“I’ve been trying to look at the world more closely”, I said to the middle-aged, soft-toned, slightly-shorter-than-me woman that asked for the purpose of my visit. I leaned my torso over the counter as I said it, distributing the weight of my body along the white piece of furniture that stood before me. The place was all white, actually. Neat walls and clear glass. Accompanied by the type of instrumental background music of crickets and falling water that is supposed to relax you.
A friend had told me about a technique she had been undergoing over the past months, and how it had helped her arrive at fruitful insights about her life. She said it was “different” and “maybe a little weird at first”, but once you “threw yourself in it, it was magical”.
As I’ve been historically inclined to trying new therapeutic methods, I booked a session without thinking too much of it. This was usually the case with me. I was open to new experiences, didn’t hesitate to try, but when living through them, my mind would be the first judge.
They called my name and took me to a small room.
There was enough space for me and a squared table. They sat me down and asked me to repeat some things loudly for the mic check. Apparently the equipment was working superbly and the woman who brought me in disappeared saying I should press the canary yellow button in case I wanted to stop the session or leave earlier for whatever reason.
I straightened myself up on the plastic chair, hearing the sounds it made as I shifted my body from one side to the other. Soon enough, a pre-recorded message started coming out of some hidden speakers. This voice, so deep and inviting, filled the room as the lights dimmed a little. She warned me of what was going to happen next and I sat still, watching as a small mirror emerged from the table. It was big enough for me to see my entire face reflected on it, but not much else. My mind drifted to the thought of other people, other patients, sitting where I was, watching as their own reflection surfaced before them. The size of the mirror seemed so perfectly measured as to only show what mattered, but how could they be a perfect fit to all patients? I was thinking of all of the possibilities, trying to unravel how this mirror seemed to work as a tool for everyone that went there, that I lost a big chunk of the recorded message. I could pick up on a question, which I believed was the voice asking me to repeat the purpose of my visit and I told her what I had told the lady in the reception.
She asked me to expand on that. After a brief minute of discomfort, I told her I felt like I’d been losing too much presence lately. Like the world that existed in my head kept pulling me towards it while the real world, the one right before my eyes, stood still and just witnessed me losing awareness over and over again.
The voice asked for an example and I told her about this day, last year, somewhere around August.
My father invited me and my little brother to go cycling on the upper part of the city.
It was green and lush and a bit humid. We began cycling late morning, almost noon. There’s something about the air up there and the way the beams of light escape through the blanket of trees that makes it seem magical. The whole time I was there, I told her, while I was trying really hard to pay attention to what my father was saying, something about the last time he had gone up and how his new wife got too tired during some of the uphill parts and had to push her bicycle, I could only focus on bits of the story. It was an active fight to try and listen. It was like my mind had involuntary will power, always escaping that moment and finding refuge elsewhere, in imagined realities but not the one I was actively living.
Like? The women in the speakers asked.
It’s silly, I said, watching as my eyes escaped my face, looking down at the patch of floor next to me.
The recording said something that made me continue speaking and I went on, telling her how I’d often get lost in this parallel world that inhabits my mind. The topics and colors and feelings of these parallel realities changed depending on how dull or inactive or stagnant was the reality I was in. A year ago was this obsession I created for a guy. A guy who I felt loved me very much but was unable to say so or do anything about it because he was stuck on the other side of the world. A guy who I had fantasized to be with in every corner of my town, which left me feeling like living I was living juxtaposed realities: whenever I walked past a street I had walked down on with him, I felt like having deja-vu of moments I had only ever lived in my imagination.
I looked at my face again in them mirror, it was like my eyes were forced to fixate on my reflection. I thought of my past self for a slight second, the little me who always got so confused in understanding the boundaries of my reality. I thought of how little this had changed, with the only difference that growing up made my fantasies accompany me, maturing in more actualized forms.
The voice said things. Many things that made me feel like I was traveling down a very long swirly staircase. Into a realm of multiple associations, where things would make sense for the slightest moment, then retreat back to a voidness of confusion.
The problem is, I said, I believe so dearly in the things I create that I get lost in them. And I’m scared, I’m afraid that I’ll ever only live a fantasy, and nothing real.
As soon as I finished speaking, my eyes hypnotized by the person looking back at me, the lights were fully turned on and I shook myself out of whatever tranced like state I was in.
Some ambient music started playing as the voice thanked me for my visit and welcomed me to come back again to further explore whatever issue it was that I had emerged there that day.
I nodded, still confused and dizzy from all the excessive brightness. I was escorted out of the pale clinic by the soft-toned receptionist and given a beautifully designed water bottle on my way out to the street.
It was sunny out and I decided to walk back home. On the way, I voice-messaged the friend that had told me about the therapy and asked if I was supposed to be feeling any better.
She texted saying it took time for “the work to kick in”.
I stopped mid-way and bought some coffee. I asked her what the whole mirror in a poorly lit room was supposed to accomplish and she told me I wasn’t to supposed to know so early on the process, but their idea was based off of a “smokes and mirrors analogy, a way to trick the brain into transcending the ego, in other words, the reflection in front of you, the thing you identify with the most, your image”.
Her words percolated through my mind, slowly, making as much sense as they could at the time. I told her I felt just like I feel after watching old Bergman or Hitchcock movies, hyper aware and confused until the last 15 minutes when the plot is finally explained, and she made a perhaps brilliant observation about that being life itself: a constant flow of experiences, stacked together and pressed to look and feel like a seamless whole, interspersed by few, rare moments of clarity when it all does seem to make sense.
I nodded silently as I heard the message, reminding myself to write something about it one day, threw my phone back in my bag and resumed my walk home.