The Freedman Archives: Part II

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

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Dream of the Twin Brother

Hey, buddy. In the immortal words of Charles Davis: "Haven't seen you in some time. How have you been?" Yea. That's right. I saw Charles at the CVS on Saturday, July 17. It made my day. One of your crew was actually friendly. Wouldn't you know, it would be a brother?
Last week I saw William. I know he saw me, but he said nothing. It was a momentary encounter about nothing. That hurt. It really hurt. Then last month when I saw you at MLK, and you barely acknowledged my presence, well, it was crushing, man, really crushing. It took me a long time to get over that snub, buddy.
Not much to report to the home office today. As I told you, I'm in the midst of a minimalist period. I live inside my head, and even there, not much has been going on. At times I feel like an imbecile. Certainly, these letters read like they've been written by a deranged imbecile.
What are these letters, fundamentally? A carnival of reveries and recollections. Scenes of all things perceived and experienced: scenes from a life, or from childhood, perhaps. It's true what they say: "Every neurotic will someday return to the scenes of his childhood."
"Everything in the world has an effect upon me," wrote the great composer Robert Schumann. "Politics, literature, people. I think about it all in my fashion, and my feelings find their expression in [my letters]." Of course, Schumann ended up in a lunatic asylum.
Tell you about my last meeting with The Mad Monk. "Olam Bash," as my Hebrew-speaking friends say. The World of Bash.
Big news on that front. I got a new diagnosis. I get new diagnoses periodically. I'm a protean psychotic, I suppose. Always changing.
My new diagnosis is Axis I: Delusional Disorder. Axis II: Schizoid Personality Disorder. It used to be Axis II: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I had asked Dr. Bash how she was able to shoehorn my social isolation into the diagnosis Delusional Disorder. Social isolation is not necessarily associated with Delusional Disorder. So she explained that she would make me schizoid on axis II. That would explain my social isolation. But as Schumann wrote from his asylum: "I can not accept the doctor's words as those of an absolute oracle."
I think Dr. Bash is off base. Schizoids typically have no social interests; they're socially indifferent. I'm isolated, but as we know, buddy, I have my social passions! I like you, Brian, and I think about you all the time. I like few people, but the people I like, I like with a passion. I'm not convinced that's schizoid.
I think my social responsiveness--or lack thereof--is, at heart, narcissistic. I'm cold and aloof. But I'm not socially indifferent. I crave to be with people. But MY kind of people: people who will gratify MY needs. Lucky for you, buddy, I like you. You're somebody I crave to spend some time with.
I think I resemble Gustave Flaubert and his fictional creation, Madame Bovary. Madame Bovary is a novel about nothing, did you know that? "Un livre sur rien," as Flaubert once said. (Yes, he really said that, Fredric). Flaubert said he wished to make the novel an aesthetic object rather than a communicative act. His wish for impersonality found expression in the attempt to fool the reader: "the victim must be uncertain what he is supposed to think, unsure whether he is being made fun of, suspicious that the book may have been written by an imbecile."
Flaubert was an emotionally-distant and interpersonally-detached individual. He was a classic narcissist--not a schizoid. One commentator writes: "Both Emma Bovary and Flaubert are too self-involved (narcissistic) to develop a true object-relation to members of the opposite sex. For both of them, the roots of disillusion seem to center on the inability of the real objects (Charles for Emma and Louise Colet for Flaubert) to fulfill the primitive needs of a narcissistic nature." I think I've proved my case. Schizoid? I don't think so.
I asked Dr. Bash about the diagnosis paranoid schizophrenia. I asked her if the diagnosis paranoid schizophrenia wouldn't encompass my social isolation. The Mad Monk said: "No. Schizophrenics are friendly, sociable people." That's news to me. David Reiss, M.D., writes: "Schizophrenia, it has been said, is the cancer of psychiatry. Often, patients with this affliction show signs of impaired social relationships and initiative in childhood. Then, often in late adolescence, they become diagnosed during a first psychotic episode which may frighten both them and their families. Finally, many patients go on to suffer from a mixture of intermittent psychotic experiences and prolonged periods of reduced motivation, difficulty in understanding social and occupational requirements and, as a consequence, they maintain a state of partial withdrawal." (Editorial -- "Families and Schizophrenia Redux." Psychiatry, vol. 58, page 1 (February 1995) (Stanley R. Palombo, M.D., consulting editor)).
