Magazine for Sexuality and Politics

Might Your Psychologist Secretly Be Your Best Friend?

Edgar Thomas

About two decades ago, a former girlfriend of mine, who had majored in Psychology at Princeton and who was snobby, fashionable and utterly capricious, somehow or other landed a prestigious job mainly involving journalism at a certain venerable publication based out of New York City. One day, about three years after the demise of our relationship, she wrote me an email out of the blue, as it were, asking me if I had ever dumped one of my psychologists before, whom she referred to, sort of derogatorily, as being “shrinks.” No psychologist had ever dumped me before nor had I even considered firing a psychologist. Certainly, I had been dumped by her before, two times in fact for that matter. The last time she did this to me, well, that was what made me start seeing a psychologist for the first time in my life to help me cope with our unexpected break-up and the resultant onset of an extreme sense of depression and loneliness. This occurred incidentally while we were in the very midst of planning our wedding at a Waspy, ultra open-minded Episcopalian church in New England, even though she happened to be a self-proclaimed Jewish American Princess and I was an Irish Catholic. Then, after all of that, we were going to have a second nuptial ceremony at some Tibetan Buddhist monastery based in Chautauqua, New York a month later and only her friends were to be invited. It was all part of her fanciful plan which she had devised to ensure that we were going to have an “alchemical marriage” for the rest of our life. At any rate, when I did receive that email, I wasn’t in the mood to call her up and bring up the deleterious break-up and then do my best to play certain guilt-inducing mind games about the whole damn thing, even though my own psychologist had been insisting for quite some time that I needed to do precisely these two things in tandem when she next contacted me, if I ever expected to get healed. Instead, using just a few sentences and taking care to not let her in on my secret that I was now seeing a psychologist because of her, I let her know that I had never even thought of such a course of drastic action before nor did I know of any friends of mine who had dumped their psychologist either. Since this incident, I have yet to hear back from her again nor have I ever been able to find out if her article ever ended up being produced and published. I do suppose, however, that my response to her query, ensconced in a curt, unemotional email, represented the closure that she needed to make sense of our failed relationship.

Over time, I gradually became less obsessed about this particular person and the emotionally charged time which we had spent together and so was able to focus my neurotic mind onto other, more compelling matters. My ex’s idea of dumping a psychologist was one such new interest for me in the sense that the curious phrasing of the idea made me think about a wide range of issues related to Psychology. Why were so many people seeing psychologists? What was the true nature of mental health? Why did I see so few friends and acquaintances of mine being cured of whatever it was that was prompting them to seek therapy? Could one even become addicted to seeing certain psychologists and doing various forms of therapy, especially within the context of both the self-development and the New Age movements? How do psychologists tend to relate to their patients and vice versa? Was there a larger, somewhat hidden, agenda at work here related to Psychology? These and other apparently facile and fanciful questions in other domains of life fascinated me and kept me grounded somewhat, as I continued to drift through my 20’s. I wanted to know more yet I also certainly did not want to go back to school to study Psychology formally but I still toyed with the thought. Added to this was the fact that my psychologist, Dr. Jones, was adamantly opposed to this idea for a variety of reasons and would scold me like a father whenever I brought up the idea of such a career change, even though he somewhat paradoxically maintained that I would make for an excellent psychologist.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself way up in the backwoods of the glorious state of Maine, drinking instant coffee, seated across from my bloodline aunt and my German uncle who had grown up in Nazi Germany on their deck. He was complaining about how the country was going in the wrong direction, politically, economically and otherwise, while reminiscing about his glory days when he was a high-ranking member of the Hitler Youth. He forcefully told me that I lacked direction in life and how I would have significantly benefited from the discipline and courage that were instantly instilled in him from combatting bloodthirsty Soviet troops in 1945 as a teenager. My coy, bespectacled, mild-mannered aunt tacitly nodded. When I could not bring myself to eat up all of their horrid salad that tasted somewhat like plastic, my uncle viciously yelled at me. He reminded me of how horrid things were after the war in Germany and how people never wasted food and even ate rats. After the sausages and sauerkraut had been eaten up, he then started complaining about how Americans did not have a true understanding of what friendship is -in stark contrast to Germans. Well, after all, everything was better in Germany according to my uncle yet I knew that he had made a valid point for once. Americans, and I was one of them of course, had basically deleted the term of acquaintance from their vocabulary and instead were and still are using the term of friend to denote both acquaintances and friends. My uncle went off on a bit of a philosophical tangent, namedropping Max Weber and George Herbert Mead and describing what friendship truly meant in German culture, how in his view it was sacred even though I knew from my own personal experiences that he was exaggerating a bit here, at least with regard to the younger people around my age that I knew. I did not offer any response, which pleased him. Psychoanalyzing the situation, I could see what the true situation at hand was. My stern uncle effectively had no friends in Maine besides my bloodline aunt, whereas she had many of them. Some of these friendships even met the lofty German criteria of friendship. Added to all this was the fact that he was obviously dependent on her for what little social life he had outside of his marriage and work. At some point later on in the conversation, as we all continued to compare both cultures in respect to this issue, I came to the profound realization that psychologists in America are by and large professional friends. I blurted this out and my uncle did a double-take and seemed impressed. He admitted in awe that he had never thought of this before. In his eyes, his snobby, somewhat spoiled nephew was right about something for once.

