Seekers and Searchers

27 Apr

“I have always been a seeker, hunting for this or that as a cure or solution for the problems that bothered me,” asserted Dr. John Young to his newest patient. “I can never be absolutely certain what it is that will provide me the relief and happiness that I am after. It isn’t even clear to me that self-fulfillment and joy are the real targets that I am aiming at.”

“I don’t get your point, Doctor,” said Dan Right, the young man classified as suffering depression by his previous therapists, who had met with failure and referred him to John Young. The latter was seen as a last resort by those who had given up on unfortunate Danny, living in a morass of self-rejection and pain.

“I was never sure of my purpose in life, my purpose and my goal,” confessed the psychiatrist. “But one I determined what I had to strive for, I was able to progress beyond my earlier seeking to a stage of searching out the specific remedy that promised to be the means to the higher end that I could then keep in sight.

“Does what I say make sense to you, Dan?”

The patient sat in a soft chair of rubbery cushions. This therapist did not believe that old-fashioned couches were effect, because they tended to place the one who was afflicted lower in position than the person trying to provide them treatment.

John Young abhorred placing himself in a superior relationship to an individual he was attempting to help out of a psychological quagmire.

“Have you developed a definite idea of what it is you want out of life?” asked the therapist after a short pause without any response from the young patient.

“That is a difficult question to answer, Doctor. What do I think that I need above everything else? It would seem to be something as simple as attention. Yes, that’s what I want more than anything. Nothing else is as important to my inner satisfaction. I believe that I would be willing to do anything for that purpose. That has always been at the heart of why I act the way that I do. Yes, being at the center of focus is what I crave. That is what my heart yearns for. Attention from others has the highest of value for me. I have no doubts about that.”

“But you cannot tell me why it is that attention has become so vital to you, can you?”

Dan Right frowned. “That is the truth. I have no idea why I am that way.”

“That I am unable to do,” admitted the patient. “Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I find myself suffering from deep mental depression. It would be beneficial if I had more insight into myself, perhaps.”

The psychiatrist was silent for a short while, as if occupied with difficult thought.

“We must find some way for you to go beyond seeking for a purpose, to the level of having an idea of what you need and being able to search for it on your own. And you must learn not to be so dependent upon the attention of other people. Both achievements will help you to liberate yourself, my friend.”

Dr. Young looked forward with a degree of dread to the conference with his partners in practice set for that afternoon. From his first day here at the Wellness Institute he had learned how far he was out of step with his colleagues. This was most visible in the attitude he met with in the Director, Dr. Perry Holt.

The latter, a traditionalist in the treatment of neurotic mood disorders, took a dismissive stance toward the innovations of the most recent addition, John Young. He took every opportunity to belittle the type of “talking treatment” that John used with his patients.

The Director was the first to speak that afternoon.

“As you all know, we will be hosts to a public forum on neurotic mood therapy in two weeks, at which there will be presentations by most of our staff members on the progress made in recent years in the treatment of neurosis and personality disorders. Our profession of psychiatry has much to be proud of concerning the strides forward in the 2020’s. Here we are in 2033, and our clinics have marvelous methods that use deep stimulation by electromagnetic waves, so-called electronic and radio transmission into the organs of the brain. Our neurological science has the instruments for exact focus, and our knowledge tells us precisely where to target the transmitted signals.”

Dr. Holt looked up and down the long maple table where the psychiatric staff sat.

“Are there any volunteers for specific topics and subjects that promise to have interest for the general population that will be visiting the Wellness Institute?” he asked no one in particular.

John Young suddenly decided to challenge his supervisor. “I think that a presentation of patterned dialogue might be of interest to our visitors,” he proposed.

All eyes of the other therapists turned upon him. They all were puzzled by his bold offer. At last, the Director began to deal with the proposal made by John Young.

“That is a very interesting idea, but I think it should go much further. I propose, John, that you give a talk on the interconnections between the old talking methods of psychoanalysis and our modern technology that permits exact electronic transmission into specific locations of patients’ brains. That would be useful and most enlightening for the average citizen coming here to learn what we are doing. I myself will be glad to attend and hear what you say.

“Are you willing to give a combined talk on how deep stimulation and mood analysis can work in tandem for our depressive neurotics?”

What could John say to that? He reluctantly agreed to what the clever Director made out of his original proposal to speak about therapeutic exchange and conversation with patients.

