Thursday, January 28, 2010

Me, Freud, And The Soviet Ambassador

According to the George Washington University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry, I was an unmedicated psychotic at the time I wrote this letter, exhibiting loose associations and flights of ideas:

November 23, 1992
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Apt. 136
Washington, DC 20008

Dr. Suzanne M. Pitts
Department of Psychiatry
George Washington University
Medical Center
2150 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Dear Dr. Pitts:

I respectfully offer for your evaluation some additional thoughts regarding certain issues raised in my autobiographical sketch [The Caliban Complex: An Attempt at Self Analysis]. It is hoped that this communication will help you to define further the nature of my psychological difficulties.

The references in my autobiographical sketch to Robert Strauss, founding partner of my former employer, the law firm of Akin Gump, and appointed by President Bush as Ambassador to Russia, may relate to the issue of identity and to my fantasies concerning a "protector," or an individual needed to serve as an opposing force to a sense of guilt. See Freud, S. (1923) The Ego and the Id, at 50-51 (Norton: 1960)(discussing cases in which a sense of guilt is the sole remaining trace of an abandoned erotic cathexis and in which a counteracting force of a similar order of strength is required to oppose that sense of guilt; whether an individual can serve as such an opposing force may depend on whether his personality allows of the patient's putting him in the place of his ego ideal, acting as a kind of prophet, savior, or redeemer.)

The role of ambassador may be interpreted as symbolizing or encapsulating, two of my central psychological concerns. An ambassador, with regard to his official duties in connection with the issuance of passports is a guarantor of personal identity in a legal sense. Without a passport one cannot re-enter one's homeland, or "motherland," and will remain an exile (the status of exile symbolizing a withdrawal of an erotic cathexis from the mother and the resulting sense of guilt.) The references to Robert Strauss in my autobiographical sketch as ambassador may be related to my fantasies in regard to him as a guarantor of my psychological identity, as someone who will grant me access to the lost mother and end my status as an exile (which symbolically expresses a need for an affirmation of a lost identity and the end of a sense of guilt). The fantasy in regard to Robert Strauss would parallel my previously stated fantasy in regard to my friend Craig Dye as guarantor of identity, someone who allowed access to lost parts of the self. (Compare the role of Moses, as a kind of "ambassador," who obtained "exit visas" for the ancient Hebrews, ending their harassing and degrading bondage and allowing them access to their homeland.)

It is in that portion of my autobiographical sketch designated "Notes Regarding An Analysis of the Resistance" that the references to Robert Strauss occur. The references arise in the context of a discussion of my concerns, or fantasies, regarding the environmental, or political, consequences of having authored an autobiographical sketch. My concerns or fantasies, might be encapsulated in the phrase, "crimes against the state"--a phrase that indicates my fears of retaliation in connection with my having written an autobiographical study.

Two works by Freud cited in my autobiographical sketch, Moses and Monotheism and Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study, may be interpreted as relating to the issue, "crimes against the state." In the case of both books Freud was concerned with the possibility that publication might lead to political retaliation. In the case of Wilson, Freud was concerned that publication would jeopardize the career of his co-author, Ambassador William C. Bullitt; indeed, the book was not published until 1967, the year Bullitt died. In the case of Moses, Freud feared retaliation by the Catholic authorities in Austria; accordingly, Moses was published in 1939 only after Freud had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom. Thus, with respect to both books--which share as a central theme the political consequences of a Father Complex--the content of the books parallel Freud's concerns regarding the books' critical (political) reception. (In this sense both books to some degree parallel Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago and my own autobiographical study.) With respect to both books the issue of "ever more encompassing" superego representatives is raised. There is a direct line from Freud's own Father Complex, which is paralleled in his discussion of the Father Complexes of the subjects of his inquiry (the Father Complexes of Moses and Wilson being intrinsic issues in both books), to Freud's concerns in relation to the state. The intrinsic theme of the Father Complex rises up from the pages, as it were, to encompass the authors' relations with the state, the ultimate earthly superego representative, where the theme is expressed in Freud's fears of political retaliation. At the level of the authors' relations with the state, the theme of the Father Complex is operative--but at this level the theme is extrinsic to the books, and involves the books' critical, or political, reception. In sum, we can say that in both Moses and Wilson (and Dr. Zhivago) the theme of the Father complex and its political consequences is both an intrinsic and an extrinsic issue.

