Modul 6, vinjett 2

[Detta fall är fingerat och ett resultat av flera behandlingserfarenheter. Det skall likväl hanteras som konfidentiellt och får ej delges obehöriga]

Client John

John called me in June and told me he was not well. He felt like living in a safety box, waiting for something else to happen. Anything would do. He worries for many things and he has problems to arrange his life in a way that makes him satisfied and happy. He is single, 32, and a civil engineer educated in theoretical physics and electrotechnics. He lives alone and he has a well paid job at a computer company. I invite him to come to my private existential practice and to tell me more about himself and to find out what we could do together. As I allways do I told him that this meeting was to be seen as totally unprejudiced and that it was important for us to find out if we could agree on important goals for our work and also if we thought that we would like to work together. He agreed on these terms and I saw him a week later. First meeting
When I met John for the first time I was struck by his very special appearence. He is 2 meters tall, he wears special glasses, long side-whiskers and has a face, how shall I make you understand this.., somewhat ”horseish”. I wouldn’t call him ugly, it is more that he is peculiar, look a bit old-fashioned or ”academic”. Also his clothes are rather olf-fashioned and he lacks all colours except grey and brown. I get the impression of a man that don’t ”see” himself and who never was the object of a loving mother’s tender caring. I am quite aware that these are impressions partly formed by myself and coloured, maybe, by my own prejudices and my pre-formed frame of reference. Nevertheless I would like to inform you about my first impression since it could be of value to help to understand this man and to make him better understand himself (and me to understand myself). He told me that he during his studies as a student of technology joined a special ‘pondering-group’ and that he considers himself to be a pondering nature. ”I wonder,” he says, ”if anyone can ever believe I am a good man. I suspect everyone to think I am of no value”. He goes on and tells me more about his background. He was born in a small town in the middle of Sweden. His parents were rather young when he was born as the eldest of two children – he has a sister of 30. Now his parents, his father and mother are 56 and 54 respectively and live in the same house where he was brought up, situated some 300 kmtrs away. Both his parents worked a lot during his childhood and John spend a lot of his days in day-care and later at school. His mother worked in a bookshop and his father as a truckdriver. He goes on and tells me more about his father and I get the impression that he wants me to know much about him since he played and still plays an important role in his life. He says he pity his father who had a troublesome childhood himself. As a grown up he worked a lot and was gradually more and more a ”work-aholic”. Now at 56 he is early retired. The problem with his father, John said, is that he always believed everyone to be good. So he was used by many, especially so because he was a talented technician, although not educated. Gradually he was more disillusioned about people and retired early. John says that he and his father get along well but they never have an argument. When they disagree, John withdraws but he never shows his disagreement or anger. He says he is afraid of his own feelings because he thinks he might lose control if he gets mad. He also confesses that he was harassed both as a small boy and later at school by the other children but never let anyone know. He also tells me that his family were Christian true believers and that he learned early that being angry or to show your strong feelings too open was not good manner. He remembers he had a headache often. His contact with his mother is poor. They seldom speak to each other and he explains this by saying that she comes from a family where they rarely speak to each other. His mother withdraws and is very reserved, especially when it comes to feelings and especially problems. John has found one way to get in contact with her and that is in cooking. So John developed as a good cook and still likes to cook in his own apartment. When John talks I notice how he mixes different tempi so I get the impression that much of his childhood experiences are still with him and influence his present living. So even if he is now a grown up man and, at surface, is successful in taking care of his own affairs, he is still caught up in a rather static self-image and still lives an internal life characterised by childhood perspectives. He is stuck in his own life and, as he says himself, – he is waiting for life as a grown-up man to begin. He says about himself that he is very self-critical and self-examining. He is often very tired and experiences a low degree of lust and interest in the world. However, there is an exception. He likes very much folk-dancing (!) and gives me the impression that he is rather experienced and talented in dancing. However, since he is also very sensitive to others he, from time to time, scans others and gets the impression that they find him ridiculous and clumpsy. When that occurs he experience panic attacks. But this is mostly a problem at the end of the evenings when the dancing is about to end and some looks around for a partner to join. Those moments he tries hard to avoid so he mostly leaves early, often sad and disappointed. But during the dancing he feels some comfort in expressing himself in the acting and moving, and he is allowed to hold and to hug and to have some good contact back. During our first meeting I notice that John has a lot to talk about and he seems rather open and unreserved towards me. He tells me he visited another (female) therapist for seven sessions but he didn’t feel free to talk with her. I tell him about my work and that I welcome him to come and work with me if he wants. He immediately accepts and we agree on working together for at least a term. I go trough the usual contract requirements about confidentiality, keeping files, paying and so on, and we decide to go on each week from the start of August.

