NCSPP

Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology

FROM THE EDITOR: CLEOPATRA VICTORIA, MFT

COUCH
Elevation 7,214 ft


I'm writing from the mountains above Tahoe. It's Easter in April, and we're over 7,000 feet where the Sierra caps are bedded in snow. There was a fatal accident at a resort, and I was doing crisis counseling for hotel staff. Before leaving The City, snow had been predicted. The thought of driving in it filled me with sheer terror. For three nights before the trip, I had fantasies of icy, slippery, snowy mountain roads and plunging off a cliff in my Toyota. (Keep it to yourself, but if the CIA ever needs to torture me, the thought of sleety roads would do it.) I asked a friend to accompany me, using the lure of a luxury resort and mountain beauty. He agreed, insisting he drive his Honda. My anxiety offloaded, I felt excited about our alpine adventure. Then, the projection of my anxiety was forcefully returned to me. My friend, after investigating the intricacy of driving with chains and hearing the weather prediction of several inches of snow, reneged, declaring he did not want to drive in a snowstorm. My annihilation anxieties returned with gale force.

On the way, a few drops of rain fell outside Sacramento. Just before ascending the summit, I bought chains at a gas station. A man who lived up on the mountain told me he'd just come down. It was all clear up there, and he didn't think chains were needed. (Free association here. Lying on the couch, I once asked my analyst whether he had his seatbelt fastened. Caution: slippery roads ahead.) I crossed Emigrant Gap, then the Donner Pass. The enormous, ripped white crags of the Sierra rose up -- intimidating, majestic, unfathomable, terrifying. Just like psychoanalysis. The roads turning off to the resort were dry as a desert. 

In the bowels of the resort, an external door was marked, "Keep this door closed to keep out raccoons and bears." Was the danger internal or external, a paranoid projection evacuated into the other? That night, after work, I went out on the vast deck of the lodge and faced the arresting white mountains. The hot tubs were blowing silver steam into the darkness. Hundreds of stars were bathing in the black sky. In the morning, the sun lit up the horizon's palette. There wasn't a single cloud out there.

Cleopatra Victoria, MFT
IMPULSE Editor