The Freedman Archives: Part II

The following is a collection of letters written by Gary Freedman to his imagined friend.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A Sense of Foreboding


Hey, buddy. What's up? Do you mind if I ask?

I haven't prepared a letter for you today. I'm writing extemporaneously, in real-time as they say. Just some random thoughts off the top of my head.

Tomorrow's the big day. My big day with The Mad Monk, Dr. Bash. I have a feeling she's going to drop me like a hot potato. You know, she says she can't work with somebody like me. Somebody who doesn't want to change. Supposedly, this thing's only going to be an interim thing till Dr. Bash can arrange a permanent therapist for me. Let's hope that's soon.

Dr. Bash is too dogmatic for me. To paraphrase former President Reagan: "My problems are not problems of psychological dogma. Rather, they are problems of flesh and blood; problems that cause real pain and destroy my psychic fiber--the psychic fiber of a real person who should not suffer the further indignity of being told by the psychologists and psychiatrists of this world that it is all somehow my fault."

I figure I'll give Dr. Bash the "Woe is Freedman speech." "Woe is Freedman, woe is Freedman." You know, the whole crap about the social isolation, the lack of friends, family or social contacts of any kind. The fact that I can't hold down a job. I'll add the stuff about the Pope and the Prime Minister of Israel, for good measure. You know the whole deal. It's a "vast conspiracy" out there that's been trying to deny me a life, lo these many years. I figure if Hillary Clinton can pull it off, so can I.

Of course, I'll talk about you. "I need to see Brian. He's my only chance for a friend right now. You're going to have to talk to Brian, Dr. Bash."

I was thinking about you and the whole library situation, Brian. You know, I'm allowed to return to the library in mid-October. I might return then, I might not. Yes, that's right. I just might stay away for a longer time, for good, even. You might never see me again. I'm thinking you should apologize first. That just might be my pre-condition to returning to the library at Cleveland Park: an apology from you. After all I've gone through, the whole crazy thing with the Metro Police, and so forth, it's the least you can do.

Back in February 1992, the last time I had lunch with Craig the Embalmer, it was just a few months after I had been fired by Akin Gump. I told Craig I had been laid off--not fired. I said I might return "if Larry Hoffman (the managing partner) gets down on his knees . . ." And Craig interjected: "Gets down on his knees and gives you a blowjob?" I said: "No, gets down on his knees and begs -- begs me to come back. Then and only then might I consider returning to Akin Gump."

I'm thinking along the same lines now, buddy. I think you should apologize. But not just any ordinary apology. You're gonna have to get down on your knees and beg -- beg me to come back to CPK. Really, do I need CPK? No, not really. I'm doing pretty well at the other branch libraries and MLK. I just might decide to stay away from CPK for good. I'm gonna run that by the Metro Police (and maybe the U.S. Attorney's Office). It'll be like Paula Jones: "I just want an apology."

One of my old psychiatrists said my problem in life was that I wanted too much. "You want too much," he often said -- in regard to countless issues. He said that was my problem in making friends, that I expected too much from people. "The way to make friends is to just interact with people, and things may develop or not. You have to engage in give-and-take." I don't get it. I was thinking about the writer Michael Chabon (who apparently had problems with co-eds who majored in French). He said he's always had one best friend and no other friends. (He's heterosexual.) The funny thing is that that's unconventional. If I stated that as a goal in therapy, I'd be told that's not the way social relations work. "I'm looking for a best friend and no other friends. That's my goal." The therapist will say: "That's not a realistic goal."
But it works for Michael Chabon. What I don't get is this: Therapists seem to work according to "conventional morality." A person needs to "change" to the extent his goals and behaviors are inconsistent with conventional ways of behaving and thinking. That omits the fact that there are lots of unconventional people out there who are getting their unconventional needs met. You see the problem? Another example is Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose social relations were limited to writing letters. Now if I stated that to a therapist as my goal: "I just want to have pen-pal type relationships and nothing else," well, the therapist will say that's abnormal (unconventional) and needs to be "changed." But it worked for Holmes.

Another example: That library patron at CPK -- what's his name -- John Conner? He sleeps all day in the library. You know who I mean? The guy who was in the Peace Corps. Now if I said to Dr. Bash: "My goal is to be permitted to sleep in the library all day long," she'd say, "no wonder you have problems with Brian. You can't sleep in the library all day." But it works for John Conner. Why? Why is that?

Did you catch that TV show "The Restaurant," with Rocco DiSpirito? On one of the episodes a few weeks ago, there was a table full of psychiatrists at the Restaurant. Rocco got into a conversation with them. He told them he was "a certified narcissist." One of the psychiatrists said: "Well, it works for you." (Jeffrey Chodorow, Rocco's dispirited partner, might disagree). But why? Why does it work for Rocco?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a recognized mental disturbance. Symptoms include grandiosity, lack of empathy, interpersonal exploitiveness, and so forth. A therapist will tell an unhappy narcissist -- "You need to change." But why? Why eliminate or modify the narcissistic qualities? Why not just make the narcissism work for the patient? It's as if these therapists confuse their role with that of the clergy. With the clergy, the aim is for the individual to be a "good person." But why be good, if "badness" works for you? Further, therapists assume that if things are not going well for the patient, it's because of his "bad" (unconventional) characteristics. Not necessarily.

The thing is I've been in therapy so long now (27 years), I'm just totally confused. I really am in a "woe is me" state of mind. I've just given up. Too many years, with too many questions unanswered. I'll talk to you later this week. I'll be taking the day off tomorrow.

Take care, buddy. I hope I survive The Mad Monk.


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