Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Did Akin Gump Operate Like a Cult?

This post elaborates an incident that occurred at my former place of employment, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, in April 1989. I offer theoretical ideas about my perceptions of the incident, perceptions that seem flagrantly paranoid.

The "prototypical incident" was as follows:

On Monday morning April 3, 1989 the Akin Gump law firm held a buffet breakfast meeting for legal assistants in one of the firm's conference rooms. The meeting was billed as a "Breakfast with Bob Strauss," and was attended by about 25-30 of the firm's legal assistants. At that time the firm employed about 60 legal assistants. Strauss offered some remarks, then responded to questions posed by legal assistants.

At noon on Thursday April 6, 1989 the firm's legal assistant administrative staff had arranged a luncheon computer-training seminar for legal assistants. The training was offered by someone from either Westlaw or Lexis (the person's name was Eva [last name? of Greek derivation]). The seminar was attended by about 30 legal assistants, including myself. I sat in the back of the room and could observe all the persons present. Also present was the legal assistant coordinator John D. Neary. Before the training session was completed, legal assistants began to leave the room. It was my impression that the employees' departure from the conference room appeared to be staged: the departures seemed too evenly timed, there was an unnatural quality about the body language, and I could see glances between Neary and some of the legal assistants as they got ready to rise from their chairs that appeared to suggest a kind of cueing behavior. The legal assistants seemed to look at Neary as if they were united against me. Neary appeared to become dejected as time wore on. I specifically recall that when I left the room, I spotted Neary's roommate, Michael Sierra (who was also employed as a legal assistant at the firm); Sierra appeared to turn away and seemed to refuse to look at me while we both waited for an elevator.


A conventional interpretation by a therapist of such a clinical report would be that the patient's perceptions are a product of serious ego vulnerability and that the employees in question are a random collection of occupationally-adjusted persons whose behaviors are situation-appropriate and not coordinated in reference to the patient.

However, if one looks at what assumptions are required to support the patient's report, those assumptions are based on known phenomena and are mutually consistent. Thus, whether my interpretation of this incident is correct, the incident offers a useful orienting approach to certain specific dynamics that might arise in an employment situation. Further, it is useful to consider how these dynamics would manifest in a group therapy situation, and how a group therapist would identify the dynamics.

This letter cites the published work of Otto Kernberg, M.D., a psychiatry professor at Cornell University Medical Center. Dr. Kernberg is an internationally-prominent psychiatrist and recent past president of the International Psychoanalytical Association. Coincidentally, Dr. Kernberg is a friend and former colleague of Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D. Dr. Kernberg's book is dedicated to Dr. Ticho's late husband, Ernst Ticho, Ph.D. Dr. Ticho is a personal friend of Akin Gump senior manager Malcolm Lassman, Esq.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE EMPLOYEES:

1. The employees are a random collection of occupationally-adjusted persons. All possess college degrees, and many are recent graduates.

2. The employees are mentally-adjusted persons who have attained conventional superego development. See Freeman, D.M.A. et al. "Superego Development and Psychopathology." In: The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D., contributing editor. Volume 7: 107-122 at 118-121 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).

3. Under the pressure of group life, many of the employees have regressed to a lower order autonomy; that is, the employees have experienced some degree of de-metabolization of internalized superego structure, with an associated loss of personal identity, values, convictions and perspective. Kramer, P.D. Should You Leave? at 87-8 (New York: Scribner, 1997) (the author is an associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University).

4. Group members project superego functions onto the group and its leader. Kernberg, O. Ideology, Conflict and Leadership in Groups and Organizations at 8 (New York: International Universities Press, 1998).

In the regressed state, projection of superego functions onto the group and its leader serves to ward off the negative affects of shame and fear of punishment of group members. See Freeman at 117. Collective shame regulation, which will be conventionalized, ideologically simplistic, and conformist, will supersede the particularized superego structures and sanctions of individual group members: that constitutes the regression as it will pertain to the employment reference group. See Freeman at 117 and Kernberg at 8.

