Friday, July 16, 2010

Significant Moments: Like Actors Playing The Role of Law Enforcement Officers

I knew it was really happening. There was no sense of disbelief.
Bob Simon, Forty Days.
Still the atmosphere of unreality, the . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst.
. . . strangely cinematic . . .
Bob Simon, Forty Days.
. . . quality of the meeting, persisted to the end.
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst.
Where were the camera positions? Where was the director?
Bob Simon, Forty Days.
I felt very much like . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst.
. . . a “subordinate officer” . . .
Bradley F. Smith, Reaching Judgment at Nuremberg.
. . . charged with treason . . .
Jean-Denis Bredin, The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus.
. . . who was about to be . . .
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.
. . . sentenced to death by hanging.
Bradley F. Smith, Reaching Judgment at Nuremberg.
The movie sense . . .
Bob Simon, Forty Days.
. . . was a protecting presence:
Bayard Taylor, Beauty and the Beast, and Tales of Home.
The men facing me were playing their parts as officers and interrogators. Their costumes were good, the accents just right. I was playing mine. We were all aware that these were just the opening scenes, and were anxious not to fluff our lines.
Bob Simon, Forty Days.
I thought it out at the time, feeling the need for vindication and desiring to be at peace with my conscience. But this vindication did not satisfy. Nor to this day can I permit my manhood to look back upon these events and feel entirely exonerated. The situation was something that really exceeded rational formulas for conduct and demanded more than the cold conclusions of reason. When viewed in the light of formal logic, there is not one thing of which to be ashamed; but nevertheless a shame rises within me at the recollection, and in the pride of my manhood I feel that my manhood has in unaccountable ways been smirched and sullied.
Jack London, The Sea Wolf.
I was frightened, but a corner of my mind was doing a critique. We need a new scriptwriter, I thought. These lines are too hackneyed. If we have to go through all this, does it have to be so unremittingly grade B?
Bob Simon, Forty Days.

On Friday January 15, 2010 two officers from the U.S. Department of Justice interviewed me at my home about a law enforcement matter. They had originally showed up at my residence on Tuesday January 12, 2010, but I wasn't in; the officers left a card at my door. We eventually met on Friday.

During the interview one of the officers said he had been reading my blog, and that I appeared to him to be an angry person. The officer's comment struck me as odd immediately.

The previous Thursday January 7, 2010 I had had a regular consult with my psychiatrist Abbas Jama, M.D. At the consult Dr. Jama counseled me to let go of my anger. He said I was only hurting myself with my anger. I was angered by Dr. Jama's comments about my supposed anger. I don't believe a person can simply "let go" of his feelings on the recommendation of someone else. Can a therapist treat a depressed patient by telling him to "let go" of his sadness and be happy? If psychotherapy were that easy, anyone could do psychotherapy. Why would anyone spend years in five-time per week psychoanalysis if he could simply alter his affective states on the recommendation of his analyst?

I was troubled by Dr. Jama's comments on January 7, 2010. On January 8, 2010 -- one week before my law enforcement interview -- I wrote the following blog post about anger.

In retrospect it seems odd to me that Dr. Jama counseled me to "let go" of my anger; then a few days later a federal officer shows up at my door and tells me that I am an angry person. Is that a small coincidence or a big coincidence? I don't know. But it is certainly a coincidence.

In any event, I told Dr. Jama that my anger, indeed, all of my feelings about my former employer are complex. I am preoccupied with my last job not simply because of anger. I am also deeply curious about what was going on at the firm, Akin Gump. Why did they fire me for no good reason? Why did they have me under surveillance for years? About the anger: I don't just feel angry about the termination itself, but also the years of harassment leading up to the termination, and the false sworn statements the employer filed with a government agency alleging that I had been determined to be mentally disturbed and potentially violent. Perhaps I am mentally disturbed and potentially violent, but no one could determine that based on a proxy psychiatric examination.

I told Dr. Jama that a lot of my feelings about my employer were redirected feelings. I explained that I had a lot of negative feelings about my family from early childhood, which I transferred onto my employer. Dr. Jama said: "Tell me about you feelings about your family. What is it about your family that makes you angry?"

Of course, it would be impossible to summarize an entire childhood of grievances against my family into a concise statement to my therapist. But I did mention one thing. I told Dr. Jama how my parents used to take me to the movies when I was a child, frequently to adult movies that I was not interested in. I remember mentioning to Dr. Jama that my parents took me to see Judgment at Nuremberg when I was eight years old; I remember being excruciatingly bored and confused throughout the movie. I had no idea what the Third Reich was at that age, much less Nazi war criminals, and the international war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg. I remember being particularly troubled by the discussions in the movie about forced sterilization. What was forced sterilization, I thought? Why are the characters so disturbed by that?  (Dr. Shengold would point out that for a boy discussions of forced sterilization would raise castration fears.  See Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Deprivation and Abuse at 29-30)

My parents, especially my father, rarely took me to movies for kids: movies that I would enjoy. I loved fantasy as a child. I can remember the few movies that I really liked. Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Time Machine and -- tellingly, I suppose -- The Bird Man of Alcatraz. As an adult I can relate to a prisoner preoccupied with a solitary endeavor, such as collecting birds, or -- writing a book, writing a collection of letters to an imaginary friend, or writing a blog.

I found it odd that on January 15, 2010 one of the questions the federal officers asked me was "What movie theater do you attend?" I immediately drew a connection with my consult with Dr. Jama the previous Thursday at which time I talked about going to the movies with my parents.

Now, months later, it strikes me that -- from a psychoanalytical perspective -- I don't think I was really talking about movies with Dr. Jama in a literal sense. I think I was talking about the fact that the people in my family seemed to me in childhood to be actors playing roles. There was a stereotypical quality about the behavior of my parents and others. Warren Brodey, a psychoanalyst, who wrote about narcissistically disturbed families, says that people in such families seem to repeat "repetitious scripts." Brodey, W. "On The Dynamics of Narcissism." The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (1965).

Oddly enough, my law enforcement interview on January 15, 2010 seemed to be contrived -- the officers seemed like actors in a movie, actors playing the role of law enforcement officers. The officers seemed like actors pretending to do a law enforcement interview, not doing an actual interview. They asked questions, but didn't wait for my response, or they would ask seemingly nonsensical questions such as "Have you been to the opera lately?" I suppose what really bothered me about the interview, and what bothers me to this day, is the similarity between the behavior of the officers and the behavior of my parents: the mock anger, the seeming alarm about absolute trivialities, the vacillation between intimidation and friendliness, the seeming pretense of lack of understanding: "What did you mean by this?" -- when any reasonable person would know exactly what I meant.   It was all too familiar.  I had lived these experiences in childhood.  I had read about similar experiences in Leonard Shengold's book, Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation.

No comments: