~ I am going to make my way in this blog on a metaphorical bridge of thoughts and perceptions from day to day to try to connect the known with the yet unknown. My bridge is like a single plank which will require the supplement of others.
In the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 patients at higher risk to die were often relatively young adults with seemingly strong immune reactions to the infection. This seeming paradox — that the young and healthy were most at risk — is attributable to the so-called cytokine storm.
A cytokine storm is an overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds—cytokines—which, in something like a flu infection, is often associated with a surge of activated immune cells into the lungs. The resulting lung inflammation and fluid buildup can lead to respiratory distress and can be contaminated by a secondary bacterial pneumonia. This increases the risk of mortality in patients. The surge in immune molecules can result in the fatal shutdown of multiple organs. Cytokine storm appears to be particularly relevant in outbreaks of new flu variants. The old or infirm tended to have weaker immune systems that would not produce such an aggressive immune response and were more likely to survive the infection.
Be that as it may.
Years ago I was in psychotherapy with a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst who believed that the healthy aspects of a person always count as a plus. So for example, if a patient is highly intelligent, he can use that intelligence to his advantage. Was this psychiatrist sensitive to the fact that a person’s talents or positive traits can pose problems for the person’s adjustment? Years ago, when I was 24 years old, my then treating psychiatrist I.J. Oberman, D.O. (also a psychoanalyst) said to me: “Your problem is your intelligence. If you had the same personality problems, but you’re weren’t as intelligent as you are, your personality problems wouldn’t be a problem for you. The problem for you is the combination of your intelligence and your personality problems.”
I was interested to read Justin Frank, M.D.’s description of President Obama’s intelligence as “obstructive” in Obama on the Couch. Intelligence is not always helpful in all ways.
Following the evening of June 11, 2017, I had the following dream:
I am in the living room of the house where I grew up. Although it is daytime, the room is dimly lit. (In fact the room was always dark; the living room had only one small window). Someone has left a floral arrangement on a table. They are deep red astorias. In fact there is no such flower. Someone has left a note attached to the flowers. It says, “Dark forces have overtaken Vienna, but the forces of light will someday return. Farewell, my beloved Vienna.” The note is signed Arnold Zweig. I sense that the note refers to the Nazi takeover of Austria in March 1938. I have the sense that sad events are happening elsewhere, but that I am safe in the living room of the house.
Just this morning I read something related to the events pertinent to the dream.
On Saturday June 4, 1938, Sigmund Freud, his wife, Martha, and their daughter Anna left Vienna forever. On the same day, Freud sent a note to his friend, the writer, Arnold Zweig. In it he wrote, briefly, “Leaving today for 39 Elsworthy Road, London NW3 . . . “.
My book Significant Moments recounts Freud’s passage to England:
Here in this house . . . H. Rider Haggard, Montezuma’s Daughter.
. . . in London, . . . J. Moussaieff Masson, Freud and the Seduction Theory.
. . . Between one June and another September . . . T.S. Eliot, Excerpt from Marina.
. . . Freud lived out the year he still had to live . . . Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
. . . extremely ill; . . . Henry James, The Chaperon.
. . . an exile, . . . Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Excerpt from Evangeline.
. . . alone in an alien culture. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight To Italy. Diary and Selected Letters (Explanatory Note by T.J. Reed).
What images return T.S. Eliot, Excerpt from Marina. June Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight To Italy. Diary and Selected Letters.
crossing the Channel Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
through the fog T.S. Eliot, Excerpt from Marina.
by the night boat Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
the last outposts of France, sleeping under the stars Alan Furst, The World at Night quoting Arthur Koestler (1940).
water lapping the bow T.S. Eliot, Excerpt from Marina.
the still night George Gordon, Lord Byron, Manfred.
Then, land!—then England! Elizabeth Barret Browning, Aurora Leigh.
reaching the other shore Commentary on the Diamond Sutra.
the first eight weeks of freedom Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight To Italy. Diary and Selected Letters (editor’s note).
