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"God! I've always hated this stupid shrink's office. Everything is placed so god damned precisely. Everything is so god damn clean. It's as if the bastard is striving for perfection. Strive. That's all he can do. Thinks he knows everything. Thinks he knows how I think, when even I don't know how I think..."
"Man, this fellow's office is immaculate. I can't see a speck of dust anywhere. Christ, this guy is really anal. Holy Ghost! Now, I'm starting to sound like freakin' Freud. The man's got me thinking like a shrink. This isn't good. No, not at all..."
"Hey! What's that!?! It's my flippin' file. The anal-retentive bastard left out my flippin' file. Well, it's about me...and I have a right to see what he's saying about me--don't I? Heck yes!"
"Let's see here. What's this? Oh, it's that stupid exercise he had me do. Geez! I wrote that over twelve weeks ago. I don't know why I had to do that moronic exercise. It's like he's going to find out anything about me in a two page piece of exposition using an extended metaphor for my conception of life at a university. Jesus, I can't even remember what metaphor I used. I hope I compared the university to a colon, because of all the crap I have to deal with. Alright, maybe school isn't that bad. Well, since the shrink is usually fashionably late, I might as well read the damn thing..."
Last summer, a few of my friends and I went on a canoe trip in the Quetico. I had never been on a canoe trip prior to this excursion, so I only had a vague idea of what I would be subjected to on such a trip. I naively believed that the whole affair would be something like a vacation absent the amenities, but, as I soon discovered, it was anything but a vacation. At the end of our first day of paddling, I was wet and exhausted. From this rather inauspicious beginning, my vacation devolved quickly into a hellacious "forced march." You see, my friend, who planned the trip, had set a destination that he thought that we should reach by the end of the third day and that if we didn't reach this destination we couldn't claim to be men. Initially, I thought that the whole trip was a waste of time and money; I couldn't believe that anyone, masochists excluded, would want to participate in such an affair.
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When I was a freshman, I thought that college was a institution where well-to-do parents, like my own, sent their sons and daughters, so that they could someday become the next generation of well-to-do parents who would send their sons and daughters off to become the well-to-do parents and so forth... It wasn't until my junior year that I realized that this was not the case. During my freshman and sophomore years, I did a minimal amount of work and received mostly A's. In my junior year, I received a rude awakening. I had to do more than simply pay tuition every quarter to achieve a degree. I had to study! And so I did... Since my freshman year, I have probably tripled the amount of time I spend doing homework. College is not easy! Not every child from a well-to-do family is going to receive a degree!
From my experiences at Bemidji State, North Dakota State, and Itasca Community College, I believe that the university is adversity. At the university, the student must complete many classes, some more difficult than others, some that are interesting and some that bore. Like the canoe trip, I find myself questioning my involvement in an activity that requires so much from me. Granted, the classes that I have taken within my major have all been interesting, but, at the same time, they have placed me under a great deal of stress. Occasionally, I wonder if I might be happier if I dropped out of college and went to work in "the real world." During these episodes, I find myself asking "why is it that I continue to subject myself to daily torments that the university places on me?" Because, just between you and me, I love it. I have found nothing that is more rewarding than doing well in a course that I knew was going to be difficult. When I receive my degree (how is that for confidence?), I suspect that, like the canoe trip, when I reflect on my years at the university I will see them as the most challenging years of my life, in which, with my friend Fortitude, I once again triumphed over adversity.
"Well, that was certainly lame. He probably thinks I'm a dork. Like I care what he thinks about me. Hey, there's more! What's this? A diagnostic form. What the hell is this L. Ron Hubbard crap? Wait a minute, it's about me..."
The patient has a tendency to use language which makes activities that are essentially banal sound quite romantic. In his first paragraph, he refers to his canoe trip as an "excursion" and later he describes the first day of his trip as an "inauspicious beginning." The words he chooses to describe ordinary activities "pomp up" the most bland and ordinary of events.
