Mike Davis
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Chapter 38: Learned Helplessness... the Psychology of defeat
Chapter 39: Confrontation... I get thrown out of graduate school




Written by Rick Archer




"Good morning, Rick.  Last week I got the impression you were done with the Hopkins period of your life.  Are you ready to move on?"

"As a matter of fact, yes I am."

"Excellent.  Do you have any Supernatural Events for me today?"

"The answer is yes and no."

"Pray tell."

"I have a Supernatural Event for you, but it has nothing to do with me.  Do you want to hear it anyway?"

"Of course I do.  Your stories are typically the highlight of my week."

"I am sure you mean that in a positive way, correct?"

"You know I like to tease you, but when I say you are the most interesting client I have ever met, let me add you have absolutely no competition.  You have my word on that.  You never cease to amaze me.  So what's your story today?"


"Lately my friend Jason has been leaving articles on my desk to read.  You and Jason are old friends, right?"

"Oh, I know Jason well.  He is quite a character in his own right."

"Jason knows how much I love Carl Jung, so he found a recent article in a Psychology magazine complete with a story about a fascinating coincidence."

"What did the article say?"

"It covered Synchronicity and Coincidences, pretty much the same things you and I have talked about."

"Did it cover any new ground?"

"It clarified some things.  The article defined 'Synchronicity' as a 'meaningful coincidence'.  At first glance two events have nothing in common, yet seem to be strongly related when looked at from different angle.  For example, last week I told you that I had a very curious idea to look for a summer job as a camp counselor.  That was Event one.  I had already dismissed the idea as nonsense when suddenly a job as a camp counselor fell in my lap.  Once I paired the two events together, I had a meaningful coincidence. 

The article explained that Dr. Jung was subjected to considerable criticism throughout his career for espousing his radical concept that Coincidences may have a far deeper meaning.  Jung used the concept of Synchronicity to justify his theory that coincidences might be considered paranormal events.   A highly successful therapist, Dr. Jung felt he possessed the gravitas to endure the scorn sent his way.  Keep in mind that Dr. Jung enjoyed considerable popularity with those who agreed with his theories on the supernatural.  However, at the same time, no doubt Jung tired of the ridicule he was forced to endure from those who dismissed his theories as crackpot pseudoscience. 

Jung's ideas were deeply unsettling.  Suggesting that a 'Coincidence' might actually be evidence that the events of man are manipulated behind the scenes by the Cosmos, Jung went pretty far out on a limb.  Personally, I am glad he said what he said because Dr. Jung persuaded me to give coincidences a closer look.  Since modern miracles are few and far between, in my search for evidence of God's existence, like Carl Jung, I settled on mysterious coincidences and improbable events as my best bet to bolster my confidence in the existence of a Hidden World." 

"So what was the coincidence in the article?"

"The article interviewed two men about an unusual event they shared. The first man was author George Feifer.  Feifer said that in September 1971 he lent a friend an advance copy of his novel, The Girl From Petrovka.  Feifer was reluctant to share the book because it contained many personal comments.  His book had first been published in England, but now Feifer spotted major errors in the American proofs of his book.  There were so many mistakes, Feifer's New York editor told Feifer to proofread the English version and translate it into 'American'. 

For example, Feifer underlined necessary changes such as turning 'labour' into 'labor'.  It was a lot of work.  Feifer said his red marks were four to five to a page.  At this point, Feifer developed both a sentimental as well as practical attachment to this copy.  So naturally Feifer was very upset when one week later his friend reported the book had gone missing from his car in Bayswater in the center of London.  When frantic searches failed, the book was irretrievably gone.  Feifer said it upset him because he was a superstitious sort and this seemed like a bad omen.  Perhaps his book was jinxed.

Jason's article now interviewed an actor named Anthony Hopkins.  In 1972, Hopkins agreed to appear as third lead in The Girl From Petrovka, a movie based on the novel by George Feifer concerning a love affair in Soviet Russia.  As this was early in his acting career, Hopkins felt the need to make every chance count.  Given that he had accepted this part with only the slightest idea what the story was about, Hopkins wanted to read the book and study how to approach his role.

Living in the English countryside, Hopkins made a special train trip into London for the sole purpose of obtaining a copy of the best-selling book.  However, despite a determined search of the city with its limitless number of bookstores, Hopkins came up empty.  Hopkins was shocked at his inability to find a copy of the Petrovka book. 

After his fruitless search, Hopkins headed back to the train station feeling deeply frustrated.  Hopkins had just entered the station at Leicester Square to board the train home when he saw a book laying abandoned on a bench.  Imagine Hopkins' surprise when the book turned out to be a well-worn copy of The Girl From Petrovka.

This was a strange coincidence indeed.  But it was about to get stranger.

Now Feifer was interviewed again.  Twenty-six months after losing his book, in November 1973, Feifer travelled to Vienna to write an article about the novel's filming.  On the set, Feifer was strongly drawn to Anthony Hopkins.  After the two men struck up a conversation, Hopkins told Feifer about a puzzling incident the previous summer when he had found a copy of the Petrovka book in the unlikeliest of places.

At that point, Feifer began to complain how his original copy had been stolen and how the loss of that book still irritated him.

Feifer said, "I can't replace that book.  That copy had all of my original annotations!"

At that comment, Hopkins raised an eyebrow because the copy he had found in London had contained detailed notes in the margins, notes that Hopkins had found very useful. 

Hopkins said, "Can you wait here for a minute?"

Hopkins went to his trailer to fetch his copy, then brought it back and showed it to Feifer.  "Might this copy," Hopkins asked, "have some personal meaning for you?"

Feifer gasped.  This was indeed his personal copy of the book.  Anthony Hopkins was not only the person who found Feifer's missing book in the absolute middle of nowhere, he became the person to return it to Feifer."




"That is a very interesting story, Rick.  When you say these stories start to add up, I am starting to see what you mean.  So do you think that story proves anything?"

"No, of course not, Dr. Hilton.  But stories like this certainly give me a legitimate reason to remain open-minded.  As I have told you repeatedly, I can do little more than speculate.  That said, as far as I am concerned, I think Carl Jung was onto something.  Every time I collect a new coincidence, I feel more certain I am headed in the right direction."




"So, Rick, last week you said you despise Dr. Fujimoto.  However, at the same time you also suggested he did you a favor by breaking you into many pieces.  I would like you revisit your relationship with Dr. Fujimoto.  Tell me what typically went through your mind when you were criticized by Dr. Fujimoto.  From what you have said previously, you perceive Dr. Fujimoto's criticism as put-downs and attacks on your character."

I nodded.  "Yes, that is true.  I am sorry to say this, but I felt like Dr. Fujimoto was out to get me.  I felt like he treated me more like the enemy than a student."

"I know Dr. Fujimoto well.  He comes from a different culture than you do.  In the Japanese culture, the student listens and says little.  The student shows respect to the teacher at all times and never questions the teacher's authority.

Dr. Fujimoto has some pretty high standards.  He expects a certain level of maturity and self-control in a graduate student.  In his position as head of the program, he insists it is not his job to develop your character.  In a professional setting, he expects his students will have the maturity to handle his criticism.  Dr. Fujimoto is not the kind of man to hold hands.  He has little tolerance for back talk nor does he have the patience to deliver criticism wrapped in a sugar-coated pill. 

He expects any student who comes into this program will be prepared to withstand attacks on his character.  I daresay Dr. Fujimoto was deliberately testing you to see how you would respond.  In a sense, Dr. Fujimoto feels he has limited resources and precious little time.  As cold as this sounds, he feels it is necessary to weed out marginal performers."

I was stunned.  Dr. Hilton had just revealed Fujimoto's mind-set in a way I could understand.  'Marginal performer' was code word for 'waste of time'.  That was me.  Fujimoto wanted to cut his losses.  There it was in a nutshell.

I wasn't sure how much more abuse my self-esteem could take.  I had come into this program feeling like a hot shot and now I felt worthless.  I stared back at Dr. Hilton feeling pretty much abandoned by my mentor.  Usually Dr. Hilton was not quite this blunt.  Since this was such a bitter pill to swallow, I asked myself where he was coming from.  That is when I figured it out... now that we were approaching the end of the year, Dr. Hilton knew something and he was preparing me for the inevitable. 

Everything Dr. Hilton said made sense, but it still hurt deeply to hear that I was considered the weakest member of my group.  I shook my head in disgust.  How could I possibly be more pathetic?  When I first showed up here, I was the cock of the walk, the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Now look at me, a bubbling mud puddle of pathos.

I didn't know what to say to Dr. Hilton.  With two months left in the program, my confidence about remaining was pretty low.  I wasn't in much of a mood to be told again just how mediocre I was, so I didn't argue.  I just sat there wallowing in self-pity. 

Finally Dr. Hilton spoke up again. 

"Rick, as difficult as this might be to accept right now, you have been given a great opportunity to work on your issues.  Now that you have told me your background, I can see why you are fragile in so many ways.  Let's see what we can do to toughen you up a little.  During our time together, I have observed that you have a keen mind and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.  That puts you way ahead of the game compared to most of my clients.  Your story about the problems you had as a camp counselor was illuminating because it showed me an example of the same mediocre social skills that doomed you here in this program.  This is your chance to develop new and more effective interpersonal skills."

"I appreciate that, Dr. Hilton.  I just wish someone around here would learn the value of praise and encouragement."

"I know you are disappointed.  As far as criticism goes, certainly we all prefer praise, but there is never growth when all you hear is praise.  At some point in your life, Rick, you will have to learn how to hear critical things said about you without overreacting.  Let's say you try to write a book and you say the same thing over and over again.  Do you want someone to tell you how wonderful the book is or do you want someone to point out the repetition?" 

"I want both.  I thrive on encouragement.  However, I see your point.  Of course I would like constructive suggestions.  But that isn't Dr. Fujimoto's style.  All he does is pick on me."

"All right, I will take your word for it.  But I have a question.  Have you learned anything in the process?"

"Oh my god, yes.  I was able to learn more about myself in Dr. Fujimoto's two month class than I learned in the past ten years."

"And how do you feel about that?"

"I suppose if I could ever get some of my confidence back, I would be grateful for what I have learned so far.  I had no idea how totally screwed up I was till I came to Colorado State.  But right now we are running out of time and I still don't know how to fight my way out of this trap I am in."

"The first step is to realize your shortcomings.  That is the stage you are at.  Don't worry, the pain will pass.  Then you will be in a position to choose new behaviors."

"Dr. Hilton, no one likes to be told they don't have what it takes.  I still believe I have just as much talent as anyone in my class.  So what if I was guilty of talking too much?  What kind of a crime is that?  Dr. Fujimoto acted like I don't have the ability to adjust.  Furthermore, I think Dr. Fujimoto is borderline cruel at times.  I am fairly certain with a little effort he could find a way to explain things in a far more diplomatic way.  Instead he comes across as hostile.  No wonder I was on guard all the time." 

"Rick, I will grant you that Dr. Fujimoto is not the most patient man.  However, as you go through life, you will meet other men like him.  Many successful men don't have the time or inclination to sugarcoat their message.  They give you an order and expect you to carry it out without any hint of attitude.  Maturity demands that you develop the ability to hear the words and keep your emotions out of it."

