The Case of the Immoral Monster
by Guy Hasson
I only remember my mistakes.
All my success in public life has turned me into some kind of a legend in the eyes of the people, and given me an aura of perfection. So let me make this clear: Success in my field is achieved by breaking new ground, by changing your way of thinking. You can only do that by learning that your current way of thinking is incorrect. And so those who had achieved success are those who had discovered that they had been wrong.
During my many decades of public activity, I’ve been inside the heads of ordinary men and women and learned that there is no such thing as an ordinary man or woman. I have been inside the minds of murderers, rapists, lunatics, and had even been inside the heads of a few non–humans. And so I have been a murderer, a rapist, a lunatic, and even abandoned my humanity for a few seconds.
I think the one or two pieces of truth I’ve garnered from my clients should be shared. And so I’ve finally decided to buy one of those Dict–a–Word machines, and am talking into a stupid, little microphone, watching my words appear on the screen. The microphone is small. Supposedly to make things comfortable. It would be comfortable if I didn’t have to talk to a piece of lifeless, unthinking metal. It is torture for a telepath to talk to something which does not even have a mind that resonates back. Infernal, lifeless, little machine.
Maybe it was a mistake to buy it. If it is, I’ll learn of it later. It will prove to be a harmless mistake in a life of less than harmless mistakes.
My first mistakes were all committed at the expense of my hapless first client.
I was just fresh out of my internship, and had opened my first office. There was nothing in it except huge boxes. I hadn’t even had time yet to look for a secretary. But I had a shiny new sign on the door: ‘Jennifer Parks, Md., Psychiatrist, Telepath.’ I was twenty-five-years-old, a brash, little brat, certain I knew it all, my head swollen with the praise of my superior talent. Besides, how hard could it be? I could get into people’s minds, find the trouble, and fix it by simple, telepathic manipulation. My hair was still red at the time, the white mane which would become my trademark in my days of fame was still far in the future.
With my office a complete shambles, my first client stepped through the door, and hoped I had time for him. He was young, twenty-four-years-old, very white, very blond, very well dressed.
“I need help, Doctor Parks. If you don’t help me, my marriage’ll be over.”
I was shocked that someone had actually come seeking me out. Not that I didn’t deserve it – it’s just that no one could possibly have heard of me. “How did you get my name?”
He told me Professor Brown–Friedman, my favorite teacher, was an old friend of the family. She had recommended me, despite my inexperience, telling them I am the most talented and intelligent student she’d had. I tried to be humble when he told me this. I was not successful. Stupidity at work.
We waded through the boxes, as I apologized for the mess and explained that I had just moved. We went into my office. I asked him to sit on the couch, gave him some coffee, sat behind my desk (still wrapped in nylons), and asked him what the problem was.
“Wouldn’t it be simpler just to scan me?” he asked.
“Not at all,” I put on the condescending air of a lecturer. “Another person’s mind is like a jungle. If you don’t know your way, you get lost in less than a second. In fact, you’ll drown.” (Mixing my jungle metaphor with a water metaphor. Oh, well.) “I need to hear you speak, first, to get a general map of what I’m going to find. Afterwards, I will slowly go in – with your permission, of course – and, as you think of the things you told me about, I will slowly find safe entrances into your mind, common grounds, until I will be able to easily find my way within your thoughts.”
The lecture over, he told me his tale. His name was Donald Claremont III (his real name, for the sake of privacy, I’ll keep a secret), an nth generation heir to a rich, powerful and devout Catholic family. From as far back as he could remember, his mother and father had told him to be moral. They had told him of Hell and of the punishment that awaits all sinners. They had taken him to Sunday school, to church, to friends who spoke of the same things. He had believed. And he had been afraid. He had never had a desire to act meanly toward others, but his desire to stay out of Hell, to be liked in the eyes of God – that had become a major concern which had only grown more powerful as the years passed.
But somewhere during the eleventh grade, he had met new friends, had seen new things, and his belief in God had been shaken. Eventually, he had left his religious beliefs behind. The process had been slow and had taken years. It had culminated in his being secure enough in his disbelief and in his new convictions that he had faced his parents. The following few months had consisted mostly of bickering. But things were better now. His parents had come to some kind of peace with his new beliefs, mainly because he was still as morally upstanding as he had always been.
