It’s been a long day and I’m really looking forward to going home and seeing Rhian and the boys. I glance at my schedule for tomorrow: I find it helps prepare myself mentally for the following day.
There’s a flurry of noise outside which makes me briefly consider climbing out of the window because I know what it means: a distressed client seeking an urgent appointment. Its part and parcel of my work: anxiety and mental disorders don’t keep office hours. But sometimes I wish I’d trained to be an anaesthetist: it must be so much easier having patients who can’t talk back.
I sit back at my desk and look expectantly at my intercom, awaiting the message from my receptionist. So I’m mildly irritated when the door bursts open and Christian Grey storms into the office.
I admit I’m shocked.
He’s within a hair’s breadth of losing the thin veneer of control that I have come to expect of him. His face is tight with anger and some other strong emotion – fear, perhaps – and his eyes are blazing. One hand is fisted at his side, the other running through his hair as if he’d like to pull it out at the roots. He’s not wearing a tie and his shirt is hanging out of his trousers on one side. I’m momentarily taken back to my student days when a quote from Shakespeare pops into my head:
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced; pale as his shirt… And with a look so piteous in purport as if he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors – he comes before me.
He paces up and down my room and I wonder if he’ll explode or be able to rein it in. I’m betting on control: it’s his raison d’être, after all.
Finally he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
“Would you like to sit down, Mr Grey, then perhaps you can tell me why you felt the need for this unscheduled appointment.”
He stares at me as if he’s having trouble absorbing the meaning of my words. Eventually he nods, walks more calmly towards a chair, and sits down.
My receptionist, Edna, hovers uncertainly at the door, earning her a scowl from my client.
“Edna, would you be so kind as to inform Mrs Flynn that I’ll be home later?”
“Certainly, Dr Flynn.”
She glances again at my client and quietly closes the door behind her.
And I wait. He’s sitting with his head in his hands, staring at the floor. He appears to be in acute distress.
“Mr Grey… Christian…”
He looks up at the sound of his name, frowning slightly.
“Can you tell me why you’re here?”
He shakes his head. I don’t think it’s a negative response to my question, more a hope of shaking some of the apparent disorder from his mind.
“Some weeks ago you asked me… about my submissives.
“Yes, I remember that conversation.”
“What did she look like?”
“Same as the others. Long brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, petite.”
“All your submissives fit this description?”
“You asked me why – why I find that attractive – the long brown hair.”
I think he’s going to answer the question with some insight that he’s had but he doesn’t. Instead he continues to stare at the floor.
“I didn’t tell you I like to braid their hair before I fuck them.”
This detail may seem insignificant but I sense that the opposite is true.
“For the last week I’ve had that question running through my head: why do they all look the same. It’s been really fucking annoying.”
For a brief second he looks up at me and he appears to regain some control, but then he immediately looks down again and runs his hands through his hair, a repetitive action that he seems to find soothing.
“I remembered something.”
His voice has dropped to a whisper and for once he looks younger than his age: a lost, lonely and frightened adolescent.
“I used to play with her hair – the crack whore – my birth mother.”
He takes a deep breath.
“I whip and fuck little brown haired girls because they all remind me of her. Oh, Christ.”
And a few more pieces of the jigsaw fall into place.
“Do you want to add Oedipal Complex to the list, Dr Flynn?”
I think it’s an attempt at humour, but I’m not sure.
“Well, that would certainly be a new stick to beat you with, Mr Grey, if you’ll pardon the analogy.”
He looks up blinking and he seems to relax a fraction now he’s revealed his memory and the tenuous link that he’s made between his past and present.
Freud believed that the Oedipal complex occurs in the phallic stage of psychosexual development: most usually between the ages of three and five. He argued that the phallic stage – becoming aware of the differences between males and females – serves as an important point in the formation of sexual identity.
According to Freudian theory, the boy wishes to possess his mother and replace his father, who he views as a rival for his mother’s affections. It’s not a view that I endorse and very few true Oedipal Complexes have ever been documented within the psychiatric community.
“I’m not much of a Freudian, Mr Grey. I would argue, as Grose does that the Oedipus Complex is more a way of explaining how human beings are socialised. She calls it ‘learning to deal with disappointment’.
“There does, however, seem to be a link, as you suggest, between your desire to punish your mother, and the punishment your mete out to your submissives. Your mother let you down again and again: she failed to protect you and, ultimately abandoned you – as your younger self believed. You are unable to punish your mother, so you punish other women you believe look a little like her.”
He’s staring at me – drinking in my words, with an almost desperate need to believe them. But I think I’ve failed to convince him because his expression darkens and he looks down again.
“And then I fuck them – hard. I knew I was fucked up but this… this is sick, disgusting shit.”
It’s painful to watch his self-loathing deepen still further.
