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An Analyst Moves: Tai Chi and Tai Kwon Do

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Chung, my Tai Chi instructor — after I finally get the basic twenty-four movements correctly — takes my palm and firmly presses her forefinger into its live center. Here is the place, my yin from which the Chi must exit; my yang sits in my finger tips.   Chi is the energy, she explains, in the Universe that I can take in with the breathing.  Last year, when I was visiting in San Francisco and rejoined my old Tai Chi group in Golden Gate park, in the basin between the Art Museum and the Science museum, she would take me aside afterwards, this diminutive Korean woman in her seventies, to instruct me in the basic moves. We went to the eastern edge of the Art museum; as she later explained, the pine trees give off more Chi.  These should enter through my finger tips, the soles of my feet.

She “rather leads” the mostly Chinese group (a new member is asked if they speak Mandarin or Cantonese; as I am visiting from Israel, one woman asks if I speak Assyrian.)  “Rather leads,” as she prefers not to. She does her movements often with eyes closed and slowly, as if immersed in some glycerin-like fluid. Her fingers are poised like  a ballerina, the forefinger a bit aloft from the others, the middle finger closer to her yin.  So, I am surprised at the end of our hour of movement when this close-eyed dancer turns to me with concern that I am not breathing properly.  She hears my non-breaths behind her.  I, relieved that I got the basic moves correct, had not noticed my breathing. She explained that the breath should come in through the nose, fill the chest and abdomen to just below the navel. Then I should feel it travel backwards to my spine, upwards and lock the inhale at the top of my neck. Then exhale.  Certain movements for inhale; others for exhale. As it is a martial art, the attacking moves are on exhale.

Today, she dismisses the very new two Chinese men to ask Judy (a newbie) and I to go through the basic twenty-four. She is pleased that I get them and breathe properly, then instructs me with the yin and yang.  Judy is studying acupuncture.

Chung’s husband, Ikjin, is my Tai Kwan Do instructor. (I have become a family enterprise.)  She had told me of him last summer and early this summer, I asked her if I could take lessons with him. He had been brought to the U.S. in the mid-60’s to instruct Army personnel in the Presidio — then still a military base — on martial arts.  She would speak with him. He asks to interview me.  We sit in a meticulous living room, shoes off, hand-tatted eyelet cell linens on the armrests of couch and chairs.  He knows that I am a professor.  He knows from Chung about my Tai Chi efforts. He tells me that he is retired , but still has one class of former military students who come each Monday from Napa, a two-hour drive. He decides that he will take me on as a private student at his old rate — $25.  He asks me to “interview” him. As I gather my thoughts in surprise, he approaches and asks me to grasp his hand: it is brick-like. He asks me to come from behind and give a bear hug; he slips away like quicksilver between fingertips.  He tells how after his interview at the Army base before a table of officers, one, a fellow topping six feet and over 220 pounds, rises from the table and approaches Ikjin.  Tells him that he will put him into a Chinese neck lock intended to kill. Ikjin gets the fellow to his knees in a moment and Ikjin gets the job.  Not permitted to live on the base, he takes the bus to the Presidio each morning, waits at the gate and a jeep escorts him to teach his classes.

Whereas, Chung says, Tai Chi helps one take in Chi from the universe, Tai Kwan Do is to use the Chi against others.  It has a brutal forcefullness, a focus.  When first taught in 1950’s South Korea, Ikjin explains, Tai Kwan Do is taught to kill on first blow. But, he will teach me how to defend myself and get away quickly.

A very different seeps into this basement room. The body is kept low with bent knees but always always upright torso. As best possible, as often as one can, keep the body sideways to the opponent — a smaller target. Feet apart, often one behind, just as one keeps one hand lower than the other so that one is always prepared for a follow-up blow.  One hand may deflect or defend, but the other is ready to hit for eyes, jugular. One foot carries much weight so that the other can strike the ribs (liver or spleen), or head.  I am put through six variations of upper body maneuvers, reminded: legs deeply bent, body low, upper torso upright.  Then come kicks — forward (metatarsal only, toes retracted), roundhouse (using the torso to spiral the force, snapping tthe upper foot at least as high as the ribs), side kick (lower two-thirds of the foot and outer edge).  Whatever the strike, put a snap and torsion into it. He demonstrates how Muhammed Ali surprised his opponents with a terminal torsion to his blows to the head: the final twist breaks blood vessels around the eyes.  Of the fist, middle knuckle leads.

He demonstrates at me, stopping centimeters — perhaps millimeters — away; I feel the force of compressed air against my face.  To learn defensive maneuvers — deflections with the fist (also with torsion, with a snap) — he asks me to prevent his touching my shoulder; I cannot as he is too quick: like snatching a fly with chopsticks.

While Ikjin takes pleasure in my progress, Chung is irritated that I am not remembering my Tai Chi. I reappear today.  It is my redemption as she watches my twenty-four, hears my breathing in the Chi and instructs me on the Yin and Yang of my hands and feet.  She finishes. If I plant my feet with the Yang firmly rooted (she points to a nearby ginko’s roots to demonstrate), I will be stable.  I root myself as well as I can.

copyright N. Szajnberg, 2015

Giovacchini’s Last Book: Impact of Narcissism

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Impact of Narcissism: The Errant Therapist on a Chaotic Quest by Peter Giovacchini, NH: Jason Aronson 2000.  Reviewed by Nathan Szajnberg, MD

Ved Mehta, the Nobel prize-winning author, gave four principles for good writing: clarity, harmony, truth and an unflinching courtesy to the reader.  

Peter Giovacchini follows these principles in his latest book , Impact of Narcissism: the Errant Therapist on A Chaotic Quest (NJ: Jason Aronson, 2000).

This is two books interwoven. First, he writes clearly about clinical work with the narcissistic component of character disorders.  Like Freud, he punctuates narrative by clinical material.  Second, and a more challenging task, he writes of the jeopardy to our discipline when we become narcissistically invested in our theories over our patients’ needs.

Kuhn emphasized the essential tension between daily normative science and periodic paradigmatic discoveries (Archimedes’ “Eureka!”).  Giovacchini encourages us to use our theoretical ears to listen to patients, yet use our scientific curiosity and thinking to challenge our theories, when patients challenge us.  Dora did this to Freud; we should follow suit.

This book also gives a remarkably crisp summary of major psychoanalytic theories; a cry for not inventing neologisms (“old wine in murky bottles”) when previous terms, such as the transference/countertransference axis, serves well; explorations of how countertransferences can be along a benign/malignant axis; relating the countertransference to the ego-ideal,the superego; and explores the continuum of narcissism from psychopathology to how it contributes to self-esteem and creativity.

Let us return to perhaps the more unsettling theme of Giovacchini’s book: how narcissism in our profession has jeopardized our credibility, or at least, through hero-worship, hindered  our science and technique’s development.

