Epiphanic Therapy

6 Apr

The long, sleek hospital ship slipped slowly into the port of Blemo, Its Captain standing in the stern room beside the head of psychotherapy, Dr. Jeta Fimsal. The latter, wearing a summer dress of white silk, told the skipper of the impending troubles that she was able to foresee for herself and her staff in the patients who would soon be boarding the vessel.

“I have never before treated cases from this tropical zone,” she murmured to the commander of the Epiphanea, a tall, muscular veteran of the Solemn Sea in charge of the nautical affairs of the psychiatric ship on a circuit of many differing lands. “No one can foresee what may afflict patients sent to us from such varied social and cultural environments.”

The big man in dark blue uniform looked at the facial profile of the small, wiry head of psychotherapy. “You and your crew will be able to deal with their problems?”

Jeta, gazing at the docks in front of her, frowned. “We must be ready for anything we encounter from Blemo,” she muttered to him.

“I have visited Blemo and the nation of Tropica many times on a variety of different ships,” noted the veteran mariner. “I consider the people there strange and odd. Your efforts with them will be complicated and difficult,” he sadly predicted.

The patients brought aboard the Epiphanea once it docked consisted of serious neurotics, manic-depressives, and borderline paranoids. Each of them was assigned a private cabin, then met with Dr. Jeta Fimsal for general orientation about what to expect on the voyage ahead for them.

“We shall be heading out into the central zone of the Solemn Sea,” the head therapist always began. “I plan to assign you to a specific specialist once I am familiar with your psychological record and what doctors on land have given as your diagnosis.

“As you have already been told, our methods aboard this ship are unique and extremely advanced. We apply epiphanic treatment in a way specifically suited and tailored to your particular condition and situation. That is why you will have to be patient with us. It may take days and weeks of analysis before we determine how to create therapeutic events that are capable of creating the revolutionary change necessary within your mind and your personality.

“But your personal patience will produce magnificent returns for you, I can assure you with confidence.”

Dr. Fimsal took only a limited number of cases on each separate voyage, usually those that appeared to be the most difficult or else the most interesting ones to her. The last consideration led her to choose the patient named Garom Lin. He turned out to be a lean, athletic-looking young man with shiny blond hair. His family was prominent in mercantile circles in Blemo, with one of the largest fortunes in the port city.

As soon as the Epiphanea was out at sea, Jeta called the subject to her office for an initial session aimed at becoming acquainted with each other.

“You probably have heard some things about our system of treatment, or even our manner of analysis and understanding, Garom. We tend to be somewhat informal and easy-going here on our vessel. You will notice how little pressure or compulsion is applied to our ship’s residents.”

“This is supposed to be like a leisurely vacation at sea, I was told by my family physician,” said Garom with a grimace, staring at the psychiatrist.

Jeta looked away, to the side. “Our idea is that a person’s answer or solution can occur in a momentary flash, in a sudden illumination within the thoughts and feelings, like an unforeseen vision. A vivid sense of self-definition and deep perception strikes the individual, so that the mind and the personality are transformed and never go back to a prior problematic condition.

“Can you imagine what the benefits of such revelation and realization can be for you, my friend?”

Garom gave her an involuntary smile. “It would be nearly miraculous, if it was possible in practice, Doctor.”

“Call me Jeta,” she told him. “As our voyage across the Solemn Sea progresses and we have more and more talks together, the moment of your epiphany will be ever nearer, I can assure you. It has occurred for numerous others who have taken this journey over the water.

“I think that you are I can achieve the insight that will bring you deliverance and liberation from the things that weigh upon you. Trust me.”

Jeta rose from behind her desk, signaling that the session was over.

Captain Snex kept his ship moving at a slow, stately speed through the placid blue of the Solemn Sea. The resident patients started to meet with each other, except for the wealthy playboy with the blond hair. Garom spent his free time roaming up and down the sunny deck, talking to no one. It took him a week to become acquainted with anyone beyond his own therapist.

A tall, lithe young woman in a white summer dress approached and began to speak to the loner looking out at the rhythms of the waves.

