Friday, April 29, 2011

Homospatial Thinking: Of Litigants, Politicians, and Younger Brothers

Albert Rothenberg, M.D. first described or discovered a process he termed "homospatial thinking," which consists of actively conceiving two or more discrete entities occupying the same space, a conception leading to the articulation of new identities. Homospatial thinking has a salient role in the creative process in the following wide variety of fields: literature, the visual arts, music, science, and mathematics. This cognitive factor, along with "Janusian thinking," clarifies the nature of creative thinking as a highly adaptive and primarily nonregressive form of functioning.

Homospatial thinking might be described as merging two or more images.  The resulting image, or "homospatial product," is analogous to taking two photographic negatives, putting one on top of the other, and holding them both up to the light.

I find it interesting that in two different documents, written approximately ten years apart, I make use of the same homospatial imagery, or fusion.  In both writings I combined the idea of the litigant in a lawsuit with the idea of a politician or candidate for public office.

In a letter I wrote in November 2004 I took a paragraph from an article about Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign -- and consequent electoral college debacle -- and paraphrased that passage to describe the failed lawsuit I filed against my former employer, the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, where I worked as a paralegal from 1988 to 1991: Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998).

Then there was the litigation debacle in the DC Court of Appeals. Now, everywhere I go, I am faced with crowds who despair of the Court of Appeals and see in me all that might have been, all the what ifs. "The heartbreak of a lifetime." Sometimes people approach me and address me as "Mr. Precedent." "Freedman," they say, "there's no precedent for what those judges did. It's unprecedented, baby!" Some try to cheer me up and tell me, "We know you really won." Some tilt their heads, affecting a look of grave sympathy, as if I had just lost a family member. I have to face not only my own regret; I am forever the mirror of others'. A lesser man would have done far worse than go into seclusion and settle on a career of papery passions.

In August 1995, ten years earlier, in the written analysis of a dream I titled "The Dream of Milton's Successor" I merged the idea of former Governor Dick Thornburgh (a politician) with the idea of a litigant vying for a favorable court decision with an opposing side.

The theme of choosing or being chosen is overdetermined here. Portia in The Merchant of Venice offers her suitors a choice among three caskets, an appeals court chooses a victor between two parties, in politics the electorate chooses among candidates (Governor Thornburgh had been such a victor), a customer in a bookstore is presented with a decision to choose among books, etc.

A curious feature of the dream's manifest content is that the theme of choice, so pervasive in the latent content, is missing--which suggests that the theme of choice or rivalry (Oedipal or sibling; or the negative consequences in the form of jealousy of being favored, or "chosen," by a parent [cf. anti-Semitism]) is ego dystonic and defended against (repressed). It may be that the odd term "inventory" (Dr. Mack invites me to join his "inventory") defends against the idea of choice. In an inventory one simply enumerates the objects that form a collection; one does not choose any single object. In this sense, the term "to inventory" opposes, or negates, the term "to elect," or to choose. The dream image of the busts on the shelf fading into a vague sameness (that is, the appearance of a generic quality) obviates choice based on specific qualities.

Note that the supervisor's name "Miriam" was also the name of the older sister of the biblical Moses. In the biblical tale Miriam concocts a scheme with her mother whereby the sister will "choose," or rescue, her infant brother Moses from the Nile and present the child to Pharaoh's daughter in the hope that the child, mendaciously-depicted by Miriam as a child of unknown heritage, will be accepted and raised by members of the Royal House of Egypt (cf. "destiny removed my brother, so that I did not have to share my mother's love with him.") Recall that the previously-prepared portion of this dream analysis contained associations to a childhood classmate named "Aaron," a name shared by the [older] brother of the prophet Moses.


Gary Freedman said...

My parents had two children: myself and an older sister. I am the younger brother.

This morning I watched the TV broadcast of the wedding of Prince William. Prince Harry is his younger brother. Earlier in the day, for no apparent reason, I posted a photo of Prince Harry on this blog with the title: The Younger Brother. (My therapists have noted my competitiveness, by the way.)

A brief time later I had the insight that forms the basis of this blog post.

Freud would call it a case of unconscious determinism.

Gary Freedman said...

In a paper published in a 2001 issue of the journal Psychiatry, the nationally-prominent Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen proposes a personality profile of high-functioning persons with anorexia nervosa. He includes the trait of competitiveness:

TABLE 1. SWAP-200a Items That Best Described Eating Disorder
Patients in the High-Functioning/Perfectionistic Personality

Is articulate; can express self well in words. 3.09

Tends to be conscientious and responsible. 3.05

Tends to be self-critical; sets unrealistically high standards
for self and is intolerant of own human defects. 2.61

Expects self to be “perfect” (e.g., in appearance,
achievements, performance, etc.). 2.53

Tends to elicit liking in others. 2.35

Tends to be preoccupied with food, diet, or eating. 2.32

Is empathic; is sensitive and responsive to other peoples’
needs and feelings. 2.29

Is able to use his/her talents, abilities, and energy
effectively and productively. 2.28

Has moral and ethical standards and strives to live up to
them. 2.13

Appreciates and responds to humor. 2.10

Enjoys challenges; takes pleasure in accomplishing things. 1.98

Tends to feel guilty. 1.98

Is psychologically insightful; is able to understand self and
others in subtle and sophisticated ways. 1.96

Has the capacity to recognize alternative viewpoints, even
in matters that stir up strong feelings. 1.87

Is capable of hearing information that is emotionally
threatening (i.e., that challenges cherished beliefs,
perceptions, and self-perceptions) and can use and
benefit from it. 1.86

Is creative; is able to see things or approach problems in
novel ways. 1.76

Tends to be energetic and outgoing. 1.69

Finds meaning in belonging and contributing to a larger
community (e.g., organization, church, neighborhood). 1.56

Tends to express affect appropriate in quality and intensity to the situation at hand. 1.55

Tends to be competitive with others (whether consciously
or unconsciously). 1.54

Is able to assert him/herself effectively and appropriately
when necessary. 1.52

Tends to be anxious. 1.48

is able to find meaning and fulfillment in guiding,
mentoring, or nurturing others. 1.46

Is capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship
characterized by genuine intimacy and caring. 1.44]