Episode 2 Transcript

02 - Patient #11-A-7 (Caleb)
by Lauren Shippen

[sfx: click of a recorder]

Dr. Bright: Patient number 11-A-7, session 9. Male, 16 years of age, with the abilities of a highly advanced empath. So far he’s made very little progress in controlling this ability. Sessions have been quite challenging as a result, for obvious reasons.

[sfx: door opening]

Dr. Bright: Caleb, come in.

[sfx: door closing] 

[sfx: Caleb sitting down]

Dr. Bright: It’s very nice to see you. How have you been?

Caleb: Fine, I guess.

Dr. Bright: You had a football game yesterday, correct?

Caleb: Yeah.

Dr. Bright: How was it?

Caleb: It was fine. We won.

Dr. Bright: That’s wonderful. That must have made you happy.

Caleb: Yeah, I guess.

Dr. Bright: Was everyone on the team excited about winning?

Caleb: Yeah. Yeah, everyone was pretty excited. It was really…it was really loud.

Dr. Bright: People were shouting? Or, do you mean it was loud for you internally? I know you’ve had problems with post-game gatherings in the past.

Caleb: It was just loud.

Dr. Bright: How was school this week?

Caleb: It was alright.

Dr. Bright: You had a big presentation in English class? Isn’t that right?

Caleb: Yeah.

Dr. Bright: How did it go?

Caleb: It was ok.

Dr. Bright: Remind me – what was the topic?

Caleb: Macbeth.

Dr. Bright: That’s right. Did you enjoy reading it?

Caleb: It was okay I guess. I- I didn’t really the witches – they were really creepy and I didn’t really like the whole “free will thing”.

Dr. Bright: What do you mean the whole “free will thing”?

Caleb: Well, Mr. Collins was talking about how the witches take away Macbeth's free will by, like, tempting him to kill the king and make him confused and stuff?

Dr. Bright: Do you agree?

Caleb: What do you mean?

Dr. Bright: Do you agree that the witches took away Macbeth's free will?

Caleb: I don’t know. Not- not really – all they did was make a bunch of prophecies that they knew Macbeth would like. I mean, he was still the one that killed people.

Dr. Bright: Him and Lady Macbeth, many would say.

Caleb: Yeah, and Lady Macbeth. I didn’t really like her either.

Dr. Bright: No, she’s not a very likable character.

Caleb: I just don’t think that’s possible - making someone do something, just because you know what’s going on in their head. Macbeth was already ambitious; the witches couldn’t control him just because they knew that, right?

Dr. Bright: What do you think?

Caleb: No, no, I don’t think they could.

Dr. Bright: Remember, in the same way that Macbeth chose to murder; the witches and Lady Macbeth choose to manipulate. It doesn’t matter what information you have. It’s about what you choose to do with it.

Caleb: Yeah, I guess so.

Dr. Bright: Caleb, are you worried about making someone do something they don’t want to do?

Caleb: No, I just…I think I made something worse.

Dr. Bright: What do you think you made worse?

Caleb: There’s this kid in my year, he’s like a total loser-

Dr. Bright: Caleb, remember, don’t use insults to connect to people.

Caleb: Right. Sorry.

Dr. Bright: Continue.

Caleb: So this kid is one of those weird emo types- sorry - he’s different I guess. He’s in every one of my classes and he’s always drawing these pictures and listening to like- like, stupid, sad folk music. And it’s so fucking distracting. I-I’m sorry. 

Dr. Bright: It’s alright. It’s good to express your frustrations. Does this boy – what’s his name?

Caleb: Adam.

Dr. Bright: Does Adam bother you during class? Talk to you?

Caleb: Not really, no.

Dr. Bright: But you find him distracting?

Caleb: Yeah, I mean he’s just…he’s so sad, like all the time. And it-it-it’s…

Dr. Bright: And it makes you sad?

Caleb: Yeah, no shit. It makes me sad. Whenever he’s in the room I can’t feel anything else. I-I just feel his- his stupid emo-ness crawling all over me and it’s just- it’s not fair, okay? I don’t care that he’s sad, a lot of people are sad, just fucking deal with it! What does it have to do with me?

Dr. Bright: Remember what we talked about, Caleb. Responding with anger is not productive. 

Caleb: Okay, I know you say that, but I think- I think you’re wrong. When I get angry the other stuff goes away.

Dr. Bright: But you’re not dealing with it. You’re overpowering it.

Caleb: Why is that a bad thing?

