In Which There Is An Idea In The East


catch up on the first day of psychological insight here

Control of the Story

by Karina Wolf

In Treatment, HBO

One newly Buddhist friend rolled his eyes when I told him about Tuesday night’s session of In Treatment. Meditation, he claimed, allows you to find your own solutions.

Where are all these Buddhists coming from? Maybe it’s a desire to escape overstimulation, or perhaps it’s the urbanite need to cherry pick spiritual beliefs.

I thought meditation was just Xan for control freaks and the uninsured. What about the link between detachment and denial?


Tuesday night’s client, Alex (Blair Underwood), is a Navy pilot with a Scientologist’s self-confidence and dissociation levels that allow brain surgeons and serial killers to function.

Oedipus would not have more material for therapy: Alex performed a military strike and killed 16 children, he’s a hunted man in Iraq, he came back from the dead after having a heart attack, and somewhere along the way his mother has died, too.

So why’s he in Paul’s office? We’re led to think first that it’s fear of his own erection; then the absence of a Shirley MacLaine like experience of the divine.


Underwood, who looks young enough to be Deneuve’s cougar in The Hunger, manages the monologue with an appropriate level of hubris. His questions are pointed and aggressive, and force the therapist into a more active position.

Between sheepish reaction shots straight out of the Barbara Walters playbook, Paul determines that Alex is looking for someone to vet his choices; send him or stop him from the suicide mission that seems like a search for atonement.

After my own brush with death from a kidney stone, I decided to visit Dr. Y, an acupuncturist/MD/psychiatrist. I figured he could address all possible causes of the problem and help to preclude a reoccurrence.


In fact, I’ve found the equivalent of teaching English to my students—there’s a degree of technical mastery but no apparent understanding of the human psyche. But maybe this is coming from a difference in worldview.

Dr. Y says that my spleen pulse—the pulse of neurotics everywhere—needs strengthening, and attempts to override my hyperrationality by escaping into Orientalism.

We have an idea in the East, he tells me, about fate, karma, destined events. We don’t know why things happen.

I feel like I’m studying a zen koan, not visiting a doctor. He cites a story from Brian Weiss’s hypnotherapy memoir Many Lives, Many Masters in order to explain to me, sometimes shit happens and we don’t know why. You’re not in control of your own story. As Paul says to Alex, in therapy the client is always wrong.

While it’s true that no therapist can offer a solution—they all just answer a question with a question—and there’s a fine line between self-examination and solipsism, both Paul and Dr. Y suggest that therapy can work as a guided satsang.

At least Paul admits that he’s not the best therapist; I’m waiting for his Tennessee Williams style breakdown.

Karina Wolf is a contributor to This Recording. She is able to tolerate pain far better than most people.


“Tomorrow Night” – Junior Kimbrough (mp3)

“Done Got Old” – Junior Kimbrough (mp3)

“Most Things Haven’t Worked Out” – Junior Kimbrough (mp3)


To Molly, Alex disappointed = as bad as death.

To Danish, True Love Waits — but death waits for no one.

I Would Have Saved Them If I Could.

2 thoughts on “In Which There Is An Idea In The East

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