Letters to Dr. Casper
June 12, 1975
Dear Dr. Casper,
I felt I was becoming much too dependent upon you; that is why I left when the opportunity was so excellent. After spending two and one-half years studying your map of the Rocky Mountain ski areas, your calendar, your beautiful photographic collage of your children, your coffee pot (until you moved it) and your red rug (which I had perceived as green), I felt far too comfortable. If I had spent any more time with you, I would have had to look at you instead of the trappings in your office. This eventuality was simply too risky for me. I did to you the same thing I did so efficiently to all the others; I got rid of you before you got rid of me. This way I can tolerate the loss better. I don't feel discarded. As I write this, I can almost hear your voice, as you listen, lean forward, and ask me gently, "Who discarded you?"
I can appreciate a source of frustration in the preceding paragraph. I know the whole purpose of therapy is to make me give up such fears. The theory says that this metamorphosis cannot occur until the patient (client) and doctor (guru) face each other as human beings, rather than as personifications of their respective expectations. Whether that theory is correct is mainly your concern -- you, yourself, are my concern. This phenomenon of facing each other, rather, me facing you (for you were always facing me) was about to occur.
I could not allow that to happen. I was getting far too comfortable with our almost mystical relationship. I didn't want to change it! I didn't want to lose you, but it had to happen. There is no way I could justify therapy with you for the rest of my life.
So I had to leave. Furthermore, I am sure you understand all this well, as you understood it while it was happening. Unfortunately, you were helpless to do anything about it, but that, too, serves to illustrate the strength of my defenses. Not only do I run from you, but my running renders you helpless to do the thing I hired you to do.
December 14, 1975
Dear Dr. Casper,
There is still so much inside of me that needs letting out. I guess that's why I am somewhat of an artist. Curiously, my mother understands this side of me. When I spent my last five dollars on art supplies instead of groceries, she knew I had to do it. She understands this because of a handwriting analysis she had done on me some years ago. The analysis labeled the strength of my emotions as the weakness of my personality. Perhaps therein lies the reason I must banish certain events and feelings from consciousness, because to experience the pain of them would render me impotent in my daily life. I must protect myself somehow from my own weakness.
I must tell you this, before I forget again. In the whole time we spent together, I completely and totally forgot about an extremely important event in my childhood--my Uncle Arthur. He was indeed an event, one that I'd completely forgotten about, until I returned to my hometown.
I was nine years old at the time. My mom used to take me and my sister to visit our elderly great-aunt Clara, who lived alone and baked sugar cookies for her visitors. She had a husband, Arthur. We children didn't know where he was, nor did we care. One day, out of the blue, Arthur came back from wherever he had been.
Everybody made a real big fuss over him, as if he were a very important person. Still, we children were oblivious and unconcerned about his prolonged absence. Everyone welcomed him back. He started visiting us frequently, and we both, my sister and I, fell in love with him. He lavished lovely gifts on all the family members, but it wasn't his gifts that mesmerized me, it was his true understanding of me. He was friend, father, brother, Santa Claus and hero, all in one. I adored him.
One day, he noticed I was painting a model bird. I expressed my love of birds, and he asked me to show him my models. Two weeks later, I received a book in the mail from National Geographic, called Stalking Birds With Color Camera. The book was magnificent, and expensive. The gift card was signed Uncle Arthur. I was flabbergasted. That was one of the most perfect gifts anyone has ever given me.
There were other gifts, and other visits, but their memory pains me. Suffice it to say that Uncle Arthur was the first person to recognize me and approve of me as a unique individual. He validated my world and opened it to me.
I don't know how long Uncle Arthur stayed, but one day, as suddenly as he had arrived, he was gone again. This time, his picture was in the newspaper. He had taken all of Aunt Clara's money with him, just as he had done forty years ago, when he left the first time! An FBI agent came to the house. Mom had to go through the scrapbook and find all the pictures of Uncle Arthur and give them to the man. Because of the enormity of the theft, and the history, the FBI would now handle Uncle Arthur's case.
At that time, I could not understand the forces of the human soul that sometimes compel one to act in contradictory manners. At that young age, how could I have understood, least of all accepted, the possibility that his series of acts were equally sincere? In light of how loving, generous and accepting Uncle Arthur was to me, I could not believe he was capable of such a heinous act. To leave his wife, steal her entire fortune, and disappear so cruelly and abruptly was beyond my capacity to accept. My pain was compounded when I realized he had performed the exact crime forty years previously, staying away the entire time, until she had rebuilt her fortune.
So, I could come to only one conclusion regarding this most agonizing, bewildering situation. Uncle Arthur never really loved me after all. He was just pretending, and I believed him the whole time. He lied to me, and deceived me, while I allowed myself to love him. Now he was gone, and a criminal, besides. He could not have really loved me. People who commit crimes such as his feel no love. People who feel the love I felt for him, the love I thought he felt for me, do not commit such crimes.
In Psychology class, they called it cognitive dissonance. As a little girl, I could not resolve the cognitive dissonance that sprang from the event of my Uncle Arthur's betrayal. Perhaps I never resolved it. Perhaps that is why I am so unsure of men, still.
February 23, 1976
Dear Dr. Casper,
Thank you for answering my letter. It was just what I needed to put an end to therapy. I guess it's about time you heard some good news from me, instead of all my negativity.
I have changed quite a bit since I saw you over one year ago. I quit smoking, took up Transcendental Meditation and natural foods. I got my hair cut really short, and I even lost some weight. This was a side effect, I must confess, not a goal, but I feel quite good about myself. I'm doing physical therapy instead of psychotherapy! Sometimes I wish you could see me now, because I am different and obviously much improved. You always saw so much of the misery in me. Did you ever see me at my best?
Oh, I still have relapses, and probably always will have them. The letter I wrote you was prompted by a bad relapse, due to various pressures (final exams, Christmas) all coming down at once. Generally, though, I feel much more calm, predictable, and efficient.
I have changed in another way, and this isn't so good. Since coming back to my hometown, I have been completely unable to establish relationships with men. Where I used to feel sexual attraction to men, I now feel nothing. Where I used to feel conflict and uncertainty, there is a void.
copyright2003Marie E. LaConte