I THINK THEREFORE I AM SHRINK PROOF. 7-18-11
It was way back in the time of black and white television.
My wife’s friend, Stanley, who was a psychiatrist, lived in our block of flats and he had a wife, also a psychiatrist, who would not let him bring a TV into their home.
He had no time whatsoever for the entertainment that it offered and he cared very little for any of the established sports and every one of the talking heads programs bored him silly but he was politically active – that’s how my wife had met him years before – and so he wanted to keep up with important speeches by various government or opposition leaders and heads of departments so he came to my home to see them on my TV. I guess it was marginally more entertaining for him than listening to them on the radio and was certainly much easier than reading them in the newspaper the next day or, knowing his profession, perhaps it was important for him to see the speaker’s face as he talked at us.
He wouldn’t accept anything in the way of snacks or drinks and he left immediately after each speech was over. I don’t know what his real reason was for going so quickly but he always said that he needed some time to digest what he’d heard before talking about it. Perhaps his wife demanded that he get home immediately after the speech! Anyway, it was zero trouble to have him over.
This went on for more than a year and then we had a baby and we needed more space so we bought a house and prepared to move out of the apartment building and Stanley and his wife, Harriet, gave us a dinner party a week before we left and there were around a half dozen other people invited also. All of them had PhD’s in something or other.
When we showed up at their place we had our baby with us and we told them that we’d been forced to bring her along due to a last minute problem with our sitter which is what we told everybody but the truth was that my wife couldn’t bear to be separated from her for very long. She was fast asleep in her crib and we put her in a corner out of the way.
When we’d finished eating and were sitting at the table with brandy and coffee the talk turned, or dropped, to politics and while this was my wife’s favorite topic it was far from being mine.
When I could take no more of it I eased away from the table, my escape was scarcely noticed, and I went into the adjoining living room and browsed among the thousands of books that lined two of the walls in a one piece, `L’ shaped, customized bookcase. I think that more than half of them had the words `Psychiatry’ or `Psychology’ in their titles.
After a while, Stanley, probably being conscientious about his duty as host, came to see what I was up to and he found me standing and skimming through a recently published `How To Cope’ best seller. He told me that he’d just finished reading it and that it was worthless and that he’d had to buy it for a Junior Class project and that I could easily find more worth while reading in just about any of the other books that he had there.
I put the offending book down and I said that I’d picked it because it was one of the few that looked as if it might be lively and that wasn’t technical and when he looked over at me I saw that his eyes had widened in surprise. He rubbed his hands together and said that I was to let him show me what astonishingly `lively’ reading there was available in that very room. He said that ‘technical’ was quite the wrong word to use and that `The Study Of Human Behavior’ was better and `Fundamentals Of Living And Thinking And Being’ could also cover it well.
He asked me a few questions, so gently that I didn’t feel as if he was probing, like had I ever taken any psychology classes in school or since and, on hearing `no’, then asked if I thought that everyone could benefit from self-analysis and from introspection! My answers were that I knew next to nothing about either of them and he then said, “Very well then, I know exactly what you should read.”
He searched for and found a very battered, slim volume that had been bound in red cotton that was now fraying and he handed it to me and he said, “Sit there in my favorite chair and read that. It won’t take you long. It’s a translation of Freud’s first published paper on the id and the ego and the superego. I guarantee that if you read the first page you will not be able to put the book down until you’ve read it right through to the last page. If `lively’ reading is what you’re looking for you’ve got it in your hand, believe me. I distribute copies of that little book, at my own expense, to my freshmen students and I make them all read it through right there and then in our first class and it always,
without fail, works like a charm. To say that I have their full attention afterwards is understating it. ‘They are in awe,’ is a better way to put it, and it takes weeks and weeks before the degree of difficulty of the course becomes evident and overcomes their enthusiasm and the weakest of them start dropping out. I envy them as they start reading it just as I envy you right now. A completely open mind about to be overwhelmed. Yes, really! Well. I’d better get back to the others but when you’ve finished it let me know and I’ll come back here.”
He switched the reading light on and then he left me to it.
I felt a sense of gloom as I opened the book but I soon found out that the man had told nothing but the truth.
There in my hands, in a few pages, not many more than thirty, and told clearly and precisely was an explanation of what makes us all function!
I read it clear to the end, marveling all of the way, and then I started at the beginning again and I found that it had been explained so thoroughly and so well that I could
skip whole pages, one after the other all of the way through, because I already knew it all.
It didn’t seem right to me that I could have gotten to be twenty-seven years old and hadn’t been told about these fundamentals before. Also, it didn’t seem fair that there were
people out there who still didn’t know them and who were thus limited by their not knowing. I wasn’t sure how at that moment but I was quite certain that they were all definitely and severely handicapped in relation to me.
I finally closed the book but I held it and looked at it and I weighed it and I turned it and I squeezed it and all the while I was bathed in a kind of glow.
When I could bring myself to put it down onto the side table I went to the dining room and I found that they were all still embroiled in arguing the pros and cons, mostly
cons, of the latest government white paper on relief reform, or some such, and I couldn’t force myself to re-join them so I kind of hovered near the door.
I saw that my wife had picked up our daughter and was nursing her while still sitting there and taking a full part in the discussion and that, although her dress had a kind of
panel that easily and discretely lifted up and out of the way, the amount of one of her breasts that was exposed was about the same as the size of the baby’s head.
After a little while Stanley saw me standing there and he gestured towards the living room and I went back out there and he joined me after a minute or two.
I gushed about the book and I foolishly challenged him to `ask me anything’ and he did and I answered him fluently and he seemed to be as delighted as I was that I now had this wondrous new knowledge firmly captured.
I asked him if I could ask him some questions and he brusquely said “No! You most certainly cannot! If I let you ask one and I attempted to answer it properly it would lead to another one and we’d be here until to-morrow morning and even so we wouldn’t get very far in all of that time. If you want to find out more I’m afraid that you’ll have to do extensive studying as do all of my students. There’s really no other way. I’ll recommend some books for you to get started on if you like.”
I feigned interest for him, to be polite, but he must have seen right through it to the dismay that I felt because he then said, “Listen to me. I’m going to tell you something that I don’t even tell my graduate students. Ha! I’d soon be out of a job if I did! You’ve just been introduced to, and you already know the difference between, the id and the ego and the superego, right? Well that’s all you’ll ever need to know! You now have a complete knowledge of all of the essentials of `The Science Of Mental Processes’, or, as some poor fools call it, `Psychology.'”
Here he laughed a little but I didn’t join in because I didn’t get the joke.
“The bottom line is this – remember it well and it will save you a fortune in therapy fees – your id might possibly have been subjected to, although it’s highly unlikely, the same, even exactly identical barrages of experiences as the ids in other babies beginning when you were as young as your child out there is now and until you were maybe a year old. But, even accepting that, your ego gradually began to influence it and to be influenced by it in a manner that has to be totally unique to you because of the sheer number of, and the possible sequences of, happenings in your life in general. Then comes the to-and-fore-ing and the back-and-forwarding and the slightest differences in any one of them can become a massive directive, or re-directive, due to the wonders of feed-back, to each individual being. Or not! Then along comes your super-ego, when you get to be around five years old, and which first manifests itself when your deprived parents forced you into complying with their preferred behavior patterns and making you stop running to them for comforting after every contra-temps and to get on the school bus without complaining. And so on. It is a constant force that influences and is itself influenced from all directions like from your environment and your siblings and especially from your parents and your friends and from strangers and from the books you read and the rebuffs that you get and the opportunities to make a complete fool of yourself many times over and, occasionally, the pride that comes with success, and – well – to cut the endless list short, from Life!
“You will always have thousands of questions, we all do, but because each and every person on this earth is totally unique there can be no answers coming from outside of
yourself that suit your case precisely enough to be of any value to you at all! Well – not very much anyway – so stop looking for them outside of yourself. Only you can know yourself. All right? Got it? So now, the thing to do is to think up ways that will help you to know yourself better using what you have just read. Examine your life and your behavior and your thinking and question your own fundamentals and thus help yourself to live your life to your fullest potential given your particular limitations.
“All right? Do you understand me? Good.
