I say to Sigfrid, “This isn’t going to be a very productive session, I’m afraid. I’m just plain exhausted. Sexually, if you know what I mean.”
“I certainly do know what you mean, Rob.”
“So I don’t have much to talk about.”
“Do you remember any dreams?”
I squirm on the couch. As it happens, I do remember one or two. I say, “No.” Sigfrid is always after me to tell him my dreams. I don’t like it.
When he first suggested it I told him I didn’t dream very often. He said patiently, “I think you know, Rob, that everyone dreams. You may not remember the dreams in the waking state. But you can, if you try.”
“No, I can’t. You can. You’re a machine.”
“I know I’m a machine, Rob, but we’re talking about you. Will you try an experiment?”
“It isn’t hard. Keep a pencil and a piece of paper beside your bed. As soon as you wake up, write down what you remember.”
“But I don’t ever remember anything at all about my dreams.”
“I think it’s worth a try, Rob.”
Well, I did. And, you know, I actually did begin to remember my dreams. Little tiny fragments, at first. And I’d write them down, and sometimes I would tell them to Sigfrid and they would make him as happy as anything. He just loved dreams.
Me, I didn’t see much use in it… Well, not at first. But then something happened that made a Christian out of me.
One morning I woke up out of a dream that was so unpleasant and so real that for a few moments I wasn’t sure it wasn’t actual fact, and so awful that I didn’t dare let myself believe it was only a dream. It shook me so much that I began to write it down, as fast as I could, every bit I could remember. Then there was a P-phone call. I answered it; and, do you know, in just the minute I was on the phone, I forgot the whole thing! Couldn’t remember one bit of it. Until I looked at what I had written down, and then it all came back to me.
Well, when I saw Sigfrid a day or two later, I’d forgotten it again! As though it had never happened. But I had saved the piece of paper, and I had to read it to him. That was one of the times when I thought he was most pleased with himself and with me, too. He worried over that dream for the whole hour. He found symbols and meanings in every bit of it. I don’t remember what they were, but I remember that for me it wasn’t any fun at all.
As a matter of fact, do you know what’s really funny? I threw away the paper on the way out of his office. And now I couldn’t tell you what that dream was to save my life.
“I see you don’t want to talk about dreams,” says Sigfrid. “Is there anything you do want to talk about?”
He doesn’t answer that for a moment, and I know he is just biding his time to outwait me so that I will say something, I don’t know, something foolish. So I say, “Can I ask you a question, Sigfrid?”
“Can’t you always, Rob?” Sometimes I think he’s actually trying to smile. I mean, really smile. His voice sounds like it.
“Well, what I want to know is, what do you do with all the things I tell you?”
“I’m not sure I understand the question, Robbie. If you’re asking what the information storage program is, the answer is quite technical.”
“No, that’s not what I mean.” I hesitate, trying to make sure what the question is, and wondering why I want to ask it. I guess it all goes back to Sylvia, who was a lapsed Catholic. I really envied her her church, and let her know I thought she was dumb to have left it, because I envied her the confession. The inside of my head was littered with all these doubts and fears that I couldn’t get rid of. I would have loved to unload them on the parish priest. I could see that you could make quite a nice hierarchical flow pattern, with all the shit from inside my own head flushing into the confessional, where the parish priest flushes it onto the diocesan monsignor (or whoever; I don’t really know much about the Church), and it all winds up with the Pope, who is the settling tank for all the world’s sludge of pain and misery and guilt, until he passes it on by transmitting it directly to God. (I mean, assuming the existence of a God, or at least assuming that there is an address called “God” to which you can send the shit.)
Anyway, the point is that I sort of had a vision of the same system in psychotherapy: local drains going into branch sewers going into community trunk lines treeing out of flesh-and-blood psychiatrists, if you see what I mean. If Sigfrid were a real person, he wouldn’t be able to hold all the misery that’s poured into him. To begin with, he would have his own problems. He would have mine, because that’s how I would get rid of them, by unloading them onto him. He would also have those of all the other unloaders who share the hot couch; and he would unload all that, because he had to, onto the next man up, who shrank him, and so on and so on until they got to — who? The ghost of Sigmund Freud?
But Sigfrid isn’t real. He’s a machine. He can’t feel pain. So where does all that pain and slime go?
I try to explain all that to him, ending with: “Don’t you see, Sigfrid? If I give you my pain and you give it to someone else, it has to end somewhere. It doesn’t feel real to me that it just winds up as magnetic bubbles in a piece of quartz that nobody ever feels.”
“I don’t think it’s profitable to discuss the nature of pain with you, Rob.”
“Is it profitable to discuss whether you’re real or not?”
He almost sighs. “Rob,” he says, “I don’t think it’s profitable to discuss the nature of reality with you, either. I know I’m a machine. You know I’m a machine. What is the purpose in our being here? Are we here to help me?”
“I sometimes wonder,” I say, sulking.
“I don’t think you actually wonder about that. I think you know that you are here to help you, and the way to do it is by trying to make something happen inside you. What I do with the information may be interesting to your curiosity, and it may also provide you with an excuse to spend these sessions on intellectual conversation instead of therapy—”
“Touche, Sigfrid,” I interrupt.
“Yes. But it is what you do with it that makes the difference in how you feel, and whether you function somewhat better or somewhat worse in situations that are important to you. Please concern yourself with the inside of your own head, Rob, not mine.”
I say admiringly, “You sure are one fucking intelligent machine, Sigfrid.”
He says, “I have the impression that what you’re actually saying there is, ’I hate your fucking guts, Sigfrid.’”
I have never heard him say anything like that before, and it takes me aback, until I remember that as a matter of fact I have said exactly that to him, not once but quite a few times. And that it’s true.
I do hate his guts.
He is trying to help me, and I hate him for it very much. I think about sweet, sexy S. Ya. and how willing she is to do anything I ask her, pretty nearly. I want, a lot, to make Sigfrid hurt.