"The Jet Propelled Couch," an article [part 1, part 2] from a 1954 issue of Harper’s, describes an analyst’s encounter with a university professor and scientist who lives a dual life. In his mundane existence, he works at the university and researches, but, in his fantasy life, his soul travels to other galaxies, where he is the ruler of a planet, charismatic, powerful, womanizing and benevolent. His trips to his kingdom planet were becoming more frequent, interfering with his job; hence the analyst was called in.
"The Jet Propelled Couch" explores how "Kirk Allen," the subject, nurtured his fantasy world as he grew up as one of the only white children in an isolated settlement in pre-statehood Hawaii. When he chanced upon a series of science-fiction books featuring a protagonist also named Kirk Allen, this coincidence propelled his fantasy world into detailed development. Kirk began to "fill in the gaps" and "make corrections to" the adventures in the Kirk Allen series, as well as drawing maps, charts and pictures of people and places related to his sci-fi activities.
The Kirk Allen paracosm sustained Kirk for many years and gave him much pleasure, and the analyst had to figure out how to "wean him from his madness." Eventually the analyst decided to partly indulge Kirk’s paracosm, getting into the spirit of his world, so to speak, taking it on its own terms. By agreeing with the reality of the Kirk Allen paracosm, the analyst showed Kirk what it was like to be a person who believed in his realm. Seeing a version of himself [i.e., a paracosm believer] in the analyst, Kirk slowly began to realize the fallacious assumptions upon which the reality of his paracosm was based. Thanks to the analyst’s participation, Kirk realized that his paracosm was indeed fantastical, and he apparently resolved his conflicts between his mundane life and his fantasy life.
"The Jet Propelled Couch" is both fascinating and frustrating. It’s fascinating in that it gives a view, albeit heavily psychoanalytic, of how a person’s life circumstances may promote the development of a paracosm. At the same time, it’s frustrating because the fact that the analyst thinks that Kirk Allen is "mad" makes the whole business of paracosms seem more insane, threatening and maladaptive than they really are. I know from my researches and personal experience that paracosms can be an enjoyable, helpful, glorious part of the imaginal development of childhood and adulthood, even though people who are foreign to the idea tend to think it’s a little mad.
In my estimation, Kirk Allen was not mad and did not have a psychosis; I would say more precisely that he had an elaborate, engaging paracosm, the reality of which was interfering with the mundane reality of his life. The only problem with his paracosm was not that it was so well-developed and detailed, but that it was causing trouble with his job. In this case, madness lies not in the contents or existence of the paracosm per se, but more in its effects.