The agency that oversees federal programs relating to mental illness recommended drinking fruit smoothies and line dancing.
The Wall Street Journal
The “Dora” Case: A young woman named Ida Bauer, whom I will call “Dora” to preserve her anonymity, had been diagnosed with hysteria. She claimed that a friend of her father had made a pass at her, and she slapped him—the friend, not the father. Her father did not believe that his friend “Herr K.”–an impecunious sort who could not afford a full last name–would do such a thing.
Dora developed dyspnea (hysterical choking), cough, depression, fainting spells, aphonia (fear of one’s telephone), the whim-whams and what W.C. Fields referred to as “the inside meanies.”
I encouraged Dora to share her dreams with me. She told me of one in which the family house was on fire. Her father woke her up and told her to flee, but her mother wanted to stop and save her jewel-case. Her father said: “I refuse to let myself and my two children be burnt for the sake of your stupid jewel-case.” “But it contains precious stones!” her mother exclaimed. “I hate to break the news to you,” her father replied, “but it’s mainly cubic zirconia, cultured pearls and 10 Karat gold.”
I determined that Dora had an unresolved internal conflict that was affecting her psychological and physiological health. “Your hysteria is a manifestation of your forbidden desire for your father, Herr K, his wife ‘Frau K,’ and the junior varsity Alpine ski team at Fachhochschulstudiengaenge Burgenland. You must reconcile these conflicts if you wish to control your symptoms, especially that nasty cough,” I told her.
“That is not much help to me,” she sniffed. “I thought you were the world-famous Herr Doktor Professor Freud who could solve all my problems. Telling me to ‘reconcile these conflicts’—isn’t that your job?”
There was a certain innocent justice to her charge. I was the Father of Psychoanalysis, after all, but I could not allow her to indulge in “transference” and undermine my treatment by shifting her affections to me. It was necessary that I promptly re-establish our analyst-analysand relationship.
“Sometimes I find,” I began with great professional reserve, “that a multi-berry fruit smoothie, made with milk, plain or vanilla yogurt, one-half cup orange juice and honey to taste is just the thing to overcome a psychosomatic cough and a numbing psychic blockage.”
The “Rat Man” Case: A man with obsessional thoughts—principally about rats—came to me for relief. Casting about for a cool nickname for the patient, I hit upon “Rat Man.” When I was in school at the University of Vienna I was social chairman of the Ubermut Nordpol Ypsilon fraternity, and was quite admired for my uncanny ability to pick out monickers that would stick to my frat “bros.”
“Rat Man!” I would call to him as he lay down on my couch. “What’s shakin’!” It was only by “loosening him up” (Knotenumgimmerhofer) in this manner that I persuaded him to reveal what he said was his deepest, darkest secret: That he wished his father were dead, so he could inherit all his money and marry a good girl.
“This is a rather banal secret,” I said to him. “It falls squarely within the range of what is considered normal. Selfish, yes, perhaps even wicked, but abnormal? Not in my book.”
The patient’s condition worsened despite my ministrations. He began to have suicidal thoughts, triggered by guilt over an episode of infantile masturbation while looking at an image of “Hansel and Gretel” in his Grimm Brothers fairy tale book. I told him that these sorts of fact/fiction ménages a trois were permitted in France, but to be sure to cover his reading material with a Ziploc® brand oversize “craft and hobby” size plastic bag while he indulged in this innocent form of sexual recreation.
“Rat Man” began to have fantasies of marrying my daughter and told me he believed the only reason I was so kind and incredibly patient with him was because I wanted him for a son-in-law, and so I was forced to take drastic measures:
“I’m going to give you an easy, one-step detox smoothie recipe from the editors of Prevention magazine,” I said as I tore the scrip off my pad. “Grab your blender and get ready for the most delicious health food of your life!”
The “Wolf Man” Case: Perhaps my most famous case, From the History of an Infantile Neurosis, involved a patient named Sergej Pankejeff, known to the world since as the “Wolf Man.”
The Wolf Man’s father and sister had committed suicide, sending him into a state of severe depression. He sought my help and recounted for me the following dream:
“I dreamt it was night and I was lying in bed. Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see seven wolves sitting on the big walnut tree in front of my window, drinking smoothies. I screamed and woke up. My nurse hurried to see what the matter was. It took quite a while for her to convince me it had only been a dream.”
It was clear to me that the Wolf Man had seen his parents have sex as a child—while he was a child, not them—and so the remedy normally indicated by psychoanalytic protocols, a delicious, super-healthy fruit smoothie, would be of no avail.
“Mr. Man,” I said to him.
“Please—call me Wolf.”
“All right. Wolf, I am going to refer you to the Vienna Center for Adult Education.”
“Is my problem beyond the power of the brave new science of psychoanalysis?”
“Yes,” I said, somewhat abashed at the failure of my skills, grounded in my deep insight into human nature and years of rigorous training. “The only treatment that holds out any hope for you is a course in line-dancing. I hear the ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ has produced some remarkable breakthroughs.”