The next session with Dan Right began with an astounding announcement by the patient.

“I have succeeded at reaching the goal that you set for me, Dr. Young. With a lot of mental effort, I came up with the concept of what I have been secretly seeking through all my inner torture and torment. It came to me like a sudden brainstorm, an epiphany of sorts.

“What I have been looking for is personal enlightenment. This has to be some state in which I comprehend the significance of why I was born and why I am now alive in this particular world. That has been my unseen, unknown purpose.

“Now that I know what it was that I sought, I can start going about attempting to find and obtain it.” He looked at the psychiatrist with gleaming, beaming eyes. “I think it is wonderful, Doctor. Thank you for pushing me in the direction that took me to this point of self-knowledge.”

John Young smiled with sublime satisfaction. “I am so happy for you, Dan. But you must not thank or praise me. It was you alone who carried out the enormous labor of finding what you need. Now, you can begin to look for the specific means of enlightenment that will suit your personality. Remember, you are unique. All of us are original individuals, unlike anyone else who has ever lived. Therefore, you will have to locate your own point of achievement for this new quest of yours.

“If finding out what you have been seeking has been hard, this new requirement will be even more difficult. But I am certain that you have the resources within you to identify and obtain whatever it is that will free and illuminate your mind and soul. It will happen in the days to come, believe me.”

The pair gazed at each other for a time.

“I am going to give you some yoga exercises from the Far East that I think will help you along in the next leg of your journey away from the pit of depression that you somehow fell into,” calmly said the psychiatrist.

John was typing up case notes on his computer keyboard when a loud knock came on his office door. “Yes?” he called, turning around in his swivel chair.

It was the face of Director Holt that looked in on him once the door opened a fraction.

“How are you coming along on the talk planned for public presentation?” said the executive in charge. “I hope that you can hold the audience’s attention and teach them the main features of the therapy we engage in.”

“I will try to do my best,” promised Dr. Young, abruptly turned his eyes back to his monitor screen.

When he looked back again, the door was closed and his tormentor gone.

The next appointment with Dan Right was packed with negative, disappointing surprises.

“I am not improving my mood, Doctor. Not at all. Every time I attempt to search for the enlightenment I need, there is failure and a let-down. Am I wasting my time? It looks to me that the task you gave me is an impossible one. How can I ever find a solution if it does not exist? Maybe my whole effort is going to end up being futile, something that will only make me feel worse and worse as time goes on.” He looked at his therapist with a troubled, desperate expression on his face. “Perhaps it would be best to give up something that is unrealistic and impossible. What do you think I should do now?”

John was at a loss as to what he should precisely say to the patient he had considered on the eve of major improvement and close to personal enlightenment.

“It is never good for anyone to just give up, Dan, either a doctor or a patient. Unless there is a better alternative available, there has to be a stubborn continuance of the program that has started. Yes, it may take more time than anyone initially anticipated, but there is no logical reason for ceasing the effort required. As in actual warfare, there must never be any surrender, none at all.”

The psychiatrist gave Dan Right what he considered a look of reassurance and encouragement, but he saw at once that it was not having the desired effect.

The search for mental enlightenment was, for some unknown reason, not working as it should.

“I am going to give you some advanced literature on how to inspire and uplift yourself on your own, Dan,” smiled the psychiatrist. “Although it seems a steep climb for you to make, once you know that you have obtained genuine enlightenment, you will know that it will never be lost. That means that there cannot be any reversal or backsliding from that point forward. You will have conquered your depression by transcending it, by flying upward over and out of the morass that your mind had been caught in.

“Do you understand what I am trying to tell you, Dan?”

The patient remained mum, merely staring at his psychiatrist as if waiting to hear what he knew would not be said.

“Don’t give up hope,” pleaded Dr. Young. “Remember the joy you experienced when you first knew that what you were seeking was enlightenment? You must never lose your memory of the happiness that occurred for you at that exact moment. That is what you must regain, as many times as necessary. Until your search for enlightenment is fulfilled and you are free of what enslaves your thought and emotions.

“I wish you rapid steps toward that goal, my friend.”

Both men realized the session was over and that no more was possible at the moment.