After returning to my city of Pittsburgh, which I blamed in part for the perennial state of depression I had found myself in for such a long time, I entered into a kind of crisis mode. In light of that one particular conversation that I had had with my aunt and uncle, I began to sincerely question who were my real friends and indeed if I happened to have any true friends. The first thing I did, of course, was to bring up the matter with my trusted psychologist. Dr. Jones explained to me that I needed to first relax because I was having a nervous breakdown. When I got better, he claimed, then I would be able to sort things out. He also told me that he was my friend. We had known each other for many years now and I was one of the few people in his life, he said, that he felt he could trust with even personal issues of his own. He also maintained that I needed some anti-anxiety medication as well as some newly created pills from Belgium designed to quickly eradicate depression. He referred me to a psychiatrist that he had known for years. Two weeks later, I began popping pills on a daily basis and this situation incidentally continues to the present moment. After a short time, I began feeling better in a vague sort of way but felt also overcome by a sense of perennial fatigue and unfortunately had also become even more overweight. It was a trade-off that I could accept, however. Under my psychologist’s guidance, I drew up a list of 100 people I knew whom I considered friends or acquaintances that I liked. He also referred me to the writings of an obscure Hungarian philosopher by the name of Béla Hamvas who had pondered the phenomenon of friendship and came to some interesting conclusions. Then, following his orders, I added notes to each one of them like the circumstances under which we had met and what did I like best about them and so on and so forth. Then with his help, I systematically went through the list and after three sessions with him we both came to the conclusion that, in reality, I only had three friends, three perhaps four family members that I could trust and twelve acquaintances who potentially could be transformed into real friends one day. In a way, it was both depressing and liberating to have an objective view of things.

The medications I was taking also certainly played a positive role here too, I felt. Things gradually began to improve in my life knowing now which people to associate with. I even tried converting a few of those acquaintances into friends by asking them if they wanted to hang out with me like at my favorite dive bar in the cool Squirrel Hill district. I also managed to break the curse of my writer’s block. I wrote a short story about possible life forms and their communities on the Moon as well as four poems, one of which even rhymed. I felt like I was making progress and even took on some additional freelance work in addition to my boring day job. Four months later, though, the most unthinkable, unexpected and horrendous thing happened. Dr. Jones was mauled over by a speeding car in the midst of the night in a rather seedy part of town. It was a hit and run. He was immediately pronounced dead when the cops arrived on the scene.

I began having a deep crisis and, although I wanted to attend my psychologist’s funeral, I felt that doing so would only make matters worse. For the first time in about seven years, I was psychologist-less. None of my few true friends seemed to care and I felt totally let down by them and, as a result, a profound sense of loneliness ensued. To cope, I began frequenting dive bars more often and tried unsuccessfully to hook up with some hot college girls from the University of Pittsburg as well as some women in their later 40’s, so-called cougars. I considered going to confession so that I could talk to a priest, the closest profession to a psychologist that I could think of. Yet I decided against it for I anticipated experiencing the wrath of God indirectly through him on account of my only occasionally watching church services on the Internet and not attending Mass in person. Finally, I took refuge in reading some of my favorite books like Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse and by watching videos on YouTube focusing on self-help and Psychology, especially those starring the Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson. I was also tempted to turn to hard drugs but only my fear of syringes and strange side effects prevented me from doing so and, besides, that course of action would have been too expensive for me to afford. My German uncle told me that I was overreacting, although he did feel some authentic sympathy for me. He told me that I ought to meditate every night about how it must have been like fighting in the Vietnam war against unseen insurgents as a teenager straight out of high school in order to put matters into a proper perspective. The other piece of advice he suggested that happened to be much more actionable and sounder was to find a new psychologist immediately.