“You see, Doctor Parks, I believe in being kind, I believe in the commandments that say Don’t kill, Don’t steal, Be kind to your parents, and so on. But because they’re right, not because God said so. I will be and am a very moral man, but not because I believe in God. God doesn’t exist; we invented Him. I know that, now. I’m certain. But there’s still a very powerful part of me that is afraid of the punishment! It’s been driven into me for so long that it’s chiseled into my mind. Not even my lack of belief in God has shaken my fear of punishment.
“I want you to yank that nonsense about Hell and damnation out of my mind, Doctor! Just yank it out and free me of it!”
“Why?” I asked calmly. “A part of you still believes, obviously. It would be unethical of me to change your religious beliefs for you. You need more time. Maybe the process will be completed, or maybe it will reverse itself.”
“No, no, it can’t reverse itself! It mustn’t!” He yelled with such sudden force that I realized that there must be more to his problem than he had revealed.
“Because it’s taken control of my marriage. And if you don’t tear what’s left of my belief out of my head, my marriage will be ruined. I love my wife, Dr. Parks. I can’t let religion ruin it.”
“What has one thing got to do with the other?”
He was silent for a few seconds, wriggling uncomfortably on the sofa. “Can’t you just read my thoughts?”
“Not yet. Not if you can tell me.”
“Please. Don’t make me say it.”
“Look, if I’m going to treat you, I will eventually be inside your head. I’ll share your most private thoughts, your secrets, everything. Being shy with me is absurd. Now, what is it that’s really bothering you?”
For an entire minute he struggled with himself, trying to force himself to say the words. Finally, word by word, he got it out. “Sex,” he said. “Sex is the problem. Sex is bad.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Ever since I was eleven or so, Father James kept drilling it into our heads: Sex is bad! Sex is bad! Sex is bad! Sex is immoral, and if you do it before the wedding, you will burn in Hell!”
Donald Claremont III had heard it and had believed it. So, while his friends had been cavorting, he had stayed at home. While they had experimented, he had only fantasized. Until, that is, the age of twenty-two. With his belief in God almost completely shaken, he had met Darlene. He had fallen in love, and so had she. He had courted her for a while. They had talked, they had gotten closer, they had touched.
And then the trouble had started.
Every time he had touched her, something in him had screamed that sex was bad. That he was bad. Even admitting to me that he was attracted to her pained him, as if now he had exposed his immorality, his ‘sins’.
Telling himself that there was nothing wrong with it had not helped. Telling himself that everyone did it had not helped. Telling himself that everything he had been taught was wrong had not helped. Every time he had gotten physical with her, he had immediately become certain that she would realize that he was ‘an immoral monster’ and leave him. Her reassurances had not helped, either. And so he couldn’t have sex with her.
They had wanted each other so much that they had decided to solve the problem by marrying and having sex after the marriage. They had wanted to get married anyway, so why not ‘save themselves’ for marriage? It had been agreed. And after a few months they were married.
But the problem had not gone away. In fact, it had worsened. He had still felt himself a sinner, still certain Darlene would leave him. Knowing, though, that what he felt did not fit the facts, he had forced himself to override the panic and to have sex with his wife. He had hoped that his mind would learn from his body, and that the fear would go away once it saw that Darlene did not leave him. But it did not help. With every sexual experience, the problem had grown more acute.
Donald Claremont III hated himself for believing what he had been told. He hated himself for not being able to overcome his feelings and his education. He hated himself for not being in control of his own thoughts. He had exhausted himself trying to convince himself that there was nothing wrong with having sex with one’s wife.
“It’s ridiculous!!” Donald yelled. Even without scanning him, waves of angst and frustration overwhelmed me. Donald was clearly a bit of a ‘control–freak’, and the fact that his own mind would not bow to his own logic brought him close to madness. His mind was illogical. Which meant, for him, that he was not in control of his own mind. “This isn’t healthy! Not even the pious feel like this! But I still feel it! I still believe the nonsense I was taught as a kid!”
Darlene had begun to take it personally. She loved Donald. But obviously he did not feel the same. This had to do with her and not with him, she believed. If he was really attracted to her, he would have been able to overcome this silliness.
