Unilateral Neglect Part 2

The author arrived for her second psych visit empty handed. Putting on an apologetic front, she explained: “I’m sorry, Jocelyn, but Bob was a no show.”

The psychologist ruminated before issuing a response: “I can see that you’re lying, Marcia.”

“Think what you want, Jocelyn.” Anticipation of her appointment had interfered with the author’s sleep cycle. She was cranky.

“Would you like to know what’s behind my statement?”

“Sure, go ahead; let’s hear your psycho mumbo-jumbo.”

“The brain has two hemispheres.”

“You can assume I know the basics.”

“The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. When it comes to deception, the two halves have opposing shall we say comfort levels. For the detective, this means that one side of the face will be comfortable with the lie while the other side will resist, exhibiting some degree of paralysis.”

“Here’s the problem, Jocelyn, in order to make such a determination, you would need a baseline; in other words, you would need to know how my face looks when I’m known to be telling the truth, just like a polygraph. Your meager attempts to discover what I’m up to are not about to work on me.”

“Alright, since you don’t want to admit why you’re here, this interview must necessarily come to an end.” The psychologist stood and looked down at the author. “When a patient comes to me and refuses to say why she’s here, I always show her the door. That’s a strict policy with me.”

It was at this point that the author made her first serious mistake: “I wanted to find out about hemispatial neglect. Bob suggested you would be a good source of information. Actually, he ordered me to come.”

“Does he have some mystical power over you?”

“He merely threatened to have me hauled away as a lunatic.”

The psychologist sat down tonguing her lip: “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship.”

“Sometimes people need a jumpstart on things they want to do.”

“So you wanted to interview me but were afraid?”

“That is the truth.”

The psychologist laid the author’s drawings in front of her. “Since you came for information, there’s no reason I can’t help you. You failed the unilateral neglect test. For a start, a patient with hemispatial neglect would not draw a line down the edge of the cat because in not recognizing the existence of the left side of space, she would simply leave the figure open on that side. Look at this drawing done by a true neglect sufferer.”

“It doesn’t make sense to leave the figure open. When we draw a person or object or anything at all, there’s always some indication that it’s closed off from everything else, not simply leaking into the space around it.”

“But this is the way they present their view of reality.”

“And that doesn’t bug you?”

“Why should it? I never let facts bother me. Notice how there’s no 50-50 rule, no perfect dissection into equal halves. The attention gradient is entirely individually based.”

The author could no longer hold in her irritation with the psychologist’s manner: “Here’s a fact for you, Jocelyn: you don’t know for a fact that there isn’t some kind of hemineglect out there in which the patient draws a line even as I did. You don’t know for a fact that I don’t have a singular condition.”

“You drive Bob’s truck perfectly well,” the psychologist smiled triumphantly. “Why don’t you tell me why you’re really here, Marcia?”

“I already told you! I want information.”

“Why do you want information?”

“I’m a writer. It’s background research is all.”

“Interesting, I was inclining to the belief that you were couch surfing.”

“I’ve heard of couch surfing, but it’s my impression that it refers to feckless friends and relatives who claim space on one’s couch until expelled.”

“A vintage definition certainly. Let me bring you up to date: I had a patient once, literally once, who simply went from one therapist to the next, for fun, although there can be other reasons such as paranoia. Some people don’t want anyone knowing too much about them. Tend to pay in cash, give fake names.”

“Here I am for a second time, same name even, so I don’t fall into the couch surfing category. Also, I worked out a way of getting by for free.”

“True enough, but future appointments will come at a price. Lunch Thursday?”

“That would be great. Could we go to Plato’s Cave? I’ve always wanted to go there.”

“That’s up to you and Hamilton. Here’s something to meditate on in the meantime: Neglect patients almost invariably preserve some approximation to circularity.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You drew your clock like a hemisphere leaving off any numbers that belong on the left side. Neglect patients draw a complete circle but scrunch all the numbers into the right side of their clock.”

Marcia Letaw

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