Thursday, September 16, 2010

Akin Gump: Job Harassment -- Creative Transformation

I wrote the following parable on Thursday April 5, 1990, around the Jewish holiday Passover.  In 1990 the first day of Passover fell on Tuesday April 10.  The parable was inspired by a Passover song.  The parable is a creative transformation of my disturbed relations in my early family environment (Albanian Village 1); Hogan & Hartson (Albanian Village 2); and at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld (Albanian Village 3), where I was employed at the time.  The writing evidences my belief that my sister was in communication with Akin Gump's managers.

A question for psychiatrists:  Do victims of job harassment who creatively transform their psychological distress tend to become violent? 

I wrote the parable on Akin Gump's computer system.  The writing could have been accessed by the firm's computer department.  In fact, I formed the paranoid idea of reference that Dennis Race, the attorney who later terminated my employment in late October 1991, had read the writing.  I remember that the morning after I wrote the piece -- Friday April, 6, 1990 -- Dennis Race's secretary, Barbara Rufener smiled at me when she saw me.  Barbara Rufener typically ignored me.

I remember I brought the piece to my psychotherapy consult with Stanley R. Palombo, M.D. to read -- that would have been a Friday afternoon (April 6, 1990).  Dr. Palombo liked the piece.

This post is dedicated to Albert Rothenberg, M.D.


An American moves to a small Albanian village. The American speaks only a few words of Albanian. None of the Albanians speak more than a few words of English. Relations between the Albanian villagers and the American are marginal. The Albanians view the American as aloof, cold, and strange. The negative interaction between the American and the Albanians is experienced as a torment by the American. Over a period of time the American internalizes the Albanians' negative view of him; he adopts the Albanians' view of him as his own view of himself. The American decides to leave the village and move to a second Albanian village.


In the second village the American speaks only a few words of Albanian and none of the Albanians speak more than a few words of English. Again, relations between the American and the villagers are poor. But now, in a addition to the problems posed by the American's language barrier he also bears the psychological scars he acquired in the first Albanian village. The American's problems are twofold, but interrelated. One difficulty is an interpersonal problem rooted in the conflict between his identity and the identity of the villagers (just as in the first village). A second difficulty is an intrapsychic conflict -- with interpersonal effects -- rooted in the internalization of the negative valuations to which he was subjected in the first village, a difficulty ultimately attributable to some degree to a conflict of identities. In a process analogous to the phenomenon of sympathetic vibration, the American's interpersonal relations, to the degree they are mirrored in his intrapsychic functioning, produce "vibrations of the same period" in his introject.

A second American moves to the Albanian village; fortunately for him, the second American speaks Albanian fluently and gets on well with the local population. The first American strikes up a kind of friendship with the second American. (The two Americans do not necessarily read the same books, but the respective books they do read are written in the same language: a situation that gives rise to a rumor that our American friend is homospatial or, at least, has homospatial tendencies). The Albanian villagers, envious and angry that the American has made a friend, begin to spread a story that he is homospatial. The townspeople in the second Albanian village view the American not simply as aloof, cold, and strange, but as an aloof, cold, and strange homospatial. The American decides to move to a third Albanian village.


In the third Albanian village, the American speaks only a few words of Albanian and the local Albanians speak no more than a few words of English. Again, relations between the Albanian villagers and the American are poor. But now, in addition to the problems posed by the American's language barrier and psychological scars, he is plagued by rumors that he is homospatial (that is, he has a marked tendency to think metaphorically of males whom he admires, integrating their contradictions into figures of speech). The rumors have been spread by contacts between residents of the second and third Albanian villages. Also, villagers from the first Albanian village, retaining their old vendetta against the American, provide information that confers a vogue of credibility to the rumors in the second and third Albanian villages.


Gary Freedman said...

Albert Rothenberg, MD, is a psychiatrist and a researcher in the creative process. He coined a term "homospatial thinking" which describes a creative thought process in which two or more ideas or images are superimposed on each other.

Gary Freedman said...

The three Albanian villages represent (1) my early family life; (2) my employment problems at Hogan & Hartson; and (3) my employment problems at Akin Gump.

Gary Freedman said...

I continue to believe that on April 13, 1990 I overheard a conversation in which the legal assistant administrator (Sinnott) gave instructions to a legal assistant concerning the bates-stamp numbering of some documents, and that the administrator's repeated use of the word "bates" was a double-entendre: an offensive and intimidating reference to masturbation. See Brief of Appellee District of Columbia at 10. The incident occurred on a Friday, hours before my regularly-scheduled appointment with my then treating psychiatrist, Stanley R. Palombo, M.D.; I interpreted the actions of the administrator (Sinnott) as a prompt that was calculated to encourage me to make paranoid comments about the administrator to my psychiatrist, who would communicate my comments back to firm managers.

Gary Freedman said...

8. On Thursday afternoon April 5, 1990, after business hours, I prepared a brief “creative“ piece on the firm’s computer network about a man’s travels in Albania. The next morning there was a bit of carrying on, near my desk by a few employees. The employees were engaged in what appeared to be a kind of histrionic display of their knowledge of a certain scientific subject. I interpreted their behavior as acting out in response to my “creative” piece -- that they were signaling me symbolically that they thought my piece was overcompensation, that the piece was evidence of my “showing off” (the piece contained a technical reference to the phenomenon of sympathetic vibration).

That morning I saw Barbara Rufener, Dennis Race’s secretary. She usually didn’t register any reaction when she saw me; this morning she smiled at me. I wondered if Dennis Race was in the office that day; and even if he were his secretary’s expression could have meant anything or nothing.) If Barbara Rufener was expressing Mr. Race’s reaction by proxy, then this incident provides a parallel with the anecdote in paragraph 10 on the issue of the polar opposite reactions to me my co-workers and management.