Monday, January 31, 2005

An Enemy of the People


January 31, 2005
Hey, buddy. Or should I say "Hi, Brian!" Or High Brian, perhaps. What was college like for you? Did I ever ask you that question? Was it a transforming experience -- socially and intellectually -- or was it a wasteland? Not that the two conditions, desolation and transformation, are mutually exclusive. They say that if you are going to inhabit a wasteland, you might as well be thoroughly wasted, which is itself a transformation -- transcendental or otherwise. One can be both wasted and transformed. Were you prone to transformed states in college? Put another way, did you -- shall I say, inhale? Or was your preferred intoxicant contained in a bottle?

Today I am perched somewhat precariously on a high tower. It is my refuge, my retreat. From my height -- on a cold winter's day -- I inhale the chilled but bracing air that surrounds me. From my bird's eye view above the city, I observe the hubbub below, which enlivens my day. My tower provides sanctuary and protection. I have removed myself from ordinary life. It is a precious and solitary moment. I am by myself and beside myself in my exhilaration. I stand like a puppeteer above his puppets, and in my imagination I manipulate the people I see below me, like a puppet master who animates the passive instruments under his control. I stand alone and disturb the people below me, or so I fancy.

Words, words, words . . . on some days, I have the gift . . . I can make love out of words as a potter makes cups out of clay, love that overthrows empires, love that binds two hearts together come hellfire and brimstone . . . I can cause a riot in a nunnery -- a disturbance not to be dismissed . . . but on other days . . . I feel that I have lost my gift. It's as if my quill had broken. As if the organ of the imagination has dried up. As if the proud tower of my narrative talents has collapsed. Nothing comes. And my spirits suffer.

I live to observe and to express. My capacity for vigilant scrutiny and my talent for words, for felicitous locution, enlarge my inner repository of sensual experience and permit me to make that repository accessible to my audience.

Whether my published communications unite me with others or disturb the equilibrium of their world, my own inner states are transformed thereby.

Today I am in a reflective mood. I've been thinking about desolation and transformation. I have been thinking about my current condition: my lone battle with the people, the critics, in my environment and beyond. I think about my loneliness, which rises to the level of despair at times, but, fortunately does not defeat me. I revel in my lonely struggle. I revel in my ability to disturb my immediate environment and the world beyond my imagination. I view my isolation and my defiance as virtues, the tests and marks of a higher morality. My emotional inertness pains me, but my capacity to endure my suffering and my ability to transform my distress by means of expression, by means of words, emboldens my spirit.

Something in my past must have disposed me to suffering, but at the same time prepared me to endure that very torment.

Like the proverbial professor in an academic ivory tower I have probed my problem in isolation for the past several days, ruminating about its meaning. And with the professorial pretensions that are ever my wont, I now share with you -- proud didactic adventurer that I am -- a distillation of my current thoughts.

A measure of a person's creativity, so the psychoanalysts say, is the ability to transcend the slings and arrows of outrageous critics. To be able to form a work of art out of the rubble left by such an attack is, of course, not the only way in which creative abilities can show themselves, but it is one way. I chose my view of creativity, the capacity to turn a humiliating rebuff into a triumph, for two reasons. First, it has been proposed as a developmental ideal in that it signals one of the transformations of archaic narcissism. Second, it is of particular relevance in providing a glimpse into my creative process. Specifically, I refer to my response to the criticisms and rejections of my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, by writing my autobiography, which I titled Significant Moments. In focusing on this view of creativity, I necessarily ignore other factors that contribute to artistic creativity.

I transcended my reaction to the devastating job termination and its aftermath by creatively transforming that experience in Significant Moments. At Akin Gump I confronted central themes that had been haunting me since childhood, ghosts from the past in their purest, boldest form: my search for an idealizable father-figure (in the person of Robert Strauss), social rejection, the jealousy of coworkers (symbolic siblings), allegations that I posed a physical danger to others, the lack of empathy of peers and superiors, the appearance of anti-Semitism, and the vague impression of a corrupt organization. Having suffered for three-and-one-half years in a difficult job situation, I was in a particularly vulnerable position when attacked by the employer and ignored by potential supporters. In Significant Moments, I depicted my outrage at my former employer and coworkers, redressing the narcissistic injury I had sustained. I triumphed over my detractors through a complex self-restorative solution. I argued for an extreme, defiant, uncompromising stance through which the artist can defy social pressure and withstand ridicule and isolation; in my creative transformation I displaced my personal conflicts -- both intrapsychic and interpersonal -- onto societal conditions.

True to the best in the Jewish tradition, the conscious acceptable "enemy" for me -- as it had been for the American playwright, Clifford Odets -- would become an impersonal set of unjust and corrupt societal conditions, and the means of battle would be waged largely in words within the controllable arena of social conscience within a work of art.

My thesis is that one function of the creative process is to transform one's depleted self-state in response to a narcissistic injury. I propose that my own self-state transformation was based on motivations encapsulated in a model scene, which I inferred from a selection of recollections. A discussion of self-states and model scenes follows. The model scene links organizing themes inferred from my life and my book with the self-state I attempted to recapture after the narcissistic injury incurred by the job termination.


My use of the term self-state draws on contributions from several sources: Stern's and Sander's discussions of state transformation and the self-regulating other and Kohut's discussion of self-states as noted in self-state dreams.

When used by infant researchers, state refers specifically to variations in sleep and wakefulness that occur as the infant passes between crying and alert or quiet activity, drowsiness and sleep, wet discomfort and dry discomfort, hunger and satiation. Different states affect how things are perceived, how those perceptions are integrated, and how such information is processed.

State transformations in early life accrue to both the child's self-regulation and to the expectation that mutual regulation with the caretakers will facilitate or interfere in regulating one's affects and states. Thus, early state transformations are associated with mastery or control over one's own experience, and expectations that affect regulation can (or cannot) be shared with the self-regulating other.

With the advent of symbolic capacities and increasing elaboration upon one's subjective experience, self-states in the child and adult include the domain of the self in a psychological sense. Post infancy self-state transformations may increase a sense of control, mastery, or agency, but in the case of traumatic self-state transformations, such states as devastation, outrage, or fragmentation may become dominant.

The subjective discomfort of painful self-states provides an impetus for finding means by which such states can be transformed. A creative endeavor, one means of transforming one's self-state, enhances the range of the self-regulation. Furthermore, in the context of mutual regulations, expectations of a responsive environment shift the state of the self along the dimension of fragmentation-intactness toward greater cohesion and along the dimension of depletion-vitality toward an increased sense of efficacy.

Kohut described self-state dreams in which the imagery is undisguised or only minimally disguised, depicting the dreamer's sense of self. Kohut likened these dreams to Freud's discussion of dreams in traumatic neuroses, in which a traumatic event is realistically depicted. For example, a self-state may be depicted in a dream as a barren countryside, reflecting a sense of devastation and such self experiences as depression, despair, or hopelessness.

My use of self-state is broader than Stern's since I extend my perspective into adult life, and my use of the term is not confined to the dream imagery described by Kohut. Dream imagery provides a glimpse into a person's feelings of devastation and outrage, but the imagery of narratives can also convey self-states.

To construct the model scene that depicts the self-state that I attempted to recapture after I was subjected to devastating criticism in the form of job harassment and job termination, I combined facets of my life history.

For the first several years of my development, I experienced a childhood characterized by an overprotective but unempathic mother and a distant, but at times harsh, father. My father was a highly-intelligent man who settled for far less in life than he was capable. He had quit an academic high school restricted to college-bound students in the tenth grade, and worked at a factory job. Though he was raised in a strictly Orthodox Jewish family, he was the only one of seven children to marry outside the Jewish faith, in 1946. My mother was a Polish-Catholic whose father, an immigrant coal miner, died in the great swine flu epidemic following World War I. My father suffered both overt and covert anti-Semitism from my mother's family during the marriage -- itself a form of criticism. My father coped with the attacks directed at him by relying on a deeply-rooted sense of his cultural and religious superiority.

My mother doted on me, but paradoxically, had a tendency to negligent, even reckless, caretaking. At age three I developed scarlet fever, an unusual bacterial disease. I was late in being weaned from the bottle. Though I ate solid food by age three, of course, my mother indulged my desire to drink milk that had gone sour in the bottle. The pediatrician, Dr. Bloom, who diagnosed the illness attributed it to the sour milk. "And why is he still drinking from a bottle? He's too old to be drinking milk from a bottle," the doctor said. (Dr. Bloom! "Just who does Dr. Bloom think he is?"). My father was very angry, and chastised my mother bitterly for "spoiling" me, in the doctor's presence. I felt humiliated and helpless in the face of the charges leveled at me. My secret oral perversion had been discovered! The secret was out! The doctor advised my parents that scarlet fever was considered a serious public health concern, and that he was bound by law to report my illness to the city health department. Several days later, the health department posted a quarantine notice on the front door of our home (1957). My private act led to unforeseeable consequences in the form of intervention by a government authority. In effect, at age three the government had determined that I was already "potentially dangerous."

The scarlet fever incident contributed to the centrality of solitary self-experience for me. From an experience of pleasure (in drinking sour milk from the bottle), I was suddenly transformed to a state of loss and an inexplicable sense of guilt. I felt like a felon and, if you will excuse the hyperbole, "would hide when the constable approached the house." The illness ushered in transformation from a positive, pleasurable, self-absorbed state to a secret state marked by guilt and a personal blame for wrongdoing. I did not find solace for my loss. On my own, I bore both my guilt and the surprising, disturbing impact I could have on others in my immediate world and beyond: indeed, reaching out to a world beyond my imagination, in the form of governmental authorities. The illness also signaled another transformation in the direction of having to regulate painful states on my own without the support of others. Both parents were concerned with public embarrassment, rather than with the state of their child. I propose that the model scene I have constructed organized my experience as a solitary, impactful onlooker: someone whose private actions could even trigger the intervention of government authorities. It is an experience that few three-year-olds have. An emotionally porous three-year-old who is "hypersensitive to the goings-on in his environment," cf. Freedman v. D.C. Dept. of Human Rights, DCCA 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1998), will be affected by that experience.