“It’s not her, Doctor Parks,” he said. “She’s the most incredible woman I have ever known. I can’t lose her. And I can’t convince her that it’s not because I’m not attracted to her. For God’s sakes, I can’t even bring myself to touch her anymore! It’s like there’s a knot inside my head,” and he bent his fingers in the direction of his skull, as if trying to reach the knot and extricate it, “and I can’t untie it. It’s stupid, it’s ridiculous, but it’s still there! Have you ever seen anything like it? I mean, I really believe in my head, in my thoughts, that I’m moral. I understand that what I do is not wrong. But something deep inside me keeps shouting that I’m immoral! I don’t know why it’s still in there, but the more I try to touch it, the harder I try to explain to myself that I am not immoral, the harder it resists, the more it yells, the worse my belief that I am immoral gets. Rip that part out of me, Doctor! Just tear it out of me! Tear out my education!”
There was silence for a minute. I looked at him, while silently doing a superficial read of his mind. Besides his need to control himself, it was plain that the main trait of this man was his harmlessness: he meant no harm to anyone and, in fact, feared being the cause of harm to others. What society would consider a nice, moral man.
“Mr. Claremont,” I said finally, “my methods are... extreme. And very intrusive.”
“I don’t care.”
I could see that he didn’t, but I gave him the full warning anyway. “I’ll get inside your head. I’ll share your thoughts, your feelings, your secrets.”
“Anything to get the nonsense out of my head. Just get in there and yank out everything that has to do with religion.”
“That’s not how it’s done. What I will do is go as deep as I can. I’ll ask you to imagine you are having sex with your wife and wait until the immorality comes in. I’ll then try to trace it to its origin. If I find what I’m looking for, and there’s a good chance that I won’t—”
“Changing things in your mind might have unforeseeable consequences.”
“Doctor Parks, I came here half certain that you might cause me some brain damage. I’ll take whatever risks there are. Just get the nonsense out of my head!”
“Sign the release form and I will.”
It is one of the basics I’d been taught in school that the people we consider to be immoral do not usually think themselves immoral. They have their own logic and their own justifications for the actions they perform. At best, they know that they are immoral in the eyes of others, but they would not have acted the way they had acted if they had not had inner justifications. My teachers had warned me that I will face people I consider despicable and then go into their minds and see saints. Not because they are saints, but because they consider themselves to be so. Morality and immorality are entirely subjective as far as a telepath is concerned. Here in front of me was the opposite case. A ‘moral’ man (according to society) truly considering himself to be immoral.
I knew what lay ahead of me. I had been a good student. What I was going to find was not ‘the church’ or Father James’ sermons. Somewhere along the line, he believed what he had been told. He had made a ‘connection’, something his head considered a ‘logical’ connection, putting together on the one hand the emotional baggage of immorality, and the concept of ‘sex’ on the other. And so, whenever his head thinks ‘sex,’ it immediately thrusts the full emotional weight of ‘immorality’ on him. As a result, for all practical purposes, in his mind the two had become one. We shrinks call this a ‘logic–circuit’. It’s supposedly borrowed from electronics, in which one can ‘close a circuit’. Only when the logic–circuit is closed do we have a complex. What I planned to do was find this logic–circuit and disconnect it. He would retain his memories, and he would retain the emotional ability to feel immoral, but this emotional weight would not come when he thought about attraction or sex. He would recall everything he’d been told by the church, but he would not blame himself for his sexual nature.
I entered his mind.
A large part of my mind now saw what he saw, imagined what he imagined, thought as he thought. But I was more in control than he was. I could manipulate his thoughts, force him to go one path and not another. But, more importantly, I had a wider understanding of the nature of his thoughts.
I began by telepathically forcing him to recall him and his wife in bed together. How strange it was to see sex from the other side of the gender fence. I saw it from his eyes, smelled what he smelled, desired as he desired. What he had said was true: he was deeply in love with his wife. Attraction overtook him, overpowering him. He acted upon it, caressing her. Immediately, he pulled his hand away.
Why? – I inserted the thought into his mind.
Immediate answer: She’ll leave me.
Don’t lie to me! – I thrust his answer aside and concentrated on what was behind it. He hedged. It was too late. The real answer was gone. I took control of his imagination and put his hand back where it had been. Again, he tried to take it away. I didn’t let him. His head seemed to contract, aching, under a massive ball of unbearable pain.
What is the nature of this pressure? – I checked.
It’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s wrong! Something screamed inside him.
I attached myself to that voice and sought its origin. It was a twisted path, filled with misleading trails and misleading blocks he had put on through time.
Progress was slow. I had to force him to imagine time and time again yet another intimate moment. Every time, after a short while, the pain returned. Every time, Donald’s thoughts had run away, despite my insistence.