June, May . . . April . . . February . . . November Simon Gray, Butley. September Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight To Italy. Diary and Selected Letters (editor’s note).
this long disease Simon Gray, Butley.
his daughter Anna Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time. Freud, Living and Dying Max Schur, Freud, Living and Dying.
—his death and her sorrow— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
the final summons James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans.
‘What is it—what?’ Robert Frost, Excerpt from Home Burial.
My daughter. T.S. Eliot, Excerpt from Marina.
“—and the doctor.” Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
his loyal and loving physician Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
the morphine Jack London, The Sea Wolf.
Freud’s end as a stoic suicide Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
syringes and needles Alan Dershowitz, Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bulow Case.
(“syringes and needles” — That’s The Dream of the Intruding Doctor!!!!!! The Dream of the Intruding Doctor I associated to my childhood scarlet fever at age 3!!!!! The penicillin injection I received at age three to treat my scarlet fever!!!! — I also associated The Dream of the Botanical Monograph to my scarlet fever at age 3!!!!!!))
This Significant Moments text is related to The Dream of the Borromean Islands, which write-up concludes:
Perhaps in the dream my desired destination, psychoanalysis – the idealized, giving breast, which, in my view offered “great insightful wisdom” – was, figuratively speaking, “the other shore,” just as the dream image of the beautiful islands and the Egyptian royal temple were, in a literal sense, located on another shore. I was “this shore” – envious, hungry, unsatisfied, both as a therapy patient and as concretely represented in the dream.
I am reminded of a commentary on a Buddhist parable found in the
What does paramita mean? It is rendered into Chinese by “reaching the other shore.” Reaching the other shore means detachment from birth and death. Just because people of the world lack stability of nature, they find appearances of birth and death in all things, flow in the waves of various courses of existence, and have not arrived at the ground of reality as is: all of this is “this shore.” It is necessary to have great insightful wisdom, complete in respect to all things, detached from appearances of birth and death—this is “reaching the other shore.” It is also said that when the mind is confused, it is “this shore.” When the mind is enlightened, it is “the other shore.” When the mind is distorted, it is “this shore.” When the mind is sound, it is “the other shore.” If you speak of it and carry it out mentally, then your own reality body is imbued with paramita. If you speak of it but do not carry it out mentally, then there is no paramita.
I shipped a copy of my book, A Meeting of Joyceand Proust to Justin A. Frank, M.D. Dr. Frank, a psychiatrist, has written psychological studies of Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. I thought he might find my presidential preoccupations humorous. Dr. Frank is affiliated with the George Washington University and is probably a friend of President Trachtenberg’s.
Dr. Frank is also a Kleinian analyst.
In my estimation my father was an important man. He was employed as a garment worker, cutting neckties, but I was proud of his position as shop chairman of his factory. That summer, in late August, President Johnson accepted his party’s nomination as Democratic candidate for President. It was only as an adult that I came to realize how much I identified my father with the President of the United States, and how, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, the thing that in one way or another was central to my life was my search to find an image of a strength and wisdom external to my need and superior to my hunger for a strong father, to which the belief and power of my own life could be united.
Dr. Palombo believed that a person’s intellectual abilities can only be a positive force in one’s adjustment. Not true. Abilities can be obstructive. Maybe Kleinians see things differently than Freudians. I remember on one occasion I pointed out to Dr. Palombo some accomplishment that I had and he responded: “And you didn’t cash in on that?” Sometimes abilities can be a debit and not a credit.
A certain psychoanalyst I used to see viewed all my observations about other people — and I have many — as projections. He thought I was paranoid. No, I am able to “read between the lines of what a person does or says.” Once again, my abilities were devalued as psychopathology. How can a person function in the world if his abilities and talents are constantly devalued as mental illness?
I wonder if this Harvard graduate ever thought about the distinction between projection and “psychological mindedness?”
