We continue with more exclusive transcripts from the National Association of Voice Activated Therapists that we think exemplify the successful integration of religious belief in therapy. As in our previous installment, these are recordings of quarter-hour telephone therapy sessions from the 1990s, on which the statute of limitations for libel and invasion of privacy has run out. The transcripts are marked with P for the patient, T for the therapist, and S for extended silence. Thank you for taking the time to review this inspired testimony.
T: So, what’s putting you on the ropes? Sex, money, or power, Jimmy?
P: Lust. Forgive me, oh Lord.
T: Three thousand years we been, young man. Every sin been done.
P: But I have to have sex under the riskiest conditions. Powerful forces are at work here. I thought I served a god who answered prayers. No more.
T: What mess you in with it, anyway?
P: I’m a Christian minister, a televangelist. Millions watch my broadcast every week.
T: You bragging?
T: Lust is Allah calling, Jimmy.
P: What are you saying?
T: Allah’s divine plan, man.
P: God cursed me to save me. Of course, praise the Lord.
T: Tell me, how you manage it so far?
P: Well, I had affairs with ladies of my flock, but that had some rather embarrassing consequences. I don’t have the capital—you’re charging me by the minute remember—to share all the details, but now I use prostitutes.
T: Well, share some of the details, Jimmy, otherwise how can I help you?
P: I have this contact, see, and she’ll give me the address of some seedy motel, and after I check in, she’ll show up at my door completely naked, except for say, a fedora and a magnum of champagne. She hands me the bottle and puts one of her hands down my pants and, bending over, whispers in my ear saying, “I just downed a few Quaaludes, but be quick. My boyfriend, a former prizefighter, is extremely jealous, but right now he’s asleep in the car.”
P: Imam Ali?
T: Give me a minute, please.
T: So just why are you so conflicted?
P: I am married.
T: Oh. You forgot to tell me that.
P: My wife has no idea. She just lays there and chants, It’s baby-making time.
T: I see, I mean I don’t see, I mean, you having problems getting it up, man?
P: Well, yes with her, but fornication is a sin, a mortal sin.
T: Indeed, but doesn’t Christ grant forgiveness?
P: My ministry doesn’t see it that way. Neither does my wife.
T: Your faith, does it not practice Talaq?
P: Never heard of it.
T: You renounce your wife three times in her presence.
T: You are officially divorced.
P: My Christian belief forbids divorce.
T: That is okay. After your bang, repudiate the Talaq, and you are back in Allah’s good graces. You just need to command your wife not to blab about it.
P: That sounds too easy.
T: You need to convert, young man. Women are not here to hinder our desires but to honor them.
P: Perhaps I will. Perhaps I have been beating myself up for no good reason.
T: Allah gave you your needs. Islam relieves them.
P: Here’s my dilemma … You sure this is all confidential?
T: I am in New Delhi, a city of twelve million. Your name is as common in America as Singh and Patel here.
T: Well no, Thomas. Clarence was the angel in It’s a Wonderful Life. Tom is also a very popular first name, as in Tom Thumb, Tom Edison, and Tom Cruise, and your Frank Thomas hits baseballs as far as Krishna could. Your identity is safe.
P: You know a lot about America.
T: America is India’s role model.
P: How about our Civil War?
T: Of course. We have had many, and wage some still.
P: Ours was against slave holders.
T: We have our caste system, which is not so different.
P: I am black.
T: I see.
P: I have been nominated to America’s highest court.
T: Good for you. Will you be the first?
P: The second.
T: Are you afraid of being assassinated, Mister Thomas? And again, congratulations.
P: Character assassinated. A female former employee is trying to derail my confirmation.
T: Does a woman have that power?
P: She is accusing me of sexual harassment.
T: What is this sexual harassment?
P: You don’t have that in India?
T: I am unfamiliar with the phrase.
P: It’s when a man extorts sexual pleasure from a woman for a future reward.
P: Similar, but it involves the man’s taking advantage, like a producer demanding sex from an actress if she wants to be in his film.
T: And this is discouraged?
P: It is a felony.
T: Well, here is one thing in America I have not kept up with.
