Frederick Wiseman: Documentary Film Maker — and the Therapy Patient

Frederick Wiseman is a renowned documentary film maker. Incidentally, he is a Yale Law School graduate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Wiseman

Wiseman’s films are, in his view, an elaboration of a personal experience and not an ideologically objective portrait of his subjects.

In many interviews, Wiseman has emphasized that his films are not and cannot be unbiased. In spite of the inescapable bias that is introduced in the process of “making a movie”, he still feels he has certain ethical obligations regarding how he portrays the events in his films:

[My films are] based on un-staged, un-manipulated actions… The editing is highly manipulative and the shooting is highly manipulative… What you choose to shoot, the way you shoot it, the way you edit it and the way you structure it… all of those things… represent subjective choices that you have to make… In [Belfast, Maine] I had 110 hours of material … I only used 4 hours – near nothing. The compression within a sequence represents choice and then the way the sequences are arranged in relationship to the other represents choice.
All aspects of documentary filmmaking involve choice and are therefore manipulative. But the ethical … aspect of it is that you have to … try to make [a film that] is true to the spirit of your sense of what was going on. … My view is that these films are biased, prejudiced, condensed, compressed but fair. I think what I do is make movies that are not accurate in any objective sense, but accurate in the sense that I think they’re a fair account of the experience I’ve had in making the movie.
I think I have an obligation, to the people who have consented to be in the film, … to cut it so that it fairly represents what I felt was going on at the time in the original event.

Be that as it may.

I have written summaries of clinical sessions I have had with my therapist. My therapist believes I distort her work and that I present a biased view of her. Well, that is true. But my approach is valid and justifiable.

My summaries of my therapy sessions are, in my view, an elaboration of a personal experience and not an ideologically objective portrait of my therapist.

My summaries are not and cannot be unbiased. In spite of the inescapable bias that is introduced in the process of a patient summarizing a therapy session, he still feels he has certain ethical obligations regarding how he portrays the therapist.

My summaries are based on un-staged, un-manipulated actions… The editing is highly manipulative and the writing is highly manipulative… What I choose to write about, the way I write it, the way I edit it and the way I structure it… all of those things… represent subjective choices that I have to make… I have had 8 months of weekly therapy sessions … I only summarized 12 sessions – near nothing. The compression within a sequence of innumerable interactions represents choice and then the way the sequences are arranged in relationship to the other represents choice.

All aspects of summarizing a course of therapy represents choice and is therefore manipulative. But the ethical … aspect of it is that you have to … try to make a report that is true to the spirit of your sense of what was going on. … My view is that these summaries are biased, prejudiced, condensed, compressed but fair. I think what I do is write summaries that are not accurate in any objective sense, but accurate in the sense that I think they’re a fair account of the experience I’ve had in doing therapy.

I think I have an obligation to the therapist to summarize the sessions so that the letters fairly represent what I felt was going on at the time in the original sessions.

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Bad Mouthing: True Story

From April 2016 to January 2017 I was a psychotherapy patient at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington with social worker Richard Chvotkin.

In January 2017 Mr. Chvotkin advised me that PIW was not going to offer psychotherapy services any more, that the PIW therapists were creating another clinic on their own, and that he could continue to see me there. “I hope that you will join us at the new office.”

I said I was thinking about switching to the [redacted] Center. Mr. Chvotkin said, “I had a client who was in therapy there. He said the therapists there are horrible. The therapists are absolutely awful. I think you’d be better off continuing to see me.”

Talk about bad mouthing.

Compare:

I am forwarding in the attachment a document that summarizes some of my recent therapy sessions. The document illustrates my special needs in therapy.

I receive out-patient psychotherapy at the [redacted] Center. Unfortunately, my problems exceed my therapist’s abilities. I request a referral to a therapist who can work with a client who has serious character pathology and who is intellectually-gifted. My IQ is in excess of 130. I have Medicare and DC Medicaid.

Gary Freedman
Washington, DC

Therapy Summary: 2-12-2017

INTRODUCTION:

Freud was intrigued with the ingenuity with which the unconscious imposes its agenda on our daily lives despite the radical detours that various environmental forces and conscious strategems may attempt to force on a situation.  He pointed to myth to illustrate his conclusion that the individual’s unconscious will erupt in the interpersonal field to bring about an outcome satisfying to its needs seemingly in defiance, at times, of external circumstances.