“Well, I must go back to the other room again but I think that I’ll break up the discussion soon, it’s getting to be rather tiresome, so come in with me, will you? I feel that I’m not being a good host if all my guests aren’t being included in the general conversation.”
The little floor show provided by my wife was already over and Stanley and I sat down and we listened for a while and then he took charge and I don’t know how he did it but he brought the discussion to an end, with everyone present believing that the subject had been completely covered, in a remarkably short time. In my home they’d have been at it for hours longer, as I knew from bitter experience, and as host I wouldn’t have been able to wander off and would have been forced to sit still and pay attention and say, “Mmmmm!” and, “Oh! Yes”, and, “Exactly”, and, “I do so agree”, and “Oh! No. No.” Mostly following my wife’s leads.
When we got up to our flat my wife asked me what had gone on in the living room with Stanley.
I was evasive. I murmured something about it being too late to go into that and the reason for that evasiveness was because seeing that she was a psychologist she probably would have come up with many more salient facts than I could handle and they may have dulled the cutting edge of what I’d just learned and thus dimmed or completely shut off my inner glow. I wanted some time to decide when I’d be ready to tell her about what I’d read and what he’d said to me.
She let it go for then but I knew that she had merely filed it away to await a more opportune time.
By then we’d been working hard on our new house for several months but we had still lived in our rented apartment to ensure that the baby had a stable, dust free environment but when all of the heavy work was finished we moved in and I took two weeks of my annual vacations to try to get it all over with quickly.
Late at night on the Friday of the second week we could see that we’d be finished completely before the weekend was over but the extended amount of work that I’d done had left me too exhausted to sleep, I was bone weary, so I just lay there and tried to stop making lists of all the work that I’d have to do in the morning.
After a half hour of just lying there the baby woke up and my wife got up and changed it’s diaper, it was her turn, and then she brought it to bed to feed it, it was always her turn for that, and when it had finished sucking from her she rocked it in her arms for a while and then she put it next to her on the far side of the bed and mercifully it went back to sleep in a minute or two.
We hadn’t made proper love since well before the baby’s birth because when her swollen belly had become an obvious presence between us we’d had to ease off on the acrobatics and gradually I had had to learn to use her body less and less until, towards the end, only when I really had to and always remember to be very careful and to limit the amount of penetration, and to do it with practically zero participation.
After the birth she was in pain internally for weeks and then sore in there for months more. The pain was so bad that she couldn’t bear to properly close her legs even and so when she had to walk anywhere she had to sway her weight off one leg and then move it forward and then transfer her weight to that leg and then swing the other one forward. The way that some very old and/or very fat people, do.
Although she was careful to keep it covered, I could see, under her clothes, that her belly hadn’t gone back to anywhere near its former size.
Her breasts were huge and blue veined and she said that they hurt all over and that her nipples were sore all of the time from being sucked on so much so, it went without saying, they were strictly for utilitarian purposes only.
From all of this I had found out at first hand that Nature cares nothing about sparing mothers, or accommodating fathers, and that producing a healthy child, at any cost, is the only result deemed important by Her. It also made us positive sure that our baby would never have a sibling.
Lying there I couldn’t remember the last time that I had ejaculated and I had dull longing deeply imbedded in my loins and desire was constantly nagging at my mind.
I guess that all new fathers have the same problems and we all know that we have to give tremendous leeway and try to be considerate. The sleep-deprivation certainly helps to dull desire! Even so, every so often I got such an enormous erection going, no, being, that I’d find myself whimpering kind of alongside of it rather than in charge of it and I’d
just have to offer it up to her, apologetically, but the only response I’d get would be, “Oh! You poor dear,” and the only help offered freely would be a few minutes of ineffectual
squeezing, bereft of any useful rhythm, and not the slightest hint of an offer to go down on me even though she had been my enthusiastic partner in the sixty-nine position for years.
Obviously, her mind was on other things.
