Thursday, July 28, 2011

Akin Gump: Two Creative Pieces from 1991

During my employment at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld I formed the belief that the manager of my apartment building entered my apartment surreptitiously every morning, looked around, and reported back to Akin Gump managers what she saw. I used to leave messages for Elaine Wranik to read, many of which were humorous.  The messages were psychologically revealing, I suppose.  I found Akin Gump's surveillance to be ridiculous and humorous.  My paranoia was not associated with anger and a potential for violence; any assessing psychiatrist would have seen that.

The following are two creative pieces I wrote in the summer and early fall of 1991, months before my employment was terminated on October 29, 1991, at a time when, according to Akin Gump's senior managers, I showed signs of severe mental disturbance.  The first writing has a note at the top of the page addressed to Elaine Wranik.  Akin Gump's managers were my "good audience."


(This is all crap, but I figure "Why waste a good audience?")

A man had the unusual ability--some would call it an annoying predilection--to transform his everyday experiences into a dramatic interplay of elemental forces.  By means of this ability the trivial and bland became the grand and heroic; the benign and innocuous rose to the level of the sufferings of Lear.  The man's creative imagination gave form to a gallery of characters.

Of this a second man observed: The man's transformations represent an escapist's retreat from boredom, a paranoiac's refuge from the cares of the real world.  His fantasies reflect a Walter Mitty-like accommodation with ineffectually.

Concerning the first man and his detractor a third man observed: In assigning the first man the role of Walter Mitty, is not the second man, by implication, assuming the role of Thurber, whose creative imagination gave form to Mitty?  And through his momentary implicit dual transformation, does not the second man himself become a Mitty-like character?

Thus, in the end, in this one instance, it became difficult to distinguish between the man of talent, the critic, and the escapist.


I recall that I thought of the following piece while I was visiting my sister during the Jewish High Holidays in 1991.  In that year Rosh Hashanah fell on September 9, 1991.  On about September 11, 1991, while working at Akin Gump, my supervisor, Chris Robertson, held a luncheon meeting (designated a “Hoechst Strategy Meeting”)  in the 12th floor conference room.  The undercurrent of jealousy at the meeting may have been a reaction, in part, to the following writing, which I had left on a table in my apartment for Elaine Wranik to read and report back to Akin Gump management.  According to Kernberg a cohesive group may vent hostility on an outsider based on envy: envy of his individuality, his thinking, and his rationality.  (The following introduction is part of the writing I left on the table for Elaine Wranik to read.)

In the attached creative piece the manifest content relates to the scapegoat identification, whereas the latent content relates to the hero identification.  This duality may reflect a split in the ego between the scapegoat/hero identifications, or a split relating to guilt and narcissism.  The author's role as scapegoat/hero, which he seems to have assumed in his environment, may relate back to the earliest stage of development**, the oral stage, where the central issues are the infant's fear of harm to the mother (guilt) and the infant's reparative fantasies, the purpose of which is to expiate the memory of harm to the mother and which are possible precursors of grandiose, narcissistic fantasies in adulthood.  The piece may reflect, fundamentally an oral disturbance and its vicissitudes.  The piece, if fully analyzed in connection with Freud's interpretation of the hero myth in Group Psychology, sheds light on its author's earliest relationship with the mother and its author's later relationship with the father vis-a-vis mother and sibling, and its author's relationship with co-workers vis-a-vis employer--and ultimately how each of these paired relationships relate to each other.

**Assumes a form of alloplastic adaptation in which the external world is pressed into the service of the ego in order to combat instinctual threats.

[The following is the text of the parable.]

There lived a man whose idiosyncrasies and peculiar manner aroused the suspicion and curiosity of his fellows. In response to everything the man did people cynically asked: "Why does he do that? What is his motive?" The man's behavior, born of inner confusion, raised suspicions in others, which, in turn, compounded his confusion.

The man resolved to put his fellows' minds at ease, and his own mind, by writing the story of his life, thereby explaining himself to himself and explaining himself to those with whom he interacted. The man disseminated his story to his fellows.

Instead of allaying doubt, however, the story raised even more questions. Some suspected the man had committed a crime and sought through this means to conceal his great misdeed. Moreover, these people said the writing of the story was itself evidence of the man's mendacity and was therefore a criminal act irrespective of the severity of any past wrongful actions. Others said the man wanted to compensate, or overcompensate, for a poor self-image by creating a grandiloquent delineation of himself. Still others said he sought to satisfy the exigency of his longing for greatness by emulating the forms of the masters.

Troubled by his fellows' endless suspicions, the man decided to write a second story to explain why he had written the first story. But it occurred to him that a second story would raise more questions. People would likely ask: "Why a second story? Did he not tell us everything he needed to say in the first story?" Might not a second story simply serve to call attention to possible omissions in the first story, leading people to conclude that the man had intentionally omitted material facts in an attempt to deceive? Yet worse, if the second story should contradict some small detail in the first story people might interpret these inconsistent statements as deliberate lies.

Thus, the man would be compelled to write a third story to explain why he had written the second story. The third story would, in turn, call for a fourth story, he thought, and the fourth story, a fifth. The man could foresee no end to his need to explain himself. He then decided to transform his dilemma into a parable--a parable that would set forth the absurdity of his existence and thereby settle for all time the confusion in his mind and in the minds of his fellows. The man's parable read as follows:

"There lived a man whose idiosyncrasies and peculiar manner aroused the suspicion and curiosity of his fellows. . . . "


Gary Freedman said...

In the fall of 1991 I worked out the following diagram based on Freud's paper: Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. I had left the diagram on a table in my apartment for Elaine Wranik to read and report back to Akin Gump's senior managers:


--shuns scapegoat
--claims scapegoat acted alone in perpetrating the deed which certainly each member of the group contemplated or ventured upon
--represents deed as evil
--represents selves as guilt-free (pretense of mortal strength)
--projects blame onto scapegoat (GUILT) to expiate memory of harm or imagined harm
--deed is murder of primal father


-accepts blame
-possible oral fixation?; possible regression from phallic position?


COMPARE PATIENT’S REPORT: “You know, when I was finished, and I turned around--they were all lawyers in back of me in the courtroom--I had the feeling that all their eyes were fixed on me, as if I had impressed them somehow.”


--moves to free himself from group (like a soloist performing a concerto with orchestra)
--claims to have acted alone in accomplishing the deed, which certainly only the group as a whole would have ventured upon
--represents deed as good
--represents self as brave (pretense of strength)
--related to group his hero’s deeds which he has invented (NARCISSISM) to expiate memory of harm or imagined harm
--deed is murder of primal father-possible phallic fixation? (Note that a typical feature of the phallic type, according to Reich, is his potential transition, or regression, to the oral position.)


-identifies with HERO/ARTIST

Gary Freedman said...

Parallel events occurred at Akin Gump in April 1990 at the time of the Jewish holiday of Passover, at which time I again wrote a creative piece.

Gary Freedman said...

Akin Gump's hiring committee places a special emphasis on a prospective associate's writing ability. The firm considers a prospective associate's writing samples before making a job offer. Akin Gump stands out in its emphasis on writing ability.