Reverse Psychology: A play in one act

By: Cindy Moon

Doctor

Patient

Voice

Act One

The stage is set for a single counseling session. The doctor's office is quintessential of TV psychiatrists. One wall is decked with fancy diplomas and seemingly prestigious awards and recognitions. A modern black couch is underneath the wall, and a simple metal chair faces it. A cluttered bookshelf resides by the door full of self-help titles like, "Harnessing your Inner Charka" along with clinical studies. Odd trinkets, dust-collecting gifts from close friends, are left there to amuse the patients. As if ceramic tigers were to serve as icebreakers. There are a few paintings on the other wall, but just a few; they are of the abstract, contemporary kind, something a child could do but never market. The otherwise white walls are enough to make anyone claustrophobic. One almost expects the doctor to come out with a lab coat and syringe saying, "Come here, let me help you sleep."

The doctor walks into the room, wearing a large brown overcoat and plain slacks. He has unruly hair that bounces as he saunters over to his pristine desk situated under the abstract paintings. He wears reading glasses on that seem too mature for his young age and peruses over patients' files. He takes a few post-its, in non-standard colors like teal and magenta, and jots down some notes. There's a knock on the door, and he gets up from his seat to answer it. He opens the door as if expecting an intruder.

Doctor: Number?

Patient: 001562

Doctor: Just a moment, please. The doctor walks back to his desk and checks his file cabinet.

Patient, loudly through the partially opened door: I was referred by a Miss Kelley.

Doctor: Still a Miss? Yes, always a bridesmaid but never a bride. She did mention you during her sessions. You're the chap with that the company sent over aren't you?

Patient: Yes, the company believes in the welfare of its employees and makes sure we're content for better productivity.

Doctor: Ah, you sound like the training manual. Don't worry, that's what I'm here for. I'm going to help you help yourself feel more content. The doctor's hands are still shuffling through his files. 001560, 001561 oh here we are William Falter. That's all right; you can come on in now. Chuckles. William Falter, were your parents fans of As I Lay Dying?

Patient: Uhh, not in particular. It's a family name.

Doctor, first in a mock English accent: Fancy you anything? Pauses for an answers but notices patient appears confused then returns to his regular speech. Pardon the English, I'm an aspiring actor on the side, gotta pay the rent somehow, you know, keep the missus satisfied. I swear, a Ph. D and they don't pay you enough.

Patient, a bit bemused: Doctor?

Doctor: Haha, I'm just kidding, just trying to lighten the mood. Nervous?

Patient: Yes He nervously runs his hands down his shirt, smoothing out invisible wrinkles.

Doctor: Reluctant?

Patient: Naturally, the company believes I've been bringing down the atmosphere with my attitude. But I think I'm just being honest. I don't need to be here, but I can't go back to work without a session.

Doctor: Okay, let's get situated. He walks over to the couch, and makes himself comfortable there. You sit there in that chair.Oh wait. A notebook and ergonomic pen comes out of his pockets and into the hands of the patient. You'll be needing this.

Patient: What's this for?

Doctor, sitting up momentarily: Reverse psychology. We're going to play a game. We've got an hour to talk about whatever you like. Strictly confidential of course. So tell me what would you like to talk about.

Patient: I've got nothing to say.

Doctor, reclining: How about we start with why you think your company sent you here.

Patient, stammering: Umm, I appear distraught when I'm working, and I blank out sometimes. I had an outburst also. But once, only once.

Doctor, chuckling: This is fun.

Patient, annoyed: Excuse me?

Doctor: Umm, nothing. Why aren't you jotting this down? The doctor watches his patient write furiously on the pad, and changes his position on the couch. Your apparent distress and loss in thought must be triggered by something. Have you suffered from any traumatic loss or incident recently? Did your girlfriend tell you she was cheating on you with the boy from the video store? Or maybe your mother died from an unexpected heart attack and your siblings got in a fatal car accident on the way to her funeral.