"I hear what you are saying, but I have never met a man like him who has his ability to find all my sore spots.  I do not have an answer for his put-downs.  There is a part of me that thinks Dr. Fujimoto is the most cunning bully I have ever met.  He is way out of my league.  I just wish I wasn't so damned crippled all the time.  I swear I must have the thinnest skin on earth.  I suppose if I could learn to shut up and simply listen to what he says with no answer, I might become closer to becoming the person he is looking for.  But that won't be easy because everything he says cuts like a knife and I want to lash back.  Maybe if it didn't hurt so much, I could have seen that he was trying to help.  But as it stands, I still feel that he disrespected me."

"Rick, we have often discussed your sensitivity to criticism.  How would you feel if his criticism did not sting so much?"

"That's a good question, sir.  If it didn't hurt so much, then I think I might actually appreciate what Dr. Fujimoto says.  He definitely knows where my weak spots are, I'll grant him that.  Now that I think about it, Dr. Fujimoto opened my eyes about a lot of things.  I had no idea I had so many rough edges until I met him.  It sounds ridiculous, but in a certain way, my worst enemy is also my best teacher.  As much as I dislike Dr. Fujimoto, he taught me more about myself in these last few months than I have learned in my entire lifetime."

"Good for you, Rick.  That is a powerful insight.  So what lesson will you take from Dr. Fujimoto?"

"Dr. Fujimoto identified my thin skin and my defensiveness.  Those are my main weaknesses.  From now on, when I am criticized by someone, I need to develop more self-control and learn not to pop off every time I feel offended."

"Correct.  Some people have the ability to get chewed out and not necessarily take it personally.  Even if it is an insult, by looking at the comment objectively, these people can sidestep the pain that ordinarily comes with destructive criticism.  Now please understand this is a rare skill.  Very few people possess it.  But if you practice thinking about a criticism before reacting, you will begin to handle people like Dr. Fujimoto far more tactfully."

At this point, we called it a day.  As usual, my therapy session with Dr. Hilton had left me drained.  It was painful dredging up the same shortcomings again and again and again.  However, today had been valuable.  Dr. Hilton helped me gain an unexpected insight.  In a classic Good Luck-Bad Luck sense, I was beginning to accept that Dr. Fujimoto had done more to raise my self-awareness than I ever dreamed possible.  I had a hard time accepting Fujimoto as my benefactor, but I could not deny the man had done me a strange favor. 




That afternoon I told Jason what had happened in Dr. Hilton's office today.  I said I got the distinct feeling that Dr. Hilton knew my days were numbered in the program. 

Jason nodded.  He replied, "So you're a Dead Man Walking, just like you knew back in January.  What are you going to do about it?"

"That is a good question.  If I had one wish, it would be to use my remaining time to find some way to cure my crippling fear of women."

I had never told Dr. Hilton about Vanessa, but Jason knew all about my problems with the Evil One. 

"In that case, you might as well make use of the resources here.  I have a suggestion.  Why don't you read the research on Learned Helplessness?  This study explains why certain people acquire fear and can't overcome it no matter what.  And when you are done with that, I have an article on self-image I want you to read."

The next morning when I came to the office, I found an article on my desk.  In bold letters, Jason had scribbled, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!'  

As I scanned the article, I could see what Jason was driving at.  This article explained why some people quit.  'Don't ever quit' is the classic lesson drilled into every kid's head from the moment he or she learns to walk.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going and so on.  But we also know that many people quit when the going gets tough.  So why do some people quit while others persevere?    That is what this experiment was attempting to investigate. 

I was fascinated by the Learned Helplessness experiment because this study had a relevance to my fear of women.  This experiment explained why some people give up even when there might be an obvious solution to their problem.  Considering that I had avoided women like the plague since Vanessa left, this was important.  Why did I give up so easily around women?

'Conditioning' is a major field of research that dates back to Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov circa 1900.  Using food as the stimulus, Pavlov noted his hungry dogs would immediately salivate at the mere sight of it.  By accident, Pavlov learned that if he rang a buzzer first, then presented the food shortly after, the sound of the buzzer and the salivation response became linked.  From this point on, the dog did not need to see the food; the buzzer alone would trigger the salivation because the dog expected the food would be coming soon.  By itself, this was not particularly profound.  After all, everyone on a ranch knows the dinner bell means dinner is ready.  Pavlov's genius was to take his research further

Pavlov could also produce a fear response by ringing the buzzer, then shocking the dog.  Soon the dog would hear the buzzer and immediately begin to tremble in frenzied anticipation of the forthcoming shock.  The dog had become 'conditioned' to tremble at the buzzer whether the shock came next or not.  Pavlov's concepts became important because they had a lot to do with modifying the behavior of animals and perhaps humans as well. 

In 1967, University of Pennsylvania researcher Martin Seligman decided to take Pavlov's conditioning research one step further.  Could a dog be trained to give up?  In other words, could a dog be given a defeatist attitude?

Everyone knows that humans can be taught to give up.  There are countless tales of sports teams that make inevitable mental mistakes when the pressure gets too great.  But what about animals?  Can they be taught to be quitters?  Seligman's first task was to teach his dogs what it is like to feel totally helpless, that there is nothing they can do to escape their misery no matter how hard they try. 


Stage One taught Seligman's dogs to 'give up' the moment they heard a buzzer. 

Seligman strapped a dog into a harness to prevent any possible escape.  Once the dog was completely helpless, Seligman rang a buzzer, then automatically shocked the dog's feet causing them to yelp.  Yes, it was cruel, but that's science for you.

Each time the dog heard the buzzer, the dog became certain the shock was coming next.  Trembling with fear, when the shock began, the dogs would cry and struggle for a while to escape the harness.  However, the dog soon learned there was no point in struggling.  After 30 repetitions, the dogs had been successfully taught that when the buzzer rang, there was NO POSSIBLE WAY to escape the shock.   Each dog had been successfully trained to feel helpless.

ONCE THE BUZZER SOUNDED, All struggle was futile. 

Stage Two explored a fascinating new angle.  What would happen if the dog was put into a situation from which it could easily escape when the buzzer rang? 

Would the dog have the sense to recognize the difference? 

In the first situation, the dog had been taught to accept defeat when the buzzer sounded.  Would the dog cast off its mental shackles and try to escape a second situation that offered hope or would it just give up?

In other words, would the dog 'try, try again' in a new situation or would the Helplessness training from Stage One transfer to Stage Two?

Seligman put the Stage One dogs into a box with two sides.  One side had electrified rods, the other side was safe.  There was a barrier between the two compartments.  The barrier was taller than the dog, but low enough that the dog could jump it without problem.  The dog was free to jump.  Seligman put the dog into the electrified area without any harness.  One jump was all it would take for the dog to escape effortlessly.  All the dog had to do was TRY one time!

Seligman rang the buzzer and the electrified floor delivered the shock.  Only one dog in three jumped.  The other two-thirds simply laid down in the box and whimpered in pain till the shock ended.  They had given up immediately.

Seligman was amazed.  He was stunned that two out of three dogs made no attempt whatsoever to try even a single time.  These dogs had been totally brainwashed by Stage One.  The sound of the all-powerful buzzer brought on a total sense of futility.  In the dog's mind, after being trained to GIVE UP immediately in Stage One, what was the point of struggle in Stage Two

Seligman recognized the dark implications immediately...  if animals could be trained to give up without any struggle, then no doubt humans could too.




The Learned Helplessness experiment brought Vanessa to the forefront of my thoughts.  Following Vanessa's devastating rejection and betrayal, I had felt just as helpless as any of these pitiful dogs.  I was certain I had little chance to succeed with the next girl. 

In addition, now that I had Carl Jung on my mind, I had taken notice that Vanessa was Dr. Fujimoto's personal secretary.  Based on Jung's theories of Synchronicity, wasn't it strange that my two worst enemies were so closely linked?  I often wondered if my connection to Vanessa had played a role in Dr. Fujimoto's harsh treatment.  However, that was one mystery I would never get an answer to. 

I did not dare tell Dr. Hilton about Vanessa.  I had no idea how much Dr. Hilton and Dr. Fujimoto talked behind my back, but the last thing I wanted was for Dr. Fujimoto to hear how badly I had struck out with his personal secretary.  Fujimoto had enough evidence of my mediocrity as it was.  However I did tell my grad student friend Jason the whole story. 

One day back in January, I broke down in tears in Jason's office.  I was so miserable over Vanessa I cried like a baby.  Bless his heart.  After witnessing my pathetic crying spell, Jason decided to take me under his wing and become my dating coach.  Seeing that I was lonely beyond belief, Jason encouraged me to search for a girlfriend to take Vanessa's place.  Unfortunately, I failed miserably.  Every woman I met seemed to sense how troubled I was.  Until I came to grips with Vanessa, I wasn't getting anywhere.

The subconscious can be very stupid at times.  Just because two women had betrayed me, Emily at Hopkins and now Vanessa, my subconscious was convinced all women were out to get me.  All sorts of ugly thoughts towards women crossed my mind on a daily basis.  A good example occurred in the school library on a cold January night.  A ridiculously pretty blonde girl walked past.  For a minute, I thought it was Vanessa and panicked.  When I realized it wasn't Vanessa, I fixated on the girl and watched where she sat down.  At first I thought about approaching her.  Then I decided she would betray me like all the others.  Out of nowhere, a flash of anger hit and I fantasized jabbing my pencil into that girl's hand.  I froze in horror.  It was obvious that my subconscious had transferred my anger towards Vanessa and focused it on this innocent lookalike girl.  Shaken by the unacceptable thought, I picked up my books and left.

My confidence was like the stock market.  Post-Vanessa, my confidence plunged to an all-time low.  What woman would want to date a creepy loser kid like me?  Throughout the spring at CSU, I was my worst enemy around women.  I had so much hostility towards Vanessa that it poisoned me in countless different ways.  I was sarcastic, I tried too hard, I was angry, I was tense, I was moody, I was impatient, I was aggressive.  With fear and need written all over my face, the girls sensed my immaturity.  They understandably avoided me like the plague.  This in turn reinforced my self-image as a loser.  Every day the same lament wandered through my mind like a broken record... 'Lonely man cries for love, but has none.'

No matter how hard I tried to hide my problems, my anger and distrust towards women put a curse on every attempt to find a girlfriend.  Memories of the Blonde Banshee from Planet Treachery haunted me at every turn.  Due to Vanessa, my trust level towards women plummeted.  Every time I met a woman who reminded me in any way of Vanessa, my guard went up.  Will this woman hurt me like Vanessa did?  Will this woman lie to me?  Will this woman cheat on me?  Why should I dare take the chance of getting hurt again?

As my bitterness mounted, Jason started to get worried about me. 

"Rick, you cannot wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life.  You can't just quit every time something goes wrong with a girl.  Look around you.  There are scores of undergraduate girls who walk through these halls on a daily basis here in the Department.  Find a reason to talk to some of them, see if you can make a connection."

I nodded.  Jason was right.  The Psychology Department was a hotbed of activity.  A random glance at the bulletin board revealed a slew of evening seminars.  On any given night, I could choose from women's issues, drug dependency, alienation, protecting the environment, the plight of the American Indian, and so on.  Then there were weekend workshops on self-esteem, anger, self-actualization, and so on. 

All I had to do was attend some of these events and find a reason to talk to various women during the breaks.  Considering the Psychology Department was overrun with scores of intelligent, attractive women, I met plenty of dating candidates on a regular basis.  Lot of good it did me.  I was the fisherman who couldn't fish, the hunter who couldn't hunt. 