Frattaroli wrote how Freud was both heterodox and orthodox with his own ideas (Frattaroli, 1995, 2001).  Internecine warfare began when his acolytes could become either “orthodox” (Jones, Strachey, Anna Freud)  or “heterodox” (Jung, Adler, perhaps even the beloved Ferenczi).  But, Giovacchini, in a chapter entitled “Old wine in murky bottles,” argues that, at times, our colleagues invent new terms that do not represent new ideas.  Intersubjectivity, borrowing Hegel, leads us to a subjective interpretation of reality, a relativism, that approaches nihilism.  Giovacchini struggles to address the recent revelation that Heinz Kohut’s major work, “The Two Psychoanalyses of Mr. Z,” was clinically falsified, then Giovacchini takes on the cult-like stance surrounding and protecting Heinz Kohut.  He does so, while avoiding ad hominem attack. Giovacchini critiques the substance of Kohut’s theory; but he also cautions that if we as a discipline do not openly discuss falsified data, we lose our credibility.  This is troubling: how do we justify apparently new theories (such as self psychology) when we learn that the clinical data upon which it is based, is manufactured, false.  If Kohut fabricates a second analysis for Mr. Z. (himself), then do we need to question his theories?  In other fields, such as physical anthropology, when Piltdown man was revealed to be a hoax, the scientists within the discipline both revealed the hoax and rejected theories underlying it. Yet, when Newton in his notebooks on the Optiks, would scratch-out experiments because they did not agree with his theories, we see his genius justified his “liberty” with the data.  Yet, our responsibility as a discipline is to at least discuss such fabrications openly.

The core of Giovacchini’s ideas are pristine, simple: maintain an intrapsychic focus; adhere to the goals of psychoanalysis –— to help the patient acquire structure, enhance autonomy and master impulses.

He outlines the differences between Oedipal and Narcissus myths (and the psychopathologies they define.  Oedipus’ tragic life was initiated by his father’s fear; it was set into motion by Oedipus’ lack of self-knowledge  (Had he thought about himself after the seer’s prophecy, he could have known that he would not be the kind of man who would kill his father, mount his mother); and an awareness of others’ needs (his concern about the populace plagued by the Sphinx) matched by his unawareness of himself.  Narcissus, beloved of himself, stares at his image in the stream, until the gods condemn him to be rooted by the stream, head bowed, always to gaze at himself.  He is frozen and unaware of others (except to the extent that they reflect him).

Don Quixote parodies narcissism.  He is grandiose; he disturbs the world; he sees Dulcinea, a whore, in his idealized image.  While the popular Broadway version romanticizes him in an appealing light, albeit suspended between pathos and bathos, he perturbs others.

Giovacchini outlines a structural model of the self as a continuum; from appearance, through religion, to increasingly internal structures, including self-esteem.  He presents the false self as a ubiquitous; to the extent that we sacrifice our true beliefs for the sake of the external world, we all have some degree of false self.

He offers two levels of nurturing: the foreground of nurturing; the background of soothing. And, much of clinical work with those who suffer from narcissistic ailments, benefit from soothing.  The analytic setting is a frame that has therapeutic benefits.

Giovacchini notes that the personal and the professional have become blended, particularly among schools such as the intersubjectivists.  But cultural mores also have shifted, shifting clinical practice. For instance, in his parody of Kohut, “Two analyses of Ms. A.,” he points out how the sexual conservatism of the 1950’s resulted in his supervisor urging him to place restrictions on his patient; rethinking this case fifty years later results in a different formulation and different technique.

But, the softened boundaries between personal and professional puts greater demands on self-knowledge.  When our work area, also our playground, is the intrapsychic, the inner lives of the analyst and the analysand, then analysts have the greater responsibility of self-knowledge — of reading our thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, wishes and hopes — so that these do not substantively interfere with the analysand’s need to create, project, replicate feelings within the psychoanalyst in order to make use of analyses.

Different writers offer different contributions.  Milton gave us passion; Baedecker, economy; Bellow, the adherence of high and low culture.  Peter Giovacchini with economy of language, with passion for psychoanalysis, compassion for his analysands, and with “unflinching courtesy for the reader,” teaches us how to heal.

References

Frattaroli, E.  (1995). Heterodox and orthodox Freud, In Educating the Emotions; Bruno Bettelheim and Psychoanalytic Development. Ed. N. Szajnberg, NY: Plenum.

Frattaroli, E. (2001). Healing the Soul In the Age of the Brain, NY: Viking.

Kohut, H. (1979) The Two Analyses of Mr. Z., IJP: 60,p. 3-27.

Kuhn, T. (1977)The Essential Tension.Chicago, UC Press.

Mehta, V. (2001). The Academic Scholar.

Getting Dieseled

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About my first Diesel opening.

OK, my first anything opening.

Since writing this, Diesel has outgrown these digs, shuttered them and ensconced elsewhere. So this is a requiem to a building.

L., who helps Diesel find possible stores and set up their design in U.S. cities, had invited me. Thursday late, she called, saying that Francis or Danieli of Diesel had called desperately saying that they needed extra props for the store: old TV sets, beat-up furniture. The theme was to be the aftermath of a tornado.  We lugged over an ancient tubed TV to the store on Market Street, where we were met by a cheerful helper, who opened the car door and announced, “Hi, I’m Jeremiah,” which was also tattooed on his left neck, should a vampire be interested in the brand name of his source.  But, easy to overlook Jeremiah’s name tattoo amongst the other skin art on him and others. Branson also was helping with the design.  He is topping two meters and heightened by a dyed black hair wave that brings to mind Hirokawa’s tsunami prints; a flip of the wave at the top gives him a lopsided look, which is straightened with a smile. As we hunkered over the TV, he was unloading broken branches for the windows.

The Diesel store is a triangular bankrupt bank building at Market and Stockton, opposite the Apple store. The building looks like the Flatiron building in NYC, an isosceles triangle to fit the pie-shaped corner. Diesel’s landlord gave them two choices for outside color: black or white. Diesel, being Diesel – edgy, a bit ahead, a touch (and then some) outré — picked black. The pockmarked black stone apex contrasted with the smooth grey and glass exterior of Apple’s box.  Perhaps the sand-blasted glass overhang was the one connection with Apples sandblasted green-glass staircase.

Doors opened and there was a line, recession be damned. L. said that one of her twenty-something workers saves months to get a Diesel t; months more to score a pair of jeans, which will set you back at least couple of bills.  Diesel afficionados know their jeans by the precise fabric, the cut and whether they were woven on special paper looms.  We are first greeted by black-suited security guys – no Diesel styling for them, opening the doors at the apex of the corner. Behind them, the DJ was spinning away, mostly hip-hoppish or crunch, but an occasional Montovani version of Thriller. The store is purposely left raw: concrete showing, steel beams. Diesel wants an edgy look. To the left is a plywood wall with markers attached for graffiti. Only at L’s insistence did the Diesel guys cover the exterior window for the dressing rooms and put hooks and chair inside; otherwise, strollers on Stockton or emerging from the BART could have ogled you skinnying into your jeans or a Black gold top.  Diesel was thinking Loehman’s back room; L. demanded more.

