Episode 5 Transcript
05 - Patient #11-A-7 (Caleb)
By Lauren Shippen
[sfx: click of a recorder]
Dr. Bright: Patient #11-A-7. Session 10. Last session I encouraged the patient to make contact with a student in his class. He has been feeling this particular student’s emotions much more strongly than the emotions of any others. I don’t know what the reason for this could be, but I think it’s important for him to try and get to know this boy so that he can learn to balance the incoming emotions more effectively.
[sfx: opening door]
Dr. Bright: Come in, Caleb. It’s good to see you.
[sfx: closing door]
Caleb: Yeah, you too.
Dr. Bright: How are you feeling today?
Caleb: Um, good. Great actually. Like, like, really great.
Dr. Bright: Oh?
Caleb:Yeah, I feel really excited. Like, bubbly? Ugh, no, that’s a dumb word.
Dr. Bright: Did you notice anything new about Sarah today?
Caleb: Your secretary? No…not really. Why?
Dr. Bright: She just got engaged. Last night, in fact. She hasn’t stopped smiling all day.
Caleb: Oh, wow, good for her. So that’s why- right, of course, it is.
Dr. Bright: I’m sorry, Caleb:. I know it’s frustrating.
Caleb: God forbid I’m happy for my own reasons. I thought it was a little weird that I felt good when I walked in here. I had a pretty shitty day at school.
Dr. Bright: In what way?
Caleb: I just…I felt, like, out of it today. It was just an overwhelming day. Too many feelings all jumbled up. You know how that is. It just - it always puts me on edge.
Dr. Bright: Don’t you have English on Fridays? Is Adam no longer drowning everything else out?
Caleb: No, he is. But- like, I guess he called in sick today? I don’t know, it’s not like I know what’s going on in his life, but he wasn’t at school. And, I don’t know, I guess it was kind of nice just feeling one person. I’d gotten kind of used to it.
Dr. Bright: You missed him.
Caleb: No, I didn’t miss him. It just- you know, he simplified things, I guess. Made it easier to breathe. Even if he’s like, so fucking sad all the time. Or he was. He’s been a little better this week.
Dr. Bright: I take it you talked to him like I asked?
Caleb: Yeah, I did.
Dr. Bright: How did that go?
Caleb: Really badly at first, to be honest.
Dr. Bright: Why?
Caleb: Well, I was all ready on Monday to do what you said. To talk to him and maybe see if he wanted to eat lunch together, or whatever. I mean, it’s not like I’m responsible for him or anything, but of all the ideas you’ve had, it’s one of the less head-shrink-y ones. The guy really does feel like he could use a friend. I guess it might as well be me, you know?
Dr. Bright: I’m glad you feel that way, Caleb. You’re a very caring boy and you shouldn’t be afraid to let people see that.
Caleb: Yeah, sure, whatever.
Dr. Bright: But it went badly? Did he say no?
Caleb: No, he didn’t get a chance to. I walked into class and he was sitting there listening to his Snow Patrol or whatever the fuck it is he listens to. And he was feeling really- really…ugh, I don’t know. Like...like, sad but calm? I don’t know. It was like, lonely but sort of resigned to it. Like, I felt alone but it didn’t hurt really. It was just kind of this quiet sadness, I guess.
Dr. Bright: I can understand that. Sometimes being alone can be nice. We can be content in being a little lonely.
Caleb: Sure, yeah, I guess so. The music was soothing him a bit I think. So maybe he wasn’t listening to Snow Patrol then.
Dr. Bright: What happened next?
Caleb: Well, I was just sort of standing there and looking at him. Just adjusting to the feelings, you know? And then he looks up at me so I start walking towards him and then I start feeling really nervous and like, really hot. Like, temperature hot.
Dr. Bright: It’s understandable that you’d be nervous to talk to him. It can be hard making new friends.
Caleb: No, it wasn’t me. I mean, sometimes it’s hard to tell, but these feelings were definitely someone else’s.