Patient: Yes, actually. The company must have mentioned something.

Doctor: Honestly, I got it right?

Patient: Well, the second part. I've lost several people in the past year. But I understand. I've recovered. It's just a part of life. Chokes up a little. I mean everyone has to die. It's too much energy to wonder why. There's always some tsunami or earthquake. War happens. Another bombing somewhere, more kidnappings. Things happen. To everybody. Why am I any different? I don't know how people can be sad for so long. They need to get over it, and move on with their lives like I have. I feel sorry, but it's not my problem and it slows me down when people have to impose their life problems on me. I don't need to say anything to anyone to feel better. I'm just fine. Fine.

Doctor, nodding: I see, I see.

Patient: You agree?

Doctor: Right off the bat, I can see you're going to need treatment.

Patient: Holy! I've only been here for a few minutes. Don't go telling me…

Doctor, cutting him off while getting up: You're going to need treatment. You're desensitized. For lack of a better word: soulless.

Patient, defiantly: No, I'm not! I certainly am not!

Doctor: And in denial, here let me show you. The doctor walks to his desk again and finds a binder to show his patient. Look at these. These are those "things" you speak of. Disaster. Destitution. War. Suffering. Agony. Pain.

Patient: What's this going to do?

Doctor: How do you feel about this?

Patient. Nothing.

Doctor: Nothing?

Patient: We're responsible for our own lives, and while sad it is the only way to survive. We have our own burdens to carry. It's not my problem.

Doctor, rubbing temples: Sardonic, unfeeling, attempt at the philosophical. Classic symptoms of desensitization. He walks closer to his patient in a pining manner, and grabs on to the arms of the metal chair.

Patient, uneasy: Mmmnm.

Doctor, seductively: Shhh. He gently takes the notepad out of his patient's hands. When was the last time you felt anything?

Patient, defensively: What the hell are you doing? Don't touch me! Don't come near me!

Doctor: Oh! It worked. Takes a glance at the patient. Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to sodomize you or anything. I'm just being sympathetic. I'm still trying to get you to break out of your shell. You need some self-actualization to sort out your life and if anything please your employers by coming to work happy. You know go and look into that new mystic stuff. What's that called? Cocks head up to think.

Patient,guessing: New Age?

Doctor, snaps fingers: New age. Yeah, that stuff. Hell, actually it's useless. Goes to bookshelf and pulls a self-help title from it. Here is a self-help book, one of those. Throws book to floor. Very helpful. Full of crap. All crap. Pulls another book and scans the title. Feeding your heart, changing your life. What the hell is all of this? Wipes an entire shelf onto the floor. These books keep telling people how to feel. You've got to own your emotions. The problem with you is that you have none. So callous, so afraid of being hurt if you feel something, so you hide. Grows progressively louder. But it's caught up with you now hasn't it? Hasn't it? You've been thinking about it. You can't hide in this fake shell anymore! Embrace it my friend!

Patient, yelling louder than the doctor: Stop it! Stop it! Stop telling me what feel and how to feel you, you damn hypocrite.

Doctor, arms raised: Haha Yes! Yes! Relaxes and whispers to himself. I need to try this more often. Yelling. Let it all out. Don't yell at me. Yell at the world, it's the world you're mad at. You're disappointed in it.

Patient: Fine, I feel it! I'm haunted by death. Suffocated. I drown in it! I feel so guilty. I need to escape you have no idea. Takes a large figurine off the shelf and throws it down and then falls to his knees and regains composure. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, so sorry.

Voice, audible from doorway: Thank you, Melissa. A man walks through the door and drops his papers and coffee upon seeing his office. William! What are you doing here? He begins to pick up his dropped things. I wasn't expecting you until later this afternoon.

Doctor, returning to normal: Oh yes, sorry doctor. I was just practicing.

The Curtain Falls

A/N: This was my first attempt at a play. It was intended to be comedic, but I don't know how far that went.