Another tendency which manifests itself in the patient's writing is his melodramatic proclivity. Almost every word he chooses to use requires a modifier to make his situation sound as if it is more exciting, difficult, interesting, or whatever it is that he is trying to convey. For instance, he modifies "trip" with the unnecessary "whole" in the first paragraph. The patient wants the reader to remember that his trip wasn't simply a short jaunt in the sticks, but rather an "excursion;" therefore, he opts to use the "whole" to remind the reader his trip was "very" difficult. Because the patient uses language to transform banal events into interesting events, I suspect he probably leads a prosaic life and romanticizes about living a more exciting one.
It is quite obvious the patient has a tendency to construct sentences which contain many clauses. This is probably a written manifestation of his verbal long-windedness. From his visits to my office, I have observed that the patient is anything, but taciturn. When he speaks about even the most trivial of topics, he somehow manages to end up speaking about concepts which are not germane to the topic of discussion. The patient simply wants to be heard. Well, he's paying me, so I'll listen to him all night if he wants. Sucker!
Perhaps, the most obvious problem which the patient is experiencing is his "human rag doll" conception of the universe. The patient is frequently "acted on," not "acting." It is as if the patient believes the forces of the universe are somehow manipulating the environment around him and that he is the beneficiary or pincushion of these cosmic forces. The exposition which he wrote for me is replete with many of these instances. The most revealing of these "human rag doll" statements occurs when he writes that he "didn't know what to expect on the trip" or as he states it: "I had only a vague idea of what I why I would be subjected to on such a trip." Statement's like these indicate that the patient believes there is some cosmic power which is responsible for the changes in his life.
The patient's diction provides a strong indication of his "human rag doll" conception of the world. He shows a preference for expressing concepts in terms of his movement. Classes have "placed [him] under a great deal of stress." He is "driven by [his] friend's testosterone." There are quite a few other instances like these where the patient provides hints as to his inability to control the environment around him. His being tossed around by the forces which surround him suggests that he believes he is a "rag doll" in some great cosmic mosh pit. Very disturbing. I would suggest he take a course to build his self-confidence and, in doing so, he will hopefully come to a realization that he has more control of the events which transpire around him then he currently does.
The patient's exposition is littered with an inordinate amount of "that's." There are probably two dozen unnecessary "that's" in his two page exposition. In one sentence alone, he uses "that" unnecessarily three times: "You see, my friend, who planned the trip, had set a destination [that] he thought [that] we should reach by the end of the third day and [that] if we didn't reach this destination we couldn't claim to be men." My eyes hurt after reading this trash. The sentence conveys the same meaning without the annoying "that's." With the three "that's," the sentence sounds as if it were an automatic rifle: "thatta that that." His superfluous use of the word "that" can only mean one thing: a fear of commitment. The patient appears to be distancing himself from any sort of relationship with the subject of his sentence. When one uses "that" superfluously, one is trying to separate one's self from the concepts one is trying to express. For instance, when one says, "I think [that] hotdogs are good" instead of "I think hot dogs are good" one has placed a "that" barrier between one's self and that which one is trying to express. In the third paragraph of his composition, the patient writes: "I think [that] it is one of the most invaluable activities...." The preceding sentence illustrates the patient's inability to commit himself to the activity which he engaged in. Note: Ask the patient about his relationships. Maybe he has a difficult with commitment in his relationships as well.
The patient also displays a great deal of diffidence. His "human rag doll" conception of the universe and his tendency to distance himself from his opinions are all manifestations of his problem with asserting himself. When he does assert himself, he does so in a matter which is extremely cautious. For example, in the following sentence he displays a lot of caution where it is not needed: "I couldn't believe anyone, masochists excluded, would want to participate in such an affair." The "masochists excluded" disclaimer reflects the patient's extreme self-consciousness; he is afraid to make bold, general statements, so he tries to make certain there are no exceptions to his claims. Some of my colleagues might claim this statement reflects the author's awareness that he is a member of a heterogeneous whole, and that is certainly true, but being too concerned about offending the feelings of others often hinders the development of a strong self-identity.