Of course, who the hell is David Reiss? What does David Reiss know? The Mad Monk told me about a male patient she had years ago, when she worked at Bellevue Hospital, in New York. The patient had paranoid schizophrenia. She administered an IQ test. She was stunned when she calculated the result. His IQ was 185. 185, Brian. The guy was a genius. When Dr. Bash stated her astonishment to the patient, the man replied: "I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid!" Funny material. So from that experience, Dr. Bash thinks all schizophrenics are funny, sociable people.
Again, last week, I asked Dr. Bash to what she attributed my social problems. She said: "You lack social skills." I told her that in group therapy I was descried as outgoing and personable. She said incredulously, "You? -- Outgoing?" I told her that back in December 1994 I was interviewed by the U.S. Secret Service, and that the agent (Philip Leadroot, S.A.) said: "I don't understand why you're so socially isolated; you seem like a friendly guy." The Mad Monk's response: "You were afraid you were going to get arrested, so you made an effort to be friendly." Whacked. You either have a skill or you don't. You don't express skills you don't have simply because you're under duress. Did you ever hear the story about the imbecile who scored a perfect 1600 on his SATs? You know how he did it? His father wanted him to go to Harvard. And the kid was afraid that if he didn't get accepted, his father would kill him. That's Dr. Bash's reasoning.
Do I believe I lack social skills? Yes, I would say so -- in an Eisslerian sense, at least. I have the self-concept that I'm unlovable. So I approach people, if at all, very tentatively. I seem desperate for a kind of friendliness that I cannot achieve naturally and spontaneously. That's why I lack close acquaintances, I suppose. Yes. I am unable naturally and spontaneously to achieve friendliness with people. That's a social skill. But there is more than this.
I have such a fear of frustration; it's overwhelming at times. It's not just a common fear of rejection. It's more. Some observations that Dr. Shengold makes about the difficulties that "soul-murdered" people have in analysis seem to apply to my deep reservations about initiating social contact. I see the following quote as a wonderfully evocative and poignant description of my feelings about approaching people.
Shengold writes: "The emotional connecting necessary for insight [or, more generally, for embarking on social relations] is initially more than soul-murdered people can bear. They learned as children that to be emotionally open, to want something passionately, was the beginning of frustrating torment. The deeply ingrained bad expectations are felt toward parents and all 'grown-ups.' The distrust is based not only on the projection of 'bad' feelings (derived from the aggressive drives and the inevitable frustration of wishes), which give rise to intimations of losing control and a terror of being overwhelmed by feeling. Such fears beset every child in the course of development; they also lurk in our subsequent fantasy life (although their intensity varies with the individual). In addition to this, the distrust of parents and the entire affectively charged environment is based for soul-murder victims on experienced reality. They have been abused and neglected and have learned a lesson: if you cannot trust mother and father, whom can you trust? So a really meaningful alliance with the analyst [or a meaningful start to a friendship] takes a long time to develop [sometimes 15 years of close observation of one's local librarian is required!], although at first it may appear that one exists; these people are likely to behave in "as if" fashion, to possess a facade of relatedness that combines compliance to what is usually expected with a provocative defiance [manipulating the computer icons?] that has a gamelike quality for them. People around them must not matter too much." Shengold, L. "Soul Murder," at 312.
Months ago, Dr. Cooper, my old psychiatrist, said she would look into the ACT Program for me. That's a program for addicted people--alcoholics and dope heads. I'm not an alcoholic or a dope head, but the program provides home visits by a social worker. Dr. Cooper said the program would be good for me because it would provide me with more social contact than I currently get. But Dr. Cooper never called me.