This letter, and particularly the above anecdote, is a metaphorical bridge of speculation that connects mystery to mystery, the known with the unknown. That bridge is like a single plank that requires the support of others to form a firm foundation. I offer the following thought. My age upon contracting scarlet fever, which resulted from my mother's indulgence of my dependency needs -- age three or three-and-a-half -- is the same age my mother was when her father died of a communicable disease, influenza: in an influenza epidemic that, because of its magnitude, had evoked a vigorous public health response by government authorities nationwide. Is it possible that my "good" mother was instrumental in setting me up for serious illness? Was my mother's seeming indulgence really an expression of a strong unconscious ambivalence toward me that was a derivative of her emotional reaction to her own father's death?

Incidentally, the anecdote above parallels themes in several plays by Henrick Ibsen. In Ghosts a mother provides poison to her son to enable the son's suicide in expiation of his father's sins; An Enemy of the People pits a truth-fanatic (who discovers that the waters of a spa town are polluted) against the town's mayor and its citizens; and in The Master Builder a mother, out of a perverse sense of duty, kills her twins -- she contracted a fever because she could not stand the cold, but, despite the fever, she insisted on breast-feeding the twins, who died from her poisoned milk.

Note that I was the only male child in the family. Oddly, when I was a young boy, my older sister created the fiction that my middle name was "Stanley," my mother's father's name. I actually came to believe at one point in childhood that my name was "Gary Stanley Freedman."

Be that as it may.

My mother had a passionate interest in motion pictures and, in childhood, was fond of playing with dolls. I picked up on these interests in a way. In early adolescence I developed a fanatic attraction to the Wagner operas, and I had an interest in the craft of play writing. In high school and college I took elective courses in drama and theater. At age thirteen I staged (after a fashion), in the basement of our family home, a highly-abbreviated version (to say the least) of Wagner's four-opera Ring Cycle for the entertainment of my parents -- though, in reality, my parents were uninterested, if not hostile to my effort.

My father was subject to bouts of depression and sometimes became bitter and brutal toward my family, but he took no steps to change his situation, other than threatening, from time to time, to leave my mother. He was frequently morose and withdrawn. I reacted to my father throughout childhood with a range of irreconcilable emotions: idealization, sympathy, anger, and fear. Sound familiar, buddy?

Taken as a unity, to be spelled out below, these accounts suggest that, for me, self-states and affects had to be regulated alone, by myself. In later life, I transformed my despondent state after my critical rebuff at Akin Gump by drawing on the themes encapsulated in the model scenes.

In psychoanalytic treatment, analyst and patient construct model scenes to convey, in graphic and metaphoric forms, significant events and repeated occurrences in the analysand's life. The information used to form model scenes can be drawn from a variety of sources, including a patient's narrative and recollections. Model scenes highlight and encapsulate experiences at any age, not only early childhood, and are representative of salient conscious and unconscious motivational themes. The concept of model scenes is broader than and includes screen memories, which Freud equated with the manifest dream content dream, in that they point toward something important that they disguise. The memory itself and its "indifferent" content are to be discarded as the analyst recovers and reconstructs the significant, concealed childhood event or fixation. Whereas screen memories focus on reconstructing what has happened, model scenes pay equal attention to what is happening, whether it is in the analytic transference or in the person's life. For me, the model scene is based on recollections that capture my solitary self-regulation, self-restoration, and my triumph over my detractors.

The book is unusual in structure. It is drawn exclusively from published literature -- it is a collection of quotations, really -- with the quotes woven together to form a cohesive narrative, comparable in a sense to the structure of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland." A single, cohesive narrator or hero does not appear in the book. Rather, the author manipulates the quotations; he hovers overhead, as it were, like a puppet master, pulling all the strings. I am represented, through my identification with various literary and historical figures, by identity elements or identity fragments, which are the quotations. The themes of the book are numerous and diverse. The themes include anti-Semitism, the craft of writing, opera production, communicable disease, genetics, inheritance, the discovery of a secret that brings ruin on the discoverer, scientific discovery, truth seekers, critical response by peers, defiance of peers and authorities, banishment and social isolation, the absence of an empathic or supportive environment, the self-regulation of affects, the death of fathers, the intervention of government authorities into the private domain of citizens, the seductive or destructive mother, alleged corruption and cover-up, among other topics.

The negative response I received upon my job termination and its aftermath was diffuse. It came from the employer, psychiatrists (doctors), and government authorities. If I were asked why I began to write my autobiography in April 1993, four months after I had received the employer's responsive pleadings in a legal action I had initiated against the employer, I would have said: "I had to write my autobiography."

In Significant Moments, "the hero" (who appears in various guises, or is represented by various identity elements) makes a discovery that results in his being pitted against "the powers that be." The detractors of "the hero" are mocked and exposed as mean-spirited and unprincipled. I thereby expressed my distrust of the capacity of the "majority" to discriminate the "true" from the "false" and to exercise sound judgment. I showed "the powers that be" to be swayed by self-interest and incapable of distinguishing scientifically backed findings from self-serving rationalizations.

There is no decent, supportive public in Significant Moments. "The hero" naively values the support of "the powers that be" at the opening of the book. He believes that they will be responsive to truth and evidence. Before the book's end, "the hero" could rightly say that the most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us is the solid majority. "The majority is never right! . . . The minority is always right!" The minority to which "the hero" refers is himself. By the end of the book, he can trust nothing but his own values, perceptions, and beliefs.
Wounded by the shortsighted managers at Akin Gump, I asserted that the creative artist stands alone, a minority of one, to maintain his integrity and the purity of his vision. In Significant Moments I spoke with one uncompromising, solitary voice clearly depicted in "the hero," who loses all support and ends alone. "The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone." Increasing isolation drives "the hero" to proclaim, "I want to expose the evils that sooner or later must come to light."

To explore and to react aversively are dominant motivations for "the hero." He is uncompromising to the end, a man who does not mean to settle for rapprochement with the majority. He was ready to bring ruin upon himself and others rather than "flourish because of a lie."

In my response to the critics, I presented my hero as totally decent and honest, but naive with respect to political wheeling and dealing. His decency and goodness are contrasted with the narrow-mindedness of the majority. They are devoid of a sense of morality of their own and led by authorities who are rigid, unimaginative, self-serving, and bureaucratic -- banal at best and corrupt ("poisoned") at worst.

I had to write Significant Moments. The themes of that book, father-son tensions (real or symbolic), living a lie, the effects of learning "the truth," inheritance (in my case, the transmission of parental strengths and weaknesses), all manifestly rooted in my early life, are taken up in my book. In so doing, I addressed my compelling, burning, residual issue from my past and depicted it as a metaphor for my society as well. Significant Moments thus combines painful memories with a devastating social critique. Personally, I expressed my disillusionment at my father's legacy of academic, occupational, and marital failure, as well as my quest for an idealizable father of whom I could be proud.

Apparently I felt compelled to bare myself in a barely disguised form. I gathered together my past grievances and projected them on to "The Freud Archives Board." In them I embodied the lies, hypocrisy, deception, and duplicity that I hated in society. So long as they typified "the powers that be" and its "opinions," there could be no compromise. My uncompromising depiction of the "sins of the father," the "ghosts" that demand placing duty and public appearances above self-expression and individual freedom, expresses my long-held convictions in the purest, boldest form.

At the center of Significant Moments lies my determination to explore two sides of deception. Some self-deception is held necessary to maintain hope and to survive, yet there is also a pernicious self-deception that erodes ethics and undermines morality. Both Nietzsche and Jeffrey Masson were compelled to counter, respectively, Wagner's and The Freud Archives' deceptions of themselves and others. "The Heroes'" (Nietzsche's and Masson's) duty-bound rejection was felt by "the powers that be" (Wagner and Dr. Eissler) as both a rejection of their ideals and a personal betrayal.

I was shocked by my sudden job termination in late October 1991; but later (in April 1993), within four months of receiving the employer's responsive pleadings in the agency complaint I filed, I began work on Significant Moments. With my self-confidence shattered, if there was a moment when the capacity to transform shattered narcissism into artistic creativity was called for, this was it. The book became my response to the devastating experience of my termination and its aftermath. Note that it was only upon my receipt in late December 1992 of the employer's pleadings that I learned that the employer had allegedly determined that I was potentially violent -- that is, a physical danger to others: an allegation that must have resonated with my memory that at age three I had been determined by a municipal authority to pose a public health risk.

In Significant Moments moral integrity on one side is pitted against deception, greed, and narrow self-interests on the other. The battle lines are drawn clearly. Perhaps in outrage, all gloves are off. I myself step upon the stage and drag my enemy, conventional wisdom, front and center with me.

The hero pays the price for his naive belief in truth; he is socially totally isolated, but he remains undaunted. Throughout the book, he remains loyal to the idea that truth will win the day. He utters the line (through playwright Arthur Miller) that embodies "the hero's" defiance of the "majority" and defines the state in which he feels himself to be: independent, invulnerable, and exquisitely self-contained. "The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone!"

To me, the artist's strength lays in an undaunted capacity to maintain a vision in the face of opposition and to "cleanse and decontaminate the whole community." I must disturb, be perpetually misunderstood, and walk alone. Yet I would call Significant Moments an expression of the "comedy of life" in that it expresses my recognition that the creative artist cannot totally stand alone. Ultimately, he needs an audience to respond to him.

The artist accepts isolation as a consequence of his superior, unique vision of the world. He depicts his ideal, to follow the dictates of his artistic integrity, irrespective of the consequences. Compromise means accommodating to societal pressures, hypocrisy, and deception.

In Significant Moments the tyranny of conventional wisdom, the legacy of father to son, and the strength inherent in one's solitary loyalty to the "ideal" of truth appear on an unadorned stage.

It is always risky, when discussing an artist, to draw inferences about his life from his creative output. Nonetheless, parallels do exist between the artist's life and his creative work.

Traumatic, painful, or humiliating life experiences sometimes provide the context for an artist's work. To some extent, the creative product is the transformation by the artist of the effects of his painful past and narcissistically injurious experiences. Here, transformation refers to self-regulated alterations, the capacity to alter one's self-state, when, for example, it is characterized by guilt or shame, stirred by feelings of defeat and, when exposed to contempt, derision, or ridicule. To turn painful self-states into a sense of triumph requires transforming narcissistic injuries, often though not invariably, via narcissistic rage, into a sense of having righted a wrong, avenged a slur, or seized self-"intactness" from the jaws of injury.

