|In the realm of common
anxiety and anxious disorders, phobias and such-like, one
frequently encounters obsessions and rituals of various
kinds, such as the compulsion to spray oneself repeatedly
with various types of "cleansers" (saliva, soapy water,
urine, bleach). Our practice has provided therapy for many
such behaviours over the decades, meeting with much success
but also, unfortunately, some discomfiting failures.
Patient "L," for example, came to us one gloomy March day in
'91. Typically I wouldn't have witnessed her arrival by bus,
her careful exit through the rear door, her hurried
re-entrance to the driver's consternation, her final
exit--again through the rear door. That day, however, had
brought with it a sort of therapeutic...reticence, if you
will, which had a truncating effect on my appointments.
Up she came, through the revolving door (though not,
certainly, without a goodly amount of coaxing by a
kind-but-meddlesome ex-patient) and up the elevator shaft,
to my door.
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I won't bore you with her agonizing list of fears, her
hysterical accounts of what to most of us would seem
trifling childhood trauma. She needed to be able to drive
from her home to her job and back again, and that became our
chief objective. Unfortunately, her fears were made worse by
her miserliness, which dictated a penny-pinching ethos so
extreme that she told tales of negotiating with gumball
She could not bring herself to buy short term car insurance for her car,
because, as she said: "What if I
buy more minutes than I
use? If I pay for 15 minutes of insurance, and crash my car
after only twelve, I'll have wasted more than 47 cents."
I am not, as a rule, dishonest in my practice, although I
have taken on characters (spaceman, Bugs Bunny, Mick Jagger,
and so on), it's true, within the confines of my office, in
order to explore various kinds of relationships. With "L,"
though, I had an inspiration that, though hopelessly
fraudulent, proved temporarily salubrious.
"My sister," I began, "happens to work for an insurance
agency unlike any other." She perked up at this. "It seems
almost as though they exist to suit your exact need. I'll
just look them up." I tapped at my computer keyboard for
several seconds ("Just Googling," I told her, smiling quite
cheerily and glancing at my Facebook feed). "Ah. Here it is:
Evanescent Insurance Company, LLC. I'll just jot down the
number for you. Ask for Edelbert Frothingame. It says here
you can buy auto insurance 'in ten-second increments, should
you so desire.'"
For a while it did make things quite difficult on my
secretary, who keeps an unpublished line for these delicate
operations. The first day, I heard her answer "Evanescent
Insurance" more times than I could count, until I almost
believed I could sing that fictional company's jingle.
Unfortunately, despite its salvific potential for my client,
I must admit "Evanescent's" final failure: when the
inevitable crash came (a lovely old beech tree, by the way)
there was no indemnification to be had. Everyone can take a
lesson from that, I suppose.