“Christian: you have said yourself that all your contractual relationships are consensual. You couldn’t do the things you do without their agreement and mutual enjoyment. I see no Oedipal link there.”
He shakes his head again and still won’t meet my eyes.
“As small children the only contract we have with our mothers is to love them unconditionally. Babies are programmed that way. Adults are… more complex. But for a young child, it’s a simple equation. You loved your mother: your control issues stem from the fact that you were unable to effect change in her life, control her surroundings and, in effect were unable to save her. Utterly unrealistic goals for a four year old child.”
He stands suddenly, fury stamped in every feature of his face.
“That is such fucking crap! I didn’t love her! She was a stupid, drug-taking whore who…” but his voice breaks and he can’t speak.
I allow his anger and fear to ebb slightly.
“You have remembered something new about your birth mother: that you used to play with her hair. It is a pleasurable memory that many children have. But you have assumed that this is why you are attracted to long-haired brunettes. I myself like long-haired brunettes – my wife included. My mother, however, had blonde hair and hazel eyes. I do not assume that my liking for brunettes is atavistic in any way: it is simply what I’m attracted to, I don’t know why. Perhaps an admiration of Lynda Carter had something to do with it at an early developmental stage. You have assumed what you consider the worst about yourself, Christian, because you’ve programmed yourself to do little else over the last two decades. You have taken a happy memory and found the ultimate way to defile it because this fits your world view of yourself. I would simply offer that you have remembered something pleasant from your childhood and this disturbs you of itself.”
He sits up slowly and finally looks at me. He picks on the most trivial point I have made, although I know he’ll remember everything I’ve said.
“Yes, or rather Wonder Woman. Perhaps it was the shiny blue shorts with silver stars.”
“I liked her gold whip.”
I’m relieved that his humour is back and intact.
“Yes, I can see how that might appeal to you.”
He smirks at me but tension lurks behind his eyes and I don’t think my suggestion, my alternative explanation, has convinced him: at least not yet. I know that he mulls over some of the things that I’ve said to him so I’m hopeful that he’ll realise he’s jumped to conclusions that are possibly erroneous.
I’m going to risk pushing him just a little further.
“Would you say you have any sexual urges towards your adoptive mother?”
His face, already pale, becomes ashen, then anger flares in his eyes.
“No, Dr Flynn, I don’t. For Christ’s sake!”
“As I thought, Mr Grey, so your assumption of an Oedipal memory of your birth mother is simply an extension of your belief that you are, in your own words, unworthy or love; in essence – unloveable. It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. But patterns can always be broken: and this starts with self-knowledge and the wish to change.”
There’s silence and his eyes cool again. Instead he looks bewildered, out of his depth. His responses are those of an adolescent: black and white, unable to accept any shades of grey. How ironic.
“I think we should continue this conversation at a future session, Mr Grey. Perhaps you could have your assistant schedule one with Edna.”
“Yes, I’ll do that, John.”
It’s the first time he’s used my given name although I’m not sure he’s realised it. I can see him slowly recovering from the overwhelming assault on his emotions. Gradually he regains his self-possession, control sliding into place like a suit of armour. For the first time he notices his untucked shirt and quickly pulls it straight.
“Well, Christian, I think I need a drink after that. A large, malt whisky is the name of the game.”
He looks faintly amused.
“What malts do you like?”
“I’m a traditionalist: Glenmorangie or Tallisker. Would you care to join me?”
He raises his eyebrows.
“Isn’t that breaking the rules, Dr Flynn, drinking with a patient?”
“Firstly, Mr Grey, I use the term ‘client’, not ‘patient’; secondly, I thought you only expected your submissives to adhere to rules; and thirdly, it’s been a bloody long day.”
A small smile escapes.
“A good point well made, John. In that case… I know a bar not far from here that serves 32 different kinds of malt whisky.”
I follow him out of my consulting rooms, locking the door behind me. Edna looks relieved that she is able to escape, too. The dear woman insists on staying late if I have an urgent appointment. It’s very kind of her and good practice, too; one shouldn’t be alone with a client in a building. Heaven only knows what she’d think if she knew I were drinking with one. But Christian Grey is an exceptional man, so I shall make an exception for him.
We spend a pleasant hour or so talking about choral music: he likes Thomas Tallis, I prefer Taverner’s organ pieces. We find we both enjoy Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear my prayer’. I can’t help but think how apt that is. He offers me use of his box at the Seattle Opera House.
I’m concerned that he has assumed that his urge to punish women, and then fuck them, are desires both linked to his mother. I believe they are mutually exclusive and merely a result of the lifestyle he has embraced. I suspect I’ll have my work cut out leading him towards that belief. His deepest impulses are towards self-loathing and any tool he can find to punish himself he immediately seizes.
But I think we’ve made a little progress day: a microscopic advance. Nevertheless, I find myself hopeful for his future.