Significant Moments is a self-revelation. As the book proceeds headlong toward its tragic denouement, the passages that describe the weather and the lighting are psychologically revealing. Thus, the portion of the writing that describes the high point of the Wagner-Nietzsche relationship refers to the brilliance of the sun. While the last meeting of Wagner and Nietzsche takes place on a cold, drizzly evening -- the night of a dinner party. Artists, including myself, often depict self-states of the characters through, for example, reference to weather. Changes in the weather foreshadow, just as a dream of a barren countryside may reveal and foreshadow, the state of the self.

The book also contains numerous biblical allusions and quotations. In adult years I have stood alone against my critics, who have usually been stronger and more numerous than my defenders. The source of my strength -- my ability to stand alone, undaunted -- I believe, is ultimately a positive inheritance from my father: namely, my father's ego-strengthening identification with the historical struggle of the Jewish people for survival. My ambivalence toward my father now becomes more understandable. My "inheritance" did not only include my father's failings, but contained a substantial quantum of support from him as well. My solitary faith in myself and my eventual triumph, coupled with my memory of my father's loyalty to the best in the Jewish tradition, may have provided the strength that has enabled me to stand alone and continue my struggle without the aid or presence of another.

After my disappointing job termination in 1991, my self-state could be characterized as enraged by new disappointments, as well as the revival of the old hurts and disillusionments. I sought refuge through the transformation of my painful state to one that may also have been an enduring legacy of my childhood, a state devoid of impingements from others and free of the disappointment I felt in my father. I sought a sense of supremacy, alone and at peace. Akin to a puppeteer, I longed to be above the critics and the mundane world, without concern for social status, economics, or prestige.

In any event, that's the bird's eye view.

Check you out next week, buddy. You might want to look up Bruce S. Linenberg, who was in my high school graduating class. He was supersmart and supercool. He's now a psychologist.

P.S. This letter is, for the most part, a paraphrase of a technical paper: "Ibsen: Criticism, Creativity, and Self-State Transformations," by Frank M. Lachmann and Annette Lachmann, published in The Annual of Psychoanalysis, vol. 24, 1996.

Frank M. Lachmann, Ph.D., is a member of the Founding Faculty of the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity; Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and Training and Supervising Analyst, Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. He is author or co-author of more than 80 publications. His most recent works include Transforming Aggression: Psychotherapy with the Difficult-to-Treat Patient (Aronson, 2001); with Beatrice Beebe he is co-author of Infant Research and Adult Treatment: Co-Constructing Interactions (Analytic Press, 2002) and with Joseph Lichtenberg and James Fosshage he is co-author of three books, including A Spirit of Inquiry: Communication in Psychoanalysis (Analytic Press, 2002).

APPENDIX: Brief excerpt from Significant Moments, an autobiographical study.

Those with an intimate acquaintance of Hebrew texts will recognize immediately that this one is written entirely in melitzah, a mosaic of fragments and phrases from the Hebrew Bible as well as from rabbinic literature or the liturgy, fitted together to form a new statement of what the author intends to express at the moment. Melitzah, in effect, recalls Walter Benjamin's desire to someday write a work composed entirely of quotations. At any rate, it was a literary device employed widely in medieval Hebrew poetry and prose, then through . . .
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.. . .the movement known as Haskalah, Hebrew for “enlightenment,”. . .
Herbert Kupferberg, The Mendelssohns: Three Generations of Genius.. . . and even among nineteenth-century writers both modern and traditional.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.What is so special about this particular . . .
Adam Baer, The Music Language.. . . literary device?
Ken Ham, Where are you, metaphor?In melitzah the sentences compounded out of quotations mean what they say; but below and beyond the surface they reverberate with associations to the original texts, and this is what makes them psychologically so interesting and valuable. In the transposition of a quotation from the original (in this case canonical) text to a new one, the meaning of the original context may be retained, altered, or subverted. In any case the original context trails along as an invisible interlinear presence, and the readers, like the writer, must be aware of these associations if they are to savor the new text to the full. A partial analogy may be found in Eliot's use of quotations in The Waste Land.
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud's Moses.If he is successful in . . .
Donald P. Spence, Narrative Truth and Historical Truth: Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis.. . . his use of melitzah, . . .
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud’s Moses.. . . the Author . . .
Bill Moyers, Genesis: A Living Conversation.. . . will arouse in the reader a particular set of images and associations which will add a certain texture and tone to what is being described—the chordal accompaniment, so to speak, to the melodic line.
Donald P. Spence, Narrative Truth and Historical Truth: Meaning and Interpretation in Psychoanalysis._____________________________________________________________

I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I shall portray will be myself. Simply myself.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions.If I have written much of it in the third person, well, that is because such an obsessive account of . . .
Richard Selzer, Raising the Dead.. . . my intrusion into this valley of suffering . . .
Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years.. . . forces one, like Dorian Gray, to confront his own "devilish, furtive, ingrown" self-portrait. The pronoun he gives a blessed bit of distance between myself and a too fresh ordeal in which the use of I would be rather like picking off a scab only to find that the wound had not completely healed.
Richard Selzer, Raising the Dead.In the career of the most unliterary of writers, in the sense that literary ambition had never entered the world of his imagination, the coming into existence of the first book is quite an inexplicable event. In my own case I cannot trace it back to any mental or psychological cause which one could point out and hold to. The greatest of my gifts being a consummate capacity for doing nothing, I cannot even point to boredom as a rational stimulus for taking up a pen.
Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record.What kind of person am I? What is so special about me?
Richard Wagner, Letter to King Ludwig II of Bavaria.I am an assimilated Jew, content to be assimilated, relieved to be religiously unobservant. I don't know any Hebrew, or have forgotten the little I once learned.
Wayne Koestenbaum, Listening to Schwarzkopf: The Reich and the Soprano.Speaking personally, I find that the American experience of being an assimilated grandchild of Orthodox immigrants has tended to make me an ill-informed, nonbelieving, non-observant Orthodox Jew, haunted by nostalgia for the peculiar music of the shul, for the Judaism I do not practice. And this adds still another puzzling iridescence to my Jewishness and to the tantalizing opportunities of my writer's divided self.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.. . . since these pages, if they survive me, may be the last testament of my brief and insignificant passage through the world, let me scrawl out the main facts.
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance."I come from an unbroken line of infidel Jews. My father was a Voltairian. My mother was pious, but one day my father took me out for a walk . . .
Sigmund Freud, Conversation with Thornton Wilder.. . . a walk in a little neighboring wood . . .
Voltaire, Candide.. . . I can remember it perfectly, and explained to me that there was no way we could know that there is a God; that it didn't do any good to trouble one's head about such; but to live and do one's duty among one's fellow men"
Sigmund Freud, Conversation with Thornton Wilder.I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different. Whether Nature did well or ill in breaking the mould in which she formed me, is a question which can only be resolved after reading my book.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions.____________________________________________________________

We writers live in the limbo between expression and communication. And we do not need theology or metaphysics to remind us that as writers we cannot avoid the effort, or the temptation, to serve two masters—ourselves, what is within us, and our reader, our conjectural clients outside.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to whom it fits.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden.By an ironic twist in the history of western literature, in this very age of unprecedented temptations to literary populism, an age of the sovereign and increasingly demanding public, there developed a fertile new sense of Personal Conscience. The private consciousness took on a new life and became a wondrous new literary resource. In modern transformation, conscience, an ancient laboratory of theological hairsplitting and a modern arena of ephemeral public taste, became inward, experimental, and biographical.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra’s Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.But more. But infinitely more.—
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner.As prophet and pundit . . .
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination.. . . as devilish, dangerous, a rebel, and yet also a martyr and sacrifice . . .
Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka: Representative Man.. . . the writer has become . . .
Ramakant Rath, Has Literature a Future?. . . the bad conscience of our whole era, . . .
Cosima Wagner’s Diaries (Monday, December 13, 1869).. . . and in so doing indeed . . .
Henry James, Confidence.. . . he has come perilously close to defining the modern . . .
Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka: Representative Man.. . . antihero who rejects received tenets of behaviour and stays true to his individuality . . .
Youssef Rakha, Review of A Sun Which Leaves No Shadows.. . . in an always alien society.
Frederick Karl, Franz Kafka: Representative Man.To think of the writer as conscience of the world is only to recognize that the writer, . . .
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.. . . as we shall see, . . .
Edward R. Tannenbaum, 1900: The Generation Before the Great War.. . . is inevitably a divided self, condemned at the same time to express and to communicate, to speak for the writer and speak to others.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.The orator yields to the inspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden.Western literature offers us countless different ways in which authors have dealt with this divided self. I will provide only a sample from some of my favorite writers that may suggest the perils that beset writers who pretend to be the world's arbiters.
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, . . .
Richard M. Ashbrook and Michael W. Torello, Preserving Community in a Technological Age: Toward the Constructive Incorporation of Technology in Higher Education.. . . Hermann Hesse . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.—one of my favorites—
Christina Olson Spiesel, The One Who Loved My Work: A Meditation on Art Criticism.. . . embodied those divisions of his age which have left their mark on our culture. . . . In a manner unique among writers, he wove his immediate experiences into his books to portray many of the dilemmas and historic crises of his time. . . . It was this finely tuned interaction between his psychological conflict and historical events that was to make him a poet of crisis. . . .
Hesse's stories—like the dreams he collected in special notebooks—are told from both conscious and unconscious experience and therefore reveal and conceal events, encounters, and feelings from himself, his friends, his public. The way Hesse lived and wrote about his life, constantly aware of his conflicting impulses as part of the tension of his art, made this revelation and concealment permeate all his writings. . . .
He made himself into an example for his readers, just as Rousseau, by no means a stranger to the art of disclosure and concealment, had presented himself in his Confessions. With its "pole" and "counterpole," Hesse's work became an ongoing act of instruction even as it took the shape of a continuous novel.
Ralph Freedman, Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis.____________________________________________________________

