Last night I dreamed that my shrink ordered me to parade in the park while wearing a tee shirt and a bikini bottom and leading an elephant.
Never mind that I don't have an elephant. Or a bikini. Or even, in real life, a shrink.
I'm in treatment now, five nights a week, and my dreams have become more meaningful, my thoughts more reflective, my life a newly-examined one.
Not only is my virtual therapy as good as real therapy, it's better. For one thing, it's free with my HBO subscription. For another, if I'm late or I miss a session, I can catch up on the weekend via Tivo. What's more, I get an inside track on what my dishy doctor, who looks a lot like Gabriel Byrne, is really thinking.
For instance, he's in love with me, too. He's trying to make me think that just because I'm sitting in the patient's chair, I'm the one with all the problems. But he gets all blinky and stuttery whenever he talks about what's going on between us. And then on Fridays, when I got to listen in on his sessions with his own shrink, I found out for sure that his feelings for me go beyond the therapeutic.
I also know that he cares more about me than he does about his own wife and family. I mean, who wouldn't! Everything I say in my sessions is so riveting, my luscious movie star face and body draped alluringly across his couch-cum-bed, my emotional turmoil effortlessly creating a perfect dramatic arc.
Not quite effortlessly, of course: scriptwriters are laboring somewhere over my every Freudian slip, considering the intent behind my every arched, uh, eyebrow. But I don't have to concern myself with that. The experience feels as real as, well, as a dream.
It's amazing how, once you're in treatment, what happens in the therapist's office starts to seem like your true life, and what happens outside becomes mere fodder for the main event of dissecting it in that isolated room. Walking half-naked with an elephant, for example, becomes not nearly as noteworthy or thrilling as talking about what it feels like to walk with the elephant. The whole point of walking with the elephant, in fact, is by some kind of aversion therapy to stop walking with the elephant, to stop even thinking about taking a pachyderm parade.
Woo, weighty stuff. All those years I didn't go to therapy, therapy being passe, not to mention ineffective compared with various psychopharmacological solutions, I believed that life was better having my most important relationships be with non-paid individuals such as my husband and children, getting my solace and advice from friends and colleagues versus from a cipher with whom I spent only 45 isolated minutes a week.
But now I'm reminded how exciting it can be to have an intelligent, insightful person's attention focused solely on me, with seemingly no interest in talking about the fight he had with his wife or how badly he slept last night blah blah blah. I am rediscovering what rich dimensions therapy can add not only to every waking moment, but to the sleeping ones, too. While I thought I'd check in for one or two sessions, I find myself unexpectedly hooked on the experience, especially since it's February and there's been nothing else on TV.
Does this mean I'll terminate treatment, aka stop watching, now that The Office and Heroes are coming back on the air? I don't think so. Jim and Pam and Michael may be entertaining and engaging, but In Treatment is about an even more fascinating character: me me me.
Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of five novels, including Younger and Babes in Captivity. Her website is www.pamelaredmondsatran.com.