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud remarks: “Tasso gives a singularly affecting poetical portrayal of such a trend of fate in the romantic epic: ‘Gerusalemme liberata.’ The hero, Tancred, has unwittingly slain Clorinda, the maiden he loved, who fought with him disguised in the armor of an enemy knight. After her burial he penetrates into the mysterious enchanted wood, the bane of the army of the crusaders. Here he hews down a tall tree with his sword, but from the gash in the trunk blood streams forth and the voice of Clorinda whose soul is imprisoned in the tree cries out to him in reproach that he has once more wrought a baleful deed on his beloved.”

Perhaps we may also illustrate this point by a glance at the myth of Oedipus where an oracle predicts that  Laius “is doomed to perish by the hand of his own son”. Laius binds the infant’s feet together with a pin, and orders Jocasta to kill him. Unable to kill her own son, Jocasta orders a servant to slay the infant for her. The servant then exposes the infant on a mountaintop, where he is found and rescued by a shepherd.   As he grows to manhood, Oedipus encounters Laius and his retainers on the road to Thebes, and the two quarrel over whose chariot has the right of way. The Theban king moves to strike the insolent youth with his scepter, but Oedipus, unaware that Laius is his true father, throws the old man down from his chariot, killing him. Thus, Laius is slain by his own son, and the prophecy that the king had sought to avoid by exposing Oedipus at birth is fulfilled.

I arrive with computer disk

I state that disk contains documents: psych testing, self-created personality profile

–issues of identity and identity definition

Therapist: Our old computers might not be able to handle disks. Patient: Could you hold onto disk. Put it in a file.

Therapist: So you’ve been talking about me to other clinics.

Patient: Yes, I sent out therapy inquiries.

Therapist: We got a communication from —–. stated message was threatening.

In fact, the therapist never saw message. She condemns message on basis of word of mouth without having facts. Therapist seemed totally bent out of shape by my email. Did she feel I threatened her job at the clinic — “her access to the breast?”

In fact the email read:

I am forwarding in the attachment a document that summarizes some of my recent therapy sessions. The document illustrates my special needs in therapy.

I receive out-patient psychotherapy at the ———- Center. Unfortunately, my problems exceed my therapist’s abilities. I request a referral to a therapist who can work with a client who has serious character pathology and who is intellectually-gifted. My IQ is in excess of 130. I have Medicare and DC Medicaid.

Gary Freedman
Washington, DC

Therapist’s extreme distress (regression to primitive ego state): regression to projective identification (attempt to force her mental contents into me) and issues of abandonment and rejection (castration, exile, confinement) . Seemed determined to force these contents into me.

Therapist’s reference to “queers” (castration?) “involuntary commitment” (confinement) “termination by clinic” (abandonment) Reference to my past terminations: DBH, primary care doctor (again, abandonment)

I state that my primary care doctor: filed fabricated affidavit; attorney may have suborned perjury  (note my concern for professional competence — in lawyer and in therapists)

Therapist: You are feeling rejected (she attempts to force feelings of rejection into me and then wants me to talk about feeling rejected.)

In fact, I was feeling I was at the mercy of paranoid forces: (1) the false accusation of defaming therapist, (2) the contemplated drastic remediation by terminating my therapy. In fact, I saw parallels with my job termination: false accusations and drastic remediation of job termination. I wasn’t feeling rejected. I felt I was a victim of another person’s paranoia.

Patient: Why would you terminate me? Therapist: You “bad mouthed” me to another clinic. (Note the unintended, ironic reference to the Kleinian “bad mouth.”) That could be seen as a boundary breach. Patient: Why is that a boundary breach? Therapist: (no answer). Patient: I said in the email, I believe my problems exceed your abilities. I fail to see how that is bad mouthing.