Psychological mindedness has also been defined without explicit reference to psychopathology. Hatcher and Hatcher (1997) argued that PM is the ability to achieve a psychological understanding of oneself and others, and is a complex capacity built on both cognitive and emotional skills. Wolitzky and Reuben (1974) viewed PM as a “tendency to understand or explain behaviour in psychological terms” (p. 26). Dollinger, Reader, Marnett, and Tylenda (1983) also made no specific reference to psychopathology, and defined PM “as the ability to read between the lines of what a person does or says” (p. 183).
Rethinking Psychological Mindedness: Metacognition, Self-reflection, and Insight
Anthony M. Grant
Psychological mindedness (PM) has long been considered to be an important mediator of therapy outcome. However, to date, definitions of PM have been typified by linguistic imprecision and lack of conceptual clarity. Further, most definitions and measures of PM have approached the task from a psychodynamic perspective, thus limiting the use of this construct by clinicians and researchers from other theoretical perspectives. In this paper, previous definitions and self-report measures are reviewed and a new definition proposed. It is argued that PM is best conceptualized as a form of metacognition: a predisposition to engage in metacognitive acts of inquiry into how and why people behave, think, and feel in the way that they do. A new model, based on this definition, suggests that PM may be assessed by measuring individuals’ metacognitive processes of self-reflection and insight, circumventing many of the problems associated with previous self-report measures of PM. Research into individual differences in propensity for PM, self-reflection, and insight may well provide the clinician with additional tools with which to facilitate purposeful, directed change in both clinical and nonclinical populations.
Wagner did not stimulate admirers alone—he stimulated a cause. To some extent he was the cause. One can argue that in building his own theater in Bayreuth . . . Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics.
– by a unique combination of pride, ambition, audacity, greed, idealism, ingenuity and folly – New York: The Center of the World — A Documentary Film.
. . . he took the Romantic idea of genius—of the artist as a culture hero—further than any artist in the nineteenth century, and the advancement of his work therefore became a crusade for many people who believed in the idea. Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics.
At the beginning of most great enterprises stands an adventure, a defiance of time, or law, or some established notion. This is true of most new . . . Amos Elon, Herzl.
. . . crusades founded on . . . James Flannery, Southern Theatre and the Paradox of Progress.
. . . sweeping theories of human renewal. Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics.
There is always a trace of Quixotism when devotion to a cause is extreme, logical, and saintlike. Amos Elon, Herzl.
Wagner . . . Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics.
. . . went beyond that. He walked a tightrope between charlatanism and genius. Throughout his career as a self-appointed leader of men he ran a very real danger of exposure as a fraud even as he was hailed as a . . . Amos Elon, Herzl.
. . . cultural . . . Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics.
. . . savior. In his negotiations with kings, emperors, and ministers of state, even in his dealings with his closest disciples, he took great risks; he had to conjure up an entire world of make-believe in place of the real power he lacked. Amos Elon, Herzl.
But that’s the nature of the game when you’re talking about audacity and hubris. New York: The Center of the World — A Documentary Film.
‘Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act falls the shadow.’ The problem posed by T.S. Eliot the poet was precisely what now confronted Richard Wagner the opera composer. In his case, bridging the gulf between inspiration and realization was not a solitary activity with pen and paper but a live endeavour involving hundreds of fallible, willful human beings and a variety of art forms. Frederic Spotts, Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival.
In the year 1984, civilization has been damaged by war, civil conflict, and revolution. Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) is a province of Oceania, one of the three totalitarian super-states that rule the world. It is ruled by the “Party” under the ideology of “Ingsoc” (a shortening of “English Socialism”) and the mysterious leader Big Brother, who has an intense cult of personality. The Party stamps out anyone who does not fully conform to their regime using the Thought Police and constant surveillance.
Emmanuel Goldstein is the principal enemy of the state according to the Party of the totalitarian Oceania.
Goldstein supposedly wrote a book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism that exposes the lies of Big Brother and the exploitive practices of the state of Oceana.
