Last week marked ten years since my father died. I’ve decided to dedicate my book to him.
I finally settled on a title. The Intimacy of Communication: A Spiritual Encounter.
The book is in its final stages, and I’m learning more about Microsoft Word than I ever thought possible. The perfectionist in me wants everything “just right,” as if a typo makes me a bad person.
I expect perpetual greatness from my writing when better-than-average in some parts might be good enough. Did I expect greatness from my father all the time? Did I assume he shouldn’t get angry or that we’d always see eye-to-eye? If so, I was a fool, or at least a child.
Books endure revisions—and revisions of revisions. Whole paragraphs disappear, chapters expand and contract, wordy prose turns poetic.
Over the last ten years I’ve reimagined our father-son narrative. Some days a piece of dialogue we shared gets a fresh—or murkier—interpretation. Some days the character played by my father undergoes dramatic rewrites, revealing tragic flaws I hadn’t considered.
It’s hard for a son to grasp the power of his father’s presence, but even harder to mourn his death. As my book nears publication, have I even begun the process?
There are strange doctors in every specialty. Offbeat cardiologists. Creepy podiatrists. Sketchy dermatologists.
Then there’s almost every psychiatrist I’ve seen.
Socially awkward? Speak incredibly soft with minimal emotion? Eye contact not your thing? After you’ve exhausted your first, second and third through sixth choices, consider a career in psychiatry.
I don’t know the extent of French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan’s quirks, but when he introduced the variable-length session his colleagues must have thought him batty.
Analysts typically bill for a “50-minute hour,” which affords them a 10-minute break between sessions to maintain their own sanity. Lacan found this format too predictable. A depressed patient aware of the clock might limit herself to less pressing concerns in the interest of time. An obsessive patient attuned to patterns might prepare in advance an outline of his session, a classic defense mechanism.
To combat complacency and open possibilities for unexpected associations, Lacan liked to end discussion at any moment. He interrupted patients after an intriguing thought or provocative turn of phrase, inviting them to process these moments between sessions.
Maybe you’d see Lacan five minutes this week, 47 the next and 18 the week after that. Surprise was guaranteed.
It’s possible that Lacan’s own psychology informed his unorthodox approach. Rumor has it that an examiner interrupted Lacan near the end of his thesis defense, cutting him off mid-sentence. Did he feel compelled to repeat this experience with patients in an effort to regain control? If so, it didn’t work. Lacan’s methods led to his expulsion from the International Psychoanalytic Association.
I admire Lacan’s creativity but today the variable-length session would drive insurance companies and hospitals nuts. Imagine the paperwork. The fluctuating co-pays. If I were in and out of the office, who would validate my parking?