Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

there's nothing wrong with him! - Shrink Unwrapped by Joel L. Schwartz

"I am rating this book 5 out of 5 stars. If you are looking for a fun, humorous story that shares the main character's experiences, life growing up and more then this is a good book to pick up. I truly enjoyed it. " Seraphia, Goodreads


To treat patients using psychoanalysis, psychiatrists must first undergo their own analysis. And Dr. Jacob Fink plans to coast through his own stint on the shrink's couch as quickly as possible. After all, there's nothing wrong with him! But soon, his forty‑five minute sessions unearth long‑buried struggles that are both profound and profane.

Can a three‑year‑old who was unable to sit still on his carpet square in nursery school and constantly joked his way through his schooling ever be successful in life?

Can listening to a weather forecast be dangerous to your health?

Can a boy get a venereal disease just by thinking about girls?

How can you get fresh semen stains out of white linen pants and beat a traffic ticket?

Jacob is on his way to a breakthrough when something unthinkable happens and he now has to dig deep to unwrap the last of his inner struggles and finally grow into the therapist he knows he can be.

Chapter 1

So You Want To Be an Analyst
My life was programmed for me.

As far back as I can remember, my parents repeatedly said “I don’t care what you do when you grow up as long as you go to college, then medical school, and become a doctor.”

For my birthday, my father gave me a stethoscope. My mother gave me a white coat and a ticket to a medical insurance seminar in Las Vegas. The package included airfare, two days, three nights at the glamorous Golden Unicorn Hotel, breakfast every morning, one buffet dinner, and tickets to the Folies Bergères Revue I was thankful, but didn’t know what to do with it. I was only three.

It should be no surprise that I followed the path that had been set out for me.

Often, people asked me why, after graduating medical school, I chose the specialty of psychiatry. I jokingly said, “I’m uncoordinated, afraid of the sight of blood, and generally dislike human touch. What other specialty would fit those limitations?”

My friends, always looking for an edge, misunderstood my choice and thought I was a psychic. “Tell me what I’m thinking right now!”

“How much change do I have in my pocket?” or “What’s in store for me in the future?”

The response from my family to my choice of specialty was one of embarrassment, not support:

My grandmother, loving but outspoken, said “I’ll tell everyone my grandson is a doctor! I’ll leave out the embarrassing psychiatrist part.”

My dermatologist father, always questioning, asked, “Do psychiatrists ever get their patients better?” I replied, somewhat annoyed, “Do dermatologists ever get their patients better?” End of discussion.

My mother, always the realist, probably had the best response. “Why in the world would my hyperactive son pick a specialty where he had to sit still in one place for 45 minutes? How are you going to do that?”

I looked at her knowingly, “With difficulty,” I replied.

I have always been hyperactive. I was born three weeks early.

My mother, ever-ready to comment, insisted it was because I couldn’t wait to get moving. I never walked. I ran, jumped, rocked, twirled, rolled, and twisted my way through childhood. “Harnessing his boundless energy was impossible. It was exhausting,” freely admitted my mother. “I just couldn’t keep up with him.”

In an effort to preserve what was left of her physical strength and emotional sanity, I was enrolled in the “Little Friends” nursery school at age two. That lasted only three months. I was expelled because I couldn’t sit still on my assigned carpet square, which was a requirement for continued enrollment. The headmaster never did explain to my parents how sitting on a piece of carpet was supposed to prepare me for the future. One could speculate, however, that sitting still in a confined space for an extended period of time might groom someone to become one of the statues people see in Times Square in New York City. But that was not what my parents had in mind for my future, so my departure was not considered a major setback.

Despite a disheartening streak of failed nursery school interviews, my mom never gave up. But, after my fifth rejection, she decided she needed some help. Before the next interview, at the suggestion of her doctor husband, she doped me up with a tiny dose of a minor tranquilizer. Since I was not driving or operating any heavy machinery, this tranquilizer would hopefully just slow me down enough. However, when I kept nodding off during the interview, she gave the headmaster some cock-and-bull story that I hadn’t slept well the night before because I was so excited about coming to the school. Half awake, and successfully slowed down, I was admitted to the Oak Ridge Day Nursery . . . where I spent the next 3.5 years.

During that time, I was personally responsible for driving seven early childhood specialists into other fields, none of which had to do with children.

Since I started out as the youngest child ever in the school by far, it was difficult for me to understand why many of the kids left to go on to kindergarten at the end of the year, yet I remained in the school. Each year, as May approached with the impending departure of my friends, I would become sullen, brooding, bad-tempered, and ill-humored. My teachers tried to tell me that in a few years (then in a couple of years, and finally next year), I would go to kindergarten, but that didn’t help. Time for a child is a nebulous concept; for a hyperactive child, it is the equivalent of forever.