Dr. Bright: How do you know?
Caleb: It’s like they didn’t fit into my body. Usually, it’s either that the feelings are all just jumbled up, like in most of my classes, when there are a bunch of different people feeling a bunch of different things. And then sometimes, it just takes over and kind of finds, like a, like a home in my chest. Like with Adam.
Dr. Bright: What do you mean it finds a home?
Caleb: Well…I don’t know. It’s like…when I’m around him, whatever he’s feeling just sort of settles into me and sits there. Next to my own feelings. Like, his sadness, or whatever, becomes my sadness.
Dr. Bright: Does that happen with anyone else when you’re one on one with them?
Caleb: Yeah, I guess. Like, when my mom is worried, I feel worried. And I know it’s hers but I also feel like it’s mine a bit. It’s got a different color to it from my own, but sometimes the edges blur together and it creates a new kind of color. Does that make sense?
Dr. Bright: It does. So, for example, if your emotions are yellow and Adam’s are blue, you get green.
Caleb: Right, yeah. Yeah, and with him, it’s like everything becomes green. Whereas with someone else, it’s a lot of yellow and a lot of blue and then a little bit of green between them. God, this is a fucking stupid way of talking about things.
Dr. Bright: No it isn’t. In all my years as a psychologist, I have yet to discover a perfect way to talk about emotions. Visualizing them can be very helpful. So with Adam it completely blurs together? You can’t tell the difference between his emotions and yours?
Caleb: Not exactly. I mean, sometimes he’s blue, and he stays blue. But yeah, sometimes, his feelings make green and I know that they’re his feelings but they feel real to me. Like more real than other people’s.
Dr. Bright: And he is the only person you’ve encountered that has this particular effect on you?
Caleb: Uh, yeah. I guess.
Dr. Bright: Interesting. I wonder what the reason for that is.
Caleb: Yeah, you and me both.
Dr. Bright: I’m sure the more you spend time with him, the more you’ll grow to understand whatever connection is there.
Caleb: Yeah, maybe.
Dr. Bright: But let’s get back on task. You were saying you started to feel nervous and hot when approaching Adam?
Caleb: Oh, right, yeah. Yeah, and he was looking at me and I was about to say something ‘cause I was just standing there like an idiot and then this girl in our class, Caitlin, started talking to me and the nervous feeling got worse.
Dr. Bright: Was it Caitlin who was feeling nervous?
Caleb: Uh, yeah, I think so.
Dr. Bright: And what did she say to you?
Caleb: Um, she…um, she, uh, she asked me to this stupid dance at school. It’s a Sadie Hawkins dance? You know, when the girls ask the boys?
Dr. Bright: I’m familiar with the tradition.
Caleb: So, yeah, well, she asked me to that.
Dr. Bright: And what did you say?
Caleb: I said yes.
Dr. Bright: You don’t sound very excited about that. Do you not like this Caitlin girl?
Caleb: No, I mean, she’s fine. It’s just…I didn’t really like her feelings. Or, at least, I think they were her feelings.
Dr. Bright: The hot, nervous feelings you mean?
Caleb: Yeah, it just got worse the longer we talked. It made me feel like, prickly and just like, I don't know, fucking weird. My skin felt like it was burning up, like I had a sunburn or something.
Dr. Bright: And have you ever felt this way before?
Caleb: Uh, yeah, I guess so. But never this strongly. I don’t think I’ve ever been talking to the person while they’ve been feeling that way.
Dr. Bright: And what do you think it is?
Caleb: Um, I’m not sure. I guess she was nervous to ask me. I get that. I mean, I was already sort of nervous myself so that didn’t bother me so much.
Dr. Bright: What were you nervous about? Talking to Adam?
Caleb: Um, yeah, I guess so. I mean, it didn’t go so well last time.
Dr. Bright: So Caitlin’s nerves didn’t bother you. But you said you didn’t like her feelings? What did you mean?