Diesel leased 5,000 s ft. of three floors, then ripped out two floors to have a two-story store. The details and how L. worked on these, watching hawk-like over the past 15 months are impressive. For instance, most shopping is done between knee and shoulder height. Many stores use two racks, putting your eyes somewhere between the hems of the skirts above and the waistbands of those below (or the sleeve ends of the suits above and the padded shoulders of those below, for men).  Diesel tries to maximize. They asked that the structural “bones” of the store be incorporated into the selling. Poured lateral concrete anti-earthquake “shins” were to serve double-duty as display shelves just south of the patellae. (One could also take a rest on these, if one could find a moment of rest in the midst of frenzy.)  But, the contractor poured the cement floor some eighteen inches too low, putting the display “shins” at waist level.  First, it took L. to notice the half-million dollar error. Then it took months of forehead-to-forehead negotiation to get them to add a wooden floor over the concrete slab to raise the floor to proper height. I noticed L. and the VP of Diesel enjoying bouncing on their elevated wooden floor, like on trampolines.

Our donated TV was paired with another at the back of the store’s first floor, the jeans region. The TV’s showed a snow pattern; on their faces I had watched the artist paint “straight legs” and “boot cut”, letting the red paint dribble down the screens’ chins.  I nonchalantly checked the fabric of some jeans hanging by hook on display, when a comely saleslady asked if she could help. I said I was only looking and she mentioned that the men’s section was over there.  Couldn’t tell the jeans’ genes without a scorecard.  The different models of jeans are displayed on a rod, with lengthy descriptions on each artificially aged tag: this one was woven on special rice-paper looms to give it the wrinkled look; another had built-in holes and rips.

Diesel takes pride in hiring artists to do their clothing design, keep them at least a year ahead of the couture-curve.  The display tables are all from Italy: vintage machines that now supported the rag trade.  The central column around which the staircase hung was covered in a hammered chromey sheathing.  V. asked if the Diesel people were able to hammer out their aggressions on this display. Atop the staircase were more upscale togs. The design was clever. An $800 delicate black leather guy’s jacket had award medals embossed within. When I felt the jacket, I realzed that these were not embossed but embedded between the leather and lining, pressed into the leather. There were delicate women’s jackets that looked leather but were of soft fabric. A women’s woven top had its back slit above and below, revealing a touch of shoulder and a hint of waist in a light neutral acqua. The Black gold brand, which seems to be for the over 30’s who wish for Diesel but won’t do high-top sneakers, torn jeans and t’s, are in the apse of the top floor. Above a central table is a glittery ball, like those which once rotated above dance floors; on the table were well-beaten brass instruments over which were draped ties, socks. The t’s seemed particularly favored. Most were made in India, L. remarking on the softness of the cotton there; the designs either said Diesel or shouted something Dieseleze.

Back downstairs in the far left corner is Diesel for kids.

Diesel sneakers were worn by all the staff, including F. the VP from New York. Parisian, he sports a blackV-neck sweater, V-d further by his aviator sunglasses. On his feet were the old-fashioned high-tops we used to sport for Basketball pre-Jordan, but refashioned. Some were laced on the bias; some had a touch of Prada.

V. and L., the partners who found this property, oversaw the lease and building and got Diesel into it, parked themselves with F., the Diesel VP on the lower landing of the staircase, admiring, chatting, appreciating what they had accomplished.

Now, to find a pair of jeans that would fit me.

Ticho Memorial Lecture (6)

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Character, Personality; Inner Development

The Greeks give us concepts of Character and Personality, fundamental in our current thinking. Character is etched within; we carry it into all facets of life and are recognizable whether we present as father, mother, child, friend, teacher, hero.  When we present in fundamentally different ways in different contexts or if our character is too fluid, others find us awry.  And character is consistent once established.  To change this before analysis’s inventions happened with profound events, such as Joseph’s near fratricide and later false imprisonment in Egypt.

Personality comes from persona, the masks that Greek actors wore to change and portray roles. Men portrayed women; roles changed with the play.  

This distinction — evanescence versus consistence — is fundamental to psychoanalysis. Giovacchini has developed Winnicott’s idea of true/false self, suggesting that we all have some aspect of false, or social self. The question for optimal health is that we feel connected within, a tie between social and true self. What is remarkable is how prescient Antique Greek concepts are to these fundamental psychoanalytic concepts.

Interiorization of experiences.

Recall Bible or the Christ tale. Things happen; God speaks; minds change, but it’s not clear what inner life is present, unless we fill in empathically the narrative lacunae.  Joseph breaks into tears before his brothers and we recognize his feelings … or think we do — tears of joy after years of absence; or tears of sadness at years lost; or tears of ambivalence —  we’re not certain as he nor narrator tells us. Rachel dies at the roadside approaching Jacob’s home and he buries her.  But we are not told that he mourns; neither narrator nor he says this, except … he plants a tree.  We feel empathically Odysseus’ connection with Telemechus, but the only thoughts expressed are vengeance.  Developing the concept of an inner life that is valued, one that both experiences and can express experiences — is a development, is an aesthetic achievement, is an act of culture.  We hear elements of this with Dante, his expressed despair alone at the beginning of his journey; his fear at the fourth Circle of Hell; his horror as dead Farinata sits bolt upright in his tomb, accosting Dante.   But, we need not  wonder about Cordelia’s thoughts as she listens to her sisters’ greasey words slather Lear’s ear: Cordelia turns aside, whispers, “ What shall Cordelia do?/Love, and be silent…..poor Cordelia!/ And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love’s/ More richer than my tongue.”

Relatedness, Family

We have had families from early evolution. But when do we see elements of familial relatedness, connectedness expressed?  We hear this in Bible between father and son, some between mother and son (such as when Rachel dying in childbirth names her son “son of my pain,” whom Jacob renames “son of my right hand.”); we hear little of daughters, save for Dinah’s rape.  We hear this in Odysseus and Telemechus or Aenius escaping burning Troy with his son by hand and father upon his shoulders.  And then we have Lear and Prospero, about whom we have spoken much.

Emotions Within

As psychoanalysts, we assume that emotions are experienced within and that we share universal emotional experiences:# empathy is a key psychoanalytic ingredient. When do we find both elements of this explicitly expressed in Western representations of inner reality? This can be elusive: for, even when not expressed by the text, we the audience will feel as if the character has emotions experienced within.  But let us not assume; analysts do better when we don’t assume, when we wait to learn.  Prior to emotions research over the past five decades, cultural anthropologists# insisted that emotions were culture-specific.  Ekman and colleagues have confirmed Darwin’s hypotheses that emotions have evolved in man and animal, are universal precisely  because they have survival value.  If we did not have universal emotions, we also could not reach back two millenia and feel ourselves into the lives of early Hebraic shepherds, or Greek warriors and dedicated wives, into the life of a man yearning to be the son of God and too many more I haven’t mentioned.  We share at least their feelings; we can empathize.