It took me an hour to reach the base of the path. The preachings of his parish priest were at the root of everything. The Sunday school sessions, the church. Speeches of Hell and immorality. The logical circuits within his mind became unmistakable to me. There were three such major points. Each in a different sermon. Father James was a very charismatic figure. A born leader. A born preacher. Amazingly convincing.
Carefully, I disconnected Father James’ words from the emotional weight Donald attached to them. I tried to create no other damage save that.
But I was not through. The major points diverged to dozens of smaller ones. Imagine many small corollaries which had developed over time: kissing is immoral; looking at women’s bodies is immoral, etc. One by one, I undid the seams, relieving one small logic–circuit after another.
After four hours, Mr. Claremont was rid of his religious beliefs. God’s morality and immorality, as far as he was considered, were gone. Everything he had been taught that had to do with this, he no longer believed. The influence of the church was gone.
The treatment was over. Donald Claremont III was cured. I sent him home.
But he was not cured.
He came back three days later, his face haggard, his mind radiating even greater distress than before.
I brought him into my office and had him sit down. “Tell me everything.”
“In the beginning, everything was great. When I touched her, the thought immediately sprang to mind: It’s a sin, it’s bad. But then it died down and vanished into nothing. And so one by one, all my usual thoughts, everything Father James had ever told me, surfaced, then fell on dead ears. Soon the bad thoughts stopped coming altogether, like they gave up or something. The weight was suddenly off my shoulders! Everything was great!! You did an amazing job!! I was strong, I knew what I wanted. And it was right! It wasn’t a sin at all! Finally, Darlene and I had a night without me worrying all the time that she’ll leave me.
“But the next day, it came back.”
“It came back? It couldn’t have come back!” I was indignant. “I cut all your ties to the church and the belief in everything they told you about sins and punishment and sex.”
“I know. But there’s other stuff in there, just as strong. It’s not just the church. It’s my parents, too. It was hidden before, because the church was an easy target. But ever since I was eleven, it’s been inculcated into me by my parents, too: Sex is bad. Don’t do it. Sex is bad. It’s a sin. It’s bad. And, damn me, I believed them. I still believe them. And as much as I try to convince myself otherwise – my conviction that it’s wrong just gets stronger.
“And now, every time I come closer to Darlene, it comes back, as powerful as it ever was. It wasn’t the church. It was never the church. The church just reinforced the ideas I’ve gotten from my parents. I was a good boy. I believed my parents. I was too good a boy. I let them control my thoughts.
“And now it sits on my head, a three-ton boulder, and it won’t move. I feel like a moron asking you to take out by force something my parents told me. But for some reason I took all this sex and immorality stuff more seriously than most people. Get it out of me, Doctor Parks. Please. Rip it out of me.”
There was a reason it took a day for the parents’ influence to ‘kick in’. The phenomenon has a long Latin name. I won’t bore you with it. You may have heard of it, though, in the vernacular: the Rubber Band Effect.
Imagine your mind as a rubber band, held between two fingers. When everything’s ‘normal’, it’s tight and straight between the fingers. But when there’s a ‘complex’ of any sort, there’s pressure created in one direction, and so the rubber band is stretched in that direction. Now suppose I relieved part of the complex, by applying a ‘force’ in the opposite direction. The rubber band then snaps in the other direction, overshooting the middle and ending up not ‘cured’ but ‘overly cured’. The person feels high. The person feels not only as if the complex has been totally defeated, but as if the opposite of the complex is now true. But the truth is that, if the complex were truly solved, the rubber band would not overshoot, it would simply not be active in either direction, and the person would be in a ‘neutral’ place, not in the opposite place.
There’s a reason it overshoots. It’s kind of like physics. Force only exists when there’s a counter–force. So long as the Rubber Band Effect is in effect, so long as the rubber band is suddenly stretched in the other direction, the problem is not solved. Something is pushing towards the positive, true. But it’s pushing because there’s another force, a negative force, still pushing in the opposite direction. The positive force is pushing against the negative force. The negative force just got hit, so it’s weak, and the positive is victorious. But give it a day, it’ll get its bearings. Natural status is rest, not a positive or a negative state.
This is kind of like overcompensation – except that overcompensation is a person’s ineffective way of dealing with a complex, and the Rubber Band Effect occurs when some of the pressure of a complex is relieved. It is used as a ‘tell’ for us telepath–shrinks, as a warning sign. If someone appears to be ‘more than cured’, appears to genuinely overcompensate in the other direction, then s/he is not cured at all.