The popular literary form . . .
Daniel J. Boorstin, Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected.—as opposed to the sequestered academic one—is always straining at the inbuilt inertia of a society that always wants to deny change and the pain it necessarily involves. But it is in this effort that the musculature of important work is developed.
Arthur Miller, Timebends.Hesse's literary career was closely interwoven with his personal fortunes as well as with his philosophical interests. His works before his disillusionment in World War I reflect the German literary traditions of romanticism and regionalism.
Encyclopedia Americana.In this tradition, we are dealing with a line of thought that frames . . .
Ghent Urban Studies Team, The Urban Condition: Space, Community, and Self in the Contemporary Metropolis.. . . clear-cut distinctions between good and evil, prudence and folly, reality and fantasy.
Edward R. Tannenbaum, 1900: The Generation before the Great War.At any rate, in . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . accord with his original artistic nature, . . .
Paul Roazen, Erik H. Erikson: The Power and Limits of a Vision.. . . and at a time when . . .
Michael Nightingale, Smallpox: Why All The Fuss?. . . in his youth . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . he has not yet seen any of his illusions dissipated, . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.. . . Hesse’s . . .
Ralph Freedman, Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis.. . . generally lower-middle-class heroes work hard, though rarely successfully, at adjusting to . . .
Encyclopedia Americana.. . . the technological and social change . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . of urban industrial society.
Edward R. Tannenbaum, 1900: The Generation Before the Great War.
By the time . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.. . . the Great War ended, however, . . .
W. Thomas White, Working Life: The Big Strike.. . . the world had undergone a complete transformation . . .
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.. . . and the consequences for . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.. . . Hesse . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius.. . . himself were far greater than he could ever have foreseen.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.Somehow events in his life were coming to a head, but he felt that he was being lived by them, rather than living them.
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.He became uncertain whether good and bad, right and wrong, had any absolute existence at all. Perhaps the voice of one’s own conscience was ultimately the only valid judge, and if that were so, then . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.Each man had only one genuine vocation—to find the way to himself. He might end up as poet or madman, as prophet or criminal—that was not his affair, ultimately it was of no concern. His task was to discover his own destiny—not an arbitrary one—and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness.
Hermann Hesse, Demian.What more need I say?
Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian Home Rule.Beginning with Demian (1919), . . .
Encyclopedia Americana.—if we may be permitted to anticipate our story . . .
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.. . . his heroes no longer try to conform but . . .
Encyclopedia Americana.. . . force themselves almost against their own wills to insist, at the price of isolation, on finding an original way of . . .
Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther.. . . participating in . . .
H.G. Wells, The World Set Free.. . . a new age of human involvement and commitment.
Encyclopedia Americana.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Reflections of a Solitary on a Snowy Afternoon in January


January 24, 2005
Hey, buddy. What did you think of that snowstorm on Saturday? Was Mr. Frost nipping at your nose? Did you even work on Saturday or did you have the day off? I heard that the libraries closed two hours early, at three-thirty. You were released from your workday chores prematurely, in mid-afternoon on Saturday, if indeed you were engaged with them at all.

On Saturday I occupied myself with Mr. Frost together with a host of other authors who populated my imagination as welcome guests: Jane Hamilton, Marya Hornbacher, Edith Wharton, Primo Levi, Boris Pasternak, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Brenman-Gibson. Stanley Greenspan was here too. But then, Dr. Greenspan is always here; he holds the key to my inner world, and he comes and goes at will. Oh, and lest I forget, Lord Byron visited briefly to convey a unique message "To Ellen."

In my loneliness I become a spectator. My imagination leads a procession of living creatures before me. I watch and listen to these guests of my imagination as I would a performance at the theater. And at times these fantastic creations of my inner world seem more real than reality itself. I may be affected by a theatrical exhibition; on the other hand, I may not be affected by an actual event which appears to concern me much more. I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so to speak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another. However intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of me, but a spectator, sharing no experience, but taking note of it, and that is no more I than it is you. When the play, it may be the tragedy, of life is over, the spectator goes his way. It was a kind of fiction, a work of the imagination only, so far as he was concerned. This doubleness may easily make us poor neighbors and friends sometimes.

I came across a poem of Robert Frost's that seemed especially appropriate: "Brown's Descent." The opening lines read: "Brown lived at such a lofty farm that everyone for miles could see his lantern where he did his chores in winter after half-past three. And many must have seen him make his wild descent from there one night, 'cross lots, 'cross walls, 'cross everything describing rings of lantern-light. Between the house and barn the gale got him by something he had on and blew him out on the icy crust that cased the world, and he was gone!"

I hope you got home safely if you drove through the snow, Brian. My own life is like an unending slip and slide; I seem to be continually at the edge of an abyss, mere seconds and a few feet from swerving involuntarily into oncoming traffic. I fear crashing into the traffic in the opposite lane, hurling into the windshield -- hurting myself and damaging the rearview mirror.

My entire existence, in some sense, can be viewed as the lived aftermath of an accident, or series of accidents -- a fall from grace. I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error or else an unfortunate accident. I hadn't learned that it can happen so gradually you don't lose your stomach or hurt yourself in the landing. You don't necessarily sense the motion. I've found it takes at last two and generally three things to alter the course of a life: You slip around the truth once, and then again, and one more time, and there you are, feeling, for a moment, that it was sudden, your arrival at the bottom of a snowdrift.

That's the way I feel now. I feel as if I'm at the bottom of the heap, struggling to ascend from the snowdrifts that ensnare me in a winter wasteland.

At this moment, the problem is compounded by a writer's block. I feel I'm straining for something to say, something to express. I feel immobile, locked in the grip of a creative and emotional deep freeze.

There is a stillness without and a confused tumult within. I gaze out my window. I seem a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that is warm and sentient in me fast bound below the surface; but there is nothing unfriendly in the silence. The silence is a balm for my inner disquiet. I simply feel that I live in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I have the sense that my loneliness is not merely the result of my personal plight, tragic as it is, but has in it, as I've hinted many times before, the profound accumulated cold of many stark and harshly-demanding winters.

The night following the storm was perfectly still, and the air so dry and pure that it gave little sensation of cold. The effect produced on me was rather a complete absence of atmosphere, as though nothing less tenuous than ether intervened between the white earth and the gray sky above.

I let the vision possess me as I contemplated what to write to you, buddy. I am never so happy as when I abandon myself to these epistolary dreams. A wave of warmth goes through me as I think about the fact that for me the act of writing (not to mention paraphrasing, as well as outright plagiarizing) is the prolongation of a vision.

Saturday night. I set about to write. I scribbled some notes in longhand. What I wrote that night fell into two parts. Clean copies -- improved versions of earlier scribbling -- were set out in my best penmanship. New work was written in an illegible scrawl full of gaps and abbreviations. In deciphering these scribbles, I went through the usual disappointments. Last night these rough fragments had moved me, and I myself had been surprised by some felicitous passages. Now these very passages seemed to me distressingly and conspicuously strained.

The passages didn't flow. A clear and pleasing narrative did not materialize. I felt torn between a fevered urgency and a bitter languor. I cannot blame my inner censor for the block; that censor, like a good psychoanalyst, contemplated my outpourings with evenly-hovering attention. The ideas were there all right, but they failed to materialize into a cohesive communication. I not only feel that I am incomprehensible to others; I am sometimes incomprehensible to myself as well. There were many false starts -- and jarring stops. It was like driving through a winter storm. My thoughts made slow headway, and a vague fear gripped me as I envisioned veering off a train of thought or, alternatively, into a jarring wreck of incompatible ideas. The driver in a winter storm strives vigilantly for a commodious path, and is dismayed when he finds how far, after a seemingly interminable ride, he still remains from home.

It has been the dream of my life to write with an originality so discreet, so well concealed, as to be unnoticeable in its disguise of current and customary forms; all my life I have struggled for a style so restrained, so unpretentious that the reader or the hearer would fully understand the meaning without realizing how I assimilated it. I strive constantly for an unostentatious style, and I am dismayed to find how far I still remain from my ideal.

Saturday evening I had tried to convey, by words so simple as to be almost childish and suggesting the directness of a poem, my feelings of mingled idealism and fear and longing and courage, in such a way that should speak for itself, almost apart from the words.

Looking over my rough sketches now, I find that they needed a connecting theme to give unity to the lines, which for lack of it fell apart.

I take a break from my writing, and look out the window. I peer closely and inquisitively at the flakes of snow on the window ledge. Each crystal flake has an individual identity. Like a poem, each flake speaks of itself alone in a lyrical manner. Each six-sided flake expresses its own self in a broad, spacious hexameter. The regularity of the rhythm, independent of the meaning and inherent in the meter itself, does not strike me as doggerel; rather it contains a unique message expressed in infinite variety within a set form. Variety of expression within a strict form is difficult but engaging; the structural exigencies of poetry obviate verbosity just as nature imposes simplicity of form on the snowflake as a hedge against crystalline "windiness." The snowflake exalts in the concise and strong. It describes itself with the greatest rigor and the least clutter. The snowflake is compact, discrete; it is delineated by neat boundaries. Its individual identity is secure. The snowflake is a paradigm of firm, but precarious, self-delineation. Time and temperature will soon conspire to fuse the individual snowflakes into a crust amounting to a loss of individual identity.

Like the narrative of the psychoanalytic patient, every detail of the snowflake's form, however trivial, has a meaning. In the snowflake each crystalline projection has a structural function just as the analytic patient's outpourings follow narrative necessity.

The patient expresses his thoughts with clinical parsimony. In psychoanalysis the preferred explanation for a series of symptoms tends to be cast in terms of single events from the patient's past rather than different events on different occasions. The single event may be repeated again over time but the form of the event tends not to change. Similarly, nature endows each snowflake with an economy of expression within a hexagonal form.

The flake makes you think of something solid, stable, well-linked. In fact it happens also in crystallography as in architecture that "beautiful" edifices, that is symmetrical and simple, are also the most sturdy; in short the same thing happens with the crystal as with cupolas of cathedrals, the arches of bridges, or the well-designed theater whose structure follows the demands of acoustical science. And it is also possible that the explanation is neither remote nor metaphysical; to say "beautiful" is to say "desirable," and ever since man has built he has wanted to build at the smallest expense and in the most desirable fashion, and the aesthetic enjoyment he experiences when contemplating his work comes afterward. Certainly, it has not always been this way: there have been centuries in which "beauty" was identified with adornment, the superimposed, the frills; but it is probable that they were deviant epochs and that the true beauty, in which every century recognizes itself, is found in the upright stones of a simple farmhouse or the blade of the farmer's ax.

Early Saturday afternoon I looked out my window. The old park -- or what remains of it -- came right to the tool shed, as if to peer at my face and remind me of something. The snow was already deep. It was piled high on the tool shed. Snow hung over the edge of the shed, like the rim of a gigantic mushroom. A solitary raven was perched on the roof devouring, in Lord Byron's words, "the yellow harvest's countless seed." For a moment the bird freezes in an upright position, fixed like a stage prop suspended in time. The world stops.

