Fractured Minds

28 Dec

Small-sized passenger cars carried passengers up Gbirg Mountain to pastoral villages and the famous mental sanatorium situated at the end of the narrow gauge railroad, closest habitation to the snow-covered peak.

The tall, slender, dark young man sitting in the back of the car watched as local people in country clothes got off at the three stops that the train made. Only a small, squat woman in city duds was left as final stop was all that remained. She faced the young man, but tried to avoid looking directly into his face.

“My name is Fred Gluck,” he smiled at her. “I am going up to stay for awhile at the Clinic of Gbirg.”

She said nothing and seemed indifferent to his introduction of himself.

“I will have the famous Dr. Elmo Hoch as my assigned therapist. He has a high reputation in his profession, many people have told me. They say that I am fortunate to be able to make use of his talents and experience. I am placing an enormous amount of hope in what the man can do for me.

“Our local psychiatrists have classified me as an unstable, variable personality who lacks permanent, harmonious structure or consistency. Have you ever heard of any case such as mine?”

The young woman continued to remain silent. She seemed to be unaware of what he had been revealing to her.

The train gradually slowed and came to a stop. From the windows on the left side, the great stone building of the Clinic resembled a medieval castle of some sort.

“It looks as if we have arrived,” muttered the other passenger, rising from the bench seat she had been sitting on. She moved to the front exit out of the car, not looking back at her fellow patient as she descended out onto the cold ground of the mountain.

Elmo Hoch preferred to sit at his mahogany desk while the patient being questioned lay back on a soft couch, partially sitting and partially resting.

The bearlike therapist smiled at Fred as he asked him to describe as best he could his reasons for coming for help to the Gebirg Clinic.

“I have always suffered severe volatility in my emotional life,” began the black-haired young man. “In my home town of Dort, the psychiatrists who tried to deal with me termed me a person suffering from a cycloid personality. My feelings ran up and down, hot and cold, in and out. They seemed to rotate around in complete circles. And my problem has grown ever greater, troubling everything I do in my life.”

The patient looked at Dr. Hoch with desperation all over his pale face.

“Yes, all your records reveal that same diagnosis: a hyper-cyclemic personality disorder, a total lack of unity or consistency in your emotional life.

“It is a condition that is found throughout modern society, and I have had to deal with a long series of patients with the same inner condition as the one that plagues you, my friend.”

Fred frowned. “Is there any way to reverse the spiraling disaster that I suffer? Each cycle of emotional turmoil grows more serious. My swings, back and forth, become increasingly wide and drastic.”

The therapist gave him an unwavering stare. “We will have to work together. For now, I am going to prescribe several sedatives that should relax all your nerves. In a few days, I shall give you the results of a detailed study that I plan to make of all your past records.

“Do not lose hope, Fred. We will map out a path to inner balance and emotional harmony for you. That is my promise.”

Late that afternoon, Hilda Koln occupied the couch that Fred Gluck had rested on earlier that day. She wore a plain, simple black dress and no cosmetics at all.

“Why is it that I have no friends, Dr. Hoch? What is it that makes me so anti-social? People back home called me a recluse after both of my parents passed away. I became accustomed to living by myself and for myself, and that was perfectly alright with me.

“But I know that my desire to be always alone by myself is not normal. I fear and despise all my neighbors and avoid all but the rarest social contact with everyone and anyone.

“Is it possible to make myself a person who can live together with other persons? Can you help me to break out of the closed shell I seem to be living in?”

“You suffer from extreme self-absorption within the strings and ribbons of your personality structure,” responded Dr. Hoch in a calming tone of voice. “Much of that may have settled into you as an only child. Tell me this: did you have friends and playmates, or were you mostly alone or among adults like your parents?”

Hilda hesitated several seconds before replying.

“Yes, I did not know or befriend others my age, not at all. I became absorbed in reading books and playing alone, by myself. I believe that I even invented other children with whom I could talk.

“I fell into the habit of talking to myself, of answering my own questions. It was a very odd way to grow up, and it shaped who and what I have become, Doctor.”

“It was the natural result of the circumstances you were in,” he thoughtfully declared. “We will have to help you transcend such awful early experiences. I will do my best to assist you in that, Hilda.”

The forty or so patients ate their meals in a large, common dining room that overlooked the valley below the Gebirg Mountain. This was where Fred Gluck was assigned to a table where he sat opposite Hilda Koln, introducing himself to her at the first late afternoon dinner that the pair shared together.

He could not but notice how much the pretty young woman avoided talking about herself with a stranger sharing her table.

“I live in Dort, where I worked for several years in the Finance Department of the city,” he informed her. “I have taken a long leave so that I could come here to the Clinic.”

It was difficult for him to catch sight of her eyes, she flitted them about so much from side to side, as well as up and down.

Their dinner plates were brought to them by staff members, and the two set themselves to finishing their pork cutlets, mashed potatoes, and green salad.

Hilda kept her face down, her eyes focused on the food in front or her.

Eating more rapidly than she was, Fred finished first and surprised her by beginning to describe his personal psychological problem.