The ideational component of the regression will assume the quality of an ideology; conventionalized stereotypes of outsiders will serve the shame regulation needs of group members. Group members' projected stereotypes will resemble the projections of the child who struggles to retain parental approval by transiently projecting blame for wrongdoing onto an imaginary companion, sibling, or toy; the child attempts to work out his feelings by adopting the parents' critical attitude but directing the blame toward a scapegoat outside. Freeman at 118.

Under the pressure of group life, infantile sexual features will be activated and will be projected onto the scapegoat outside. Kernberg at 8. In large groups such defensive efforts will manifest in the eruption of crude, anally tinged, or sadistically-infiltrated sexual allusions. Cf. Kernberg at 8-9.

A possible example of an anally-tinged or sadistically-infiltrated sexual allusion can be seen in the following. Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, record on appeal at 15 (agency finding of fact no. 4(g)):

Upon Complainant's return to the office from lunch one afternoon during the summer of 1991, his supervisor, Chris Robertson, offered Complainant a piece of chocolate, and stated to Complainant the peculiar phrase, "Here, you look like you need some chocolate." [The supervisor in question was later accused, in a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit filed by a terminated minority employee, of having engaged in racially-offensive conduct and of having colluded with another supervisor in the termination of the employee.]

Acting-out in the service of the group regression may take the form of symbolic castrative gestures directed at the harassment victim, as in shunning, exclusion, or isolation of the victim. Cf. Rubin, T. Anti-Semitism: A Disease of the Mind. A Psychiatrist Explores the Psychodynamics of a Symbol Sickness at 99 (New York: Continuum, 1990) (exile, imposed restrictions, and disenfranchisement on any level are symbolic castrative acts).

Acting-out in the service of the group regression may take the form of attempts to overstimulate the harassment victim in situations in which any response or retaliation by the victim would risk punishment (i.e., symbolic castration in the form of attributions of paranoia or hypersensitivity or even official reprimand or job termination.) Cf. Shengold, L. Soul Murder at 104-05 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) (describing a patient who in childhood repeatedly teased male dogs by allowing the dog to sniff her genital area; she was especially gratified if the dog would get so excited by the smelling that he would ejaculate onto the floor, without his penis being touched. Making the male ejaculate with a humiliating loss of control meant conquering and castrating him. As an adult, the patient repeated the performance with susceptible men.)

A possible example of an attempt to overstimulate the harassment victim in a situation in which any response would risk punishment can be seen in the following. Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, record on appeal at 13 (agency finding of fact no. 4(c)):

In mid-June 1988, at about the time Complainant was hired by the Respondent, Complainant was assigned a private office on the fifth floor [on the initiative of his supervisor, Maggie Sinnott, the firm's Legal Assistant Administrator. Complainant had not requested to be isolated.] On the first morning in that office space, as Complainant was getting a cup of coffee in an adjacent kitchen area[, a compact space that measured no more than about 7'x9',] an attorney, whom Complainant later learned was a partner named David Hardee, said to Complainant, "I smell something sweet in here. Do you smell something sweet in here? Complainant said, "No." Mr. Hardee repeated, "I smell something sweet in here." [A newspaper article published in November 1992 disclosed that Hardee had close professional ties to Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., a senior Akin Gump partner. As of 1988 Hardee was about 40 years old and unmarried; Hardee later married, in about the summer of 1991.]

[Finding of fact no. 4(j) (record on appeal at 16) parallels finding 4(c), above. Finding of fact 4(j) discusses a peculiar interaction that occurred while the harassment victim was alone on an elevator with a law firm partner, David Eisenstat. Both the incident with Hardee and the one with Eisenstat involved an interaction with a law firm partner that occurred in an enclosed space. Like Hardee, Eisenstat had ties to senior management: his wife Nina Eisenstein was the firm's attorney recruitment administrator and, in that capacity, worked closely with hiring partner Dennis M. Race, Esq., who terminated the harassment victim's employment in October 1991.]