Dr. Bright: Because it’s a temporary solution. Caleb, you have a wonderful gift. Being able to feel other people’s emotions is something many people would be thankful for. I know it would certainly make my job a lot easier. When you try to drown that out with anger and frustration, you muddy the waters. You need to learn to take in each feeling and balance them alongside your own emotions. I know that’s easier said than done.

Caleb: No kidding. I can’t balance shit if I’m walking down a hallway of a hundred students who all have their own stupid problems and emotions. It’s just, it’s like, suffocating, you know?

Dr. Bright: Other students’ problems are not stupid. Everyone had their own burdens to bear-

Caleb: Yeah, so why should I have to bear all of them? I didn’t ask for this! I don’t wanna- I don’t wanna deal with this anymore!

Dr. Bright: Your mother told me she wants to get you at home tutoring. I know you have an easier time with adults. Have you considered taking her up on her offer?

Caleb: I wouldn’t be able to play on the football team, if I did home school. Adults are better, but spending all day with one person is hard. I started feeling only what they are feeling and I don’t like that. It’s like- like having someone else inside of my chest, you know?

Dr. Bright: I see. I have to say I’m surprised you find football enjoyable still. Don’t your teammates’ emotions get in the way of the game?

Caleb: Not really. Look, it’s easier when everyone is feeling the same thing. Football is intense. But it’s- I don’t know, it’s comfortable. It’s simple.

Dr. Bright: Hmm. You said that when Adam is in the room you can’t feel anything else. Do you mean his are the only other emotions that you feel?

Caleb: Yeah, pretty much. He just sort of…drowns everything else out.

Dr. Bright: Isn’t that preferable to feeling what everyone in the class feels? You don’t sound very happy about it.

Caleb: No, of course I’m not happy about it, that’s literally the point. I can’t be happy because he’s so miserable.

Dr. Bright: Do you know why he’s sad?

Caleb: No, how the fuck would I know that, I’m not a mind-reader! Look, I just- I just know that he’s sad.

Dr. Bright: In previous sessions, you’ve talked about how similar emotions can have slightly different colors to them. Happiness over getting a good grade versus happiness over seeing a friend, for example. You feel that difference. It’s something that you’ve felt many times in school, correct? Those different colors?

Caleb: Sounds a little gay when you when you put it like that, but yeah I guess…

Dr. Bright: Caleb.

Caleb: Sorry.

Dr. Bright: So does Adam sadness have a special color to it? Is he sad over his grades? His family?

Caleb: Like I said, I’m not a mind reader. But I mean, I don’t know, it’s pretty general. He’s lonely, I guess. Yeah, he feels alone. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, so I guess that makes sense. Actually I don’t think he has, like, any friends…so.

Dr. Bright: Perhaps that’s why you only feel him when he’s around. His loneliness isolates you from feeling anything else.

Caleb: Yeah, maybe. I mean- look, people are sad and lonely all the time, it’s high school. He’s just- he’s just different for some reason.

Dr. Bright: You said you made something worse this week? Did that have to do with Adam?

Caleb: What? Um yeah. Yeah it did.

Dr. Bright: What happened?

Caleb: Well, we did our presentations on Macbeth. Mine went pretty okay. I mean, I basically just read off the Spark Notes for it, so…what? Everyone does it. Anyway, he gets up there and he gives this, like, really long, really weird presentation about the witches and symbolism and and King James and I don’t know. I didn’t really understand any of it. It seemed pretty smart, I guess. Mr. Collins was impressed. But all of us were like “who does this nerd think he is?”. It was just really show-off-y.

Dr. Bright: And that bothered you?

Caleb: I mean, a little. It wa just- it was just really annoying but at least he wasn’t sad during it. He was just focused. So, you know, that was a little bit of a relief. But it bothered some of the other guys.

Dr. Bright: What other guys?

Caleb: Some of the guys from the team. They were giving him a hard time about it after class, calling him names and stuff, pushing him around. You know?

Dr. Bright: Were you apart of this behavior?

Caleb: No, I mean, why would I want to make him worse? It was just going to make me feel worse.

Dr. Bright: And did you? Feel worse?

Caleb: Yeah, I did. I mean he was just starting to get really sad again and really angry. The dude’s got a lot of anger. Like, way more than I would have thought. And it was making me really mad. So, I asked them to stop bothering him.

Dr. Bright: And did they?

Caleb: Yeah, they walked away.

Dr. Bright: I don’t understand the problem then. It sounds like you did a really good thing, Caleb.

Caleb: Yeah, except- expect when I told them to back off. I said “leave him alone the dude’s sad enough as it is. Can’t you see that? He just- he wants to be left alone.” Andthen look on his face, he just looked so embarrassed and I could feel him getting even more depressed. And scared. I just- I think it was the wrong thing to say. And now I’ve made him sad and scared. I was just trying to help and I’ve just made him feel worse.