Of course, sometimes I’d just have to insist on getting some immediate relief or go mad and on those occasions, when she’d finally accepted that I was not going to stop making its presence known to her, she would let out a long sigh and then, without good grace, would resignedly turn away from me and on to her side and would then pull up her cover-all nightdress and then pull down her protective panties and then bend her body so as to allow me to rub myself in the valley between her buttocks. Upwards at first and then forwards and we both wanted it to be over as soon as possible because neither of us got much pleasure out of it, she none at all in fact, and so if I could tell that it was not going to happen soon doing it that way I would reposition myself to go downwards, and a little across, in the same blessed valley and the intrigue, and the extra envelopment, would quickly bring me to a very messy, but oh so desperately needed, climax.
Sometimes I’d be fast asleep before she came back to bed from the bathroom.
While I could get it off like that, when I got desperate, it was never very good for me and it was especially unsatisfying because I remembered so well how much good sex we’d had together. Of course that made me ever more reluctant to bother her and so I learned to endure having to go without for longer and longer periods.
While we were lying there, that Friday night, she reached over and put the light on and then she turned to me and asked me again about what Stanley had said to me in his living room on the night of the party and this time I told her everything. The glow and the luster had worn off so I could afford to share the bones.
I finished up by saying that I was really surprised that he had told me that all of psychiatry was a fraud and that no-one can profitably look for help with their mental
problems outside of themselves.
“Oh, dear,” she said when I’d told her that part and was waiting for her response. She shook her head on the pillow and then she sighed. “You know that all psychiatrists are very bright don’t you?”
“Do you know that he is one of the brightest of them all? One of the top men in his field?”
“Hmmm, I believe it if you say so.”
“Well then. Do you think it likely that he would completely disparage his profession and all of the men and women in it in a ten minute talk with you?”
“But he did, didn’t he?”
“No he didn’t. He used you to get at me. All psychiatrists think that we psychologists are merely adjuncts. The way all physicians think about all nurses. And, besides that, he’s thought from the beginning that I shouldn’t have had anything to do with you, much less marry you and have your baby.
“Leaving aside our personal connotations both he and Harriet don’t think that this is a world that’s fit to bring children into and they agreed before they got married that they wouldn’t have any, so in his opinion, I’ve behaved irresponsibly on two fronts!
“He believes that I should have known better than to think that our relationship could be made to last and he can’t understand how we can live together for one day even, given
our different educational backgrounds.
“He asked me once, when I was heavily pregnant, how were we managing financially now that I wasn’t working and he was astonished when I told him that you earn twice as much as I did and probably more than he does.”
She gave a little malicious chuckle and then went on, “I was thinking the other day that their love life is probably very limited. I get the feeling that he’s never seen her naked in the light nor she him. They probably do it furtively and rarely. They always try to quash the rest of us as soon as the talk gets to be the slightest bit raunchy.”
I thought that that last comment was a bit rich coming from a woman who had had to be taught just about every variant that’s do-able between the sheets when I first met her, except for a few basic ones which she didn’t do very well either. I must admit, though, that she became an avid student when she found out that when done properly most of them are fun to do for both parties. I remember her saying once, ‘Goodness, aren’t there lots of ways of doing it? But d’you know what? That was fun and I don’t mind in the least that I’ve got to go and wash my hair now.’
I’d realized on the first night that we were intimate that I’d have to be patient with her and that I’d have to introduce her to a whole lot of things because when we’d gotten into some very heavy foreplay on her couch and when I’d come up for air, as you might say, I ventured to tell her the old joke that goes, `How many ways are there to make love?’ . . . pause . . . . `Sixty eight and then you have to stop to clean the tools!’ and she waited until I’d stopped chuckling and then she asked, “There’s that ‘sixty-nine’ thing again. I’ve been hearing people refer to it and then snigger for years and years now. Please tell me the connotation.”
She went on, “Did you see them both looking at me nursing Sarah that night? They were fascinated and repulsed at the same time. I’m positive sure that they wont invite us over again, ever, nor will they come here because they don’t like being exposed to such primitive behavior. For them breasts are no longer mammary glands they are strictly Secondary Sexual Characteristics to be used for décolletage and for fondling only! Which, incidentally, he does every chance he gets! I’ve heard rumors and I saw him `inadvertently’ brush a friend of mine’s breasts once when he was stretching out his arms in a yawn. He apologized at once, of course, but I saw his appraising fleeting glance to see if she had really minded or not and thus whether or not he dare try it again sometime in private.