Note how the intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy arises in connection with the issue of authorship in both books. In Moses the issue of Moses' authorship of the Pentateuch is implicitly raised by Freud's contention that Moses was an Egyptian who spoke no Hebrew: the theme of authorship is intrinsic. In the case of the Wilson study, Freud's own authorship is questioned: the theme of authorship is extrinsic. (Scholars make the claim, on stylistic grounds, that it was Bullitt who wrote the text of the Wilson study; Freud is believed to have written only the introduction.)

One wonders whether the possibility that Freud and Bullitt might have been not merely co-authors, or collaborators, but mutual father-transference objects has any significance. Freud may have viewed Bullitt as a kind of protector, or Moses-like figure. It was Bullitt who assisted in rescuing Freud and his family from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938. As to Bullitt's relation to Freud, though Bullitt later denied having entered analysis with Freud, Bullitt did in fact originally seek Freud out for the purpose of entering analysis. Brownell, W. and Billings, R. N. So Close to Greatness: A Biography of William C. Bullitt, at 120 (Macmillan: 1987). The possibility that Bullitt transferred a father imago onto Freud is more than likely.

Salient facts tending to support the argument that a mutual (father) transference relationship arose between Freud and Bullitt, and, further, that Freud may have come to identify Bullitt with Moses, are as follows. According to Anna Freud, Bullitt was "tremendously personable and charming, [but also] frightfully arrogant." So Close to Greatness, at 324. The complex of personality characteristics attributed to Bullitt by Freud's daughter matches those typically associated with the so-called phallic narcissistic character. See Reich, W. (1926) Character Analysis, at 217-224 (Noonday Press/Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 1990) ("The typical phallic-narcissistic character is self-confident, often arrogant, elastic, vigorous and impressive.") Dr. Leonard Shengold, citing Freud's relationship with Wilhelm Fliess, has observed that Freud had a special need and weakness for individuals whose characters might be termed phallic-narcissistic. Malcolm. J. In The Freud Archives (citation?). Indeed, Freud permitted Bullitt to address him by his surname rather than by title, indicating a degree of closeness and informality that was exceedingly rare in Freud's relationships. So Close To Greatness at 120. It is possible that Freud put Bullitt "in the pace of his ego ideal," and unconsciously assigned Bullitt the role of "prophet, savior, and redeemer," perhaps not inconsistent with Freud's lifelong idealization of the arrogant, elastic, and vigorous prophet, Moses. Cf. Freud, S. (1923) The Ego and the Id, at 51 (Norton, 1960). Bullitt's phallic-narcissistic character is consistent with the possibility that he may have harbored a "rescue fantasy," a fantasy that would require Bullitt to satisfy a special need to rescue persons in a precarious position. See Eissler, K.R. Talent and Genius (citation?) (discussing the rescue fantasy of another one of Freud's associates, the analyst Victor Tausk). (With respect to the issue of a rescue fantasy, compare Robert Strauss's ambassadorship to Russia. Nominated to the post in June 1991, Robert Strauss assumed his duties at the time of the August 1991 coup. Russia--a nation state in a precarious position, seemingly forever in need of rescue.

Can one easily dismiss the possibility that the personality factors of Robert Strauss that led President Bush to name him to the post of Ambassador during a critical period of Russia's history might be related to the personality factors that led President Roosevelt to name William Bullitt to the same post? And are we to assume that these same personality factors in Bullitt would not have exerted a powerful sway on Freud, who, as we know, was particularly susceptible to persons of Bullitt's character? The existence of a rescue fantasy in Bullitt, independent of his relationship with Freud, is suggested by Bullitt's acceptance, as an honorary citizen of France, of a commission as commandant in the French army during World War II; despite his having been rejected by the U.S. military as too old, Bullitt was apparently determined to serve in what he must have viewed as a heroic effort. So Close to Greatness, at 303. In 1938, Bullitt, then U.S. Ambassador to France, literally played the role of "savior" to Freud by securing Freud's safe release from Nazi-occupied Austria. In addition to character traits that might have attracted Freud to Bullitt one might speculate that Bullitt's having served as an emissary of a great power, the United States, may have heightened Freud's possible identification of Bullitt with Moses, that most politically well-connected of prophets, son of Pharaoh. (Freud's possible identification of William Bullitt with Moses suggests the logical possibility that Freud also may have identified Woodrow Wilson with Pharaoh.) In 1919, before Bullitt's first encounter with Freud in 1925, President Wilson had sent Bullitt on a diplomatic mission to Moscow to meet with Lenin, and Bullitt had also accompanied Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference after World War I. (In the 1930's, following the decision of the U.S. government to grant diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, President Roosevelt appointed William Bullitt as the first American ambassador to the Soviet Union; later in the 1930's Bullitt was appointed U.S. Ambassador to France.) One might further speculate, assuming Freud was aware of Bullitt's ethnic background, that Bullitt's Jewish origins (his mother's forbears were Jews) might have been a factor in Freud's possible identification of Bullitt with the ethnically ambiguous Moses. See So Close to Greatness, at 4-5.

