My therapist has canceled my session for tomorrow. I have two weeks to work on this!! This is a very rough draft of the summary. It is written like an appeal brief. I am attempting to show that my letters raise substantive and legitimate questions about my therapy.
Let me set the scene. A dentist has a patient with serious gum disease. One symptom of the gum disease is prominent bad breath which dismays the dentist. Instead of treating the underlying gum disease, the dentist attempts to manipulate the patient to use mouthwash.
A therapist has a patient with serious character pathology. One of the symptoms is persistent letter writing: the patient writes lengthy letters about his interactions with the therapist. Instead of addressing the underlying character pathology, the therapist attempts to manipulate the patient to stop writing letters.
What does this say about these providers?
In the department of small violins, consider the moral embarrassment, after Charlottesville, Va., of right-of-center Jews who voted for Donald Trump in the election and remained — at least until last week — broadly supportive of his presidency.
I don’t mean Jared Kushner, who is beyond embarrassment. I also don’t mean the economics czar Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Standing by the president’s side during Tuesday’s catastrophic news conference in Trump Tower, the pair had that look of pre-emptive mortification reminiscent of crotch-covering soccer players bracing for a penalty kick.
Frank and Hoffman (1986) found that individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) showed a heightened sensitivity to nonverbal cues when compared with people without BPD.
Clinical observations (Krohn, 1974; Carter and Rinsley, 1977) and early empirical studies focusing on accuracy in inferring others’ emotional states (Frank and Hoffman, 1986; Ladisich and Feil, 1988) gave rise to the descriptive term “borderline empathy”, which refers to enhanced cognitive empathy in BPD. A study by Frank and Hoffman (1986) analyzed the ability of BPD patients to infer the emotional states of others compared to non-BPD patients. Participants had to choose one of two alternative affective descriptions after watching a 10-min video sequence containing depictions of different emotional situations, each portrayed by the same female actor. The borderline group showed significantly fewer errors and was more sensitive to nonverbal communication than the control group, thus indicating increased cognitive empathy in BPD.
This finding has been validated through other follow-up research (Domes, Schulze, and Herpertz, 2009). A well-known study, for instance, compared the way people with BPD react to photographs of people’s eyes to those without BPD. The researchers found that the BPD group was more able to correctly guess what emotions these eyes expressed, which showed their enhanced sensitivity to the mental states of others (Fertuck et al., 2012).
At their best, these highly intuitive individuals’ ability would constitute what giftedness psychologists call “Personal Intelligence” (Gardner,1985) . This kind of giftedness consists of two components: ‘Interpersonal intelligence’— the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people, and ‘Intrapersonal intelligence’ — the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations.
He describes himself as being hypersensitive to peoples’ non-verbal cues, tone and inflections. He believes that he is under surveillance by his former employer and that others are hostile towards him because they covet his intellectual abilities (On the other hand, he feels that his former employer’s motivation for putting him under surveillance is not malicious; rather, “it is their way of protecting me and maintaining continuity with my life.”) He states that although both his former employer and various psychiatrists have described him as “paranoid and delusional,” his special ability to sense his environment validates his belief that there are people who feel hostile towards and threatened by him, and who therefore persecute him. He dismisses people’s alternative explanations of his experiences as “so feeble, that I am left to believe my own hypothesis.” Although he distrusts most people, he feels lonely and distressed over the resulting isolation.
President Trachtenberg, what does it mean when an individual outwits an entire department of psychiatry at a major American medical center that was chaired by a former President of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the President of the American Psychiatric Association?
What does it mean when that same individual was able to outwit the management committee of one of the largest law firms in the country?
Have you given any more thought to that Nobel Prize nomination, President Trachtenberg?
On September 26, 2016 I posted on this blog a document about my ideas concerning the possible developmental background of persons who have high interpersonal intelligence.
I wrote the following:
Subject may be a creative individual who has a high level of psychoticism balanced by high ego strength. See Fodor, E.M. “Subclinical Manifestations of Psychosis-Proneness, Ego Strength and Creativity.” Person. Individ. Diff. 18(5): 635-642 (1995).
