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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

FROM A THERAPIST'S FILE: LINDA MARY MONTANO


FROM A THERAPIST'S FILE, LINDA MARY MONTANO 2000

VISIT 72: Subject of Therapy: client continues to explore disappointment over loss of job.
Notes:
Was it downsizing or the administrators' violation of his first amendmnet rights that cost him his creative writing job? Or was it the fate of all ex-hippie, liberal professors teaching on tenure tracts? Weren't all of them accused of presenting content too sincerely, too expressively, too emotionally, too transgressively, too non-politically correct? Whatever it was, it just never worked and S. is really suffering.
Summary of Session 72: I encouraged S to focus on his inherent creativity so he could build up his confidence which is lacking right now.Told him to re-join the gym. He's clinically depressed and the job loss is exacerbating it. Am considering giving him Paxil. Built him up with suggestions that he's too talented for that old job anyway. And tell him the atmosphere there is toxic to his freedom. I also try distracting him by discussing my issues but it's on his time and his money. We talk about my insurance policies and my fees. Maybe this will dislodge him from his topic and incite some anger which might unseat his self-inflicted hostility. We'll see next week.

VISIT 73:
Subject of Therapy: Anger has moved his focus from I'm wrong to they're wrong.
Notes:
Most parents, especially from the part of the country where he's teaching don't want their kids using their 5 cents a minute phone cards to call them Sunday nights with reports of their intellectual excurions into the taboo. And administrators don't want the donors and alumni to call them Sunday afternoons using their MCI free long distance service, to read irate letters from disaffected parents of students who had reported the "transgressive"course material to said parents.
The name of the academic game was and still is: teach, but keep the students, colleagues, parents, administratiors, alumni and donors very,very happy.
Summary of Session 73:
People pleasing has become a pattern but the artist in S made another choice: to please himself and that sometimes included a few others. We begin talking about his family structure, his need to be the maverick artist, need also to be the peacemaker. He's incredibly open to looking at it analytically this week. Anger at me has given him some space to see differently.
Visit 74: Subject of Therapy: Exploration of the shadow.
Notes:Although he scored well with some students and some colleagues, he flunked the other tests and upset the academic applecart wherever he went. He was a bigt star, a bad boy, a scrapper, an upsetter. In retrospect he realized that he should have known better, should have known that they didn't want the bad boy to be a perennial bad boy; that bad boys are great for one lecture, for one workshop, for a one day visit, not for a seven year or permanent relationbship with the university family.
Summary of Session74:
I suggest that he start taking responsibility for that bad boy artist persona, the shadow, the dark side. His narcissism is infuriating. Never having had to compromise or be anything but an intuitive, he's impossible to work with sometimes. Self absorption is essential to his vocation but he must know when to stop! His genius really tires me. Didn't he know that Big Daddy University would demand obedience? Glad today is over. His body language is offensive!
Visit 75: Subject of Therapy:Content in the academy/content and the academy.
Notes: His marriage to the university was soon to end. Divorce was imminent. The last assignment was too close to comfort and would be the reason for his termination. That's what surprised him. The other creative writing research projects he gave his students were on equally reality-based topics: gender, food, death, origins, Tantra...and these assignments stirred neither the ire of the parents or administrators. In fact, a bound collection of their essays that they donated to the library were deemed valuable explanations of popular culture, theory and personal memory. Taboo was OK if it sounded smart or was disguised in academize.
Summary of Session 75:
We discussed how lucky he was to be able to address the verboten without censure. His intimacy issues are decidedly more informed and radical than the hypocritcal university system which defines taboo when it is seen as research. We talk about paradox, and pharaseeism. We talk about paradox and hypocrasy. I enjoyed today's session. It felt like a seminar and I mention that to him. He encourages me to continue talking this way because it helps him with his communicaton blocks. Here he can think aloud, talk, express himself in a safe space without the usual shyness around the opposite sex. I'm beginning to counter-transfer. Have to talk to my boss about this.
VISIT 76:Subject of Therapy: Client explores childhood and cultural influences.
Notes: Having passed the test of taboo and the academy, he moved onto other assignments: food and memory, trauma and memory, ecofeminism and memory and other important topics.... successfully handled. All of them got A's. And then he touched his nemesis, DEATH! It was only natural that he would choose death as a topic, having grown up in two countries, India and America, a child of a mixed marriage. All of his summers were spent in north India, just outside Benares where he visited his father's country palace and lived most of the time at his teacher's ashrama practicing meditation, silence, chanting, Vedanta and Ayruvedic medicine. His guru would take all of the boys to Benares once a week so that they could meditate at the ghats all night. Death and liberation were close friends, not strangers and his teacher insisted that he watch cremations, 100 or so a day, enough to see, enough to learn from. The same number the next day and this had been going on for centuries. Included in his sadhana or spiritual practice was a boat ride down the Ganges river, past the ghats which were many, not one...a ride which included maneuvering between floating bodies, body parts ,bloated limbs.
So at an early age he saw things reserved only for search and rescue salvage drivers excavating planes downed in the Pacific Ocean. Despite making him hard and bitter, all of his early training and meditation made him comfortable and conversant with death so when he returned to America to work, these experiences definately informed his philosphy, his syllabus and his university assignments. He was beyond the fear of it all and wanted to share that attitide with his students.
Summary of Session 76:
Today I should have paid HIM! I learned so much.That's one of the perks of being a therapist. Often it's more instructive and healing for the therapist than for the client. Maybe not! Does anybody else know this secret? All I know is that I learned about Benares today.
VISIT 77:Summary of Therapy:Creativity/healing/enlightenment.
Notes:
He talks about being an American also and in this conutry we are comfortable, conversant and open with sexuality, but not with death. Sex is everywhere and available to anyone with chat room access, or with $3.00 for a 900 number one minute call. It is as easy to see and gobble up as candy. As a child of mixed cultures he eventually saw that neither death or sex were taboo rather they are tantalizing curiosities and mental meals that need to be digested, cooked, tasted and eliminated.That's how non-attachment was born. Do it all, see it all, get addicted, then get bored by it all so eventually you are left with emptiness and real space for Tantric intimacy.
For those not wanting to have a hands-on experience, that is for the less experiential and phenomenologically inclined, creative writing could serve as another path and lessons would then be learned from the imagination. He taught that the taboo didn't have to be really experienced but if written about everything could be cleared and energy was then shifted. No muss, no fuss, no addiction,
and when free of lust and desire, he said that he cold feel an empty spaciousness, similar to what he felt when he meditated.
Summary of Session 77:
It's become too chatty; is it because we are talking about such private subjects? He must be lonely because he's not wanting to leave the office and he's working to impress me with his theories, his genius but I feel deep down that he is just touching the surface. I smell some core issues and painfull traumas that he won't touch with a ten foot pole. So glad the seminar phase of this therapy with him is over and we are beginning to work hard and deep again. I'm drained but touched by his metamorphosis.
VISIT 78:Subject of Therapy: Motive behind his death assignment.
Notes:
That's the gift that he wanted to pass onto his students, meditative mind.And to reach it he discussed interior paths and the art of writing as one of the many valuable ways to achieve pure mind. On Jan 18 he gave the assignment,"Write a 12 page essay on the topic, DEATH AND MEMORY.The students looked stunned eventhough they had studied the topic extensively in his class because he had arranged for:
.a class trip to the local morgue
.a lecture by a pathologist
.viewing of morgue bodies
.Elizabeth Kubler Ross movies plus a workshop with her
.visits to a near-by Hospice
.viewing of Schindler's list
.tour of a funeral parlor
.4 days volunteering in a nursing home
.video of cremations in Benares India
.a visit from a person with AIDS
.attendace at a wake and a funeral.....