So I told Dr. Bash that I suffer from a "Brian addiction." I'm addicted to you, buddy. "Don't I qualify for the ACT Program, Dr. Bash?" "No," she said, "that's for alcoholism. You don't have alcoholism." I said, "I have Brianism." She didn't see the humor in that.
I should have told her that I suffer from "Al Jolson Syndrome." "You made me love you, I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it." I don't think she'd get it.
I think she's totally fed up with my obsession with you. She seemed put-off last week. Or maybe she was just having a bad day.
Jeffrey Masson sees a deep connection between obsessiveness and addiction: "The lives of soul murder victims were pervaded with sadness; their rituals, their obsessive gestures of every kind, are an attempt to recapture the lost childhood they never had. It is not surprising to find that all addicts have suffered such loss. Psychoanalytic studies of addiction have enabled us to see 'addictive' features in many areas seemingly unrelated to pure drug or alcohol addiction. Compulsive sexuality can serve as an addiction, as can the practices of asceticism." So can letter writing, I suppose.
I told The Mad Monk that I feel like a love-sick 13-year-old girl who's obsessed with a boy who wants nothing to do with her. Dr. Bash said: "So what about a boy? That never happens to a boy?" "Not with me, it didn't," I said. (I lied; I actually have latent heterosexual feelings.) "What about boys?" inquired The Mad Monk. "Did you have those feelings for boys?" Right. Funny stuff.
Dr. Bash then ventured further into Dr. Bash territory. "You lack social skills. If you had social skills you could have had Brian for a friend. When you first got interested in being his friend -- if you had had social skills -- you would have known how to approach him appropriately. And he would have responded. But you lack social skills, so you can't make friends." What she conveniently blocked out was the fact that you have a policy, so I'm told, of not befriending library patrons -- regardless of social skill level. Dr. Bash was using what I call "The Lost Opportunity Model." She uses that frequently. "If you had taken medication when it was first recommended, you would have responded to the meds. But instead you waited three years. And when you finally took the medication that Dr. Taub had recommended, the medication didn't work." Variation: "If you had social skills, your initial social overture to Brian would have done the trick."
It's all part of the Dr. Bash credo: "I have no insight and I take no responsibility." The issue is, what is my problem at this moment, and how can we work on that problem. Forget about the lost opportunities. Early in my "treatment" Dr. Bash said: "If you had seen a psychiatrist when you were a child, you wouldn't have these problems now." Again, the lost opportunity. That's what they call "water under the bridge," isn't it?
The Mad Monk asked me what it is that I would like to experience emotionally with you. I said: "a sublime moment." She said, "What?" I repeated: "A sublime moment." She said nothing, which is unusual for her. She just shook her head, silently. Her look was WORSE than the look my father gave me when I told him I wanted to become a ventriloquist. That look on her face! It was as if she were thinking: "He really is crazy -- but without the humor or the social skills." What I had in mind was the Faustian moment, the transcendent "Augenblick." (The Chanin Brothers can translate).
Actually, my statement to Dr. Bash -- my desire to experience the Faustian "moment" -- can be seen to have psychological significance. At least perhaps Irvin Yalom, M.D. (and his colleagues in existentialist psychiatry) might see some connection between the desire to experience the transcendent "Augenblick" (The Moment) and a need to ward off "death anxiety."
What is the Faustian "Augenblick?" It is the all-encompassing Moment in which past, present and future is experienced simultaneously in a single pin-prick of time.
Peter Salm writes: "To experience, in a single instant, the succession of events that mark our existence in time is equivalent to eliminating time altogether; it means an existence in a continuous present tense. As temporal creatures, nervously feeding a shortening future into a lengthening past, we attribute to the gods a timeless mode of being and an [immortal] existence in total simultaneity." To experience The Moment is to erase the future (and necessarily death itself) and simultaneously to recapture one's lost youth from the past. "Give me my youth back!" Faust implores Mephistopheles.
