Deep, the Therapist Said
“It is imperative for your
emotional well-being,” Doctor Tauber intoned as he slapped his empty pipe
against his open palm, “that you locate the source of your misery, and root it
“Yes, Doctor,” I mumbled in
monotone with downcast eyes.
“Don’t merely agree with me, as
if you were some mindless automaton!” The Doctor paced before me, hands clasped
behind his back, pipe clenched between his teeth.
I cleared my throat and repeated
his words. “I will locate the source of my misery, and root it out.”
“Understand, you will forever
lack self-confidence, and any hope of happiness, until you find the well-spring
of this malaise—and rip out that demon devouring the center of your being!
Grasp it and with all your strength, rend its shell until you locate the rancid
core. Then you must tear it apart until it threatens you no more.” He
nodded to himself, evidently pleased with his florid instructions. “I speak
metaphorically, of course.”
“Then what do you advise?” I turned
my head so the good doctor would not see the tears of frustration welling in my
eyes. I came to Doctor Tauber for help, and he speaks to me like a vampire
hunter from a Gothic novel.
“Aha! I was waiting for you to
ask—that is the first step towards becoming the stronger person you yearn to
be.” Doctor Tauber leaned in so close to my face I could smell the scent of
stale tobacco on his breath. “You must dig deep,” he whispered theatrically.
“Fall to your knees and dig deep, with all your strength—dig! Do not be afraid
to thrust your bare hands into the moldering soil of your soul. Then you must
grab the problem by the throat and tear it to shreds!”
“Where exactly do I—” It was
a bit confusing. How do I use my hands to dig into my soul? How do I grab hold
of an emotional problem, then physically tear it apart?
Doctor Tauber straightened his
back and clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “That is for you to find out. I
cannot tell you where to go.” From his vest pocket, he pulled out an antique
pocket watch. “But you will know when you get there.” Holding the watch in the
palm of his hand, he popped open the lid. Without looking at me, he continued,
“And wherever you arrive, it is of utmost importance that you dig, and dig
deep, to extract, to excise this parasitic evil from your life.”
“Yes, Doctor.” I sighed. This
assignment! Where do I begin?
“Don’t ‘yes doctor’ me,”
snapped. “Say you will do it! Say you will dig out and destroy this toxic thing
eating away at your soul! Say you will do it!”
“Yes, Doct—” I stopped myself
when I caught the dagger from his eye. “I will do it.”
“Say it louder, and with
“I Will Do It.”
“I. WILL. DO. IT!” I shouted,
surprising both of us. Doctor Tauber smiled. I realized at that moment I’d
never seen him smile. His cheeks flushed and bulged, his lips flared. It was
“Thus, your words will become a
self-fulfilling prophecy. This is yet another step on the path to becoming your
own person.” He snapped his pocket watch shut. “Our session has ended. I will
see you next week, same day, same time.” He placed his chubby hand on my back
and gently pushed me towards the door. “I expect to hear a report of your
Almost a week later, in the
middle of the night, I woke from a fevered dream. Thunder rumbled in the
distance; the night air was heavy, still, and smothering. In my dream, Doctor
Tauber presented me with a map—a ragged piece of creased paper with crude
lettering and dotted lines which would lead me to my destination, the treasure
spot marked with a glistening red X, as if the good Doctor had dipped a finger
in a pool of blood to use for ink. Dig here, the map instructed.
I jumped out of bed and ran to
my desk. As best I could, I recreated the map on a page of blank printer paper.
Fumbling and hurried, I had to get the details down before the dream-image
evaporated. I succeeded.
“Yes!” I hissed happily to
myself. I glanced at my bedside clock; it was just after midnight. Now fully
awake, and with a mission, I hurriedly dressed and grabbed my car keys and
phone. I mapped out my destination on the phone’s GPS; satisfied I had found
the quickest route, I gleefully trotted out the door.
Parking was not a problem, as I
pulled up beside the low stone wall. At this time of night, no one would be
anywhere near here. Though the ornate iron gate was shut and locked with a
sturdy chain, I had no difficulty entering the grounds, as I easily climbed
over the wall.
