I imagine that a fictitious event happens when I enter my psychoanalyst’s office this afternoon. Once I’ve crossed the threshold of her consulting room, she asks whether we might try something different today. “I’ll lie on the couch and you sit in my chair.” Moments later, I hear her say from the couch: “Now tell me what’s on my mind.”
Maybe I can read minds in my imagination. I’m comfortable in her chair. The view of the room is expansive from here. I never thought I’d sit behind a psychoanalytic couch.
Silence from the couch seems to suggest that she’s waiting for me to speak about her mind. I was about to write “speak her mind.” Is that what telepathy means? Thinking someone else’s thoughts as if they were one’s own?
This must be a dream. Can a dream be about two minds? A possible response to my own question comes to me: what you have imagined is not fictitious. It’s your mind.
Perhaps I still want the life I could have had. I could have written about this. Then a wall appeared in my mind between pen and paper and the next sentence I would have written. There are reading lives awaiting me that I’m afraid to live. Experience inserts itself in this sentence, both the word and the experience of experience. Change has appeared in this sentence. A thought come to mind: Experience and change are related to your reading in more ways than you have imagined, which is one reason why you should keep a journal, to record the aliveness of your reading experiences. I have been reading a book while I’ve been drinking coffee and writing these sentences. Another sentence surprises me: This book knows you better than you think. We’ve known each other since 2004. But I was afraid of intimacy, and I might still be. I was living in Madrid, reading mostly in Spanish, and when I came across a few of this British psychoanalyst’s books in Spanish translation, I bought them without thinking that I might also read them one day in the original English. For several years I struggled with these volumes, not with understanding the sentences in Spanish, but with understanding them in relation to my own emotional experiences. I had never experienced a session of psychoanalysis, and I thought I never would. Yet this psychoanalytic author and his books remained important to me. Now, years later, I am in psychoanalysis, and one of the only facts I know about my psychoanalyst is that she trained at an institute where the writings of this thinker, Wilfred Bion, are taught. I should have prepared myself stronger coffee. I’m reading him now, in English. I’m growing as a reader, which experience has taught me will make me a better human being.
It was as if I saw her face for the first time. Both of us were silent as I walked past her on my way to the couch. I glanced at the side table alongside her chair where she spent her working hours listening to others. The coffee cup and the bottle of water felt important as potential sources of imaginative information about my psychoanalyst. It was ten o’clock on a Monday morning. My glance at the side table felt adventurous, as if I’d never let my eyes move freely when I walked the several feet from the door to the couch. For a few minutes I spoke about something that had been on my mind since the last time I’d spoken like this, lying on my back, looking out the windows in front of me. Then, without warning, something that I had not done over the weekend came to me in the form of an image, of me not answering a call from someone important to me. And then I listened to myself wonder aloud why I’d avoided speaking to her. Several of my sentences surprised me. There were no easy answers, which frustrated me. Truth seemed to appear in short sentences. “I still don’t know how to be separate from her, to be myself with her. Even as adults, she and I have sometimes related to each other through our parents. Now we’re caring for them. And there’s no one between us and our emotions.” Soon the fifty minutes were up. I was on my feet. As I walked toward the door, I glanced at my psychoanalyst’s face. It was a familiar face. And I glanced at the coffee cup and the bottle of water. This was her working space. I felt more comfortable inside of myself, in my own inner space.
How might I dream while I write in my journal? I’m afraid of making mistakes. In the last vignette I posted on this blog, “Unlocked Doors,” I wrote in a free-associative frame of mind. A few hours after posting it, I reread the three paragraphs, and I became anxious when I found two sentences that didn’t make sense. I only had to add an adverb and change a verb. Yet I have remained anxious. It’s afternoon, and I’m writing again, trying to imagine why I’m so afraid of making mistakes.
Journal writing helps me do many things. I learn how to write anew, as if I were writing words on paper for the first time. Sentences become imaginative exercises. Free-associative writing is the nearest experience I have had, with a pen in my hand, to dreaming while I’m awake. As I write about my day, or yesterday or tomorrow, I often find myself creating fiction, writing about my life in creative ways.
Moments before writing the opening sentence of my last vignette, I thought I would just write down last night’s dream. Then images appeared that seemed to suggest another kind of narrative, and as more minutes passed, I felt as if I were writing creatively for the first time.
