I stretched my back and yawned, then glanced warily at the clock. It was late on a Friday evening and I had just finished reading Hillman’s seminal paper on the Fiction of Case History. His re-imagining of psychotherapy and its practice as closer to literature than science was like opening up to one of Stan Grof’s holotropic breathing experiences. What if therapy were more fiction than fact, more story than theory? What if the purpose of therapy was to be told into story and given a plot to live by?
Not sure where to begin, I looked down and saw my dog Riley sleeping contentedly on the floor beside me. The thought of a short siesta before tackling such a paradigm shifting idea felt just right.
The diminutive somewhat paunchy and balding analyst, his feet propped up on the leather ottoman, and his patient, a 28-year-old Sharon Stone look alike, her lithe body extended on the brown velvet divan, stared horrified at the foot-long rat, its whiskers twitching, which had just scuttled out from beneath the couch.
Her shrill scream pierced the silence, hanging in the air, as the rodent darted back under the couch and disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived. Was the rat lurking underneath the analytic couch, waiting for the opportunity to bite Dr. Keene on his tender black-socked ankle? He felt he must explore the possibility, but could not bring himself to rise from the chair and crouch to investigate, for fear of coming eye to eye, nose to nose, with rattus norvegicus.
My new patient looks at me and her face says, “This must be a mistake. Why did this happen to me?” I invite her into the office and she sits uncomfortably looking around the room before beginning to speak. She asked about my credentials before stating the reasons for the consultation.
Later, I sit at my computer and I think: do I write or do I not? If I don’t, what happens? My silence leaves the world thinking all is well. It colludes with the world’s view that I and my observations are threatening.
Not to write makes me a participant in my own devaluation, maintaining the silence and continuing to wear my mask. Not to speak erases my subjectivity. So, African-American, I write afraid to do so, knowing that I must.
Gaping open in several places over her ample bosom, the buttons on the front of the white, silky material could not hold the fort down. Her blouse was simply too small.
That was not true of her personality–at least for me. Her words were large, filling the space between the couch and my chair as we sat facing each other. Her anger, delivered with an abrupt, annoyed tone, enveloped me. I felt myself withdraw in silence while envisioning her as a porcupine with spiny quills at the ready. A few times I attempted some responses. My words were thrown away with a curt “no.”
Around the fourth session, she mentioned she needed something other than what I was providing, but she would allow us a few more sessions.
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