Jason insisted I keep a diary so I could chart my progress.  In the space of three months my notebook contained the names of 50 women I considered dating.  None of them panned out.  It was beyond pathetic how many women I struck out with.  There was Sarah, Vernie, Linda 1, Lois, Terry, Doris, Elaine, Susan 1, Midge.  Naomi, Hannah, Susan 2, Jane, Carmel, Joan.  Claudia, Leslie.  Sue, Emily, Carol 1, Pixie, Judy.  Julie, Barbara.  Peggy, Christy, Annie, Lynn, Liz, Morgan, Rebecca, Sonny, Laney, Cindy, Val, Karen, Helene.  Mary, Linda 2, Brenda, Sharon.  Maggie, Meredith, Priscilla.  Ruth, Nancy, Carol 2, Cathy, Debbie.  49 total.  Since there were a couple encounters listed where I never got a name, let's round it off at 50.  By the laws of statistical probability, I should have clicked with someone.  However, the Curse of Vanessa poisoned everything I did. 

I am sure my acute neediness is what scared them all off, but during this difficult time, I remained completely unaware of how needy I came across to these women.  I knew I was doing something wrong, but what?  I decided I must have some sort of blind spot because I could not figure it out.  For three solid months I kept meeting girls all the time, but got nowhere.  I have so many memories of pursuing various women only to strike out.  I drove a girl named Linda deep into a snowy Rocky Mountain canyon on a starry night.  Nothing happened.  I took a pretty graduate student named Lois for a picnic high atop a mesa overlooking the campus.  We were alone on a beautiful spring day.  Nothing happened.  

So where exactly did I find the nerve to check out 50 different women despite the constant disappointment?  It was Jason's doing.  Jason was a huge Thomas Edison guy.  "Rick, listen to me.  Thomas Edison said that many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  The most certain way to succeed is to always to try one more time."

One day I couldn't take it anymore.  "Jason, I have spent the last three months doing exactly what you told me to do.  I spend every spare moment talking to women around the Department without getting anywhere.  Not one woman has ever been ugly with me.  They are all so very polite.  They just aren't interested.  At this point, I feel like I have embarked on some sort of epic losing streak."

I paused to make sure Jason understood how fed up I was with this constant rejection.  Then I blurted out, "I don't know why you keep pushing me back out there.  If you looked like I did, you would understand why I don't have a chance with women!"

Jason just stared at me.  "What are you talking about?"

When he said that, I realized that Jason did not know that all my fears of being ugly had resurfaced in force.

"Come on, Jason, don't patronize me.  Look at my face.  Ever since my acne attack in the 9th Grade, I have been acutely self-conscious about my appearance.  I feel like a goddamn leper around women.  Every time they look at me they frown.  I am convinced they are secretly laughing at me for having the nerve to think I am attractive enough to dare speak to them."


"Are you out of your mind, Rick?  Come here, let me take a look."

Jason put his hand under my chin and rotated my face in several different directions under the light.  As Jason stared at me intently, I panicked.  Jason was taking the closest look at my scars possible.  What would he say? 

Finally Jason took his hand away. 

"Okay, Rick, do you want to know what I think?"

I took a deep breath.  "Yes, of course I do." 


"There is no man I know who has facial scars comparable to yours.  So, yes, you are correct to some extent.  If someone looks closely, they will see that you have these scars.  But what you don't understand is that I don't care and neither does anyone else, girls included.  Unless the light catches your face just right, the scars are not very noticeable. 

When I look at you, I see a good-looking guy.  And I bet every other person you ask would say the same thing.  The problem is that those scars are in your head.  Self-esteem is largely based on the perceptions of others.  From what I gather, you spent your entire high school being low man on the totem pole.  Is that correct?"

"Correct.  Not one girl at my school paid the slightest bit of attention to me for four years."

"So there you have it.  If you believe your self-image is a reflection of the opinions of other people, then you spent four years receiving suggestions that reinforced your belief you were the ugliest boy in school.  People pass judgment and we buy in.  The girls skipped you for four years and you bought their message hook, line and sinker.  I don't blame you for reaching the conclusion you did.  Given what you have told me about the acne problem, it makes complete sense to me.  The problem is that the unconscious mind is stupid.  Once your face cleared up, your unconscious refused to reconsider."

"That is because the girls continued to avoid me."

"Exactly.  But they probably avoided you for reasons other than your looks, didn't they?"

I smiled grimly.  "You're right, Jason, I suppose they avoided me for all sorts of reasons.  They were beautiful girls with plenty of choices.  Why bother with a moody, loner kid like me, especially one with no social status whatsoever?  The funny thing is that I can function normally around most girls, but when it comes to the women who remind me of the girls back at St. John's, I cannot force myself to approach them.  I am too intimidated.  Those girls at St. John's got into my head something fierce and now I can't get them out."

"Rick, that is conditioning, pure and simple.  Beautiful girls are to you like the shock buzzer to the helpless dogs in that experiment I told you about.  Look at it this way.  Stage One was high school.  You were helpless to escape the situation, so you got the cold shoulder for four years.  Tough break.  But things were different in college, Stage Two.  Your acne was gone now.  Were you able to jump over your barrier now that you had a realistic chance of success?"

"I tried in the beginning, but got knocked down repeatedly.  Then I got betrayed by a girl who stood me up to go to New York with a super good looking guy.  I was crushed, so I gave up for the rest of my college career."

"Okay, there you go.  Now you had four more years of reinforcement for your negative self-image.  What happened after that?"

"I tried again with Vanessa and got flattened."

"So now you are 24 years old.  How much success have you had with women?"

"Virtually none.  One serious girlfriend in ten years."

"In other words, your mindset of being unattractive to women has been reinforced by ten solid years of failure.  It isn't just the scars on your face.  Those scars are a convenient excuse.  Your ten years of failure have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You expect to be rejected, so you do things and say things that reveal your lack of confidence.  The women pick up on that and get the message.  Since you act like a loser, why should they bother?"

Talk about blunt!  I swallowed hard. 

"Uh, yeah, I guess that pretty much sums it up, Jason.  But how do I overcome that kind of attitude?"

"There is only one way, Rick.  You must approach women and be rewarded for your effort.  You need reverse conditioning which,  when translated, means you need some smiles to contradict your negative subconscious."

"But right now I am too terrified to approach any woman at all!"

"Exactly.  Which in turn spells continued doom.  You are a good-looking guy, but even better you are aware of your problem.  That means you have the potential to escape the shackles of your mind.  However, without a few victories, you are unable to challenge your defeatist attitude.  Like I said, you have become the victim of a ten year old self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Ten years is an eternity... that's a lot of negativity to overcome.  And, since you are too scared to risk further failure, you currently have no way to escape your dilemma.  You cannot remain passive, Rick.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get rid of this problem.  I'll you what, let me fetch another article.  Read the article, then we can talk some more, okay?"

After Jason left, I pondered his words.  He was absolutely right.  Too scared to face more rejection right now due to the Epic Losing Streak, I just wallowed in my misery.  I was no better than the pitiful dogs who were unable to escape the electrified grid.  All the dogs had to do was jump, but instead they just laid there and whimpered.  As for me, I either refused to approach the girls I was attracted to or made a fool of myself with the ones I did approach. 

I knew where my incurable sense of ugliness came from.  I gave it to myself during the acne period.  Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw the reflection of a truly repulsive human being.  Then came the outside confirmation.  Harold's 'Creepy Loser Kid' taunt drilled the message of my ugliness so deep in my brain I probably would never get rid of it.  Once Harold confirmed my worst fear that I was truly unattractive, it was like driving a stake through Dracula's heart.  The pretty girls at my school were more discrete, but for four years I could not help but notice the girls gave me a wide berth.  Not one girl ever showed a bit of interest in me.  I had been a cripple around women ever since.

Now here at Colorado State it was high school hell all over again thanks to Vanessa's cruelty.  Ever since she left, whenever I looked in the mirror, I was overwhelmed with those same age-old waves of anxiety about how terrible I looked.  I would go to bars around campus and notice that every guy in the room was much better looking than me.  What chance did I have?

When I returned to my office after dinner that night, I found Jason's latest article laying on my desk.  The article was titled 'Negative Self-Image'.  The article discussed certain ultra-slim models who looked in the mirror and saw themselves as fat.  At first, I laughed at how silly this sounded, especially when I looked at their pictures and saw how attractive these women were.   How was it possible for women as beautiful as these young ladies to hate their appearance?  Since this made absolutely no sense, I decided someone had to be making this story up.  Then I caught on.  Jason was pointing out that I suffered from the exact same problem with my facial scars.  Given my own negative self-image, I paid closer attention to the article.

Several professional models were interviewed.  These women confessed they were often miserable.  Their insecurities led to eating disorders and profound professional insecurity.  They were incapable of overcoming their distorted mental picture with an accurate visual representation of themselves.  The models said their friends would tell them specifically that they were not fat, but it did no good.  Nothing seemed to cure their distorted self-image.  Hmm, that sounded familiar. 


I shook my head in disbelief.  This was absurd.  These were truly beautiful women, so beautiful in fact that clients paid them money for the right to use their images.  What more proof did they need?  How many ugly girls get paid to model?  And yet these women swore they were telling the truth when they doubted their own attractiveness. 

The article suggested there are varying degrees of this problem.  Most people learn to live with it.  However, in the most severe cases, the victims are incapable of overriding a skewed self-image without professional help.  One woman explained her problem succinctly. 

"I grew up with a father who told me I was fat.  I was kind of chubby as a kid.  My mother had let her figure go and now my father took it out on me.  From the moment I could walk, he told me to stop eating so much, that I would become fat like my mother if I wasn't careful.  As I grew older, I slimmed down considerably, but he still criticized me every chance he got.  Even after my father passed away, I could not get his voice out of my head.

My girlfriend Pat and I are both models.  We met at an assignment.  One day I told Pat how insecure I was about my weight.  Pat said I was crazy.  However, once she saw that I was serious, Pat was convinced she could cure me.  First she told me to take a good look at her and give her my honest opinion whether she was the right weight or not.  The moment I said she looked fine, I realized I had fallen for her little trap. 

Now we did an experiment and weighed ourselves.  Although we have virtually the same height and figure, I was 2 pounds heavier.   Then we went over to Pat's mirror and compared ourselves wearing leotards.   I could see with my own eyes that I was no wider, no fatter, no thicker than she was.  We were so identical we could have been sisters.  Since Pat was thin, by definition I was thin.  The experiment cheered me up for a few days, but then I went back and looked again on my own.  I was repelled at how fat I was.  I could not get those 2 extra pounds out of my mind.  Here we go again.  I began to obsess about my extra 2 pounds night and day.

My therapist explained these distorted perceptions have the ability to dominate my brain image of myself and negatively affect the way I view my body.  There doesn't seem to be any cure.  Every time the camera aims at me, I try my best to smile, but for the life of me, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that I am too fat.  Somewhere inside my head I am convinced my father is still ashamed of me."




I was shocked at how closely that model's story fit my own situation.  She had a distorted view of her attractiveness that made no sense to others.  The same thing could be said for me.  Once the negative perception of my ugliness got stuck in my mind, I found myself incapable of getting rid of it.   The article's conclusion was that once a negative image is ingrained into the subconscious, it may be impossible for the individual to overcome the false perception on their own.  I wondered if that was the case for me.  How was I ever going to reverse the sick mind set that tormented me?


