Magazine | February 11, 2013, Issue

Bethesda Mental Health Clinic

A Blue Ribbon Mental Health Facility




FROM: Senior Medical Staff

IN RE: 1,460 Days to Go

Dear Staff:

As the glow fades on the second inaugural of President Obama, and as we all get back to the important work of keeping our nation’s political, judicial, military, and media leaders in functional mental health, it’s a good time to plan for the future.

Success, as our military masterminds will tell us, is a matter of planning. “It’s not the plan, it’s the planning,” to paraphrase General Dwight Eisenhower. (Who was not a patient at the clinic, by the way.) So in that spirit, let’s begin to think generally about the challenges and struggles our patients — especially those in the media — will be facing 1,460 days from now, when President Barack Obama leaves office.

We’ve already begun to see signs of magical thinking on the part of our journalist patient group, albeit on a benign scale. At the recent mental-health retreat for the on-air talent and producers at MSNBC, most of the morning breakout sessions were taken up by the issue of the presidential term limit and how it can be annulled. Within reason, of course, this kind of fantastical daydreaming can be beneficial to patients struggling with delusion and feelings of inappropriate devotion. Negation of self — especially when accompanied by slavish subservience to the “grand other” — can be abated, somewhat, by guided fantasy.

On the other hand, we’re starting to notice, especially with print reporters from the New York Times, an increased awareness that, eventually, President Barack Obama will leave office. Some of the D.C. Bureau staffers have begun making subtle requests for an increase in their anti-anxiety dosage and a doubling up of their psychotic-episode inhibitors, and some CNN producers have even begun wondering, in group settings, about the viability of an assisted mass suicide, along the lines of a Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate cult.

Within reason, and under the supervision of mental-health professionals, these “death drama” fantasies can be explored in the safety of individual or group sessions. And as we know, we have 1,460 days to prepare our patients for the inevitable end of the Obama administration.

On the other hand, in a recent private session with on-air-talent patient C. Matthews, the vividness of these fantasies caused some concern with his responsible doctor. That patient indulged in a highly detailed daydream about setting himself on fire on Inauguration Day 2017, in the fashion of those Buddhist monks during the Vietnam era. These kinds of dangerous and malignant delusions need to be monitored, especially among our patients who, like C. Matthews, are already ingesting the maximum safe dosages of anti-anxiety, anti-delusion, and anti-psychotic medications.

To that end, we’d like to ask all mental-health staff — and this includes the nurse practitioners and the ice-bath attendants (who are primarily focused on the on-air talent) — to comply with the following guidelines:

#page#1. Remind our patients that the presidential term is by definition limited, but that the impact of a former president is limitless. Utilize messianic and/or religious vocabulary if necessary to paint a picture of the president’s being “born anew” into a new role and a new “majesty.” Cleansed of the “filth of politics,” the new “Glorious Citizen Obama” will be able to float above us, as a kind of angel-lord. (This will be especially effective, studies show, with the print journalists.)

2. Make the countdown fun. We’ll be installing a fun countdown clock in the main lobby, and our on-air patients will be issued a kind of “advent” calendar: Behind each day will be a chocolate or some kind of treat — perhaps, in the case of the MSNBC personnel, an extra dose of medication.

3. Do not refer to the “cycle” of politics, as that will be unduly alarming for most of our patients in the media, who have accepted the notion of the “permanent transformation” of the self-object — in this case, American society.

4. Keep a running tally of the various suicide-pact/violent-outburst/“grand gesture” fantasies that emerge, and remind patients as they move through the following months how much easier it will get over time for them to accept a world without a President Obama.

5. Begin and end each session with a simple identity recitation. Studies show that cult members who are continually asked their names, the names of their spouses and children, their home addresses, and other simple identifiers have an easier time transitioning from total devotion to the Leader back to a more stable self- and worldview.

Please try to comply with those five initial guidelines, and be prepared to share successes and insights at our weekly staff meetings. As indicated, it’s primarily our journalist/ media patients who seem most at risk, but as the 1,460 days count down, our political/administrative patients will no doubt be showing stress fissures.

Please see anyone from senior staff if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Senior Medical Staff

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