Rorschach testing will show a large number of responses, with many unusual responses. See Goertzel, T. “Analyzing Pauling’s Personality: A Three Generational, Three Decade Project.” Special Collections, Oregon State University Libraries, Corvallis, OR 97331-4501. (Cf. “Third, during the Rorschach, he would stray away from the task by expressing his free-associated feelings of anger towards me whenever he felt frustrated in his attempts to maintain what he conceived of as his stellar performance.” Results of GW Psychological Testing, May 1994.)
Subject is probably a non-joiner and may be a loner.
Subject may be depressive.
Subject may exhibit identity diffusion, being unsure of his identity: possible problems in sexual identity. [Identity problems are severe in borderline patients].
Subject may have grown up in a disturbed developmental environment. He may have been a scapegoat in a dysfunctional family. (Family scapegoats tend to be blamed for the family’s problems at an early age, sometimes being held responsible for other people’s bad behavior. On the high side they are creative and unconventional and can provide realistic and invaluable insight into family dynamics.) Mosley, S. “Roleplaying: The Six Family Roles We’re All Familiar With.” [Disturbed developmental background is prominent in borderline patients].
Subject’s parents may have been exploitive and manipulative persons. [Interpersonal exploitation is prominent in the background of borderline patients].
Subject may struggle with feelings of rage about abuse he experienced in childhood. [Rage is a prominent feature of borderline disorder.]
Subject may have experienced actual or functional object loss in childhood.
Subject may show schizoid detachment.
Given his possible high verbal abilities and creative potential we may expect subject to be a creative writer.
Subject may have been incorrectly diagnosed at some point as suffering from bipolar disorder owing to his high associational ability and his ability to jump from one subject to the next rapidly. These abilities may been mislabeled as symptoms of mania.
On August 18, 2017 I discovered a paper on the Internet that presents the results of a study of a cohort of individuals with high interpersonal intelligence who suffered from borderline personality disorder. The paper found that these individuals had come from a disturbed family of origin that featured severe emotional abuse. The paper, authored by Johns Hopkins University psychiatry professor Lee C. Park, M.D., is titled: GIFTEDNESS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE IN BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: THEIR RELEVANCE TO GENESIS AND TREATMENT.
The authors report the following:
We present evidence that chronic, severe, pervasive psychological abuse, or “mind abuse,” is the most frequent and significant form of caretaker abuse (vs. sexual or physical) in the childhood histories of borderline personality disorder. Our data support the hypothesis that the interaction of a child’s gifted characteristics with this abuse creates a tragic drama that is etiological for BPD in a substantial number of cases. We propose that the abuse markedly perverts not only use of the perceptual talents (e.g., powerfully compelling projective identification) but overall psychological development
Almost all clinicians who have significant experience with borderline patients are impressed at times with their exceptional ability to sense psychological characteristics of significant others in their lives, including therapists. This ability tends to be coupled with the manipulative induction of feelings like those the patients themselves experience, that is, projective identification (Kernberg, 1975; Ogden, 1982). Patients may also employ this talent in engendering strong rescue and attachment responses, as well as disagreements, quarrels, or “splits” among those who are involved in their lives, for example, between members of the family or clinic staffs,
especially inpatient staffs (Adier. 1985; Gunderson, 1989; Gutheil, 1989).
It is our hypothesis that the significance of this talent goes far beyond these particular symptomatic manifestations of the disorder. We assert that there is an inborn talent and need to discern the feelings and motivations of others, and, to emphasize its positive value as well as its innateness, we choose to refer to this characteristic as a gift. Much as one would refer to the mathematically gifted person or the musically gifted person, we believe many borderline patients have a cognitive giftedness in the area of self- and other-perceptiveness called “personal intelligence” (Gardner, 1983, 1985). This talent has remained unrecognized both because it occurs in very perturbed individuals for whom it is generally unavailable in a conscious fashion, and because it is embedded in the service of self-protection, needlness, control, and rage.
