Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Group Therapy: February 17, 2004


Hey, buddy. I’m still liking you. A lot. Exclusively. Irrevocably. When I idealize, I idealize for eternity. When I hate I hate for eternity.

I had the outline for a letter all prepared, but I either lost it or left it at home. So I’ll just extemporize.

I just got back from group. I had to have a special session with Debra and Nicole, before group got started. They wanted to review with me the parameters of the group. I was told not to talk about sexual matters or sexual fantasies. That really cramps my style. But the rules are the rules.

I pointed out to Nicole that it was she, last week, who asked what my sexual preference was. I was simply elaborating on an issue that she opened. She told me: “Listen, Freedman, never again. If you ever talk about bearded men (or the bearded lady in the circus)—you are out of the group.” So I guess that’s it as far as the bearded lady is concerned. I can’t talk about her. The fact remains that that’s the main cause of my mental illness today. The fact that I was traumatized by the bearded lady at the circus when I was five years old. And they expect me to change? To improve? Well, let my suffering be laid (if you’ll pardon the expression)—let my suffering be laid on your doorstep, Nicole. I just won’t talk about my early traumatization and its sexual implications.

I was getting some heavy vibes from one of the group members about my lack of sincerity. My lack of genuineness. He basically said I was a phony who’s putting out some real incredible crap. Like how do I explain my statement that I have no interest in women and that I’m not looking for a sexual relationship with a man—with you, for example, Brian. I guess that group member never heard of my old friend, John Paul II. Not to mention John Paul I. Or Paul VI. Or any of the Johns or Pauls who’ve been pope.

Then the same group member said that I come across like an actor. I pointed out that that’s the same thing that people always criticize the President—all the Presidents—for being. An actor. With Reagan it was literally: “The guy was an actor—a third rate actor—now he’s just acting again, in the political arena.” With President Carter, the criticism was: “He tries to be all things to all peanut farmers.” Well, of course, that was true. You can’t trust peanut farmers. They’re a shady lot.

I pointed out to him that his criticism of me—that I’m an insincere, phony actor—could be interpreted as a backhanded compliment. I said: “Aren’t you attributing to me a quality that’s often attributed to political leaders? And isn’t it possible you’ve really identified the fact that I have leadership qualities.” The group member sort of side-tracked the issue by saying that the current President (George W.) is a phony actor. My point exactly, buddy. George W. and I have more than one thing in common. Neither of us was elected President by the voting public and both of us talk in military metaphor.

I was also told that it seems I’m just in group for the kicks—to mess with people’s heads. Well, that’s true up to a point. I do lead a miserably boring life. Group is entertaining, even when it’s not therapeutic.

Once again at group today I got the validation of the notion that strong emotions or strongly expressed ideas are forbidden in group. Debra pointed out that I seem to use very stark language. For example I said that I viewed the group as a “cesspool of moral corruption.” Well, that was pretty strong language for me to have used—not to mention a pretty peculiar notion to express. What on Earth was I thinking when I said that? Sometimes I get carried away. Like The Fuhrer himself at one of the Nuremberg rallies.

Nevertheless, Debra and Nicole told me I need to come up with goals—“goals in therapy.” I really don’t know what goals I ought to have. Maybe you could talk to the girls and tell them in what ways you, Brian, would like me to change. Explain to the girls the person you’d like me to be so that you’ll be my best buddy. How’s that for a goal? I’ll let you set the goals.

Seriously, to tell you what I’m not really getting in group is the distinction between what is simply a peculiarity of a person—an idiosyncrasy—versus what is pathological and therefore something that needs to be changed. People do things all the time that I don’t like. I feel “Well, it’s their right to be who they want to be. If I don’t like it, I should just avoid the person. Or grin and bear it to the extent possible.”

There seems to be little respect for the idiosyncratic in group. It’s like: “You use strong language. You might want to change that.” I would say: “Maybe I need to associate with people who don’t see my strong language as a problem.”

That’s the Jewish solution, by the way. “The goyim (the character “Grace Adler” says that all the time on Will and Grace) can’t stand us. We’ll just have to get our own piece of real estate and set up our own country where we can be ourselves.”

That’s what I need, maybe. My own country where I and my kind can be ourselves. I think it’s called St. Elizabeths.

Here’s a problem. Take Adolf Hitler. He used strong language. He was a narcissistic maniac who had everybody call him The Fuhrer. He murdered millions of people. He left Der Vaterland in shambles—a land divided against itself for the subsequent 50 years. And the Germans loved the bastard. I mean literally, they loved Der Fuhrer. Wagner’s daughter-in-law, Winifred, used to call him “Unsere Selig Adolf”—“our blessed Adolf.” I just don’t get it. This notion that there’s some absolute right and wrong about behaviors. And that simply becoming a particular person will win the minds and hearts of the people. I just don’t get it.

If the worst criminal in world history is beloved by millions, what does it say about a type of group therapy that’s based on turning out a “better person.” What’s better? What’s worse? Republicans despised President Clinton. I happen to think he was a great President. Again, who’s to judge what are desirable qualities, or what are undesirable qualities?

I just keep coming back in my mind to Nietzsche: “It’s as if their spine snapped.” That’s what Nietzsche said about the group response to an individualistic person. He likened groups and their regressive pull toward mediocrity and blandness to a herd of sheep. Strong language, strong emotions, strong individualism, strong anything: these qualities will be condemned by the group. And ultimately, the sheep—even more, the lamb, as Nietzsche said—gains in respect.

To tell you the truth, it’s like the criticism aimed at network TV. Critics say network TV aims more and more to the common denominator, the bland. No breasts, no fucking, and no use for the word f***.

“Well, sign me up cable!” That’s all I have to say.

I’m still liking you, buddy. Yea. I’m thinking that will be my goal. I’m going to tell Debra and Nicole that my goal is to be your friend. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for. I just want to make one friend. Hitler had millions of friends. I’ll settle for one—and that’s you, buddy. Yea. That’s what I’m going to tell Debra and Nicole next week.

“Debra, Nicole—my goal is for Brian to be my buddy. No sex, no nude wrestling, no wrestling of any kind. Just a buddy. Is that too much to ask for, ladies?”

Check you out later, Brian. Brother. Brother-Animal, you!
P.S. I won’t make you call me Der Fuhrer.

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