Journey as Soul-cure

Journeys have a long tradition in Mimesis.  Abraham is commanded, “Leave the land of your father,” and he travels a thousand kilometers.  Odysseus leaves and returns. Aenius leaves his burning home and is told that he will know his new home when his men eat their plates.  Christ wanders the wilderness.  The Decameron is a trip of ten days to leave plague-ridden Florence, or the Canterbury Tales pilgrims.  But, I suggest that the clearest major account of a voyage with a guide in which the voyager seeks enlightenment and in which he is to learn about living a better life, is Dante’s through Hell.  Virgil knows this path too well, including its treachery.  He guides by pointing.  Dante sees Francesca and Paolo, hovering, lips almost touching, damned to Hell.  Dante must see, reflect, draw conclusions and Virgil paces the travel into deeper levels of Hell.  Unlike tragedies in which the protagonist may be enlightened but too late, Dante reaches the Heavens, finds his love.  His soul is cured.  I leave out for now the journey through time, such as the Thousand on One Nights, in which a dedicated and courageous Scheherezade cures a homicidal king with her woven tales. This is for another time.

And an extension of such a journey is autobiography; rather than journeying through others’ lives, one journeys through one’s own with a developmental vector of early life predicting or explaining or influencing later.  This genre was created by Rousseau.  One can hear psychoanalysis as an oral-aural development of autobiographical genre.#

One last word from Bellow: each good author tries to solve the dilemmas, challenges left by previous authors.  Auerbach adds, we expect writers to develop new ways to re-present inner realities. And those inner realities reflect the world they inhabit, influenced by their predecessors’ worlds.

This paper has been a journey, a vast, but not inclusive sweep.  It offers a sense of fundamental concepts of humanity that psychoanalysis inherited.  With this I pause in the hope that I have whetted your appetites to feast further on our aesthetics.  Then, we will understand both the underpinnings of psychoanalysis, and our hearts and our minds.

Ticho Memorial Lecture (5)

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Lear and his obverse, Prospero

Let’s leap to Shakespeare, that poet whom Harold Bloom said invented the human.  Were we to have time for Lear alone, this would be enough.  But, let us press ourselves and place King Lear and Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, aside each other like twinning, flickering stars to learn how one’s gravity affects the other and enlightens ourselves in turn.

Borges suggested that the tragic man is one who realizes he is in the tsunami’s cusp of his own making, realizes he is about to be overtaken, drowned, only too late to change the course of the wave, to change his fate.  He is enlightened, but it is an enlightened darkness, blindness, often death.  The Greeks’ tragic hero falls from greatness because of some internal flaw, often hubris, overweening pride. The Biblical Job suffers at God’s whim, despite Job’s silvered soul.  Lear begins his own tragedy, in part because … he consumes words; a lifetime’s dedication and acts by Cordelia are not enough. He must be licked, slobbered over, slathered with verses.  This is geniused irony: this great wordsmith, Shakespeare, seduces us with words, yet would make the fatal flaw of his great King to be his trust of words, the more the better: “Nothing will come of nothing.”  A greater irony that the actor Shakespeare diminishes the past actions of the daughters, until the King catalyzes future actions, until he cracks his crown in two and is left with the empty shells, as his Fool put it to him.  

But, Bloom announces Shakespeare as the inventor of the human.  Is this audacious?  

Lear and his characters need no gods. This is a rebirth, a re-naissance, of the Antique Greek concept that man is a self-contained unit, a body connected to soul, a concept reborn in the Renaissance and fundamental to psychoanalysis (Bloom or Auerbach).  Lear and his ilk need only themselves to create intense love and hatred. Love is unrecognized until too late (as with Othello or with Ophelia).  Hate is barely hidden from our sight, but unseen by the blind Lear.  Ambivalence, that cardinal characteristic that Freud described present in our most charged intimacies, is not as present in Lear nor Job, not in Jacob nor Christ, but more clearly so in Hamlet with Ophelia and even more so in the comedies, such as Midsummer Night’s Dream, where men can’t trust their women … or at least trust their judgment about their loves.

Lear’s women — unlike the paler or styilized versions of those in Bible, in New Testament, even the idealized Penelope, nor the beatific Beatrice whose image alone drives on Dante — Lear’s women are powerfully alive, make themselves felt.  Attention will be paid.  They are articulate (even Cordelia’s sotto voce), act firmly. They are ruthless or faithful.  The family dramas of Bible are comparatively skeletal: Jacob deceives and is deceived; young Joseph is naively overweening.  His eleven brothers respond  monochromatically.  Christ has no clear overt family drama; although he constructs his dramatic family of disciples, including both Peter and Judas.  Odysseus’ family drama is stark; the yearning son; the dedicated wife, the home-sick Odysseus.  Nothing like the deeply layered hates and loves of Lear and company.  How can Kent be so dedicated to this tyrannical King; Cordelia more so, even his Fool, who tries to save him, and the mad Edgar, who in his manner saves both his sanity and enlightens the crazed Lear?

Only in his final play does Shakespeare “cure” Lear, transform him into a wise Prospero.  This former royalty must create his own kingdom from dross, in an isolated wilderness; masters the monstrous son of a witch, Caliban, liberates and then commands the sprite, Ariel:  all, simply all, to create a future for his beloved Miranda  daughter.  Prospero’s name is ironic: robbed of his material prosperity, he “prospers” by his magic, isolated on a primeval isle.  He only truly prospers, we shall see, when he relinquishes his powers, when he betroths his daughter.  Again, with “time’s winged chariot” beating an incessant presence at my back, I summarize too abruptly.  Lear breaks his heart over his daughter’s corpse; Prospero breaks his magic staff over his love for his daughter, over his desire to become more human.  Lear dies in despair; Prospero lives with integrity.  When we read these two plays together, we see how Shakespeare takes us from the “blow winds and crack your cheeks, rage…” of Lear’s towering, deteriorating narcissism to the maturity and ego-ideal forgiveness of Prospero who begs us release him from his bands with the help of our gentle hands so that he may truly prosper.

Lear never sees us who watch; Prospero turns to us in humility and begs our release with our breath, our applause.  In the four to eight years  between writing Lear and Tempest — a not unreasonable interval for psychoanalysis — Shakespeare has transformed the father’s madness.  These tales are of fathers and daughters; of inner lives that are driven mostly from within with no need for gods to do good nor evil.  Richard III or Edmund remind us: men blame the stars for their ill … but we create our own miseries … or not.  The depth of the deeply human is felt here; it is closer to our conceptions of inner life than we have heard thus far.