In summary, for our group of borderline patients, there was major biparental psychological failure, by combined commission and omission, throughout childhood and adolescence. In addition to the categories of psychological abuse already described, there was in every case a chronic family atmosphere of morbid, disturbing dramas between parents, and/or between one or both parents and the child, usually involving strong negative affects. One of the few softening notes was that the dominant parents generally had grandiose ideas of competence, with malevolence demonstrated in tactics of control rather than in long-term designs of deliberate harm. The children frequently had strong feelings of love and concern (also rage, hate, fear, and so forth) for one or the other, sometimes both, parents, and at times were burdened by a painful wish to take care of and protect these parents.
How would Dr. Gertrude Ticho know my perceptions of workplace harassment were the product of ideas of reference rather than the effects of borderline personality disorder? Wouldn’t she need an “in person” assessment to determine that?
Why did Dr. Palombo consistently dismiss or attempt to invalidate evidence of my interpersonal intelligence, calling this evidence of paranoia? I expressly recall I spoke with Dr. Palombo about Dr. Shengold’s concept of “adaptive paranoia” that is found in victims of child abuse. He dismissed this idea out of hand. Dr. Shengold talks about patients whose early developmental background demanded constant wariness, the habit of observation, and attendance on moods and tempers; the noting of discrepancies between speech and action; and a certain reserve of demeanor and automatic suspicion of sudden favors. Shengold, L. Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Deprivation and Abuse at 244-45 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).
Perhaps Dr. Kernberg should take me on at his clinic as a lay researcher in borderline disorder and character pathology!! Maybe I should talk to Dr. Caligor about this !!
Peter Buirski is a professor of psychology at the University of Denver, and a psychoanalyst with a specialization in intersubjective therapy. He minored in English literature in college.
I am a layman with a strong interest in literature and intersubjectivity. I have written an unusual novel about Freud and psychoanalysis (and other matters). May I interest you to take a look at it? The text is in the attachment to this email.
I thought you might have an academic interest in this unusual matter. I earned a law degree (LL.M.) at American University; Dean Claudio Grossman was my faculty adviser. Prof. Burton Caine was my Constitutional Law professor at Temple University where I earned my J.D. I understand he’s a friend of yours.
There is evidence that I am using a lawful order issued by the D.C. Superior Court to help me commit a felony — a significant financial fraud — against the Government of the United States. Oddly, the FBI has acquiesced in my felony. I thought you might be interested to see what the perfect felony looks like.
Below is a collection of pertinent documents:
Associations to and speculations about transference/sexual issues at session:
At a session with Lisa Osborne (1998-1999) I had purchased a soda in a plastic bottle prior to the session and drank it during the session. Instead of throwing the bottle away when I was done, I played with the bottle throughout the remainder of the session. This seemed to bother Lisa Osborn who used the phrase “throw it away” in another context. I read her comment as projective identification about her annoyance. Was I symbolically playing with Lisa Osborn’s vagina? Lisa Osborn was an attractive therapist who resembled the actress Helen Hunt. She had blond hair like my mother.
In April 1993 I gave Dr. Suzanne Pitts a letter about interpersonal issues that arose at Akin Gump including material on attorney Maryellen Connor, whom I viewed as highly manipulative. After my session on 8-14 I associated to Maryellen Connor. Were my references to Maryellen Connor in the 1993 letter a transference reaction to Dr. Pitts herself?
At the session on 8-14 I came to see my therapist as persistently but subtly manipulative, almost symbolically sexual. In reference to transference-countertransference issues I said at the session, “I have my junk and you have your junk and we are both relating to each other at the level of our junk.” The therapist interpreted junk to mean psychological baggage. But the reference is clearly sexual and is symbolic of the sex act. The therapist didn’t see that.