Excuse me,” said the stranger, “but I was told that you are a player of chess, Mr. Lin. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sabi Komt and I am supervisor of recreational activities onboard. Can I draw you into our chess-playing tournament soon to begin today? I already have three pairs ready to begin, but there is one of the persons without a partner to sit with.

“Could I convince you to join as a member of the chess tournament? It would even out things, and I can guarantee you some genuine enjoyment,” she grinned.

How could Garom refuse an invitation from such an attractive, enticing source?

“Yes, it sounds interesting,” he found himself replying.

Sabi turned and started walking toward the game room, the patient behind her.

For three weeks Jeta Fimsal allowed Garom to dominate the talking during their meetings together. She took notes as he described his life, then studied and thought about them by herself. At last, there appeared to be sufficient basis for telling him what she had concluded about his interior conflicts and ailments.

“It is a general principle today in psychology that a person is the sum of his or her mechanisms for defensive coping with surrounding humans and living conditions. I have studied your biography as you have outlined it for me, and I believe that I know the nature of how your mind protects its self-image and ego. It will benefit you to learn what your personal weapon of defense happens to be.

“It is a habit of acting opposite to what your two parents instilled and expected of you. Early life taught you the mechanism of being contrary to others and what they wished from you. The expectation model of your mother differed drastically, almost completely, from that of your father. The solution you devised was to disobey the specific expectations of the parent who was attempting to teach or influence your thought and behavior at a specific time as you were growing up. You devised methods of contradicting each one of them in turn, depending on particular circumstances.

“Do you comprehend what it is I am explaining to you, Garom?”

The patient had a confused, perplexed expression on his face.

“What you tell me is hard to accept, Doctor,” he gasped. “I think it will take me time to understand or accept such a description of myself. It makes me feel that I must be an evil person.”

“We will take up this analysis of mine next time, Garom. I want you to become familiar and used to it so that you can establish a new self-control over yourself.”

Sabi became engrossed with the aim of distracting the blond young athletic man with new projects and activities. From chess he advanced into playing varied kinds of cards in groups of patients that she set up for them.

Discovering the Garom had a longstanding interest in music, she led him through the ship’s rich collection of wire tapes and containers. He started to become used to spending free time with the friendly, helpful, and personable young woman in charge of the area of leisure activities.

“How did you become involved with Dr. Fimsal and the Epiphanea?” he inquired one afternoon as the two entered a special audio chamber near the bow.

“It happened several years ago, at my home port of Anchor,” she informed him. “I was working in a rehabilitation center for those addicted to illegal scents and perfumery. Many of those suffering from such conditions had deep psychological ailments and conflicts. I took several courses in that specific areas and decided to search for a position in an institution treating general mental and personality disorders.

“There appeared an opening on this therapeutic ship named the Epiphanea, so I applied for it. The idea of traveling across the Solemn Sea was very attractive to me, I have to admit. And somehow, it came about that Dr. Fimsal accepted me as the most suitable candidate for the position.

“So, here I am treating with those who climb aboard from scores of different ports and harbors on all sides of the wide body of water.”

“And you never become bored with your duties here?”

“Never, Garom,” she replied with joy and enthusiasm. “Never.”

Jeta, noting the fascination that her analysis had for her patient, decided to provide him a full, detailed explanation of how she saw the origins and development of his bipolar manic-depressive mental complex.

“Your parents were a divisive influence on you, Garom.

“The situation was one of a dominant mother and a passive father. She replaced the normal condition of a male child through her constant, potent influence in the shaping of your fundamental character. This made for a lopsided effect on your personality.

“The reaction within you was the creation of the ego-defense of reaction. Your mind became accustomed to resisting your mother by doing the opposite of what she taught and showed to you, and the same psychological mechanism came to exist toward your weak, ineffective father.

“As you grew up, there developed negative interpretations within you for both of the parental figures and the models that they gave to you. In other words, your own self turned against not just one of them, but both influences. You rejected mother as well as father. The protective defense that you found was a form of emotional vengeance against each of them.