I eventually got around to tracking down a new psychologist. There were several websites listing local psychologists according to specific criteria such as their specialties and if they had a doctorate and what not. These psychologists had also been rated by past and current patients. A photo of a striking, dark-haired woman with somewhat aristocratic looking facial features caught my eye. Her name was Dr. Aurora Bianchini and I enjoyed repeating it, since it sounded like poetry to me. She only had 3.5 stars out of a possible 5 and I could see that her negative ratings primarily stemmed from women. She had obtained a doctorate from Yale and I really liked her feminine vibe. From what I could tell she was about the same age as I was, unlike my deceased psychologist who was about 25 years older than I. So, understandably, I was curious to see how the age dynamic would play out. I called her practice immediately and set up my initial trial appointment, the one in which the potential patient has to bear their soul to a large degree and the therapist has to see if they can handle the psychological situation at hand.

At our first meeting, Dr. Bianchini invited me into her office space. It was like entering another world, a portal to old world Europe. It was an enchanted, somewhat dusty space replete with many pieces of art from Italy especially topped off with an oversized painting depicting Dante who was looking a bit silly while chasing after Beatrice. Evidently, it was created in the 17th century by one of Caravaggio’s disciples and had been gifted to the all-powerful Orsini family that her grandmother had been a member of. Dr. Bianchini was smiling at me and looked stunning, just like in her profile photo on that website. She had shapely legs and I could tell because she was wearing a kind of designer dark colored miniskirt. She sat there enthroned, as it were, on some stately looking luxurious chair while I had access to a very comfortable, upscale couch. I felt at ease and happy as I stared at her. She clearly understood the decisive role that the aesthetics of furniture can play, just as Freud most certainly did, in contributing to empowering outcomes in psychotherapy. She held a white iPad that she was using to jot down notes about me. I explained to her everything about the tragic and unexpected death of my former psychologist, the tragedies and calamities from my childhood and adolescence that kept on replaying themselves in my mind and playing themselves out in my everyday life. She was smiling and kept goading me on to tell her even more. I felt somewhat entranced by her and by this environment adorned with art and uplifting energy. Intuitively, I knew that she would play an important role in my life and that she might possibly cure me and also be the one who would be able to give me the guidance I so sorely needed.

At our second session, she immediately set about addressing my most pressing issues: the death of my previous psychologist and my dearth of true friends. This time around she was wearing a tight red sweater and tight-fitting green pants. She also had bright red make-up on. She explained to me, smiling a bit like that infamous Cheshire Cat, that she was dressed like this because she had a date later on tonight. By dropping this piece of information, I could tell Dr. Bianchini was trying to make me jealous or, at least, this was my interpretation of this curious situation. And, indeed, I did wonder who she might be dating. Probably one of those so-called tech bros or a high-ranking, handsome academic from Carnegie Mellon University. I explained the entire situation to her and then, after jotting down some notes and rolling her eyes, Dr. Bianchini explained the following to me, “David, the two issues are actually fundamentally interlinked. Let me be honest with you. You don’t have any real friends at all and haven’t for quite some time and Dr. Jones was the closest thing that you had to a true friend. But let me let you in on a secret: Dr. Jones was not a good man in more than one respect. He did not have your best interests at heart. I can tell you, for instance, that he referred you to that psychiatrist because he knew that he would receive a certain large sum of money for doing so. Psychiatrists are especially not your friends. They are pure evil. But I can be your friend, even your special friend one day. Well, at least let’s be friends on Facebook for now.”