Evidence of manipulation: At the previous session (8-7), she accepted my discussion of Searles observations about my possibly trying to cure her in an act of (altruistic) role reversal in which I became therapist and she became the patient. It seems she was just placating me. At the current session, she was back to the idea that I wrote letters because she believed I wasn’t getting something from her as expressed in the question, “Do you think I don’t like you?” Also, I had been seeing her since April but she never addressed me by name at all. In the last few sessions, she twice addressed me as Gary (links up to Act II of Wagner’s Parsifal)– possible ingratiation to get me to stop writing letters? At previous session, I said I viewed her as an irritant the way an oyster reacts to a grain of sand, creating a pearl; I said I used her as a springboard to self-insight; she responded, “You ARE doing therapy correctly!! That’s exactly the way therapy is supposed to work.” I had noted in the letter about that session that I suspected her statement was simply ingratiation. Then at this session, we were back to the idea that I was attacking her with my letters (“Do you think I don’t like you”)–suggesting the previous comments by the therapist were in fact ingratiation. She was placating me by saying I was doing therapy exactly as it should be done.
At the session on 8-14 the therapist asked me to describe how she thought I perceived her. I said that she probably found me troubling because I didn’t regress in therapy. “You’re a people person. People probably respond to you readily. You’re used to that. You probably expected to see that happen in me. You had expected me to respond to me. That never happened. I don’t regress. You’re used to a situation where the patient gives up his ‘I’ feeling and adopts a ‘we’ feeling. I don’t ever come to adopt a ‘we’ feeling because of my autonomy. I think that bothers you. It’s the same problem I have in groups. I get in trouble in groups (i.e., I get scapegoated) because I don’t adopt a group mentality. I don’t regress in a group situation because of my autonomy. I have the feeling that the same thing is happening between you and me. This is a group of two.”
My comments echoed exactly statements I made in a personality profile I gave in 1999 — almost 20 years ago — to my then treating therapist, Nancy Shaffer, Ph.D. My comments related to my perception that I had an introjective personality even before I knew what an introjective personality was !! “Subject’s ability to regress in the clinical psychotherapeutic setting is restricted. In the course of therapy, subject’s superego demands and prohibitions are not easily transferred onto the therapist owing to the highly-developed nature of subject’s metabolization of early object relations. Subject’s early relations with the environment gave rise to enduring and stable psychological patterns (structures), which reflect their influence; the early relationships and experiences have lost their specific early qualities and have become assimilated or embedded into his psychic system. Subject’s restricted capacity for structural demetabolization (the aspect of analytic regression that emerges most clearly in the context of the transference) requires a great deal of time, work, and willingness to overcome. Greenberg, J.R. and Mitchell, S.A. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory at 331 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) (discussing the theoretical work of Otto Kernberg, M.D.) Subject’s restricted ability to regress may be especially frustrating for the therapist whose work at a public clinic provides her with considerable experience with severely disturbed patients in whom the emergence of early, unmodulated relationships in the transference occurs quickly because adequate metabolization has never taken place. Greenberg and Mitchell at 331-32.”
I suspected that my response to the current therapist — that my failure to regress in therapy as in the group situation — rankled her. I suspected that she expected a response from me that would expressly state or give hints at the idea that I had feelings about her that confirmed her projection that I wanted to be liked by her, that I was not liked by her, and that her not liking me bothered me. But I didn’t say that. (I failed to confirm her projection.) I had the suspicion she was slightly discombobulated by my response. She proceeded to make what I believed were unintelligible statements. She asked a question that I couldn’t understand. I said I didn’t understand. She repeated the question word for word!! I said I still didn’t understand. I then said, “I’m blocking on your question.” I experienced the interaction as evidence of severe regression in our interaction.
Early in the therapy the therapist talked about my need to become vulnerable (sexually receptive?). I have never become emotionally vulnerable. I suspect that a lot of our interaction is simply her placating me with disingenuous ingratiating behavior, attempting to get me to feel comfortable so that I will become vulnerable. I have never become vulnerable. At this session I came to view her interaction with me as a symbolic sexual seduction. Is vulnerability the symbolic sex act for her in some way? She’s trying to sweeten me up so that I will become vulnerable (have sex with her?). I don’t become vulnerable. She has become discombobulated because, so to speak, “I have rejected her sexual advances.”
THAT’S THE SECOND ACT OF WAGNER’S PARSIFAL !! THE SEDUCTION SCENE!!