Dr. Bright: Sometimes, people don’t want others to see their sadness. He probably thought he was hiding it well and the fact that you noticed frightened him. It brought into focus just how unhappy he is.

Caleb: See what I mean? I knew how he was feeling and instead of fixing it, I made him more unhappy. You’re always talking about this like it’s some sort of stupid gift, that I can help people. But I always just fuck things up.

Dr. Bright: That’s because you haven’t learned how to control it yet. You’re so young and you’re dealing with so many of your own emotions that handling others’ is going to be overwhelming. Being a teenager is hard, you know that. I’ve said before that I think this ability get easier as you grow older-

Caleb: Yeah, I know, I know. Being a teenager is rough, there are hormones and all that stuff, blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t change the fact that I suck. It’s not an excuse. Someone was sad and then I opened my mouth and now they’re sadder. And I don’t know what he’s going to do or how he’s gonna react, or if he spent the whole weekend thinking about it- and would you stop that! I can feel your fucking pity bleeding out of you and I don’t need it! I’m not some pathetic emotional loser, okay? I’m not like him!

Dr. Bright: Okay, okay, Caleb. Caleb, it’s alright. It’s alright. I don’t pity you. I’m empathetic to what you are feeling. Surely you of all people can understand that, right?

Caleb: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Sure. Look I’m sorry, I just- your feelings are normally pretty quiet and- so, it just surprised me, that’s all.

Dr. Bright: I see. I think you are being too hard on yourself. You are not responsible for what other people feel. But, as I was saying earlier, you can choose how to respond to it. You need to get these outbursts under control. Think before you speak. And that will only be possible if you learn to filter the incoming emotions. I think it’s possible you’re not in control of your own feelings because they are being overpowered by others, that’s why you need to learn to balance them.

Caleb: Yeah I know. I just- I don’t want anyone to get hurt. That’s all.

Dr. Bright: I have an idea. I think you’ve been given a unique opportunity.

Caleb: Awesome, more unique opportunities…

Dr. Bright: If you couldn’t do what you could do, do you think you would have noticed that Adam felt worse after you intervened?

Caleb: No, I guess not. But, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place if I couldn’t do what I do.

Dr. Bright: I just mean that you know now, that he’s feeling worse. And maybe you can help make that better. Make the choice. I think you should talk to him on Monday. Try and become friends.

Caleb: Why the hell would I do that?

Dr. Bright: You said yourself that he’s lonely. He could probably use someone who understands what’s going on with him. And it might help whatever misplaced feeling of guilt you have if you befriend him.

Caleb: Using my ability to make someone feel a certain way is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. Isn’t that an abuse of power or something?

Dr. Bright: Is it?

Caleb: I don’t know. 

Dr. Bright: Adam’s feelings are having a profound effect on you for a reason. I think you owe it to both him and yourself to find out what that reason is. If his emotions are so overpowering, perhaps it will help you learn focus and control to get some one-on-one time with him. Learn to contain both his feeling and yours.

Caleb: I don’t know. That sounds a little- sounds a little weird to me.

Dr. Bright: Promise me you’ll at least try? Ask him to have lunch with you this week and try to get to know him. Focus on the feelings that are coming from him and see if you can control how much it affects you. Will you do that?

Caleb: Yeah, okay. I mean I’ll try.

Dr. Bright: Thank you. Now, let’s work on your mediation exercises.

[sfx: clock ticking] 

(time passes)

Dr. Bright: Alright, Caleb. I think that’s enough for today. Do your exercises at home and remember what we talked about. Make contact with Adam this week and see what comes of it.

Caleb: Yeah, I will.

Dr. Bright: Good. I’ll see you next week.

[sfx: door opening and closing]

Dr. Bright: End of session 9. Interesting progress today. Subject showed increased focus in his exercises after venting about a fellow student. I’ve encouraged him to pursue a friendship and I posit that the results will be very telling.

[sfx: click of recorder]

[music & credits]

Lauren Shippen: The Bright Sessions is written and produced by Lauren Shippen. The voice of Dr. Bright is Julia Morizawa. The voice of Caleb is Briggon Snow. Special thanks to Elizabeth Laird for her advice as both a psychologist and fiction lover, to Elizabeth and Matthew Harrington for their enduring support, and to Anna Lore for our graphic design. For additional content or to donate to our podcast, please visit thebrightsessions.com. For any questions, or just to say hi, email us at thebrightsessions@gmail. Thanks for listening and stay strange.