“Sir, I have a Dr Paul Emerson on line one for you.”
“Put him through, Edna,” I say immediately, although I’m very surprised.
On the one occasion I met said doctor, his milk of human kindness was less than brimful. I suspect he sees me as an interloper ready to return the colonies to the good guardianship of the Queen. Which is to say, he barely tolerates my company, let alone seeks it. So I’m intrigued that he’s calling my new consulting rooms, to say the least.
His booming voice causes me to hold the phone an inch away from my ear.
“John! Paul Emerson here. How are you? Settling in to Seattle ok, I hope. Not missing warm beer and fog too much.”
“Very droll, Paul…” The man is an arse. “…and such an unexpected pleasure to hear from you. What can I do for you this fine morning?”
“I have something for you, John. A new client. I really don’t have time to take him on myself, what with all the lecture tours and chat shows I’ve got lined up. I’d like to help: he comes from one of the finest families in Seattle… Did I say they want me to go on Oprah? Well, I don’t like to mention it but… so here’s the thing: this client is… challenging, shall we say. Yes, very challenging. But I’m sure a man of your talents won’t mind that. And I know you have space in your schedule, John, which is to be expected, of course. And I’d like to help out a newbie.”
The man really does have patronising down to a fine art. Remarkable.
“Well, goodness! That is extraordinarily generous of you, Paul. I presume the client has expressed an interest in the kind of therapy I can offer?”
“You mean SFBT? Well, ha ha, I wouldn’t want to scare him off now, would I, John! No, I thought I’d let you do that – earn your fee, my friend.”
You are no friend of mine you self-serving, egotistical, flea on a pig’s scrotum.
“I see. The client will be in touch direct?”
“You can say ‘no’, John, if you think this isn’t up your alley.”
“I may very well, Paul; rapport is so necessary, don’t you think?”
“As you say, John. Well, I’ll give him your details – but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
But you haven’t warned me. About what?
“Perhaps I’ll see you on the fairways some time, John, show you how we play golf in the New World. No plus-fours and suspenders here!”
“Alas, Paul, golf is not within the range of my abilities,” I would rather walk over hot coals with bare feet in pink toenail varnish. “Cricket is more me, old sport.”
Yes, I’m hamming up the English eccentricities but really, I just can’t help myself. This man is such a wanker.
“Well, good chatting with you, John. You take it easy: or maybe you’d prefer to take it less easy and have a few more clients. Ha ha!”
“Your wit precedes you, my dear fellow.” Tosser.
And I’m left staring at the receiver wondering what sort of client he’s just sent my way.
The man sitting in front of me is young, about 25 I’d say, wearing a bespoke suit and well-shined Italian shoes. He has the kind of symmetrical looks and toned physique that are more usually found in professional male models. His gaze, however, is one that could well eviscerate at a thousand yards.
His appointment was made by an assistant but I wasn’t given his name until I’d signed an NDA. In my opinion this is hardly necessary as I maintain the strictest confidence with all my clients. However, if it makes him more comfortable with my treatment, then so be it.
On receipt of the NDA I understand all the cloak-and-dagger behaviour. The client is one Christian Grey, CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, billionaire and, so the gossip pages on the internet tell me, one of Seattle’s most eligible bachelors. Yes, I do my research using a variety of sources.
He has with him his own personal medical file which, he tells me, includes copies of his every psychological therapy and psychiatric treatment since the age of four. It is a very thick file.
His demeanour is bordering on hostility and I wonder why he has chosen to sit in my consulting rooms at all, his whole being radiating anxiety, tension and repressed violence. Why has he sought me out – or been sent in my direction? It’s a fair question.
“So, Mr Grey, perhaps you’d like to tell me why you’re here.”
“I would have thought my file would make that self-evident.”
He points at the manila folders on my desk with his chin, his long, manicured figures remaining tightly knitted on his lap. From everything I have read about him, subsequent to signing the NDA, I learn that he is a cultured man of high intelligence; I shall therefore treat him as such.
“Not at all. That merely shows me that you have seen a large number of verbose therapists.”
A ghost of smile passes across his face before he frowns at me.
“Perhaps when you have made yourself acquainted with the facts,” he waves at the file again, “you will find the evidence.”
“Perhaps. But then I would be reading other people’s opinions and I prefer to make up my own mind.”
He sighs and looks down. I can imagine that he has had to make this same beginning many times over the years with many different therapists, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, hypnotists, charlatans and arseholes viz. Dr Paul Emerson.
“I had a rough start in life, Dr Flynn. It has colored my life ever since.”
“Yes, about fifty shades of fucked up.”
“But still, I wonder what you would like me to do?”
He stares at me as if the question is new to him. Surely the other therapists have asked this man of intellect what they can do for him?
“I… I get very… angry. I find… have found… in the past… that talking can… sometimes… help.” He pauses. “Sometimes.”
“I would be happy to listen to you, Mr Grey; I would be happy to talk to you; but perhaps I should explain my approach so you can decide if you think you would benefit from what I have to offer.
“It seems to me, looking at this Everest of psychiatric intervention,” I point to the mountain of papers he has deposited on my desk, “it seems to me that your rough start in life has been picked over endlessly. And yet here you are today, some two decades later. I would suggest, therefore, that your early years have been picked over, dissected, scrutinised and microscopically analysed ad nauseum…”
“Well, my approach would be to forget all that…”
“How can I fucking forget it?” he says in a voice of quiet fury. I can see he’s used to intimidating people.
“Let me finish: forget the procedure of analysing the past and focus instead on where you want to be.”
He looks confused.
“Where I want to be?”
“I follow a method called Solution Focused Brief Therapy: in essence it means that we discuss what your goals are for, say, the next five years, and we discuss how these goals might be achieved.”
“I already have a fucking five-year business plan!” he snorts in derision.
“I’m delighted to hear it: I refer to your personal goals. You spoke of feeling very angry. One goal, for example, might be to find an outlet to channel that anger…”
His smiles at me: it reminds me of a snake about to devour a rabbit head first.
“Oh, I have a number of ways of channelling anger, Dr Flynn. I suggest you read my file.”
“And I might suggest that those channels are less than effective as you are still experiencing, as you say yourself, a great deal of anger.”
He sits back and studies me.
“Perhaps,” he agrees at length. “I would, however, prefer you to read the fucking file or I might die of boredom reciting the whole fucking thing to you.”
His response makes me smile and he raises an eyebrow. Yes, I think I can work with this man.
“Very well, Mr Grey. If you want to pay for the hours it will take me to read this magnum opus, I’ll be happy to do so.”
“I’ll see you next week, Dr Flynn. Let’s see if this Solution Focused Shit is any use.”
“Indeed. I will be agog myself.”
He smiles a genuine smile that lights up his curiously-coloured silver-grey eyes.
“Until next week, Dr Flynn.”