Parsifal finds himself in a wondrous garden, surrounded by beautiful and seductive Flowermaidens. They call to him and entwine themselves about him while chiding him for wounding their lovers (“Komm, komm, holder Knabe!“). They soon fight and bicker among themselves to win his devotion, to the point that he is about to flee, but then a voice calls out, “Parsifal!” He now recalls this name is what his mother called him when she appeared in his dreams. The Flowermaidens back away from him and call him a fool as they leave him and Kundry alone.
Parsifal wonders if the Garden is a dream and asks how it is that Kundry knows his name. Kundry tells him she learned it from his mother (“Ich sah das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust“), who had loved him and tried to shield him from his father’s fate, the mother he had abandoned and who had finally died of grief (the therapist keeps talking about the attachment dance. she talks about how her relationship with me mirrors my relationship with my mother). She reveals many parts of Parsifal’s history to him and he is stricken with remorse, blaming himself for his mother’s death. He thinks himself very stupid to have forgotten her. Kundry says this realization is a first sign of understanding (psychological insight) and that, with a kiss, she can help him understand his mother’s love. As they kiss Parsifal suddenly recoils in pain and cries out Amfortas’ name: he feels the wounded king’s pain burning in his own side and now understands Amfortas’ passion during the Grail Ceremony (“Amfortas! Die Wunde! Die Wunde!“). Filled with this compassion, Parsifal rejects Kundry’s advances. [Kundry then becomes enraged.]
Possible diagnosis of me: attempted soul murder victim?
Statements about Maryellen Connor in letter to Dr. Pitts from April 1993.
1J. Some time in the early fall of 1990 I ran out of work and asked the legal assistant coordinator, J.D. Neary to provide an assignment. He arranged to have me perform an assignment for attorney Mary Ellen Connor, whom I had never met before. I spoke with Mary Ellen Connor about the assignment, but she later told me that she had no need for me. (J.D. Neary had me arrange file folders for attorney Richard Wyatt instead.)
2J. Some time late on a Friday afternoon during the summer of 1991, while I was assigned to the terrace level, Mary Ellen Connor stopped by Bob Dillon’s desk to chat about Bob Dillon’s plans for the weekend. (Bob Dillon’s desk was directly adjacent to mine, behind a partition on the terrace level. Bob Dillon mentioned that he planned to go to the beach with friends that weekend. Mary Ellen Connor talked in a noticeably animated manner with Bob Dillon about his spending time with “the guys” that weekend [cf. paragraph 2G].
Mary Ellen Connor then walked off. At about 5:30 PM, just as I was about to leave the office, I stopped at the reception area near the entrance way to the terrace level and picked up a magazine from a table and began to glance at it. After a brief time, Mary Ellen Connor stepped out of a side room near the reception area of the terrace level, where she had possibly been reviewing documents that were stored there. Upon seeing me, as she walked through the doorway into the reception area of the terrace level, she sneered. At that moment I formed a self-referential linkage between Mary Ellen Connor’s late Friday afternoon conversation with Bob Dillon and Maggie Sinnott’s late afternoon visit to me on November 14, 1989, the day Jesse Raben had to decline to have lunch with Craig and me (lunch with “the guys.”)
[My inference here is that the harassment ringleader believed I suffered from extreme feelings of loneliness; that I was desperate to make friends at the firm; and that Mary Ellen Connor’s chat with Bob Dillon was an attempt to make me feel bad. The ultimate aim of the interaction between Connor and Dillon was to prompt me to leave work early — a bad act that could then be condemned by the ringleader: “You see, he leaves early when ever he feels like it.” When Mary Ellen Connor saw me still in the office at 5:30 she sneered because she realized that her earlier manipulative behavior had had no effect on me — at least that’s my theory.
