email Message to a Friend of Dr. Palombo’s

When Dr. Palombo used to go on vacation he would refer his patients to Dr. Benensohn. Dr. Benensohn thus occupies the position of Dr. Schley from my childhood.  When my pediatrician, Dr. Bloom went on vacation, he referred his patients to Dr. Schley. Whatever that means!

Dr. Benensohn:

I am a psychotherapy patient with a layman’s interest in psychoanalysis.  I have written summaries of several of my therapy sessions over a nine-month period.  May I interest you to take a look at the text of the summaries in the attachment?

I am a former therapy patient of Stanley R. Palombo, M.D.    I believe that Dr. Palombo, now retired, is one of the finest psychoanalysts in Washington, DC.

Gary Freedman
Washington, DC

zz psychotherapy-reflections 4-9

Individualism & Collectivism

I am reminded of the observations of British sociologist Yiannis Gabriel
who points out the biological imperative of what we might term Oedipal
aggrandizement: the male’s efforts to distinguish himself from amorous
rivals in order to win the ideal mate. “Like collectivism, individualism can
be traced to the dissolution of the Oedipus complex and the institution of
the superego. Both collectivism and individualism are attempts to placate
the superego, the former through submission to the social order, the latter
through distinction, excellence and achievement. Conformity alone
cannot satisfy the superego — after all it is not by being one of the crowd
that the boy will win the ultimate prize, the woman of his dreams; nor
does being part of the crowd win for the girl the ‘happy-ever-after’ life of
her dreams. One looks in vain for fairy tales about lemmings working
together to accomplish collective tasks. Achievement, distinction and
excellence are what grip the child’s imagination, which idealizes the
heroes and heroines of fairy tales and casts him or herself in the starring
role. It is by slaying dragons, answering riddles, and accomplishing the
impossible that the child achieves the fulfillment of the promise which
concluded his or her Oedipal drama.” Organizations in Depth: The
Psychoanalysis of Organizations.

smirgel 1smirgel 2smirgel 3

The Head Table: Raben’s Moment of Glory Sitting Next to the Old Master

He then came out of his room, . . .
Hugo Wolf, Letter to His Parents in Romain Rolland, Hugo Wolf.
I rose.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
[He] looked at me, and said: “I have seen you before, I think. You are . . .”
Hugo Wolf, Letter to His Parents in Romain Rolland, Hugo Wolf.
. . . Rabenstein?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
Ah, no, no!
Richard Wagner, Letter to Mathilde Wesendonk (April 7, 1858).
. . . pardon the slip!
Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
. . . Raben?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
I must confess that . . .
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . I was born . . .
Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.
. . . Rabensteiner, . . .
Franz Kafka, The Trial.
. . . a Jew:
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . but I sign . . .
Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years.
. . .Raben . . .
Richard Wagner, Gotterdammerung.
. . . as a pen name . . .
E. James Lieberman, Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank.
. . . now and then.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
I thought as much!
Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.