P: America is completely subjugated by an infantile view of sex, established during the country’s founding by the Puritans. They viewed all sex outside the marriage bed as sinful. They prosecuted offenders, sometimes even executing them. Sounds like my problem is outside your experience.
T: No, you have come to the perfect person, someone who can offer perspective from the beginners’ mind, a Zen precept.
P: Well, okay. She says I showed her lewd pictures and often bragged about the size of my johnson.
T: Your penis. See, I know a lot about America. And Johnson is an even more common name than Thomas, eh? Last name of two former presidents. Are her allegations true?
P: They cannot be disproved. Are you an attorney?
T: No. I am a medical doctor.
P: Well, I am not admitting anything, but play along with the logical consequences of her accusations, understand me?
T: All right.
P: I have two choices: throw myself on the mercy of the court, or deny everything.
T: And you are leaning toward … ?
P: If I want the seat, denial is the only option. The Republicans want credit for placing a black on the Supreme Court and not be reminded about the middling size of their male hardware. I know which side my bread is buttered on, if you get the analogy.
T: I do. So, what are you afraid of? You said her accusation is unprovable.
P: I’m worried about karma. That this will come back to bite my butt unto the grave. The term of office is life.
T: Karma is misunderstood in America. Karma can be all day long or maybe not even in your lifetime, or even within your grandchildren’s lifetime. By the way, how is this affecting your family?
P: My son and my wife are terribly embarrassed. They know that I have always been heavy into pornography, so they were not surprised at the allegation. My accuser is beautiful and black. How was I to suspect she was a prude?
T: As Buddha envisioned karma, it acts backward as well as forward. So, you are as likely punished in the past for what you will do in the future as punished in the future for what you did in the past. The effects from your activities have already occurred. Fear of karma is no reason to do or not to do.
P: So, I can deny her allegations? I was never in that room, never at that party?
T: Have you suffered other bad consequences for your fondness for pornography?
P: A few carpet stains.
T: No worries. People will do what they do. You should follow your career, which is law, to the ultimate rung on that ladder—the United States Supreme Court; upholding your heritage, your race and your manhood.
P: I do. And I don’t want to look wimpy.
T: You already look wimpy.
P: How is that?
T: By not having sex with her.
T: What was the purpose of showing her pornography if not to get her to sleep with you? You just did not close the deal. A man should take what he wants, particularly when he has reached a position of authority. Always lead with your passion. Never ask yourself if it makes sense or not. Karma keeps the weak in line. The great pay it no mind.
P: Hullo, hullo.
T: I’m right here. You are Six Nine Nine Six.
P: Call me Di, please. I have this terrible problem …
T: Everyone feels that way, Di. You have read the poem Richard Cory?
P: Oh yes. Everyone here knows Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem. Simon and Garfunkel made it a hit record.
T: Everyone thought Richard Cory had everything, but he goes home one night and blows his head off. I guess they were wrong, right?
P: Oh, his tale is so true and so like mine. As dire, trust me.
T: Dyer is my real name, but distance always adds perspective. Are you suicidal?
P: Dear God, no. I suffer from sloth.
P: Yes, unadulterated, interminable, and unalterable.
T: I see, hmm. Psychologists would diagnose depression.
P: Well, I am depressed about it. Everybody gives me such a hard time. I hear everyone’s heels clicking against the floor tiles in a fever to go somewhere, do something. I hate them all.
P: I mean most of what has been done has had equally good and bad consequences, right? The cure for VD saved lives, but people became more promiscuous. That doubled the number of pregnancies. There were too few doctors and midwives, so miscarriages tripled, stillborns quadrupled, and monster children roamed the streets because too few parents stayed around to care for them properly.
T: You have everything figured out.
P: Except what to do when I don’t want to do anything.
T: And prefer to just lie in bed?
P: Oh, enormously so.
T: You still need to eat, urinate, and defecate.
P: I order my meals in. Plus, if you eat and drink less, your bathroom obligations diminish as well.
T: What goes in …
T: Have you seen a medical doctor?
P: I have seen oodles of surgeons. Their prescriptions counter each other. I eat plenty, but I purge.
T: You have bulimia?
