“A common daydream which in spite of its frequency has received very little attention to-date is the fantasy of possessing a twin. It is a conscious fantasy, built up in the latency period as the result of disappointment by the parents — and retaliatory destructive impulses directed by the child in fantasy against the parents — in the Oedipus situation, in the child’s search for a partner who will give him all the attention, love and companionship he desires and who will provide an escape from loneliness and solitude. The same emotional conditions are the basis of the family romance. In that well-known daydream the child in the latency period develops fantasies of having a better, kinder and worthier family than his own, which has so bitterly disappointed and disillusioned him. The parents have been unable to gratify the child’s instinctual wishes; in disappointment his love turns to hate; he now despises his family and, in revenge, turns against it. He has death-wishes against the former love-objects, and as a result feels alone and forsaken in the world. Burlingham, D.T. “The Fantasy of Having a Twin.” The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Vol. 1 at 205 (1945) (emphasis added). A further element in many daydreams of having a twin is that of the imaginary twin being a complement to the daydreamer. The latter endows his twin with all the qualities and talents that he misses in himself and desires for himself. The twin thus represents his superego. Id. at 209.”
Thoughts about Anne Frank cause me to question my therapist’s view that I write letters about my therapy sessions with her because I feel I want something from her, I am not getting that thing, and that in reaction I need to aggress against her: the view that my letters are necessarily an attack on her, calculated to provoke an angry reaction from her.
The teenage Anne Frank and her family were confined to the upper floor of a house in Amsterdam during the Second World War to escape arrest by the Nazis. She recorded her thoughts and feelings about her confinement in a diary. In some sense the diary was a response to feelings of oppression. The diary was her inner playground and sanctuary. The diary entries were addressed to Kitty, an idealized figure who assumed the role of an imaginary friend. We can surmise that dissociation played a role in the entries to the unidentified Kitty. An actual friend of Frank’s named Kitty Egyedi said in an interview that she was flattered by the assumption she was the real Kitty, but doubted the diary was addressed to her. Kitty Egyedi wrote: “Kitty became so idealized and started to lead her own life in the diary that it ceases to matter who is meant by ‘Kitty’. The name … is not meant to be me.” May we assume that Anne Frank, in response to the prison-like oppression of her environment and feeling alone and forsaken in the world, retreated into fantasy (or dissociation), creating a relationship with an imaginary figure 1/ who would complement Frank, possess all the qualities and talents that she missed in herself and desired for herself? Or should we say rather that Frank’s work was the product of a wish to provoke the Nazis?
Related to these thoughts is the following anecdote. When I was eight years old, my parents took me to see the movie, The Birdman of Alcratraz. I was enthralled by the movie and I recall my intense personal identification with the hero.
To break the monotony of prison life, the felon Robert Stroud adopts an orphaned baby sparrow as a pet. This starts a trend and he and the other convicts acquire birds, such as canaries, as gifts from the outside. Before long, Stroud has built up a collection of birds and cages. When they fall ill, he conducts experiments and comes up with a cure. As the years pass, Stroud becomes an expert on bird diseases and even publishes a book on the subject. His writings are so impressive that a doctor describes him as a “genius”.
Notice how my behavior, so rich in suggestive psychoanalytic subtleties, is reduced by a paranoid therapist into the solipsistic and simple formulation: “he is trying to attack me with his letters.”
1/ It’s perhaps important to note that my letters are not addressed to my therapist. They aren’t addressed to anyone. Is an imaginary, idealized figure my fantasied recipient?