See also Brief of Appellee District of Columbia at 9: "In the summer of 1990 [a law firm partner named Larry E. Tanenbaum, Esq.] glanced at Freedman's genital area during an elevator ride." Tanenbaum, a recently recovered alcoholic, had been married to the firm's Legal Assistant Administrator, Maggie Sinnott, see record on appeal at 195. Sinnott had been the harassment victim's supervisor during the period June 1988 to March 1990, that is, at the time the prototypical incident occurred (in April 1989). On occasion, Sinnott engaged in lewd sexual gestures when she saw the harassment victim, see record on appeal at 188. Sinnott's desk drawer contained the name and telephone number of Ernst Ticho, Ph.D., a psychoanalyst. Ernst Ticho's wife, Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D. (who consulted in the firm's decision to terminate the harassment victim), was a friend of Sinnott's boss, Malcolm Lassman, Esq., a member of the firm's management committee, see record on appeal at 123.

[Gertrude Ticho is a friend and former colleague of Otto F. Kernberg, M.D., an internationally-prominent psychiatrist and an expert in employee relations and disturbed organizations. Dr. Ticho's late husband, Ernst Ticho, was Otto Kernberg's mentor. Dr. Kernberg has participated in the A.K. Rice Group Relations Conferences organized by the Washington School of Psychiatry.]

The non-regressed outsider (the harassment victim) may be the target of sadistic sexual allusions and fantasies that involve infantile polymorphous trends. Kernberg at 8-9. See Brief of Appellee District of Columbia at 8 ("According to Freedman, at a firm dinner in May 1989, another legal assistant acknowledged hearing a rumor that Freedman was gay.")

In large groups defensive efforts may manifest in the eruption of fears that the outsider is potentially violent (which preserves the image of the group and its leader as benign parental derivatives). Kernberg at 5.

See Brief of Appellee District of Columbia at 9: "Freedman was informed by one of the legal assistants that she and other legal assistants were afraid [that he might 'buy a gun, bring it in, and shoot everybody.']" Citing record on appeal at 276.

For regressed group members, the outsider possesses two qualities that make him a suitable target for aggression: (1) he is unprotected and therefore vulnerable, and, (2) he either fails to conform to group norms or, by means of projective identification by group members, is prevented from conforming to group norms, which nonconformity serves as a rationalization for aggression by group members. See Brodey, W.M. "On the Dynamics of Narcissism. I. Externalization and Early Ego Development." The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. (New York: International Universities Press, 1965). Volume 20: 165-193 at 167 (1965) (projection may be combined with manipulation of reality for the purpose of verifying the projection).

For example, shunning behaviors by group members can be a form of projective identification that preserves the outsider's status of isolation in a group whose dominant ideology places a special premium on affiliation. Cf. Stern, F. Gold and Iron at 476 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977) (the outsider who serves as a repository of the projected forbidden sexual and aggressive impulses of the dominant group will arouse feelings of rage in group members by his attempt to affiliate or his attempt to minimize the differences between himself and the dominant group. The outsider's attempts to affiliate will enrage members of the dominant group who have projected onto him "entities from [their] psychic world," and by projecting them to the outside can better protect themselves from these inner threats.) (These dynamics serve to maintain the outsider in a permanent state of social disenfranchisement (a symbolic castrative act), see Rubin at 99).

(Incidentally, Professor Stern's book, a study of anti-Semitism in late 19th-century Germany, recounts the relationship between Gerson Bleichr”der, a wealthy German-Jewish banker and power broker and a confidant of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. In crucial ways the BleichrØder-Bismarck relationship parallels the relationship between Akin Gump partner and senior manager Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. and President Clinton. Stern is a professor of history at Columbia University.)

A possible example of a rage reaction in the form of sadistically-infiltrated sexual allusions by members of the dominant group can be seen in the following incident, which occurred immediately after the harassment victim attempted to affiliate with an employee. Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, record on appeal at 13 (agency finding of fact no. 4(a)):

On the second day of Complainant's assignment with Respondent as an agency-supplied temporary employee, March 4, 1988, Complainant introduced himself to a male employee outside whose office Complainant [was assigned by Maggie Sinnott, the firm's Legal Assistant Administrator. Earlier in the day, Sinnott had removed the harassment victim from a conference room that he shared with fellow temporary employees, and placed him in an isolated area outside the office of a good-looking young male employee.] A brief time after Complainant introduced himself, a group of employees gathered in the office adjacent to the work station where Complainant [had been assigned by Sinnott]. The employees proceeded to engage in a lively and mildly sexually suggestive discussion about the size of the male employee's chest and whether it was hairy or not. The discussion lasted about two minutes.

