Greg Dennis: Diagnosing a case of summer fever

Case Number: 12345
Patient: G. Dennis
Age: 61, going on 10
Primary symptoms: Smiles far too often. Breathes deeply of the June breeze. Prone to random, pointless walks outdoors. Delusions about the length of the current season.
Dear Dr. Freud:
I write to refer to you a patient, a Mr. G. Dennis, whose ailments are too serious for me to deal with as a psychotherapist. I trust him to your care in hopes your methods can help this poor soul.
Mr. Dennis was referred to me by his neighbors. They worried that his habit of endlessly digging in a pile of large dirt, outside his front door, represented a bizarre form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is spending hours bent over this dirt pile, in the apparent belief that he can produce food from small particles planted in it.
To date no food has appeared, and his condition appears to be worsening.
When not digging aimlessly in the dirt, Mr. Dennis has been observed wandering in hayfields, whistling aimlessly and watching the clouds roll by.
He appears somewhat immune to mosquitoes. But he is sometimes known to take deerflies and crush their little skulls until they explode.
He takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in this sadistic behavior.
When not wandering or digging, Mr. Dennis is known to sit on his porch and sigh endlessly as he breathes in what he told one concerned friend was “the sweet, cinammony scent of summer.”
He confesses that he often buries his nose in the clover.
Once he was observed by frightened teenagers to be dancing and singing in the rain, voicing the words, “What a glorious feelin’/ I’m happy again/ I’m laughing at clouds/ So dark up above/ The sun’s in my heart/ And I’m ready for love.”
It goes without saying, Dr. Freud, that this patient will never be able to form a stable and enduring primary relationship, so long as he holds these dangerously outmoded views of what a relationship involves.
At night he is known to brave insane hordes of bugs and walk outside to chase the glow of fireflies at all hours. He is even said to recall a time when he was a boy and would catch fireflies in a jar, creating a kind of primitive flashlight.
This apparently lifelong obsession with insects is, in my professional opinion, very troubling and may indicate the need for temporary hospitalization.
I have also noted that Mr. Dennis’s taste in poetry has taken a troubling turn.
Previously he had a healthy appreciation for the verse of Robert Frost and that bard’s appropriately dark view, “a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
Recently, however, the patient has begun quoting a line from Dylan Thomas (whoever he was), about “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”
I’m sure you would agree that this poem on the whole reflects an appropriately dark (and therefore realistic) view of life.
However, Mr. Dennis seems to have concluded that this “green fuse” is connected to the woods and fields surrounding his house, and to his incessant digging in the dirt in a futile effort to somehow magically produce food.
Rather than quoting Frost, moreover, in our sessions he now mentions the poetry of Billy Collins and Mary Oliver.
Indeed, he confesses to hearing voices and proudly identifies with one of Oliver’s poems called “The Journey.” In that verse she speaks of (and Mr. Dennis delusionally identifies with) “a new voice/ which you slowly/ recognized as your own/ that kept you company … determined to do/ the only thing you could do — /determined to save/ the only life you could save.”
I’m sure you will agree, Dr. Freud, that these delusions of grandeur and “saving lives” indicate a deep mental disorder.
As part of his hopelessly la-la attitude toward life this summer, the patient has also spent hours with a book titled “Pronoia Is the Antidote to Paranoia.” Authored by one Rob Brezsny, a well-known practitioner of the pseudo-science of astrology, “Pronoia” purports to offer a cockeyed optimist’s view of the world.
Brezsny even tells his readers that “it’s your duty to create so much love that national boundaries disappear.”
Clearly this represents a Napoleonic complex. Yet Mr. Dennis appears to feel this sick sentiment has considerable value.
Digging further into quack psychology, Brezsny quotes C.G. Jung to this effect: “The best political, social and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others.”
Perhaps a belief in this delusion is behind a statement Mr. Dennis recently made to me, that “most Republicans mean well.”
The patient also quotes one John Ruskin about the weather, in a way that indicates he is seriously unmoored from reality:
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
Indeed, I regard his belief in this view as proof that Mr. Dennis is seriously unhinged.
As I entrust him to your care, Dr. Freud, I encourage you to bring him back to reality with a healthy reminder of what winter in Vermont is really like.
I suggest you begin by showing him photos of last December’s ice storm — followed by video images of intermittent winter rains and concluding with vivid pictures of mud season.
That should go a long way toward bringing him back to reality.
Gregory Dennis’s occasionally insane column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Twitter: @greengregdennis; email: [email protected].

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