I went home feeling very depressed. I was expecting more sympathy from Dr. Bianchini especially considering the fact that I was still grieving my former psychologist’s death and because my insurance was paying her a lot of money for her services. I was also upset for what she said about him too. Whether it was true or not, she was shattering certain illusions about Dr. Jones and the roster of personalities in my life. All of this was quite logically bringing me down. Later that night, I went onto Facebook and saw that she had at least kept her word. I had received a friend request from her. I accepted it, of course, and then went on to watch several long conspiracy theory videos about such topics as non-player characters in real life (so-called NPCs), who really rules the world and if The Great Reset was really going to be fully implemented. I even watched a video detailing the illustrious history of her grandmother’s Italian family.

In our subsequent sessions, Dr. Bianchini demonstrated to me that she was exceptionally fashionable not to mention worldly. She also dropped additional information about her social life. In the meantime, I was investigating her Facebook page, prowling about there to learn more about her, the only woman in my life that I felt a certain connection to. I saw photos of her attending high class charity events, golfing tournaments and, to my surprise, there was another group of people she hung out with too. She was actively interested in the local rap scene and I saw her posing with several famous rappers of Pittsburgh at clubs that even I frequented from time to time. At the same time, I was trying my best to meet a new group of people and, obediently following her advice, I rewrote my dating profile on several apps by adding some white lies and looking for female friends that way. She had me convinced that I was unsuitable for dating because I was thirty pounds overweight and because I was underperforming professionally compared to my peers. Despite this, she still maintained that dating sites were the best option for me. I should try my best to slither into the so-called friendzone and then from there get to know the male friends of the women I had become friends with. Quite Machiavellian! She repeatedly told me that I needed her tough love. I needed desperately “a glow up and an upgrade in lifestyle,” as she liked to put it.

A few weeks later, I felt like I was finally making some progress. I stopped using Uber Eats so I could grab hold of fast food from Burger King, for instance and, on her advice, I had also gaslighted my stressful aunt in Colorado who claimed to be living off the grid and two of the people whom I mistook for friends. However, when I next saw her, it was as if I was dealing with a totally different person. “David, the fact is that you’re still totally undatable! You haven’t lost any of that weight. You aren’t even making an effort to do so, despite everything I’ve done for you. On top of that, your latest poetry sucks! You’re veering into the realm of free verse and that’s a subgenre associated with losers. Think of Dante. Look at him up there in that painting of mine. He wouldn’t even consider what you’re writing to be poetry! I don’t want to see you again until you lose those 30 pounds!” She yelled that last sentence at me and pointed towards the door. I had tears in my eyes. The session was supposed to last 60 minutes but she had kicked me out after just lounging about on her comfortable couch for about 20 minutes. At the same time, this was the kind of drama and excitement my life needed. I was only witnessing this kind of stuff in those exciting Netflix series like Stranger Things and Dark that I had been indulging in. But I still felt that Dr. Bianchini was just attacking me because I represented a convenient target. This was totally unprofessional conduct after all. Perhaps one of her academic papers had recently been rejected by a prestigious journal of Psychology. Perhaps or, probably too, she was having relationship problems.

I was now more depressed than ever and saddened but also I could observe that I was becoming obsessed with my psychologist, which caused me to feel somewhat upbeat, in the sense that meaning was being added to my existence. While certainly not in love with her, some kind of transference had taken place and I continuously found myself impressed by her physiology and her sense of sartorial style. I stalked her Facebook activity every night after I had come home from a day of drudgery at work and this gave me something constructive to do. In fact, if I’m totally honest, I checked up on her Facebook posts even during the workday and also discovered that there was a Tumblr page that she used to post memes and photos on way back when. Slowly, I was putting the pieces together. I bestowed upon her one day at work the somewhat prestigious diagnosis of having bi-polar personality disorder. Simplifying things a bit, there was the lovely lady known as Dr. Bianchini and the good girl gone bad named Aurora who liked to sleep around with sleazy, prominent members of the underworld. The cause of her disorder could clearly be traced back to the combination of Italian DNA (with its inherent, epigenetic propensity for excessive drama) and having grown up in a troubled, twisted, neurotic family where she had been abused at a young age by her mother, to name just two factors involved. Dr. Bianchini, ever inclined towards depression and melancholic, pensive moods, took revenge on society by constantly hating on psychiatrists, thus projecting her shadow onto this rival profession that, in general, earned more money than her profession did and which also enjoyed greater prestige, since it was much more closely linked up to science. She also demonstrated a false superiority complex vis-à-vis other psychologists who had gone on to achieve prominence in the academic food chain where the maxim of publish or perish ruled supreme. Aurora, on the other hand, rebelled by rejecting bourgeois social standards especially by dating mediocre rappers and members of their entourage who engaged in criminal activities too. Thus, she too passively participated in this criminality. Aurora was also the one who especially derived jouissance from the performativity of living an authentic double life. Whether this curious case of Dr. Aurora Bianchini constitutes, in fact, what was once allowed to be termed multiple personality disorder (before the DSM manual deemed that such an appellation of this disorder is morally incorrect) still remains an unresolved issue due to a lack of sufficient empirical evidence.