Is it mere coincidence that my mad escapade with you began in the months preceding my fiftieth birthday? Maybe my need to experience The Moment coincides with my increasing concerns with my mortality. (And by the way Brian, I'm still waiting for my 50th-birthday tee shirt).
Dr. Bash neglected to ask me if I'd ever experienced such a moment. If she had, I would have said: "Yes. With my friend Craig the Embalmer (or maybe I should call him "Craig the Gravedigger" in this context). Sitting on a park bench. I loved sitting on a park bench, any park bench, with Craig and talking about nothing: "absolument rien," as Sylvain Boni would say. I never failed to experience those moments as 'sublime moments.'" That's what I crave, that's what I want to re-experience. My Faustian goal remains elusive. Maybe I should ask Earl Segal about getting involved with some land reclamation projects.
The bottom line is that Dr. Bash has no analytic skills whatsoever. If I say something a tad askew, such as, "I want to experience a sublime moment with Brian," she dismisses it as the ravings of a lunatic instead of inquiring into my meaning. What I need is some "50-minute Martinizing." My time with Israella is really "about nothing." But not in the technical, Seinfeldian sense.
Alas, I'm in an irrevocable funk. I experienced my frustration with you, and my banishment from the library, as the last straw, I think. The last straw in a life of frustrations. What happened at the library was insignificant in itself, but for me, based on my past history, it was "Too much, too much." As President Nixon would say: "It was one crisis too many."
I told Dr. Bash that I hadn't spoken with my sister in eight years. I told her that my sister had destroyed me, that she had gotten me fired from my job. "Whatever it was that my sister told Malcolm 'L'assman' (pardon my French) and Earl Segal got me terminated." I really believe that. I think Dr. Bash is unsure whether she is being made fun of, or whether mine are the productions of an imbecilic psychotic. I'll keep her guessing.
Be that as it may.
I had a dream the other night. This is really personal, man. Eyes only. I don't want you spreading this stuff around. The dream was slightly queer. What's interesting is that, despite my obsession with you, you were not in the dream. The dream was an emotionally-laden one for me.
I was a "house guest" on the CBS summer reality TV series, "Big Brother." The house guests were being rewarded with the opportunity to make a brief telephone call to a family member. All the house guests were gathered around a telephone in the living area. I was in a bedroom. I wasn't interested in talking to my family. (An instance of dream life imitating real life). I was just relaxing in bed, and watching my teammates in the other room. One of the male contestants, whose name was "Gary," entered my bedroom, jumped into bed with me, and started to wrestle playfully with me. It was completely nonsexual. I said jokingly: "Gary, people are going to talk." Gary said: "Let them talk." At that moment I thought: "I've found a friend in the house."
It was a sublime moment. A touch of "Rupert and Gerald Do Reality-TV," I suppose. Remember "Women in Love" by D.H. Lawrence?
Check you out next week, buddy. Give my regards to Julie. By the way, after 5 seasons of Big Brother, I'm seeing just how special His Holiness Hardy-Ames Hill was.
P.S. These letters to you are all I have. Schumann wrote before the final break: "I have discovered that there is no more powerful stimulus to imagination than tension and longing for something." It's Faustian, you know. "I stumble between enjoyment and desire. And in the throes of enjoyment, I crave more desire!" So wrote Goethe. Artists are never satisfied. But then, they wouldn't want to be. The Mad Monk doesn't understand that. With her it's always a question of - "This is what you should do if you want to be happy." But what if what it is you really want is to "crave happiness?"


Blogger cyber said...

i read some of your writtings. wanted to ask you what do you spend most of your time doing such as what are hobbies.

Monday, April 17, 2006  
Anonymous Rory Murray said...

I am an old friend of Cindy Rodda, whom you mention in the blog dated Aug. 16, 2004. If you have a way to reach her would you please tell her that Rory says hello? I am in San Bernardino, CA if she would like to get in contact with me. Thanks,
Rory Murray

Tuesday, April 01, 2008  

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