4. Many of the employees had been hired by the same supervisory staff. To some degree many of the employees were hired to match the "precise level of differentiation," or maturity, of the hiring staff. See Kramer, P.D., Should You Leave? at 88 ("Level of self is so important, and we are so adept at detecting each other's level of self, that we invariably choose as partners, in marriage or other long-standing intimate relationships, people at our precise level of differentiation.")

Unlike many employees at the firm the harassment victim was initially hired to perform a specific task, based on his possession of skills acquired at a previous place of employment. Personality factors played a minimal role in the firm's decision to hire the harassment victim.

5. The employees' regression has a discrete quality, so that the loss of autonomy in relation to the employment reference group will leave other aspects of the personality intact. Put another way, psychological evaluation of individual employees would likely disclose no more than a capacity to regress under the pressure of group life, but would not disclose a special intensity of aggressive, sadistic or erotic trends, the expression of which will characterize the behavior of a job harasser. It is well to keep in mind: the many thousands of persons who concerted to perpetrate the Holocaust remained in their home lives devoted sons, loving husbands and caring fathers. See Grunberger, B. "The Anti-Semite and the Oedipal Conflict." The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. Vol. 46: 380-85 at 380 (1964): "The lack of homogeneity in the ego affords us some degree of understanding of the anti-Semite, who, despite his role as a sadistic persecutor, may at the same time be a good member of the community, an affectionate husband, and an exemplary father." Identical dynamics pertained to the socially-sanctioned regressed behaviors of slave owners in the United States.

6. As a result of the loss of psychological autonomy in relation to the employment reference group, group members will tend to express behaviors that are "conventional, ideologically simplistic, conformist, and [will be] able to indulge themselves without guilt or gratitude; they lack a sense of personal responsibility or a deep investment in others." Kernberg at 8.

The employees' need to conform blandly to each other and to the direction of a supervisor (a parental figure) may equal or exceed the component of aggressive animus against the employee-victim. The employees' behavior directed at the harassment victim is an act of ideologically-driven conformity with respect to the employee reference group as well as an act of aggression against the victim. In fact, the great majority of the harassment victim's coworkers had no interaction with him, and sometimes coworkers who seemed to harass the victim appeared to be complying with the direction of third parties (as, for example, in agency finding of fact no. 4(a), reproduced above at 3).

8. In states of severe regression employee groups may become intolerant of individuals, establishing a group dictatorship that acquires the characteristics of a primitive morality and fosters the leadership of narcissistic personalities. Staff may contribute to this regression by their ideologically determined denial of differences between individual employees, their implicit expectation that all employees have the same needs, and their consequent expectation that all employees will react or participate in similar ways. Cf. Kernberg at 14.

9. In situations of organizational breakdown, ad hoc myths about the workplace, its management, supervisory staff (and scapegoat employees) and the search for a comprehensive, simplistic ideology develop rapidly and contrast with discriminating reason. The crucial functions of boundaries in task performance and of task-oriented leadership become apparent as the employee reference group confronts the temptation, at points of regression, to displace a parental imago onto a supervisor who assumes the defensive function for group members of warding off shame and fear of punishment. Cf. Kernberg at 17.

The disturbed dynamics assumed in the prototypical incident may reflect the fact that the supervisor's manifest role as a task-oriented leader, or supervisor, has been subsumed in his fantasied role as a parental imago. Cf. Kernberg at 17. That these dynamics arose in an employee subgroup (namely, that a task-oriented leader's administrative function merged with his fantasied role as parental imago) may reflect disturbances at the highest level of firm management. Cf. Kernberg at 12-13 (conflicts in the higher levels of an organization's administrative structure can reinforce disturbances in an organization's subgroups).