In a previous letter I wrote the following (session August 21, 2017):

The therapist repeats the same ideas about the mother-child relationship at almost every session as though it were an idee fixe. Is the therapist’s formulation an expression of the therapist’s oral fixation? Is the therapist’s depiction of the mother child relationship an expression of a Kleinian “bad mouth?” That is, the infant at the mother’s breast receives succor from the mother (the child sucks, he wants something from the mother) and the infant can bite the mother’s breast (he “acts out,” as it were). Is the therapist saying, “You wanted things from your mother (you wanted to suck), you perceived that you didn’t receive them and so you acted out (you bit her breast).” “You want things from me (you want to suck my breast) but you feel you don’t receive what you want, so you act out by writing letters (you bite your mother’s breast). Is the therapist’s explanation for my letter writing actually a projection of the therapist’s oral-fixation and her oral sadism (a preoccupation with oral aggression, i.e., biting)?

Note earlier metaphor cardiologist/nephrologist. On an earlier occasion I said to therapist: “I feel like a patient with kidney disease and you’re a cardiologist. You may be the best cardiologist in the world but my problems exceed your competence.” My concerns center on lack of fit, and lack of identity match between therapist and patient (lack of opportunity for twinship, idealization and mirroring); therapist’s concerns center on my devaluing her professional abilities (my biting her breast) and threats to her job (“access to breast”).

Patient: I blame you for this. I had asked you to help me find a therapist. You refused and told me to find a another therapist on my own. My own chart says I have “grossly impaired judgment.” (Compare Dr. Acharya’s behavior in 2016 — “I will talk to your psychiatrist to help work out alternative therapy for you.”) This therapist will do nothing.

Patient: I need a therapist to talk to another therapist to determine if I am suitable for the therapist. No therapist will turn me down. That concerns me. Whatever therapist I talk to, he will say, “Yes, I can help you.” My experience is that therapists will not turn down patients. I need you to talk to a prospective therapist to determine if he is a good fit for me.

Patient: I got a communication from Wendt Center. They said they were willing to take me on. Therapist: It seems like you were intentionally withholding that information from me (note imputation of wrongdoing).

Relational issue:

Therapist’s concerns remained primitive throughout session: projective identification, rejection, abandonment, pervasive concern that I am aggressing on her (that I was biting her breast).

My concerns seemed centered on identity (see disk documents), identity definition, mastery, quest for self-understanding paralleling my quest for ideal therapist (note parallels to longing for narcissistic elation), need for identity recognition from therapist (a therapist who will recognize my problems), feelings of alienation (I had said I felt that I was not like the therapist’s other patients); concerns about professional performance (in therapists and ironically, in doctor’s lawyer who seemed to have suborned perjury).

Therapist: You didn’t get to talk about what you wanted to talk about. (Ironically, i did get to talk about what I wanted to talk about. It is significant that the therapist’s projective identification did not derail my concerns for identity, self-definition, need for mastery, and quest for self-understanding and quest for ideal therapist.)

Patient: What I’m looking for is a therapist who can assess me and say, ‘I recognize your problems. I know how to work with your problems. I’ve worked with people like you before.’ (I.e., need for identity recognition).

Core Issue

What is the essential conflict here between a therapist who is concerned with access to the breast and patient’s concern for identity-definition and need for twinship, idealization and mirroring?

Charlie McCarthy: “My name is Edgar Bergen”

There’s an old psychoanalytic joke. Supposedly psychoanalysts say, “Don’t generalize from one case. Generalize from two cases.” I have two cases.

Case 1: Edgar, Ronnie, Adele

Adele in the role of Charlie McCarthy with Edgar Jacobean in the role of Edgar Bergen (ventriloquist)

https://dailstrug.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/charlie-mccarthy-syndrome-the-psychodynamics-of-the-relationship-of-ronnie-edgar-and-adele/

Case 2: Edgar, Ronnie, Adele

Ronnie in the role of Charlie McCarthy — assuming the identity of Edgar Bergen — with Edgar in the role of Edgar Bergen (ventriloquist)

https://dailstrug.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/fun-with-edwin-adele-and-ronnie-psychoanalytic-speculations/

Brain Washing in Disturbed Families: A Thought Experiment

I grew up in a disturbed, dysfunctional family with family members who had significant character pathology. There was a lot of brainwashing in the family. My sister thought her husband was perfect. In fact, there’s evidence he was a malignant narcissist with significant narcissistic, paranoid, and psychopathic traits. My mother used to say to me: “You have the best mother in the world. No other mother would love you the way I love you.” How does a child process the abuse and neglect in a dysfunctional family that promotes itself as ideal? One wonders.

I thought of an analogy.