Although it was early afternoon and full sunlight, I felt as if I were standing late at night in the dark forest of my life. Such was the darkness of my soul, such was my dejection. The new moon shining almost at eye level was an omen of separation and an image of solitude.

I paused and reflected. My mind wandered. Thoughts and images emerged unbidden as I contemplated the blinding whiteness of the snow. A mirage appeared, as a thought out of season. I was in Bayreuth, Germany, in January. The tool shed directly across from my apartment window appeared to me as a chimera; it was Wagner's Festival Theater in mid-January, six months before the summer opera festival will begin. The theater has fallen into its customary winter disuse. As for the out-of-season festival theater -- a "beautiful" edifice of magnificent symmetry and noble and imposing forms -- on a lofty hill outside the town, when there was only the falling snow to be seen and the auditorium was bare, comfortless, and shadowy, it felt to me less like a place of high art and pleasure than a vacant library that had closed early on a snowy January day -- or, perhaps, a New England barn, atop a hill that everyone for miles can see.

The mirage seemed to give the appearance of a somewhat arcane sensation, a suggestion of something simultaneously flaunted and guarded, a sort of a private delusion waiting to be revealed. Through the charms and simplicities of Bayreuth, during the months before the summer festival, the image of Richard Wagner perpetually looms, like an icon or an ideal -- the comforting presence of an imagined friend, perhaps -- and in my fancy left my mirage of Bayreuth in a condition of half-bewitched expectancy. Just you try putting Wagner out of your mind in Bayreuth -- even in January! Wagner became in this moment a symbol of All-Things-wished-for but denied: an embodiment of frustrated enticement. He became a symbol of the special friend one despairs of ever finding. I recognized my emotional emptiness in the phantasm of the out-of-season, vacant theater at Bayreuth. And then, in a moment the image of Wagner that had gripped my fantasies disappeared, as if it had been blown out on the icy crust that cased the world, and he was gone!

I was left with a spiritual hunger borne of a disconnected feeling. The disconnected mood which strains for closure more in the artist than in others is the same bridge that joins me to Victor Hugo's "miserables." My emotional starvation welcomes as a brother fellow seekers: idealistic souls who pursue an inner vision of truth and meaning in defiance of the compact majority. But my starvation, however painful, also aids me in that central necessity for any artist -- to find a communicative Form or structure whereby I can simultaneously heal my inner disconnections and end my disconnection from others. My gift -- if it be called a gift -- permits me, while integrating the contrarities within, to provide such integration for my audience as to unite me with it. This is the self-healing and other-healing function of all art.

It is only by writing these letters that I seem able to derive any satisfaction from life. Social avenues of engagement with others seem blocked by the barrenness of my frozen soul. I am forever locked in the grips of a slippery slope that I desperately want to ascend, but to which I -- like Camus's Sisyphus -- am forced to submit in fatal descent. I lack the capacity for true engagement with others, and so I occupy myself with an imaginary connection with a distant and unseen audience through the communicative form of these letters.

For the genuine artist, the search for a suitable form competes in importance with the need to express a particular content. Mere content alone veers toward dissolution and incomprehensibility in the absence of a unifying structural barrier or boundary.

Structural issues of a different kind also mediate social relatedness, for, as Erik Erikson has observed, true engagement with others is the result and the test of firm self-delineation. Where this is still missing, the individual when seeking tentative forms of friendship is apt to experience a peculiar strain, as if such tentative engagement might turn into an interpersonal fusion amounting to a loss of identity, and requiring, therefore, a tense inner reservation, a caution in commitment. Because I myself have never resolved this strain I isolate myself and enter, at best, only stereotyped and formalized interpersonal relations. For where an assured sense of identity is missing even friendship becomes a desperate attempt at delineating the fuzzy outlines of identity by mutual narcissistic mirroring: to make a friend then often means to fall into one's mirror image, hurting oneself and damaging the mirror.

I seek a real person, an actual other, a comrade-in-arms -- a psychical ballast, as it were -- with whom I can share my thoughts and feelings.

If I can't make a friend, I would hope I might find a therapist with whom I could communicate: someone whose opinions I can respect, someone who might offer narcissistic nourishment to ease my emotional starvation. But at the moment there is no one.

What I desperately need at this time is a therapeutic process, including a transference relationship and the skillful guidance of a seasoned therapist to avail myself of opportunities for new growth: someone who can appreciate the needs, limitations, and capacities associated with my ego structure. What I need is a therapist who has a road map of the structural components of my ego processes to go alongside a road map of intrapsychic content (e.g., wishes, conflicts, fears), that can increase my understanding of my Self and improve my day-to-day adjustment.

Let me tell you something important, Brian. An important fact: I grew up in the theater. My parents were actors and directors, and I myself began performing when I was just a child. There is no place on earth that fosters narcissism like the theater, but by the same token, nowhere is it easier to believe that you are essentially empty, that you must constantly reinvent yourself in order to hold your audience in thrall. In childhood I became fascinated with transformations, with mirage and smoke and mirrors (rearview or otherwise). Perhaps a genetically less sensitive, less porous, and less gifted youngster would have responded with greater resilience to his family and would have achieved a more comfortable day-to-day adjustment. But I was hypersensitive to the goings-on in my family, and my early life in the theater exacted its toll.

I need a therapist who has a rich understanding of the various dramas played out in my intrapsychic life. I need a therapist who will sit quietly as he watches the play unfold, while being in his or her own mind also a co-actor. I need a therapist who appreciates the psychodrama of therapy: one who, within the walls of his office, is able to surrender his identity to the phantoms that haunt his patients, continually attending to the form of the moment of communication while bearing in mind the whole session as it echoes and repeats the form of the patient's life drama. I require a therapist who can accommodate the multifarious diffusion of my identity -- my inner gallery of characters -- and who can surrender himself to the act of witnessing the entire process of my inner drama play out.

Put another way, I need a therapist who understands the structure of my ego -- my psychic terrain, one might say -- and whose map of that structure will permit me to arrive home safely on a snowy, winter afternoon. Someone who knows which roads are navigable, which ones are temporarily blocked, and which roads are permanently impassable. There is nothing more frustrating to a passenger riding in a winter storm than the driver's self-aggrandizing false promises: promises about the ease of travel along a particular road that are based on the driver's foolhardy failure to appreciate the severity of the road conditions.

It's especially important clinically to understand the structure of the ego, in addition to the particular dynamic phenomenon the ego is struggling with at any moment so that therapist and patient can knowledgeably journey across the patient's mental landscape: to observe the patient's wishes and abstracted feeling states, make connections between different wishes and feelings (as well as different sides of a conflict), and understand these in historical, current, and future contexts.

Be that as it may.

It is now early evening on this snowy day in mid-January. The storm has all but passed. The stir is over. I step forth once again to peer outside my window. I strain to make the far-off images beyond my windowpane yield a cue to the events that may come in the days ahead. Night and its murk transfix and pin me, staring through thousands of stars. I cherish this moment, this rigorous conception of a snowy winter evening, and I consent to play my part therein as spectator. But another play is running at this moment, so, for the present, I seek a premature release. And yet, the order of the acts has been schemed and plotted, and nothing can avert the final curtain's fall. The January thaw will soon take off the polish of the snow's crust. I bow with grace to natural law. I stand alone. All else is swamped in fuzzy dissolution. To live life to the end, while peering back to the path one has already traversed, is not a childish task.

Check you out next week, buddy. We're actually more alike than you'll ever know. "Don't think Brown ever gave up hope of getting home again because he couldn't climb that slippery slope." One way or another, I too plan to get home someday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Schizoid: A Persecuted Minority

January 18, 2005


Hey, buddy. What's been occupying your days and moods? Do you ever venture into the depths of introspection? Do you sometimes scrupulously pour over the events of your life, and your place in the world? Do you ever become engrossed in the somber hues and sober tints of your inner mental life? Well, you should, buddy. It brings out your "I's."

My inner mental life IS my life. A thing that has reached terrifying proportions in my life is the fact that I seem to make little if any contact with living people. I know what has happened. From most of them there is so little to be learned, so little to be seen or discovered in them that is original and revelatory, that I have gotten into the habit of ignoring them. It was always that way with me: the inside teeming and quick rhythm was more important. It is even more so now, but how dangerous it is, how easily it will let one fall into the habit of peopling the world with one's own desires and images! I feel it happening all the time, but seem to do nothing to prevent this loss. I have paid a truly great price for the years of my young loneliness: I am forever locked in myself, deeply imbedded in the flesh and bones of myself is a hungry peering person, astigmatic, tired, alone.

I am lost to the world with which I used to waste so much time; it has heard nothing from me for so long that it may very well believe that I am dead (or at least petrified)! It is of no consequence to me whether it thinks me dead; I cannot deny it, for I really am dead to the world. I am dead to the world's tumult, and I rest in a quiet realm! I live alone in my one-room apartment, in my imaginary friendships and in my letters! That is, when I'm not otherwise occupied with my daily workout regimen in the exercise room of my apartment building.

I live out my days tunneling, tunneling through my thoughts to ever greater depths -- like Kafka's mole-rat digging into the earth below, creating a labyrinthine burrow of seemingly infinite complexity that is safe from the encroachment of others. "And with that I lose myself in a maze of technical speculations, I begin once more to dream my dream of a completely perfect burrow, and that somewhat calms me; with closed eyes I behold with delight perfect or almost perfect structural devices for enabling me to slip out and in unobserved. While I lie there thinking such things I admire these devices very greatly, but only as technical achievements, or as real advantages, for this freedom to slip out and in at will, what does it amount to? It is the mark of a restless nature, of inner uncertainty, disreputable desires, evil propensities that seem still worse when one thinks of the burrow, which is there at one's hand and can flood one with peace if one only remains quite open and receptive to it. For the present, however, I am outside it seeking some possibility of returning, and for that the necessary technical devices would be very desirable. But perhaps not very desirable after all. Is it not a very grave injustice to the burrow to regard it in moments of nervous panic as a mere hole among which one can creep and be safe?" Ah, yes! The freedom to slip "out and in" at will, as Kafka calls it. That's the famous "in and out program," which I discuss in greater depth, below.