Presumably, an assessment of the harassment victim's status and functioning in the context of this specific organizational dysfunction would reveal something of the victim's intrapsychic functioning and psychological disturbance.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT SUPERVISORY STAFF:

1. The supervisory staff are composed of narcissistic personalities that are ideally constituted for the assumption of leadership under the conditions of large-group processes. Such peoples' lack of deep conviction regarding their own values makes it easy for them to go along with the group. A narcissistic personality who can communicate effectively can provide the large group with an acceptable ideology and convey a sense of certainty without triggering the group's envy against individualized thinking. These abilities make such a leader the soother of the large group's tensions. Kernberg at 8.

2. The supervisors may have attained a status as individuals who have "no enemies," a status achieved through manipulation. Kernberg at 83. Such a status enhances the ability of the supervisor to engage in projective identification, whereby the supervisor's projections are combined with the manipulation of reality selected for the purpose of verifying the projections, ultimately conferring deceptive objectivity to the supervisor's need-satisfying viewpoints and opinions. See Brodey at 167-68.

3. It is assumed that the acting-out behavior in the prototypical incident, in which supervisory staff organized a group of employees in a charade directed at the harassment victim, was prompted by a chance comment made by Robert Strauss about the victim, a comment that aroused the envy of the supervisors. Strauss is a nationally-prominent attorney.

At the time of the prototypical incident, on April 4, 1989, the harassment victim was a long-term temporary employee and had been engaged, since his hiring in June 1988, in a document production task for the major client, Eastern Airlines. Eastern had filed for bankruptcy protection just about one month earlier, on March 9, 1989.

One might speculate that at the time of the prototypical incident the firm was thinking ahead as to the subject's future role, if any, in the firm. The harassment victim had a law degree and was a suitable candidate for promotion to full-time status and transfer to the legal assistant program where he might perform substantive paralegal tasks. In fact, the firm ultimately promoted the subject to full-time status in August 1989.

The prototypical incident centered on a computer training seminar; the skills taught at the seminar would be required of subject were he to be promoted to full-time legal assistant.

It is assumed that the motivation for the prototypical incident was projective identification: an attempt to prompt the subject to leave the training seminar at an early point as the subject saw other employees do. See Brodey at 167: "Projection is combined with the manipulation of reality selected for the purpose of verifying the projection."

Projective identification, which involves the manipulation of reality to fit the projection, is characteristic of narcissistic disturbance. Brodey at 167-68. The use of projective identification by the supervisory staff fits the profile of the narcissistic supervisor. Kernberg at 8.

The supervisory staff might have assumed that subject had the same needs and motivations as other employees who, in the supervisors' past experience, routinely conformed to the actions of coworkers. See Kernberg at 14: "Staff may contribute to [group] regression by their ideologically determined denial of differences between individual [employees], their implicit expectation that all [employees] have the same needs, and their consequent expectation that all [employees] will react or participate in similar ways." The supervisory staff may have reasoned: "If Freedman sees everybody else leave the seminar early, he'll think it's OK to leave, too."

If subject had left the training seminar early (as he was apparently being prompted to do) supervisory staff (Sinnott and Neary) could then say to senior management: "You see, he only signed up for the computer training session for the free food and to be seen. He wants to be seen as being interested in the work of a legal assistant. But his interest is shallow. He left the seminar early. Obviously, he wasn't interested in learning Lexis (or Westlaw). He's not really legal assistant material. This is something that a legal assistant will have to know and be interested in doing. But it's obvious that he's not dedicated to this type of work. And you want to promote him? Bad decision."

Thus, information known by the externalizing supervisory staff but beyond the knowledge of the firm's senior attorney managers would be withheld from the senior managers except as it would be useful to manipulate them into validating what would then become the realization of the projection, namely, that subject was not Akin Gump legal assistant material. See Brodey at 167-68. Presumably, the same issues arose again in October 1991, at the time senior management considered how to resolve subject's harassment complaint; probably, the legal assistant supervisory staff rationalized their objections to the idea of subject's promotion to the legal assistant program (from the litigation support group where he was then assigned) with arguments for which they had earlier (in April 1989) attempted to adduce supporting evidence by means of manipulating reality, as in the prototypical incident: "He's not legal assistant material. He can't do, and is not even interested in doing, computer searches."

