I thought I heard him say he was sick in mind. It didn’t sound like something he would say. How could I know what he would say next? He was supposed to attempt to say whatever came to mind. Sick in bed came to my mind. Why was I questioning his associations on the couch? My job was to listen. Perhaps he was judging himself for something he’d done either in reality or in his imagination or in both. Fantasy was important in this room. He’d stopped speaking. For how long had he been silent? His words, sick in mind, returned to me. I heard myself say aloud: “You sound sad, as if you believe that you are sick in mind and that you can’t recover from it.” “I feel as if I were in bed and I don’t want to get up.” Maybe he felt trapped, in his mind, in his body, and he experienced himself as helpless. Perhaps I felt trapped. Trapped and helpless reminded me of his words, sick in mind. Now I remembered more of what he’d said along with those words. The words had come to him in a dream, in which a man, who stood nearby in the darkness, said that he was sick in mind. Awake, on the couch, my patient seemed to believe the dream figure’s words. Was I somehow this figure in the darkness? I imagined myself lying down. Maybe the middle-aged man before me on the couch was ready to get to his feet and walk out the door. I would become the one sick in mind and unable to recover. Time was running out. In a few minutes we would separate until next time. Until then our focus would be his mind.
For a moment I was in the inner world of my narrator. It was a glimpse into his mind as he sat down in his chair behind the couch. I was there, with him. I was him. Then I became angry. For that moment I was in two places at once: in a psychoanalyst’s office in my imagination, and at my desk at home, where reality suddenly became unwelcoming. Maybe my narrator had the job I secretly wanted. I stood up from my desk. I knew all about his job. In my imagination, where Leo existed, I was a psychoanalyst. In reality, though, I’d never sat in Leo’s chair. I almost wrote: I’d never been on Leo’s couch. I stood alongside my desk. What was happening inside of me? I glanced at the bookshelves a few feet away, as if an answer to my question could be found in written words. Answers, in whatever partial form, could only be found inside myself. I’d learned that from my own experiences both as a client seated across from my psychotherapist and as a patient on the psychoanalytic couch. I’d experienced both forms of treatment. And I still needed help exploring my inner world. I was motionless alongside my desk. Another emotionally long day was coming to an end. Both Leo and I were psychotherapists. One was alive in my imagination, the other in reality. We needed each other. Were we the same person? I sat back down at my desk. This was my time to relax after work. Psychoanalysts didn’t have many patients on the couch these days. Most of them probably sat across from their clients or patients once or twice a week, like I did. So why had I become angry when I imagined myself in Leo’s chair behind the couch? It was a good question. Was I ready to listen to these written words from within?
Writing a novel whose narrator’s work was the same as my own complicated my real life more than I’d imagined possible. That’s what came to me in the shower this morning. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, as I tidied the bedroom before walking to my writing room at the other end of the hallway, I realized that caffeine wasn’t the only thing that had helped to change my state of mind since I’d sat down at my desk a couple of hours earlier to work on the first draft of what had yet to become a novel. I imagined that the writing itself had rearranged things in my mind. Things seemed to be moving around in my head in a more imaginative way than strong coffee could bring about on its own. My narrator had surprised me this morning at my desk. The paragraphs that seemed to write themselves on the screen moved me toward unexpected places. I pictured my narrator commenting on the previous sentence, as if he were an observer in my mind: isn’t that what’s supposed to happen during the creative process, that the writing itself moves the writer toward unexpected places in his imagination? My narrator and I had something important in common: both of us were writers and psychotherapists. This morning’s paragraphs were another attempt to create the opening scene of the novel. Maybe it was much more than an attempt. Perhaps I succeeded in providing glimpses of my narrator’s mental morning as he started his day working on his own novel and then walked to his consulting room where he would listen to others until evening. His consulting room was unlike mine. For some reason the appearance of the word unlike in my mind frustrated me, as if I had a choice which words came to me. Maybe I was envious of my narrator. My intuition seemed to say that wasn’t what frustrated me. There wasn’t a couch in his office. All of his clients (he didn’t use the word patient) sat across from him. My narrator, unlike me, was a Jungian psychotherapist. Was it hard for me to imagine a narrator who practiced psychotherapy in a different way than I did? Years ago I was a client in Jungian psychotherapy. So I knew something about it. Yet I felt somehow threatened by my narrator’s theoretical approach. All of this constituted a writing mystery, which I knew from experience the writing process was full of, and fortunately, I was feeling creative. I had a long day ahead of me. As I was about to leave home and walk to my office, I thought that perhaps my morning writing was my way of preparing myself for the mysteries of my other work, listening to and trying to understand other human beings. Both processes, that of writing and of psychotherapy, seemed to lead me to unexpected places every day.