What Mr. Claremont described was a classic Rubber Band Effect. He was ‘over the top’ in the other direction for less than twenty-four hours, before the true measure of forces (his parents’ influence) took hold again, and the ‘rubber band’ stretched back in the direction of the complex.
Even as I calmly told him to lie down and prepared him for the telepathic session, I mentally kicked myself for having taken his word as to the origin of his problem, and not having looked further inside his head for other reasons. I kicked myself for having been cocky, thinking he was cured, and not following up as I should have, the next day, and the day after that. I would have spotted the Rubber Band Effect immediately.
I vowed not to make the same mistake twice. In seeking his parents’ tutelage, I’d look for other things as well, just in case he’d misdiagnosed himself again. I didn’t want him to come back.
I delved into his mind for the second time.
He was right. Everything traced back to his parents.
I traced each and every logic–circuit – the juxtaposition of the emotion of blame, of feeling bad, the fear of failing his parents (a powerful emotion within us all) and the logical, cold concepts of sex, attraction, and so on. The strong threads I was sure of, I cut. I cut neither the emotion nor the memory, simply the connection between the two, the juxtaposition. I cut nothing from his mind, simply ‘untied a few knots’.
Once all the massive knots were ‘untied’, I looked around. Weaker threads remained. If I didn’t cut them, he would enjoy the benefits of the Rubber Band Effect once more, only to end up a day or two later in the same place. I untied the weak threads. It took a while to trace them all. Eventually, all but the weakest were gone.
I forced him to think of being with his wife, thus forcing whatever resistance still existed within him to the fore. I did this time and time again, and among the weakest threads I had found things he had not told me about.
Television, for one. And movies. And theater. Especially comedies, of all things. Sexual comedies in which the male hero does everything he can to get a woman or two into bed. Not only did the rest of the characters believe that his deeds (sex) were bad – a premise upon which most of these old comedies depended – but the hero himself clearly believed it. The protagonist’s desires got the better of him, but one of the reasons he was so nervous (which made the shows humorous, of course) was that he knew ‘society’ found it unacceptable. Mr. Claremont identified with these emotions because of the already existing emotional weight that his parents had given him. Now that that weight was gone, it was not difficult to remove these weak threads.
At the end of three hours, I had mentally exhausted the poor man, forcing him into emotional battle after emotional battle. I, myself, was pretty exhausted, too. But I had been thorough. There was no doubt now. The juxtapositions of attraction and sexual deeds on one side and the emotions of guilt and immorality on the other were disconnected.
I sent him home once more. Cured, this time.
But he was not cured.
He came back three days later. His face was thin, his eyes buried deep in their sockets, black bags hanging under them. He was as emotionally spent as he had been when he had left the last time, as if he had not rested in the meantime.
Once more he told me that for a day he had been fine. He had felt cured. He was cured. He had felt even better than the good feeling he had experienced after our first session. But that feeling had passed a day later, and things had become even worse than before. He couldn’t touch his wife, he couldn’t come close to her. He couldn’t let her touch him for the fear that she would learn that he was bad, that she would leave him.
“But why are you bad?” I asked him. “Are you a sinner? Are you...?”
“I don’t know. No, it’s not my parents, and it’s not God. I don’t know why I’m bad. But I am. I am. I am. I am an immoral monster, and I can’t get over the feeling that Darlene would learn this the second I touch her. I... physically... can’t approach her anymore.”
“But why?” I persisted.
“I! Don’t! Know! I just am! I’m a monster! I’m IMMORAL!” And he broke down and cried, “I’m immoral! I’m immoral! I’m immoral!” He screamed and wailed and grabbed his head. It took me an hour to calm him down enough to go into his head.
This was my fault.
Time and time again I had let him lead the way, let him tell me where the problems are. This time, he had told me nothing. He didn’t know where it was. This time, I would lead the investigation.
This time, I would get to the root of the problem. My way.
Whatever it was – it was well hidden. It was so well hidden that even Mr. Claremont himself had no idea what it was.
In his mind, the setting had completely changed. The previous jungle of associations to the priest, to his parents, was gone. Every thought led to this: Bad. Bad. Bad. He was bad.
I made him imagine touching his wife, and a ball of pain flashed and was gone: Bad, it’s bad, was the message I got, and the ball was gone, having dropped an unbearable emotional weight behind it. As a result, Donald ran away and cowered in a corner.
