"It's worse. My world is falling apart. People aren't afraid of me anymore. The whole Plame and Iraq-intelligence and NSA spying stuff is coming at us full force, and we haven't got good answers. I can't sleep well. I have more nightmares. Not even the pills help. My wife, my doctors and my chief adviser more or less ordered me see you again. Otherwise, I wouldn't have come, believe me."
"I do believe you. Many clients in the early stages of counseling get very uncomfortable when the therapist brings up sensitive topics. It's not unusual for them to lash out at the therapist rather than doing the hard work of diving into that uncomfortable area and trying to deal with those issues."
"I don't believe in therapy, doc."
"Do you mean you don't believe it exists? Or that it doesn't work, at least that it wouldn't help you?"
"I've gotten to where I am today on the basis of my will and belief in myself, and I see no reason to question myself now."
"But you seem to be suggesting that you've lost your hold over people after years of doing what you're always done. So maybe it's the perfect time to re-examine your patterns and your behaviors and see if any changes need to be made. I'm happy to work with you, if you wish to do that."
"But if I start doubting myself, then the people will lose their faith in me, and I'll lose more of my self-esteem, and so on. It's a no-win situation. I want you to just move on to other areas, doc. But I want to make sure again that our confidentiality agreement is still in place; nothing I say leaves this room, right?"
THE SWAMP NIGHTMARE
"Yes, of course. OK, we can move on to other topics, and perhaps as we talk, some of the other areas that need work will insert themselves. Why don't you tell me about those nightmares you're having. What's the most recent one?"
"It reminds me of the one I told you about during our first session. In this one, I'm stuck up to my neck in black tar, in a swamp red with blood. Sharks are circling me. I scream for help to my friends in the airboats, but they just smile and wave at me. Burros, whose noses are machine-guns, are aiming at me from the bank; big sheets of paper are falling on me from the sky. I feel like a perfect target: unable to get out of the tar; my enemies can pick me off; my friends aren't coming to my aid; the paper sheets are falling faster and faster; the black swamp is sucking me down. I wake up in a cold sweat."
"I certainly can see why you'd be disturbed by those images. What do you make of the dream? You began by saying it reminded you of the nightmare you told me previously, where you were swimming in black sticky stuff and crying tears of blood. Why do you think, for example, your friends would not be coming to your aid?"
"In the dream, they think I'm going down anyway, so why come near me? They might get shot also or get eaten by the sharks. So they smile and wave and pretend they're still my friends. But they've really just deserted me to save their asses."
"And can you translate that to your life in the real world? Do you think your friends are deserting you?"
"My poll numbers are in the toilet, and I'm losing battle after battle in Congress as conservatives and moderates peel off. I guess those are the people in the dream smiling and waving at me. They're no longer in my pocket, not afraid any more. They rode my coattails into power in Congress, but having to face re-election in November, they're now happy to put some distance between themselves and me, away from that mucky swamp."
ADMITTING WEAKNESS IS WEAKNESS