Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Fruitless Obsession

Subject is a 50-year-old male. He has been unemployed and profoundly isolated for years. Other than consultations with mental health professionals, subject has no social contacts of any kind with family, acquaintances, or friends.

Years earlier, while subject was employed, he had several acquaintances whom he would have liked to befriend. Each of the acquaintances was acutely ambitious, inner-directed, intelligent, idealistic, and independent in thought and action.

Subject is highly intelligent, verbally fluent, and creative. He devoted about ten years of his unemployment writing a lengthy autobiographical study that was unusual in structure. The content of the writing features subject's identification with historical and literary figures who were compulsive letter writers; who developed exclusive, idealized friendships; whose privacy rights were violated; and who struggled with the experience of loss, exile or banishment. Subject visits his neighborhood library daily.

Subject has a paranoid fantasy that the library manager is in daily communication with his former employer, a local law firm. Subject believes that the employer informs the library manager of subject's personal goings on, and that the manager reports back to the employer on subject's activities at the library. For some years subject had a vague notion that the manager might one day become his friend. Subject imagines that the manager likes him and that the manager would welcome a social overture from him. Subject imagines that he receives subtle cues from the manager that the manager feels some personal connection with subject.

The manager appears to be a highly intelligent, underachiever who has little in common with any of his colleagues at the library. The manager is in his mid-forties, married, but childless.

Subject imagines that the library manager is an individual who, from early life, had strong ambitions for success, fame, and independence, but that his early dreams and promise were not realized. The manager has worked his entire adult life in libraries, and subject imagines that the manager has severely repressed feelings of dissatisfaction with his life.

At some point, many years into subject's unemployment, subject begins to write daily letters to the manager and save them on the public computer's hard-drive. Subject discusses in these letter his thoughts and feelings; the tone of the letters is friendly, informal and at times humorous. Subject imagines that the manager reads the letters and finds them interesting and entertaining. Subject further imagines that the manager transmits copies of the letters to the subject's former employer who, subject imagines, retains a personal interest in him.

At the point subject begins his letter writing activity, his feelings for the manager grow in intensity. Subject becomes obsessed with the manager, who dominates subject's thoughts. Subject begins to experience a feeling "of mounting self-confidence to the point of excitement and feeling as though" he and the library manager will become friends, possibly close friends.

After a year of this letter writing activity, the manager summons the police to request that subject be ejected from the library and that he be banned from the library for a period of six months. The manager tells the police that he had chanced upon a letter that subject had written and saved to the computer hard-drive. In the manager's opinion the letter is threatening in tone and evidences a disturbed mental state. The police do not concur with the manager's assessment of the letter, but agree to enforce the manager's request that subject be banned from visiting the library.

Subject willingly honors the police action, but continues to write letters to the manager that he transmits to subject's own e-mail account. Subject imagines that unidentified persons continue to read the letters. Subject continues to imagine that he and the library manager will someday become friends, though he understands realistically that this will probably not happen. Subject remains suspicious of the circumstances underlying the manager's action in having subject banned from the library. Subject responds emotionally to the ban with feelings of "anxiety, anger, confusion, and humiliation."

Subject is convinced that the manager lied to the police when he told them that he, the manager, had read only one of subject's letters. Subject imagines that he was the victim of a personalized vendetta by the library manager, whose actions (so subject believes) were prompted by irrational psychological motives that centered on the manager's own repressed feelings about subject.

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