After several months away from my writing, I’m finally back. I had gotten myself bogged down for a month and a half working on a paper about one of my patients. I usually don’t talk about work in these blogs, but I might as well tell the world that I am a specialist in psychoanalysis, and I do occasional work in the field. I had taken on a client: a thirty-two year old obsessive-compulsive; his condition he had been diagnosed as neurotic by half a dozen psychiatrists, and was so acute that most of them had broken off their professional relationships with him. He said that I was his last hope. I suspected that it was just his flair for the dramatic, but I was wrong. He was at the end of his rope. I didn’t need the increased work load, but when the money is good, it is hard to say no. So, I agreed to see him once a week.
On the one hand, I was fortunate to have him come into the office because I needed a topic for my next academic conference in mid-April. On the other, he was driving me nuts. Obsessive-compulsives never do anything worth writing about: their lives are dedicated to doing nothing. They try to prevent changes through endless rituals. I really prefer psychotics, drug addicts, alcoholics, and violent criminals because they are much more interesting: they have things to talk about. But this guy was different. He was low key, paid his bills on time, and didn’t in the way of my teaching. The only problem was that I had to listen to him talk, hour after mind-numbing hour about why he couldn’t have a normal sex life.
I started off with the basics: “Is this something physical? Have you tried medical treatment?”
“No,” he responded. “Everything works normally. I just don’t like it when I get an erection. It makes me feel out of control, like an animal, dirty, you know.”
Thinking that it might be an “object issue,” I suggested “Maybe you prefer men?” I added, “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Oh, heavens no! That’s not it at all. I like women. I just don’t want to a sleep with them.”
It looked like an aversion, a veritable vagina dentada, fear of women, but I didn’t know why. He had a hard time even explaining it; he preferred to use euphemisms instead of saying the word “sex.” Moreover, he talked incessantly about everything but his problem. Although he was aware that he needed help, he was much more comfortable talking about the color of the carpet and his gas than what was really going on.
I was perplexed, so in the following sessions, I dug deeper into his past. As it turns out, his mother had died when he was born. He grew up in a house alone with his father, who refused to bring other women in the house. He attended Catholic school and eventually became an altar boy. It was then he decided to study for the priesthood. After a year in the seminary, he quit. He had come to the conclusion that the church was a remnant of the Middle Ages and out of synch with the modern world. At first, I thought he was going to tell me he had been molested by a priest, and we would be talking about potential lawsuits, but he said that the priests never touched the doll in any inappropriate places.
By the fifth session, we got to the crux of the problem: despite the fact that his mother was dead, he seemed to fell her presence, and since she died during childbirth, sex was to blame. Thus, he concluded that if he had sex, it would kill him, too. In the shrink business, we call this a “cord issue,” meaning that he never really separated from her. Nor did he bear witness to the fact that she had her own desires. The mere suggestion that his mother might have actually desired a sexual relationship would send him into a panic attack right in the middle of the office.
I saw that we were nearing termination. I finally said to him, “It looks like you have a choice between a dead mother and a sex life.” I added, “Hey, if the communion with the great beyond works for you, fine. Who am I to judge? Maybe you can live without sex.”
After a minute or two of silence, he responded: “This is why I am here, doc. I also find myself … you know… tempted by the young woman who comes in every night to cook for my dad. She was cutting up a chicken the other day in the kitchen, and just watching her stick her hand in the crevice, in and out, smear butter all over the chicken, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, massage it with rosemary, made me feel, you know … a a a aroused. I had to hold on to the edge of the table to keep my balance. My breathing was labored, the room began to spin, and it, you know, it, began to move on its own.
“What? The chicken?”
“No. You know, down there. It moved on its own, without me having to touch it.”
“You touch it?”
No, almost never. It just started moving.
“The chicken caused that?”
“Yeah. A great big fryer. Why? Isn’t it normal? I mean, you know, look at it. The soft curves, tender skin, the orifices, the butter…”
“Oh, yes. I see it all the time. Please continue.”
I neglected to tell him that I usually find this condition in roosters, and that sexual relationships between humans and animals are probably illegal in a few states. But the point here was not to scare him off. We were finally getting somewhere, and if he got the idea I was being judgmental, he would clam up and it would take weeks to get back to this point. I also made a note to purchase hand sanitizer for the office.
“Please continue. Have you taken this thing with the chicken any further?” I asked.
“No. It only lasted for a few seconds, but I felt I should tell you.”
“I’m glad that you trust me enough to share that with me. We are about out of time. So, let’s continue this in our next session.”
To be continued…
Cross-posted at http://jimmygabacho.com