——-

Notice how much has changed from Antique and Biblical representations of inner realities.  Characters change.  Inner selves — faults and strengths — rule us. Intimacies — both of love (Cordelia, Prospero) or hate (Edmund, Goneril, Caliban) — are all that is needed to drive the drama of life. Odysseus leaves and returns after two decades unchanged; only Biblical Joseph (and perhaps Moses) of the many Biblical characters show maturation. Borges’s deeply human Christ dies calling forlornly upon his father who has forsaken him, ending with how King David began Psalm 23.  Lear too dies, but knows true love; Prospero restrains his retribution and thrives on his humane love. Shakespeare’s last play is a profoundly human and cautiously optimistic creation.  When he turns to us, with his final humble words, this alone earns Bloom’s appellation, the invention of the human.

Time insists on a denouement, although with Shakespeare, we are some five hundred years short of the present.  How much I have skipped; and how much I miss in the next half millenia. What’s skipped is voluminous. What about romantic love, which becomes part of our canon between the poles of chivalrous Medieval literature versus its comic representations in Boccaccio’s Decameron#?  Quixote, a parody of the chivalrous, has within it something closer to romantic love, including his blindness to his broken-down steed Rocinante or pock-faced Dulcinea.  Shakespeare hits directly to our hearts of romantic love with Romeo and Juliet.  What of women’s voices, initiated by Sappho, and emerging full-throated with Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf? And Flaubert’s flirtation with pure style to overcome the dross of content in Bovary or his final Bouvard et Pecouchet?  Joyce’s attempt to write the novel to end all novels as a genre, with Ulysses, then with the riotous neologisms of Finnegan’s Wake?  If there were time, I would end with Bellow’s work, final Ravelstein, a tale of a dedicated friendship-love between two men and ultimately between a man and woman.  The voyage of Ravelstein and author has the taste of a Dante-Virgil journey, but one in which both strive for the other to develop wisdom.  All these and too much more we will need to leave for the future as I turn now to draw some thoughts of what we as psychoanalysts can learn about the constructions of inner lives that we have inherited from two millenia of aesthetics.  What can we conclude?

SLIDE 7: Escher

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Bounded Personhood; Body and Soul

The Greeks gave us a concept of bounded personhood (Bloom and Auerbach): that we have a concept of our body and mind somehow connected; that we think of ourselves (from early toddlerhood) as someone who can act upon the world and upon whom the world acts.  This differs from a concept of feeling ruled by forces outside ourselves. But even this concept among the Antiques (Greek and Roman) was not entirely formed. The Greeks believed that anxiety — that pounding heart, that shortness of breath — was sent down from the sky and grabbed us by the chest. The Romans believed that seeing was truly physical.  Our eyes emit invisible tendrils that feel the object.  Or the object sends out tiny particles of its shape that bombard us. The evil eye was a true physical fear (Bartsch).  Not until full-throated Renaissance, and particularly with political freedoms, do we have both a recrudescence and development of concepts such as autonomy, and the demand for freedom.  And more so, do we have the rise of empiricism and belief in reason.  These are part of our psychoanalytic fabric, but we know too well how earlier, more primitive senses of self remain undercurrents in our being: the patients who do not feel connected with their bodies; or whose bodies, they feel, rule them with out psychic trace; those — often not psychoanalytic patients — who feel either the devil made them do it or touched by the grace of God.

Ticho Memorial Lecture (4)

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The Christ tale:

A man born human, believes himself divine and dies knowing that he is but human (Borges).  

Auerbach picks Peter denying Christ to portray the New Testament’s innovations.  I focus on his concept of figura: that the Bible spiritually prefigures the New Testament: Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac becomes complete in God’s sacrifice of Christ; nonagenarian Sarah’s conception is bested by Mary’s immaculate conception.  We might call this horizontal figura.  I extend this concept vertically: all that happens below on earth is paralleled in heaven.  “No sparrow falls from heaven that is not seen by God,” insists Matthew (10:29).  Figura is an articulation, a connection between the past to the future, or between what happens in the “below“ of our mind/bodies and our higher consciousness.  

Recall the Peter scene.  Christ creates his circle gathering fishermen, carpenters and a prostitute. Great things will happen of these lowly characters, extensions of the Old Testament shepherds who make good.  But, the Biblical Jacob and Joseph must make their own fortune on earth with no heavenly promise for these fortunes; only faith will count to build a nation.  Christ in contrast ascetically disdains earthly delights and leads himself to sacrifice, trumps the foreordained but incomplete near-sacrifice of Isaac. His ascetic denial of the flesh is replaced by search for meaning.  Christ follows what he believes are his father’s wishes, sacrifices himself for his followers, a new innovation in narrative, a new worldview: one’s death will improve the world, create a future. This is not Odysseus, nor Jacob nor Joseph. Psychoanalysts can see this retrospectively as a grandiose view of masochistic narcissism,# but let us take the tale as it stands and even ask to what degree it is embedded in our inner lives.

The Peter tale creates the setting for unremitting guilt.  Promising Christ he would never deny him, Christ insists he will thrice deny before cock’s crow.  Peter hides nearby as Christ is denounced.  Peter, suspected because of his Galilean accent and appearance to be a Christ follower, succumbs and denies him.  When the cock crows, Peter realizes with remorse that he has fulfilled Christ’s prophecy.  

Figura is the architecture of New Testament, the structure of a world view.  Christ and his disciples, are plebian.  This is a view of how a better world will be built,  by plain men, not great heros.  Peter’s denial of a man he loves sets the stage for deep-seated guilt that becomes a keel guiding his boat of belief; it is the nave that runs along the spine of the Church.  Nothing like this we find in Bible nor  Homer.  It is an innovation, which, measured by years of endurance and numbers of believers, is a successful foundational myth.  Something here has etched deeply into man’s psyche.  Yet, there is also some kinship, some continuity with the Greek myth: like many Greek characters, although not Odysseus, Christ is born of the union of a God and woman. A demi-God arises who dies a human, but leaves behind great beliefs and believers.  Perhaps this is Christ’s tragic flaw and lesson: we may wish to believe we are born demi-gods, but … if we do not outgrow this, we are doomed, as Borges suggests.  

Before we leave this, note that Auerbach contrasts the asceticism of the New Testament with the sensuality of Homer and Antique literature. This reverberation between asceticism and sensuality we find embodied restlessly in Anna Freud’s account of adolescence (Anna Freud).

Through the Circles of Hell: Dante and Virgil

Michelino_DanteAndHisPoem

We leap centuries, coming briefly to rest at nodal points when our inner life and worldviews reconfigure. Dante’s Inferno is our next way station, a writer so powerful for Auerbach that he wrote a treatise on him alone before Mimesis.  In two papers, I suggest that Dante’s discoveries, his innovations, set the stage for what eventually becomes a psychoanalytic enterprise.  Dante begins his poem, written in his mother tongue, a severe choice when Latin was the language of serious art.  This  poem is by a poet about a poet who in the middle of his life finds himself in a dark wood.  He first tries to ascend directly to Paradise, as many men of midlife crisis, but tumbles down into his previous despair.

