Obituaries: Here Lies Gary Freedman


Do you ever read obituaries? You will never read something like, “John Smith died following unsuccessful treatment.” Treatment for what?

Generally, you won’t read something like, “John Smith died following unsuccessful surgery.” Surgery for what?

I’ve been in psychotherapy for years, actually decades. Of late therapists say something like, “Well, you’ve been in treatment for years now, and it hasn’t been very successful.” You see the problem? They never identify the nature of my problem. It’s simply: “You have had unsuccessful treatment.” You see how defensive that is? They avoid the fact that they have no idea what my problem is, that they probably can’t treat my problem — and they focus on the fact that I don’t benefit from treatment. Do they ever stop to consider that that is why I don’t in fact benefit from treatment: that therapist’s have no idea what my problem is and you can’t treat introjective pathology with supportive psychotherapy?

It’s what I call the Sarah Huckabee Sanders school of psychotherapy. These therapists make pronouncements that are meaningless. They talk without ever saying anything!


The Jewish Symbolism of Deconstructing Harry?

“If there is no God, then humankind is not designed, purposed, or planned: there is nothing we are intended to be. All that we hold dear, all of our dreams, ambitions, goals, and accomplishments are pure accidents of atoms. Furthermore, no matter how high we squirm up the greasy pole of existence, no matter how enlightened we become, all of it – the whole cathedral of human accomplishment – is destined to become no more than rubble, buried beneath the debris of the end of the universe: utterly ruined, pitch dark, cold as death, achingly alone.”

― Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or the dreadful consequences of bad arguments

Deconstructing Harry is one of my all-time favorite movies!!

I was recently thinking of the deep Jewish symbolism of the movie as expressed in the idea of one person seeing something in an absolutely banal and casual way — and at the same time eliciting horror and outrage in another.

Harry Block violates the privacy of his friends and family. And it’s no big deal to him. His attitude is, “Hey, I’m a writer. That’s what writers do. We exploit our experiences. We transform the people in our lives into literary characters. Big Deal” His conduct elicits outrage from others.

Max kills his first wife and eats her up. “Why all the fuss? Some bury. Some burn. I ate.” His current wife, Dolly is outraged.

Where’s the Jewish symbolism?

I once read an anecdote about a secular Jew who was invited to dinner at the home of ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews. The secular Jew was seated at the dinner table with his Orthodox friends. There were soda bottles on the table. His glass was empty so he reached over for the soda bottle, picked it up and began to pour — with a backward wrist motion, that is, raising his thumb and lowering his fingers. The Orthodox Jews looked at him, horrified, and they fell silent. He was thinking, “What did I do?” One of the Orthodox Jews explained: “We only use that wrist motion when we wash the dead. That wrist motion is reserved for that and that only.”

A recurring theme in Deconstructing Harry is the idea of someone viewing something casually while others are outraged and horrified by that very same action.

Woody Allen grew up in an Orthodox home. He is now an atheist who has disdained Orthodoxy. Is Deconstructing Harry symbolically about the profanation of the sacred?

The Theory of Thinking and the Capacity to Mentalize: A Comparison of Fonagy’s and Bion’s Models

This paper presents a comparison of two psychoanalytic models of how human beings learn to use their mental capacities to know meaningfully about the world. The first, Fonagy’s model of mentalization, is concerned with the development of a self capable of reflecting upon its own and others’ mental states, based on feelings, thoughts, intentions, and desires. The other, Bion‘s model of thinking, is about the way thoughts are dealt with by babies, facilitating the construction of a thinking apparatus within a framework of
primitive ways of communication between mother and baby. The theories are compared along three axes: (a) an axis of the theoretical and philosophical backgrounds of the models; (b) an axis of the kind of evidence that supports them; and (c) the third axis of the technical implications of the ideas of each model. It is concluded that, although the models belong to different theoretical and epistemological traditions and are supported by different sorts of evidence, they may be located along the same developmental line using an intersubjective framework that maintains tension between the intersubjectiveand the intrapsychic domains of the mind.


