Good news, bad news (1)

Steve and Cy have brought Natalie home from the hospital. She is feeling more alert and does not want to rest in the bedroom, so she is sitting on the sofa in the living room. It is a "great room" with the kitchen, dining room and living room all in one large space. Steve is looking through the cupboards for some canned soup. Cy is handing her a pillow.

Steve:  Natalie, there's chicken noodle and tomato soup…There's also tea, and…

Natalie:  No tea; I don't think I'll ever be able to drink it again! The thought of Heather trying to kill me… (A tear escapes from the corner of her eye.)

Cy:  It's all right, Natalie girl. Your friends are here with you. (He pats her on the shoulder.) You go ahead and cry if you want to… (handing her tissue box.)

Steve:  (stops looking in the cupboard) Natalie, it was a horrible thing to happen and I feel partly responsible.

Natalie:  (wiping her eyes) You? Why should you feel responsible for what she did to me?

Steve:  (shuts the cupboard doors and walks a few feet closer) I knew in just a few months after marrying Heather, that something was terribly wrong. I should have insisted on her going to a psychologist.

Cy:  Steve you have to stop blaming yourself; there's no cure for what Heather has.

Natalie:  There's no cure?

Cy:  No, Natalie. Where you, Steve and I might feel empathy towards others; psychopaths are different.

Natalie:  Different in what way?

Cy:  (He and Steve both sit down) Look at it this way: Normal people find ways to relate to each other every day. We smile, pat each other on the back, laugh, give compliments, hug and kiss. We can put ourselves in "the other guy's shoes." Psychopaths are lacking that empathy.

Steve:  That's true. Heather was never very good with people

Natalie:  And she stole money from my aunt and uncle.

Cy:  I remember one of my professors reading that psychopaths are only interested in their own pleasure. They seek it out by manipulating people or even by destroying them

Natalie:  (shocked) Heather would feel pleasure at killing me?

Cy:  I'm sorry to tell you this, Natalie, but she probably would.

Steve:  And she will never change?

Cy:  There is a technique called empathy training. For some people, especially actors, they can genuinely feel the part he or she must perform in the theater. The audience also can get drawn into feeling an emotion. Agreed?

Natalie:  Yes, I agree. That's why I laugh or cry at a good movie.

Cy:  Exactly! It's easy for you to respond emotionally, but some people have to be taught. The American psychologist, Carl Rogers, developed a counseling technique for these patients.

Steve:  Really? Do you know anything about it?

Cy:  A little bit; I've been reading, "Empathy Training" by Dr. Michael Chambers. He stated that in the training, each member of a couple is taught to share feelings and listen to the other person before responding. It requires they spend time in really listening and not just talking.

Natalie:  It sounds like a good technique to use in marriage counseling classes. (wistfully.)

Cy:  It probably would be. (He looks at Steve.)

Steve:  It sounds too simple to correct Heather's problems.

Cy:  Oh, there's a lot more to the technique. They have to learn to grasp clues: like body language, social etiquette, and small details in someone's speech. Like teasing, sarcasm, sometimes saying the opposite of what is intended.

Natalie:  I wonder how successful the training is.

Steve:  I was wondering the same thing; Heather was so good at manipulating people; she could probably fool the psychologist into thinking she was cured.

Cy:  I think that would be next to impossible; doctors see patients who are always trying to fool them. They probably expect it. It reminds me of an article I read by sociologist Robert Park. He believed that the word "person", in its first meaning, is a mask. In other words, he thinks everyone always and everywhere, more or less consciously, is playing a role.
Author: Torsten Daerr