Sudas’ three days in the Therapy Chambers.

Untitled 3 by Sudas
‘Untitled 3’ by Sudas

For some time S. had felt sans souci, carefree, and firmly believed that he had transcended trivialities such as anger, aggression, and various other negative feelings.

He was therefore very surprised when the Master, at the end of a one-to-one meeting, listed a series of groups for him to do, at the top of which was the Encounter: a mythical group which investigated violence, negativity, anger, etc.

He hugely feared two groups: Primal and Encounter.

Primal because of the abysmal regressions it promised, and the Encounter because every now and then he would see someone coming out of it with a black eye and in a general bad state.

However, it must be said that S., despite being scared shitless, did not shy away from the Master’s will and therefore agreed to participate.

The group leader was that hieratic being who had addressed him at the end of Rebirthing, a British psychotherapist and an expert in Bioenergy and Encounter. He had a long pointed beard and two very black eyes. He reminded S. of Ivan the Terrible in the film, Alexander Nevsky.

The group was held in an underground room with padded walls, a fact that was far from being reassuring. There were about ten participants, male and female, young and no longer so young.

It would last three days, each the whole day long.

S. crouched hunched up somewhere, trying to disappear into the padded wall.

The facilitator did not grace him with a single glance.

What struck him the most was the universality of pain: Japanese, German, American, French or Italian, all had the same problems; conflict with Dad, with Mum, with Love, etc.

A young girl from California was angry with her daddy, and cried and cursed him, hitting a pillow.

The facilitator turned to S., tearing him off from the wall, and asked him to impersonate the daddy in question – and told the weeping girl to treat him as her father. She did not make him say that twice!

It’s amazing the range of sounds that can come out of the mouth of such a graceful fragile creature as that! S. crashed into himself motionless, but when the graceful being began to slap him, he prepared to respond as he saw fit.

The group leader, T., told him not to react, and within a few minutes his face had swollen into a ball as the gentle creature continued to shout things unfathomable due to his poor English.

Slowly the scene ended and S. dragged his bloated face towards the wall.

Up until the last day then, no one disturbed him and he was able to witness the theatre of a suffering humanity; even too much so, because he had the feeling that some, we could call group veterans, shouted too well, knew too well what to say and what to do; in short, in the face of their tragic outpourings, S. felt nothing – and he wondered if it was not due to his insensitivity.

He still lacked confidence in his perception but he noticed that certain un-shouted, discreet but deep pains brought him to tears.

In the early afternoon of the last day, everyone was snoozing, when the facilitator calls him: “Now I am asking you to do something for the group: make us laugh!”

Had he asked him to recite a poem in Swahili, it would have had the same effect. Make them laugh? He was bad at telling jokes and so he had the idea of talking about comic films or even miming them.

It was a painful scene. Not a muscle moved on the faces of his audience, and at one point the group leader says, “OK, S., now you go out and in five minutes come back – and then you have to amaze everybody!”

Very perplexed, nay, desperate, S. goes out and takes a few steps along the corridor, seriously contemplating a flight route.

He does not have enough time to seriously think about escaping when two companions appear, two Californian hulks, who lovingly take him under their arms and carry him back to the group room.

And so he finds himself in the centre of a circle of menacing-looking participants awaiting his death, or so he thinks.

And what does he do? He hears his unusually energetic voice say, “Alright, come on, put your hands together and give me a beat!”

Surprised, everybody slowly starts clapping their hands, accelerating to a rather brisk pace, while S. begins to move in a slow dance on the spot and, swaying and undulating like a snake, begins to… undress.

In short, he stages a striptease!

When the number finished, his companions applauded enthusiastically and a New Yorker shouted, “Come on, S., come to New York, you’ve found a job!”

Everyone laughs, including the group leader, and S. feels like a god.

Translated from Italian by Punya with edits by Madhuri

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Sudas (Sandro Beltramo) is a painter, sculptor and writer, presently living in Genoa, Italy.

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