March 30, 1999
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-4530
Community Mental Health Center
Washington, DC 20007
Dear Ms. Osborne:
This letter reviews and elaborates an incident that I reported at our last consultation, on March 24, 1999. The incident occurred during my employment at the law firm of Akin Gump. The interpretation I placed on the incident seems flagrantly paranoid.
First, I am able to show, by means of circumstantial psychoanalytical evidence, that the incident I reported to you may contain valuable hints about the nature of my victimization in narcissistically-disturbed environments, in both present and historical (developmental) contexts. Second, I am able to show that my seemingly paranoid interpretation parallels an incident that occurred at another place of employment, an incident that involved manifest aggression.
I reported to you the following facts and impressions concerning the incident:
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. 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.
I reported that it was my inference that Strauss had made some favorable comment about me to someone following the breakfast meeting on April 3, 1989, that Neary and legal assistant administrator Maggie Sinnott were jealous of these comments, and that the interaction at the computer training seminar on the following Thursday April 6, 1989 was an act of humiliation (a symbolic castrative gesture) aimed at discharging that jealousy.
It is useful to look at the manifest roles of the parties, which can be summarized as follows:
Neary, as legal assistant coordinator, was a supervisory employee -- a symbolic authority figure
the legal assistants, as employees, held a subservient role
I had the role of paranoid outsider
I have identified a text from the psychoanalytic literature that points to possible latent roles played by the above parties: possible latent roles that belie the manifest or assigned roles. The text is a case study involving the psychoanalytic treatment of a 12-year-old boy who suffered from severe separation-individuation problems. Sprince, M.P. "An Adolescent's Battle Against Recovery." The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, vol. 26: 453-482 (1971).
The psychoanalyst reports that the boy was accompanied by his mother at the first six weeks of consultations where he "gazed rigidly at the floor, but secretly tried to catch his mother's eye with a look that implied that they were united against me." Sprince at 458. The boy was unpopular at school and a butt for constant teasing and bullying. Sprince at 455.
The text by Sprince focuses on three parties whose manifest roles can be summarized as follows:
a boy with severe separation-individuation problems
a mother, the boy's nurturing object
the psychoanalyst, the "all-knowing" parental derivative
In my own employment situation my coworkers assigned me the role of the disturbed individual who was unpopular and a butt for constant covert aggression. That was my assigned, manifest role.
It is plausible, however, that my assigned role, as well as the assigned respective roles of my coworkers and supervisors (in this case Neary), belied other latent roles: that these latent roles were mutually complementary, fixed, and corresponded to the manifest, assigned roles.
Further, the operation or existence of these latent roles constituted a form of role reversal or role confusion that is typical of some forms of narcissistic disorder. See Beren, P. "Narcissistic Disorders in Children." In: The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Vol. 47: 265-278 at 276 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992) (discussing extreme forms of role reversal in the parent-child relationship).
The possible role confusion or role reversal that I see would operate as follows:
Neary: While Neary's assigned role, as supervisor, was that of a parental authority, his latent role was that of the unindividuated child who suffers from severe separation or abandonment anxiety. Neary's behavior at the above-described training seminar can be seen to parallel the behavior of Sprince's patient who sought to align himself with mother against the analyst, who threatened the boy's relationship with mother.
Legal Assistants: While the legal assistants' assigned role, as employees, was that of subservient persons (child derivatives), their latent role in the aggregate was that of the "breast mother" on whom Neary was dependent. According to Kernberg, in narcissistically-regressed groups, group members in the aggregate serve as derivatives of the breast mother. See Kernberg, O. Ideology, Conflict and Leadership in Groups and Organizations at page 6 (see letter to Lisa Osborne dated October 13, 1998).
Myself: While my assigned role was that of paranoid castrate (the unpopular employee who was a butt of covert aggression), my latent role may have paralleled that of the all-knowing, omnipotent outsider, the father (the role that corresponds to that of a psychoanalyst).
It is interesting to observe that anti-Semitism, at least in Grunberger's formulation, involves a form of role reversal. The anti-Semite alternately assigns the Jew the role of either untouchable castrate (homosexual) or all-powerful father (a potentially violent or homicidal individual capable of deicide). See Grunberger, B. "The Anti-Semite and the Oedipal Conflict." International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 46: 380-385 at 384 (1964). Incidentally, Dr. Otto Kernberg, a psychiatry professor at Cornell University, currently serves as President of the International Psychoanalytic Association.
We have seen that the role played by the Jew in the anti-Semite's unconscious is a superego figure, a powerful father imago, and in a certain measure an identification project, especially since it is given at the same time, owing to the projection, a powerful anal sexuality. In other respects it is the decisive factor that the Jew, according to the anti-Semite's criteria which we shall examine, is an absolutely castrated being whom we may therefore attack without danger and without guilt. In the Jew we find combined the two contradictory characteristics which cannot anywhere else be found associated in such a way.
The father is both all-powerful and castrated, thus being, as Sartre said of a Jewish minister of State, 'at the same time His Excellency and an untouchable'. The Jew is castrated, not because he is circumcised, but because he is cut off from the collectivity and therefore an 'outsider'. The anti-Semite is a regressed anal character, and for such characters only the organic insertion within an organized social system gives narcissistic integrity and is capable of giving him a phallus. The Jew, lonely wanderer, castrated and miserable is such as the anti-Semite would like to see his father, and is in a state in which he seeks to maintain the Jew.