The young ladies back at St. John's were the best and the beautiful.  As daughters of Houston's wealthiest families, these young ladies were society's jewels.  Debutantes in the making, these girls were consensus winners in the genetic lottery.  They were bright, beautiful, athletic, confident and poised.  They had all the social graces. 

These young ladies were so far out of my league, it was ridiculous.  At yet deep down I believed I could compete for women like the St. John's women.  That was the crazy part of my situation.  I believed I had the talent to hang with women like my St. John's archetype if I could ever cleanse the insecurity demons from my mind.

Jason said the important thing was to keep trying.  Go up to every girl who looks interesting and try to talk to them.  'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

Ordinarily, that motto worked for me when it came to sports and education.  But this ugliness issue was different.  I was unwilling to 'try, try again' because 'Practice makes perfect' doesn't work with ugliness.  Ugliness is a permanent condition. 

Riddled with post-Vanessa insecurity, I didn't want to go anywhere near a pretty girl until I found some way to get my mind right.  But that was the problem... I could not get my mind right unless I approached some women first and was rewarded for the effort.  I had to find a way to force myself to approach the girls again. 

Some unhealthy part of my mind said I had no chance with women the caliber of those St. John's girls.  My negative self-image had been shaped by the acne and their lack of interest.  Now I had the world's biggest chip on my shoulder.  Somehow, some way, some day, I was going to prove to myself that I was the equal of my privileged high school classmates.  Unfortunately, easier said than done.


I shook my head in disgust.  How do you smile when you are certain you are going to get shot down?  I had chatted with 50 different girls over the course of the past few months and had virtually nothing to show for my efforts.  Right now I shared the exact same mental state as the 'Learned Helplessness' dogs who had been trained to quit trying.  Why even bother?  I was surely doomed to fail again.  For the time being, I had given up. 

The next morning, I wandered into Jason's office.  "Hey, Jason, do you have time to talk?"

"Sure.  Have a seat.  What did you think of the article?"

"I didn't like it because it hit way too close to home.  I don't know what to do.  One part of my mind says I look okay.  But when I look in the mirror and let the light catch my scars, I am overwhelmed with nausea.  I am convinced the reason Vanessa changed her mind and chose Kenny over me was that she thought he was better-looking.  She took a hard look at the scars and decided she didn't feel like tolerating them any longer.  Why should she settle for me when she had an Adonis like Kenny instead?

I feel like sooner or later, every girl is going to think the same thing as Vanessa.  So what is the point of even trying to get a pretty girl interested in me?  They are bound leave me eventually for someone better looking."

"Boy, you do have it bad, don't you?  You might be the most defeated man I have ever heard in my life.  Rick, your looks are just fine.  You need to get over this and quit being so sensitive.  I took a good, hard look at you.  If you hadn't told me about the scars, I would not have even noticed them.  And even if I did, I don't care.  Do you hear me?  And no one else cares either.  This is all in your mind.  You have a curse in your brain and we need to get rid of it."

"But how?"

"There is only one possible way to cure you and you're not going to like it."


"You have to find a way to get some girls to smile at you.  You need some victories, some approval.  But that isn't going to happen unless you can force yourself to stop avoiding women.  Quitting is the worst thing you can do.  Success with women is the only way to challenge your negative mind set."

I immediately began to shake my head in despair.  I was convinced those girls were more likely to laugh at me than smile.  The memory of the time that girl named Connie had laughed at my dancing back in college crossed my mind.  What on earth was I going to do to get a girl to smile at me?  I had spent all spring here at Colorado State getting nowhere.  I was so disappointed I couldn't force myself to continue.  Why try again knowing full well that I had tried in college and failed, I tried again in graduate school and failed.  What made Jason think I could magically turn it around?  More likely I would probably continue to fail.

On the other hand, the healthy side of my mind knew Jason was right.  The dogs in the Learned Helplessness experiment had failed at Stage Two when they had a surefire escape route.  How do you explain to a dog that all it has to is jump?  But those dogs were ignorant while I was aware of my problem.  Jason was telling me to jump and I heard him loud and clear.  I understood all I had to do was stop avoiding women, but I still could not seem to make myself approach.  It was just so much easier to take a break from women just like I had always done in the past when the going got rough.

"Listen, Rick, I understand it doesn't do you any good for me to insist that you are an attractive guy.  You have a problem that seems to border on actual Phobia.  There is a part of your mind that is totally irrational on this issue.  Unfortunately, right now I have go; I have a class to attend.  However, before I go, here's another article I want you to read.  Take a look at it and let's talk some more later on."

Jason walked over to his file cabinet and found what he was looking for.  The new article was titled 'Weight Loss - the Point of No Return'.  This article said recent research being done on obesity had revealed an ominous conclusion.  Apparently the longer a person remained overweight, the higher the risk that obesity would become irreversible. 

The study pointed out on a practical level, the heavier a person became, the more difficult it was for them to find the strength to exercise in the first place.  Nor did they have the inherent sense of self-discipline needed to exercise consistently.  However, the biggest problem of all was their insidious fear that any attempt to lose weight was doomed to fail.  They had given up hope.

The article's conclusion was that Obesity is a self-perpetuating disorder.  Lacking the courage to try, to truly give it their best effort, these people were so mentally defeated that they were in danger of reaching the Point of No Return.  This was a mental state at which their condition would become permanent.  In other words, they would give up fighting the problem for the rest of their lives.

The study issued a warning to every parent. 

'It is imperative that every child receive intervention before a negative mind set develops that will virtually guarantee this paralyzing negative attitude lasts a lifetime.'

That statement froze me.  In other words, once fat, if someone waits too long, always fat.  By extension, once ugly, if someone waits too long, always ugly.  This article implied that if I waited much longer, the day would come when there might actually be no way to cure my fear of pretty girls. 

By chance, later on I ran into Jason in the hallway.  I was not in a very good mood.

"Hey, Jason, I read your article on Weight Loss.  Since I'm not fat, I assume you are sending me a different message.  Do you want me to figure it out or would you consider explaining it to me?"

"Sure, Rick, I'll tell you what's on my mind.  I've been thinking about your problems with Vanessa.  On the outside, you have a lot going for you.  You are a good-looking young man, very bright, very athletic looking.  On the surface, you match up well with Vanessa.  Why do you think she tracked you down in the first place? 

But inside you are crippled.  At the first sign of pressure, you fold.  A tougher person would have put his foot down with Vanessa when she started her shenanigans.  Had you done that, the outcome would have been much different.  So the question is how do we get rid of that curse in your brain?  Have you ever heard the proverb of the elephant who was trained to be a weakling?"

"No.  Tell me."

"I don't know if it is a proverb or a true story, but either way the idea is virtually identical to the Learned Helplessness conclusion.  As the story goes, at some village in Kenya, they found an orphaned baby elephant.  The poor thing was wandering around lost beside the corpse of its dead mother.  The mother had been shot and her tusks had been removed.  The village adopted the orphan.  Pretty soon, everyone fell in love with the baby elephant, especially the children. 


Unfortunately, the baby elephant refused to stay put.  He broke down every fence they built and trampled through their crops.  Besides the damage, the villagers feared the elephant would be poached like his mother if they didn't keep him put. 

Since they were too poor to build an iron fence, they did the next best thing and put an iron shackle on one of his legs.  That did the trick.  The baby elephant fought like the devil, but could not free itself from the shackle. 

Over time, he eventually gave up trying and resigned himself to being stuck in one spot.  As the elephant aged and grew tusks, the villagers were even more afraid to let the elephant loose for fear it would wander off and get shot like its mother.  So they left the shackle on the animal.  One day a visitor laughed when he saw the chain attached to the animal's foot. 

'That chain isn't strong enough to hold a giant elephant!'

The villager smiled and nodded.  "You're right, but the elephant doesn't know that.  He never bothers to try anymore."


I got the message and nodded my head ruefully.  "So what's your point, Jason?"

"You are just like the elephant.  You got crippled as a kid before you knew better.  You are an adult and you have the strength to break your chains, but you are too damn afraid to try. The wolves are getting closer and you are running out of will power to fight them off.  I hate to tell you this, but I think you are getting down to your last silver bullet.  One more defeat like Vanessa and you might just fold your tent permanently.  If you don't conquer your confidence issues now, you will never reach your potential.  You will settle for some girl who is half as smart, half as pretty and hate yourself for the rest of your life for setting your sights too low."

Ouch!  That really stung.  But it was true.  I went back to my office and sulked.  Jason's message had the subtlety of a two by four to the head, but maybe that's what I needed.  Right now I was very discouraged.  Jason was right, I needed to do something while I still had a little fight left in me.  There was still a healthy part of my mind that believed I could compete for the hand of a pretty girl.  But there was also my all-powerful unhealthy subconscious that robbed me of the will power necessary to fight my fears.  Right now it seemed easier to remain a giant elephant who makes no attempt to rip those chains loose.

I was on a precipice.  This was it.  Here is where I had to make my stand.  Although I had spent my whole life giving up every time I failed with girls, Jason had instilled a sense of urgency in me.  I was determined not to give up this time.  I was sick of giving up.  I had to find a way to conquer my self-doubt.  

I wrestled with Jason's words for the next week.  My mind became a battlefield... the healthy side and the fearful side were locked in a pitched battle.  Every day I walked around campus with the words 'Creepy Loser Kid' repeating in the back of my mind on endless loop.  In order to restore my confidence with women, I had to find some way to overcome my profound sense of ugliness both inside and out before it was too late.  And with that, I made up my mind.  Jason was right... I needed to resume talking to girls and find a few who would smile back.  Let's give it another try.





015 030 045 060 075 090 105 120 135 150


002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010
011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020
021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030
031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039  
  1974: February   Jason takes me under his wing and tells me to keep trying, Learned Helplessness, Negative Self-Image, Point of No Return
  1974: January   I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton, Epic Losing Streak
  1973: December   Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November   Love Affair with Vanessa begins, showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (20), butting heads with Fujimoto
  1973-1974  Colorado State
  1972-1973  Interlude, Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty and the Cooler incident
  Senior at Hopkins
 Disillusionment with the Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp the summer of 1971
  Junior at Hopkins
 Camp Counselor Daydream (19), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  Sophomore at Hopkins
 Connie Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Depression Realization, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
 Antares-Astrology eye injury (17), Séance with Vicky, Ghost of Terry (18)
  Freshman at Hopkins
 Emily at the Train Station (16), Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
   1967-1968: 12th Grade  Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Mom's Cosmic Stupidity regarding child support check (09), Little Mexico, Cheating in Chemistry
 Christmas Eve blowup with mother
, Father gives me Edgar Cayce book at Christmas, Foot in the Door Strategy, Father's $400 insult,
 Off Limits Chemistry Restroom, Caught cheating in German (10), Lost Jones Scholarship to Katina, Edge of The Abyss,
 Mrs. Ballantyne fails to connect with me at SJS for 9 years (11), Cosmic Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's (12),
 Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins, Close Call Car Accident (13), Senior Prom Cheryl (14), Heartbreak with Terry,
 Senior Year Blind Spot (15)
   1966-1967: 11th Grade  New identity forms at Weingarten's, I buy a car
   1965-1966: 10th Grade  Locker Room fight, Set of weights appears (07), George Broyles is paralyzed, Second skin operation,
 Father denies third skin operation, Weingarten's job (08)
  1964-1965:  9th Grade  Profile of Mr. Salls, Acne Attack (05), Basketball strike on swollen face (06), First skin operation
   1963-1964: 8th Grade  Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball team, Caught stealing at Weingarten's,  
 Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer Basketball Project, Discovery of chess book (04)
   1962-1963: 7th Grade  Katina Ballantyne joins my class, Illness at Boy Scout camp leads to invisibility, I feel I don't belong at SJS, Uncle Dick pays my tuition at SJS
   1961-1962: 6th Grade  Mom's suicide attempt at the bayou, Terry runs away in Hurricane Carla, Blue Christmas (03)
   1960-1961: 5th Grade  Dad remarries, Obsession with the St. John's Mother's Guild, Comparisons between my mother and Mrs. Ballantyne begin
   1959-1960: 4th Grade  Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's, Mom begins to fall apart, Dad abandons me for  his girlfriend
   1959-1968  Nine Years at St. John's School
   1955  Cut my eye out (01), Near Death with Stock Car (02)
   1949  Born in Philadelphia




Written by Rick Archer




Given my thin skin, where did I find the nerve to check out 50 different women?  It was Jason's doing.  Without Jason, I would have quit long ago.  Jason was a huge Thomas Edison guy. 