When the patient does attempt to be assertive, he often sterilizes his statements. In the last paragraph of his exposition, he writes: "When I receive my degree (how is that for self-confidence?)." Even when he tries to assert himself, his diffidence reigns him in. The parenthetical statement is a device he has employed to make the preceding statement seem less assertive. Less experienced colleagues of mine might argue the parenthetical statement makes the preceding statement more assertive, but the more experienced exposition analyst would note he has used a question mark at the end of the parenthetical statement. If the patient had decided to use an exclamation point at the end of the parenthetical statement, then I might have agreed with their contention, but since he used a question mark, I can only conclude he is afraid to assert that he will someday obtain his degree.
In his closing remarks, the patient displays a characteristic which is quite troubling: he has employed an archaic literary device! He wrote: "when I reflect on my years at the university I will see them as the most challenging years of my life, in which, with my friend Fortitude, I once again triumphed over Adversity." There is something happening in the final sentence which is difficult to discern, because, depending on how one reads it, one can hear two slightly different voices in it: a melodramatic voice and a jesting voice. As was previously noted, the patient has a penchant for the melodramatic and, by personifying Fortitude and Adversity, he may be trying to describe his struggles at college as if they are epic in scope. Because the patient has difficulty asserting himself, the closing sentence should probably be viewed as an attempt at humor, albeit a pathetic attempt. The patient is either trying to be humorous or he is trying to be Edmund Spenser, and if the latter is indeed the case, shock therapy should be administered immediately.
There are a few instances in the patient's exposition where he does appear to be asserting himself, but, in these instances, he is regrettably voicing concerns about his ability to succeed in the academic world. The most notable of these attempts occur in the two exclamatory sentences which are located at the end of the "sobbing/ I want my parent's to buy me a diploma" paragraph. The patient writes: "College is not easy! Not every child from a well-to-do family is going to receive a degree!" Not only is the patient's naivete evident in these exclamatory sentences, his concerns and anxieties about school are also quite apparent. Much like the cat who is trapped by the dog and has to fight, the patient becomes aggressive when he is speaking about the school which has caused him so much anxiety. Perhaps, the mere thought of school is enough to trigger the physiological and psychological changes which one experiences in a fight or flight situation. Reminder: Ask the patient some questions about activities he enjoys (e.g. drinking, reading, golfing, etc...) and then begin a series of inquiries about school. Observe the patient for any notable changes in behavior.
For the amateur exposition analyst, the patient's melodramatic and diffident tendencies may appear to be incompatible, because one might not believe that someone can not have low self-esteem and be melodramatic. What these amateurs don't take into consideration is that the patient's histrionics may actually be an expression of his desire to break out of his diffident frame of mind. A sapient exposition analyst would immediately recognize that his melodramatic poclivity is an expression of his latent urge to be boisterous and assertive. According to this diagnosis then, the patient's lapses into the melodramatic should be seen as an expression of his subconscious urge to be bold and assertive and not of him actually being assertive.
"What in the hell is this shrink talking about? Diffident!?! I have a hard time being assertive? That's a crock! Didn't he read 'From my experiences at Bemidji State, North Dakota State, and Itasca Community College, I believe that the university is Adversity?' How much more assertive can I be? I suppose I could've written: 'Being a professional student, I know the university is adversity.' If I had written that though, he probably would have said I was arrogant. No, this fool doesn't know what he's talking about."
"I don't know why I used so many damn 'that's,' but I do know I wasn't trying to distance myself from the ideas I was trying to express. That's absurd. Who's posterior is he pulling this excrement out of?"
"'A rag doll in a great cosmic mosh pit?' Well, yeah, sometimes I do feel like that--who doesn't? Besides, everyone uses sentences like 'placed me under a great deal of stress' when they write. I'm not being tossed around by cosmic forces; I'm simply writing like everyone else does. And what the hell is a shrink talking about mosh pits for anyway? That hardly seems professional."
"Sure. There's a lot of me in the paper, but, at the same time, there is a lot of me hiding. I can see how he thinks I'm not sure of myself, because I'm not, but I actually thought I did a decent job of hiding my anxieties and uncertainties about writing within the paper itself. If anything, I think I sound more confident in the exposition, than uncertain. Geez! It was the first time I had to write something that wasn't an essay in over four years."
