Publish Novellas 6 April 2022
EPISODE 1 – PSYCHOTHERAPY
Do you ruminate over a past decision, wishing you had made a different choice? One man gets an opportunity to revisit such a pivotal moment.
Even with the best of physical health, poor mental health can be debilitating. Saddened by his rumination of better outcomes from different choices in early life, Ronald Jackson sees psychotherapist, Dr. Beverly Richardson, for a high-tech treatment.
“No, it’s not hypnosis,” she says. “Using information we gather about you and people affecting your life, we program experiences. Then, by means of mixed reality, you can vary outcomes from a pivotal decision.”
“That sounds, fantastic,” Ronald says. “But what if I like the fantasy more than the reality?”
“That is a great question. Most clients are curious about relationships. Others want to revisit career decisions. The virtual presentation is not real. If it reveals your past decision to be unwise, you gain more confidence in your current path. If the alternate decision has a better outcome, then you have the satisfaction of experiencing that result, virtually.”
“So either way, I get to live the good life?” asks Ronald.
“Not always. Unwise past decisions could lead to incarceration, injury, or death. I must caution you to carefully choose decisive outcomes during this treatment.”
“What I really want to know is if my life would be happier… if I had married my college sweetheart.”
“Keep in mind that though you may wish to isolate a single experience, decisions have domino effects. The life of your actual wife, if you have one, is correspondingly altered. From there, it spreads out to friends and extended families. Have you tried reaching out to her and chatting on the phone?”
“We have both been married to different people for many years. She has a grown child. It’s a missed opportunity.”
“Don’t expect your virtual outcome to resemble your current life with a simple character replacement like an understudy in a play. Where you live and the friends you acquire may be dramatically different from what you have come to know. You are rewriting scenes—an entire life story—with a team of new authors affecting the plot.”
“Wow, that’s deep,” Ronald reacts.
“I find that it’s best to first ask clients to imagine the outcome without the assistance of technology. Fantasies can be one-dimensional. There is a tendency to only focus on the positive. But I ask you to think it through more thoroughly.”
“You mean there is more to consider beyond romantic intimacy with the missed love of my life?” Ronald asks, while trying to absorb ramifications.
“Exactly, much more. The experience might be compared to sitting in a restaurant with your spouse. Then someone from your past walks in. Noticing the body language between you two, she asks about your history together.
“Her intuition arrives at a conclusion. But you need to decide if your answer to the question will ruin dinner and, perhaps, your next few weeks or longer.”
“So, some things are best left unsaid?” he reasons.
Do you think the past should remain unchanged or would you like to revisit a moment in your life to explore a different outcome?
“Actually, I want to stress that there are consequences to exploring alternate outcomes. What type of job would you have had? How would your extended families have reacted? Would there be an effect on your religious choices?”
“There is no way to reason through all those outcomes. I prefer the mixed reality to demonstrate such answers,” the undeterred patient replies.
“Oh, it will. But it is good to have a frame of reference with which to compare. Also, expressing such things out loud provides more data. This improves the accuracy of the virtual experience.”
“So where do I begin?” Ronald asks.
“Start with the circumstances of the pivotal decision to breakup. I will probe further with pertinent questions to get a complete picture.”
“Right away I realize that while focusing on the positive I have been suppressing many negative memories.”
“That is often the case. We all have a pair of rose-colored glasses. If you do not wish to continue, let me know.”
“We will get into some embarrassing personal details. Can I embellish or change the names to protect the innocent?” asks Ronald.
“The accuracy of the therapy corresponds to the information you share.”
“Okay, I want to do this. What is the first question again?”
“Start with the circumstances of the pivotal decision to breakup,” Dr. Richardson suggests.
“Here goes…. I was lovesick. I thought about this girl day and night, to the point that I was failing classes. Intimacy progressed to an obsession. She was on the pill… until she wasn’t. Then she told me that she was pregnant.
“I froze while contemplating my living conditions, sharing a bedroom with my brothers in my mother’s apartment. My part-time job paid only enough to buy school supplies.
“Finally, I responded, that we could get married. Not very, romantic in retrospect, I know. But she belittled the notion and warned that her military father would kill me.
“After she consulted her aunts, they ‘took care of it’ and advised me to transfer to another school. For many years I mourned the emotional loss of my potential bride and the physical loss of my child.”
“What eventually happened?”
“She finished school. I dropped out. Both of us married other people.”
“If that life-defining conversation is the pivotal point, it seems you have several outcomes to explore. Though likely speaking in hyperbole, what if her father did kill you?
“To raise the child, would both of you have dropped out of school? Would you have married young and lived with her parents? What would your relationship have been like with them?” Dr. Richardson probes.
“The answers to all those questions are likely why I regrettably acquiesced.”
“Then you don’t need mixed reality to see how things would have turned out.”
“Perhaps not there. But fast forward another couple of years to the penultimate time I saw her. In my own apartment with a part-time job, she appeared on my doorstep to reconcile. She said we should be together. This was the pivotal decision in which I was evasive.”
“This situation is more binary. Do you want to explore the outcome of your deciding to reconcile with her?”
“Yes, this is the pivotal point,” Ronald believes.
“What were your career paths?” Dr. Richardson inquires.
“Nicole graduated and began working for a small newspaper in a different city. She then became a popular novelist. I became artist in local advertising agencies.”
“Do you both still live in the same area?” asks Dr. Richardson.
“No, she married once, moved to another state.”
“Would you have been willing to relocate if it advanced your wife’s career?”
“That’s a tough question. Perhaps, though I did fancy attending a particular art school in the state.”
“How many children did you raise?”
“My wife was incapable of conceiving. Nicole eventually had one child.”
“Interesting… by choosing another path, you could have had offspring. How does that make you feel?” asks the therapist.
“Having children was a desire of mine in youth. In retrospect, I might not have been a great father to them. Focus on my work may have led to neglect.”
“And you each have only been married once?”
“Finally, we come to an area that many don’t think matters, but can have a profound effect. What role did religion play in your lives?”
“I never knew Nicole to be religious. On the other hand, I became quite religious after our breakup.”
“Is it fair to say that you may have had a godless life, had you chosen another path?”
“I prefer to think that I would still have been drawn to God. I am just uncertain whether she would have come along.”
“Just talking it out, you can see some of the different directions your life would have taken. Are you certain you want to escape reality for a virtual experience and live through an alternate life course?”
“Yes, I have been pondering life with her for many years.”
“Okay, Ronald. We will need to blockout an entire day. Are you available on Saturday?”
“I can make myself available,” Ronald says eagerly.
“Wear some comfortable clothing and I will see you then.”