"Rick, Thomas Edison said that many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  The most certain way to succeed is to always to try one more time."

Finally one day in late March I had my Thomas Edison moment.  To my surprise, something clicked.  I took a 'Self-Awareness' workshop held by an advanced graduate student.  I could have cared less about attending the workshop.  I was only there to scout for women.  The lecturer said that people who are self-aware are the ones who always use good judgment.  For some reason, that statement irritated me, so I popped off with a smart-ass observation that bad judgment isn't always such a bad thing.  I quipped, "People forget that good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that experience comes from bad judgment."

Everyone liked my joke and it got a big laugh.  However, when I saw the grouchy look on the lecturer's face, I felt guilty.  That was exactly the sort of crack that used to get me in so much trouble with Dr. Fujimoto.   I decided to behave myself for the remainder of the workshop.  To my surprise, after the talk, some girl came up and said she liked my quip. 

"That was a pretty clever thing to say.  Did you learn that lesson in graduate school?"

"How did you know I was a graduate student?"

"I asked someone who you are.  It's a trick I use sometimes.  Seems to work."

"So what are you doing here?  Are you practicing self-awareness on me?"

"My name is Debbie.  I'm a Sophomore Psychology major and you're too old for me, but due to my bad judgment, I decided to flirt anyway."

I grinned.  This Debbie girl had taken a real shine to me.  She reminded me a lot of Vicky from the Séance four years ago.  Same smart mouth, same aggressive approach.  Seeing how curious Debbie was about me, I laughed to myself.  Maybe Edison was right.  Success is the ability to try one more time.

I wasn't particularly attracted to Debbie.  Debbie was three years younger and we were mismatched physically.  I was tall and slender, Debbie was short and plump.  Nor was Debbie even remotely in Vanessa's league when it came to looks.  However I was in no mood to be picky.  I needed company in the worst way.  So when Debbie made the first move, I welcomed her with open arms.  Debbie loved my sarcastic sense of humor.  I told her a Rodney Dangerfield joke and thought she would die laughing. 

"I was such an ugly baby, my mother never breast-fed me.  She said she only liked me as a friend.  My father couldn't stand to look at me.  I gave him a wallet for Christmas.  Big mistake.  He preferred to carry around the picture of the kid who came with his wallet." 

Debbie loved it.  She said I was the funniest guy she had ever met.  Not hardly, but I did have a fondness for Rodney Dangerfield.  From that point on, my sarcasm kept her in stitches.  One of the reasons I liked Debbie was that I wasn't scared of her.  Because she was rather plain, I didn't see her as threatening.  I liked Debbie simply because she was smart and easy to talk to.  Plus every time she laughed at my jokes, it was balm to my damaged self-esteem. 

Debbie didn't waste any time.  She suggested we meet for lunch the next day.  As we chatted, Debbie mentioned there was a big Psychology conference down in Denver taking place this coming weekend.  It was a regional seminar where professors and students from campuses around Colorado met to hold professional caucuses and lectures. 

When Debbie asked if I was going, I grew quiet.  I had absolutely no intention of going.  My career in this program was effectively over at the end of May.  What was the point of wasting my time?  Furthermore, I was not exactly awash in money.  Graduate students are not given a whole lot of money to live on.  At the moment, things were so tight that I was on Food Stamps.  So the thought of paying for an expensive hotel room was a major headache. 

On the other hand, it might be fun to spend the weekend with this new girl who was so enthusiastic about me.  I responded without committing myself one way or the other.  "I hadn't given it much thought, Debbie.  Why?  What did you have in mind?"  

"Well, me and three of my girlfriends have a hotel room.  One of the girls has a car.  If you can get a hotel room, why not come along with us?  Wouldn't you like to sit in the back seat with two hot girls as your personal book ends?"

I smiled.  That was the best offer I had heard in ages.  "Sure, Debbie, I'll go.  You twisted my arm."

My next paycheck wasn't till next week and I was low on cash.  I gambled I could find a roommate and split the cost.  Or maybe there would be a party and I could fall asleep on someone's couch.  Or maybe I'd get lucky.  You never know.  I figured it was worth the gamble.

I was impressed by Debbie.  She wasn't particularly pretty, but she made up for it with oodles of confidence.  Where did she get all her confidence?  Obviously confidence was a state of mind.  Too bad I didn't live in that state.  Maybe I could learn something from her.  At 6 am on Saturday morning I joined Debbie and her three friends for the two-hour drive to Denver.  Despite three of us sharing the back seat, there was plenty of room.  Therefore I was pleased to notice Debbie snuggle as close to me in the dark as humanly possible.  In fact, she was so close that my arm was uncomfortable I decided it was easier just to put my arm around her shoulders.  She smiled and snuggled even closer.  

All four girls turned out to be Psych majors.  Having persuaded an actual Psychology 'graduate student' to come along with them, Debbie enjoyed considerable status for landing me.  That made me a star of sorts and the four girls went gaga.

I should have enjoyed the adulation, but it wasn't possible.  As the girls gushed all over me, a dark thought crossed my mind.  'Little do they know...'   Frowning, I decided what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.  Debbie had no idea I was Dead Man Walking in this program.  Furthermore, I intended to keep it that way.  The last thing I wanted to do was reveal what a loser I was.  I prayed no gossip about my damaged status would reach her ears this weekend.

For the timing my four admirers thought I was the real deal.  They peppered me with questions.  "Oh wow, Rick, how does someone get into graduate school?  Tell us the secret!" 

Once we reached the convention, I stayed by Debbie's side pretty much the entire day.  It wasn't like I had anything else to do.  I wasn't even slightly interested in the seminars, but I went to a couple anyway because that's what Debbie wanted to do.  I been so lonely lately, it was a relief to hang out with this cheerful, energetic girl.  However, to my dismay, Debbie seemed to grow more distant in the afternoon despite my constant attention.  The worst part came when Debbie explained that she and her three friends had made previous plans for the evening.  That was a huge slap because her excuse felt very phony.  I got the message... I wasn't invited. 

Dejected, I found a paperback book in the gift shop.  Before I put my wallet back, I realized I had just enough money to pay for a hotel room, but not my meals.  Tough choice.  I had gambled on finding another graduate student to split a room with, but to my dismay, so far there were virtually no graduate students from Colorado State in attendance.  My only possibility had been a second year female graduate student named Wendy.  When I asked Wendy if I could sleep in a chair in her room, that idea went over like a lead balloon.  Pointing out that she had two roommates, Wendy said it was out of the question.  I felt so humiliated.  Not only was I creepy, at the moment I was little better than a homeless person.  I could not believe my gamble had backfired so badly.  I figured at the very least Debbie would let me sleep on the couch.  So much for that idea.

My spirits were low because I was really worried where I would sleep tonight.  Maybe someone would show up, so I found a chair in a far corner of the lobby.  This allowed me to scan the room and the front door.  As I read my book, I kept an eye out.  I hoped I would see a fellow grad student and throw myself on his mercy.  Several hours passed and it didn't look good.  The lobby was deserted.  Apparently everyone was out partying in the bars of Lodo, a nearby area of Denver known for its nightlife. 

The absolute low point came shortly after midnight.  I heard the laughing voices of several girls as they entered the lobby.  I looked up and saw it was Debbie and her friends.  Embarrassed, I quickly hid behind a pillar.  To my astonishment, the four girls had two boys with them.  Drunk out of their minds, they were happy as could be and laughing up a storm.  Noticing a conspicuous brown bag, the six of them were headed to someone's room to continue the party. 

I shook my head in despair.  Oh shit, that should have been me.  I watched them get on the elevator with a very heavy heart.  Could my life get any more pathetic?  On cue, my mind started playing the record again... 'Lonely man cries for love, but has none.'

It was getting really late and this was hopeless.  So I got up and wandered around.  I found an unlocked conference room, opened the door and turned on a light.  Over in the far corner was a table covered by a white table linen that hung down to the floor.  After making sure no one was looking, I closed the door.  I grabbed cushion from a couch in the room to use as a pillow, turned the light back off, then groped my way back to the table and crawled under it.

Using that cushion turned out to be a dumb move.  At 5 am, I heard the door open.  I panicked when the lights came on.  Unfortunately I was trapped under the table, so I just laid there hoping against hope I would not be discovered.  No such luck.  I died a thousand deaths when I heard footsteps coming right at me.  That is when I realized the man was probably looking for the missing cushion.  My hiding place was rudely invaded when an old black man lifted the table curtain and peered down at me with an angry face.

"What in the hell are you doing here, mister?  You don't belong here, so get the hell out from under there!"

I was so scared I let out a scream of some sort.  Panic-stricken, I scrambled out on my hands and knees.  I tripped when I got up too fast and fell back down.  Once I got back up, I didn't see any point in waiting for the third degree, so I took off running.  The guy ordered me to stop, but forget that.  When I reached the lobby, I stopped to look back.  Sure enough, the cleaning man was right behind me.  He called out to the reception desk for someone to find the manager.  When I heard that, I made a hasty exit onto the street. 

My heart was racing as I walked the cold early dawn streets of Denver.  Eventually I found some breakfast diner and ordered pancakes for breakfast.  I ate my pancakes very slowly.  I was mad because I realized I had left my book under that table.  So I invested a dollar and bought a newspaper.  After that, I drank endless cups of coffee and worked the Sunday crossword puzzle to kill time.  Judging by the frowns I got from the waitress, I exceeded my time limit.  Tough.  I had nowhere else to go.  If I went back to the hotel, I feared being spotted.  In all, I spent four hours in that spot.  Don't ask me what kind of mood I was in.

Finally around 10 am I made a cautious return to the conference.  Debbie said hello, but barely paid attention to me after that.  I have no doubt I looked like hell.  I was in no mood to tolerate her cold shoulder, so I walked away.  I went back to that lecture room and found my book under the table.  Then I sat in the most crowded spot I could find.  Fearful of being recognized, I kept looking around lest that cleaning man spot me and humiliate me in front of all these people.  Fortunately there was no sign of him.  Eventually I pulled my book out and read till it was time to leave late that afternoon.  This had to be the longest day of my life. 