“You took revenge on your mother by becoming depressive, and against your father by turning manic. Each reaction came to be a periodic phase that took hold of your personhood. One mood followed the other in perpetual continuation. You came to suffer an unending cycle, on and on.

“Vengeance upon your mother, followed by a similar but different mechanism oriented to the model given by your father.

“Does that make sense to you, Garom? Can you accept this analysis?”

The therapist gazed at him expectantly, not concealing her hope that the patient would understand and absorb what she said to him.

But he gave no positive sign back, only gazing at the psychiatrist with stunned disorientation. “I can’t say, Doctor. I will have to think out all that you’ve told me.”

Garom did not go to the ship’s game room that afternoon. He was too troubled by what his therapist had revealed to him. He broke the habit that he had developed for himself over the last several weeks. Instead, he isolated himself at the bow of the Epiphanea, standing with his hands on the protective railing, looking down into the passing water as if searching for something hidden beneath the surface.

There could be no doubt that his therapist had been giving him the truth about his condition. He was a bipolar, a manic-depressive caught between two extremes, suspended between the image of his mother and that of his father. Each of his parents had imprinted his psyche with an image in complete conflict with the one made by the other. His essence had grown into a totally divided one. And his reaction had been to declare a war of vengeance against both patterns received from the two.

What had Dr. Fimsal told him from their first meeting together?

That a solution would strike him like a sudden bolt of lightning, in a flash of self-discovery. But it had not occurred yet. When would it come about? Was it possible for him to hurry its arrival? he asked himself as he contemplated the Solemn Sea below him.

His thoughts came to focus upon the woman who had uncovered so much for him. Jeta Fimsal knew him better than he had ever understood himself. Was she able to lift him out of his cycle of excitement and despair, the instability of his conception of himself?

It came to him in a flash of insight: his mental salvation was meant to be the creation of the individual he would come to love, the person named Jeta.

You are in love with the woman who wishes to bring about your cure, the shaken patient said to himself. She alone can rescue you from the empty ruin that you exist in.

“Why were you absent from the card tables this afternoon, Garom?” the activity coordinator inquired in the ship’s dining hall that evening. “Everyone wondered where you might be. Were you staying in your cabin? That is what I told those who asked me.”

Sabi gave a warm smile, waiting for an answer from the patient seated at a table from which all the other diners had already departed.

“No,” Garom told her. “I felt like gazing out at the sea and went to my favorite place for contemplation, back in the bow. That’s where I go to carry out my heaviest thinking, but I stayed there longer than I planned to.”

“Did you accomplish a lot, then?” she said with a chuckle. “You appear to me to be in one of your better moods, my friend.” As soon as this was out, Sabi began to feel sharp regret. Would he take it as a reference to his emotional instability, at the core of his mental trouble?

“I think that I reached a certain plateau in thought, a level higher than anything I had before boarding the Epiphanea. Yes, I believe I achieved something valuable today.

“Is there anything on the residents’ schedule for tonight, Sabi?”

“I plan to show a film in the game room,” she grinned. “It’s an old musical that was once very popular. I hope that everyone enjoys watching it.”

“I don’t usually like musicals,” he admitted, “but this was a very good day for me and I’m ready for any sort of entertainment that makes other people happy.”

“That is a good attitude to have, Garom. Try to keep it going.”

He could barely wait the two days till his next session with the therapist, for he realized how great was his sudden, unexpected infatuation with her.

The inner transformation had arrived at the moment he had realized where the spring and source of the change was located. The salvation had come from more than her words to him, from the particular woman herself.

Jeta recognized that her patient was no longer the same as when they had first met as doctor and patient.

She decided to interrogate him about his present, altered condition of mind.

“You have a new vigor and energy to you, Garom. I am so surprised at how your appearance is now a different one. Tell me truthfully, how do you Feel?”

The patient beamed a radiant smile at her. “I know that I am no longer the same as I was, as I have always been. A new force of some sort now lives within me. It is most difficult to explain to you, Doctor. I am no longer the person that I have been. It is like having been born all over again, but with a new name, a different face and brain.

