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The Howard/O'Brien Relate Counseling Session Transcripts - Part 1

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C: Hello again! So, how are we today? Have you made any progress on the work/life balance?

M: Um. Progress.

B: I've heard of that.

M: No, Bob, let me handle this. (Briskly): We're, things between us are a lot better.

B: (Emphatically): Yup.

M: But that's not why we're here today.

C: Did the new accommodation arrangements work for you? 

M: Very well, thank you. We took a week of accumulated leave and we've painted the new room, laid down carpet, and bought a bed and a wardrobe and fitted locks and I can sleep safely now without panic attacks. Most nights.

B: The day before yesterday?

M: Yes. Most nights …

C: What happened the day before yesterday?

B: It was my fault.

M: No it wasn't!

B: Yes it was. If I hadn't opened the new bottle of Merlot after we finished supper—

M: I should have turned the TV off.

B: I shouldn't have turned it on in the first place.

M: We should get rid of the thing. 

B: It was my fault because I wanted to watch Newsnight.

C: Were you on Newsnight again? I'm afraid I missed it. 

M: The TV's been useless this week. And the newpapers. They're all over the reshuffle like feeders on a balked summoning—feeding on misery and stress, that is. Like ghouls with their "if it bleeds it leads."

B: I wasn't on Newsnight this time. If they ever ask me again I'm buying a new pair of running shoes and I'm not stopping until I reach Leningrad.

M: You mean St. Petersburg, dear. Anyway, that's not far enough—think Chernobog.

B: (Shudders) Nowhere is safe these days. Not even Broadcasting House.

C: Back to your nightmares …?

M: Paxo had a special guest, the new minister. Lord Everyman. His first appearance on TV, quite a coup you might say.

B: There was no run-in, no introduction. Otherwise I'd have turned the bloody thing off. Or thrown a brick at it.

M: It scared the cat. I couldn't find Spooky until the following morning, I was quite worried. 

C: How extraordinary!

M: I've met him before, you know. Before he joined the government. A year ago. He's utterly charming. Resistance is futile. 

B: Madder than a box of frogs, of course. And then he came on the TV without warning and you know they broadcast Newsnight live from the studio? And he just started to explain. He made it all sound so plausible.

M: (Tightly) That's what he does.

C: I see. And the nightmares?

M: We work for him now, you know. And he's not a bad minister, not like the last one. But every time I see his … face … I have the most vivid dreams when I go to sleep. Dreams about ... I can't discuss them. You aren't cleared.

C: But I thought I had—I'm sorry, I'll take your word for it. But are you all right now?

M: (Nods.)

C: All right, so my understanding of what you're saying is that you have bad memories of a situation you associate with the new minister in charge of the agency, and when ever you see something that reminds you of him you have bad—

B: Anyway, that's why we're here.

C: You're here because there's a new Minister? The dreams? Something else?

B: Something else.

M: Panic attacks and work-related stress is your department, isn't it?

B: We haven't had a holiday together for four years, not even a week lying on the beach on a Greek island, and I've been having trouble sleeping for the past week—

M: —Waking up screaming, you mean.

B: Something like that. Anyway, we were wondering—

M: Please could you sign us both off work—due to workplace stress—for the next couple of weeks? Because things haven't gotten better, not really, not apart from the living apart, and we're both under too much pressure, I'm having nightmare and as for Bob—

B: —Can't sleep, the Minister will eat me—

M: We need to get away from it all, get out of the workplace stress mess and center ourselves. We need to take some time to work through where we stand and plan what we're doing next. And we can't do that in London.

B: It's not that your counseling didn't help: It's us that failed. And I really don't know if we can fix things … saving the world, I mean, not our marriage.

M: (Take's B's hand) But we need to give it the old school try. And if we can't do it? At least we'll be together at the end.