On the return trip, Debbie sat as far away from me as humanly possible.  In fact, she was practically crawling out the window.  Finally she settled for putting her hefty pocketbook between us instead.  In the space of 24 hours, I had gone from hero to zero.  Once an exalted guest, I was reduced to being an unwelcome hitchhiker with an odor.  I had obviously done something wrong, but what?  I racked my brain and then it hit me.  Oh shit, someone must have told her I had been disgraced by Fujimoto.  What else could it be?  Sick to my stomach with shame, I silently endured the remainder of the drive feeling two feet tall.




After Debbie and her friends dropped me off at the CSU campus, I walked back to my office for sanctuary.  How could I have sunk this low?  I had never felt more inadequate.  When it came to women, I had no idea what I was doing wrong.  Right now there was a strong part of me that just wanted to find that cliff.  Fortunately, I found Jason instead.  He was working late.

Feeling depressed, I told Jason what had happened.  Jason decided a pep talk was in order.  He told me the story of how Thomas Edison refused to give up no matter how many times his ideas failed.  "I haven't failed.  I have found 10,000 ways that won't work!"

I looked at Jason like he was some kind of idiot.  It was one thing for Thomas Edison to tinker around in his laboratory, but right now I felt like the proverbial 90 pound weakling.  Let's see how much enthusiasm Edison could muster after getting sand kicked in his face by a pretty girl.  However, I knew Jason was just trying to help, so I kept my thoughts to myself and decided to head home.  Screw all this stupid talk about 'try, try again.'  Houston was two months away, so why even bother?  I was finished.  The Point of No Return had never seemed closer. 

Debbie's cold shoulder sent my self-esteem plummeting to another all-time low.  In particular, I was really angry that Debbie had discovered my loser status here in the clinical psychology program.  I must have the worst luck of anyone on earth.  I knew Debbie wasn't shy about asking questions, so who told her about my problems?

That is when something began to nag at me.  Back when Katina Ballantyne seemingly stole my Jones Scholarship, I had jumped to the wrong conclusion.  Eventually I learned that Katina's good fortune had nothing to do with my cheating on the German test.  Based on that bad judgment, now I had better judgment.  It crossed my mind that there were so few CSU graduate students at that conference, I could not imagine who could have told Debbie?  I mean, heck, I was at her side the whole day.  If she had talked to someone, I would have noticed.

Furthermore, Debbie's disdain was stronger than one might expect from overhearing some office gossip.  One would think she would give me the benefit of the doubt and ask if there was another side to this coin.  However Debbie did not say a word.  Why was she so mad at me?  As I wandered over to Dr. Hilton's office for our weekly session, I wondered if there was another explanation. 


Entering the office, I was so beaten down that I listlessly slumped into the big leather chair.  Ordinarily I initiated the talking and Dr. Hilton would simply comment from time to time, but today was different.  To my surprise, Dr. Hilton wasted no time to pounce all over me.

"Rick, help me out.  Did you have a chain wrapped around your neck last weekend?"  

"Huh??"  I was confused.  The tone of his voice surprised me.  He seemed angry at me.  I was startled to see him staring darts.  What was he so upset about?  

"I don't understand.  What do you mean, Dr. Hilton?"

"You may not have noticed, but I was at the Denver convention last weekend. Ordinarily I don't get a chance to observe my clients outside the office, but when I noticed you were there, I took the opportunity to watch you interact for a while.  

Every time I looked, it seemed like you were following that same girl around.  She turned left, you turned left.  She turned right, you turned right. 

Were you hypnotized?  Or did she fit you with a doggie collar?"


I was speechless.  Dr. Hilton had caught me completely off guard, so it took a moment for me to figure out what he was driving at.  But then it sunk in.  Oh my God, Dr. Hilton was absolutely right... I had shadowed Debbie step for step like an obedient sheepdog.  My face began to burn as the implications of his statement hit hard.  I had never been confronted like this before.  Never!!  Not even Fujimoto or Jason had hit me this hard.  Feeling like Dr. Hilton had slapped me right across the face, I turned absolutely crimson with shame.  

No wonder Debbie turned on me!!  I felt so impotent, so helpless and futile.  All my anger towards women turned around to laugh at me.  Now I knew why countless women could not wait to get away from me.  Forced to accept my problems were my own damn fault, I hated myself with a passion.  Torrents of rage surged through me.  I was burning at the stake and there were flames everywhere.     My body was on fire as self-loathing heated my blood to a boil.  Burn, baby, burn!

The firestorm of bitterness and futility refused to stop.  This entire goddamn year had been cursed!  I had gone from one miserable experience to another at this university.  But nothing hurt like this.  This was the worst because Dr. Hilton's confrontation made it clear I brought all my problems on myself.  Shame engulfed me.  And anger too.  For a moment there, I despised Dr. Hilton.  Then I despised Debbie.  Then I despised Fujimoto.  But most of all, I wished Vanessa would walk in so I could strangle her to death. 

I almost started to cry; in fact I wish I had.  The heat and the pressure inside was unbearable.  But the tears never came.  Instead I sat there and slowly breathed in and out as I prayed for the rage to subside.  The process took well over five minutes, maybe longer.  It seemed like an eternity to calm down.

I shook my head in disbelief.  I could not believe how badly I had screwed up my weekend with Debbie.  The worst part is I didn't even realize what I was doing wrong.  For the past two months, I wondered how I could engage 30 different girls in conversation, but get nowhere.  Now I had my answer... I was doing things that pushed women away.  No matter how hard I tried here at Colorado State, I got nowhere.  I really was the Creepy Loser Kid.  Or maybe I was the Creepier Loser Kid.  I was definitely headed in the wrong direction.

Dr. Hilton never said a word.  He just sat there quietly letting me process my thoughts.  I had completely misinterpreted Debbie's withdrawal.  Now I knew that Debbie was avoiding me because I smothered her to death.  I was so needy I had practically glued myself to the woman.  How did I miss this?  How much more obvious could it be?  Suddenly my attitude shifted.  Now I was beyond grateful.  No matter how much the pain hurt, this was valuable information. 

At this moment, I looked up at Dr. Hilton and smiled.

"Thank you, Dr. Hilton.  I needed that."

"Don't thank me.  I'm not done yet.  One time I saw you waiting for the young lady outside the restroom.  You were just standing there staring at the door.  For a second there, I was afraid you were going to walk in and ask what was taking so long.  Good grief, Rick, I couldn't stand it.  I had to stop watching.  It looked like she had told her little dog to sit and wait.  Did she teach you to bark and roll over?  Sit up and beg??"

Stop it!  I started to burn again.  I shook my head in disbelief.  But what was I supposed to say?  Dr. Hilton was right about everything. 

Dr. Hilton was still mad.  "Rick, the worst part of all was watching you stare at her with some sort of goofy expression on your face.  That had to be the worst case of Cow Eyes I have ever seen.  Are you really that needy?  You need to learn to stand on your own two feet."

That one hurt a lot.  Cow Eyes.  I turned red all over again.  Dr. Hilton was really letting me have it.  I could not believe how sarcastic he was.  But you know what??  It was okay.  Once I cooled off, I changed my opinion of Dr. Hilton.  This man was brilliant! 

There is a saying that a true friend doesn't tell you what you want to hear, but rather what it is you need to know.  By that standard, Dr. Hilton was a true friend.  Dr. Hilton had just handed me the toughest, yet most valuable lesson of the year.  Instead of being furious, I was impressed.  It had taken a lot of guts for Dr. Hilton to confront me like that.  I mean, he really let me have it.  However, I was done being mad at himThe moment I understood what Dr. Hilton was getting at, I realized he was absolutely right.  I really did have an invisible chain around my neck.

"Dr. Hilton, I have a question."


"This isn't how therapy is supposed to work, is it?"


"Your approach today directly contradicts the Fujimoto model of therapy, correct?"


"According to Fujimoto, I am supposed to discover this on my own, right?"


"Listen, Dr. Hilton, I am glad you didn't listen to Fujimoto.  I am so lost that I could have sat here for a thousand years and never had this insight.  You just saved me a thousand years."

"I know that.  And I know I broke a rule, but I did it because I care about you.  I shouldn't tell you this, but you remind me way too much of my own son.  I had to do this for your own good."

"Don't feel guilty.  I think what you did was perfect.  Do want to know what just crossed my mind?"

"No, tell me."

"Remember that story in Autobiography of a Yogi where Babiji told the stranger to go jump off the cliff?  That is what you just did to me.  You basically pushed me off a cliff for my own good.  I am so immature at times it disgusts me, but at least now I am finally aware of what I have been wrong."

Dr. Hilton laughed.  "We don't have the luxury of much more time together, so I took a chance and gave it to you straight.  Thank goodness you trust me enough to take it the right way."

I nodded.  "Yes, sir, it was beautiful.  That was a startling realization you handed me."

"Now that you get my point, tell me about your weekend with that girl."

"Dr. Hilton, I am flabbergasted at my behavior.  I cannot believe I groveled at Debbie's feet for hours on end.  Debbie is cute, sure, but she isn't that cute.  Why would I humiliate myself by following her around??  She liked me just fine prior to my Cow Eyes.  If I hadn't unwittingly staged my 'master-slave' gambit, I am sure the relationship I hoped for would have developed naturally.  

No wonder those girls ditched me and headed off to some bar.  Good lord, they must have laughed all night long at how pathetic I was.  How could I have been so blind?  Good lord, I never once realized what I was doing wrong!!"

As I calmed down, I thought of a question.

"Dr. Hilton, Jason and I have been talking about how to cure my fear of women.  Every time I run into problems with women, I just quit.  I give up for a while, let one year or two years pass, and then I go back and try again.  But the same crap keeps happening all over again.  How do I ever solve my problem with women?"

"The most effective way to cure a problem is to face the problem directly.  Go out and ask another pretty girl on a date.  Try, try again.  It is the oldest saying in the book, but it is there for a reason."

I snorted scornfully.  "Have you been talking to Jason?  He says the same thing.  What good does it do?  I know I am going to make the same mistakes over and over again."

"Yes, but you will learn.  You are a chess player.  Dating girls and learning to play chess are hardly the same thing, but you make progress the same way... you have to play the game to get better."

"But I am not afraid to play chess."

"And therein lies the rub.  Until a person can force themselves to do the very thing they are afraid of, they will never get anywhere.  Most people give in to their anxiety and avoid the problem, so they never get better."

"Dr. Hilton, doesn't it bother you that you can't get people like me to face their fears?"

"Yes.  If I could force my clients to do the very thing they are most afraid of, I would have the highest cure rate of any therapist in history.  But many people live by the rule 'once burned, twice shy.'  To many people, it is easier and less scary to avoid their fears than risk further failure.  That is why the Therapy Game can be so frustrating.  No one ever takes a chance."

I took a long, deep breath.  It hurt to breathe so deeply after all the tension, but it helped me calm down some more.  I didn't know if I could ever face my fears with women.  Today's incident hurt so deeply that I could not bear to go through much more of this.   The Point of No Return was calling to me. 

"I don't feel very good about myself right now.  But I can tell you one thing."

"What's that?"

"I will never grovel to a woman again!"

I paused for effect, then continued.

"You have opened my eyes.  I have always been independent.  Stuck with an incompetent mother and no father, I practically raised myself.  I don't need a woman to prop me up.  I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  From now on, I will stand on my own two feet and act like a grown man around women.  If a woman leaves me because I stand up for myself, then so be it.  I can't force a woman to love me, but I can make sure she respects me.  My days of begging women to like me are over."