Calmness appeared, disappeared, reappeared. My feet were touching the sidewalk. There was no screaming in my head. I knew what I was making contact with physically. What was controlling my imagination? Seconds earlier, the image had been clear: I was screaming in an empty field. Then an inner door seemed to close, which barred the screaming me from making contact with the rest of me. Contact as a form of communication seemed important. My feet were on the ground. It was 12:03 pm. The July midday sun reminded me that I was in a hurry to reach the door of our building. I didn’t want to sweat right before returning to my desk and to the editing work that would occupy my mind during the rest of the afternoon. In the previous sentence, I imagined writing: I didn’t want to scream right before returning to my desk. Some inner door had closed behind me. Where was the screaming me now? Seconds felt like an hour. I was so afraid of something that I had no idea what it was. A child me and an adult me appeared, they were as real as the sidewalk below my feet, and for a long second it was uncertain which one would scream. Maybe both of them would. I was lonely as a child, although I was too anxious ever to realize it. Years and decades passed, and I didn’t change. I wanted to write that nothing changed. “I” didn’t have to become part of this. Writing a sentence like the previous one was hard. It was painful to see how afraid I could be of even glancing at myself in the mirror. One moment I saw one thing, the next moment something different appeared. I walked a few more feet and glanced at my watch. It was 12:04 pm. The sidewalk remained below my feet. The screaming me would reappear or not reappear, in its own time.
Moments ago, pen in hand, I imagined painting what I was about to write. I’d never imagined painting words before. I’m wondering how I would paint the sentence that just appeared. How am I writing this sentence? Mind and body are mysteries. So far this experience with pen in hand, this blue ballpoint pen that I bought along with four others at a nearby art store last week moving across the page without lines as if on its own, has happened without struggle. Maybe that’s a bad thing. Then this last sentence, along with all of the preceding ones, disappears, as if it had never been written. This is how writing should happen, isn’t it? The word should in the last sentence makes me anxious since I’m just writing sentences. The real work behind the appearance of these words, one at a time, is in subjective reality beyond my control. Or so I believe. For some reason it’s hard to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing while I’m doing it. Such is the life of a writer, or it’s how I’m imagining my writing life right now. Who knows what images will come to me in a moment or two, when the blue ballpoint pen is no longer in my hand.
I was about to write myself a note in my journal so that I wouldn’t forget something when I wrote: I don’t want a vacation. Maybe part of me didn’t want a break from what I perceived as craziness in my head. Perhaps craziness would be too much for me to handle on my own. Sometimes I want to believe that there’s room for only one in my mind: the crazy one. These sorts of mental confrontations can be difficult to deal with in words. Maybe part of why I write in a journal is to help myself become aware of the conflicts in my mind. Imagining in words can do wonders to create inner calm, even if for only moments at a time. Time itself sometimes reveals new sides of itself to me in a single sentence. The work of writing a single sentence requires passion. I’m seeking something passionate in these sentences, or maybe passion is seeking me. Past and present tenses have become one. I no longer feel crazy. Maybe I’m ready for a mental vacation, if only for a moment. Soon part of me will want a break from calmness. Writing these sentences shows me, once again, that there’s room for more than one in my mind. It’s as if I can see my mind in action in this journal, one sentence and word at a time. Writing doesn’t let me forget where I am: in my own head and body. I imagine my body saying: you almost forgot about me. Craziness helps when words keep appearing as if the word end didn’t exist.
Three days ago I thought I lost my mind. Four days ago I thought I’d found it. Both of these mental events happened here, at my desk, which makes me wonder what might happen next. I thought that my mind, or body, or both, had become more predictable. Change doesn’t happen only outside of me. It also happens on the inside, where mystery prevents me from knowing with certainty what happens moment to moment. Am I curious to know what might happen next, or am I afraid to face the uncertainty of what kinds of inner experiences I’ll have today? Rigidity and frigidity come to mind. I don’t want to change how I experience my mind or my body. An unwelcome sentence arrives: this attitude sometimes leaves me cold or unimaginative, as if my mind and body were agreeing on something. What might that be? Perhaps that repetition likes things to remain the same. I almost wrote religion instead of repetition. In high school, I forgot what happened the day before religiously. Who wants to remember losing one’s own mind? Another word demands to appear on the page: congeal. As a high school student, fear seemed to block me from imagining and thinking. In this paragraph, I’ve struggled to form thoughts from images and words. Yet I don’t feel as if I’ve either lost or found my mind. It’s been here all along.