“Dear Esteemed Colleagues:
I realize that you expect before you a factual report of my client 'Irish', based intelligently on my studied observation during hour-long sessions with him in my office; but it was my distressing discovery that the more I seemed to get to know him, the less I understood him.
I mean this in the most positive sense of not being bored by him or able to predict what he would say. This quality of mystery does not lend itself well to statistical formulation or psychological analysis; however my report includes valuable insight, I believe, by my many perceptions of the man, which you well know are telling images brought forth from an emotional connection made between two people or ideas. I now believe that perceptions are of more value in understanding a person than facts.
For example, my client is an attorney with political aspirations as a Republican, but he fights for the environment and regular people while rollerblading sometimes to work. He writes legal proposals and also satirical, philosophical essays that make me giggle or wonder silently. What kind of conclusion could one make of such an unpredictable person?
My report, therefore, will attempt to describe the man as I have at one time or another perceived him during our sessions.
He reminds me of Robert Redford in The Candidate, The Great Gatsby and perhaps Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Indeed he had a Jay Gatsby complex when I first started working with him. McKay, Gatsby and Sundance all went after their dreams for better or worse. At least they gave it their best effort.
He sometimes loves goofy old comedy and sci-fi movies, but may more identify with One Who Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Clockwork Orange.
Socially he embodies the colors yellow and sky blue for his sunny personality and cherry red his passion; privately he’s more purple and chartreuse to reflect a sensitive depth of soul and nobility.
He’s a water sign, a Scorpio, which fits in with his flowing thoughts or stream-of -consciousness way of communication, not only with me during sessions, but close friends. Think of a waterfall. However, he doesn’t take astrology that seriously, but only as amusement once in a while.
He’s like Peter Pan playing with his shadow and living to dream; like Tinkerbelle flitting around and being magical; like Wendy, Michael and John who learn to fly; like The Lost Boys who love being silly, adventuresome boys.
I hear the music of The Doors and Pink Floyd, a psychedelic rock sound that overwhelms you with the feeling of awe. Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” was played, actually, in one of our sessions.
To get a bit silly here, heh, I think he was a Siamese cat, a female stripper, a circus performer, a famous romantic poet, perhaps Thomas More, a sultan with thousands in his harem, a minstrel and Joan of Arc in past lives. Probably a brave knight, too, against fire-breathing dragons!
I also am reminded of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” sung by George Michael. It could be him singing of his frustrated need for understanding and love. I hear a wounded child, a sad child yet desperately hopeful. He’s had his fill of clingy, desperate women, of being stalked by some, but it’s a risk he feels he must take to find the right one, who he believes does exist.
Perhaps a poem can sum up my perceptions of my client:
Raindrops sweeten the air They brush my shoots with their fingers “Please won’t you grow? Become all you can be.” And oh! They sink into my roots, What a seduction, a loving assault... And grow I do swiftly, As the jealous sun dries up the rain, “Please won’t you come back? Be my sweet lover always.” Then oh! They drench me in lust, what a fresh rain, a ticklish French kisser!
Lastly he seems the type to talk to himself, even in his snatches of sleep. So does this patient need more therapy or can he not heal himself through writing and talking to himself and friends? Has he really gained anything in our sessions? I asked him and he was adamant that he had considerably. He trusts me to be honest with him like few people are, so we shall continue the sessions and see what develops.
Are there any questions? Comments?”
“Yes, I have one of each, Dr. Freudine,” says a female doctor in the back out of sight. “The poem was a very lovely touch and really gives me an image of your client. Could I please hear it again?”
I relax and smile. At least one doctor appreciates my creative approach! “Thank you, Doctor...I’m sorry I can’t see you to know who you are.”
“Dr. Defiance. I’d love to speak with you more about your client. He sounds like he could respond well to a controversial therapy I use to great success. It’s a hands-on approach that takes it beyond just talk, which is so limiting, especially if it flows without direction. See me later if you’re interested, okay?”
“Oh, that’s…most interesting, thank you,” I fumble and reread the poem quickly.
“Dr. Freudine,” sighs an accented, male voice. I find him in front, slouched and arms crossed, a pinched-mouth Englishman. “Your creative approach was somewhat amusing, but I think I can speak for the majority of us that you have wasted our valuable time. A psychiatrist is not just a best friend or potential lover as your little verse would indicate. I’m not finished. You seem content to disregard your professionalism by courting transference like a lovesick child. I advise you, little good will it do, to abandon therapy at once, even psychiatry. Good day!” He unwraps himself and is gone like a shot.
I’m unable to breathe. My chest is so tight that I wonder for a second if I’ve died. Suddenly, though, I push out the gasp plugging everything up and like my worst nightmare, tears roll down my face. “I...I...gotta go!”