* * * *

Upon that I left the master, profoundly moved and impressed.
Hugo Wolf, Letter to His Parents in Romain Rolland, Hugo Wolf.
I said to myself:
Wilkie Collins, The Legacy of Cain.
How decent of so great a personage to be so human with . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
. . . a burning amateur, . . .
William Golding, Free Fall.
. . . like me.
L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz.
The communication was brief . . .
Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure.
. . . (not worth mentioning), but the memory remained—I knew at that moment that
I would never forget it and simultaneously I knew or thought I knew . . .
Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena.
. . . what the others . . .
Edith Nesbit, The Story of the Treasure Seekers.
. . . the rest of the tribe . . .
Jack London, To The Man on the Trail.
. . . would say.
Edith Nesbit, The Story of the Treasure Seekers.
I dashed to the library at the first opportunity;
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
Once there, . . .
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery.
. . . I turned with respect to . . .
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . Hermann Levi—
Peter Gay, Freud, Jews, and Other Germans.
Levi, . . .
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . who was by no means free of vanity or unaware of his own position, . . .
Herbert Kupferberg, The Mendelssohns: Three Generations of Genius.
. . . that is, as . . .
Aldous Huxley, Crome Yellow.
. . . a Jew in a gentile world, . . .
Peter Gay, Freud, Jews, and Other Germans.
. . . looked at me with an amused, vaguely ironic expression:
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table.
. . . ambivalent at its heart.
Peter Gay, Freud, Jews, and Other Germans.
He said:
My friend, you . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
. . . could throw away . . .
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time quoting Sigmund Freud, Letter to
His Fiancée.
. . . all things—
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Excerpt from Don Juan.
. . . make common cause with . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
. . . the devil . . .
Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
. . . as one would carry on a love affair.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
And all for what?
Wilkie Collins, The Evil Genius.
—and all for an old man;
Edwin Arlington Robinson, The Three Taverns.
. . . for a great moment . . .
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time quoting Sigmund Freud, Letter to
His Fiancée.
—one moment . . .
K.R. Eissler, Talent and Genius: The Fictitious Case of Tausk Contra Freud.
. . . with such a person . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
. . . as Wagner
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner.
But then, . . .
Emile Zola, The Debacle.
. . . Wagner’s disciples . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner.
. . . whether Jew or gentile . . .
Peter Gay, Freud, Jews, and Other Germans.
. . . were all . . .
Wilkie Collins, The Evil Genius.
. . . like that, and remained like that, always.
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.


In 1988 then House Speaker Wright became the target of an inquiry by the House Ethics Committee.  Their report in early 1989 implied that he had used bulk purchases of his book, Reflections of a Public Man, to earn speaking fees in excess of the allowed maximum, and that his wife, Betty, was given a job and perks to avoid the limit on gifts. Faced with an increasing loss of effectiveness, Wright tendered his resignation as Speaker on May 31, 1989, the resignation to become effective on the selection of a successor.

So I went to Chuck Levi and asked him to create a trust for Jim Wright.  Some time later Chuck Levi comes back to me and says, “Bob, I can’t create a trust for Jim Wright.  That man has no assets.”

–Bob Strauss, Breakfast with Bob Strauss–April 6, 1989

The Dinner Party

zz The_Dinner_Party

The Dream of the Family Gathering — Additional Thoughts: I Knew Strauss Would Be Involved in This

I had an additional significant association to the Dream of the Family Gathering from March 8, 2019:

I am at the house where I grew up. There is a large family gathering at which my parents are present. Dr. P— is there. I am happy to see him, but I don’t want to look too excited. My family treats him like a beloved son. My family ignores me; they appear to shun me. All their attention is focused on Dr. P—. Dr. P— ignores me also; he won’t make eye contact. He seems happy and profoundly content. I have strong feelings of sadness and distress about Dr. P— ignoring me and my family ignoring me. I feel that Dr. P— has usurped me. I feel like an outsider in my own family. The family leads him into the kitchen, while I gaze on.

I woke up today April 6, 2019 thinking of the events of exactly thirty years ago, April 6, 1989. I was working at Akin Gump. The firm arranged a “Breakfast with Bob Strauss.” About 60 paralegals gathered to hear Bob Strauss speak and answer questions. Strauss and others sat at the head table at the front of the large fifth floor conference room. Raben was at the head table and I was jealous. I thought, “How did Raben get to sit at the head table with Strauss and the important people like Earl Segal?  How did Raben get to be so important–he’s just a paralegal like me.” Raben was my usurper.  Perhaps at some level I thought of my sister’s wedding when I was 15 years old, when I sat at the head table as best man with other members of my family.   At my sister’s wedding I remember feeling ignored by my family; all their attention was focused on my sister.  I remember when we had completed our meal, I was still sitting alone at the head table and smoking a cigar.  My family had left the head table by that time and started mingling with the guests.   As I sat alone, the wedding photographer approached me.  He said:  “There are a lot of girls here.  Why don’t you talk to them instead of sitting alone smoking a cigar.”  I took his advice and started to chat with my sisters friends.  A week later, when my sister and brother-in-law returned from the honeymoon in Miami Beach, we had a small family gathering where my mother opened a bottle of champagne she had on hand.

