Winds of the Mind

4 Jan

Harmattan is a commercial city on the border between the desert to the west and the grass prairie to the east. High mountains ring these two flat zones on three sides. To the south lies the turbulent monssoen sea. ever-changing weather was a constant factor in the life of the metropolis.

Dr. Argestes came at a young age from the northeast uplands to set up his psychological practice in downtown Harmattan. In his own mind, he developed theoretical ideas he dared not publish for his professional colleagues to read. But the situation changed once a merchant named Caecias visited his office for therapeutic treatment. This case of deep cyclothymia changed the course of the doctor, setting him in a direction not anticipated by his scientific mind.

The story began the morning that the slender scarecrow came to the office of the psychotherapist, situated over a reptilian restaurant in a neighborhood of small shops. No nurse or receptionist greeted the stranger wearing a yellow plaid coat and pants.

“You must be Mr. Caecias. Come into my interview sanctum. I have read over the reports of your physician and find them extremely interesting.”

“What is it that he calls me in his diagnosis?” asked the new patient.

Argestes smiled. “I’m glad you are so interested in such matters as that. Come into the other room. I will tell you what I already know.”

Caecias followed the analyst into a spare chamber with a small holmwood table and soft cushion chairs on opposite sides. “Please be seated,” whispered Dr. Argestes.

Once the pair were comfortably situated, the psychologist began to speak.

“Whether accurately or not, your physical doctor labels you a melancholiac. But I am doubtful if that hits the mark. Physicians without experience of emotional disorders sometimes leap to unwarranted conclusions. In other words, they mislabel patients.”

“Did that happen to me?” inquired Coecias. “Am I here by error?”

“I must first learn more about you, my friend. Do you deny feelings of negativity and gloom?”

“No, but that is not the whole story. If I have lows, I also soar to heights. If I fall, there are also flights to the top. Frequent variations occur in me.”

“How often do such changes occur?” asked the other.

“I never time these variations in how I feel, but I can sense them when they happen to me. There are moments of optimistic exuberance, no doubt of that. Brooding in melancholy comes to an end and is replaced by sudden buoyancy of mood. I cannot explain it, but I am aware of experiencing great change in either direction.”

“Does this pattern in your mind go back a long distance, Caecias?”

“As far in the past as I have memories, sir.”

“That is amazing!” said the analyst. “Your records describe the lows of depression, but not a word about their opposite.”

“I have never been asked about such high feelings. Let me tell you about some of these joyful mental excursions of mine.”

For the remainder of the session, Argestes listened to the personal history of his patient from early childhood on.

When they were finished, Coecias left with an appointment to return in two days.

This is exactly the right person with whom to test my general ideas, the doctor had decided already.

The opportune moment for presenting the proposition came near the middle of their second hour together for analysis.

“For a considerable time I have been thinking about a certain project that demands a willing person under my care as a volunteer subject. You have been a candidate for enlistment in the venture since you came here to me for help. If you agree to take part, the result may very well turn out to be marked improvement in your clinical condition. I give no guarantee, of course, because the program I have in mind will be an experiment.

“I am inviting you, Caecias, to join me in a pioneering adventure.”

The astonished patient found himself nearly speechless.

“I don’t understand,” he stuttered. “What are you talking about?”

Argestes drew a full breath, then provided an explanation.

“What you are suffering from goes far beyond the anxiety of dysphoria or the depression of dysthymia. It resembles a life lived on two different planes of existence. You show signs of both isolated automania and hysterical deliration, but at different times. There occur in you periods of introversion and withdrawal fom the world. But there also exist episodes of manic obsession and neurotic cacoethes. In layman’s terms, you run hot and cold, up and down, buoyant and dispirited.

“Some psychotherapists refer to this malady as schizothymia, I myself prefer to call it cyclothymia. A revolving wheel of emotions,from one extreme to the other. Over and over, your psyche travels the same circle, always returning to the same path and the same conditions.”

“Yes,” nodded Caecias. “That has been the story of my life.”

The analyst grew speculative and abstracted.

“It is recognized by everyone in our field that the surrounding environment is the most fundamental factor creating these cycles of emotion. But what is the primary force involved? I have thought hard for a number of years about that riddle. One conclusion has become firm in my thinking: here on the desert and the plain, nothing else surpasses the influence of the weather. And what is the main creative force behind it? The wind is.

“The several major winds that blow over our land turn the wheel of cyclothymia. Of that I am now certain. I believe that these winds that assail us possess hidden potential to cure the mind, as well.”

Caecias gaped at him, frozen and unable to say anything as the doctor went on.

“I ask you to join me on an investigative tour over both the plain and the desert. The purpose will be to expose you directly to the influence of the winds blowing from different directions. It will enable me to test for positive and negative effects on your illness. Will you become a part of my experimental journey?”

The patient nodded his head vigorously. His hopes had been raised high by this proposal.

Dr. Argestes assigned his patients to other psychoanalysts for six months, except for Caecias. He closed his office and set off with his test subject in the merchant’s private cruiser.

They headed for the southern desert, making for the oasis town of Notus. Here they found rooms in a small, untidy hotel of estuco and adobe.

The therapist explained his plan over a late prandium in the adjacent eatery.

“Within the next several days, there begins the torrid desert wind called the khamsin. It blows with sultry force for about fifty days. In that period, many desert roads become impossible because of the deep drifts. We shall attempt to avail ourselves of the khamsin.”

“How can we do that?”