P: I don’t mind. It’s no bother, really.
T: You are not concerned with the damages it has on your heart, your esophagus, your intestines?
P: Oh no, I am as healthy as a horse.
T: So, you don’t have a problem?
P: It’s my mother-in-law and my husband. They will not leave me be. They want an Eveready battery. So not me.
T: What is you?
P: Having them executed would be a bit much. Just thinking about the arrangements tires me. I was hoping my husband would leave, but he can’t pull the pin, even after he learned of my affair. All he did was send Hewie off to war in Kuwait. Poor Hewie.
T: Doesn’t having an affair require a lot of energy?
P: Hewie handled the logistics.
T: I need to be convinced your go-to isn’t major depression. I will prescribe you an anti-depressant.
P: Another pill?
T: So maybe your problem is being love sick, not sloth at all?
P: Both, I’m sure.
T: Di, what bothers you above everything else?
P: Having to beg pardon because I didn’t do something or other.
T: So, could I say you can’t bear to ask forgiveness from others?
P: I really don’t know what would convince me I’m forgiven.
T: I hear you, and I forgive you? Does that move the needle?
P: Not a smidge.
T: Have you tried procrastination?
P: You can’t be serious! That’s what I’m the true princess of.
T: If so, you are a total failure.
P: I can’t believe you are accusing me of that.
T: Take a test. Decide to do nothing tomorrow. Nothing at all. But today you’ll do what you must.
P: And that will prove?
T: It may tell us whether you lack will, energy, or perception. We treat will with negative inducements. We treat energy naturally by diet and artificially with coffee, sugar, or meth. Managing perception requires you recognizing that neglect is the antithesis of restlessness, that they work best in tension. You just aren’t giving them equal time, Di. Give sloth the day off. Order it to return to work tomorrow, nine o’clock sharp.
P: This sounds so childish.
T: You called me.
P: Yes, I did.
T: Was that not very unslothful?
At this point multiple voices come on and the receiver is violently clicked dead.
T: You can call me Mister Green.
P: Okay, you can call me Mister Spleen. I’m concerned about my diet. It’s carnivorous with a capital C, as in cannibal.
T: Glad you phoned. Diet is my specialty. Carnivores are cannibals, as all life forms are God’s creations, but we still need to get our protein. Have you tried meat loaf? You don’t see tissue, just little brown bubbles, so you don’t think about where it came from. You should be able to get that down.
P: You don’t understand. I want to know what part of the body the meat came from. That way I can anticipate its taste as well as its texture.
T: Human flesh? Human muscle and fat?
T: Have you tried going cold turkey?
P: Often, but these bar people plop themselves into my lap, like they are begging me … you know what I mean?
T: I’m not sure if I am understanding you, but you have it bad.
P: Yeah, I do.
T: How long?
P: Fifteen, sixteen years.
T: And you have had a steady supply of human …
T: … flesh to eat?
P: Yes sir.
P: I have also been told I drink too much.
T: Okay, now that’s a disorder that is easier to treat. Let’s start with that.
P: You think so?
T: Oh yes. First, how much do you drink?
P: A pint or two a day.
T: Some studies promote a drink or two a day for good health.
P: That’s what I thought, but they were talking about beer, not whiskey.
T: What proof?
T: Two pints a day is frigging lethal. It’s hard to imagine … Did you join AA?
P: I did, but hanging around people constantly peering over their shoulders at the next relapse was as relaxing as hula-hooping with razor wire. And when I invited one of them home and nobody ever saw him again, the police started asking questions. Just pushed me back to the bars.
T: Sounds like you’re punishing yourself.
P: You may be onto something. I never felt appreciated, you know. My mom was ill all the time, and I blamed myself.
T: What was she ill of?
T: How is she?
P: She died.
T: You didn’t cause your mother’s illness.
P: How do you know that?
T: Children do not cause their parents to get sick, Mister Spleen.
P: What about stress? Couldn’t she have gotten cancer from the stress I caused her?
T: People get sick for all different types of reasons—genetic predisposition, smoking, too much sun, not enough love. Your fifteen minutes are up. So, remember, no one is perfect, you are a unique guy. Now, watch your drinking, eat alternate protein sources, and start taking fish oil. Don’t worry if it makes you stink a bit. And for heaven’s sake, clean out your freezer.