I tried again – but he was reluctant. I forced him. Whatever this massive ball was, I had to trace it, or the problem would not be solved. I had to wait five to ten minutes until he recovered enough to be able to take it again. Once more, I forced him to imagine him being with his wife. The ball came and went so fast, I missed it. But it hurt Donald so much that he was incapable of approaching the thought that had brought the ball. It was a most effective form of self punishment, striking where it hurt the most for only a split second. It was enough for Donald never to want to return to that place.
And yet, I forced him. By the fifth time, I had a hint – the pain was guilt. Sex was bad, not because of any external reason, but because Donald himself, for a strange and as yet unfathomable reason, believed it to be bad.
I mentally kicked myself again. What a fool I had been! What an absolute moron, thinking that he believed that sex was bad simply because his parents and his priest had told him so, convincing as they may have been. They had told him many, many things over the years. Some he had taken to heart and believed, some not. Why? What was the difference? Obviously, he had absorbed and believed the ones that had made the most sense to him and disregarded those that had not. Which meant that he had absorbed the idea that sex was bad from his parents and television and priest not because he had no choice in the matter - but because it had made sense to some logic circuit that had already existed within him. He had believed what they had said because he had already believed it or had already been primed to believe it.
My foolishness had cost Donald too much pain and, perhaps, had forced me to cut things I should not have cut from his mind. They were not, after all, at the bottom of what was wrong. But I could not undo what I had done.
I still had no inkling what the original logic-circuit was. The wave of bad feeling was still the only path to the truth. Once every ten minutes I pressed his button and watched the monster appear for a brief second. Each time it came so fast, delivering pain and disappearing, before I had a chance to probe it. By the eighth time, knowing, now, where exactly it would come and when, I stood ready, in ambush, and made Donald imagine himself having sex again. It came. And this time I gleaned something from it. It had sent a thought, accompanied with huge emotional baggage. I only perceived a part of the thought.
It’s just like— it read and was gone.
Now, there was something!
Just like what? – I asked Donald.
Donald, just like what?
After an hour, I got my answer. It was an incident in his past.
One day, when he was thirteen-years-old, as he had walked back from school through a grove of trees behind his home, he had seen something colorful underneath some garbage. Out of curiosity, he had moved aside the refuse. It had been a magazine with pictures of naked women. He had immediately covered it with leaves and had run home. But the next day, it had still been there. And the day after that, it had still been there. Eventually, his curiosity had gotten the better of him, and he had gathered enough courage to pick it up with no one else around and to leaf through it. He had then put it down and covered it with the garbage again.
He had wanted the magazine. He had wanted to look at the pictures. He had wanted to fantasize and to do what boys do. But he had been afraid to bring it home, in case his mother found it. And he had been afraid to keep it here, in case someone else found it and threw it into the garbage. And so he had put it in his bag, hidden it under some dirt at a spot behind the gym at school, where hardly anyone ever goes.
For a month, he had gotten into the habit of disappearing every so often, going to his hiding place, and looking at the pictures. No one had known. No one had ever seen him.
But then one day, just as he had opened the magazine and had begun to unzip his pants, the principal appeared and caught him. The shame, the immense, unbearable shame he had felt was nothing compared to what happened next. By the end of the day, the principal had gathered all the students and in front of the entire school, berated Donald Claremont, revealed Donald’s deeds, and castigated him and his wicked urges. Donald stood in front of everybody, his cheeks burning, hoping the ground would open up and swallow him.
During the next few months, he could hear them laughing behind his back. Poor Donald was humiliated and embarrassed beyond belief. All because of his ‘wicked’ desire.
In his mind, his desire was the cause of embarrassment and ridicule. This was why he was certain that if Darlene witnessed his sexual desire, she would leave him. Sexual desire was something bad – why else would he be forced to suffer such a colossal public humiliation? Donald was a monster for possessing such desires.
This was it! This had to be it!
The incident had never come up in our talks, because Donald never made the conscious connection. He had thought the two incidents separate. What did a magazine and masturbation have to do with someone’s wife? Obviously, it had. The humiliation was so traumatic, so massive, that only a mention of it, in his mind, would bring all the humiliation back, and he would distance himself from whatever has brought on the incident. All his mind had needed was an ‘It’s just like—’ and it would run and hide, the massive block of humiliation falling on him all at once.
This incident made him prone to all the things his parents and his priest had told him. What they had said had fit with the facts of his deed, and so he had believed them easily, and they replaced the connection since they gave an explanation.