Later in the morning of April 6, 2019  I started listening to the second act of Strauss’s opera, Arabella. The second act is one of my favorite things in Strauss. I never listen to Acts 1 and 3; I find them incredibly tedious. But I love Act 2. It takes place in a ballroom at a hotel in Vienna in the 1860s. Early in the act Mandryka proposes marriage to Arabella. Mandryka orders champagne for the guests at the ball; “Moet et Chandon.” Later in the act Arabella approaches her three suitors Elemer, Dominick, and Lamoral and dumps them. This parallels the theme of the three caskets in The Merchant of Venice, where Portia rejects two of her suitors and accepts Bassanio.  Arabella’s father, Mr. Waldner, sits at a table at the ball playing cards with his buddies; like Strauss and his buddies playing poker.  You can see all this on the following video.

You had to know that Strauss would be involved in this.


My view of Dr. P— as my usurper in this dream seems connected to my role as an intruder in the earlier Dream of the Intruding Doctor, someone who did not belong in Missouri: the outsider, alien, or interloper. In The Dream of the Family Gathering, Dr. P— is a “welcome outsider” to my parents while to me he is an intruder, which parallels the biographical incident from age three, discussed earlier, when I came down with scarlet fever. My pediatrician (Dr. Bloom) was a “welcome outsider” to my parents and to me, perhaps, an intruder.

The dream suggests that I see Dr. P— as the successful son my parents never had. I suppose I am deeply envious of him; I feel he has the accomplishments and traits that rightly belong to me, but that in fact belong to him.

The figure of Dr. P— in this dream reminds me of the so-called “happy mortal” described by Goethe in his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther: “We often feel that we lack something, and seem to see that very quality in someone else, promptly attributing all our own qualities to him too, and a kind of ideal contentment as well. And so the happy mortal is a model of complete perfection—which we have ourselves created.” I see superego issues. Dr. P— is my ego ideal. The distress I feel in the dream is the disparity between my ego and my own ego ideal. We might say that my feelings in this dream relate to a state of “self-estrangement” in which I sense a discrepancy between my ideal self and my actual selfimage. See, TenHouten, W., Alienation and Affect.

I think about a biographical incident from Sunday May 18, 1969. I was 15 years old. My sister and brother-in-law got married the previous Sunday, on May 11. On the night of their wedding, they flew to Miami Beach, Florida for their honeymoon. A week later, on the 18th, when they returned, my parents and I picked them up at the airport. They returned to my parents’ house. My uncle Louie and his wife Reggie were there. My mother happened to have a bottle of champagne. We drank a glass of champagne. My sister and brother-in-law had purchased a gift for me, a men’s jewelry box. In retrospect, the jewelry box reminds me of the theme of the three caskets from Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice. In that play the fair and wise Portia is bound at her father’s bidding to take as her husband only that one of her suitors who chooses the right casket from among the three before him. The three caskets are of gold, silver and lead: the right casket is the one that contains her portrait. Two suitors have already departed unsuccessful: they have chosen gold and silver. Bassanio, the third decides in favor of lead; thereby he wins the bride, whose affection was already his before the trial of fortune. The suitor’s choice in The Merchant of Venice parallels my dream in that my parents appear to have chosen Dr. P— over me. It’s as if my parents were thinking, “Now that we have Dr. P—, we don’t need Gary anymore.” In some sense I was the loser in a competition, which suggests an Oedipal theme.

As I see it, The Dream of the Family Gathering relates to introjective concerns, not anaclitic concerns. People say about me, “He’s very lonely and he wants a friend. That’s why he is obsessed with his former primary care doctor.” No. Those are interpersonal, anaclitic concerns. In this dream I am failing to live up to my parents’ (and my own) expectations: Patients with introjective disorders are plagued by feelings of guilt, self-criticism, inferiority, and worthlessness. They tend to be more perfectionistic, duty-bound, and competitive individuals, who often feel like they have to compensate for failing to live up to their own and the perceived expectations of others.