P: I needed that, thanks.
T: Hello Mister Four Three Two One. Okay if I call you Four Three for short?
P: I’m not a fan of numbers. Call me Superstar.
T: What’s on your mind, Superstar?
P: I had to file bankruptcy, and people are starting to say bad things about me.
T: I just received an alert. You’ve exceeded your credit card limit. You need a loan officer, not a therapist.
T: Okay, your credit has been restored. Go on, Superstar.
P: It wasn’t my fault. I called you because I wanted to know about this prosperity gospel business. I’m very into that word, prosperity, mine especially.
T: We hold that people accumulate wealth through faith, positive speech, and consideration.
T: Also called tithing, donations to one’s church.
P: People fall for that?
T: Superstar, they fill my purse.
P: You must have a very small purse.
T: It’s fattening.
P: From any high rollers?
T: Some have more money than they know what to spend it on.
P: My kind of people.
T: I might share my contribution list for a sizable donation.
P: How does ten K sound?
T: For that I’d highlight the vulnerable. Make it twenty-five and I’d arrange for a few to meet you.
P: Just give me a date. I’ll entertain them on my yacht. People swoon over celebrities like me. I don’t want to talk about that right now. To tell you the truth, the yacht stays at the pier. I bought it before I found out I get seasick very easily.
T: Why not sell it then to pay your bills?
P: The bank wants fifty-three mil, and that’s just this month’s installment. My casinos are bleeding badly.
T: You called to hit us up for a loan?
P: Not a loan, an investment, Paula. We are talking Bernie Madoff territory. Twenty percent return. Think about it.
T: Sorry, I am not in that territory. Yet.
P: Few are; sad really.
T: Is there something else you want to talk about besides money problems?
P: I don’t have money problems. I have a credit problem. I am just filing bankruptcy so that I won’t have to pay the bills I ran up. My lawyers will take care of it. Trust me. I guess we could talk about my divorce.
T: We could. Why are you filing for divorce?
P: First, the kids. They take too much of my time. Who knew, right? Second, there’s this hot model. Big league. But she won’t without a ring. Can you believe that? This is the nineties.
T: It sounds like you’ve lost your confidence.
P: I just act in my best interest and most of the time I get away with it. If I don’t and they sue, I sic the best lawyers in town on them. I am very smart that way.
T: It doesn’t hurt that you have a big name.
P: I’m working on making my name a household brand, like Sears or Kmart.
T: Have you tried sympathy then? When I can’t satisfy my clients, I tell them that I was sexually abused as a child. I’ve been groped by a few parishioners, so it is sort of true, but it works like the race card for blacks.
P: I’d use either if I could.
T: Have you tried blame then? Make your wife the poster child for evil spouses. Fake-news her with lavish over-spending. That’s why you filed for bankruptcy. Make people feel sorry for you. A real trooper for taking it as long as you did. Are you up for that, Superstar?
P: Of course, I am. Surprised I didn’t I think of that. You know, you sound pretty savvy. How come you’re doing this kinda work? Social work has never paid.
T: And I’m not going to talk about that right now. There are more problems than being broke, Superstar. Some suffer from sexual issues …
P: I don’t have that, trust me.
T: Relationship dilemmas, gambling addiction, eating disorders …
P: I don’t have any of those.
T: Superstar, you’re divorcing your wife.
P: Besides that, I mean.
T: What you need is positive speech. Repeat after me Superstar, Whatever I do is the best for everyone.
P: Whatever I do is best. Whatever I do is best.
T: Yes. Remind yourself of that every day. A hundred times a day.
P: What if I cheat someone?
T: It was for the best.
P: If I kill someone?
T: It was for the best.
P: If I collude with a foreign power against my own country?
T: What’s a country? Where are the walls? Everything you do is for the best.
P: Fantastic. I should have called you earlier. I’ll be sending you my twenty-five K shortly.
T: Where are you going to get the money?
P: From my charity foundation. Money’s never been my problem. It’s those damn banks.