Session June 19, 2018

therapy session June 19 2018

1. The therapist said that my observations about her in my letters were projections.

(a) Why would it matter if my observations are projections? It’s a matter of interest how I perceive or image the therapist, distortions and all. My perceptions of the therapist — however biased or distorted — are useful indicators of my internal working models and how I perceive and interact with people. The patient’s transference is irrationally motivated, biased — but analyzable; it provides a window into the patient’s inner world.  When an artist paints a portrait of a subject the interest of the portrait lies to an extent on the fact that it is not an objective photographic representation: the portrait expresses the artist’s subjective impression of the subject.  That subjective impression is an analyzable production by the artist that reveals aspects of his own personality even as it poses as a representation of the subject.  Keep in mind, we remember Rembrandt; we do not remember Rembrandt’s models.  My letters — my verbal portraits — are fundamentally about me and my perceptions of others; the letters are not objective reports about people in my life, including the therapist.

(b.)  I compared my behavior of writing letters about her to the the activity of a novelist who uses someone in his environment as a model for a character in a book he is writing: a character that contains factual elements merged with the novelist’s subjective gloss.  In response to my statement, the therapist might have said: “I am not a character in a book.”  I found the comment interesting.  She was stating a fact.  That is, she seemed to defend against my creative elaborations with a statement of a fact, ignoring my activity of creative elaboration.  I will return to this point in paragraph (h.)

(c) In projective testing, such as the Rorschach, everything the test subject says is a projection. How the test subject interprets or perceives the ink blots reveals aspects of the subjects inner world. Why would the therapist not be interested in my perceptions of her — distortions and all — and how those perceptions serve as a window into my inner world? Is it that the therapist has no interest in my inner world?

(d) At one point the therapist seemed to have concern about my not discussing my observations about her in the sessions themselves, allowing her to comment on my perceptions, possibly to “reality check” my perceptions of her. Why would a patient need to do that? It suggests that I am only allowed to have “approved” thoughts about her. Is she saying that I am not allowed to have any opinions about her that conflict with her self-image? Isn’t that the political situation that prevails in totalitarian states: newspapers must submit their articles to the government censors before publication so that only state-approved reports or commentary is published. When the Washington Post sends out a restaurant critic to a local restaurant, is the restaurant given a chance to read the review before it is published with the right to comment on the review? That’s preposterous. Restaurants know that newspapers have a right to fair comment and criticism — they have a right to publish opinions about the restaurant that conflict with the restaurant’s view of itself, even highly negative opinions. The therapist’s attitude toward my observations about her in my letters seems consistent with her response to my perceptions of third parties. When I told her that I thought my mother was negligent, she proceeded to offer her contrary opinion — as if I was then supposed to adopt her officially approved opinion. When I told her that I thought my grandfather might have been exploitive, she proceeded to offer her contrary opinion — as if I was then supposed to adopt her officially approved opinion. It’s as if the subtext of the therapist’s interaction with me is that I must adopt her world view. I may have no opinions that do not meet with her view of herself and the world.

(e) At one point the therapist suggested that I talk with her about my concerns about her in the session rather than write letters commenting on her. If I offer my observations orally at the session, wouldn’t those opinions also be projections? Is she saying I am permitted to project on to her orally in a session, but she wants me to refrain from projecting on to her in my letters. Is she nuts? The fact is my previous therapist offered the same suggestion. When I later discussed my opinions about that therapist in the session, she began to get discombobulated. Her response to my comments about her were, “What does any of that have to do with you?”  That therapist was the one who suggested that I report my concerns about her orally rather than in letters in the first!