“By driving directly out into the path of the wind,” answered Argestes.

Early on the first morning of the warm southern breezes, the pair started out on the main beton roadway, into the wind. Piles of yellow sand formed on the hard surface, till it became difficult for Caecias to steer ahead. Visibility fell to almost nothing. Finally, the driver had to stop the cruiser and wait for the wind to subside somewhat.

“How are you feeling?” suddenly asked the passenger beside him.

Caecias spoke with his eyes fixed on the khamsin sandstorm forming before them.

“What can I say to draw an accurate picture? I feel desolate and abandoned. Why has the world forsaken me this way? Here I sit with a head doctor in the rampaging desert. I have come to the realization that I am helpless and hopeless. What can any variety of weather do for a person as lost as me? I am lonely and deserted as the wasteland’s sand. My name should be that of the empty barrens, for that is what I feel myself to be. I am as much a nothing as the useless land out there is.”

“Your despondency has deepened,” said the therapist. “It’s best we turn around and try to return to Notus.”

Caecias, at the wheel, accomplished just that.

The two travelers made a long trip into the eastern grasslands, finally stopping at the agricultural center of Eurus. The town was packed with planters carrying out their early spring shopping for tools and seed before the arrival of the vernal wind named the sharaqa.

“This easterner is also called the poison wind by the farmers in the region, for it can bring an oppressive warmth along with its welcome rain,” explained Argestes to his charge over supper in the cheap inn where they were forced by circumstance to stay.

“When does the sharaqa strike hereabouts?” asked Caecias.

“Weather reports over etherwave say it is speeding in this direction,” answered the doctor.

“Early tomorrow morning, we can drive straight east on the agricultural highway. Sooner or later, we will be meeting the spring wind, I believe,” said the patient.

They rose early, starting out on the still empty highway, fields of winter avena and cebada on both sides of the road. Soon the planting of trigo and mahiz was scheduled to start.

Dark rain clouds moved from the eastern horizon, obstructing the rays of dawn.

All at once, sheets of downpour began falling from above.

Argestes opened the top of his window a little. Warm, oppressive air sped past the cruiser.

A strange, unfamiliar sound came from the left side where the driver sat. It was mad laughter, cascading into a thickening crescendo. There seemed to be no end to it.

As the rain became heavier, the sound took on the tone of hysteria.

It is the high, manic phase of his cycloid personality, thought the psychoanalyst to himself. The wind out of the east is having the opposite effect from the southern khamsin.

The laughter continued, until Caecias began to cough from the muscular exertion forced upon him by the emotion that had seized hold of him.

Seeing what the result here was, the doctor decided he had witnessed enough.

“Let’s go back to Eurus,” he advised. “We have seen enough of the wind and the storm.”

When the pair reached Harattan, Agestes took the cyclothymic to his office and announced a decision he had made on their return home.

“We need an abeyance of our research for about six months. I want time to digest what we have so far and calculate our future moves. As of now, my plan is to go north when the autumn weather comes down. The wind to be tested then is the cold bora. It has fierce, violent force at its height. Snowstorms occur when it blows. They call it the master wind up in the northern prairie because it takes over and rules over everything.

“My aim is to find out what its emotional impressions will be upon you.”

A dark frown crossed the brow of the merchant.

“Wait six months or more? What shall I do in the meantime? I’ve sold my shop and all its wares. Going back into business is impossible. What effect do you think a long suspension will have on my illness? What can I expect in the near future?”

Agestes gave him a hard, stern look. “I can continue with conventional treatment for you.”

“You mean standard analysis,” declared the patient. “But that will surely be inadequate. What do I do meantime? Wait for our project to start again?” His face was an angry red by now. “And where do you propose to take me in the future? What chance exists that the bora can save me from this terrible cycle of mine? Do I sleep the next six months, until we go out on the road once more?”

The doctor, stretching out his right arm, placed his hand on that of the man who had become his partner in the search for the truth.

“Do not despair, my son,” he murmured in a soft, gentle voice. “We must hope to find that truth.”

Coecias drew back his hand. Turning about abruptly, he fled from the office with angry indignation.

Agestes did nothing for a long time after the patient left. Where do I turn now? he asked himself.

Two regions tested so far, two different winds. But no discovery of new knowledge or method. Why these failures? he wondered. Why did my subject rebel against me and my theory about the influence of winds?

The mind of the doctor kept returning to one, single point.

My experiment with Coecias is over and must not be renewed. And I shall not try this with anyone else. How could I with any hope of success?

No, the theory is a failure and so am I.

The journey with my patient is over and must be forgotten as soon as possible.

Something that Coecies did not understand drove him to take his cruiser into the western desert, advancing farther and farther into the sandy void.

At a certain point, he stopped and climbed out, walking ahead slowly toward the horizon.

A sense of discovery descended on him, for he now proceeded into a wind from out of the west, the zephyrus. Mild and gentle, it contained a refreshing, invigorating moistness. The welcome breeze brought him harmony and equilibrium. A feeling that he finally fit into something greater, that he deserved to rest and relax.

This is it, what we sought in so many other places, in the other winds.

Not a thundering wind, but a soft and pleasant one.

Coecias decided to keep the secret he had found all to himself. That seemed wise and reasonable.

Hadn’t Dr. Argestes told him he was giving up his scientific quest? Had he not concluded that the new type of therapy with the wind was a proven failure?

Coecias never told anyone what had happened when the right wind blew down upon him.

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