Eight o'clock Saturday morning:
The Inveterate Diarist is asleep. She is dreaming, of course, of the NBA playoffs - where, only 12 hours earlier, Elvin Hayes has dotted the I's and crossed the T's in his argument for the elegance of basketball. Then Old Blabbermouth - her secret life - ends the idyll. The Inveterate Diarist begins to dream instead of Dr. Progoff and his new trademarked form of do-it-yourself psychotherapy.
It goes this way. She dreams that Mrs. Browning sits drooping on a satin chaise, writing love sonnets in her perfumed diary. The Inveterate Diarist can't stop herself - the ghosts of Pepys and Boswell and Virginia Woolf sneer - in short, the Inveterate Diarist asks Mrs. Browning if she practices Dr. Progoff's "Intensive Journal" method.
Mrs. Browning bursts into tears.
The Inveterate Diarist wakep up. She is late for the Intensive Journal workshop . . .
Dr. Progoff, what does it all mean?
Two hundred people, $90 a shot, sit hanging on his every word, waiting in line during the breaks in the two-day marathon at American University to kneel at the foot of his faux Eames chair, and whisper questions about the keeping of their Intensive Journals. "Still the muddy waters," he says, "and they clear. Ram Dass says it's all grist for the mill."
You get a black loose-leaf notebook with a starburst on the cover. You get granola for breakfast. The notebook has a number registered with Progoff's Dialogue House in Greenwich Village. Fifty-thousand people, they say, have notebooks.
Progoff teaches an outline for writing a diary. He calls it "a psychological work book." Inside the notebook and green, yellow, orange, blue, red and purple dividers. On the tabs of the orange dividers - orange is for "Dialogue Dimensions" - are printed labels for "Dialogue" with "Persons," "Works," "Society," "Events," "The Body." Yellow is the Daily Log," green is the "Period Log," blue is "Depth Dimensions," red is "Life/Time Dimensions." Once you tabulate your psycho sufficiently, you move to the purple dimension: "Process Meditation," which Progoff also teaches (his book, "The Star/Cross, a Cycle of Process Meditation," on sale in the lobby, $2.95).
He doesn't like to be called a guru. "People bring me flowers," he says, wincing slightly. "They learned that somewhere else. People thank me for the workshops, say they enjoy the workshops.I tell them if they've enjoyed it they haven't done it right."
But what is this "Tao of growth" he speaks of? This "elan vital"? This Ram Dass? This purple "Mantra Crystals" tab
He says it is about self-reliance as opposed to do-it-yourself analysis. In fact, he does not use the phrase "do-it-yourself analysis." He prefers the phrase "medical self-help;" above all, he prefers the phrase "self-reliance."
"Self-help approaches give people oversimplified nostrums," he says, "whereas Emerson's idea of self-reliance is to enable people, by work - serious dedicated work - to develop their inner capacities."
The Inveterate Diarist can't help herself. She says Ralph Waldo Emerson would take to drink at the notion of a "Mantra Crystal."
Dr. Progoff says he wouldn't.
It is hard not to trust Ira Progoff. He studied with Jung.His hair sticks out. He speaks gently to people the Inveterate Diarist might have considered ill-kempt of accent, fingernail or sentence contruction. "For all the nasty things I say about Freud," he says, "Freudians in L.A. send their clients to my workshops. Gestaltists in Chicago send me their clients." he estimated one-third of the workshop attendees are analysands; one-third are contemplative Catholic nuns, priests and monks; and one-third are professional counselors who want to teach the method to others.
Sometimes, says Progoff, they rip him off. Thus the trademark. Thus the lawyer who sends letters to people - "In California, every new idea is merchandised," he says - who capitalize on the Intensive Journal method. "I want it not be exploited," he says.
What he wants - what has kept him at giving workshops since 1966 - is to buy himself a sabbatical, seven or eight months. He has a life of Moses he wants to write . . . a book about life cycles (no, he says, Gail Sheehy didn't get all the passages) . . . and then there's all this great case material he gets from the Intensive Journal workshops . . .
Dr. Progoff sits in his Eames chair, fingertips together. Orange tabs. We have dialogued with Persons ("I don't seem," says a stocky middle-aged man, "to get it going here any more than I can in real life)." Now, says Dr. Progoff quietly, we are to dialogue with work:
"Why do you write?" asks the Muse.
"Doo wah diddy," says the Inveterate Diarist.
"Yes, I know," says the Muse. "They say artistic souls are hostile to psychoanalysis."
The Inveterate Diarist's heart melts.
Do you rally think I'm artistic?"
"you're no Elvin Hayes," says the Muse.