(f) Erich Fromm said that creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.  One aspect of creative thinking is the ability to live and work with uncertainty, the ability to live and work with not knowing.  Creative persons are able to house uncertainty in their minds and resist premature closure.    Less creative people need certainty to a degree that is foreign to creative thinkers and will tend to reject ideas about which they don’t feel certain, that is, they will tend to succumb to the temptation of premature closure.  I have talked to the therapist about the fact that I hold many of my notions about the world as “tentative ideas,” that is, ideas about which I am not certain, but which may or may not be true.  My thoughts about “tentative ideas” seemed foreign to her.  Is the therapist an individual who has a need for certainty?  Does the therapist’s apparent irritation with the ideas I express about her in my letters, in fact, result from her own projection of her need for certainty on to me?  Does her projection of a need for certainty on to me lead her to believe that I state my ideas with certainty as facts, rather than as tentatively conceived notions about my world.   In effect, does the therapist think: “He must be as certain of his ideas as I am of mine?”  The problem is that I am certain of very little.    I am struck by the therapist’s repetition of the phase, “You need to take risks with people.”  In her mind, I need to do that.  How does she know that?  Can she prove that?  She seems to be certain about her ideas in a way that I am not sure of my own.  She seems to live in a world of “musts.” You need to think this.  You need to do this.    Cult leaders talk like this.  “I offer the road to salvation.  If you accept me and my ideas, you will be saved.”    Dr. Charles Strozier, a psychoanalyst and professor of history at The City University of New York, has been studying and teaching classes on new religious movements for over two decades.  “People who are vulnerable and needy and confused and often very troubled [like many therapy patients] . . .  are drawn to the cult leader because the leader offers certainty about what life is all about, and what it should be all about,” Dr. Strozier. “And that gives a wholeness and a completeness to their lives.”
(g) At one point in the session I said that some of my previous therapists were “nasty” toward me. She immediately opined, with no evidence, “Maybe they acted that way because of your letters, I don’t know.” Why is that statement not a projection by the therapist onto my previous therapists? She seems to be saying, “All therapists will react negatively to written criticism.” That’s untrue. Dr. Jama said about one of my highly critical letters about him: “I read your letter. It was well written. You put a lot of thought into it. It showed very good thinking.” Dr. Jama was a mature and secure medical doctor; he was not going to be flustered by something a mental patient wrote about him. There is another implication to the therapist’s statement, “Maybe they acted that way because of your letters, I don’t know.” The statement suggests that the therapist believes that if other people react negatively to me it is a response to my “bad acts” — and not to any possible subjective bias or irrational animus by that therapist. She seems to say that people only react to me negatively because I provoke them. You see how phoney the statement she made to me at my first session was after I told the therapist that my father used to beat me: “He shouldn’t have done that. You were just a child. Children misbehave. You did nothing wrong.” Why wasn’t the therapist thinking at this session, “Your past therapists should not have reacted to you negatively. You were just a vulnerable mental patient. People with psychological problems sometimes act out. You did nothing wrong, as Jama recognized.” She’s a nutcase and a phoney!!

(h.) identity denuding behavior? “All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.” ― Woody Allen. It’s our distortions that make us individuals. Without our subjective reality, we would all be the same — like undifferentiated infants.

(i.) Random psychoanalytic speculation:

There seems to be a subtext to the therapists statements and views. People must only have rational and objective views. Subjective bias is not valuable as analyzable ideas; subjective bias is wrong. Transference is wrong because it is not rational and objective. There is no such thing as countertransference. Therapists are always rational and objective. Psychoanalysis is bad (in a moral sense) because it shows no compassion for vulnerable people. (Perhaps psychoanalysis is bad because it emphasizes fantasy and the irrational? — that is, material that is not rational and objective.)

I wonder about the following underlying unconscious schema.