After this research, it was time for his students to write, theorize, remember and make art of it all. And he visibly shook when he told me this part of the story because when they put their papers on the class web page and after the public readings at the Cyber Cafe, he was asked to see, in this order,
the assistant chair
the chair
the dean
the lawyer to the president
and the president himself...
And to each of them he explained his syllabus, his teaching philosophy, his reasoning for the assignment and his understanding of consequences. The bottom line was, (when he told me this he was really crying), he was told that he was not to be trusted with the minds of university students.That's how he ended up in this regression.
Summary of Session 78:
As his therapist, I insisted that he see his interest in death as undiagnosed slippage! That is, as a child, he was not able to feel or express rage, anger, disappointmnent or hostility. Children naturally want to be conversant with those big feelings and need guidance with their expression. He's just learning that and has translated the natural urge to be good and bad into aesthetic infantalizations. Our sessions are maturing him emotionally and I am able to explain to him that he needs to get to the core feelings to aviod the pitfalls of unconscious victimhood and outsider status. This way he can choose his course and his urges won't so readily get displaced into a career that has "death" as an aggenda (surgeon, wrestler, accupunctionist, thantologist, grief counsellor) without knowing why he is pulled in that direction. I congratualated him for having controlled his urge to "die" by displacing the urge into his art. But I didn't let him off the hook too easily and for the last 10 minutes of the session, we did some powerfull discharging of early memories and hurts and rages.Of course it re-stimulated all of my stuff and I went home and cried in the bathtub.
VISIT 79:Subject of the Session:Can you go home again?
Notes:So here he is, he went home to his mom.Tenureless, jobless, clueless. His dad had died in India and his body was cremated on the banks of the Ganges ten years ago. So now it was 90 year old mom and S. He slithered back into his old home town, hoping nobody would notice him...clueless, downsized, humiliated and exiled.
His new job discription was beyond managable:
.grocery shopping
.chauffeur
.errand boy
.house cleaner
.medication dispenser
.chef
.returner of unwanted objects that mom bought on a whim
.funeral attender since all of moms friends were passing on so fast that every other day they attended a wake and funeral at the place up the street from her home.
Summary of Session 79:
I've overstepped my bounds. Told him you can't go home again. Bad therapy. Irresponsible of me. What happened today? I said goodbye.The occupational hazard of this job is falling in love. I'VE DONE IT!!!!!!
Therapy ends.
Note:
I received a card from him six months later. He says that the metamorphosis from being a professor to becomeing a hidden life-artist got easier and easier. Differences were blurring and although he still went to India every summer to his guru's ashrama, and stayed with his father's relatives, he began seeing a larger plan. What he saw was that he didn't need the corporate world to define his life anymore, he didn't need the money, the prestige, the power. After the twentieth funeral that he attended with his mom, after the 50th returned pocketbook to KMART, after the 100th bag of microwave popcorn eaten during Wheel of Fortune TV time with her at night, life began blurring into one indistinguishable mass of mystery and inner smile.
He told me that when he delivered his mom's tax papers to her CPA yesterday, he got the message that he would have to deal with money next.
Maybe he will call me, come for therapy and we can talk!!!!!!! I hope so.

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