“No, I’m sure that neither of them will ever be able to erase the memory of having to sit and watch me feed Sarah. ‘Primordialism in our own dining room! How dare she!”
She chuckled a little and then said, “No, dear. What he did was, apart from the snide insult to me, he – how can I put this? – he didn’t put analysis down, per se. He put down
analysis as it pertained to you. He assessed your potential for benefitting from it as being very low and then he took the ladder away from you so that you wouldn’t try to climb it
and then waste your own time and the time of one of his colleagues in the future.
“You’re shaking your head. You don’t believe me? Well I’ll prove it to you in less than a minute. Have you tried to ‘get to know yourself’ yet, as he suggested you should?”
“Not yet. But I will.”
“No you won’t. And do you want to know why you won’t? Well I’ll tell you anyway. It’s because you don’t know how, that’s why, and you’ll never be able to work out a way to do it because your attention span is about ten seconds and deep inner contemplation needs at least a full half minute, at least!”
“Ho! Now who’s using snide remarks? It’s just not true.”
“No? Well do this. Shut your eyes right now and concentrate on your inner self. Separate away your id and examine its hedonism. Then let your ego get alongside it and see how it inhibits it and then allow your super-ego to come into the picture with its directives. We won’t bother with the steps needed to learn how to disregard conflicting unconscious influences and we’ll just have to hope that they don’t overwhelm your efforts to proceed with the rest of the program.
“Use different stimuli at each stage and examine their different inter-reactions. Just as when you listen to classical music you follow the themes tumbling to the front and then being modified or broken up and then being allowed to fade before sweeping back in but in this case you have to use words instead of melodies.
“That should take hours of contemplation but I doubt if you can go at it for ten seconds before your penis sends up a message for you to see if there’s any chance of some action or your stomach breaks in to tell you to check if it’s dinner time yet or your palate wants to know if the pubs have opened yet! To get to know yourself fully takes a certain intellect and then lots of training and lots and lots of discipline. Believe me.”
“How long have you known this about me?”
“Since the first hour that I met you and it took him, Stanley, about two minutes, right? But his expertise doesn’t come just because it’s his job to observe behavior but because it is his passion too. He lives for it! He summed you up in minutes but remember that he also used his ability to try to aid you in a friendly way. He has always admired the working class, he has to really seeing how whole heartedly he embraces socialism, and he’s always been in awe of their willingness to do menial jobs and to show up all of their working lives every morning, year after year, to get on with them. He’s somehow gotten it into his head that you are a mechanic and he thinks that all mechanics use huge wrenches and hammers and that they go around tightening things or banging things with them. He knows that you haven’t been educated overmuch in the social sciences and that you aren’t complex enough to get into mental anguish about why are we here, what is the meaning of it all, and the rest of that, so he told you how to best cope given your limitations. So, I suggest that you should learn to be happy with it!”
“If I’m so goddamn dumb why did you marry me?”
“No one said that you were dumb. In fact you’re quite bright but you have a short
attention span which keeps you from even trying to learn things that don’t interest you much. There is an enormous difference.
“As for why did I marry you it was because I let you get near to me when I was vulnerable and my body responded to you and then I found that I wanted your kind of loving in my life permanently.
“Remember all those marvelous long-weekends when you’d come to my place on Friday evenings and we wouldn’t get dressed again until late Sunday afternoon when you had to go back to your ship? Well, after each one I was positively sure that that could never happen again and, because of that, I’d make reservations in restaurants and look up starting times of movies, or accept invitations that I thought might interest you, in the week before your next visit but then you’d come up again on the Friday and it would turn into another lost weekend of marvelous wallowing together in my bed!
“Of course, to be fair, at first all that I needed you for was your penis and your hands, and your mouth maybe, however, if the truth be known, that was the first time ever in my life that I was content with having been born a woman. Really! And, believe me on this one, you’ll never be given a better compliment.