A few weeks went by and I reverted to ordering Burger King via Uber Eats. Dr. Bianchini’s tough love approach was clearly not operating in the way she desired. I could not manage to write rhyming poetry and was spending far too much time on the Internet. I was not actively trying to meet new people and even began drinking cheap wine cultivated in California and Chile. Then, late one night, Dr. Bianchini began frantically texting me. This was a total shock. I was at my favorite dive bar in Squirrel Hill, eating French fries, drinking a beer and watching some college students do their dancing moves. It seemed like she was drunk texting me. I was ignoring her bizarre short text messages that kept on coming because I was still upset at her and, even though an amateur, my former psychologist had taught me the basics of how to play mind games with women. But since words create the impression of real events and I felt authentic concern for her well-being, I gave in after about thirty minutes. It felt like it was the right thing to do, something that a real friend would be expected to do. I texted her back asking her if she was ok. She told me to walk outside immediately. This freaked me out. She seemed to know my exact whereabouts. But I did as I was instructed to. Three men dressed in black leather jackets approached me on the sidewalk and forced me into the back of their SUV. It was blaring rap music and I was seated next to my psychologist. I could not tell if she was having a psychotic episode. Something wasn’t right with her but maybe this was normal. After all, I had seen her with these guys before in several photos on her Facebook page. She was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and smoking a cigarette. I could even notice a small tattoo of something on her right arm. “David, this is me. The real me. Only my friends know this me. And this is how we roll! But you know this already. I know for a fact you’ve been snooping around my Facebook page like some damn detective. Now, let me give you yet another missing piece of the puzzle.”

The dark SUV suddenly sped up and she sensuously kissed the guy sitting in the driver’s seat. She directed him to go to a neighborhood about two miles away from the campus of Carnegie Mellon University. She informed me with a stern look that she had some serious business to take care of. She yelled at her lover to slow down the vehicle, turn down the music and pull over to the side of the road. She then assumed the persona of Dr. Bianchini and became professional-like suddenly. Her posture and body language changed accordingly as she phoned up some guy who had earned a doctorate. I assumed he was a professor of Psychology who also had clients of his own judging by the way they chatted nonchalantly about academic matters and issues related to therapy a bit before she demanded that he step outside, letting him know that she would be around to pick him up soon. She told him she needed to make love to him now and that she had rented a hotel room already. She hung up and whispered something into her lover’s ear. After about a minute passed, during which we listened to the latest sports scores, she tapped him on the shoulder and he sped the SUV up. We went down several streets lined with respectable looking houses. It was around two in the morning. I saw a lone man standing by the side of the street on a corner. He was waving his hand. Dr. Bianchini, or rather Aurora, then tapped on her lover’s shoulder and, all of a sudden, he rapidly accelerated the vehicle and ran into him. The poor man was knocked to the ground and everything happened so fast and yet time seemed to slow down just like in the movies. One of the guys then got out of the vehicle and picked up the body in the street and threw it into the back of the SUV. We then drove for thirty minutes. I was terrified and silent. Everyone else kept silent too but I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Aurora looking rather maniacal in a kind of arrogant manner, like she had just achieved some grand triumph. We then reached this not so prestigious part of town. The bleeding body in the back of the SUV was dumped into the basement of an abandoned house after several bullets had been shot into the head. “David, see this is what happens to evil people. I really detest my enemies but I look out for my friends. This is what happens to those collaborators in our profession who refer unsuspecting patients to psychiatrists.”

Photos: Pittsburgh - venti views, unsplash, 2024

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