Goldstein is always the subject of the “Two Minutes Hate”, a daily program beginning at 11:00 a.m. at which an image of Goldstein is shown on a telescreen and subjected to extreme contempt by citizens of Oceana.
The psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold drew parallels between the characters and plot of Orwell’s 1984 and issues of child abuse in his book, Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation.
Theranos was a privately held health technology corporation. It was initially touted as a breakthrough technology company, with claims of having devised blood tests that needed only very small amounts of blood and could be performed very rapidly using small automated devices the company had developed. However, the claims later proved to be false.
The founder of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes was described as autocratic, narcissistic, with paranoid tendencies. She was also unusually charismatic and, like Big Brother, ran the toxic culture of Theranos through her cult of personality. She was a woman “of high intelligence, hard working, and extremely talented or capable in [her] field.”
John Carreyrou, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, exposed Theranos as a fraud in a series of articles published in the Journal. Carreyou alleged that the company was, in effect, a sham.
Particularly striking as it relates to Orwell’s novel 1984 was a company meeting that was held after Carreyou’s articles were published at which employees chanted in unison “Fuck you, Carreyrou!” One is reminded of the daily ritualized denunciation of the fictional Goldstein, the so-called “Two Minutes Hate” described in Orwell’s 1984.
It seems that most if not all of the numerous published accounts of Elizabeth Holmes fail to consider the parallels between her and Orwell’s Big Brother, between the fictional Oceana and Theranos, and between the investigative journalist John Carreyou and Emmanuel Goldstein. I find the parallels psychologically intriguing.
I am also curious about Elizabeth Holmes from the vantage point of Kernberg’s description of narcissistic leaders in organizations. The emergence of paranoid tendencies in Holmes following Carreyou’s journalistic exposé appears to conform to a typical progression. Holmes had one Theranos employee, Tyler Schultz placed under surveillance after his contacts with Carreyou became known.
The inordinate self-centeredness and grandiosity of narcissistic people is in dramatic contrast to their chronic potential for envy. Their inability to evaluate themselves and others in depth makes them incapable of empathy with and sophisticated discrimination of others, all of which may become damaging when they occupy leadership positions. In addition, when they do not receive expected external gratifications, or when they experience severe frustration or failure, they may develop paranoid trends in place of the more usual depression and sense of personal failure. Such paranoid tendencies exacerbate the leader’s narcissistic character traits and the damage they can do to the organization.
Because narcissistic personalities are often driven by intense needs for power and prestige to assume positions of authority, individuals with such characteristics are frequently found in top leadership positions. They are often men and women of high intelligence, hard working, and extremely talented or capable in their field, but their narcissistic needs neutralize or destroy their creative potential in the organisation . . . . Leaders with narcissistic personalities are unaware of the variety of pathological human relationships they foster, both around themselves and throughout the entire organization, as their personalities affect administrative structures and functions at large. Kernberg, O., Ideology, Conflict, and Leadership in Groups and Organizations.
I am struck by Holmes’ lack of empathy in exploiting needy medical patients with serious illness that fits hand-in-glove with her carefully-crafted grandiose image and narcissistic management style. All these fragments are of a piece; they are expressions of narcissistic leadership.
For someone who grew up in a narcissistic family and who took on a “Goldstein role” in his family, this story is intensely absorbing for me.
I continue to believe that on April 13, 1990 I overheard a conversation at work in which the legal assistant administrator gave instructions to a legal assistant concerning the bates-stamp numbering of some documents, and that the administrator’s repeated use of the word “bates” was a double-entendre: an offensive and intimidating reference to masturbation. The incident occurred on a Friday, hours before my regularly-scheduled appointment with my then treating psychiatrist, Stanley R. Palombo, M.D.; I interpreted the actions of the administrator as a prompt that was calculated to encourage me to make paranoid comments about the administrator to my psychiatrist, who would communicate my comments back to firm managers.