“Wooo, how I looked forward to those weekends for pure animal pleasure and you always supplied it, in spades, but when we started living together full time it gradually changed. Having good sex every night became almost secondary to smaller things like your reliability and your honesty and the way that you finish what you start and do what you promise to do. And knowing that although you wouldn’t ever let me wear anything in bed I never needed a nightdress to keep warm, even in winter! And being able to put my cold feet on you when you came to bed late and knowing that you would keep still until they were warm and then only hold me and kiss me and wouldn’t start feeling me up until you knew that I was good and ready. And going to sleep being held by you after doing it and waking up at any time and being able to cuddle again knowing that you wouldn’t be cross at being woken up.
“Well, it became a way of life that I knew I would be an idiot to let change and so I allowed myself to fall in love with you.
“And then, after – uh, was it two or three years? – anyway, however long it was they were filled with marvelous compatibility and it just came to me one day that we should marry and make a baby together because with such closeness the child would have a wonderful base from which it could look for, and find, happiness all through its life.”
She didn’t think it important to add that she was then over thirty five years old and that she knew well that the last of her eggs were lining up for the big slide.
“Well then, that’s why I married you, and it was the best thing that I’ve done in my whole life apart from having Sarah.”
She was silent for a few minutes and seeing that her eyes had closed I thought that she had gone to sleep but then she sat straight up in the bed and she reached over to touch
my face as she said, “Oh dear! What a fool I’ve been. Can you ever forgive me? I’ve been so totally absorbed with the baby and with learning how to look after her and trying to deal with the extraordinary love that I feel for her that I’ve almost completely neglected you. You’ve been so sweet and you’ve done so much more than your fair share and I’ve ignored your needs. You poor dear! I know almost as well as you do what they are and their intensity.
“Well now, how long has it been? Oh my word, you must be near to exploding. Listen, dear, I’ve been closed off from you over the last few months and I’m going to rectify that right now. Your period of enforced celibacy is now officially over, do you hear? I promise.
“Well, seeing that I still can’t let you get inside me, I’m sorry to say, I’m going to be inventive. I’ll think up other ways for the future but right now I’m going to simply cut the number sixty-nine in half for you. What does that come to? Uh – thirty four, thirty five? – well, you’ll have to do the math for yourself knowing how poor I am at it.
“So. Move way over to your side of the bed so that we don’t disturb the baby. There. Now I’ll move down. Are you ready? . . . . Ooh, my whole body is aching and so it’s difficult to . . . . . there. Oh my God! It’s huge already. It’s as big as my forearm. You poor dear, and oh, what a waste. Man! How I want to have it inside me, but there, it won’t be much longer before we can do it properly, will it?
“All right, now I’m ready. Oh, oh! My center is right there, in your face, but please don’t do any – uh – exploring will you? Ach! Wow, after this I guess that I’ll have to add an aching jaw to all the rest of it! Ach! ——- Mmmmmm. ——- Isch aat goh? ——- D’jew ike aat? ——- asta?”
During her act of mercy my needs were intensified wonderfully on the way to being inexorably dealt with in a manner that is a marvelous, almost acceptable, substitute for the real thing and because of it my depression disappeared, along with, hard to believe that it’s possible, my exhaustion and so it was with much sympathy, and a good deal of guilt, that, when she’d hurried into the bathroom, I lay there and listened to her spitting and then cursing vilely; and then hawking and then cursing moderately; and then gargling and then cursing mildly; and then rinsing; and then merely sighing – no doubt about the unfairness of gender being destiny – as she dried her mouth and face.
Given all of that time to think about it I managed to put a suitable speech together and so I said, when she came out the bathroom, “I hope you know that getting it done in that way is not conventionally acceptable and neither is it nearly as satisfying as doing it properly so, right now, at this minute, my id is really pissed off with you. However I’m pleased to be able to report that my ego has resigned itself, temporarily, to allowing a small diversion from its Reality Principle and that my super-ego, while reserving judgment overall, has agreed to look the other way for the duration. So, all in all, for the present and until further notice, you have our permission to regularly resort to the extraneous and dubious practice that you recently subjected us all to.”
Well, there you have it. What do you think?
DO I KNOW MYSELF, OR WHAT?