Oddly, a trivial observation about events at the termination meeting on October 29, 1991, held in the office of law firm partner Dennis Race, supports this interpretation. In a letter dated September 17, 1992 (record on appeal at 527-532) that subject delivered to the D.C. Department of Human Rights in support of that agency's unlawful job termination complaint, then under investigation, subject wrote:

On October 29, 1991, after Dennis Race advised me of my termination, Mr. Race had me sift through two boxes of my personal effects in the presence of my supervisor [Robertson] in Mr. Race's office. The two boxes containing my personal effects had been housed in the terrace level of the building, and had presumably been brought up to the fourth floor and placed outside Mr. Race's office before he called me to his office to advise me of the decision to terminate. The presumed purpose of having me sift though the contents of the boxes was to elicit and gauge a reaction (compare C below regarding Mr. race's irrational concern with the issue of embarrassment). At three points Mr. Race, sitting at his desk and appearing to read something, registered a nonverbal vocalization as I reviewed my personal effects: (1) at the point I identified to my supervisor [Robertson] and handed over to her my Lexis and Westlaw ID's; (2) at the point I asked my supervisor whether I could keep my job evaluations; and (3) at the point I discarded my Walkman radio and said to my supervisor regarding the radio, "it doesn't work." Record on appeal at 529 (emphasis added).

At the termination meeting Race told subject that he had reviewed with the legal assistant supervisory staff the possibility of promoting subject to the legal assistant program, but that the supervisory staff (Neary) had told Race he could not work with subject because Neary was afraid of subject, see record on appeal at 201. In a telling omission, Race failed to report any such communication concerning subject's transfer to the legal assistant program in his written Response submitted to the Department of Human Rights in connection with the agency's unlawful termination complaint. Why did Race, in his written submission to the Department of Human Rights, omit evidence that a supervisor found subject difficult to work with and psychologically disturbed--evidence that supported the firm's decision to terminate? Precisely because that evidence was inextricably bound up with Race's initial motivation to confer with Sinnott and Neary (the legal assistant administrative staff). And initially what motivated Race's decision to confer with Sinnott and Neary? It could be no other reason than to discuss senior management's interest in promoting the subject--as Race confirmed with subject at the termination meeting, but later concealed in his written submissions to the Department of Human Rights. (Note that Neary was a central actor in the prototypical incident.)

The incident provides insight into the firm's management style. Here, at least, mid-level supervisors were permitted to veto a personnel action contemplated by the firm's senior managers, based on oral evidence offered by the supervisors that was not confirmed by the subject's written personnel records.

A plausible reconstruction of what the supervisory staff actually told Race in October 1991, in the period immediately prior to the decision to terminate, is suggested by the assumed meaning of the prototypical incident. Supervisory staff (Sinnott and Neary) might have told Race in October 1991: "He's not really legal assistant material. This--Lexus and Westlaw searches--is something that a legal assistant will have to know and be interested in doing. But it's obvious that he's not dedicated to this type of work. And you want to promote him? Bad decision."

In assessing the meaning of the prototypical incident it is useful to consider the fact that the circumstances prevailing at the time of the incident, in April 1989 (one month after the Eastern Bankruptcy filing), resembled the circumstances that existed immediately prior to the subject's job termination, in October 1991: at both times, firm management was confronted with the issue of how to resolve subject's future with the firm. In April 1989, supervisory staff appeared to try to manipulate reality by adducing evidence of subject's lack of suitability as a legal assistant. Subject's harassment complaint in October 1991 would have caught the supervisory staff unawares; elaborate schemes aimed at manipulating subject's behavior were not feasible. One suspects that supervisors scrambled to present a convincing case to management consistent with the reality they had earlier sought, but failed, to create: the view that subject was not Akin Gump legal assistant material.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE HARASSMENT VICTIM:

1. Subject is able to maintain autonomy even under "extreme pressure." See Kramer, P.D., Should You Leave? at 154 (discussing the personality of playwright Arthur Miller, noting the playwright's response to McCarthyism. Uncannily, the record on appeal contains a letter dated September 25, 1992 that subject submitted to the Department of Human Rights (record at 525-26) in which subject describes the events of the termination meeting as a charade befitting the McCarthy era.)