“I am here because my disorder has been diagnosed as a cycloid one,” he told the uncommunicative Hilda. “Are you familiar with that designation? It means that my emotions are volatile and changeable in a single moment of time. You see, I have read the book that Dr. Hoch has written on that particular subject. There is a lot, though, that I still fail to understand about what he says about it. My hope is that he will explain the difficult portions of his theory, and I can obtain therapeutic benefit from such deeper knowledge of what ails me.”

“Dr. Hoch is also treating me,” announced Hilda, gazing into his face and eyes. “But I know next to nothing about any book of his or its contents. Do you think it would help me if I did any reading like that you speak of? Is there anything about extreme isolation and social fears in the book that you talk about?”

Fred smiled in a calm, pleasant manner. “There may well be, but I do not remember for certain. Perhaps I can locate a copy of it somewhere here at the Clinic and provide it for you. Would you be interested in seeing what it says on your problem?”

She looked away from him, to her right. “Yes, I believe that I would,” she mumbled as if from a distance.

Fred succeeded in finding the volume he was after in the Patient Library in the special recreational section of the dormitory wing.

The next morning, he presented the book to Hilda at the early breakfast hours when the dining hall was packed with hungry patients.

“You will discover this work to be highly enlightening concerning the way that the human mind and personality grow and form,” he told Hilda as they finished their scrambled eggs and pancakes. “I know much more about what can go wrong with the thoughts and the emotions of ordinary people, both the normal ones and those with problems of various sorts, like the patients who have come to the Clinic.”

“That sounds most interesting,” she said in a subdued tone. “I have an appointment to see Dr. Hoch this afternoon and am curious about what he might tell me about myself.”

“That might be the appropriate time for you to ask him to explain the nature of your problem, Miss. I am sure that he would be very happy to provide you with knowledge of the cause or causes of what is bothering and hindering you in a personal sense.

“From his book, I myself obtained a clearer concept of how the human personality operates. Dr. Hoch provides the reader a systematic explanation of how our psychic energy creates the idions of thought and feeling within us. These basic units of the mind form themselves into strings and ribbons that are the building blocks of all of our individual personalities. The idions are forever vibrating, faster or slower, stronger or weaker.

“But there can be blockages that impede and halt these units, as well as sudden emotional flooding and spilling over. In cases such as mine, cyclical imbalances arise that lead to states of inner chaos. That is the root of my own troubles, according to the Doctor’s theory.

“I am certain that there must be imbalances in personalities that suffer anti-social feelings and emotions, as well.

“My advice to you is to inquire about that when you see Dr. Hoch.”

Hilda gave a slight nod, whispering “I think I will.”

Dr. Hoch was surprised by the request that the young female patient made of him at their session together.

“Is it possible for me to obtain for myself genuine insight and understanding of what I suffer from, Doctor?”

“What do you mean, Hilda?” asked the latter. “What are you getting at?”

She looked directly at him. “I have gotten hold of your book on psychotherapy and the way that the personality can become tied up in difficult knots. Would it in any way be helpful for me to know what makes the human thoughts and feelings go off the track and lose their way? Would greater knowledge on my part be helpful to what you are trying to do for me and my isolation from other persons?”

Hoch did not give a reply at once.

“I can’t rightly say for sure,” he equivocated. “It some instances it facilitates what the therapist is doing, but in others it does not succeed.”

“What is best for me, then?” she said, furrowing her brow.

“I think you should ask me about what you happen to read, Hilda. That way, I can include your growing knowledge in what I am attempting to accomplish with you. It could make it easier for both of us, I believe.”

Hilda suddenly gave a smile. “I shall, then, plow through the book that you wrote about the personality and its many possible problems.”

Fred became excited by Hilda’s report on her session with Dr. Hoch when the two conversed after dinner, in the lounge room where patients congregated to read or watch tape-screens.

“You are taking the right attitude toward your treatment,” he said with a confident grin. “Whatever is going to happen from your therapy with him, the results depend primarily on you attitude toward yourself and whether you can affect your own personality and its internal imbalances.

“That is what I have learned from my reading of the book that Dr. Hoch wrote about his personal theory concerning human thought and feelings.

“He believes that the most important idea that we hold is the concept we create about our own character and being. So, the perfecting of any particular self depends upon that individual self, for the most part.”

“Yes,” replied Hilda with a nod. “I have come to accept that idea of his through reading further in the volume. Tonight, I plan to continue on. In a short while, the whole book will be in my head and part of me.”

Fred gave her a smile. “I already have accepted that idea of taking charge of my own reformation into a new person,” he said with pride.

At his next hour with Fred Gluck, Doctor Hoch met with unexpected problems with his patient.

“How are you coping with your emotions on your own?” he asked the young man.

“I feel enormous frustration, sir. Whenever I think that I am making some degree of progress in reconstructing my habits of thinking and feeling, a moment comes when everything seems to recede and fall back to where my condition was before.

“I have read your book on personality disorders, Doctor, and I have concluded that there is a tide of inner idions within me that rises, then falls. It moves forward, then returns backwards.

“Is there any cure for these continual, unending waves that make a chaos of my mind and my emotions? Do you know any way that I can even out these wavering currents and permanent inner vibrations of mine?”

“You must never let yourself be flooded with despair at the enormity of the task of your reshaping, my dear fellow. It is not at all easy to do, but takes a lot of time and gigantic effort on your part.

“I can only assist you, for the main labor is in your own hands.”

“I am truly trying,” murmured Fred. “But I know that I need something from outside to provide me strength and support.” He gazed with a forlorn expression at the broad face of his therapist.

“Hold on to what we have so far achieved,” smiled Dr. Hoch. “We have a long road ahead to travel together.”

Fred and Hilda sat together at a table all to themselves for three meals each day. They also took walks together in the garden of mountain flowers and greenery surrounding the Clinic building.

A new, changed mood with fresh energy in it became visible in his companion, Fred came to realize.

She spoke to him with a confidence he had not seen at the start of their friendship with each other.

“I noticed something that Dr. Hoch put in his book that you may not have picked up, Fred. It is interesting that he refers to his patients as fractured personalities. It is perhaps a very small detail, but it impressed me as significant.

“Maybe that is the one thing that we all have in common: our minds and feelings are compartmentalized, broken up and almost atomized.

“That could be the factor that distinguishes us from so-called normal and average people.

“Each aspect of our thoughts and feelings is separated and isolated. Does that make sense to you?

“We are highly fractured beings in which each part is distant from the other ones.

“Does that concept mean anything, Fred?”

“I will have to think it through, Hilda,” he replied in a soft, faraway tone.

Fred enjoyed only minutes of genuine sleep that night, his mind consumed with consideration of what Hilda had told him that she had discovered in the book written by the psychiatrist whom they shared.

He pondered the possible implications of the concept of fracturing of the human personality. Could such a condition lie at the origin and causation of mental disorders such as what he himself happened to be suffering?

Did the idea of a fractured personality have any useful value in personality treatment? Fred asked himself without finding any definite answer to the query.

The following morning, though sleepy and groggy from lack of true rest, he appeared at the Doctor’s office for his scheduled session.

“How did you sleep last night, Fred?” began the therapist with a smile.

“I had a difficult time, with very little rest,” frowned the patient. “There was something hard and difficult on my mind. It kept me awake nearly all night.”

Hoch stopped smiling and focused his eyes and mind on the cycloidal person he had treated for a considerable time.

“What is it that is bothering you so much, Fred?” he said with alarm.

“I looked through the book that you wrote and I came upon the idea of the personality suffering a fracturing into bits and parts. You wrote there that such a process could be behind what causes imbalance and disharmony in certain individual patients with inner conflicts.

“Is that what is dividing and tearing apart my personality? Am I a fractured person who lacks the necessary unity and harmony to function in a normal way?

“If that is so, why haven’t you done anything about it? Why has that been neglected up to now?”

The voice of Fred grew angry, sounding with indignation and hurt.

“Why have you ignored what you wrote about as the major factor in mental illness and disturbances?”

Dr. Hoch, astonished and disoriented by this outburst, found himself unable to give any adequate answer or explanation.

“You are exaggerating what was a minor statement, a small detail, into something much bigger and more important than I ever intended it to be.

“That indicates to me that you are misinterpreting and misreading what is in the book I wrote.

“I will have to go back and restudy what it was that I said back then when I was writing it. You seem to be stretching my words into ideas that were not my own, Fred.

“I beg you not to let yourself be mislead through making such an error.”

The two of them exchanged hostile glares for a short time. Then, the therapist abruptly halted the meeting, rose to his feet, and left his own office in a state of emotional confusion of his own.

Fred found Hilda in the community room, sitting and reading the book that was causing a degree of trouble and conflict.

“Let me tell you what happened with Dr. Hoch,” he began in a lowered voice. “I brought up his fracture theory and he denied and contradicted it. It was incredible to me. How was that possible? He wrote it, but now refuses to accept its implications for practical treatment.

“This psychiatrist is a phony, Hilda. I am not going back to him. You should drop all further contact with him, as I plan to.

“I am getting out of this place, and you should too.

“Dr. Hoch appears to me to be suffering fracturing of his own mind and emotions, like any fractured patient of his would.”

Hilda grew excited, her eyes dilating. “You are going to depart on your own, without formal permission of any sort?”

“Indeed, I am,” he replied. “As soon as possible, this very evening.”

“Take me with you,” she suddenly pleaded. “Do not leave me here with a madman like Dr. Hoch. He is abnormal, more than any of us.”

“Yes, if anyone is fractured up, it is our unhinged psychiatrist. We have found him out, Hilda. He refuses to apply his own theoretical concept on living patients. He is a fraud because his mind and personality are compartmentalized.

“You and I have uncovered the truth about him and it is ugly.”

The pair made their plans of escape.

In the dead of night they met at a back entrance and made a secret departure from Gebirg Clinic, where they had found what they considered the cause of their problems in an obscure statement in the writings of the psychiatrist treating them.

Both Fred and Hilda believed they had unmasked the reason that Dr. Elmo Hoch was failing to cure their particular malady.

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