

Dr. Cornelius Johns said, “Bull-fucking-shit, Jill.  You said that just because you want Effie to like you.  That was manipulative as hell.”

I snapped again.  “Cornelius, I’m sick to death of you.  What I said to Effie was a fact.  Plus she’s been on me forever; accusing me of thinking I’m better than she is.  I’m sick to death of her too, and I don’t give a damn whether she likes me or not.”

Everyone was totally quiet. 

You see, prior to this incident, I’d been pretty still, pretty amenable.  Plus, I had picked up this pesky little trait from my mother…the one where you don’t dare be direct and ask for what you want from people.  You must instead find another way to get what you want, and this is done by doing a thing called manipulation.  Another term would be ‘people pleaser.’  So when I went off on Effie and Cornelius, people were a little shocked. 

Moving on to Wilma, it turns out she was a trust fund baby and had a debilitating issue with money.  Having so much of it made her an anxiety-ridden wreck.  Of course nobody could relate, but it was a subject of major interest to all of us.  Andrew told her to pull a hundred-dollar-bill out of her wallet. “I want you to burn it in the fireplace,” he said.  “Someone give her a lighter.”  So a shaking and tearful Wilma did just that, and we all watched in fascination as the money quickly went up in flames.

Saturday night we went out to dinner somewhere in Pasadena.  Everybody ate steaks and drank huge amounts of alcohol.  When we returned to the house in Glendale, shit-faced and full, Wilma and her ex-husband Stan went into a bedroom, closed the door and had sex.  We all heard it from our sleeping bags on the living room floor.

First thing Sunday morning Marcus was labeled a cocky, over-confident know-it-all who relied on his looks for everything he got.  I was secretly glad to hear people say things to him that normally wouldn’t be said.  Because although he had many charming qualities, truth be told, he was a cocky, over-confident know-it-all who relied on his looks for everything he got.

Lee Greenberg never said a word.  When people accused him of not contributing to the group, he just got up and left the room.

“Shouldn’t you make him talk?” people demanded of Andrew.  

“It’s not the therapist’s job to make his patient do anything,” Andrew replied with another nod.

Deborah the butch lesbian continued to cry.  She also confessed to having romantic feelings for Wilma, which certainly created about an hour of discussion.  Wilma was instructed to comfort and console Deborah while being firm about her heterosexuality and lingering feelings for her ex. 

Dr. Cornelius Johns couldn’t seem to get past the blond boy Charley’s desire for penile amputation.  And he had a problem with Marcus and me.  Like everyone else.  So he stayed on our asses. 

“Why are you here, Jill?” spat Cornelius.

“I’m here to support Marcus.”

“What, you have no issues, no problems? You think you are just so fucking perfect?”

I think I cried. 

Late Sunday afternoon Andrew brought out a bin filled with Betakes (pronounced Batakahs)…those soft, stuffed baseball bats you can use to hit people with and it doesn’t hurt them.  “After a weekend of beating ourselves and everyone else up psychologically, I want everyone to beat the shit out of each other with these Betakes.  And with each blow, I want you to scream.  This activity will be our last.”

And so we did.  For about an hour.  We were so exhausted, so emotionally drained; we literally delighted in trying to kill each other.  In fact, somebody had to pull me off of Marcus.  Imagine that.

What did I learn from The Marathon experience?  What did I take with me?  A totally new perception of myself.   Almost unconsciously I’d been practicing the ‘rule of engagement’ passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me:  Be manipulative.  I’m proud to say I shed that philosophy many years ago.  Now I’m occasionally known as “assertive, confrontational,” with perhaps a little “you’re too direct,” thrown in.  I’ll own that.  And wear it like a badge.

But after The Marathon, I suddenly felt as mentally ill as everyone else there…maybe even more so.

So the following week I made a phone call, and became Dr. Andrew Rosenberg’s brand new patient.

Stay Tuned for Part 5

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July 19, 2011 - Posted by | Psychotherapy | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Now I’m occasionally known as “assertive, confrontational,” with perhaps a little “you’re too direct,” thrown in. I’ll own that. And wear it like a badge.

    Me too and I vascillate between seeing it as a blessing and a curse. My husband of 35 years recently let me know that no one in my family had manners, as compared with his family who simply swept mental illness and all other bothersome experiences such as adoptions under the rug. 🙂 Well, there you go…..

    Argh. Love your posts!

    Comment by Becky | July 19, 2011 | Reply


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