2. Subject's superego is pathologically hyperdeveloped and therefore not susceptible of de-metabolization under the pressure of group life. See Freeman, D.M.A., Superego Development and Psychopathology at 121: "[I]nternalizations may occur abruptly, defensively, and prematurely, without adequate neutralization. In these cases, shame and castration anxiety do not become integrated into a smoothly operating unconscious guilt mechanism. Pathological guilt [and its social sequelae] are then seen in pathological manifestations."

3. Subject's autonomy, his ability to retain his individuality even under extreme pressure, places him at risk of aggression in groups that have regressed to a state of pre-autonomous superego functioning, i.e., groups in which a regressed, conformist ideology prevails. Kernberg at 5.

4. Subject's apparent creative potential places him at risk of envy and attack by narcissistically-disturbed supervisors. Kernberg at 84. Narcissistic supervisors will attempt to block or sabotage the promotion of honest and talented staff, who threaten them. Kernberg at 84 and 85.

5. The affect underlying the group aggression that subject experienced is envy--envy of his thinking, his individuality, and his rationality. Kernberg at 5.

The envy is overdetermined. Vis-a-vis senior managers (as in the prototypical incident) the affect underlying the group aggression becomes jealousy--jealousy of subject's relations (or fantasied relations) with superego figures: positive relations with superiors that may accrue from subject's personal qualities of independent thinking, individuality, and rationality. See Masson, J.M. Final Analysis at 125 (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991) (discussing fellow psychoanalysts' reaction of jealousy in the face of Masson's special relationship with K.R. Eissler and Anna Freud).

Further, subject's peer relations tend to become crudely sexualized and debased in regressed groups. The affect underlying the sexualization and debasement is jealousy. See Sullivan, H.S. The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry at 348-48 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1953) (discussing situations in which an innocent victim of jealousy serves as an absolutely fantasied figure for a group of persons).

A possible example of jealousy emerging in response to subject's peer relations can be seen in the following. Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, record on appeal at 14 (agency finding of fact no. 4(d)):

Shortly after, complainant was moved to the sixth floor office space shared with agency-supplied temporary legal assistants, Stacey Schaar and Gwen Lesh. On March 20, 1989, they began repeated references to Complainant's friendship with Craig Dye with whom Complainant had worked at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson.

The references centered on a supposed homosexual love interest that subject had in Craig Dye. It was Schaar who reported that she and fellow coworkers were afraid subject was potentially homicidal. Schaar voiced these concerns in August 1989, a brief time after subject was promoted to full-time status with benefits. At that time Schaar was an agency-supplied temporary employee, but was granted full-time status in the fall of 1989. (She was assigned to the anti-trust practice group. I believe her supervising attorney was Paul B. Hewitt, Esq., a firm partner.)

Schaar was reportedly terminated for gross misconduct in about May 1990. Reportedly, she had created a filing system that only she understood--in an attempt to make herself indispensable (an act indicating her fear of abandonment).

The co-expression of certain psychological trends in Schaar is noteworthy: the abandonment fears (as expressed in her attempt to make herself indispensable to the employer); the projected rage as expressed in her fear that subject was homicidal; and her sexualization of subject's peer relations (indicating her jealousy).

The trends may be paradigmatic of subject's disturbed interpersonal relations. The prototypical incident assumes the co-expression of the following trends in the supervisory staff: the attachment fears (as expressed in the supervisors' presumed attempts to thwart subject's promotion); and the supervisors' presumed jealousy of subject's relations with superego figures (the firm's senior management, possibly including Robert Strauss) (indicating jealousy).

There is a fundamental psychological equivalence between, on the one hand, Schaar's attempt to make herself indispensable to management, and, on the other, the possible projective identification of supervisory staff aimed at making it appear to senior managers that I was dispensable.

In conclusion, an issue for serious consideration is how the above dynamics would be expressed in a group therapy situation, and how a therapist would identify these unusual dynamics.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

The following is my personality profile of the harassment ringleader at Akin Gump. That individual remains unidentified.

http://dailstrug.blogspot.com/2008/08/subtle-job-harassment.html