In my work with psychotherapists I sometimes feel like a dissident in a totalitarian regime. I feel that I am censored and cajoled into talking about certain things and refraining from talking about other things. I saw an analyst in 1990. When I tried to talk about my family, he said to me: “What do you want me to do, condemn you family?” When I tried to talk about anti-Semitism he stopped me. When I tried to talk about my paranoid constructions he became heated and cut me off. But, in all fairness, I’ve had these issues with most of my therapists. I feel a special sensitivity about the sensation of being censored — of being unable fully to make my private world public. My blog provides a powerful sense of freedom for me, a place where I can say anything (or almost anything) and no one can reply: Stop!
I recently hit upon a thought experiment that intrigues me. Let’s say that I were to keep a private journal in which I wrote about all my thoughts, all of my fanciful ideas: my paranoid constructions, my thoughts about my family, my intellectualizations, every grandiose and paranoid idea imaginable: things that typically get censored in therapy.
Let’s say also that my therapists tape record my sessions and prepare transcripts of my sessions, sessions whose content reflects the censoring activities of the therapists.
So we now have two documents: a private journal that records all my thoughts, including those censored by therapists; and a set of transcripts of my therapy sessions that reflect the censorship of the therapist.
Now, let’s say there is a serial killer on the loose. He has killed ten people so far and the FBI is desperate to apprehend him. The FBI has come into possession of two documents: a private journal by an unidentified subject and a set of transcripts of that individual’s therapy sessions. The FBI sends these documents to the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in hopes that the BAU can create a personality profile of the unidentified subject — clues to his identity, motivations, fears, etc.
Now, I ask you — Which document would be more valuable to the BAU: the private journal that recorded all of the subject’s thoughts, perceptions, ideas about his family, paranoid fantasies, grandiose ideas, notions about anti-Semitism, ideas about being under surveillance, ideas about former coworkers? or the transcripts of the individual’s therapy sessions whose contents reflect, in large measure, the censorship agenda of the therapist?
What does that tell you about psychotherapy? Is it in reality a search for truth, a search for identity — or rather a brainwashing tool? One wonders.
The FBI is asking: Who is this unidentified subject? The therapist is thinking: How can I change this person?
Let’s say that the patient has severe introjective pathology: he is obsessed with issues of identity and self-definition, he is obsessed (ironically, like Oedipus himself!) with the question: Who am I? Yes, the introjective patient is concerned with the question, “Who am I?” and not “How can you change me?” The introjective patient (like the FBI) is concerned with identity and not change.
Perhaps this explains to some degree my interest in Bion. Bion said that the purpose of analysis ultimately is the search for truth and not a way of changing a person. For Bion, change emerges out of the search for truth: for Bion change is, as the biochemists say, a by product.