Yes, in my burrow, in my solitary thoughts, I dream my dreams. But they are the dreams of "the undeveloped heart." I dwell in my burrow with a gallery of images, the images of a plethora of people: the monstrous and the good -- some unbelievably good. They remain phantoms, however. I lack the ability to care enough about another person; I suffer from a deficiency of the capacity for love, joy, and empathy to occupy myself with real people. The passageways of my burrow are redolent of indifference: the benign but vaguely repellent odor of emotional emptiness.

I live in fear by day and night; fear as deep as the marrow of the bone; doubt that I am worthy of life; since everyone around me denies it as I deny it to myself; which makes all love, all trust, all joy impossible.

From the tunnels of my imagination come a host of memories. All sorts of ghosts haunt these long, lonely corridors; foulness and miasma are everywhere, with here and there a vent-hole through which the phantom of one of my old acquaintances from within converses with another one of my old acquaintances from without.

My burrow is the resting place of all failure and all effort. To my life's pain it is a detritus, and to unfulfilled wishes a residue. It is the conscience of my life's experiences where all things converge and clash. There is darkness here, but no secrets. Everything has its true or at least its definitive form. There is this to be said for the muck-heap of my memories and imaginings, that it does not lie. Innocence dwells in it. Every foulness of my existence, fallen into disuse, sinks into that ditch of truth wherein ends the huge hoard of meaninglessness, to be swallowed, but to spread in endless rumination. It is a vast confusion. No false appearance, no whitewashing, is possible; filth strips off its shirt in utter starkness, all illusions and mirages scattered, nothing left except what is, showing the ugly face of what ends. Reality and disappearance: here, a bottleneck proclaims drunkenness, a basket-handle tells of home-life; and there the apple-core that had literary opinions again becomes an apple-core. Here my memories enjoy more than fraternity, they share a close intimacy. That which was painted is besmeared. The last veil is stripped away. The repository of memories that constitutes my mind is a cynic. It says everything. Endlessly. My burrow comprises the entrails of a monster. Mine is the life of a miserable sod. Ah, yes, Les Miserables!

I am in a dark place. I would live in utter darkness in my burrow but for The Word that emanates from higher realms. As the psalmist said: "Since God's word is a light for my path I will be sure not to stumble as long as it is with me. If God's word is in my heart then I can be sure that it will be there whenever I am in a dark place." Psalm 119: 105-106.

Yes, buddy, I was evicted from the library because I quoted scripture. An odd crime, don't you think? You interfered with my right to quote from Holy Writ on a public access computer at the library. Isn't that a First Amendment violation? Well, I guess you're not a Scientologist! I'll add that to my collection of atrocious memories: to the virtuoso collection of wounds and angers I harbor against my fellow man. I will dig a special hole in my burrow for the following memory: "On April 21, 2004, Brian Patrick Brown summoned the Metro DC Police to have me evicted from the Cleveland Park Library because I quoted from a Psalm." I'll add that memory to the permanent archives.

Be that as it may.

My session with The Mad Monk last week (Wednesday January 12, 2005) was a disaster. I walked out after about five minutes. I couldn't take it anymore. The last consult had been three weeks earlier, on December 22, 2004.

The Mad Monk showed no interest at all in how I was, how I felt, what I had been doing, how I had spent the holidays. Of course, obviously, they were Christian holidays, which are of no interest to Dr. Bash. But I myself am one-half Christian -- technically, at least. My mother was a Polish-Catholic coal-miner's daughter, after all. I suppose you could call me "The Half-Jewish Patient."

"So why did you wait three weeks to see me?" asked Dr. Bash. "I'm saving money. I save money on transportation by seeing you every three weeks," I said. Actually, I was being polite. Financial concerns were not my only reason for waiting three weeks to consult Dr. Bash. I'm simply sick of The Mad Monk.

"Do you take a bus to get here?" she asked. "No, subway," I said (Underground Man that I am). "Well, you could save money by walking here," the ever-practical Dr. Bash said. "Or," she continued, "you could walk one way and take the subway the other way. You could walk here and take the subway home. Or you could take the subway here and walk home." Dr. Bash covered all the permutations and combinations. She's nothing if not thorough, at least in regard to meaningless minutiae.

Dr. Bash then said: "Walking is good exercise. Do you get exercise?" "Yes," I replied, "I work out in the exercise room." "What kind of exercise do you do?" she inquired. "Well," I said, "we have an exercise room in my apartment building and they have different machines. I work out on an eliptical machine."

"Do you talk to anyone in the exercise room?" Dr. Bash asked. "No," I said. It was at this point that I started to get agitated. I knew what was coming. "You could try to make friends with someone in the exercise room," she said. "I have problems making friends, Dr. Bash." The Mad Monk then said, "Did you even try?" "No," I replied. I interrupted: "Dr. Bash, I have very serious psychological problems. The psychological problems impair my ability to make friends. I have very serious personality problems." At that point Dr. Bash offered the one-word dismissive comment, "So?"

Presently I could feel a rush of rage bubbling up from my inner core. I calmly said, rising from my chair: "Well, Dr. Bash, I'll see you in three weeks." I walked toward the door. Dr. Bash said: "Where are you going?" I said: "I'm leaving. I can't take it anymore." And I left. "In and out."

Do you notice anything about the totality of the interaction, buddy? The Mad Monk set the entire inane agenda. I had not seen her in three weeks. I have no friends, no family, no social interaction of any kind. I went to the clinic to talk with my therapist. And she proceeded to examine me about why I chose to see her every three weeks instead of every two weeks; my means of transportation to and from the clinic; my exercise routine; and my failure to make friends with people in the exercise room. Then she faulted me for not making an effort to befriend fellow tenants in the exercise room.

"Dr. Bash, I have a problem making friends." "Did you even try?" That phrase ("Did you even try?") really gnawed at my gut. Almost two months ago I presented Dr. Bash a copy of a letter issued by the DC Department of Employment Services, dated November 17, 2004 (Daryl Hardy, 202 698-5146), requesting that Dr. Bash (the letter specifically referred to Dr. Bash by name) prepare a statement about my mental status that would allow the agency to begin to assist me in seeking employment. Dr. Bash refuses to prepare such a statement, thereby impairing my ability to get a job. Bottom line: "She didn't even try!" The fact is that Dr. Bash is not doing all that she can do to help me and all that she has been reasonably requested to do by the DC Government to help me. She then proceeds to chastise me for failing to do all that I can do to make friends. The Mad Monk is a disaster!

Fuck it, man. I've had it! I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. It's called "Schizoid Rage." I have a mental disorder. A recognized mental disorder: Schizoid Personality Disorder. Yes, I am a Schizoid American. The disorder severely impairs my ability to form and maintain relationships. I don't make friends: not simply because I don't make an effort to make friends. My whole internal psychic apparatus is not geared to establishing and maintaining social relations. I need help. The help of a knowledgeable professional. Someone who understands -- really understands -- my personality disorder and is able to work with me. I'm not just a socially isolated person who has trouble making friends. I am a mentally disordered person whose lack of social relations is a symptom of the disorder. Dr. Bash claims to be an expert in cognitive therapy. Has she even read Aaron Beck's book on the cognitive therapy of persons with personality disorders? Aaron Beck, MD, incidentally (who has his own clinic in Philadelphia), is the Godfather of cognitive therapy. His book is "Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders," Aaron T. Beck, Arthur Freeman, and associates (1990). Message for Dr. Bash: "Read It!"

I'm thinking of organizing fellow schizoids. We need to embark on concerted action. We need to lobby Congress. We have rights. We have been ignored for too long. We are a silent (a very silent), oppressed minority. Quite frankly, I was thinking (or fantasizing) about organizing an imaginary March on Washington to draw attention to the plight of the Schizoid minority in this country. I'm talking revolt -- a civil rights movement for the solitary! "All those who cherish in their souls a secret grudge against some action of the State, or of life or destiny," wrote Victor Hugo, "are attracted to the revolt; and when it manifests itself they shiver and feel themselves uplifted by the tempest." Vive Les Miserables!

In 1988, the United States Congress atoned for admitted wrongdoing by apologizing and paying reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II. More recently, the U.S. government has pushed Switzerland's banks to compensate Holocaust victims for withholding their war-time bank accounts. What about reparations for African-Americans scarred by slavery's brutal legacy? And what, I would ask, about fair treatment for schizoids?

Throughout the 20th century, apologies and reparations have been offered to numerous individuals and groups for human-rights violations including The Tuskegee Experiment in which the U.S. government tested the effects of syphilis on black men; the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; and the Holocaust. African-American leaders have begun to call for reparations to the descendants of slaves for the inhumanities their ancestors endured as well as for the enormous contributions of African-Americans to American culture in general.

But when, I ask, when, if ever, will the horrendous suffering -- the inescapable loneliness, social marginalization, and pariah status -- of the schizoid be recognized and addressed? When will the psychological limitations imposed by Schizoid Personality Disorder be respected and accommodated?

In point of fact, I'm only being semi-humorous. There's actually a site on the internet that refers to schizoids as "an oppressed minority." The article (written by Peggy Breece, the relative of a schizoid) talks about the special needs of the schizoid that should be recognized.

The author writes: "I have reviewed the texts used in discussing the history and assessment of Schizoid Personality and I suggest taking a new approach in creating a better living environment for schizoids. Instead of trying to change the person, I am advocating for society to become more tolerant of those exhibiting Schizoid Personality who are extreme introverts and recluses. As mentioned earlier, schizoids are absent of psychosis, but even so, those with varying mental health conditions deserve a life free of oppression and ridicule. So, how do I suggest that society begin being less critical, judgmental, and discriminatory of schizoids? Teach children at early ages that being extroverted does not mean being superior or better than those who are introverted. Teach celebration of diversity and incorporating those exhibiting Schizoid Personality (minus the 'disorder') and other mental health conditions into cultural awareness discussions.