In the therapist’s mind perhaps factually right statements and beliefs — “right statements and beliefs” are also morally right.” A factually wrong observation or belief is “morally wrong.” Is it possible that in the therapist’s unconscious Right and Wrong in a factual sense is fused with Right and Wrong in a moral sense?  To be right (factually) is to be morally right. To be wrong (factually) is to be morally wrong. Transference is morally wrong because it is factually wrong. Subjective bias is morally wrong because it is factually wrong. Perhaps, “Your letters are biased, they are factually wrong (you’re letters are morally wrong and sinful.)” Psychoanalysis is based on analyzing irrational transference and intrapsychic fantasy: These ideas are factually wrong (they are irrational); Psychoanalysis is morally wrong and sinful.

Is the therapist saying, “I am only concerned with factual correctness. Unconsciously = I am a morally right and holy person.

This goes to issues of narcissistic disturbance (I am morally right and holy) and possible superego disturbance.

Like a Scene from Die Meistersinger — Stanley Cutler and Hans Sachs

When I was in my second year of college, I took an introductory course in public speaking. We had to give three speeches during the course of the semester. After one of my speeches the instructor said that my speech was the finest speech any student had given in about the last three semesters. Then in my next class — I remember it was biological science, a large lecture hall class — there was a student who had been in my speech class. He was sitting across the lecture hall and yelled out to me, ‘You are so weird, man! You are so totally weird!’” Why did my peer have a negative reaction to me? Is it that I gave the impression that I thought I was smarter than everybody else? Or was it that an instructor had singled me out for unusual praise in a class in which some
students struggled with stage fright? Was there an element of jealousy in the student’s negative response?

Be that as it may.

In the first act of Wagner’s opera, Die Meistersiner von Nurnberg, Walter seeks admission to the Mastersinger guild. He is instructed to sit in a chair before the assembled Masters and sing an audition song. Walter’s song breaks all the rules.  The singer who auditions is allowed only 7 errors; Walter makes too many errors to count, according to the Masters. The Masters go nuts; they’ve never heard anything like this before. Walter’s mentor, the Master, Hans Sachs intervenes and praises Walter’s song. Sachs things Walter has talent, despite what the other Masters say.

Why would my life experiences parallel a scene from a Wagner opera?

I am reminded of a portion of my autobiographical book, Significant Moments:

He took . . .
Mark Twain, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.
. . . the paper . . .
David Evanier, The Man Who Refused to Watch the Academy Awards.
. . . out of his pocket, opened it, glanced at it, looked surprised and
worried, and stood silent for a few moments. Then he waved his hand in a wandering and mechanical way, and made an effort or two to say something, then gave it up, despondently. Several voices cried out:
“Read it! read it! What is it?”
Mark Twain, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.
His listeners were all experts on the twisted byways of erotic life. The great Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who had made sexual psychopathology his own, was presiding. Freud’s lecture was a lively, highly skillful forensic performance. The student of hysteria, he said, is like an explorer discovering the remains of an abandoned city, with walls and columns and tablets covered with half-effaced inscriptions, he may dig them up and clean them, and then with luck the stones speak—saxa loquuntur. He expended all this rhetorical effort to persuade his incredulous listeners that they must seek the origin of hysteria in the sexual abuse of children. All eighteen cases he had treated, Freud noted, invited this conclusion. But his mixture of colorful eloquence and scientific sobriety was wasted.
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life For Our Time.
A dozen men got up now and began to protest.
Mark Twain, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.
The twelve men spake, and said . . .
Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews.
. . . that this farce was the work of some abandoned joker, and was an insult to the whole community.
Mark Twain, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.
I felt as if I were going to the scaffold.
Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years.
Afterwards they stood about in groups chattering. I heard some say: ‘It starts just as if he were out to play a carnival joke on the public.’ Others were disappointed that there had not been more hissing.
Natalie Bauer-Lechner, Recollections of Gustav Mahler

According to Rodica Damian, the creative person is able to risk noncomformity:

Creativity, conceived as the ability to produce work or ideas that are original, high in quality and appropriate implies the capacity to “risk nonconformity” and a sort of freedom from the reactions generated by one’s products – to some extent creativity may involve a certain disengagement from personal attachments (or an ability to make adaptive use of a lack of secure attachment). To some extent one can trace many of my social difficulties to a conflict between people of differing attachment needs: as someone who can readily “risk nonconformity” I face the most severe interpersonal problems with people who, because of their attachment style, cannot “risk nonconformity” – these individuals need the safety of conformity in order to preserve their personal attachments.

email Message to Scott Wetzler, Ph.D.