You go to a dentist. He has to extract several teeth. The procedure is immensely painful. But you know he’s a dentist and you know the procedure is “for your own good.” When you leave the office you think, “That hurt like hell, but I’m glad I got it done.”

Another situation. You are abducted by a sadistic torturer. He ties you to a chair and extracts several teeth. The procedure — torture really — is immensely painful. You have a range of painful emotions: fear, terror, anguish — you name it. You are freed. You have been traumatized and you can’t get the experience out of your mind. You are left with trauma symptoms. The irony is that the actual physical pain is identical to that which would be experienced in a genuine dental procedure.

Third situation. You go to a person who represents himself to be a dentist. He says he has to extract several teeth. The procedure is immensely painful. But you think he’s a dentist and you believe the procedure is “for your own good.” When you leave the office you think, “That hurt like hell, but I’m glad I got it done.” Some time later you learn that the individual who represented himself to be a dentist was a sadistic torturer — not a dentist, but a disturbed person who represented himself to be a dentist. You are left with feelings of betrayal and anger. Perhaps you feel traumatized. You ruminate obsessively on the experience.

When I was seeing Dr. Palombo I told him about my brother-in-law. He said to me somewhat harshly: “Why didn’t you complain?” Why didn’t I complain!!

I see subtlety that no one else sees. What does that mean?

You need to Worry When President Trump Starts to Sound like Dr. Bash

You get the impression that in Donald Trump’s mind only Democrats abuse or harass women, not Republicans.  Al Franken’s behavior was bad, but Ron Porter is a good man.  Only bad people (Democrats) abuse or harass women.  Good people (Republicans) don’t abuse or harass women.

I am reminded of an interaction I had with Dr. Bash years ago.  According to Dr. Bash, there are no homosexuals in Israel.  Apparently, Israel is made up of good people and good people are not homosexual.  Only bad people are homosexual.

“Dr. Bash, are there homosexuals on the kibbutzim in Israel?” “No. None.” “So there are no boys who grew up on a kibbutz who became homosexual?” “No. There are no recorded instances.” “So,” Dr. Bash, “doesn’t that support the notion that homosexuality is environmental. That it arises as a result of the effects of the family environment on a boy?” “No, homosexuality is genetic,” said Dr. Bash. “Do you know what genetic means?” asked Dr. Bash. Do I know what genetic means? I wrote the book!

“Do you consider yourself homosexual?” asked Dr. Bash. Actually, I rarely consider myself at all. “You know who started the Kibbutzim?” asked Dr. Bash. “It was idealists who cared nothing about money. They came from Russia and elsewhere. They wanted to create an ideal society. All the early leaders of Israel started out on the kibbutz. David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir–she lived in the United States, but she was originally from Russia or somewhere–they all started out as members of the kibbutz. They were all idealists. Some of them came from rich families originally. From rich families in Europe. Good families. But they gave it all up to live on the kibbutz. Some of them even walked all the way to [Palestine].”

The Mad Monk was hinting at the (fundamentally bizarre) argument (or confabulation) that because the founders of the kibbutzim (who also included the early political leaders of Israel) came from “good families,” without any genetic tendencies to homosexuality, they passed on their genetic purity to subsequent generations of kibbutzim. Hence, the lack of any recorded instances of homosexuality on the kibbutz. I wonder what she was really saying, analytically speaking? (Not to mention the burning question: “What the hell is going on in Trenton, New Jersey?”)

http://dailstrug.blogspot.com/2004/08/under-boardwalk.html?m=0

Charlie McCarthy Syndrome: The Psychodynamics of the Relationship of Ronnie, Edgar and Adele–

In an earlier post I talked about an anecdote surrounding issues from April 1969: namely, what was a kind of agent/principal relationship between Adele and Edgar.  In the agent/principal relationship, the agent speaks for the principal.  The agent has no autonomy, no free will; she carries out the wishes and representations of her principal.  In the anecdote, Adele showed no autonomy; she simply adopted the anger of Edgar without question.  She turned against her own father in adopting the anger of Edgar towards her father.

https://dailstrug.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-further-adventures-of-adele-and-edwin-and-some-theoretical-thoughts/

What’s interesting is that the agent/principal relationship parallels the relationship between the ventriloquist and the ventriloquist’s dummy.  The dummy has no autonomy, no free will.  The ventriloquist speaks through the dummy just as in the legal relationship of principal/agent, the principal speaks through the agent.