“Do I make sense to you?” he anxiously asked her.

Jeta sent him a heartfelt smile. “The important point is that you are getting a truer understanding of yourself, Garom. That is a sure sign that you have entered a new stage of personal development.

“We shall have to wait a little bit to find out the dimensions of your progress toward your own reshaping. Let both of us be patient and measure the permanency of what is so far happening to you here on the Epiphanea.

“My confidence in your future is soaring ever higher, my friend,” she revealed to her patient.

Jeta, having completed for the day all of her scheduled sessions, was starting to leave her office for dinner in the eating hall, when an unexpected figure opened the door and addressed the surprised psychiatrist.

“Doctor, could I speak with you for a moment?” said an uncertain, unsteady voice. “It concerns something important to me.”

“Come in, Sabi,” replied the therapist, seated behind her desk. She watched as the recreation director entered and closed the door, beginning to speak in a lowered, fearful tone.

“I thought that my old problems were over and gone for good, that I had escaped the demons that once troubled me so thoroughly. But something unpredictable has happened to me. How can I describe it to you or anybody?

“I am coming to the realization that I have fallen in love with one of the patients on the Epiphanea at the present moment.”

Sabi stopped and stared at Jeta, waiting to catch the response to what she had just confessed. There was no visible reaction on the expressionless face of the woman behind the desk.

“Please, sit down,” suggested the doctor in a quiet, assuring voice. “I have time to listen to you, as I did when I was treating your illness, Sabi.”

The latter took the chair used by patients, her face heavy with marks of worry and apprehension.

“When you first came aboard, Sabi, you were suffering from both an addiction to becalmers and severe dissociation of personality. It was not possible to free you from the material dependency until I could solve the problem of your compartmentalized, schizoid conscious and unconscious mind. So that was the part of you that I decided to focus upon.

“You certainly remember how I counseled you toward the final epiphanic moment when you yourself became capable of assembling a consistent, unified personality. It was not easy to do and took us time to achieve. Finally, though, you became consolidated enough to lose the addiction to medicinals that crippled your personal life.

“I won you the post of activity director onboard the Epiphanea, and you have successfully acted in that capacity for a number of years.”

Jeta stopped and gazed at her former patient, hunting for signs of intangible factors that might be at work.

“What did you mean, Sabi, when you mentioned falling in love with someone?”

After waiting a number of awkward moments, an answer emerged from the lips of the one who had come there for sympathetic support.

“There is a new person aboard our ship who has surprised me by how he has entered into the deepest heart of me, who has captured hold of all my imaginative thoughts. I can envision ties to him that never before were conceivable for me. How can I describe the enchantment he has cast over me? At any hour of day or night, I am now apt to go back to thinking of him.

“I have never foreseen myself involved in such an obsessive state. It is an experience I have never gone through in my life. Who could have predicted such a marvelous turn in my course here on the Epiphanea? I certainly couldn’t.”

“Do you fear the return of the schizoid interior divisions and conflicts you once suffered from, Sabi?” asked Jeta, growing excited and troubled by such a prospect.

“I fear that my self is already returning to its old state of dissociation, Doctor.”

“We must work together in order to preserve what has been achieved through the therapy that you have had up to now,” maintained the psychologist with emphasis in his words. “Will you tell me the name of this person with whom you have an emotion of affection?”

“It is Garom Lin,” whispered Sabi. “That is who it is, Doctor.”

The latter paused for a while before responding.

“I will need time to consider what you have said to me. If you return here tomorrow before my scheduled sessions start, we can discuss this matter in greater detail.

“You will receive advice from me at that time, Sabi. Have no doubt of that.”

Jeta, her mind burdened with what she had heard only a little time before, went into the dining room early, before almost no one else was present there.

She sat at the small table where she usually ate. The recent event with Sabi occupied every thought that came to her, so that she failed to notice the approach of a patient, Garom Lin. Before she was aware of his presence near her, he had already sat down across the table from her.

