PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued
Was it possible that the schizophrenic-like clinical presentation displayed by Orville derived from post-traumatic anxiety or stress? Felicity could not obtain a clear story from Orville when he asked about any traffic accidents Orville might have been in. So he contacted the referring psychiatrist. The latter made some inquiries and phoned back to say that Orville had indeed been in a traffic accident in which he had been quite badly injured. The physician arranged for the automobile insurance company involved to supply Felicity with a description of the accident and of Orville’s injuries in it. The story seemed to fit the pieces of the puzzle together rather well.
Orville had been driving in a little Volkswagen ‘Bug’ through an intersection. He was proceeding through on a green light. A driver in a big white Buick driving on the intersecting road did not stop for the red traffic light which faced him. He came into the intersection and struck Orville’s car on the driver’s side. Orville was thrown out of his car. He fractured a number of bones in his body and was knocked unconscious. He was in hospital and in traction for many weeks following the accident. That was the report from the insurance company.
What had Orville seen? Well, for one thing, Orville was in no shape psychologically to report what he had seen. However, after the treatment was completed, he reported what had taken place. Orville was a careful driver. As was his habit, while entering the intersection he checked again to be sure that the traffic light facing him was green. Then he glanced quickly at the traffic light for the intersecting road to confirm that it was red. Probably the ‘alternating green and red lights which signalled doom’ were the succession of retinal images of the green-red-green lights he looked at. Out of the corner of his eye, for a brief moment, too short to allow him to check or verify his perception, he saw a flash of something white (the Buick) which was rapidly expanding in apparent size as it approached. Presumably, as he was thrown by the impact, his mind was struggling to make sense out of what he had seen and what was happening. The only thing he could think of which was white and grew in size was a snowball rolling down a hill. And then he lost consciousness. When he returned to consciousness, after the great snowball had run over him, he was suffering great pain, and he found himself injured and confined, in traction, to a hospital bed. All the disorganized pieces he had been raving about were represented in an orderly fashion in this story which he could not yet tell, and which he had vainly tried to explain to others as the basis of his intense distress.