More truth.

“So, me not crying is steeling myself against future pain?” You phrase it as a question but it comes out an answer.

Mia confirms it. “You developed a way to cope with pain, to numb yourself. Which is why you don’t cry in AA meetings and you close your eyes when others do.”

Eyes Wide Shut is the name of the last film Stanley Kubrick directed before he died, a strange story about a couple confronting their sexual fantasies. You don’t remember the movie very well, or having liked it, but the title resonates with you now. The logline: Sometimes a man can see more clearly with his Eyes Wide Shut.

You look at the clock. Your fifty minutes have evaporated. Mia let the session go long. The courtesy embarrasses you. You violated the contract. You rise, quickly.

“Sit down,” she says. “I know what time it is.” Mia knew how you felt regarding this relationship and your desire never to take advantage of it. She was also aware of your propensity for flight when things got real.

You sit.

“I have a cushion between appointments.” Mia explains. “Normally I use the time to reset, to go the bathroom, whatever. But in this case I’m making an exception. Because I feel this is important…” She looks at you, directly. “Are you okay?”

At first you don’t answer. Then, softly: “Is this intimacy?”

Mia continues looking right at you, with compassion, with the eyes of a caregiver. “You are not a sociopath.”

To be continued…


“I never cry,” you say. “At other people’s pain, or my own. Funerals. Ever. It makes me wonder: Do I lack compassion or empathy? You know… like a sociopath.”

“Some people cry. Some people don’t,” she says. “I don’t think it signifies anything.”

“In meetings people cry all the time,” you reply. “And not just sad women. Guys choke up, too. I never know what to do when that happens. I feel so uncomfortable. I think that’s why I always shut my eyes.” If not a big confession it is still a revelation. Unable or unwilling to cry seems like a marker for a sociopath.

“You don’t see it, do you?” Mia asks.

“You mean with my eyes closed?” A layup joke yet you know that’s not what she means.

“No.” Mia almost laughs. Almost. “The fact that you’re closing your eyes tells me that you’re feeling something which makes you uncomfortable. My point is you’re not a robot. You’re not a sociopath.”

The truth. Like a tiny orgasm, you shudder. You feel connected to the human race, suddenly, briefly. You want more…

“When I was a boy,” you say, “I don’t remember how old, I used to lie in bed imagining that one of my parents had died. I tried to make it seem as real as possible. I would picture the people telling me the news. What they were wearing. What I was doing when they told me. I did all of that to see if I could cry. I wanted to make myself cry. But I couldn’t. I’d just lie there in my bed. Not crying.” The memory of this has always baffled you. Yet, until now, you have not shared it with anyone. You open your eyes.

“Wasn’t it around that time your stepfather committed suicide? What you were imagining sounds a lot like something you’d actually experienced.”

You lean back. Think. Could it be that simple? The two things were eerily similar. “I guess it’s possible.”

“First your father divorces your mother, leaving you. Then your stepfather kills himself. That’s a lot of abandonment. I’m not surprised you kept imagining it could happen again. And that you learned to numb yourself in case it did.”

To be continued…


“What’s the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?” You ask Mia, upon sitting down.

“Is this a joke?” she replies.

“I was wondering the whole ride up,” you say. “On a lark, I even tried asking Siri. She told me where the nearest bike path was.”

You take off your skullcap tossing it beside you on the couch. Rub your shaved head. This is what a psychopath looks like. Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Shining.

“Well, first of all, we don’t use those terms anymore,” Mia says. “Not clinically. We prefer calling it antisocial personality disorder.” 

“Well, I definitely have that going on.” You smile. The topic actually has no bearing on your mood, which is upbeat.

“Basically,” Mia continues, “a psychopath does not have a conscience while a sociopath has a glimmer of one, albeit damaged.”

“So,” you wonder aloud, “a sociopath knows he’s doing something wrong but does it anyway. And the psychopath has no moral compass whatever?”

Mia nods. “Do you think you’re a sociopath?” she picks up her coffee mug, keeping her eyes on you while taking a sip.

“Compared to a psychopath!” You lean forward. “I know when I’m doing bad things but yet I do them anyway. The drinking. Infidelity. Driving by myself in the carpool lane.”

Mia laughs. The reaction you were looking for. You think this is how a patient flirts with his shrink. Playing cat and mouse around a dicey topic. But Mia’s too smart for that. She won’t abide such banter unless it’s leading somewhere relevant. She calls it deflecting.

“Addictions are different than psychosis,” she says. “The disease overrides morality. You know that. Besides, you have a moral compass and you’re working on fixing it. What you do here, in AA, a sociopath wouldn’t bother doing.”

“I suppose you’re right, Mia. But sometimes I wonder…”

To be continued…