"The bastard called me long-winded. He says my sentences with many clauses are a 'written manifestation of my verbal long-windedness.' Wait a minute. He's probably right. I do have a tendency to try to express my entire opinion of something in one sentence. Even when I'm speaking I try to say everything I have to say in one breath. If someone were to transcribe one of my conversations with my friends, I bet every time I spoke, regardless of how long I spoke, the only 'periods' would come when I was finally done speaking, that is assuming my friends would let me finish speaking, since, more often than not, they interrupt me, because they say that I'm rambling on about nothing."
"I suppose I do have a problem with being melodramatic, but I don't think I ever become histrionic. There is a very fine line between being melodramatic and histrionic and I don't believe I've ever crossed it. The 'modifiers' I use are often unnecessary. Maybe I use them to make the ideas and descriptions sound a little more profound and interesting. Maybe the shrink is right. Huh. I never really thought about that before. Mental Note: Use modifiers 'very' carefully and sparingly."
"I can't get over how stupid and naive I sound in that exercise. I sound like a naive pretty boy. Excursions!?! Who do I think I am? Lewis? Clark? An idiot? It's not my fault. The shrink told me to write two pages and not to worry, because it wasn't an assignment for school and, therefore, it wouldn't be graded. I remember I added the second paragraph, because I was struggling to come up with anything. I also remember I was having a hard time extending the metaphor. Man, the shrink is right: I am a mess."
"At times, it sounds as if I'm trying to sound urbane or sophisticated and yet, at other times, it seems like I'm deliberately trying to sound like a simpleton. I don't know. I suppose there are quite a few places where I don't sound like myself, but then there are even more places where I do. Actually, I think I didn't do too much posturing in the paper. It's just too bad that the shrink doesn't think I'm all right upstairs."
"I wonder if when I write I always portray my 'self' accurately or if I put on facades. I don't know. I suppose I do though. When I write, I try to sound like I know what I'm talking about without sounding abrasive. The pleasant pedant. That is what I am. I portray my 'self' accurately insofar as I'm sincere about what I'm writing about, but, by trying to remain passive and reserved, I do reign my 'self' in a bit. In my first paper, the only time 'Ion' spoke was in the parenthetical comments."
"O.K. I admit I do some posing in my writing. Is writing for me then just a means through which I can give people what they want to hear? Yeah, it probably is. I just give people what they want to hear. When I write, it's like I'm walking on glass. 'Be careful! Don't step there!' I want everyone to like me. Writing, for Ion, is a means through which he tries to procure the respect of others without asserting his 'self.' I've been deceiving myself. I really am a poser. I give people what they want to hear. I'm having epiphanies in a shrink's office. God, I'm pathetic."
"What is it Morgan asked us in class? If I remember correctly it was 'When you are writing, do you play the passive/observer recorder, active composer or creator, or something else?' Morgan, if you must know...I'm not Ion's 'self.' I am the pleasant pedant who refuses to let 'Ion' enter his writing. Occasionally, he escapes, but I always catch him before he embarrasses himself. It's best this way. Ion knows it is better if he's restrained. He fears rejection and failure. The arrangement works well for the both of us. He doesn't have to expose himself, and I don't mind it when he puts me on when he's writing. It's a very peculiar, but necessary relationship."
"Foolish pleasant, pedantic voice. He fatuously believes he has incarcerated me for life. If that is the case, how is it that he accuartely diagnosed many of the pscyhological traits which I possess when he was pretending to be the psychiatrist? I was out. He just didn't know it. I'm in all of my papers. I don't exactly know what composes my 'self,' but I do know that one can catch glimpses of me in my writing. This is all very strange. I don't know who or what my 'self' is, but I do know my 'self' when I come across 'him' in my writing. Perhaps, I can only intuit my 'self.' My 'self' is in this paper, more so than in any other paper I've ever written in the last four years. I think my 'self' gets confused and often scared, so 'he' hides behind facades. I'm going to quit writing, because 'he's' been out for too long."