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.