I found some interesting observations about the ventriloquist-dummy relationship as it plays out in the transference-countertransference paradigm of borderline patients.  Psychoanalysts have said that when treating borderline patients they feel as if the patient were the ventriloquist and the analyst were the ventriloquist’s dummy.

https://books.google.com/books?id=DHDD3yoVixUC&pg=PA136&lpg=PA136&dq=borderline+disorder+ventriloquist+lewin&source=bl&ots=9JjexG8CKV&sig=VLuzorqf0cIFqQb0AmZ8T0JgqkY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjm6bSGmZfZAhVlx1kKHYabCksQ6AEIQzAD#v=onepage&q=borderline%20disorder%20ventriloquist%20lewin&f=false

The author of the above paper talks about the borderline patient’s desperate need to control the analyst stemming from the patient’s desperate fear of abandonment.  (Fear of abandonment is one of the cornerstones of borderline disorder.)  Edgar — at least as I have imagined that character — did not have borderline disorder; he was a narcissist, perhaps a malignant narcissist with prominent narcissistic, paranoid, and psychopathic traits.

What’s interesting is that Dr. Kernberg points out that many narcissistic patients have underlying borderline personalities.

Let’s say Edgar had a desperate fear of abandonment rooted in underlying borderline symptomatically.  Wouldn’t that determine his relationship with Ronnie?  Wouldn’t Edgar need to obsessively devalue Ronnie in Adele’s eyes because the notion that Adele might have positive feelings for Ronnie were especially jealousy provoking and therefore abhorent?    How would Ronnie have reacted psychologically to Edgar’s disturbed behaviors — possibly rooted as they were in borderline pathology?  Do you know what it’s like being subjected as a matter of routine to the intense emotional needs of the borderline individual?  It’s not pleasant.

Excerpt from Gruzhin’s Banned Novel Korsakov

Gruzhin

Gruzhin lived in a furnished room near the train station.

He subsisted outside the law and outside society: an exile.

At age 22 he had been awarded the Glinka prize

for his epic poem Hannibal, written in a new form.

The ecstasy and depth of the poem amazed the jurors,

and the nation’s literary journals hailed the poet’s rare ingenuity.

At age 27 he was condemned by the Revolution’s leaders.

The press vilified him as a “purveyor of bourgeois trash.”

Copies of his novel Korsakov were burned; he was imprisoned.

He now lived in a silent world, watched by authorities.

 

Excerpt from Gruzhin’s Banned Novel Korsakov

The state apparatus of our forebears has vanished forever and

our people are left with an ill-omened creation that oversees

the administration of violent repression and the dissemination of ideology,

which, being the fantasy of a madman’s brain, can in

reality be nothing else than a figure out of a

nightmare seated upon a monument of fear and oppression. Spectral

it lives and spectral it will one day disappear without

leaving a memory of a single generous deed, of a

single service rendered. Other despotisms there have been, but none

whose origin was so grimly fantastic in its cruel baseness.

Editor’s note: Gruzhin’s novel Korsakov depicted the creation and later collapse of a utopian state. On the evening of October 7, 19—, the fifth anniversary of the Revolution that installed the Dictatorship of the Mediocre, enraged students — supporters of the Krinskyite regime — gathered in the University courtyard in the capital to torch hundreds of copies of Gruzhin’s banned book beneath a statue erected to the memory of Karl Krinsky.
______________________________________

Paraphrases from the essay “Autocracy and War” by Joseph Conrad.

Letter to an Italian Publisher

To Giangiacomo F.:

I commenced work on my novel Korsakov before the crimes

against humanity committed by the Krinskyite regime were exposed in

the writings of A.S. After briefly considering setting aside the

typescript, I chose to complete it as originally conceived, as

though the tragic reality of the internment of our citizens

had not yet occurred in the imaginary world where my

characters live and work. The similarities between the real and

fictitious are entirely coincidental. I take no pride in my

prescience. I only wish that the failed utopia of the

Krinskyite state lived solely on the pages of my story.

Victor Gruzhin
____________________________________________
Paraphrases from the Foreword to the novel The Black Widow by Daniel Silva.