Dr. Wetzler is knowledgeable about resistance:

Dr. Wetzler:

I am extremely resistant in psychotherapy. I wrote up some summaries of my recent sessions, if you want to take a look. It may give you an insight into what is going on in the mind of at least one resistant patient! I just shared them with my niece and she said they are well written.

The text is at the link below:

Gary Freedman
Washington, DC

email Message to Professor Frederic Jameson — Duke University

Professor Jameson:

I have read portions of your book, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, specifically your discussion of E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime. May I interest you to take a look at an unusual historical novel I wrote (Significant Moments) that is oddly reminiscent of Ragtime in the way it uses, or exploits, historical figures to express my own subjective, narrative purposes?

The text is at the following link:


Gary Freedman
Washington, DC

He’s probably a friend of Raben’s!

Parallel Ideas in Psychoanalysis


Compare the following passage about the novelist, Anthony Trollope from Dr. Shengold’s book, Is There Life Without Mother?: Psychoanalysis, Biography, Creativity:

. . . daydreaming then became his “refuge and comfort.”  It unconsciously evoked the presence of, and replaced with his own imagination, the absent nourishing and protective mother, who, however unreliable, had first taught him the value of imagination and play.

with the psychoanalyst Phillip Weissman’s ideas about creativity:

[Philip Weismann] believed that the future artist, as an infant, had the ability to hallucinate the mother’s breast independently of oral needs. According to him the unusual capacities of the artist ‘may be traced to the infancy and childhood of the artist wherein we find that he is drawn by the nature of his artistic endowment to preserve (or immortalize) his hallucinated response to the mother’s breast independent of his needs gratifications” . . . . One major concept of Weismann is the ‘dissociative function of the ego’ that he substitutes for Kris’s concept of regression in the service of the ego. With the aid of this dissociative function, the creative person ‘may partially decathect the external object (mother’s breast) and hypercathect his imaginative perception of it. He may then further elaborate and synthesize these selfcreated perceptions as anlagen or precursors of creative activity which must then await full maturation and development of his ego and his talent for true creative expression.’ In simple words, according to Weismann, the child who will become creative has the ability to diverge the energy originally invested in primitive personal objects and to invest it again in creative work.

Interesting Response from a Trauma Therapist — She Wants to Show this to her Colleagues!!

Ms. [redacted]:

Thank you for getting back to me. You may share the document with colleagues if you wish. If you want to offer any thoughts about the writings, that would be fine. Or if you prefer not sharing your thoughts, that would be fine too.

Thanks again,

Gary Freedman

—–Original Message—–
From: redacted
To: Gary Freedman
Sent: Mon, Jun 18, 2018 9:00 pm
Subject: Re: psychotherapy

Hi Gary,

Thank you for sending along your thoughts. I have downloaded what you sent so I can read through your thoughts over the next few days.

Even looking at the volume of thoughts that you have included here shows how much this matters to you.

Is this something that you have just sent to me because of what you read about me on the Internet or is it something that I could possibly share with some colleagues?

Are you interested in any thoughts after I read through what you have sent or were you just looking to provide this to me so that I am aware of some of what you have experienced? I really am looking forward to reading it.


On Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 4:47 PM, Gary Freedman wrote:

Ms. redacted:

I have read about you on the Internet. I am a therapy patient. I am extremely resistant to therapy. I have written up a collection of thoughts I have about some of my sessions. Maybe you might be interested to read what I have written from the perspective of a very resistant client.

The text is at the link below:


Gary Freedman
Washington, DC