“So Mr. Podolsky, what brings you here?” asks the woman sitting across from me.
“My last therapist imploded. So last week, I saw your office across the hall from his, and…”
Wow! She really IS attractive. Even with glasses. Especially with glasses. I didn’t think they made therapists like her. It’s hard confessing to eye candy.
“You were saying?” she prods, clicking her ball point pen, ready to write. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to answer.
“I’m uhhh…” I swallow. Gotta get this out. Here goes. “I’m lying too much.”
“About what?” she asks, without a hint of judgment in her voice.
“About… About how I feel about people, especially at work. And everybody’s doing it.”
“You think every one is lying to you?”
“Well, not everybody. But most are. Telling the truth doesn’t go down well.”
“You want to give me an example?” She reaches for her pad, probably thinking I’m schizoid. I start my story anyway.
“There’s this guy named Gus. He’s a sound engineer at a recording stage I sometimes hire. I don’t like bringing my clients there because Gus makes mistakes and he never follows through with fixing things. Everybody knows about Gus but he’s sort of a fixture at the studio so we work around his attitude. It was the only stage available at the time.”
She pushes her glasses up the ridge of her perfect nose. Yep. Definitely sexy. And looking up through her long hair, she waits for me to continue. So I do.
“It was an expensive rerecording session and Gus made a mistake and the dialogue phased. It was subtle and no one could figure it out why it was happening. We found out later Gus routed the tracks incorrectly into the mixing console and layered duplicate frequencies.”
“The client blamed the mixers and the mixers blamed me for not checking Gus’s routing. Like that’s supposed to be MY job!”
“I wasn’t gonna be blamed for something that wasn’t my fault and the mixers denied that the problem came from their own engineer. That was lie number one.”
I wait for an affirmation. “Go on,” she says. I go on.
“I couldn’t believe it. But I didn’t press the mixers to admit their own employee messed up the mix.”
“I needed to work with them again and I didn’t want to put them on the defensive. I hoped they would do the right thing. Instead, they came up with some mysterious “routing issue” that supposedly happened all by itself. Lie number two.”
She nods again, writing a note.
“My clients pulled their project from the studio and everyone was unhappy.”
“Gus knew he had screwed up but never admitted it. On another job a month later, he got touchy-feely, like he was trying to make up and he kept dropping his fat, sweaty arm over my shoulders like we were life-long soccer pals.”
This burned me. “Gus! DON’T touch me! And stop pretending we’re friends!”
“You said that?” my shrink asks.
“Only thought it. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I made him think I wasn’t into bonding with ANY dude and kept quite about how much I resented him. That was lie number three.”
“Two months later I met Gus in the studio cafeteria. He looked mopey, and I knew why. Weeks before I heard his days were numbered. So when he told me he had been scratched from the mix stage and rehired as a temp, I wasn’t surprised. But I pretended I was.”
“Then he turned to me, almost in tears, asking, ‘Am I really that bad an engineer?’”
“Worse, Gus. Your attitude stinks, you haven’t kept up with technology, you’re lazy, obnoxious and immature.”
My shrink moves forward on her chair.
“No. I didn’t say that either. What came out of me was, ‘Well Gus, there was that double routing and phasing…’”
“Gus looked blank, as if I hadn’t said a word. I no longer felt sorry him, but added, ‘Everything always changes. They’ll find you another spot.’ That was lie number four.”
“Two months later they let him go. For years everyone lied about Gus and to Gus, pretending he was okay. And Gus went with it. So did I until it all ended.”
“That’s a common story,” my therapist responds. “But I wouldn’t consider what you did, lying. It was more about withholding information.”
“But the result was the same. I made Gus believe I forgave him when really, I couldn’t stand him. I deceived the guy so my own little world would stay calm.”
“Isn’t that what happens everywhere?”
“That’s my point!” I shout, leaving my chair. “People don’t tell people what they really think!”
“True,” states my pretty psychiatrist. “But you don’t have to live like that.”
“But I do!” Now I’m pacing. “I work with people I can’t trust. At all! If they could read my mind, knowing how I feel about them, bad stuff would go down. For me! So I pretend to be their friend. And ya know what? They buy it! I smile, do the high-fives, crack dumb jokes, ask about their hobbies and all the time I’m thinking, if they died tomorrow I wouldn’t care.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means I’m dishonest to half the people I meet. And worse, I’m feeling okay about it!”
“Mr. Podolsky, would you mind sitting down?”
I sit. She continues.
“So you feel justified to lie and yet you’re concerned that your principals are sliding, that you’re turning into the kind of person you dislike.”
“Call me Irv.”
“Irv, words are not the only way to express honesty. In fact, words are the worst way to show it. Actions are what really count. And feelings of course. Are you cheating with those too?”
“When I need to. I keep it light and the jokes going.”
“I don’t think you’re hiding anything, Irv.”
“No, it works.”
“It establishes the protocol. That’s all.”
“The communication protocol. The agreement about how much information both people want to exchange.”
“I don’t want to exchange anything.”
“But you are. And so are they. People don’t hide feelings very well. There’s that vibe in the air that tells you pretty much what’s safe and what’s not. The problem is, most people feel the vibe, know what it means and then ignore it for any number of reasons.”
“I don’t know…there’s this other guy at work…as long as I tell him what he wants to hear, he’s totally with me.”
“Because nothing is on the line, Irv. It’s easier to lie when you don’t actually connect.”
“But I don’t want to connect.”
“And that’s your message. Irv. And it’s real. The dance you do with canned responses, that’s business speak for, Let’s get along until we can’t.”
“More than sort of. It’s an expression of honest intention, which happens to be, dissociation.”
“It’s the game, Irv. If you don’t want to join it, don’t leave your bed.”
“And by the way, don’t play that game at home. Marriages don’t do well with dissociation.”