Perhaps a mistake is a matter of perception. Maybe I’m dreaming all of this in a free-associative way. And maybe the word mistake can help me realize that I have more imagining to do, as if for the first time.
I am afraid that what remains of last night’s dream will soon disappear. The problem is that I can’t record only what I remember, as if this were my dream journal. Other images have appeared, and I imagine them saying in unison: “We want to be part of the dream, too!”
I stand before a familiar door. I’ve climbed a flight of stairs without remembering it. She’s not here today. I feel my own anxiety in the last sentence. It’s Saturday. These two words seem to turn my body around so that I’m facing the other doors on either side of the long corridor. I often see these doors closed, but today I somehow know that all of the offices are empty. My psychoanalyst would never know I was here. Before I open the familiar door, an image from last night’s dream appears: I’m standing before the front door of my childhood home, which somehow I know now belongs to my psychoanalyst and her husband (I thought she wasn’t married!). This image has yet to disappear when I lie down on the couch where, in reality (which reality, external or internal, am I referring to?), I attempt to say whatever comes to mind a few times a week. It’s strange to be in this space alone, and I connect this feeling to my experience in last night’s dream: I don’t belong here, not now. This isn’t my office. We don’t have a session today. My childhood home belongs to someone else now. I can’t open the front door as if my parents were waiting for me inside.
The dream hasn’t been completely lost. An image has been saved, one with valuable imaginative information. She has become the owner of our old home. I first wrote “my old home,” and then I replaced “my” with “our” before I could think about what I was doing. Home is an emotional place. I am at home, expressing all of this in words, we have a session today, in what feels like a dream. I’m writing and I’m dreaming, while I’m awake, unlocking inner doors that I didn’t know were here to be opened.
“I journaled in my mind this morning.”
An image of him in a coffee shop writing in a black hardcover journal came to me. Then I realized what he’d said: I journaled in my mind. I had avoided listening to his words. Or maybe I needed to be more patient with my own imaginative ways of listening. He might have written in his journal in a coffee shop this morning, and he might have had moments during the experience when he felt or imagined that he was writing in his mind instead of in his journal.
Neither of us spoke for what felt like several minutes. A sentence came to mind: Journaling helps me understand who I am becoming. Was I thinking about myself, the thirty-five year-old man on the couch, or both of us? This question felt less important than the next sentence that came to me: This is journaling in my mind. Perhaps the man on the couch was describing how he experienced his mind this morning. I realized that it was a few minutes before noon. Maybe he was describing his frame of mind now, while both of us were in the same physical space, and neither of us held a journal or pen in his hand.
“That last sentence has kept me quiet. It surprised me. I’m a bit disorientated.” The number thirty-five returned to my conscious thoughts in a sentence that seemed to disappear moments after appearing. Thirty-five, though, remained. “Last night I read some pages of a journal of my mom’s from thirty-five years ago. I can’t remember when she gave it to me. Or why. What I read surprised me. She did this. I knew she was in psychoanalysis. She did what I’m doing. I’m doing what she did. And she wrote about it on the pages I read last night. She was sad. I was born that year.” Silence again.
I imagined both of us journaling in our minds. The image felt alive. It helped. I was sad. We were sad. Journaling in our minds.
How do I love someone whom I’ve felt I’ve hated? Hate was both the first word that came to mind for the opening sentence and the last one I thought I should use. We’ve known each other since 1991. Until recently, she was married to someone close to me. The reader in me wants to rewrite the initial sentence. Its meaning is unclear. I realize that in some sense of the word love is probably the right word to describe how I feel about her. If not, how could I sometimes feel that I hate her when she behaves in ways that secretly remind me of myself? Her passion for her work, her dedication to what she believes is right, her determination to push herself to succeed, have affected me over the years in mysterious and significant ways. I identify with her in ways I don’t wish to admit to myself. She can also be impossible to be around. Perhaps that’s been said of me when I’ve been intensely anxious, passionate, or obsessive about something. In other words, how do I see myself in her?
Last night the someone close to me spoke with me about her. Tonight she’s on my mind. I find myself exploring my own heart. Love and hate have always danced together. And I want to dance during what I hope are decades ahead of me. She’ll be with me on the dance floor. How could she not be, if we occupy this same inner space?