A small thing in the back of my mind bothered me – during the previous sessions, when I had been ‘yanking’ the ties to the church and to his parents – some of them had been believed before he was fourteen, before this incident. But the solution was so classic, so pat, so perfect, that I could not doubt it. I ignored this thought, thinking that perhaps he had made these connections retroactively, something I would be unable to trace, and so I let it go.
Now that I knew of his past deeds, he was certain that I thought him an immoral monster. This feeling was stronger than the one he’d had when he had admitted to me that he was attracted to his wife.
Inside his mind, I showed him the connection. ‘Do you see that what you did was natural? Do you see that the principal’s punishment was disproportionate? Do you see that it had been an attempt at discipline and had nothing to do with morality? Can you see that it had nothing to do with sex or your desire? A woman who wants to be with you and finds you attractive would like you to be attracted to her. She would not run away.’
But Donald mentally rolled himself into a ball like an armadillo, hiding himself inside, and cried, ‘No, no, no, this is me, this is me! I am a monster!!’ It took me two hours to build a bridge of reason around this incident, a way of logically bypassing it. I did not want to erase the incident from his mind. Too many things in his life had based themselves on that incident. Erasing it would cause much damage. And I did not want to instill my own thoughts, my own logic into him. We found the bridge of logic together, slowly but surely, and Donald was safe once more, not a danger to humanity.
We were both exhausted from this session. But Donald was finally cured. He went home.
But he was not cured.
He came back after a week, his head between his shoulders, his eyes red. He hadn’t slept in two days, had called in sick for the last three, unable to work or eat.
“What happened?” I asked him.
“It’s back,” he said. “It’s back.” He shook his head. “I’ve been trying to find out what it is, but I don’t have any idea – I just know that I’m a monster. This will never go away. I’ll never be cured. There’s no explanation for it. I just... I’ll always be like this.”
I had him sit down and asked him to tell me what happened. But there was nothing to tell. Everything had been great for a day, and then it came back.
“I’m a monster. A monster. A monster.” he kept saying. “I’m sick. This is incurable. Don’t even try. I don’t think there’s a chance – the only reason I came is because you always give me one day of happiness.”
I looked at him. There was despair in his eyes, but mostly fatigue. He was constantly fighting himself, pitting his thoughts against his feelings.
“I don’t blame you,” he said. “You did everything I asked you and more. I don’t blame you. I’m just incurable.”
But I did blame myself, because I couldn’t understand what was going on. I was faced with something that could not possibly exist.
There are three kinds of immorality. The first kind, and most famous, is religious immorality, in which a person can commit an act that goes against the dictates of his/her deities. This wasn’t it. I’d eliminated his remaining beliefs. The second kind is societal immorality. Society enforces a set of laws on its members. Those who do not obey the laws are criminals and are set apart from society (sometimes even by death). This wasn’t it, either. Society has no problem with a married couple having sex. But though jaywalking or speeding is illegal in many places, it may not be immoral to the person’s inner sense of morality. Which brings us to the third and last immorality: the personal one. Each and every one of us is constructed with his/her own set of inner morals which have nothing to do with the other two. Some people believe it is moral to kill the competition, some would only kill in self defense. Some people see no fault with lying, and some see it as disgusting and unbearable. It all comes down to the personal make up of one’s mind. Which brings us to telepathy.
We telepaths, we know the truth. We have been inside the minds of people, we know all their secrets, we see past the lies. We know that the third immorality does not really exist. If a religious man steals, it may go against the laws of his god, but he had a good reason to do what he did, or he would not have done it. People who do things and then regret it are usually socially insecure – they are afraid of the social consequences they may suffer if they do wrong in the eyes of others. People who do things and then say they ‘don’t know’ why they did them lie to themselves as well as to others. Again: we telepaths, we know better. These people are, usually, afraid to take responsibility for their deeds. But their deeds were justified in their eyes at the time, or they would not have done them. If a man steals money to treat his dying mother, then the treatment of his dying mother comes first, morally, in his mind. If he gets a ‘kick’ out of stealing, then this kick is more powerful within him than the regret at the damage done. The ‘kick’ is part of him, and he committed the ‘sin’ to satisfy something within himself. He had obeyed his own, personal moral code. At the end of the day, people do what they do (or don’t do what they don’t do) because they wanted to (or wanted not to as the case may be). People are accountable only to themselves and their inner sense of personal morality, even if they do not know it. A rapist needs to rape, and it is stronger than his other needs. Although society, justly, does its best to make sure the rapist will not rape again (for the preservation of same society), the most important thing at the time for the rapist was to rape. If something else was more important, more powerful, the rapist would not have raped. You can teach people morals that are not their own, but you need discipline and threats to keep the people in line exactly because the taught morals are not the personal morals. Punishment is there to preserve order in society – not because the morality of that society is objectively right.