Caleb: It was the other stuff. The tingly, nauseous feeling. Or, not nauseous, really, but…
Dr. Bright: Butterflies?
Dr. Bright: Did it feel like butterflies in your stomach?
Caleb: Uh, yeah, it did.
Dr. Bright: It sounds like she likes you.
Caleb: What, you mean like like-likes me?
Dr. Bright: Do you disagree?
Caleb: No, I guess not.
Dr. Bright: You’re sixteen, Caleb:. Haven’t you felt that way yourself before?
Caleb: Um, not really. Not in a long time.
Dr. Bright: Really? That’s alright, you know. You don’t have to want romance or sex.
Caleb: Yeah, I know that. But it’s not that. It’s just…I haven’t been able to talk to another person and feel my own feelings enough to notice. And, to be, like, totally honest, I’ve sort of avoided girls for the past few years. Their emotions are so much bigger and…ugh, they’re just harder to deal with.
Dr. Bright: I see. So, feeling this lust from Caitlin-
Caleb: Ick, no, can we not call it that? That’s just- that's weird.
Dr. Bright: Of course. Feeling this…attraction must have been surprising.
Caleb: Yeah, it was. I mean, I guess she basically asked me on a date, so maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise but yeah, it still felt wicked strange.
Dr. Bright: And do you find Caitlin attractive in return?
Caleb: Um, she’s okay. Yeah, she’s pretty.
Dr. Bright: You don’t sound very convinced.
Caleb: I just meant that, yeah, I can see that she’s pretty but…
Dr. Bright: But you’re not attracted to her.
Caleb: No, I’m not. I shouldn’t have said yes, should I?
Dr. Bright: Not necessarily. There’s no reason you can’t go to a dance with someone as friends.
Caleb: I know but…I knew she liked me - like, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew that - and that I didn’t feel the same way but I said yes anyway. Isn’t that leading her on? Shouldn’t I have just been, like, honest?
Dr. Bright: Ideally. But it’s not always that easy. There are plenty of adults who would have done the exact same thing.
Caleb: Yeah, I guess.
Dr. Bright: So I take it you didn’t have a chance to talk to Adam after that?
Caleb: Uh, no. I was sort of distracted. And by the time Caitlin sat down, Adam had taken out his notebook and started doodling or whatever it is that he does and it just didn’t seem like a good time to talk to him.
Dr. Bright: Was that a feeling you were getting from him?
Caleb: Yeah, he was mad. And like, bummed about something. I don’t know, he just didn’t seem super approachable right then.
Dr. Bright: Did you try again later?
Caleb: Yeah, on Wednesday, after class.
Dr. Bright: And how did that go?
Caleb: It went fine.
Dr. Bright: Come on, Caleb. You’ve been on a roll so far this session. Don’t clam up now.
Caleb: Well, I was nervous again. And he was too. The moment I said his name, he looked up, it was like, instant panic from him. I almost walked away right then. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, you know?
Dr. Bright: But you didn’t walk away?
Caleb: Nah. Then I would have looked like a total weirdo, just saying his name and then leaving.
Dr. Bright: So what did you say to him?
Caleb: I told him I liked his presentation on Macbeth and he didn’t say anything. He just sort of stared up at me, still pretty panicked. So I asked him if he wanted to get lunch and he looked at me all funny and said yes. So we went and got lunch.
Dr. Bright: And how did that go?
Caleb: It was…different.
Dr. Bright: How so?
Caleb: It was…nice. We got stuff from the cafeteria and took it outside - I just told him I didn’t like how loud the cafeteria was and he felt the same way - and it was quiet and…not calm, but…I don’t know, it was nice.
Dr. Bright: His feelings didn’t overwhelm you?
Caleb: Well, they did, sort of. I mean, I could feel them really strongly - he was nervous and confused and excited - but I was kind of all of those things too and it was just…
Dr. Bright: Green?