Somehow I don’t fall flat on my face and manage to escape, becoming more and more angry. I wasted his time? Hey, he wasted mine! Transference! The very idea is an insult.
I check my watch and clear my throat as obviously as possible. Most weeks I wear my throat out by trying to be polite, but that would not be the case anymore, not since reading The Gift Of Shyness by Dr. Alexander Avila. Annoyed, Irish pauses in mid-sentence to glance my way. I tap my watch with a furtive, little smile.
“Already, Doc? Hey, my watch says I have a couple of minutes more. Are you getting bored with my sexual exploits over the weekend or are you meeting your lover and want me to clear out?”
“Yes! I’ll see you next week, okay? Maybe we can delve into why you asked that silly question.”
“Silly? Yes what? You’re extremely confusing!”
I pull out a hand mirror from my desk drawer, forcing myself not to grin, and proceed to ignore him while studying my reflection. I would be assertive, mysterious, and a bit outrageous as Dr. Avila suggested.
“Well!” he growls. “I’ve got to meet this Mr. Hot stuff. You’ve never been so rude to me. In fact you’ve been different today, Doc, like you wanted to be somewhere else. Are you hinting at something?”
“Hinting is the last thing I would do. That just leads to misunderstandings and wasted time. Why should I want to do that, Irish? Oh! There’s the door and you’re still here.”
He rises to his feet as I toss the mirror back in the drawer and reaches for the door. Over his broad shoulder he murmurs: “Don’t think you’ve got a closet!” He opens the door. “And what do we have here? A freshly-picked flower for the lady?” He steps out of the way and the frowning newcomer clears his throat politely before giving Irish a wide berth and handing me the end-of-the-season, yellow daffodil at more than arm’s length.
“Why, D...darling! Thank you so much. I just love daffodils.” I take the flower, aware of Irish scrutinizing the situation up close.
“I don’t believe this. He’s just a kid wet behind the ears, for Pete’s sake! Are you feelin’ okay, Doc? Who the blazes are you, kid?” he demands.
The newcomer’s eyes open wide and for a moment he doesn’t know what to say, but then he starts giggling and blushing as if caught red-handed stealing from the cookie jar. I stare in dismay at the unexpected turn of events.
“I...I was just imagining what I could have said to him, you know, like Dr. Avila has me practicing in front of the mirror and...gosh, Dr. Freudine, I couldn’t do it. I’m no actor, gosh no. It would take a miracle for that to happen! I’m s...sorry. I know I’ve disappointed you?”
I grimace, then try to smile. “Oh, shush. Irish, I really need you to leave now, please. My lover and I... “
The new client balks. “Lover?” Then he eyes the door as if ready to bolt.
I sigh. “Didn’t you read the book at all and do the exercises?”
“I sure did, Dr. Freudine, and here’s my journal answering the questions.” He pulls out a notepad and drops it on my desk. “But I just have too much Observer in me to be an Actor. I can’t stop giggling when I try to say whatever crazy thing comes to my mind. I mean, they seem crazy to me. I’m sorry.”
Irish smirks, eyes dancing. “Would that book be The Gift Of Shyness by Dr. Alexander Avila?”
I glare at him. “Are you still here?”
The flushed newcomer, still wearing his Dungeons and Dragons jacket, turns to him with interest. “Yeah. Have you read it too?”
Irish drawls, “Enough of it in the bookstore to know it’s pure fluff. Doc, you can’t be seriously trying to help this kid get over his shyness with that book, are you?”
“One does not overcome shyness, but only its negative aspects.”
“All right, uh huh, that’s what I meant.” His lips twitch.
I’ve had enough. “I doubt it! You don’t even know what the book’s about. I want you to leave.”
The kid stutters, “I..I don’t m...mind hearing what he has to s...say.”
“What you do after your session is entirely up to you.”
Irish whistles. He’s obviously enjoying himself. “Doc, it’s his session, not yours! Now look, um? Danny? Mikey?”
“My name is... “
I slam my hand on my desk. “Unh uh uh! Counselor, you’re not advising my client. Not in my office. Go away, both of you. I’m sitting down and doing paperwork since I’m not needed. Talk about rude!”
Irish, striding forward and swatting the notebook off my desk, sticks his gorgeous face in mine. “I’m not being rude, but you are insufferably haughty and small-minded. What are you so afraid of? That I’ll impress that kid more than you can?”
I drop my trembling jaw, speechless.
He drops his gaze. “Ah, there’s the fool book over there.” Grabbing it from the desk, he opens it. “Let’s just go down the chapters, shall we? Part One: Why Shyness Is A Wonderful Romantic Gift. Well, isn’t that sweet? I never would have guessed that one in a million years. Oh, here’s The Truth About Being Single And Shy. Scintillating stuff here. It’s A Shy World After All, right? Forty percent of Americans consider themselves shy, sixty percent of Chinese. Hmm. Great ending:
“Used ‘intelligently’ (quotes are mine), the Gift of Shyness (not the book, though) will reward you with an enriched social life, a deeply satisfying love relationship (what a fortuneteller!) and a contented heart and mind.