Jesse Raben had agreed to have lunch with my friend Craig and me on November 14, 1989. At the last minute Raben “weaseled out.” He told me he was busy: that he had to cite check a brief and that he couldn’t go to lunch with me. That afternoon the legal assistant administrator Maggie Sinnott stopped up to see me at my work station on the ninth floor. She told me that the firm had just received a telephone call from Eastern Airlines President Phil Bakes who had an information request. Sinnott asked me if I knew about the subject matter. I believe Sinnott’s behavior was an act of ego-bolstering, as if she were saying, “You see, Gary, you are a very important employee. When the President of Eastern Airlines calls, I come to you for information. Don’t be afraid to leave work early this afternoon. You won’t get in trouble. We would never fire someone as important as you.” Note the apparent projection of importance by Sinnott: “You are a very important person.” The feeling that one is an important person can be symptomatic of narcissistic disturbance. I believe that Sinnott’s behavior was intended to build on my lunch plans with Raben earlier in the day — though precisely what she had in mind is difficult to fathom.
I believe the above incidents (involving Connor and Sinnott) are evidence of projective identification by both parties.]
I was thinking of the idea that I see things that I’m not supposed to see and the related issue that I know things that people think I have no way of knowing. That has plagued me in life.
I have a concrete example. It’s a kind of a metaphor for my experiences in life. In 1978 I returned home from a trip to Italy and I mentioned to someone that there was a lot of conflict in Italy between fascists and Communists. The person said, “What do you mean?” I said, everywhere you go there’s graffiti written by fascists and graffiti written by Communists. The person said contemptuously, “You don’t even speak Italian! How do you know that? You don’t know that.” I said it was obvious; there was graffiti written in red paint with a hammer and sickle; next to that there would always be graffiti written in black paint with a swastika painted on. I saw that all over Italy.
I wonder if Dr. Grobman has ever noticed his patients having the “How do you know that?” response? I guess my therapist thinks, “How would he know if I have a rape fantasy?”
When I first started seeing Dr. Palombo, I told him I was concerned he might talk to my employer about me. He said, “How would you know if I did?”
Well. . . .
On Monday April 16, 1990, J.D. Neary met with Dr. Palombo. J.D. Neary talked about my messy apartment. Dr. Palombo thereafter told Malcolm that J.D. Neary was anally-fixated.
How do I know that?
What do you say about a person who can reconstruct the content of conversations he has no knowledge of? What are these powers based on?
I have observed that my therapist seems to project her concerns about me onto my relations with third parties. I saw that as an expression of paranoia. Perhaps. Perhaps it is an expression of displacement. Displacement can be a characteristic of anaclitic individuals.
When I criticize past therapists the therapist says, “People who idealize some people devalue others.” Translation: “I feel that you devalue me.”
When I talk about a previous psychiatrist who bragged about his job interview she says, “People seem to feel they need to prove themselves around you.” Translation: “I feel I need to prove myself around you.”
When I talk about my sister’s emotional vulnerability, the therapist mildly chastises me, “I get the feeling that you are judging your sister.” Translation: “I feel that you judge me.”
When I say that I loved my sister more than my mother, the therapist says, “You were trying to provoke your mother.” Translation: “I feel you are trying to provoke me with your letters.”
Blatt & Shichman (1983) go on to explain that what is common among anaclitic pathologies is the preoccupation with libidinal themes of closeness, intimacy, giving and receiving care, love, and sexuality (her master’s thesis had a sexual theme). In the pathologically anaclitic, the development of a sense of self is neglected (she is unable to process inner directed behavior — “You write letters because you think I don’t love you”) as these individuals are inordinately preoccupied with establishing and maintaining satisfying interpersonal relationships. Indeed, as the authors note, the pathologically anaclitic individual’s symptoms “…are expressions of exaggerated attempts to compensate for disruptions in interpersonal relations. These disturbances are manifested in conflicts around establishing satisfactory intimate relationships and around feeling loved and being able to love. The basic wish is wanting to be loved (“Do you feel I don’t like you?”). They go on to suggest that this preoccupation stems, in part, from a past in which important others have been depriving, rejecting, overindulging (she gives the impression of somebody who was never roughed up in childhood — it’s as if she was never criticized before), inconsistent, or unpredictable—thus creating an environment in which closeness was precarious. Regarding defensive maneuvers, the anaclitic tends to use avoidant ones, such as denial, repression, and displacement (Blatt & Shichman, 1983). The cognitive processes of the anaclitic tend to be more figurative, focusing on images and affects (she sees my behavior as driven by feelings–and not unconscious feelings!).