 Alone, despondent, Dante realizes he must navigate the depths of terrifying Hell before he can ascend to his beloved Beatrice in Heaven.  Terrified, Dante turns to a hoarse voice, one which has not spoken for centuries; he recognizes his ego ideal, Virgil, poet of reason, that creator of Aeneus, Odysseus’ vanquished counterpart.  Virgil offers to guide Dante and structure their journey.  The nature of their interactions create a model for soul-healing.

First, Dante understands that the journey must be in levels, the less dangerous preceding the more treacherous. One cannot plunge into the depths of Hell and survive.  His guide takes him through Circles.  At each Circle, Virgil expects Dante will learn some wisdom about one’s sins and how to avoid them.  Their relationship is telling: Virgil points out, waits and permits Dante first to decide if he is ready to see what stands before him, and if ready, then draw his own conclusions. Virgil does not tell him what to think. Contrast  the Biblical God, who commands righteously; Christ swho peaks with certitude; Athena, who demands actions, mayhem, in order to proceed.  Virgil asks Dante to observe, “Let thy words be numbered” and to reflect.  And early on, when Dante hesitates at the Fourth Circle, when Dante looks at Virgil’s paling face and misinterprets this as Virgil’s fear, the poet of reason responds: you see correctly fear in my face, but it is my fear for you not myself.  Virgil has trod this path before; he knows the vicissitudes of this journey.  This, you hear, this poem comes closest to setting a model of a layered mind, a model of how a dialogue between an experienced and trusted guide, one known for his reason, but knowledgeable about intense feelings, this guide who respects his journeyman, who has ventured this treacherous path before, this is the closest we come to a model for psychoanalysis.

This sixteenth century poem lays out basic ingredients for layers of interpretation and the working relationship that can permit soul healing.  And ghosty Virgil is a realist. When Dante wonders why he should proceed, when he questions what motivates Virgil to help, Virgil says in the beginning, that it is because of the love of a dear woman, Beatrice, that Virgil came and it is for that love that Dante must proceed.

Later in the journey, Dante’s discoveries and experiences become enough to motivate him, to move him.  And once Virgil has guided Dante safely through Hell, climbed the legs of terrifying Satan, passed through Limbo, at the gates of Paradise, Virgil hands his charge to a woman, beloved Beatrice, who will guide him through Paradise.  We have seen nothing like this that prefigures psychoanalysis so sensitively.

Ethiopian Children growing up in Israel – On Sheba and Solomon’s Return

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Ethiopian Children growing up in Israel: Identit(ies), Relationships, Inner lives in Transition

The next psychoanalytic challenge is to reach across at least three boundaries: two cultures with two languages and the boundary of childhood.  I have started a study of Ethiopian Fallash Mura immigrants, who were force-converted to Christianity one century ago, who have immigrated to Israel, and to study their children’s development.

Ironically, as a child therapist, I find children more available, readier to express their inner lives than many adults.

How do these children develop their identities, their emotional lives, coming from a deeply rural, impoverished, highly traditional, hierarchical pre-literate society, then immersed into Israel, a highly-educated society with first-world technology and the associated cultural values? In rural northern Ethiopia, boys of 14 or 15 had their own flocks of goats and were expected to earn their way. Girls of 14 or 15 were engaged or married. Fathers carried much weight. Many of the mothers were tattooed with crosses on their foreheads, cheeks, necks as children, and continued to accumulate tattoos even after emigration and professing Orthodox Judaism.  In Israel, life is quickly flipped.  Children are in school until 18, then off to the army. Girls are legally not permitted to wed before 17 or 18.  All child support from the government is funneled through the mother; many Ethiopian men complain that Israel is a women’s country.  Vocations useful in rural Gondar are not feasible here: weaving, blacksmithing and pottery making, goat herding. Children spend much of the day in school, become fluent in Hebrew and become translators for their parents, who are now illiterate in two languages, to paraphrase Berthold Brecht.

The challenges to integration are great. Previous Ethiopian immigrants who had maintained their Jewish identity, still showed greater difficulty both integrating and making progress in Israeli society compared to other immigrant groups: rates of juvenile delinquency, school drop out and drug use are several-fold higher. Ethiopian boys adopt Rastafarian identities.  Because of the long waiting period in Gondar, some fathers make aliyah first, leaving wife and children behind. In Gondar, it is culturally acceptable for a woman living alone to be taken-up by any man who chooses to; this is not considered rape in that culture.  If she becomes pregnant and gives birth by that man, he and his family expect her to take the child to Israel and send money to support the man in Ethiopia.

In Israel, school class size approaches 40 children.

In light of this, in the ‘90’s Elie Wiesel and his family have established two after school programs in two communities: Ashkelon, a Mediterranean city, and Kiryat Malachi (“City of Angels”), a town in the northern Negev, about ten minutes drive from the better-known Sderot.  

In this little city of angels, I began visiting, consulting and have started a study of these children’s development and their relationships.  I begin with 5- 6 year olds, knowing that this is the earliest age at which I would have access, and believing from much of our psychoanalytic developmental research, that earlier is better and often predictive of later development (Massie and Szajnberg, 2005, Sroufe, et. al. 2005).

Now, to most scientific audiences, I could say that my “instruments” and measures are the current standards for learning about behavior, inner life, achievement and attachment for these children and their mothers: academic scores, I. Q., Child Behavior Checklist, projective drawings such as Draw=A=Person, House-Tree-Person, Kinetic Family Drawing, the Waters-Deane Q-Sort for attachment and for mothers, the Attachment Projective Test.  All this would be true.

But, these would not be as effective if I could not as an analyst, as a child therapist, know how to enter the inner worlds of others, be invited to enter. Good cultural anthropologists know this also: to immerse oneself in a community, to find “informants” who can help cross-cultural boundaries.  But, to enter the worlds of children, intriguingly seems easier, as Winnicott showed in his Squiggle game book. The first case in that book was a Finnish boy; of course, Winnicott had a translator to describe what the boy was saying about his drawings; but the boy was engaged by not only the visual drawing-dialogue with Winnicott, but also by Winnicott’s ability as a child therapist to engage the child, to show the child his interest in the boy’s inner life, not for voyeuristic reasons, but for the boy’s sake. 

Squiggle game: engaging imaginations; DWW what is child’s purest transference fantasy of analyst.

Here, among analysts, I can say that before I used various “objective” instruments, the major instrument was myself, my training to listen and observe.  Going to Beit Tzipora weekly, entering the classrooms, the playground at breaks, helping read or playing, are techniques that come from child therapy, and also from Whyte’s participant observer approach which he pioneered in Street Corner Society in the 1930’s.  When, after weeks, the children begin to seek me out, ask me to visit their class, help fix a lacrosse ball, give them airplane rides, or just hold my hand to walk back to the classroom from which a boy had recently left in despair. I become an instrument to learn about the inner worlds of these children, in such a way that they feel connected and in such a way that I might be able to learn something to bring to colleagues. Something about how identity develops in such a great leap across cultures, language and even eras.

