It might also be helpful to acquaint you with some of the private world of our group members’ therapist: Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews, originator of the Scott Matthews Meltdown.
The backyard fence belonging to Scott’s daughter, Bobbie, was dry rotting in the harsh sun of South Texas. When she asked for his help to replace it, Scott loaded up his truck and trailer with lumber for the job.
Perhaps he expected the traffic on I-35 in Austin to be less intolerable on a Sunday—the city’s reputation for gridlock traffic is known far and wide—but Scott chose to take his chances on the interstate instead of going the toll road. Predictably, the traffic slowed and stopped over the Colorado River, and the highway narrowed to 3 lanes.
Angry with himself for choosing what he knew would be an exercise in frustration, Scott began a temper meltdown. He slammed the dashboard, shouted profanity, and when he scowled at the car to his left, the small child in the front seat stared at him like he was in a freak show at the State Fair of Texas.
Scott closed his eyes, bit his lip, and tried to take a deep breath, but his inner Incredible Hulk wasn’t having it, and he pounded the steering wheel with his balled fist. He could feel himself being watched, and when he turned to see the same child observing his tantrum, Scott shot the kid a dirty look that was a metaphor for “Mind your own business.” Judging by the child’s face, it was a direct hit.
“What a dick,” Scott berated himself. “Even kids get the full brunt of your tantrums.” Almost immediately, his thoughts went into justification mode: “Yeah, but I’m trying to do some good here by helping Bobbie with her homestead. Hell, I should be banking a credit for the next time I have a meltdown.”
But Scott knew that the end rarely justified the means in anyone’s eyes but his own. His tantrums were nothing new; his capacity to rage affected all within earshot: his wife, children, students, and coworkers …only his patients (he hoped) were spared the legendary Scott Matthews Meltdown.
The traffic moved glacially, and with every passing minute, Scott’s contempt for his situation swelled. His daughter was teaching Sunday school, and he knew that she was expecting him to meet her at her church. From there, they’d go to her house to rebuild the fence. “Dammit!” he exclaimed. “I won’t make it on time!” Scott hated being late; he preferred to arrive early to everything.
But that wasn’t all that was eating at him: meeting Bobbie at her church made him uncomfortable, because he did not share the beliefs of most religions. While he respected that his adult daughters have a strong faith, he had never been able to comprehend the “mystery” (“More like myth,” he thought,) of life after death. He believed that magical thinking about an Afterlife gave people an excuse to avoid responsibilities in the real world, because they thought they’d be rescued for “Eternity.”
The traffic…the tardiness…the perceived hypocrisy he felt in churches: the overload of thoughts in Scott’s head plowed fertile ground for yet another meltdown. He shook his head, ashamed at his behavior and the frightened look on that little kid’s face.
His cell phone rang, and he saw that it was his office manager, Jeanine. Averse to phone usage while driving as a matter of principle (he detested drivers who use their phones in traffic nearly as much as he hated I-35 gridlock), he thought, “On a Sunday? What could she possibly need? …I’m not answering it.”
The car ahead of him lurched forward, and he followed suit. The phone rang again, and he continued to ignore it. “Maybe I need one of those Bluetooth things, but I’m retiring soon, so it’s not like I’ll be deluged with calls all day…”
The car ahead of him—which Scott had developed an unhealthy resentment for—at last moved forward about a full car-length. “Progress!” he exclaimed, “Yes!” –at the same time the car on his left containing the sad-faced kid heaved into his lane, and he nearly rear-ended it.
Ahead, he could see the kid’s mom—or whoever she was—lower the visor mirror and, given the movements he could see, he surmised that she was applying makeup. If she could see his face in her mirror alongside hers, she’d have viewed the same look of disgust that he’d fired at the little boy.
The infernal ringing ceased and seconds later, a chime indicated that he had a voice mail. Scott grumbled, “I dream of a day I don’t get phone calls.” He could hear sirens in the distance, and he could see emergency vehicles on the horizon, their flashing lights in a cluster, indicating an accident.
The phone chimed again: Bing-Bong.
Scott glared and considered throwing the modern day must-have out the window. He growled, “How much longer do I have to put up with this shit? Come on, retirement.”
The memory of several patients forwarding the YouTube link for an insurance commercial depicting a drill sergeant as a bad therapist was fresh on his mind. While he knew that the patients who sent it were only trying to be funny, he found enough of himself in the characterization of the therapist throwing a tissue box at his patient and calling the man “jack wagon” that Scott knew he was near the end of doing active treatment.