Caleb: Yeah. It didn’t rub me up the wrong way like Caitlin’s emotions did. I mean, it was a totally different set of emotions I guess, but they just seemed to fit. Like, I could feel his emotions fine, but I could also feel mine pretty well. And I apologized for shouting at him last week and that made him less nervous and then it was just…I don't know, it was easy.
Dr. Bright: I’m very pleased to hear that, Caleb. Were you able to control how much of his emotions you were feeling? Balance them out a bit?
Caleb: Um, I’m not sure. I didn’t really try. Sometimes it did it on it’s own - like, it would be softer at times and bigger at other times and…ugh, I don’t know how to describe it.
Dr. Bright: Try a visual comparison again. See if that helps.
Caleb: Yeah, but I don’t think the color thing applies.
Dr. Bright: Then try to think of something that does. What else have you encountered in your life that was similar to this experience?
Caleb: Um…it’s kind of like- it's kind of like the ocean.
Dr. Bright: The ocean?
Caleb: Yeah, you know when you’re standing at the edge of the water and the waves come up the sand to your feet and sometimes there’s, like, a strong wave and your whole leg gets wet? It was sort of like that. The more we were talking, it was like his feelings were the water. I could feel them all the time, but sometimes there would be a big wave and the feeling would sort of cover everything up for a moment and then go back again. But I was always myself, you know? It wasn’t like I ever became the ocean too. I didn’t get washed away.
Dr. Bright: Well. That is quite the analogy. I’m very pleased to hear that further exposure to Adam has made it easier to balance your own emotions with others. I’m curious - the ocean as you describe it is often thought of as a very calm place. Does Adam make you calmer?
Caleb: I guess so. But, I mean, sometimes waves get really big and scary too. Like, when we were talking about the guys who were making fun of him, there was definitely a really big wave of anger that sort of took me under for a second. I got really, really angry too and sort of had to take some deep breaths like you taught me to calm myself down.
Dr. Bright: And where was your anger directed? I know in the past you’ve had a hard time with other people’s anger. It’s made you want to lash out at the source. Did you get angry at Adam?
Caleb: Uh, no. No, I didn’t. It was- I was angry at those guys. But I was sort of angry with them to begin with. Well, not sort of. Like actually, really fucking angry.
Dr. Bright: Do you think you would have done something if those boys had come by in that moment?
Caleb: I don’t know. I mean, the breathing helped, but, yeah, I mean, I was still pretty mad. But I won’t hit anyone again, I mean, I promise.
Dr. Bright: I know you’re trying Caleb:, but remember why you’re here. You haven’t been handling your anger - or the anger of others - particularly well. I’m happy to hear that the breathing is helping you, but we still have a long way to go on that front.
Caleb: I know. But that was ages ago. I didn’t even know what was going on at that point, that I was feeling other people’s feelings. I’m not dangerous, I promise.
Dr. Bright: I know you’re not dangerous, Caleb:. You’re a very kind boy. You would never hurt someone intentionally, I know that.
Caleb: But you think sometimes other people’s feelings get the better of me.
Dr. Bright: Yes, I do. Why don’t we take a break from the talk for a bit, work on those breathing exercises?
Caleb: Yeah, yeah, okay.
[sfx: ticking clock]
Dr. Bright: Alright, Caleb:, let’s end there for the day. Keep meditating, finding those calm moments in the day.
Caleb: Okay, I will.
[sfx: opening door]
Dr. Bright: Do you think you’ll hang out with Adam again?
Caleb: I don’t know. Do you think it’ll keep helping?
Dr. Bright: I think it’s worth finding out, don’t you?
Caleb: Yeah. Sure.
Dr. Bright: Good. I’ll see you next week then.
[sfx: closing door]
Dr. Bright: End of Session 10. Good progress made in the past week. This fellow student seems to help the patient gain control of his ability. I’m still concerned about the patient’s tendency towards anger but he is making remarkable progress.
[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.