The three first sessions
I notice that every session, John moves his chair to sit right opposite to me. This position is much more uncomfortable for him because of his long legs, but he prefers to sit like this to be able to watch me all the time. This he admits when I take it up with him. He needs to see me and have a sense of control over me not to be taken over by ominous ideas about my reaction on to him, To me this is unusual but I don’t feel uncomfortable but instead have the impression, and also a feeling of that this is important to him and I should try to stand it. Well, I do, but I leave to him to watch me and am careful not to stare at him back. During the three sessions we have met he says a lot more of those topics he announced at our first meeting. I chose to sum up these under some headings:

His relation to his father
John makes it clear that his relation to his father is quite complex and paradoxical. He both admires and despice him. He would like to dismiss him and he, at the same time, wants to protect him from all evil. He accuse him of having interfered with his life and at the same time he is grateful for all confirmations his father has given him since his mother has been so withdrawn and detached.

The more he talks about him and his father I get the impression that he experiences being in dept to him. His own life shouldn’t start and especially not – he is not allowed to be happy if his father is unhappy. And, John says, he is. His father is bitter and alone. He thinks he gave all he had to help others and now he is broken and retired. When John was a small boy, it appears, he thought his father was a hero. Everyone visited them to be helped with their cars, their furnitures, their machines, and his father fixed it all. He worked, after his daily work as a truck-driver, during evenings, during Saturdays and Sundays and he couldn’t say NO to anybody. So, we find that John is the son of a fallen hero and he seems responsible and grateful for all he (and everyone else) got. It seems as if John tries to compensate and to give his father redress. Until that is done he is not allowed to live his own life. So, his life is, kind of, taken over by his fathers and he experiences meaninglessness, boredom and a lack of lust.

John experiences much loneliness.
John suffers a lot from being alone in the world. He doesn’t feel that anyone really care about him – except for his father who interfere with his life to save his own. His mother is detached and his contacts with his sister are sparse. ”We can talk with each other, but we are not buddies”, he says. His sister is still a religious person while John has left all that behind he tells me.

What John has done is to build a secret life of his own that is little shared by others. He creates technical devices, he watches TV (Robinson and other soapes) and he is a day-dreamer in what concerns women. He has the dream of meeting someone quite suddenly, someone who disregards his physical appearence and likes him for what he is – a good, well-meaning person, talented and full of (potential) life. However, during the nights when is folk-dancing he experiences again and again ”a negative male Cinderella-story”. The princess is never there waiting to ’try out the shoe on her foot’. No one stays long enough to let him try and he walkes home, sad and alone.

How he relates to others.
I let him describe how he thinks he behaves in his relations with others at work and in private life. At work he joins a male, somewhat chauvinistic, group of other technicians who discuss computer hard ware problems and try to create and construct new smart technical devices. John is very proud of his talent and tells me is is eager to be the best, to win every internal contest and to impress others by being brilliant. So he is rather successful at work (he is still there although they fired more than 300, he tells me), but the relating seems rather narrow and it is telling that he doesn’t meet with anyone of his collegues outside work.