What happens within the room, and within me when a child makes a drawing, then tells a story. There descends a quiet, an intense quietude.  Something envelopes both me and the child.  I ask for  a ‘person”, a girl asks, “ Can I make a heart first?”  Then, she rests her head on her left arm and begins drawing.

Orna’s story: Family: Micky Mouse and two sisters, 15 and 16. In Hot air balloon. That’s the family; parents died last week. (?) they feel beseder.  M M takes care of them; holds the balloons rope, so the sisters won’t fall. Parents were M’s too.

Aviel: (Girl?). Can I draw a war?  It’s a dream.  Castle  with King Saul. David and Goliath. Blood runs down “goliaths nose (he makes a disticnct line with his finger from forehead ot noes tip, as he did when he drew pic of his dog – I ask about this) Yes, the white line on my dog’s noes means he is dangerous. That’s why we put a muzzle.  Saul drawn as if standing on Goliath’s head.  Next to him is KKing Saul, then Saul dead, with shield at side. As he walks out: he says he is Saul; Saul killed, but after Solomon, no kings are killed, he says smiling.

Rudy Ekstein once said that when he feels stuck  working with a child, he has old teachers perched on his shoulders whispering advice into his ear – what to do next, what to say.  As I prepred this talk, I thought of only a few teachers who whisper in my ears as I sit with these children.  Bob Levine, the anthropologist taught me about having local informants who know not only the language, but also the gestures, the customs.  Bruno Bettelheim, who taught me too many things to summarize, but in this case, being transported into the inner life of the child.  Sally Provence, who taught me not only developmental assessment, but particularly bringing out the best performance in a child. Barry Brazelton, who like an orchestra conductor, brings a baby to life, shows even the baby how competent it is, how active the baby is in connecting, coming alive with the world.

On Becoming a Citizen Soldier – On Reluctant Warriors

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After Lives Across Time, my next study was to be of transition to young adulthood among elite Israeli citizen soldiers. I designed this study during Oslo, after Ehud Barak announced that he would decrease the size of the army and the length of service. Also, the kibbutz as an institution was changing, even disappearing; I thought this would be the last opportunity to study its offspring. I designed a study using semi-structured interviews, similar to our US study, looking at 20 men and 20 women raised on kibbutz or moshav.

My first trip to Israel was in Oct 2000, the outbreak of the second Intifada. The first International Conference on Infancy was to be held in Israel; it was cancelled. I went to Israel.  I chose to spend the two weeks working in a kibbutz persimmon orchard and begin interviewing soldiers.

My women soldiers kept telling me that I should be talking with their husbands, brothers, and boyfriends. The women enjoyed their two years service, found it fulfilling; but they insisted, I needed to listen to their young men. After several such spontaneous remarks, I changed the study to that of these young men.

Further, during an Intifada, I could not ask these fellows to sit in an office to be videotaped and interviewed for 3-4 hours. They had enough to do without this. And, they wanted to meet with me, interview me; wondered what the heck this American was doing in Israel when the tourists had evaporated. Two prestigious visiting Professorships at Ben Gurion University were unfilled for several years, as invited guests were too afraid to come. Interviews I scheduled were missed because a soldier was called up to reserve duty and in one case, had been wounded in action. In the latter case, when his wife heard that I was on the bus in Samaria traveling to the kibbutz, she invited me for tea and to talk while her husband was in the hospital.

My semi-structured interviews waited and waited. I would have multiple meetings with these fellows, generally over several months, in cafes, or on midnight Jeep security rounds on kibbutz, or in the guardhouse, or in the security station near Jenin, or for 3 1⁄2 hour walk after midnight just before a soldier was to return to duty. Then, I could sit, tape an interview. And afterwards, almost all the soldiers wanted to stay in touch; remembering something significant that they thought I needed to know about childhood; or birth of a child; or to meet the fiancé.

I made twenty-four trips over the next four years.

    Here, being an analyst, listening as an analyst, facilitates working across cultures.  Bob Bergman (In Szajnberg, 1994) wrote about how being a psychoanalyst and having worked with institutionalized children at the Orthogenic School, taught him to listen better as a physician and later a shaman among the Navajo.  One learns about the aesthetic structure of conversation — pace, pause, silence, affective tone — and social signaling described by Erving Goffman — the body posture, the gesture, the gaze and gaze aversion — the signals that can be highly culture-specific and which often arise with affectively-laden subjects, such as talking about one’s inner life.  I also turned to my friend and colleague,  Paul Eman’s work on facial expression of emotion (and gestural expression). I began to notice how much I attended to face and to body gesture to time my responses (Ekman, 205).

That is, taking a word such as “empathy,” we can begin to parse, explore how it works in technique.  Without some consensus on empathy’s nature, one person’s “empathy,” can be another’s intrusiveness, or another’s aloofness.  An example of the effect of culture frame of reference comes from anthropology. When Ruth Benedict studied the Navajo, she described them as a quiet people; when decades later a Japanese anthropologist visited, he was struck by the Navajo’s noisiness.  To some degree, we could say that a measure of an empathic remark or inquiry is the response (by analysand or research subject): does the person open to richer, more enlightening matters.  This is after the fact, the interpretaion or inquiry.

But, how can we judge an interpretation or inquiry or comment on its face, before the person’s response. In the consulting room, how do we weigh what we are about to say, or not say?  We can start with Freud’s criteria for a good interpretation: solid content, timing and affect. But, just as Leonard Bernstein articulated five criteria for judging the quality of a musical composition, he added a sixth: does it hit the heart.  Therefore, my effectiveness of moving into a culture, of moving into the inner lives of my soldiers, or children, can be assessed by their responses and the reader’s sense of whether something new, enlightening, meaningful is opened.  In turn, if you find that these soldiers accounts of their lives is moving and perhaps enlightening, we can look at the techniques for inquiry – techniques that were formed by psychoanalytic work.  (Give e.g. of Dud’s interview)

    Therefore, when I say that I interviewed Israeli soldiers, I cannot only tell you about the AAI, the anamnesis, and the phenomenology of symptoms.  I must also tell you about our psychoanalytic stance of a peculiar listening and speaking and the capacity to maintain a certain empathic neutrality that differentiates us from others — journalists or memoirists, for instance.  In addition, like Bob Bergman, working with children — work that involves more action, play, even withstanding aggression– also permits an ability to balance observing with experiencing ego.  As analysts, we not only tap our observing egos, but try to facilitate this in the speaker: I found that encouraging the soldier’s self-reflection not only taught me more about my soldiers, but also, brought a sense of self-enlightenment and sincere engagement in our collaborative work.  They wanted to talk more, think more, understand more about their lives.