Using education as a tool, children may begin to better understand that just as African-Americans, elderly persons, impoverished persons, and those with disabilities deserve respect and love, schizoids deserve the same opportunities and attention. Instead of mocking and ignoring, better understand how we can better understand each other's differences and turn what is considered a 'weakness' into a strength. Assimilation does not equate happiness. Instead it promotes feelings of shame, anxiety, and pain of not being allowed to just 'be.' Along with education, another strategy social workers need to facilitate is creating a social network for schizoids. For example, it would be helpful for them to come into contact with employment opportunities that would provide a social-free working environment, so when a schizoid chooses not to participate in 'office chit-chat' he or she is not deemed weird or strange. Not only that, schizoids do not feel comfortable in such settings. There should be a list of jobs sectioned off in the classifieds under 'working alone' professions. They are out there, but it is difficult to research them. Most employment ads ask for 'outgoing, social, talkative sellers.' Of course, all of those characteristics are not associated with schizoids, making it hard to find work environments compatible to their personality type and chosen life-styles.

Another benefit in creating a social network is to provide schizoids the opportunity to be themselves and talk with others that live similar lives. One could argue or even joke that it would be difficult to find schizoids to create a social network hence their lack of social interaction, but I disagree. I mean, it would be a challenge, but it is not impossible. For example, a social worker could list a support group in the newspaper or magazine or create a website so that schizoids can converse among each other yet do so in the privacy of their homes. Nonetheless, there are strategies social workers can implement to help eliminate the oppression schizoids feel. Just because this minority group does not outwardly declare, 'I deserve rights, too!' they do warrant a life free of oppression. It is a disservice for practitioners to implement strategies which incorporate 'changing' schizoids. In doing so, social workers are accepting and advocating for further social injustice and oppression.

As the NASW Code of Ethics [for Social Workers] states: Cultural Competence and Social Diversity (a) Social workers should understand culture and its function in human behavior and society, recognizing the strengths that exist in all cultures. (b) Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients' cultures and be able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients' cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups. (c) Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, political belief, religion, and mental or physical disability (National Association of Social Workers, Code of Ethics, January 1, 1997, 1.05).

It is the responsibility of the social work profession to not predetermine who is eligible for services. Oppression feeds on ignorance and it breeds as the ignorance becomes a social norm. Those with Schizoid Personalities do not have a 'disorder' but a gift of high independence and intellect. Regardless, in just being a sentient being they deserve access to available resources, otherwise they feel alone . . . not by choice but as the result of oppression."

I hope I don't lose you in "a maze of technical speculations," Brian, but I came across a fascinating article about the novel (later, a movie) called "The English Patient." The article analyzes the novel as the author's creative transformation of the intrapsychic world of the schizoid individual. See Norman Doidge, MD, "Diagnosing 'The English Patient:' Contributions to Understanding the Schizoid Fantasies of Being Skinless and of Being Buried Alive."

The following material provides valuable insight into the intrapsychic "burrows" of the schizoid's wishes, conflicts, and fantasies. We schizoids are not simply socially isolated; we have a distinct intrapsychic mental life. Simply talking to people in an exercise room (or speaking Hebrew, for that matter) will not cure the schizoid.

Norman Doidge writes: "I here use the diagnosis of schizoid as it was first used by British Object Relations theorists, called schizoid because of 'schisms' in the personality. Because the disorder involves an often skilled role play at ordinary social relations, clinicians often misdiagnose these patients as obsessional or higher level narcissistic characters. Akhtar has observed that these 'schisms' are based not only upon the conscious versus unconscious oppositions, but also overt and covert descriptive features. Thus the schizoid may be 'covertly' detached, self-sufficient, absentminded, uninteresting, asexual, and idiosyncratically moral, while 'covertly' exquisitely sensitive, emotionally needy, acutely vigilant, creative, often perverse, and vulnerable to corruption.' Such patients display a 'moral unevenness; [are] occasionally strikingly amoral and vulnerable to odd crimes, at other times altruistically self-sacrificing.' Guntrip argued that the key schizoid characteristics are introversion, withdrawness, narcissism, self-sufficiency, a sense of superiority, loss of affect, loneliness, depersonalization, and regression.

Affects. Even though a schizoid person's affect is constricted, he is not without affective investments. One schizoid patient, who seemed Spock-like talking to people, had a passionate fascination with machines. His experience of emotions when dealing with people was almost digital: he was on or off, without the analogical crescendos and decrescendos of passion. The smallest surge of emotion is like a bomb going off. This state of affairs finds its objective correlative [in "The English Patient"] in the mined villa, and in Kip, the bomb defuser who must turn off all his fear.

Reasons for seeking treatment. The schizoid person tends to alternate between two painful, complex states. On the one hand 'there is a consuming need for object dependence but attachment threatens the schizoid with the loss of self.' Schizoids can function well as long as they can successfully repress intense dependence. To avoid losing himself in relations he protects himself by withdrawal and affective isolation. Without meaningful relationships, with affect shut down, he feels enervated, futile, lifeless. The chronic sense of futility, meaninglessness, and deadness are easily misdiagnosed as dysthymia, depression, or minimized as mere existential anxiety.

Buried alive. Schizoid withdrawal is not only interpersonal, i.e., away from real people; there is a kind of intrapsychic withdrawal, based upon fantasy. As treatment progresses, it is not uncommon for the schizoid to reveal fantasies of having buried his self within him, where it lies waiting until it is safe to be exposed. The fantasy that the self is buried also explains a dread of many schizoids, the fear of being buried alive. A patient dreamed, "There was a baby, it was buried alive. It was horrible and no one knew." [I spoke to my former treating psychiatrist, Dr. Palombo, about a persistent distressing feeling that I had been buried alive.]

The intrapsychic tomb. It is worth relating this to the phenomenon of intrapsychic tombs described by the French psychoanalyst Torok. Torok began formulating this concept following a lead by Karl Abraham. Abraham wrote to Freud of patients who seemed to show manic denial, and an upsurge of libido, as opposed to melancholia, after the death of their loved one. Torok noticed that a number of her patients related stories of sexual acts and needs right after a death. She saw this as a desperate and final attempt to sustain the relationship by the fantasy of incorporation (concretely taking a person's body inside them). She described these patients as having a fantasy of 'an exquisite corpse' entombed somewhere inside them, which they hoped to revive. One dreamed, 'I committed a terrible crime. I ate someone and then buried them... For this reason I have to spend the rest of my life in prison.' Torok brilliantly observed that in many cases of complicated grief, the anguished pining that the living bereaved feel is not their own longing for their love object, but rather, the fantasized pining of the deceased love object for them. If we deny our beloved has died, the fantasy of the beloved as alive and seeking us persists. It is all too often overlooked because we are preoccupied with our more conscious longing for the lost object. But fantasized incorporation of the deceased 'eating the object (which parallels, in ways, the Christian imagery of consuming the host)' stifles mourning. 'When, in the form of imaginary or real nourishment, we ingest the love object we miss... we refuse to mourn.... .'

Petrification fears. The schizoid person is often aware that his sense of self is fragile, and built upon a fantasy. Several of my schizoid patients had the ongoing fear that this imaginary world could all blow up at a moment's notice. While the schizoid person's surface may be nondescript, decorous, emotionless, he is terrified of being revealed as human, full of hunger. He fears being petrified and turning into rock, if another person catches him in his glance, as was Medusa when she saw herself as others saw her, i.e., in all her fantastic, composite ugliness, filled with unruly sexual and aggressive desires and defects. [Note that a letter I wrote several weeks ago (December 27, 2004) referred to Dr. Bash acting out her own Pygmalion fantasy. I attributed to her the desire to fine-tune my personality (treating me as a passive object to be acted upon) to gratify her own narcissistic needs, as a sculptor carves a passive block of marble into a statue. My imagery may relate to my petrification fears.]

Typical Development. Akhtar's extensive review has shown that rejection, traumatic overstimulation, and neglect in the first two years of life are common in the history of schizoids. [According to Dr. Bash, if a child cannot remember what happened to him, his psychological development cannot be affected by the experience.] The schizoid condition was first described by the Scottish psychoanalyst Fairbairn in the 1940s. Fairbairn found that his patients had withdrawn from parents who were overtly rejecting. They preferred to live in a rich, imaginary world. Many fiction writers are schizoid because the ability to create a vivid inner world in one's head gives one a head start at writing fiction. The downside is that the schizoid's sense of other people is impoverished.

Core belief: Not hatred, but love is the problem. Fairbairn observed that the child with the rejecting or disappointing parent develops an internalized image of the rejecting parent, called the anti-libidinal object, to which he is desperately attached. The rejecting parent is often incapable of loving, or preoccupied with his or her own needs. The child is rewarded when he is not demanding, and devalued or ridiculed as needy when he expresses his dependent longings [Compare Dr. Bash's observation that "I want everything on a silver platter" simply because I expressed a wish that she, the psychotherapist, do more than simply issue commands, make recommendations, or offer encouragement.]. Thus the schizoid's picture of 'good' behavior is distorted. The child learns never to nag or even yearn for love, because it makes the parent more distant and censorious. The child then may cover over the incredible loneliness, emptiness and ineptness he feels with a fantasy (often unconscious) that he is self-sufficient. Love and anger get hopelessly intertwined. Fairbairn argued that the tragedy of the schizoid child is that his conscience has been warped: he believes his love, not his hatred is the destructive force within. Love consumes. Hence the schizoid child's chief mental operation is to repress his or her normal wish to be loved.

Being smitten. In my experience, should the adult schizoid fall in love with someone who reminds him of his rejecting parent he will often describe himself as 'being smitten'; 'smitten' is the past participle of to smite, and to be smitten is to be disastrously and deeply affected as one falls in love, as though one has sustained a severe blow. The British frequently describe falling in love this way; I doubt that national partiality to that word is accidental. [The author of this article, which can be found on the internet, is a Canadian psychiatrist.]

Pickiness and Prickliness. On the other hand, when more nurturing people come along, the schizoid will often dream, guiltily, that he or she is being disloyal to the parent imago, betraying a pact. This intense, internal backlash derives from a pathological superego, which unlike that in a loved child, is anti-libidinal. The schizoid child has a conscience that has made love a crime. Conscience always incites us to scrupulously pour over events and see them in a moral light; the schizoid's conscience demands he focus on the new love interest in an active, picky, prosecutorial, fault-finding way. Love becomes about as pleasant as litigation, for both parties. [Note that I am a nonpracticing heterosexual and a nonpracticing lawyer!] To avoid feeling picky, he may try to withdraw or simply enter a defensive, turned off state, finding the potential lover 'boring' or 'a turn off'. He has gone into total affect shut-down. Or he may become prickly, and chronically irritable so that others know not to approach.