Thus, we can say that in the case of the Wilson study the Father Complex was not only an intrinsic subject of the study (i.e., Wilson's relationship with his father and the consequences of that relationship in Wilson's political career), but also arose as an extrinsic issue in connection with the transference-like relations of the co-authors (a relationship that in turn mirrored the authors' relationships with their respective fathers), and arose once again as an extrinsic issue in connection with the authors' relations with the environment on a political level.

These observations, though expressly relating to the Wilson study, may in some way point to Freud's seemingly obscure motivations in writing Moses since it would appear that Freud was operating under the following unconscious identifications that link the two books: Bullitt:Moses = Wilson:Pharaoh. Further, assuming that extrinsic issues relating to the authorship of the Wilson book parallel the books' content, might not Freud's deferral of responsibility for authorship to Bullitt--unique for Freud--be interpreted as "acting out" a content relating to the Father Complex? [Put another way, might not the peculiar working arrangement that Freud and Bullitt arrived at regarding authorship of the Wilson study be interpreted as part of their mutual father transference, which was, in turn, expressed in the book's content?] And might this "acting out," in the form of a deferral of authorship that symbolically expressed an aspect of Freud's Father Complex, in some way shed light on a central content of Moses, namely, the thesis that Moses was an Egyptian and not a Hebrew, itself a kind of "deferral of authorship?"

Also, in appraising these questions one might also have to consider Freud's oral cancer--and the psychological implications of intense oral frustration--as a confounding factor both in his psychoanalytic interpretations of his subjects, Wilson and Moses, and in Freud's relationship with Bullitt: once again, the issues of oral disturbance and "special protector." Compare the following observation in Peter Gay's biography of Freud, at 609, elegantly synthesizing the concerns that crowded in on Freud during the spring of 1935: "Harassed by his prosthesis [oral frustration], by politics [a political situation from which Bullitt and other protectors would later rescue Freud], by Moses, he could still mobilize cheerful feelings, or at least write cheerful communiqués." Gay, P. Freud: A Life For Our Time, at 609 (Norton: 1988) (Gay's observation regarding cheerful communiqués" suggests the transferential nature of this very letter).

(Note how an issue relating to Peter Gay's own creativity emerges if one compares two passages in his Freud biography concerning, respectively, (1) Freud's writing of Moses and (2) Freud's and Bullitt's work on Wilson. By comparing these passages (indeed, only as a result of the comparison), one can discern Gay's own identification with Voltaire. (Peter Gay, one of whose areas of concentration is the Enlightenment, is the author of Voltaire's Politics: The Poet as Realist.) Discussing Freud's work on Moses, Gay writes, at 606: "Voltaire had adduced cogent reasons why Moses could not have written the Pentateuch [thereby supporting Freud's contention that Moses was an Egyptian]." Later, not unlike Voltaire, Gay himself adduces cogent reasons why Freud could not have written the Wilson study (see Gay's Bibliographic Essay, at 775-776). Why did Gay's Voltaire identification emerge -- in piecemeal fashion like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle -- in the Moses/Wilson passages of all places? Did Gay have an intuitive recognition that there is some important parallel between Freud's Wilson and Moses and, by implication, to Gay's own creativity as an historian?)

In conclusion, Freud's actual relationship with Ambassador William Bullitt and Freud's possible fantasies in connection with Bullitt, together with Freud's fantasies regarding Moses, may parallel my own fantasies concerning Ambassador Robert Strauss and certain others (and may parallel possible reality aspects of my relationship with Robert Strauss or members of management of my former employer). Also, the citations in my autobiographical sketch to Freud's Moses and Monotheism and to Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study suggest that the role of Moses and Woodrow Wilson in my fantasies may parallel the role of Moses and Woodrow Wilson in Freud's fantasies.

Thank you very much.


Gary Freedman

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

I had an initial assessment at GW in September 1992 with Napoleon Cuenco, MD. Dr. Cuenco diagnosed me with bipolar disporder. He noted the mood-congruent psychotic features of pressured, rapid speech; loose associations; and flight of ideas.

I started in psychotherapy with Suzanne M. Pitts, MD in late October 1992.

The present letter was written about a month after I started treatment with Dr. Pitts. Dr. Pitts prescribed lithium in early 1993.