My narrator doesn’t have to make the same mistakes I do. Perhaps he learns from what I do in anxious moments when what feels most pressing is that I do something, anything, to relieve myself of the tension that I imagine threatens my mental survival. If only life in the imagination were so simple. I imagine the two of us alongside each other, each one lying on a couch, struggling to say whatever comes to mind. Is there anyone seated behind us, listening? This last sentence might suggest the source of much of my daily anxiety. Am I alone in my mind? Who says this, me or my narrator, or both of us simultaneously? We’re in this therapeutic process that I call my writing together, aren’t we? Writing these paragraphs is therapeutic for me. The image of him on a couch alongside me changes things in my mind. How might my narrator and I learn from each other? I don’t think my words on the couch create change in him. Something inside my narrator, who might be part of my unconscious mind, changes before or after words, or both. And in a mysterious way, when he changes I change, and vice versa. We impact each other in a nonverbal way. I imagine that I say all of this on the imaginary couch, and my narrator, alongside me, experiences my words in his body instead of in his mind. Mental work happens later. In this metaphor for how my mind works, my narrator and I have the same psychoanalyst, who listens to both of us simultaneously. Maybe I feel listened to when I write my paragraphs, which becomes therapeutic, and sometimes leads to mysterious inner change.
Again, I’m honored to have been nominated by Mr. Anonymous for The Versatile Blogger Award. Below are seven facts about myself, which I’ve been asked to post:
1. I never start a day without a very strong mug of coffee.
2. I read in Spanish for an hour every morning, while drinking that strong mug of coffee.
3. Madrid was my home for nearly a decade.
4. We live on the same ground where, more years ago than I wish to count right now, I graduated from high school.
5. Our cat was born in Spain.
6. I am the proud owner of a lapstrake rowboat, which I wish I could’ve been able to build myself.
7. Influenced by the years I lived in Madrid, where I could take the metro everywhere I needed to go, I haven’t driven a car since 2002.
Thank you so very much to Mr. Anonymous for being nominated for the The Versatile Blogger Award. I’m honored.
Source: The Versatile Blogger Award
The thoughts in my head seem to know I’m listening to them. They appear to struggle to express themselves. There are lots of starts and stops, as if the thoughts themselves were controlled by a more powerful force. I imagine my mind in two places at once: lying on a couch, speaking, revealing, hiding, or ignoring what’s happening in its interior, and seated behind the couch, listening both to the account of the other and to its own inner imaginings. Why don’t I write person or persons instead of mind? Something about the mind as a subject of incessant activity seems important. My thoughts need another part of me to focus on them, since I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my own inner world. I don’t want to create a fictional account of a psychoanalytic session. I don’t need to. I’m interested in what I experience when I feel listened to, from within. The thoughts in these sentences, whatever they might be, seem to point toward a mental future that remains unclear in words. This last sentence surprises me. I associate the creation of thoughts more with images than with words. Maybe I’m learning how to think in images. Such work takes time. If part of my mind is on the couch, and another part seated behind the couch, I imagine I’m prepared to spend time on this endeavor. My mind might let me know, if I listen.
Why would a famous author want to speak to me? The question came to me as I was about to leave a bookstore. The author who came to mind was two years older than me, and his first novel was published when he was a college student. I stood near the swinging doors, uncertain whether to walk a few more steps and out onto the sidewalk or walk to the coffee shop at the back of the store, order a coffee, take out the spiral bound notebook from a jacket pocket that I often carry with me for moments like this, and try to figure out on paper what the question might be saying to me. Thirty minutes earlier I’d been in confession mode on the psychoanalytic couch, and this phrase, confession mode, surprises me, perhaps because it’s painful for me to compare myself to this particular writer. Above, I was about to write that this author was two years younger than me, and then, when I realized the mistake, I continued writing instead of pausing to think about what the lapsus linguae might mean. Maybe I would’ve felt a little less of a complete literary failure if I believed that this famous author, born in 1964, were two years younger than me. Maybe I could’ve convinced myself that I could write and publish a future best-seller in the next two years. I knew from experience that the imagination is a place of limitless possibilities. I didn’t leave the bookstore. With the help of caffeine, I wrote a rough draft of what appears here. Many of my psychoanalytic sessions are painful. I speak about things that most of me would prefer remain unspoken. I don’t often think of my fifty-minute hours on my psychoanalyst’s couch as confessions, yet the word came to me, and I’ve learned both from writing in my spiral bound notebook and from the rest of my life that the unconscious doesn’t lie. Perhaps an answer to my question in the opening sentence will come to me. Maybe one already has.
An imaginative idea took control of me, and within seconds it felt more real than the sidewalk under my feet. The room I was walking toward became two rooms, separate yet mysteriously connected. Several seconds passed before I realized that I was imagining myself in the two separate physical spaces simultaneously. I was both a participant and an observer. In one room, with a couch and a chair behind it, I was in my own inner world, as an anxious speaker. In the other room, with pen and paper in hand, I recorded as much as I could of what I heard and saw of the psychoanalytic session. In metaphorical terms, was I both studying myself and learning to listen to myself? I was climbing a hill when this question came to me, and for a moment my imaginary situation felt real, as if such an experience were possible in reality. I was afraid to give this fantasy a chance to speak more to me. I had to hurry if I wanted to arrive at my psychoanalyst’s office on time. Maybe I needed to be on the couch more often if I thought that my fantasies spoke to me. What else did they do? My fantasy of the two me’s in two separate rooms was real, in my imagination. I was minutes away from her office when I realized that I might have imagined a way to think about what happens in my mind, when things are going well, while I’m on the couch: I become both participant and observer of my own inner experience. The imaginative idea still felt in control of me when I entered her office, and as I was about to lie down on the couch, I asked myself: and what’s wrong with that?
The couch had known me for ten months. Why did this feel like the first time we’d met? As a writer, and as someone who lies on the psychoanalytic couch frequently, I’m not alarmed by the opening two sentences. They show me that I’m alive in my imagination. Am I imaginative on the couch, a psychoanalyst seated behind me and not saying much, in a situation that sometimes leaves me feeling as if I’m alone and unprotected in my own mind? I felt imaginative yesterday morning. I entered her office in silence, glanced around the room, and prepared myself for the kind of speaking that I was about to experience. And I’m surprised that I write it this way. Writing and the personal experience of psychoanalysis have something important in common for me: I’m not in control, or at least much less than part of me would like to be. I was surprisingly calm as I started to utter sentences yesterday morning. “I feel as if this were my first time lying here, which is hard to believe since I’ve been on this couch for so many months. It’s as if this were the first time that all of this were real to me.” These sentences seemed to speak themselves through me. They were in control, or were they? Images came to me before words as I started speaking. I imagined being alone in this space with the couch, and I approached it with caution. Then, in an instant, in this imaginative experience, I knew that this physical object welcomed me to lie on it. In reality, I continued speaking: “I’m welcome in my own mind.” And the couch and I spent another fifty minutes together.