Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nuclear Armageddon

Have you ever envisioned the equivalent of a Three Mile Island or a Chernobyl in therapeutic terms? Let’s imagine that the interior core of a psychotherapist is like a great nuclear reactor filled with highly combustible materials deposited there by patients. Imagine the Catholic confessional as a bomb filled with conventional explosives. The difference between confession and psychoanalysis (the most intensive form of psychotherapy) is the difference between the kind of explosive device used by the allies in the bombing of Dresden or Tokyo and the kind of nuclear weapon tested at Bikini Atoll, a hydrogen bomb that creates a fusion explosion from heavy water. Now, let’s say that one of these fusion-level devices falls into the hands of someone like Kim Jong-il, the hermaphroditic despot of North Korea, which recently triggered another international crisis by sinking a South Korean vessel. That’s what it would be like if a psychoanalyst went off his rocker, symbolically starting a chain reaction that culminated with him spilling the beans. The fission and fusion reactions in atomic and hydrogen bombs, respectively, are ignited by detonators that are essentially conventional explosives. Similarly, the unleashing of the kind of incendiary material that lurks within the typical psychoanalyst would have to be facilitated by some sort of event that acted as a detonator. We are reminded of the television newscaster played by Peter Finch in Network, who urges his audience to go to their windows and scream out, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Which therapeutic session, which bout of navel-gazing by the narcissistic patient, is going to finally throw the long-suffering analyst over the edge? What combination of private school and college rejections, of spousal abuse and infidelity, of financial instability, of thwarted ambitions and unfulfilled loves, of roads more or less traveled, will become the equivalent of putting what is supposed to be a deterrent into the hands of a rogue state? Let’s say Iran acquires enough nuclear fuel to create a bomb, or Osama bin Laden hatches an ingenious plot with the North Koreans, or let’s say the Opus Dei takes over the Vatican à la Dan Brown, or Orthodox Jews who don’t even believe Israel should exist decide to take the Middle East situation into their own hands, or let’s say gentle old Denmark or Sweden suddenly has a collective nervous breakdown and raids the papers of Nils Bohr the way children playing with matches start forest fires. Imagine what will happen when the cultivated person sitting behind you, asking gently if you have fallen asleep when you are supposed to be free-associating, suddenly says to himself, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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