The basic wish is to be acknowledged, respected, and admired. That’s exactly what my parents are doing in the dream; they are giving Dr. P— acknowledgement, respect and admiration — all the things being denied me in the dream.

Individuals with a self-critical personality style may be more vulnerable to depressive states in response to disruptions in self-definition and personal achievement. These individuals may experience “introjective” depressive states around feelings of failure and guilt centered on self-worth. A biographical incident comes to mind. When I was 32 years old I worked as a paralegal at large law firm. A new employee named Craig Dye began employment. I had formed a strong dislike of him before I met him, though we later became friends. Another employee had said to me weeks before, “They’re hiring a new guy. He’s really good. They might just decide they don’t need you anymore.” When I met Craig I thought, “So you’re the guy who’s going to take my job.” During the following months my working relationship with Craig was one of rivalry. Craig and I had many similar characteristics. When there was competition for a particular assignment, or if I had to submit work in competition with that of peers, I confidently assumed I would win. Craig and I were both intelligent and gifted, and that helped us to live up even to overweening pretensions. Although generally good-natured and even “humble” in manner, we both had many arrogant traits. Compounding the hostility between Craig and me was the fact that our supervisor was an attractive young woman. That is, the relationship between Craig and me vis-a-vis a female authority carried an implicit plea, not unlike the plea of the three suitors to Portia in The Merchant of Venice: “Choose one of us. Is it to be he or I?”

Significant Moments: That moment in the library

That was their meeting, their conversation, and their parting.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
It was years later that memory knew what he was remembering; years after that night when . . .
William Faulkner,Light in August.
. . . that moment in the library . . .
Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams.
. . . came back to him.
Peter Gay,Freud: A Life for Our Time.


I had a friend in the first grade at William Rowen Elementary School.  His name was Bruce Lazarus.  I was 5-6 years old.  He moved away and I don’t remember seeing after the first grade.

In September 1967, at age 13, I started to attend the Central High School of Philadelphia.  One day I was seated at a table in the school library at the beginning of the school year.  Another student approached me.  I didn’t recognize him.  He said, “I’m Bruce Lazarus.”  He recognized me, which I found remarkable.  We were in the same social studies class with Mr. Price.  Bill Einhorn was in that class.  Bruce Lazarus mentioned that Einhorn used to fix him up with girls.  Apparently, Bruce Lazarus was a 13-year-old Don Juan.  That was our  meeting, our conversation, and our parting.  We had nothing to do with each other after that.  I think he transferred out of Central after 9th grade.

I know Bruce studied Russian with Mr. Mangold.  He once gave a talk in social studies class on the Cyrillic alphabet.

Significant Moments: The Guest of this Superior Mind

I felt, rightly, that I had a great deal to learn from Eissler, and I was a good
and willing pupil.
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst.
For the moment the great gulf that separated them was bridged.
Jack London, Martin Eden.
It was no longer a relationship of dependence, but one of equality and
reciprocity. He could be the guest of this superior mind without humiliation,
since the other man had given recognition to the creative power in him.
Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund.


From Letter about my Psychotherapy Session (February 5, 2019):

You were the wise old Beethoven and Schubert was the lesser figure. And the old master had allowed the young musician to play his compositions for him. I suppose somewhere you have the idea that Schubert idealized Beethoven and wanted the old master’s approval. Schubert hungered for that approval in your fantasy. He wanted to impress the old man. And Beethoven had permitted the young Schubert to entertain him in a vulnerable and meaningful moment, his dying moments. So we see superego issues in your fantasy about Beethoven, perhaps. You are recreating your relationship with your father. You desperately wanted your father’s approval. Every father is both a son and a father. He is father to his son and he is the son of his own father. So every father-son relationship involves a dual identification. In that sense, there is an archetypal quality to your fantasy. . . . In your therapy sessions with Dr. Palombo you were the young Schubert playing the piano for the master, Beethoven—hungering for his approval.