Analysis of Self

16 Dec

“I have always know the truth, Doctor, that there is more than one of me. An inside self is accompanied by an outside one. These two images are both separate and connected. Each one is like a mirror that is always reflecting what there is in the other.

“What does this idea of mine mean and signify, sir?”

Dr. Kley smiled at his patient, sitting close and opposite his office desk.

“I cannot say yet, but I interpret it as a sign of some inner division that is the cause of your conflicts and confusions, Richard. It will take us extended analysis and study to determine why it is that you sense such plurality concerning your personal identity. But it is very interesting that you yourself are conscious of this condition. Most of my patients over the years would have been completely ignorant of the situation.

“I want you to think deeply about the two yous, Richard. You will have all week to do that, till our next session which will be a week from today.

“We are going to explore the causes for what you just told me, and the results of this twin existence that you feel. Till we see each other again, Richard. I believe that you and I will make rapid progress in solving your problems of self-identity.”

Exhausted and emptied out, Richard returned to his three-room apartment on the periphery of the commercial center of the city.

After making and consuming a small vegetarian sandwich, he went to bed, intending to find a degree of solace and relief in unimpeded sleep. But instead of that, there came a long, unsuccessful period of restless turmoil and nervousness. He was unable to escape the torturous thoughts of mental division, tension, and conflict.

Was it a serious error to seek help from a professional therapist like Dr. Kley? he wondered. The man has seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of different patients. All that he is going to do is compare me to the others and make a kind of classification, putting me into a category system he has constructed in his mind.

How can something so abstract be of use to me and my troubles? Richard asked himself over and over.

At the end of a period full of anguish, a single conclusion formed in his thought: I must find the answer and solution on my own, because Dr. Kley is too wrapped up in his heavy case load to be able to discover what is hidden deep inside my two selves, the inner and outer regions of my self-identity.

With that idea in charge of him, Richard at last fell asleep.

As soon as the next consultation with his therapist began, the troubled patient expressed his frustration with the failure of his attempts to find the cause or the remedy for his identity problem.

“Try as I might, Doctor, my mind is unable to uncover the key to the terrible division within me. Which of these two portions is the true one? Which identity is my genuine self, the fundamental ground, and which one is secondary?”

Dr. Kley looked with warm sympathy at Richard. “It is a complicated, difficult question that is vexing your mind, my friend. But you are not the sole individual suffering this duality. It is everywhere and has always affected humans. There is nothing new in the burden that you are bearing.

“I have been thinking about what you told me your last time here. Perhaps it is possible for me to clear up some of your painful division. Let me tell you what I have come to believe about the human personality and mind.” He paused a moment, gazing intently at the anxious Richard. “Identity for any single person is basically a product of his or her imagination.”

Kley stopped talking for a time, searching the face of the other for any reaction or effect his words had produced. All he saw was confusion and haziness there.

“I don’t understand you, Doctor. I have no idea what you mean, none at all.”

The face of the psychological psychiatrist turned rocklike and serious.

“Each of us, consciously or unconsciously, is the primary creator of his or her sense of identity. We build and design the mask we show to others and that we also take to be ourselves. I admit and confess that I myself did not recognize such imaginative self-creation to have been the framework of my own self-idea. But now that I know of it, it is possible for me to apply the concept of self-construction through reflective imagination in the mind.

“Richard, you are no different from me or anyone else. If you think deeply about how you came to have a dual self-picture, you will become able to live with it. That is my advice to you: attempt to reconstruct your double image into a single, consistent, unified image of who you are.

“Will you try to achieve such a goal, my friend?”

The patient lowered his eyes. “It looks like I will have to, sir.”

Richard was more lost than ever after absorbing what his doctor had told him.

He was a person unable to hold and carry out a fulltime job of any sort, living on the limited means left him by his late parents and a small stipend paid to him because of the disability stemming from his mental condition.

The rest of the day and the evening he grappled with the riddle that Dr. Kley had perhaps inadvertently presented him.

If it is true that self-identity is a fiction and creature that one unconsciously constructs for oneself through a mysterious process of imaginative invention, then why did he himself produce a dualistic double conception of himself? Why would a person sabotage and divide his thought with such harmful, self-destructive thinking?

Is there something unnaturally illogical or absurd in my very character? Richard pondered. What could it possibly be? he asked, torturing his mind to a degree that made it extremely difficult to fall asleep that night.

The week until his next appointment with the therapist did not seem to hold any hope for answers that might relieve his pain and confusion.

“I have not found an answer to the dilemma that I face,” said Richard with profound sadness in his voice and in his eyes. “Despite many hours of thought, there was no clear explanation of this duality to which I seemed to be condemned. My situation makes no logical sense at all.

“I tell myself that, of course, it is what injures and damages me every single day of my life. The double aspects of identity are the cause of my confusion and suffering. It is the basis of unending self-torture, I confess to myself.

“But there is no outside force that is creator of the problem. No, it is exactly as you revealed to me a week ago: I am the originator of what is destroying my life. It must be some invisible factor within my mind that makes me into my own enemy.

“Why else do I persist in thinking of myself as divided into what are quarreling, separated foes? My inner and outer selves are in complete war against each other, and my mind is the primary victim of their merciless conflict.

“I cannot understand why that should be so, Doctor.

“Can you provide me any sort of explanation?”

The two men stared at each other for a considerable time. It was the psychiatrist who spoke at last.

“I might speculate on the reason for the stubborn hold that duality exercises over your self-image, Richard. It might be some small thing that neither you nor I have yet thought of. Perhaps there is some simple influence that remains invisible to both of us. I would be guessing if I attempted to give it a name or describe it in any way.

“Forgive me for my limitations as an analyst, but I do not have the answer for the origin of your double identity. It is a mystery for both of us.”

“What am I to do, then?” said Richard weakly.

“You must continue striving and seeking for the answer, my friend. I believe that the final, true answer lies hidden somewhere within your mind.”

Edward Kley had never before been so stymied by the difficulties of getting to the roots of what haunted the mind of a patient.

Why was it impossible to deal with the doubled sense of self within Richard?

The psychiatrist, like the suffering patient himself, could not find sleep with any ease that evening.

What is making my own education and experience ineffective in this particular case? Edward repeatedly asked himself as he lay in his darkened bedroom.

What is so uniquely opaque about the mind of poor Edward?

Why am I myself so helpless with this puzzle presented to me?

Nothing that he consciously knew seemed to be of any practical use.

Could the answer lie in some dark corner where neither he nor Richard happened to be looking? Was the solution there in the unexamined shadows of a mind?

The psychotherapist realized that he had a sleepless night ahead of himself.

As he did every morning upon waking up and getting out of bed, the haggard, unrested Edward Kley went to the computer monitor in his living room to check for any overnight e-mail that might have come in.

He was startled when he saw who the sender of the only message happened to be.

The person communicating something was Richard, his patient troubled by ambiguity and duality of selfhood.

The brief note from him shook the psychiatrist with its startling content.

“I have solved my puzzle on my own. The answer occurred to me this morning, in the wee hours before dawn. All humans are beings with a double character and nature, but very few ever realize or acknowledge that truth. I do, and now understand myself to be nothing more than an exaggeration, a magnification of what in most people is well hidden from themselves and from others. I shall not need your assistance any more and cancel all future sessions with you. That makes sense in case I succeed in fulfilling my present need for my own death through sudden, simple suicide. I am not absolutely sure whether I shall take action to end my inner conflict. After all, I have always been and remain a man of inconsistency and duality. Thank you for what you have done for me, Richard with the divided identity.”

That was the last communication the therapist ever had with this particular patient. The pair never again saw each other.

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