To recapitulate the above-described role reversal issues:
a. (assigned role as supervisor: "parent")
b. (latent role: "unindividuated child" who is dependent on the group which serves as the "breast mother," see Kernberg)
2. Legal Assistants
a. (assigned role as employees: subservient "children")
b. (latent aggregate role: "breast mother" on whom Neary depended to maintain his narcissistic integrity)
a. (assigned role: paranoid castrate)
b. (latent role as transference object or superego figure, see Grunberger: powerful father who sees too much)
This schema corresponds to the following psychoanalytic situation: The (1) unindividuated boy who conspires with the (2) nurturing mother, on whom he is dependent, against the (3) psychoanalyst, the all-seeing and powerful parental derivative, who threatens the boy's relationship with mother.
I propose that it was my developmental experiences in a narcissistically-disturbed family environment, and consequent disturbances in my superego development, that dispose me to experience these difficulties in adulthood. One issue that is clear is that there is a virtual identity between the disturbed employment relations described above and my relations vis-a-vis my sister ("breast mother") and brother-in-law (the unindividuated male who precociously assumed the role of an adult).
These issues are elaborated by a sequence of events that occurred at another place of employment, the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, where I was employed from September 1985 to February 1988.
In about January 1987 I was part of a group of employees who were assigned to a large document production task for the client Chrysler Corporation, a defendant in airbag litigation. In about January 1987 the billing partner, James Hourihan, held a meeting with several firm employees to discuss a specific document production task involving a plaintiff named "Staggs." I did not attend the meeting, but was told about the meeting by a coworker (Cindy Rodda); presumably, the department supervisor Sheryl Ferguson attended the meeting. The Staggs project had to be completed within a brief time period to meet a specific litigation deadline; unlimited overtime would be offered to complete the project.
Rodda told me words to the effect: "Hourihan said, 'We'll get Gary to do this. We'll get Gary to do that.' He talked as if you were indispensable. As if he would be relying on you to complete the project." There may have been a quality of jealousy in Rodda's report. (Note the correspondence between Hourihan's high opinion of me that he reportedly voiced at the meeting at Hogan in January 1987 and my presumption that Robert Strauss had made some favorable comment about me following the legal assistant breakfast at Akin Gump in April 1989.)
The outcome of all this was that I ended up doing nothing--absolutely nothing--for the Staggs document production task. My coworkers arranged among themselves, presumably with the cooperation of the data base administrator, Esperanza Rebollar 1/, to complete the task on their own. In effect, the employees were saying: "We'll show Hourihan just how indispensable Gary is. We'll show that the firm doesn't even need Gary." My exclusion from the Hogan project was a symbolic castrative gesture that parallels my paranoid perceptions about the legal assistant training seminar held at Akin Gump on April 6, 1989 (see above).
The department supervisor Sheryl Ferguson had announced on February 12, 1987 that she was leaving the firm (Hogan), and I believe she had assigned the supervision of the project to Rebollar.
Then the employees did a remarkable thing. They decided among themselves that they would arrange a work slowdown, by working only during regular hours and doing no overtime. At a staff meeting held in about February 1987 one of the employees, Daniel Cutler, asked one of the Chrysler attorneys, David Kikel, "If we get this project completed on schedule, what's in it for us?" As if overtime weren't enough! The supervisor Ferguson was present at the meeting; I think she was enraged by her employees' behavior, but, as she was resigning her position at the firm, she said nothing.
1/ Note the possible connivance of a supervisor, once again, as at Akin Gump. On one occasion in about June 1987 I overheard Rebollar say to a coworker (Daniel Cutler), as I chatted with an employee named Clarence Pollard: "He's (referring to me) trying to make Craig jealous." On another occasion, in about September 1987, Rebollar said: "Some people still blame the Jews for crucifying Jesus. Everybody knows the Pope absolved the Jews of that years ago." Note the combined issues of role reversal by a supervisor (i.e., a supervisor acting like a chum with employees), intrusive and sexually-charged comments about an employee's workplace social relations, together with anti-Semitism.
Of psychological interest is the apparent symmetry in the aggression directed by the employees against me and the aggression directed by the same employees against the employer (the symbolic father). The employees, in effect, shut me out from the project, then proceeded to place demands on the employer, both acts of aggression. At some psychological level I was equated with the "father" (or is it that both I and David Kikel were equated with homosexuals?) This calls to mind the observations of Grunberger that "the relation between brotherhoods and the Jew reproduces that which existed between the prehistoric brotherhoods (as in the primitive hordes [citations omitted]) and the father. Brotherhoods banded together to fight the father's power. As such the brotherhoods fight against the Jew as they have always fought, and still fight, against the father." Grunberger at 383 n. 6.
(2) warding off of aggression - as in paranoia - palastinians/Jews ) Dynamic identity of attributions of paranoia and attirbutions of hypocrcy -appltying Brodey, use of projective identification to makle the person appear both paranoid and hypocritical
Parallels between family environment and work environment:
Sister says: "You complain about your aunt, you act the same way."
First thing that is noticeable is the sister's cult-like acceptance of husband's world view and her propagandistic application of same. As in work environment.
1. Hypocricy in brother-in-law
2. Failed to treat me as he treated aunt (camera/clothespins - picture frames))
3. Exculpates aunt on ground that aunt loved mother
4. What role did brother-in-law play? I complained to aunt. He complains to wife.
Work environment - incident on week of March 11, 1991.
I complain to management. they complain among each other.
Symmetries in figure whose:
notion of right and wrong are simply on whether he will be caught and punished; that is, seen by the parent and punished.
obsessively comments on and judeges the actions of a victim; i.e., arrogates to himself the rights and powers of a superego figure to judge, thereby abreacting the anxiety of anxiety in the face of a judging authority
immune to criticism from the victim -- the victim has no rights as a superego figure -- feels no shame in the face of the victim; victim complains about me, but he acts the same way.