In a last-ditch attempt to bolster my spirits, I was given the roll of Tiny Tim in the school’s Christmas play. I had one line “God bless us, every one!” Excited about my role in the play, I practiced my line continuously day and night. “God bless us, every one!” “God bless us, every one!” While my gloomy mood had dissolved, the school had inadvertently created a monster. My “God bless us, every one!” was like the unstoppable brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene in Fantasia, an Oscar winning animated film from Disney Studios. The school, my parents and even God counted down the days until the play.

“God bless us, every one!”

Thirty people attended the Christmas play that year. Of the 30, 16 were there for me: My mom, my grandparents, two uncles, two aunts, and four neighbors and their wives.

You should have been there. The atmosphere was electric. The crowd was hushed in anticipation when it was time for me to deliver my lines. My theatrical debut was upon us. There was silence. Then more silence. You could hear his teacher off stage whispering “God bless us, every one!” “God bless us, every one!”

The silence was deafening. And then I began “God bless us, every one! God bless my mom and my father in Texas, my grandparents, Uncle Marshall and Aunt Elaine, Uncle George and Aunt Barbara, the Fishers, the Kantros, the Rondos, and all the other people that came to see me whose names I didn’t know. God bless us, every one! God bless us, every one!”

I bowed to the audience and then to the people backstage, and skipped off the stage. A star or a reasonable facsimile thereof was born.

Fast forward to today! Somehow—and there are several speculations how—I was able to transform and harness my hyperactivity into productivity as I zoomed through high school, college, medical school, and psychiatric training. The speculations were lost somewhere along the way. I had a successful private practice, did some teaching of medical students, and supervised psychiatric residents.

All of this was somewhat fulfilling, but something was missing.

I wanted to be more than just a simple pill-pushing professional. I wanted to go where no ordinary psychiatrist dared to go. I wanted to talk to my patients, to probe the depths of their minds, to uncover insights that trapped emotions and prevented meaningful relationships.

When a patient presented a dream where a hot dog was chasing a doughnut wearing a garter belt and fishnet stockings through a tunnel filled with yellow daisies, I wanted to be able to uncover its hidden meaning. I wanted to be a Freudian analyst. That was my dream.

However, to be an analyst, two things had to happen. First, you had to choose an analyst from a small group of specially trained analysts called, not-so-surprisingly, training analysts. Second, you have to undergo a personal analysis with one of them, a fairly long process.

Initially, the training analyst would perform a “psycho-colonoscopy” to discover your inner problems, followed by a long slow “mental enema” to purge you of the emotional shit inside that would interfere with your treating others.

To begin the process, I had compiled the resumes of 10 training analysts. Who should I go to see first? I needed expert guidance. This was a very important decision and I knew exactly the one to turn to. It was Anna, my six-year-old female Jack Russell Terrier (named after Sigmund Freud’s daughter), who had guided me successfully in the past. Anna had picked five consecutive Super Bowl winners. Anna had found my car keys in the bottom of my closet when they accidentally dropped out of my pants pocket as I hung them up. Most recently, Anna had helped me pick out the perfect fragrance for my wife for our anniversary.

I placed the 10 résumés side by side on the floor of the family room. “Anna,” I yelled, “Come!” The rhythmic clinking of her dog tags announced her arrival from the kitchen where she had just finished getting a drink of water. “Anna,” said I. “I need your help making an important decision. Look over these resumes and pick the training analyst I should interview . . . ”

Anna scratched her left ear with her left hind paw before walking over to the papers on the floor. She stared at the first résumé and slowly sniffed herself laterally to look over each one. She looked carefully at the training analysts’ ages, their experience, their gender, and what books they liked to read. When she got to the next to the last résumé she lifted her leg and peed on it. Turns out this analyst lost his license 10 years later because of sleeping with one, maybe two of his patients.

How did Anna know?

Nine to go. With her nose, she pushed off to the side the résumés of the analysts who were older than 65 years, who had been divorced, and who had no interests outside of psychiatry, as well as those who followed the Chicago Cubs. She made a separate pile for those who had pets and further eliminated some who weren’t named for famous analysts. When all the sniffing and pawing was done the analyst left standing was Dr. Herman Hermann, a 60-year-old, who had been a training analyst for 22 years and married to the same woman for 40. He was an avid golfer with a 10 handicap. The thing that sealed the deal for Anna was that he had a German Shepherd named Sigmund and she loved German Shepherds, especially if they were named for her father.

I immediately picked up the phone and scheduled an appointment with Dr. Hermann for next week.

I patted Anna on the head and thanked her for her help. I imagined

Anna thinking “I can’t believe he thinks I have special telepathic powers when in reality I picked that particular resume because the paper smelled like a dog I met in the park last week.” I often had crazy thoughts like this. It made life interesting.

About the author:
Dr. Joel Schwartz is the published author of 7 middle grade novels, including Upchuck Summer (Yearling, 1983), which sold over 150,000 copies, He is the Emeritus Chair of Psychiatry at Abington Memorial Hospital, and a board certified adult and child psychiatrist/psychoanalyst. He is also a professional speaker, and works with organizations to improve workplace dynamics. In addition, he is an amateur stand‑up comic and wishful golfer.

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