Under the skin, the wish for merger or fusion. Should the love object 'get under the skin', the schizoid person feels taken over; being smitten releases his own pent-up wish to merger and cling that was appropriate in early childhood, but never satisfied at that time; his own longing gives rise to the fear that he will lose the external boundary that exists between himself and the exciting love object. He feels as if the love object is possessing him, in the sense of spirit possession.

Reversal of the values of life and death; preoccupation with the living dead, and the dead in the living. While schizoid patients may have quite conventional attitudes on the surface towards life as being something good, the fantasy life, so suffused with anti-libidinal themes, often displays a reversal of values of life and death, and an emphasis on the futility of life that one sees so frequently expressed in Beckett, for example. For instance, many of us fear that death is futile, and goes on for an unrelieved eternity; Beckett depicts not death but life as futile and going on and on without meaning. Thus there is a strong tendency towards nihilism and withdrawal that must be struggled against.

Defensive Techniques against Falling in Love: Ascetic ideals. To squelch this hunger for love the schizoid may idealize asceticism. But like the ascetic who retreats to the desert to avoid human contact and temptation, he soon begins to see the temptress in his wet dreams, sanctuary drawings, and religious stories, in a return of the repressed. He concludes, mistakenly, that desire is a bottomless pit; promiscuity and celibacy may alternate, both as attempts to deal with this perceived insatiability. [Note Fernando's observation in his paper on "The Exceptions" about a patient who seemed to live in two different worlds: one in which sexuality hardly existed, and one in which it was all too frighteningly present.]

Role playing. Another anti-libidinal technique used by schizoids to preserve the pact with the bad parent is to appear to be involved with others. Thus a subset of schizoid people of the 'role playing variety' get involved in a limited way. Fairbairn showed that the schizoid can actually unconsciously disown the social role while he is playing it. A patient appeared for a long time to be free associating and involved in sessions. Only well into treatment did he disclose that he always had the omnipotent fantasy that he was controlling everything I said.

The in and out program [otherwise known, in Franz Kafka's terminology, as "the out and in" program]. A related distancing technique has been described by Guntrip as 'the in and out program' and involves 'always breaking away from what one is at the same time holding on to.' This may involve 'rushing in and out of one marriage after another', or always emphasizing to one's partner that one could get along without him or her, or always fantasizing about taking a job away from the partner while staying with the partner. Such patients are 'unable to commit... in a stable... way.' They are always negotiating the optimal distance between themselves and others, saying things like 'I need my space.' But not infinite space, for the repressed hungry self is rarely completely obliterated, and it draws them back into the optimal orbit of others.

Sadomasochistic Object Relations. The belief that love consumes or destroys one's identity, and the tendency we have to repeat, make sadomasochistic object relations with a rejecting parent substitute highly likely. Sadomasochistic hurts help keep the object at a distance, which suits the schizoid's in and out program.

Attitudes toward children. There are no children in "The English Patient." In my experience, the classic schizoid is ambivalent about the 'idea' of having children, though may be surprised at how attached he or she may become towards them, should children come along. In sicker schizoids the parental instincts seem turned to pets, collecting things, or the environment which becomes animated."

The internet contains a site by Phillip W. Long, MD, that talks about the recommended treatment of schizoid patients. Dr. Long does not address the issues of eating out, speaking Hebrew, socializing in an exercise milieu, or attending one's local synagogue (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative).

Psychosocial Treatment -- Basic Principles: "The physician should appreciate the need for privacy in a person with schizoid personality disorder and should maintain a low-key approach that focuses on the technical elements of treatment. Such a focus will enable the patient to feel the physician's concern and caring and know that caretakers will not press beyond comfortable limits. The patient should be encouraged to maintain daily routines so that a sense of "life as usual" can counteract the worry that illness will shatter the patient's efforts to remain detached and uninvolved. Knowledge of the patient's usual pattern of functioning will counteract any tendency on the part of the health care team to become personally overinvolved or be too zealously concerned with providing social supports for the patient."

Individual Psychotherapy: "Long-term psychotherapy has been useful in selected cases. The course of therapy involves gradual development of trust. If this can be achieved, the patient may share long-standing fantasies of imaginary friendships and may reveal fears of depending on others. Patients are encouraged to examine the unrealistic nature of their fears and fantasies and to form actual relationships. Successful psychotherapy will produce gradual change. The patient should be provided with some sense of optimism that his or her basic needs can be met without encountering some overwhelming 'collapse or suffocation.' The most useful therapeutic interaction is consistent and supportive, with clear rules, an ability for the patient to set the therapeutic distance as necessary, and some tolerance for acting-out behaviors. The treatment of schizoid personalities is similar to the treatment of paranoid personalities. However, the schizoid patient's tendencies toward introspection are consistent with the psychotherapist's expectations, and the schizoid patient may become a devoted if distant patient. Extensive periods of silence, however, may be hard to bear. As trust develops, the schizoid patient may, with great trepidation, reveal a plethora of fantasies, imaginary friends, and fears of unbearable dependency - even of merging with the therapist. Oscillation between fear of clinging to the therapist may be followed by fleeing through fantasy and withdrawal."

Group Therapy: "Group psychotherapy may be helpful. A prolonged period of silent withdrawal may often be followed by gradual involvement in the group process. It is important for the group leader to protect the schizoid patient from criticism by other members for not participating verbally in the early affiliative phase of the group. [In group, I was criticized for talking too much; the male group member attacked me for "taking up 80% of the group sessions." Much of the criticism directed at me by group members was antitherapeutic, and was not defended against by the group leaders.]

In group therapy settings, a schizoid patient may be silent for a year or more; nonetheless, involvement does take place. The patient should be protected against aggressive attack by group members on his proclivity for silence. With time, the group may become a meaningful experience for the patient and provide social contact, as well as therapy. Group therapy is particularly useful for schizoids, who are provided with a social network in which they have the opportunity to overcome fears of closeness and feelings of isolation. They learn, in the supportive milieu of the group, to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly to others and, by so doing, move toward more normal behavioral patterns."

Aaron T. Beck, MD, a leading cognitive therapist, has written the following about the treatment of schizoid patients. "In contrast to the treatments of such Axis I disorders as depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, the therapy for personality disorders requires a long period of therapeutic work--often one or more years. Also, much more therapeutic concentration deals with transference issues, exploring childhood patterns, and even revivifying pathogenic childhood experiences. In that respect, cognitive therapy has an increasing convergence with psychodynamic therapy. The major differences are that the cognitive therapist is more active and directive, the therapeutic sessions are more structured, the content is based on exploring and testing cognitive distortions and basic beliefs, and the patient is expected to carry out homework assignments."

All the internet sites I've read concerning the treatment of schizoids emphasize the absolute requirement of the therapist to refrain from placing pressure on the patient. This treatment guideline is the polar opposite of Dr. Bash's approach, which is coercive; I suspect that the severe worsening of my condition since I started seeing Dr. Bash is directly attributable to her coercive style.

Treatment Provider Guidelines: The clinician must respect the SPDs need for a safe distance and his/her fear of engulfment. Early in treatment, the SPD may feel lost and tongue-tied. The treatment provider must neither intrude nor fall into counter-detachment. Also, the treatment provider must convey understanding of the internal experience of the SPD; their limited communication must be sufficient for a therapeutic connection. Even high functioning SPDs worry that they are aberrant and incomprehensible. Be alert for possible psychotic processes; assess for hallucinations, delusions, and a thought disorder.

Countertransference Issues: SPDs are unable to make interaction rewarding to the service provider, i.e., there is a general lack of responsivity, a frustrating incapacity to relate, and a general and pervasive lack of empathy. It may become increasingly easy to overlook or ignore these individuals. Most treatment providers are slightly depressive and their fear of abandonment is greater than their fear of engulfment; they naturally try to move close to the people they wish to help. [Early on Dr. Bash chastised me inappropriately. "I can't work with you. You don't want to change. I can't work with a patient who doesn't want to change. Look, I need satisfaction too. I need to see that the patient is responding to my working with him. I need to see change." Once again, note Dr. Bash's requirement that I gratify her own narcissistic needs. See letter dated December 27, 2004 citing the paper by Phyllis Beren.]

In any event, such are the trials of the Orthodox schizoid. The Orthodox schizoid suffers the most severe discrimination in our society. But the Reform schizoid is also frequently misunderstood. Even the Reform schizoid can find himself rejected by the gregarious members of society. Actually, Reform schizoids go by the name "The Solitary Type." I thought I'd acquaint you with the basic features of the Reform, or Solitary, type. Orthodox schizoids, by the way, reserve a special coldness for the Reform. As Orthodox schizoids say: "Assimilation does not equate happiness." It's a schizoid thing, buddy. You wouldn't understand.

The Solitary type prefers solitude; and disprefers not having or losing solitude. Dr. John M. Oldham has defined the Solitary personality style. The following six characteristic traits and behaviors are listed in his The New Personality Self-Portrait.

Solitude. Individuals with the Solitary personality style have small need of companionship and are most comfortable alone.

Independence. They are self-contained and do not require interaction with others in order to enjoy their experiences or to get on in life.

Sangfroid. Solitary men and women are even-tempered, calm, dispassionate, unsentimental, and unflappable.

Stoicism. They display an apparent indifference to pain and pleasure.

Sexual composure. They are not driven by sexual needs. They enjoy sex but will not suffer in its absence.

Feet on the ground. They are unswayed by either praise or criticism and can confidently come to terms with their own behavior.

Source: Oldham, John M., and Lois B. Morris. The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam, 1995.
Character Strengths and Virtues
Solitude, [silence, recollection].

Independence, self-containment, autonomous competence, creativity.

Sangfroid, even-tempered, calmness, dispassion, imperturbability, detachment; observation, concentration, clarity of vision, being-informed, science.

Stoicism, indifference, self-control, self-restraint, [self-sacrifice].

Sexual composure, not passionately sexual.

Feet on the ground, responsibility (Oldham, 275-86).

Signature Strengths

"Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering"

"Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows"

"Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; "getting it out the door"; taking pleasure in completing tasks"

"Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance"

"Humility / Modesty Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is"

"Self-regulation [self-control]: regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions"

"Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; see the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes" (Peterson & Seligman, 29, 30).

Selected from Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Check you out next week, buddy. Hector is so lonely. Come and play with Hector. Llame Hector, por favor.