“Now let’s look at The Seven Gifts Of Shyness a bit. Irritating scenes to illustrate a point, aren’t they? Okay, Sensitivity...and what loopy exercises to develop it! New Agers will love it. Listen to this:
“STEP 2 (STEP 1 was note preparation): As you sit with your friend, tell this person that neither of you will say anything for the next several minutes. Now pull out your list of questions (4 basic questions!) and focus on ‘feeling’ the answers based on the vibes you’re picking up.
“Going on, Long and Loyal Relationships, Listening, Modesty (where was yours, Doc?), Mystery, Gentleness. All in one life-enhancing chapter. Now the Gift of Shyness is yours!
“Next chapter: What Kind of Shy Am I? Shy Introvert, Shy Extravert, NonShy Introvert, Non-Shy Extravert (how rude!). Let?s see. From the MyersBriggs-based descriptions of each, I’d say I was a Non-Shy Introvert and the kid a Shy Introvert. We know what you are, Doc. “ He grins disarmingly.
“Okay, you’ve had your fun. We know what’s in it already, thank you.”
The kid giggles a bit. “So...what did you think of the chapter about getting your fools out? I tried a couple of the exercises, but making noises at furniture only made me feel self-conscious and embarrassed. I’m just not spontaneous and never have been.”
“Well, how can you be spontaneous if you dislike being silly? You can’t!” Irish tells him. “The point of spontaneity in this chapter is to help you be assertive and say what you feel or think, but getting your fools out didn’t help you do that.”
“It sure didn’t. Probably nothing would.”
Irish groans rather melodramatically. “Oh, be serious! Avila says he bases his so-called research on ‘field-proven techniques, strategies and exercises,’ but that doesn’t mean anything. I think you...”
I clear my throat. “I’ll be the psychiatrist if you don’t mind.”
He studies me. “What’s wrong with giving my opinion?”
“Nothing...outside my office. Opinions are only subjective, but psychiatric analysis is objective and the reason why, um, he is here.”
“Really? I always thought it was subjective as well. So how would you answer the kid’s question about why getting his fools out didn’t work? Give us the unblemished wisdom of your schoolbook knowledge!”
I straighten in my chair and take a deep breath. “I wasn’t disrespecting you, Irish. I’m trying to salvage this session with my client, which you have ruined. Absolutely no progress was made to help him appreciate his shy nature and allow him to be free of the Observer or Critic voice in his mind. Instead you’ve made fun of his shyness and any attempt to understand him. When he said he didn’t think anything could help him, I would have asked why he was so negative and tried to discover when and why he started feeling that way in his life.”
He grunts and looks down, then at the equally-thoughtful kid: ”It looks like she’s right about that. I hope you’ll accept my humblest apology.”
“Of course,” the kid replies. Irish looks askance at me now. “Does this mean you like The Gift Of Shyness, Doc? You recommend it?”
I hesitate. “Mr. Anonymous, yes you, would you please excuse Irish and me? Please have a seat. I’ll be just a few minutes.“ I stand up and gesture to my curious Jim Morrison look-alike to open the door. We step out and I close the door. “Irish, I don’t give my opinion to my client because that sways his opinion. He has to find out what and why he feels a certain way.”
“So you hated the book, too?”
“Well, just between you and me, I thought it pop psychology and was laughing inside at your commentary. I would’ve loved to hear you slam the rest, like which shy type is best for you and Avila’s dating wisdom for the Shy Introvert, but I can only imagine the horror on my new client’s face. He’s not prepared for such running sarcasm, Irish.”
He laughs out loud, making me shush him.
“I’m sorry for my rudeness during our session. I really need to keep these sessions more professional or I’ll lose my license.” I smile. “I really got to you, I’m afraid.”
“You’re being professional, but why were you rude?”
I mumble, “Trying out Avila’s assertiveness techniques and setting it up for my new client to be spontaneous. I’ll be nicer next week, promise.”
“If there is one! Okay, Doc. Please stay unconventional and spontaneous...and honest.” He checks his watch. “Say, the hour is just about up. I’d really like to walk out with him and you if you have no more lovers coming with flowers. “
Shaking my head I regard him, amused. “No more. Wait a minute while he and I discuss the value of continuing the sessions about the book. I have his journal to read, so I don’t think there’ll be a problem. The book may be hokey, but it’s a conversation starter.”
“That’s good then. I’ll try to get over being jealous of the kid and curb my Actor better, okay, Doc?”
I have to chuckle. “Promises! Promises!” And return to my session.