I was too depressed to go back to the office, so I trudged home through the snow to look for a pillow to cry on.  I had never felt more defeated in my life.  I had spent time with 50 women spread over three months and had nothing to show for it but disdain and disinterest.  Today was the worst.  I had just been handed staggering evidence that I really was the biggest loser of all time.

Debbie had just placed an exclamation point on my Epic Losing Streak.




It was now May 1974.  There were two weeks left in the school year.

"Good morning, Rick.  I heard you got in trouble last week in Dr. Rogers' class."

 "You heard about that?  Who told you, Dr. Fujimoto or Dr. Rogers?

"Dr. Fujimoto doesn't know a thing.  Dr. Rogers and I are good friends and we go way back.  So tell me what happened.  What is your side of the story?"

"That incident with Debbie back in April sapped all my remaining courage to pursue women.  I figured I would be long gone from this program in two months, so what was the point in starting something new?   Consequently I had some time on my hands.  When the third and final Trimester began, I was given a new assignment.  As part of my scholarship, it was my job to help Dr. Rogers teach his Introduction to Psychology class. 

I had never met Dr. Rogers, so I wondered how he felt entrusting his class to a failure like me.  To my relief, Dr. Rogers never said a word.  I was grateful for his trust, especially since my self-esteem following the Debbie incident was pretty low."


"Dr. Rogers is a fine man.  So what did you think about his class?"

"I gasped when I showed up to audit his first lecture.  There had to be over 300 students in the room.  This was the largest class I had ever seen.  I sat in the back and watched as Dr. Rogers gave his lecture.  His lecture was okay, but I could not help but think it would be hard to inspire anyone in a class this large."

"I take it your classes at Hopkins were not as large?" 

"No, sir.  Not even close.  I was one of two graduate students assigned to conduct weekly Review seminars to support Dr. Rogers' weekly lecture.  It was my job to review the professor's lecture a second time in a separate class of my own.  As Dr. Rogers explained it to me, he didn't have much time to answer questions, so it was my job to offer a more personal touch.  Theoretically I might get 150 students, but Jason told me not to worry about being overwhelmed.  He said these Review seminars were typically ignored.   Jason made me laugh when he told me about the time only one student showed up for his review classes.  He said they went and had a beer instead.  Jason said I should count my blessings if I got 10 students per week.

The first meeting went exactly as Jason predicted.  My class was widely ignored.  Perhaps 15 undergraduates showed up with their textbooks and note pads.  As I had been instructed to do, I told them to open their textbooks.  They followed me page by page as I mindlessly reviewed the material from the lecture.  I could see they were bored out of their minds with this format.  As for me, I was frustrated because I didn't feel like I was contributing much of anything.  They could have done the same thing in the library on their own and saved themselves a trip. 

With this smaller group, theoretically the students could ask questions if they so desired.  I certainly encouraged them.  I must have asked if anyone had a question ten times.  No one raised a hand and no one said a word.  What a bunch of deadheads!  They just sat there mechanically jotting down whatever I said.  I hated it.  Dr. Fujimoto criticized me for speaking up all the time, but I believe in teacher-student interaction.  Once I realized I was doing all the talking, I was appalled.  I cynically noted these were Fujimoto's kind of students... perfect listeners.  Write it down, memorize, regurgitate.  This rote nonsense was definitely not my idea of learning.

I was so irritated I told a joke at the end just to see if they were paying attention."

"What was your joke?"

"I told them I dated a Psychology major, but it didn’t work out.  She said I was too indecisive, but I told her I wasn't sure she was right."

"Not bad.  Did they like your joke?"

"It went over most of their heads, but I got a few chuckles.  On the spot I decided I needed to do better than this.  When the class was over, I was very disappointed.  This was a waste of time.  I could not help but recall the kind of education I had received at St. John's.  We had been taught to ask questions and debate issues.  I understood that in two months, I would be asked to leave the program permanently.  So why not amuse myself a little?  Why not run the class my own way as an experiment?"

"So I gather you did not ask permission?" 

"Of course not.  Why give them a chance to say no?  I knew I was taking a chance, but I felt like it.  My mother had made similar decisions when I was growing up.  Every time she decided to do something her way, she always got caught and she usually got fired.  No doubt I would probably be caught as well, but what was the worst thing they could do to me?"

"I cannot believe you had the nerve to do that without asking!"

I could tell by Dr. Hilton's grin that he was teasing.  Or at least I thought he was.

"The following week I made a special presentation on Learned Helplessness, my favorite experiment.  I had all of 18 students.  I carefully explained how the experiment was structured and what they discovered.  Then I suggested what the findings meant as a way to understand why we do the things we do.  Since I had obviously given this experiment a lot of thought, my presentation was well done.

Lo and behold, someone asked a question.  And it was an intelligent question too!"

"What was the question?"

"The student asked if Martin Seligman ever tried to cure the dogs who had quit."

"You're right, that is a good question.  So what did you tell them?  I am curious to know the answer myself."

"Seligman was amazed that only one dog in three jumped the barrier.  Now that he had trained 67% of the dogs to quit, he wanted to see if there was some way to reverse the training.  He struck out.  Coaxing, whistling, using food as a lure... nothing worked. 

It was time to try something else.  Seligman put the dog in the box without the shock and told the dog to jump.  The dog jumped effortlessly.  But when the same dog heard the buzzer and felt the shock, the dog gave up on the spot.  Seligman was bewildered.  How could he train these dogs to start trying again? 

Someone suggested tying a rope around the body of the dog ahead of time, then try dragging the dog across the barrier when the buzzer/shock phase began.  To Seligman's delight, this worked.  He did not cure all the dogs, but he cured some of them of this way.  Seligman's conclusion was the only way to cure the dog's fear was to drag the animal kicking and screaming over the barrier while the buzzer was in effect." 

"So how did your class react to your presentation?"

"To be honest, they loved it.  It was wonderful to watch the light bulbs turn on.  For the first time, these students could see how research in Psychology could explain human behavior.  They found this material very intriguing. 

Encouraged by the results, I presented another experiment the following week.  This time I presented the classic Stanley Milgram Obedience experiment.  I saw jaws drop as I explained how automatic obedience to authority is ingrained throughout childhood as part of the socialization process.  The students were ready this time.  No prompting necessary.  This time the questions came fast and furious.  One girl said the willingness of people to do almost anything on the command of an authority reminded her of Nazi Germany.  Everyone began to nod.  Some girl said we should learn to think for ourselves.  I had to hold myself back from hugging her."

"Refresh my memory.  What was the Milgram experiment about?"

"Milgram told students to shock someone they didn't know, then measured their resistance to his unreasonable demands."

"Oh yes, now I remember."

"The real breakthrough came when a young lady asked a question about whether civil disobedience is okay or not.  Instead of answering it myself, I asked if anyone else had an answer.  Some boy raised his hand and that lit the fire.  The next thing I knew, the class was discussing the experiment and relating the findings to their own experiences.  Now that there was some real energy, I could not help but grin.  My class had begun to debate issues just like we did back at St. John's.  This day became the absolute highlight of my entire year. 


The following week I explained the Peter Principle.  Named after Laurence Peter, the Canadian professor, the theory said that people get promoted to their level of incompetence.  Once I explained how it worked, the students loved the irony behind this ingenious observation. 

Next I presented the Solomon Asch experiment on Conformity.  The students were incredulous to discover eye-opening proof on how powerful peer pressure can be.  Since peer pressure was an issue these young people dealt with on a daily basis, my presentation got them talking big time. 

My experiment was a raging success.  In five weeks, my class had grown dramatically.  My sixth week had nearly 50 students.  Someone even brought name tags.  People began learning each other's names and making friends.  I was tickled pink.  An actual class spirit had emerged.  I had always believed Psychology could be an interesting subject if presented properly, so I felt gratified.  Finally a ray of accomplishment!

"You enjoyed teaching this class, didn't you?"

"To be honest, I never realized how much I like to teach until this class.  However, given how much I admired my teachers at St. John's, I am not surprised.  In particular, I recalled how much I admired Mr. Salls, my gifted high school German teacher.  Sometimes during class I wished I could be a teacher as good as him someday.  Now I was starting to have those same feelings again.  I was really enjoying teaching this class."


"So tell me how you got into trouble."

"One day Frank, the graduate assistant responsible for the other section, complained to me that attendance just kept getting smaller and smaller.  He was mad because only 4 students had shown up for his section last week.  I didn't say anything, but I assumed word of mouth had caused many of Frank's students to switch to my section instead.  At any rate, it felt to me like Frank was fishing for information, so I avoided talking about his concern.  I was afraid Frank was trying to get me to incriminate myself. 

At any rate, Dr. Rogers slipped into my class the following week without telling me."

"Why do you suppose he did that?"

"I don't know.  You probably know more than I do.  I guess someone tipped off Frank about my special presentations and then he went to Professor Rogers to complain about the seesaw attendance effect.  Frank probably told Dr. Rogers I was not doing my job properly.  Without telling me, Dr. Rogers slipped unnoticed into the back of the room during my next class.  Without his coat and tie on, no one seemed to recognize that their own professor was sitting behind them in the far back.  The room was so crowded I had no idea he was back there. 

Imagine how upset I was when I saw Dr. Rogers waiting for me at the end of class.  My heart sank immediately.  Uh oh, here we go again.  Considering I was the black sheep of the Department, I assumed I was about to get chewed out for my unauthorized presentation.  However, to my surprise, Dr. Rogers didn't seem mad at all.  Instead, he complimented me."

"What did Dr. Rogers say?"  

"Dr. Rogers said, 'Mr. Archer, I came here expecting to be angry, but you made a believer out of me.  I have never seen a review class have this kind of energy.  I liked your presentation, I liked your sense of humor, but most of all I liked how you kept the students involved by asking some very good questions.  You have a very unorthodox style.  Where did that come from?'

I replied by telling him about my gifted teachers back in high school and that I copied some of their best ideas.  At that point, Dr. Rogers stuck out his hand and said I had done a good job and that I had his permission to continue.  I was very relieved to say the least.  Then I remember we only had one more class.  Big deal."

"What were the some of the things you learned from your high school teachers?"

"Take Mr. Salls for example.  German should have been boring, but he kept us on our toes.  He played a game he called 'Blitzkrieg'.  He would bark out the English word and we would race to be the first to offer the German equivalent.  Or he would switch around and say a German phrase and we would try to be the first to translate it.  Mr. Salls knew how competitive we were, so he challenged us to answer question after question as fast as we could.  Every day we had a spirited competition to see who was the fastest and the smartest.  I would study like crazy before each class because I wanted to win.  The other boys were doing the same thing.

Mr. Salls was not my only gifted teacher.  I frequently analyzed why one instructor held my attention while another bored me to tears.  I made a vow to myself that if I ever taught a class, I would try to make it interesting."

"I like your sentiment, Rick.  You seem to have a real gift for this.  I have had assistants for classes of my own.  Typically my assistants simply parrot whatever I say in my lecture and there is practically no discussion.  Yet at the same time Dr. Rogers told me you disobeyed your instructions on how to teach the course.  What is your take on that?"

I took a deep breath and chose my words carefully.

"Dr. Hilton, we have spent five months together.  You should know me by now.  I like to do things my way.  Here's the deal.  How do you give someone two death sentences?   The die was already cast, so why not amuse myself?  I wanted to see what kind of teacher I could be.  I also wanted to help them see how a knowledge of Psychology can explain some of the mysteries of human nature.  It was more important to see what I was capable of than it was to follow orders.  Besides, I didn't do any damage.  Those students liked my class."

