I have a belief that I have been under surveillance by my former employer. Years ago I had a psychiatrist who had an unusual response to my reports about being under surveillance. When he told me I was persecutory (paranoid) I would ask him why he thought that and he would say, “That’s improbable.” Improbable. That sequence happened several times. He’s the only psychiatrist who had that response to my reports about the surveillance.
I was confused by that response. The psychiatrist did not deny that it was happening; he didn’t ask, “Why would that happen?”; he didn’t say, “that belief is the product of a thought disturbance.” No. He would only say, “that’s improbable.”
I puzzled over that response. What could it possibly mean? I thought about the fact that the statistical probability of something occurring has nothing to do with the identity of that occurrence, the nature of that occurrence, or, in the psychological realm, the psychodynamics of the occurrence. I thought about chemistry. In the universe the element hydrogen is a common element. It is the constituent of stars, the fuel that powers the stars’ fusion reactions. Elements of a higher atomic number are more rare. The radioactive element astatine is so rare that its inclusion in the Periodic Table of the Elements was made at first in theoretical character. Currently there are a total of 31 grams of the material on earth.
In one’s daily life the statistical probability of encountering the element astatine is extremely low to nonexistent. It’s improbable! And yet, as to the identity of astatine, well — despite the statistical improbability of encountering astatine — the element is like every other element in terms of certain fundamental characteristics, that is, the element has an “identity.” Astatine has a unique atomic number. The element as a substance has physical qualities — just as the more common element copper has physical qualities like electrical conductivity and malleability.
When you say that something is improbable are you not perhaps denying the object’s or phenomena’s “identity?” That is, despite the statistical improbability of something occurring, it nonetheless has an identity or describable characteristics.
And what is that? What does it mean when a person denies the identity of something and instead speaks of the thing in quantitative terms like “statistical probability?” That’s anal defensiveness or anal sadism! The psychoanalyst Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel sees anal sadism as driving the need to see individuals (or any objects that have a specific identity) as indistinguishable from each other. In her essay “Perversion and Universal Law” Chasseguet-Smirgel refers to “an anal universe where all differences are abolished . . . All that is taboo, forbidden, or sacred is devoured by the digestive tract, an enormous grinding machine disintegrating the molecules of the mass thus obtained in order to reduce it to excrement.” In the anal universe Good and Evil are synonymous.
Surveillance has dynamics. When it occurs there are reasons why it occurs. We can describe those various reasons. We can talk about the psychodynamics of surveillance. Speaking of the statistical probability of the occurrence of surveillance bypasses an inquiry into the nature and psychodynamics of surveillance as well as the nature and psychodynamics of the individual’s belief in the surveillance, regardless of how deluded that belief is. (In fact, when I was seeing Dr. Palombo, he responded to my report of surveillance, “We can treat your belief as (an analyzable) fantasy.” Dr. Sack said to me, “We can analyze your paranoia.” These doctors did not say, “That’s improbable.”
When I reported to the psychiatrist that I was a victim of surveillance why did he deny my report in anal sadistic terms, namely, “that’s improbable” — substituting a concern for statistical probability in place of a concern for the describable aspects (speaking metaphorically, the “electrical conductivity” and “malleability”) of my beliefs.
What is the meaning of denying a person’s seemingly paranoid belief by use of an anal sadistic procedure?
This goes to one of my difficulties in life. I am constantly seeing deep meanings in seemingly casual observations of other people. My mind is overwhelmed with all the ironies, contradictions, and absurdities of the things that people say. I lay awake at night thinking of these things!