Monday, January 23, 2012

Akin Gump: Psychoanalytic Theory Applied to Defensive Pleadings

In late October 1991 I lodged a harassment complaint against my supervisor and other personnel at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld where I worked as a paralegal.  I specifically complained about innuendo current in the firm relating to my sexual orientation.  A few days later, the employer terminated my employment on the grounds -- as later alleged to the D.C. Department of Human Rights (DHR)) -- that the firm had found, following a consult with a practicing psychiatrist, that my harassment complaint was the product of a paranoid "disorder," namely, "ideas of reference."  In early February 1992, DHR filed an unlawful termination complaint against Akin Gump on my behalf.  In May 1992, Akin Gump filed a Response in which the firm alleged that I suffered from a paranoid mental illness -- that might be associated with a risk of violence -- and that I was, therefore, unemployable as a tort risk to the firm.  Akin Gump's Response also emphatically denied that the subject of my sexual orientation was ever raised by anyone involved "directly or indirectly" with the firm: "Until the filing of this Charge, the subject of Claimant's sexual orientation was never brought up by Claimant or anyone involved directly or indirectly with Claimant's employment."  The firm also denied that I had ever complained at any time that I was a victim of job harassment because of perceived sexual orientation: "Claimant's sexual orientation was not a factor or even known by those involved in any stage of the decision process." 

DHR found that I complained about sexual harassment on October 23/24, 1991 to two of the firm's attorney managers.  DHR (and later, the D.C. Office of Corporation Counsel) implicitly found that Akin Gump lied about its knowledge of the sexual harassment I experienced during my tenure, and lied when it denied that I had complained to the firm's senior managers that I was a victim of sexual harassment.

Thus, Akin Gump denied that I was aggressed on by firm personnel based on perceived sexual orientation, terming my allegation of harassment "paranoid."  At the same time the firm alleged that it had rational grounds to believe I was a potential aggressor (specifically, that I was potentially violent), thereby implicitly denying its own paranoia.


I am not a psychoanalyst, though I am somewhat familiar with orthodox psychoanalytical thinking.  I am unable to analyze the psychological meaning of Akin Gump's Response, though I am able to point to writings that might help a psychoanalyst offer some insight into Akin Gump's convolutions about my experiences, behavior, and mental state -- as well as management's and coworkers' emotional reaction to me.

In Freudian thought there is a relationship among the mental states of paranoia, homosexuality, love and hate.  In orthodox analysis it is believed that the paranoid individual comes to hate his perceived persecutor so deeply because unconsciously he loves him so much.  Gay at 281. Paranoia was, for Freud, the mental ailment parading with unsurpassed vividness the psychological defenses of reversal and, even more, projection.  Gay at 281.

"Projection is the operation of expelling feelings or wishes the individual finds wholly unacceptable--too shameful, too obscene, too dangerous--by attributing them to another.  It is a prominent mechanism, for example, in anti-Semites, who find it necessary to transfer feelings of their own that they consider low or dirty onto the Jew, and then 'detect' those feelings in him.  This is one of the most primitive among the defenses, and is easily observable in normal behavior, though far less prominent there than among neurotics and psychotics."  Gay, P. Freud: A Life For Our Time, footnote at 281 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1988).

"The 'core conflict in the paranoia of a man' is, as Freud put it . . . a 'homosexual wish-fantasy of loving a man.'  The paranoiac turns the declaration 'I love him' into its opposite, 'I hate him'; that is the reversal.  He then goes on to say, 'I hate him because he persecutes me'; that is the projection." Gay at 281.

"To call someone paranoid was, in the technical vocabulary Freud had developed, to call him a homosexual,  at least a latent one." Gay at 275.  Paranoia, according to Freud, is a mental disorder that is rife with "remnants of unconscious homoerotic feelings."  Gay at 275.

To what psychoanalytical interpretations are Akin Gump's pleadings susceptible with specific regards to reversal, projection, homosexuality, anti-Semitism, love (my desire for affiliation with coworkers, coworkers' desire for affiliation with me, as well as Akin Gump's feelings that I was desirable associate material), and hate (my fear of persecution by coworkers, Akin Gump's allegation that I was  potentially violent, and coworkers' fears that I might become violent)?

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Message for AGSHF: "When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." --Friedrich Nietzsche