The day of the Wellness Clinic’s public exposition arrived, yet John felt himself unprepared for what he foresaw would be a difficult presentation he was scheduled to make. How could he adequately explain deep brain stimulation using high frequency electromagnetic wave vibrations if he sincerely believed that he had found and was using a much more effective method of treatment? What might be the personal repercussions upon himself should he be candid about his preference for traditional one-to-one exchange between psychoanalyst and patient?

He feared that he was on the verge of making his future employment at the Clinic untenable. How could he be dishonest if any of his listeners should ask him a controversial question about his evaluation of stimulation treatment for dysthymic mood depression?

The psychiatrist buckled up what courage he possessed and made his way to the room set aside for his lecture and the following question-and-answer period. He had decided he would speak without notes or a script. That seemed best, allowing his audience to watch him as he truly was, with his doubts and uncertainties.

John rushed to the lectern from which he was to speak. As he looked out at the rows of chairs, the first familiar face that he recognized was that of the Director, Perry Holt. Of course, it was expected that he would be present for this event. That man wishes to hear exactly what I happen to say here today, realized the one about to begin his talk.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as the program announced, I am going to describe the frontier on which depression is being treated today. In other words, the latest forward advances in this difficult area of psychotherapy, and what the prospects ahead appear to be for our profession.”

He stopped himself a moment, for he suddenly recognized the figure of his patient, Dan Right, sitting in the last row of seats, near the door of the room. At once, though, the interrupted lecture started again.

“You have probably heard of the improvements that have occurred in the application of deep brain stimulation. We no longer have to surgically cut and insert electrodes into the interior areas of gray matter. Our imagers are able to map out the locations that are sought with microscopic accuracy. And electromagnetic projection has advanced to a state where extremely small areas can be selected for targeting and treatment. Technology is now available that allows us to stimulate sections and sub-organs with phenomenal exactness.

“When it comes to treatment of dysthymic disorders such as neurotic depression, we know where it is most appropriate to aim the electrical force. It is that part of the limbic system that activates mood disorders. The technical name for this regulator of mood is complicated: it is the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. This is where our emotions are processed and regulated. It coordinates emotions with the sensory input that constantly enters the brain. Our conscious response to experiences, especially the unpleasant kind, arise in this location. Fear and negative reactions come about here, where there is a connection and communication with the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the brain stem. These can work in combination because of what, for short, is termed the cingulate gyrus.

“You need not remember all these neurological terms, but I can assure you that we have today a very detailed and accurate map of the inner brain and possess the technical means of reforming the emotional patterns within a patient.”

John glanced over to the Director, who appeared to be smiling triumphantly at what he was hearing from the psychiatrist he considered insubordinate. Had he discovered a clever trick by which to make him voice views that he had previously criticized and rejected?

“There are considerations, though, that I must mention to you because they throw a large shadow over the use of deep stimulation in the treatment of dysthymic depression. First of all, the method may have only temporary effects. The mood of total despair may return in time, sooner or later.

“The reason for such failure to reach finality is due to ignoring and overlooking an important consideration. Until the patient has worked out, on his or her own, a satisfactory thought structure that explains and rationalizes the end of depression there will not be a complete victory over the disorder in that person. In other words, deep brain stimulation can negatively remove emotions, but does not provide any intellectual substitute for what may be gone for a limited time. There can therefore be no complete cure through electromagnetic waves that carry a current.”

The speaker stopped and looked about his audience, noting that Perry Holt was glaring at him in fury.

“Are there any questions?” suddenly said John.

The individual who rose to his feet with almost a leap happened to be Dan Right. He began to speak even before he stood up completely.

“Doctor, is it possible that this method of stimulation with electronic waves could bring about an effect that would fall under the definition of enlightenment, if the right ideas simultaneously were born within the mind of a patient? I am thinking of an individual who may already have found within himself a need for such inner transfiguration through enlightenment.

“Could the energy received through stimulation become a spur to that person discovering the nature of his own original form of illumination? Could it perhaps empower the mind to accomplish what it was unable to carry to completion on its own, by itself?”

John was conscious of the intense stare at him by his patient.

The latter continued with an additional question. “Can deep brain stimuli be combined with self-exploration and understanding, sir?”

The psychiatrist hesitated, formulating thoughts that were newly connected in his mind.

“Yes,” he answered. “That is certainly worth exploring. The true function of the new technology may lie in its effect on patients seeking some higher goal such as you speak of. Thank you so much, my good friend.”

Why have I never conceived of such a combination myself? wondered Dr. John Young.

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