Yet, even this is not a full account of my methodology.  You will gather that the soldiers noticed that I was visiting Israel when others were not; that I would meet with them in cafes, kibbutz guard houses at midnight; make Jeep tours of the electrified fence after midnight; travel to their kibbutz in Samaria or their reserve guard duty at the outskirts of Palestinian Jenin.  That is, as in child work and even psychoanalytic work, I had to demonstrate that I could enter their worlds, at least to visit.  For the psychoanalyst, the counterpart or the complement to a transference neurosis is our willingness to enter at least briefly, at least partially the frightening or the dangerous in the inner worlds of our analysands, and to do so “armed” only with our knowledge and a kind of restrained passion. This willingness, I used to be among these soldiers (Flarsheim, in Giovacchini, 1984)

These soldiers asked questions.  Why would I visit, when others don’t, for instance; why am I doing this study.  I could answer some questions directly. But other questions I had to defer, such as “What do you think of Jews living in Samaria (or the West Bank)?  What have you learned about soldiers?”  Here, my honest answer was that I needed to learn more from them, from their fellow soldiers.  These soldiers came with a spectrum of political beliefs. In order to sustain dialogue, I kept my political opinions to myself.  Nevertheless, when a soldier living in a kibbutz in Judah, asked time to visit him, I did so. This may seem self-evident to those here. But, I also had a close friend, a left-wing supporter of Yossi Beilin, a kibbutznik, who as a matter of ideology, refused to set foot in the “Territories.”  This I could not afford to do if I were to hear stories from as many soldiers as possible.  My friend’s principles were political; my principle was to learn about transition to young adulthood an inner lives of soldiers; psychoanalytic study is central; politics, I put aside.

Freud cautioned the analyst, be prepared to be surprised.

   And, I was prepared to be surprised.  I knew I would have information about their early development, about entering the army, peak experiences in the army, in battle, about life afterwards, about attachment. But, on listening again and again to the interviews, reading my notes, I discovered something new about courage that led me to re-read Aristotle’s work and others and to present this to the Chicago Psychoanalytic, with the privilege of a discussion by Jim Fish, whose two sons and now one grandson serve in elite combat units in Israel.  Again, this is not the time to tell you about all I learned. But, I can say that these boys had a more demanding definition of courage than I. What I considered courageous on their parts, they dismissed, not only out of their modesty, but also because many of their acts were done out of repeated demanding training. They considered courageous those actions that went beyond training, and always were acts by others, not themselves. I will tell you about Nehemiah Dagan for instance, a now-70-year old former helicopter pilot, who started the helicopter attack force in Israel.  (recount saving of downed pilot in Egypt). While he is reluctant to recount this tale, he talks with deep feeling about his son’s courage when he flew the first planes throughout the night to rescue the first group of Ethiopian Jews encamped at the desolate border of Sudan and Ethiopia. This, he insisted, was true courage.

Listening as an analyst includes knowing when not to speak and when speaking, to use Freud’s three criteria for interpretation: what is said, how, and when. 

When I speak about these boys,  I tell the stories of Dudu, Amit and David below. But their full stories need to be told, not simply read.

(Story of Dudu: realization that he lives three, not two lives, including life of father’s buddy, Dudu. 

Riding in night jeep patrol on kibbutz; speaker becoming so involved, he looks at me as drives.

After midnight walk with David, to hear about buddy getting raked by machine gun fire and saving his life.  He swivels about hearing someone behind us walking, reaches for gun in small of back and explains he leaves them at home because of this.)

 

Thirty-years of life – On Lives Across Time

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Our thirty-year study was the follow-up of Brody’s cohort from 1964. In a sense we were performing an archeological dig, in which layers are often up-ended, folded around, seeking fragments, forme fruste images. Then we try to reconstruct the life history of three decades from the images we discover. In a sense, we are getting a snapshot of a character built over many years. In a sense, we are making a movie backwards. We are matching-up what is revealed to us today with what we discover in archives of observations.

We study memories.

For this, we had archival observations, which we reviewed after we completed our interviews and assessments of our 76 subjects. We chose to assess current life in several ways. First, we used the Adult Attachment Interview. Not only does this assess attachment, but it also gives us a sense of significant events in the person’s life and how their memories work. We also used semi-structure interview to assess defensive style, Erikson’s developmental level and phenomenological psychiatric status. In a sense, as analysts, the AAI was our most valuable glimpse into inner life. One asks: tell me five words to describe your mother’s relationship with you as a child; then, give me a specific memory for each word. This is deeply revealing. For instance, Fonagy has written about how one can use aspects of the AAI scoring to assess reflective capacity.

We matched how people remembered against the prospective data, finding that in general there was remarkably accurate memory for significant events and occasionally, we learned that the person’s affective memory clarified a previous research observer’s assessment; and in some instances, memory was judged far more accurate than researchers’ previous knowledge. For instance, at 6 years of age, a researcher sees that a father has been building a Heath kit project with his son; the researcher is deeply impressed with the project and believes it reflects that father’s connection with the boy. At thirty, this former child spontaneously reports that the Heath kit project was inordinately boring and reflected how this father had projects and ideas not connected with the boy’s interests.

An example of how the thirty-year old reveals a remarkable event missed by the researchers is of a mother’s recurrent psychotic depressions and suicide. When this child was seven, she refused to meet with the researchers for her annual assessment, until the headmaster insisted the child comply. The child reported that mother was vacationing in one of the family’s multiple homes – Mont Blanc or Montserrat. In fact, the mother was “vacationing” at a private psychiatric facility for eight months, where the child visited weekly. The young man was then interviewed at eighteen, reporting nothing new about his mother, who, in fact, was then institutionalized again and committed suicide within months of the interview. The thirty-year-old admitted openly that she knew she was hiding this from the researchers. I found similar capacity to hide major events as Medical Director of the Family Mosaic Program in San Francisco, a Robert Wood Johnson funded program for the 200 most disturbed children in SF. Our social workers – who were of the communities — went into the homes, the schools, the streets to find the children and the parents (many mothers were prostitutes; most fathers were in Pelican Bay for felonies). On Portrero Hill, we could find our pre-teen kids skipping school to sell drugs on the street corner, the dealers knowing that these kids would get off easy as juveniles. Yet, repeatedly we were impressed with how the extended family and the community were able to hoodwink our dedicated workers, often to the detriment of the children.

I won’t try to repeat our findings here, which we published in several articles in IJP and will be republished by Karnac as Lives Across Time.  My focus is on how to learn about how inner lives are constructed and how memory works, including how memory as an ego function can be distorted when ego structure is badly affected, and how basic memories are accurate with some severe ego defects — how one man with a GAF score in the 70’s clearly recalls the dismal details of his very difficult childhood. His art work had the quality of late Arshile Gorky – an apocalyptic, dark, nature of destruction. We believe that our work can contribute to understanding how memory is constructed.

A note here about the analyst’s reaction to listening and watching these interviews. One of our innovations was to establish a likeability measure. We developed a Likert-type instrument, asking,”To what degree do I find this person believable, sincere, accurate?  How much would I like to listen to this interview again?”