With map in hand, I scanned the
area before me for landmarks which would lead me directly to my damnable X. Ah,
there is the gnarled ancient oak tree, and farther on, stands the towering
ancient marble statue of the Angel of the Battlefield. So righteous, yet glum,
she pointed the way for me with her stone sword. And so, a few yards farther,
through a meticulously trimmed hedge, to the far corner of this green and
well-manicured place, resides my cursed X.
I pushed through the rain-wet
hedge, stumbling when I came out the other side. Now on my knees—just as Doctor
Tauber advised!—I crawled over to the slight green mound under which my evil,
soul-crushing treasure was buried. Not treasure, I corrected myself, but
Roughly inserting my fingers
into the soft, moist earth, I dug—again, just as Doctor Tauber
advised!—frantically, with dogged determination. Deeper and deeper I dug,
throwing off lumps of sod, clods of dirt, until at last I reached the cheap
wooden lid shielding my diabolic X. How insulting that a flimsy barrier such as
this should come between me and my wholesome emotional health! In a rage, I
pounded on the lid, at last splintering the wood. With my own, now bloodied
hands, I tore the barrier apart, opening a gaping hole with which to view my
hideous X—and my X was hideous, indeed. Just as I remembered.
“How dare you haunt me with your
incessant mockery and belittlement!” I raged, grabbing a large, sharply pointed
splinter from the lid’s debris. “After all this time, you still undermine my
self-confidence with your snide asides, slander my self-image with your vicious
criticisms!” I reached down into the dark hole in the lid and roughly grabbed
my X, pulling the monster up partially through the gap.
“You are through torturing me,
through making me sick!” I cried as I went to work with my splinter-dagger,
stabbing and sawing away until I was close to mad with exhaustion. “This ends
now!” I labored on through the cold drizzle of night, until dawn at last opened
her sleepy eyes, until victory was mine.
I had succeeded in ripping out
my poisonous X by the roots—shredding every ropy fiber, severing every physical
connection, until the monster was no longer attached to reality.
I entered Doctor Tauber’s office
without knocking, and trotted over to his desk. Pushing aside the small stack
of reports he was reviewing, he peered over the tops of his glasses, looking me
up and down. I was a bit early for our weekly session, but I was too excited to
“Ah, I see you have made some
improvements!” He chirped. “Look at you: Standing tall, shoulders back, eyes
bright. Your newly regained self-confidence emanates from your soul like a
beautiful shining aura!”
He leaned forward on his desk
and folded his small, plump hands. I shifted my weight from one foot to the
other, engaging in a sort of little-kid-anticipating-his-birthday-party dance.
“Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts together in a bountiful bouquet—and
tell me what has changed.” He motioned for me to take the analyst’s couch, but
I shook my head. This was too momentous for a soft and cushy sofa! I remained
“What is that in your hand? What
are you carrying?” His eyebrows crawled together like worried caterpillars.
Raising his glasses, only now did he truly assess my appearance. He pursed his
lips disapprovingly at my sweat-streaked face, at the grass-stains on my pants.
“Where have you been?” He
whispered, more to himself than to me. “What have you done?”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Done? I did what you advised me to do!” I presented my damned X, my dirt-caked
fingers holding the monster’s head by its matted hair. “Dig deep, you
said, and rip my problem out by the roots!”
I dropped the head of my
once-soul-crushing tormentor on his desk with a graceless thunk,
scattering his papers and flinging bits of graveyard dirt across his
therapeutic career. It rolled towards him and stopped short of tumbling into
his lap. With both hands trembling, he pushed back from his desk, mouth agape
in horror. “I didn't mean—I did not advise you to—”
He continued to sputter, his
mind reeling and crashing into the dull, unimaginative walls of psychiatric
convention. “No, no, no!” he cried as he raised his hands to his balding
head. “We must—I must call the hospital, the authorities—you need more help
than I can offer—you’re unwell—this is—ghastly—you must be—”
“Au contraire, Doctor
Tauber,” I chuckled, “I am so much better now!”