“It is important that I speak with you immediately, Doctor,” he said as soon as she was conscious of who was there with her. “Something terrible is happening to me, a thing that I did not anticipate. You did not warn me of this awful possibility. I need to inform you of it, because the matter cannot wait until tomorrow. It must be discussed by us now, without delay of any sort.”

Jeta, stunned and perplexed, stared at the patient she had treated with the epiphantic method of psychotherapy. She found herself unable to utter a single word to the young man with the shiny blond hair.

Garom, leaning his head down and forward, murmured softly, slowly.

“I have gone to two experiences in the last two days. Love has struck me, an unexpected infatuation, a kind of enchantment. It has captured my heart and my mind, my thoughts and all my emotions.

“And something else has occurred to me at the same time. My old condition has revived itself. I feel a manic love, but then falls a tragic depression of loss. Because I recognize the impossibility of winning or enjoying the affections of the object of my obsession. Fulfillment can never be mine, I know that, but I realize that my enchanted state of mind will not end. It cannot be erased or destroyed in any way. It exists and shall persist into the days ahead, for as far ahead as I remain alive.

“I have returned to the cycle with which I came onto the Epiphanea. My mind and personality are manic-depressive once again. My self is once again a bipolar contradiction. I feel and know that completely.”

Jeta knew she had to ask a specific question. “Who is the subject of your infatuation, Garom?”

His eyes dilated. “You are, Doctor Fimsal.”

A waiter appeared at that moment and asked the two of them what they wished him to serve them for dinner.

The dining hall was now too full to allow them to continue with the matter that they now faced between the two of them.

“Come to my office early tomorrow morning, Garom, before eight o’clock. We shall talk about all of this then, I assure you.”

No more was said about his interior crisis. Both of them ate in silence when their meals arrived. Garom finished first, rising and leaving in silence.

Jeta was unable to sleep much that night. How was she going to deal with the fact that two persons she had treated were sliding back into the ailment that affected them before their therapeutic sessions with her?

She had an intuition that the two of them had to be dealt with simultaneously, facing each other and her. But it was not possible for her to predict what the results might turn out to be. There might but either spectacular success or painful failure. Yet no alternative arrangement appeared feasible to her.

Sabi arrived at the office first, only seconds before Garom did so.

Short greetings occurred between the therapist and the two visitors.

No one smiled or seemed to be at ease. Neither Sabi nor Garom said a word to the other. Both of them avoided looking at the other.

Jeta coughed and then addressed the pair as if only one person was present.

“We are in a torturous situation where it appears that my epiphanic treatment of both of you has fallen into a state of failure. One of you has returned to manic-depressive, cycloid illness, while the other is once again in schizoid division of mind and emotions.

“I sympathize with the pain and frustration that both of you are feeling. It is my duty to ask you to forgive me my inadequacy as your counselor and therapist. Could more have been done in time to avoid what has occurred? No one will ever know for sure. But all three of us must grapple with the situation as it is at this moment, not as we might wish it to be.”

She looked at Garom, then at Jeta, before focusing at a spot between them. What was it that she was seeking there? In truth, her search was for the kind of epiphany that she produced within patients under her care and eager for their epiphanic moment of revelation.

She spoke without looking directly at either of the pair.

“I have one matter of advice that I can give you: look to each other. Find an emotion that can reach out and connect to the other one here in this office.”

She turned her face to Garom. “You must reach out and assist this woman, Sabi.”

Then she gazed at Sabi. “Persist and continue with what you have come to feel for this young man. You can rescue him better than I am able to.”

All at once, Jeta surprised both Sabi and Garom by rising to her feet and stepping forward between the pair in order to reach the door and open it.

Garom and Sabi turned to each other as their therapist disappeared into the outer corridor.

Neither said anything for a time, until Sabi asked him a question.

“Have you eaten breakfast, Garom?”

“No,” answered the latter. “Why don’t you and I go to the dining hall and see what they have there waiting for us?”

With a smile and a nod, she rose and started out of the office with him behind her.

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