By definition, a personal ‘immorality’ would be something a person could never do. Even if a ‘moral’ person is forced to commit what is to him terrible crimes – if, say, a family member is threatened – then, in his/her own, moral code, preserving the life of his family member outranks embezzling or whatever crime s/he was forced to do. If it didn’t, then that person would not have done it. It is impossible for us to be personally immoral. It would require us to do something we would never do. Telepaths know that true immorality does not exist.
And yet here it was, in front of my face. I had cleared Mr. Claremont’s beliefs of the first two immoralities. All that was left was the third. And the third was impossible. True immorality cannot exist. To believe himself immoral, Donald Claremont III had to have done something he, personally, could not have done. That was impossible.
And so to solve his problem, I had to solve a logical impossibility.
Not knowing what I was going to encounter, I delved into my first client’s mind for the fourth time.
My first thought was that there had been more incidents of sexual experimentation which he had repressed even deeper than the previous one and that I had been negligent in not looking for more. But there were none. The trauma had been his first experience, and it had been enough, until he had met Darlene.
I forced him to imagine having sex with his wife, and guilt surfaced out of nowhere. After many tries, I found nothing. The guilt seemed to be connected to nothing.
I tried another approach, to see when the guilt began to haunt him. Did he always feel like a monster? I scanned his childhood. I went through the clearest memories of the first grade, the second grade, and so on. I quickly reached the sixth grade, with no sign of trouble. The seventh grade. The eighth grade and suddenly I stopped cold. The guilt was there.
Where had it come from? I went back to the sixth grade and scanned more carefully. Nothing.
I went back to the seventh grade. Unclear. I concentrated on the sexual thoughts he remembered from that time. There was a girl he had liked, that was clear. He had even imagined what it would be like to kiss her. Not that he had thought he would ever do something about it, but he had still tried to imagine what it would be like...
And there it was.
No wonder he hadn’t seen it! No wonder I couldn’t trace it! It had nothing to do with the church, with his parents, with traumatic experience, or with any logical inferences from mistakenly interpreted events. It had to do with Donald’s nature!
So simple. So complicated. So well hidden.
Donald was afraid. Not of monsters in the dark, but of inner monsters. There was something new inside little Donald, powerful new desires, new deeds that begged to be done. And so he was afraid that perhaps there were sides to him that did not coincide with who he already was. Donald had always known exactly who he was. Until this came along, threatening to show a new side to him, perhaps an ugly side, perhaps an uncontrollable side, a side that might conflict with the already existing Donald. Deep inside, Donald had been terrified to discover that there was another side to him, and Donald had not known what it was.
And here, finally, the puzzle of immorality has been solved. Donald believed there was a side to him that might not be Donald–like, that was different and unknown, and so, under the telepathic definition, immoral. The only immorality truly possible for a person is to do something s/he did not want to do, something that goes against their nature. A logical impossibility. Unless you believed there were other parts to you, hidden parts, unknown parts which might conflict with who and what you are. This was the key to Donald’s ‘immorality’.
It was a skewed control problem. Donald Claremont III had always needed to be in control. And here was a new, powerful, and unknown side to him. It threatened his control over himself. It threatened his definition of self. It threatened to hide a monster within him.
It had been right in front of my eyes from the very first, and I had missed it.
Now that I knew what the problem was, I solved it by slowly showing Donald inside that, now, with the benefit of age and experience, he already knew every aspect of this ‘unknown side’ of him. All the aspects were covered, and, obviously, none of them conflicted with who Donald was. They were a natural part of him.
Donald was not a monster after all. After two more hours of careful telepathic treatment, he believed it. I sent him home, but asked him to return every day, to monitor his progress, in fear of the Rubber Band Effect. But for once it was unnecessary. This time he had truly been cured.
Donald Claremont III, my first patient, my first mistake, my first great lesson. There would be many more patients, too many mistakes, and not enough lessons. My career had just begun. My greatest mistakes were still to come.