"You are definitely the rebel.  You took a real gamble there.  Another professor might have taken what you did as disobedience."

"Yes, Dr. Hilton, I understand that.  But like I keep saying, what did I have to lose?"

Dr. Hilton had a curious look as he studied me.  If I had to guess, he had mixed feelings about what I had done.  However, since it was so late in year, he decided it wasn't worth discussing further.  At this point, he smiled. 

"Rick, let me share something.  Our time together is winding down, so I would like to take this moment to tell you how impressed I have been with your candor.  You are a very intelligent, very insightful young man.  I especially like your curiosity.  Your journeys into Mysticism have caused me to ask a few questions of my own.  Based on what you told me today and what Dr. Rogers said, I think you have a real future as a teacher.  Have you given any thought to a teaching career?"

"Thank you for saying those nice things.  Yes, I have thought about teaching, but I cannot imagine what I will teach.  My only area of expertise is Psychology and that strikes me as a dead end.  I guess we will just have to see what the future holds."

On that note we parted.  As I walked back to my office, Dr. Hilton could not possibly have touched a more sensitive nerve.  Due to my success in this class, I thought about teaching all the time.  Heck, this was the only thing I was good at this entire year!  

But at the moment all I felt was despair.  What exactly was I supposed to teach?  That was my overriding thought.  Full of scorn, what good did this teaching suggestion do for me?   Once my time at this school concluded, my teaching days were over.  Out in the Real World, there was nothing I was qualified to teach.  I had absolutely no credentials. 

When I pointed that out, Dr. Hilton suggested I consider going back to school.  Forget it.  That ain't gonna happen.  No more school!  I was so frustrated by my time at Colorado State, I had come to the conclusion that my college days were over.  I was fed up with academia.  After the way Dr. Fujimoto had roughed me, I never wanted to put another noose around my neck. 

Let's face it, I did not have the proper 'Graduate Student Attitude'.  Dr. Hilton didn't come right out and say it, but I could tell he disapproved of my teaching the Review class my way without asking permission.  If I went back to school, no doubt with my crummy attitude I would cross swords with someone new.  I wasn't going back to school, that's all there was to it.  The thought of more college made me sick in my stomach.  After the way I had been treated, I never wanted to see another college classroom for the rest of my life. 

Right now I was very depressed.  I knew Dr. Hilton was just trying to help, but all his comments did was upset me.   I sighed wistfully.  Now that I had found my hidden talent as a teacher, it aggravated me no end to know I would never get a second chance.




In late May, I found a letter sitting in my office mailbox.  I had a pretty good idea what it would say.  Sure enough, I had been dismissed from the program.   The length of the dismissal letter rubbed me the wrong way.  Someone had gone to great pains to justify their actions.  Guilty conscience perhaps?

I was very bitter.  Dr. Fujimoto never meant to keep me.  Unlike my high school days where I received second chances all the time, there was no forgiveness here.  I suppose my personal development never quite reached Dr. Fujimoto's lofty standards. 

'Experience is a comb Life offers after you've lost your hair.'

The consensus among the graduate students was that I had not received a fair shake.  The "D" was a sham device used as an excuse to get rid of me.  But my friends also pointed out I was responsible for my fate.  It was my lousy sense of office politics early in the school year that had caused my undoing.  

"You should've kept your mouth shut..."

Famous last words.  Of course they were right.  From the moment I had set foot in this building, I never quite figured out how to cope with my arch-nemesis. 

After my miserable start, I tried to show my professors that I had real talent if they would just look past my early mistakes.  But it was all in vain.   Once Dr. Fujimoto moved me to the end of bench, I was never able to shake my poor first impression.  I failed because I never learned how to play the grad school game until it was too late. 


To my disgust, Fujimoto had the nerve to make me endure an Exit Interview with him.  I think I would have preferred a root canal to seeing this man one last time.  What was with this guy? 

When I arrived, Dr. Mendoza was nowhere in sight.  Interesting.  Now that my demise was official, Fujimoto didn't need Captain Kangaroo anymore.  Fujimoto got right to work.  He began by reminding me I had too aggressive a personality to be a therapist. 

'Oh, shut up!', I thought to myself.  How many times did I have to hear this?  Fujimoto had lots more to say, but I tuned him out.  I had heard it all before.  In fact, I wondered why we were even having this conversation. 

As the man droned on, I debated whether I should say anything to him.  I was dying to tell Fujimoto he never gave me a fair shake.  I wanted to tell him I had far more compassion for people than he ever did.  I would never dream of treating someone as ruthlessly as he had treated me.  Dr. Fujimoto was pretty good at pointing out my personality deficiencies, but did it ever occur to him that if he had offered to work with me, I might have blossomed?  Instead of hostility and intimidation, why not try a more gentle approach next time? 


After my early failure, I had been a model student for the remaining five months of the year.  That didn't count for anything.  My grades had been good.  Even with the 'D', I finished close behind a student named John as the top student in my class.  That didn't count for anything either.

In a profession that valued analytical skills, I was excellent.  I was a hard worker, I had a big heart and I was very committed.  Those were some pretty good places to start.  I definitely possessed the talent necessary to succeed in this profession. 

Who is to say I could not have developed 'the therapeutic personality' with patience and understanding?  

We will never know because Fujimoto quit on me.  As Dr. Hilton had pointed out, Fujimoto was not in the mood to mollycoddle an emotional cripple.  He expected his graduate students to arrive at his program with a certain level of maturity.  It was not his job to bring the slowest buffalo up to speed. 

It was easier just to shoot the animal and be done with it.


It took a while, but I finally screwed up the courage to say something. 

"Dr. Fujimoto, I think I deserved a second chance."

"I am sure you feel very disappointed, Mr. Archer.  I understand from Dr. Hilton that you worked very hard and I applaud you for that.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hilton confirmed my suspicion that your bold, outgoing personality has no place in a profession that values gentle listeners over assertive, outspoken young men such as yourself."

I shook my head in disgust.  I could not believe Fujimoto had the nerve to suggest my friend Dr. Hilton had stuck the final knife in my back.  Even if it was true, shame on him for bringing Dr. Hilton's name into this.

"With all due respect, Dr. Fujimoto, I did not fail your program.  Your program failed me.  I have given this a lot of thought.  You run a program that is supposed to teach us how to help people with psychological problems.  That is your stated purpose.

But you missed the mark with me.  I won't deny I came here with a lot of baggage.  However, if you had taken me under your wing and worked with me, I would have been the equal of any other first-year student.  Okay, so maybe I wasn't a good listener when I showed up on your doorstep.  I contend that is a skill that can be taught.  And yes, I was arrogant and defensive.  I made progress in those areas as well.  In other words, I was coachable.  Doesn't that count for something?  Furthermore I proved I have superior academic talent and I proved I will work hard.  Why did you give up on me so fast?"

"You are understandably bitter because you tried as hard as you could and came up short.  I could defend my decision at length, but I doubt seriously you would find my explanation satisfying.  So let me simplify.  In my opinion this is not a profession you are suited for.  I made the determination that you are a square peg trying to fit a round hole.  This is a trite cliché, of course, but an analogy which fits my observation precisely.  I am sorry your time here has been so bittersweet."

"Dr. Fujimoto, I hear what you are saying.  I guess that sums it up.  Are we finished?"

Fujimoto nodded, so I got up.  To his credit, Dr. Fujimoto offered me his hand and wished me well. 


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As I walked back to my office, all sorts of regret flooded through me.  I had put my heart and soul into salvaging my position here.  I tried as hard as I could to tone down my aggressive personality and fit in.  If they had just shown me an ounce of mercy, I had little doubt I would have become a good therapist.  What did it say about the Department that they would dismiss a student who tried so hard to make amends?   Yes, I had my shortcomings. 

But if they were so damn smart, then why couldn't they cure a willing participant?  

Since this was a program dedicated to preparing future therapists, Fujimoto spent day after day discussing ways to modify behavior.  So what kept him from practicing what he preached?   Curing a simple narcissistic personality disorder should have been child's play for a genius like Fujimoto.  Nope.  I wasn't worth the effort.  I was a square peg for a round hole and Fujimoto was no carpenter.

I believed I deserved a second chance, but none was forthcoming.  That left me with no choice but to pack my bags and head back to Houston.  After saying my goodbyes to Jason and Dr. Hilton, I left town with nothing but contempt for this program. 

This chapter of my life was over.  In Buddhist terms, life is a circle.  The end is the beginning.  Unfortunately, it looked more like a dead end to me.  I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life. 





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011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020
021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030
031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040
  1974: May  Dismissed from graduate school
  1974: April  I teach my experimental Psychology class
  1974: March  Debbie and the Cow Eyes Incident
  1974: February   Jason takes me under his wing and tells me to keep trying, Learned Helplessness, Negative Self-Image, Point of No Return
  1974: January   I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton, Epic Losing Streak
  1973: December   Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November   Love Affair with Vanessa begins, showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (20), butting heads with Fujimoto
  1973-1974  Colorado State
  1972-1973  Interlude, Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty and the Cooler incident
  Senior at Hopkins
 Disillusionment with the Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp the summer of 1971
  Junior at Hopkins
 Camp Counselor Daydream (19), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  Sophomore at Hopkins
 Connie Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Depression Realization, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
 Antares-Astrology eye injury (17), Séance with Vicky, Ghost of Terry (18)
  Freshman at Hopkins
 Emily at the Train Station (16), Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
   1967-1968: 12th Grade  Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Mom's Cosmic Stupidity regarding child support check (09), Little Mexico, Cheating in Chemistry
 Christmas Eve blowup with mother
, Father gives me Edgar Cayce book at Christmas, Foot in the Door Strategy, Father's $400 insult,
 Off Limits Chemistry Restroom, Caught cheating in German (10), Lost Jones Scholarship to Katina, Edge of The Abyss,
 Mrs. Ballantyne fails to connect with me at SJS for 9 years (11), Cosmic Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's (12),
 Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins, Close Call Car Accident (13), Senior Prom Cheryl (14), Heartbreak with Terry,
 Senior Year Blind Spot (15)
   1966-1967: 11th Grade  New identity forms at Weingarten's, I buy a car
   1965-1966: 10th Grade  Locker Room fight, Set of weights appears (07), George Broyles is paralyzed, Second skin operation,
 Father denies third skin operation, Weingarten's job (08)
  1964-1965:  9th Grade  Profile of Mr. Salls, Acne Attack (05), Basketball strike on swollen face (06), First skin operation
   1963-1964: 8th Grade  Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball team, Caught stealing at Weingarten's,  
 Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer Basketball Project, Discovery of chess book (04)
   1962-1963: 7th Grade  Katina Ballantyne joins my class, Illness at Boy Scout camp leads to invisibility, I feel I don't belong at SJS, Uncle Dick pays my tuition at SJS
   1961-1962: 6th Grade  Mom's suicide attempt at the bayou, Terry runs away in Hurricane Carla, Blue Christmas (03)
   1960-1961: 5th Grade  Dad remarries, Obsession with the St. John's Mother's Guild, Comparisons between my mother and Mrs. Ballantyne begin
   1959-1960: 4th Grade  Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's, Mom begins to fall apart, Dad abandons me for  his girlfriend
   1959-1968  Nine Years at St. John's School
   1955  Cut my eye out (01), Near Death with Stock Car (02)
   1949  Born in Philadelphia
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