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Steve M.’s troubles began when he was a nineteen-year-old college freshman. He was
a handsome and engaging young man, the second in a family of four boys. Steve’s high school
career had been, by any measure, successful and satisfying. He had earned letters in both
football and track, had served as co-editor of the student newspaper, and had been elected
president of his senior class. With high grades and SAT scores, Steve earned a place in one of
the finest colleges.
Still, Steve’s early life was not without tragedy. When he was four, his mother, who had
had a long history of troubled behavior, committed suicide by hanging herself in the attic. Only
Steve and his younger brothers were home at the time, and they found her body when they
woke up from their afternoon nap. Steve’s father, an attorney, struggled valiantly to provide
both financially and emotionally for his traumatized sons, but, in truth, he had been severely
shaken himself. Already accustomed to a cocktail in the evening after work, he began to drink
more heavily after the loss of his wife and, even though he remarried four years later, he
became a quiet, withdrawn alcoholic. His new wife found herself in complete charge of the
household and threw herself into the task with diligence. She was determined to make up to
the children and their father for the loss the family had incurred. She believed firmly that with
devotion and time, she could heal the wounds. Sure enough, the children seemed to thrive
under her loving and watchful eye; she was impressed by how they seemed to bounce back
from the loss of their mother. If their father was still distant and uninvolved, at least he worked
steadily and provided an income which allowed her to tend to the needs of the family. Mr. M.
clearly loved the children, but he interacted with them only intermittently, and then with wry,
Steve did well the first semester at college, although he came home frequently to visit
his girlfriend and to see his parents. He wished he could find a way to relate more genuinely to
his father, but had long since accepted that this was unlikely to happen. Occasionally they
fished together, or discussed the course material he was studying in philosophy, but for
emotional support he always went to his stepmother.
At the beginning of the second semester, Steve’s girlfriend, with whom he had been
going steady since junior year of high school, broke up with him. He appeared to take the news
reasonably well and began staying at school on weekends in order to begin to date. Still, in
private, he found himself lonely and miserable. He really didn’t know how to ask women out
and didn’t seem to have the knack for flirting or reading their nonverbal signals.
One day, while studying in his room, Steve had a strange sensation. He felt and