Subject: Catherine White
Date/Time of Visit: Tuesday, 9th Sept 2014/11 am
In the following I will attempt to give a detailed account of today’s therapy session with Ms White. I do not use recording devices during my sessions with my subjects and therefore rely on my memory, which on this occasion I can be sure is fresh as I have gone straight into the privacy of my study after Ms White’s departure to write these notes.
The Blue Sky Room is unfurnished with the exception of the recent addition of five large straight-backed leather armchairs which are arranged in a circle.
Each chair has a different colour. They are in clockwise order white, blue, red, yellow, and black.
Asked to pick a chair to sit in, Ms White proceeded to take a seat in the yellow armchair, then rose from it as though stung by a nettle and lowered herself into the black armchair.
I entered the circle myself and sat down in the blue chair.
Ms White’s posture was rigid and tense, her breathing fast and agitated.
I started the therapy session with the usual grounding exercise, which is aimed at establishing a pure focus on the present moment effectively removing pollution of the subject’s mind through linear thinking which is otherwise constantly at work and attempting to derive the perception of the present from thoughts or events of the past as well as from anticipated future events or circumstances.
This exercise involves concentrating the mind fully on the sensation of having one’s feet placed firmly on the ground. It works best with legs slightly apart, arms resting on the arms of the chair lightly not allowing the hands to touch the leather too firmly, and eyes closed.
It had been a rather successful and effective exercise with Ms White in the past.
Today, however, she refused to change her posture, leaving her knees and ankles pressed together. Her fingertips were digging into the soft leather of the arms of the black chair. She did close her eyes when prompted to do so, and I decided to proceed with the exercise, hoping that in the course of its five-minute duration Ms White’s tense posture would relax and her mind be cleared from whatever it was that was troubling her.
It troubles me to have to put to record that today the objective of this simplest of exercises was not achieved. Three minutes into the guided meditation I observed that Ms White’s hands released their tight grip, but instead of resting them loosely on the arms of the chair she lifted them off the arm rests and brought them together in front of her. She did keep her eyes closed and her breathing appeared to have slowed.
Her legs started to tremble, and soon her entire body was trembling. She was wringing her hands. Her eyes remained closed, eyelids trembling also as was her mouth. Tears started running down her cheeks from under her eyelids, black rivulets of mascara tinted salt water cascading down her pale skin and dripping off her chin onto her white blouse. A semicircle of black inky splatters forming there as she was rolling her head from side to side.
Fearing that she had gone into some nightmarish trance, whilst at a complete loss as to how a simple grounding exercise could provoke such a state in anyone, I snapped my fingers and spoke as calmly as I could master the words “Wake up, open your eyes and find yourself returned to this present moment and the safety which it holds for you at this precise moment in time.”
At this her lips parted and formed into the shape of an O, from the depths of her lungs came forward a raspy, hollow sound so unlike the pitch at which I had heard her speak during previous visits to my clinic that my own mind experienced a fleeting moment of dark despair.
I snapped my fingers once again, “Wake up, Ms White, please. You are safe here and now.”
She opened her eyes and shrank back into the chair bringing her knees up to her chin, embracing her legs with her arms. “You are wrong.”
Her normal pitch of voice had returned but her hazel eyes were clouded and she avoided looking at me, instead focusing on the glass frame above my head which contains an art piece by my late wife in which she had incorporated the leg bone of a chicken. I waited for her to continue.
“How can the here and now be a safe place, when it is not built on a remembered past? How can it be safe, when the future cannot be imagined and planned against the backdrop of the past? My here and now is black and cold. Do you know the past of this chicken bone? I am sure you do and in a small or maybe even big way it will have contributed to who you are right here and right now. You told me your late wife created this piece. You remember your past with your wife and your past with family and friends. I don’t remember anyone from before my accident last year. I was found not far from here, but you know this. You would have read the papers at the time, even though we never spoke about this during our sessions.”
Ms White stood up and reached into her trouser pocket. She removed something from it which she held in a clenched fist as she took a few steps toward me. She turned her fist over and opened it. In the palm of her hand lay a chicken bone much like the one in the frame above my head.
“Did you know that they found this on me, in one of my jacket pockets, when they searched my clothes for clues as to who I am? They didn’t think it was important, but maybe it was. I need to find out who I was so that I can know who I am. When I first saw this frame here, I thought maybe there is a connection between us somewhere in the past, that maybe you can help me remember someone from my past. But you can’t or won’t. It goes against your principles. Are these principles convenient for you? You don’t have to care that way, it’s obvious that you don’t care.”
I tried to reason with her, explaining that it is not my field of expertise to bring the past forward in the mind of my subjects be it from hidden depths or from well-remembered hills and valleys traversed prior to the presence in the here and now.
She let herself collapse into the red chair with an air of abandon and fresh tears started flowing. “You just really so don’t care,” she said, “Does it not make you feel fake? What do you get from all this? Some weird sort of pleasure from controlling your subjects’ thoughts by introducing bleak emptiness into their minds?”
She assumed a fetal position in the chair beside me and I will have to admit here that I broke protocol at this point and laid what was intended to be a calming hand on her.
“Take your hands off me,” she shouted, “Don’t touch me. You are cold, you make me cold.”
“I see that I cannot help you at this present time, Ms White, but please consider seeking the help of a very good man who has excellent skills in the analysis of a person’s makeup and has successfully helped many of his patients to remember hidden and often painful past events and to not only render them sufferable to the individuals but to turn them into the building stones of strength for their present situation and a future which holds promises of self-realisation.”
I gave her Dr John Lanigan’s card and asked her to ring his practice and make an appointment. If anyone can help her, it will be John. I hope that she will seek him out, but I am not sure she will. In her present state of mind she may not want to do anything I suggest to her. Her departure was markedly aggressive in that she flung the chicken bone at MJ on her way out through the reception area shouting “I hate you” at her.
© Ash N. Finn, 2016