Sunday, October 22, 2017


Jimmy Carter,* in a recent article, referred to his father as “daddy.” I wonder – Do adult Southerners call their mothers “mommy”?

I’ve written throughout the blog, and have conceived in my sessions, psychodynamic metaphors such as “some people have a heavy emptiness inside them, an anchor holding them back.” “A splinter in the soul” that does damage despite the soul’s lofty plane. We are a “molecular mess.” Old-timers may remember the Dr. Joyce Brothers-type conception, “fear of success.” Janov wrote of “housewives”** who’d always leave a room or two in disarray, as a clean house, a completed task, would give them the feeling, ‘Is this all there is?’ In a way, many of us are like the little girl, Twilight Zone episode 91,*** who falls through her bedroom wall into another dimension. Father leaps in to save her. He, too, is floating, lost, but then is lurched back to ground: A friend had been gripping his leg the whole time, but he had no awareness of it. Our past, the most exotic dimension, has us in its grasp, and we are not aware of it.

The explanations one woman gives for losing guardianship of her son to her terrible father! Another woman smiles wanly, tells me her mother has won custody of the grandson on spurious charges of bad parenting.**** And watch out: When she gives birth in a few months, her mother may come with CPS and snatch this child, too. Helpless to stop it! I see a woman whose theme song has been self-ruination: Friendships curdle, gifts are rescinded; her mind colludes with her body not to be able to work; plausible plans to escape the city disintegrate; people who’d given her a room change the terms and kick her out; her son won’t talk to her, but a couple months ago they were getting along.

The many people who lose or quit one job after another. Something internal stops moving, and they wander off.

My wife and I, professional people with a strong relationship and a nice set-up, are so bad with money that we could potentially get in trouble from ten different directions.

In a bad mood, I’d want to give all these people (except myself) a tee-shirt that reads: “The dog ate my homework.” Your life is excuses. Grow up, find a backbone! Grow some fucking anger! Take off your stupid diaper! But I know about self-sabotage. Its seeds, of course, are in our childhood. But it’s complicated: soul and splinter. Depression versus the desire to love life. A twenty-three-year-old cries and whines in that gut-twisting sing-song of a child. I’m all alone. So boring at home, nothing to do! Sister criticized him as selfish when he asked for help. We haven’t yet found the awful splinter that poisoned all four siblings (the parents have a lovely résumé), but we know he cannot grow up.

Even when we seem to hit all the milestones, we may look and see there is no path. The engine is revved in neutral but the road is a decline and we move. We feel good then bad within two seconds, hopeful then inert within two seconds; expansive, then old hates emerge. Probably no one knows what real maturity means. How much, what kind of youthfulness can we manifest that’s actually adult, not regressive? How much is nothing but that? People gamble all day, play video poker all night. It’s entirely neurotic. (But when James Bond strolls through the casino, it’s very sophisticated.) Grown men play macho, women talk serious but look frilly, men make money of prime importance, women don’t report sexual harassment, people in therapy reveal they are ninety percent child. The past is so embedded in the present that we see only one thing: nothing, our blindness.

I’m wondering, as I write, if any immanent past must be a saboteur. Mine is: Future seeking, forward seeking has and will always be prevented by my particular problems. The ruining woman has to show an invisible father that she is homeless forever and in pain. The job quitters need – absolutely need – to be taken care of. But what of people who seem healthy and moving, happy, serene, accomplished? Has their past held them back? I think the answer is like quantum mechanics, where there’s a very different truth at the deepest level. If we look inside, we will feel where we have never moved on. We will find emotions that have never “matured”: still the child’s that are still attached to child’s things, though they’ve shape-shifted: A craving to be seen has become a need to impress; day camp has become a resort in Vail; a need for touch has become an extramarital affair. We will find our anchors.

Are there any conclusions we can settle on? The past in the present, the brake pedal always pressed, some. Even “failure” can be a kind of success as it tells the truth, where success often doesn’t.

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* Maureen Dowd editorial – “Jimmy Carter Lusts for a Trump Posting”.

** The Primal Scream, 1970. Arthur Janov died on October 1, 2017 at the age of 93.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Other therapy

One pleasant challenge in psychotherapy world is to find useful ways to work with those clients who cant do a damned thing. I assume this happens infrequently in private practice, but it’s not uncommon in community-funded mental health centers. And I don’t think it’s rare among clients who choose an agency name out of the book (“New Directions,” “Horizons for Youth & Families”) rather than a specific practitioner’s name. To be unable – which often means unwilling to work does not mean sitting there looking defiant or numb. (Those would be the court-ordered men.) It means individuals whose personality disorder prevents any contact with their actual state; those whose “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” impairs them from sitting still on a feeling – or wanting to; those who are deeply uninterested in having self-insight but think therapy happens, just happens. And it can mean clients for whom I can find no entry.

I work with these people who’d best stay home or read a booklet of positive affirmations. They, after all, come for something: an obscure hopeful difference. I am good at obscure hopeful differences.

One thirty-something-stuck-at-twenty Borderline waxes euthymic (fake happy), producing constant homilies of love and improvement. She has a perverse former (boyfriend is thirty years her senior) and a mirage latter. During a well-earned break, I’ll find myself making droll faces, piquant raised eyebrows, asking “why is the sky blue” questions, spontaneously playing some youtube classical music. It’s good, or at least not bad, to discombobulate a balmy Borderline. Have no fear or criticism: She believes I’m as authentic as she thinks she is. Later I may reference her childhood kidnapping and rapes and mother’s breakdowns and father’s effeteness, and make sure she understands that her very bad moods in the midst of very good moments come from this past. Else she would also feel lost.

An ADHD client with cancer is not able to hear anything I say other than questions about her health and treatment and her family. Odd as it may sound, I make money just by listening and offering the kind of eye contact that shows “I see you.” In the past with her, I tried psychosomatic theory, how to use it, suggested feeling her father’s “meanness” and brutal authority, and crying now. These were rejected by being unheard. I now support her frightened positivity with reasons for positivity, which I believe exist in our inner baby.

Mary the undiagnosable. In The Fountainhead, Rand’s character Gail Wynand introduces his newspaper’s staff to a man whose face is so nondescript, one can’t remember it while looking at it. Week to week, month to month, I couldn’t remember Mary’s childhood history but that at age three, her mother abandoned the family. Other facts about being the less-favored child, sibling rivalry, teen rebellion, always fell out of my mind, though I reviewed the chart periodically. She may have been bipolar, but that couldn’t be ascertained: On rare occasions she would have a hellish tantrum, destroying an apartment. In time, she would alienate everyone in her circle in ways she could never grasp. She used methamphetamine through her later teens, twenties, thirties, then it waned. She was sabotaged by a transient psychotic or psychosomatic interloper: One arm stopped working, or she was convinced it had. She could no longer keep a job. Like many complexly troubled women, one insult – of physical capacity or of a relationship – began the unraveling of her competence and energy: “That’s when I fell apart.” Always on the verge of homelessness, she found this and that neurotic man she remembered from her past, moved into his place, moved out. Maybe this was my purest therapy, as I had nothing to grasp but the smoke of her dependency and depression, her childlike voice, the lightning flash of her tantrums. What had happened to her?

She attended every week, always with a sad and confused story. Sometimes she lay on the couch and just rested. I once played her a program of classical lullabies.

While therapy at its deepest is those supplies the child needed when she was first hurt, we are on a different road now and have to live without essential healing of our past. I believe I have shown that if a therapist even slightly introduces the past then moves on, the client will feel a deeper more embracing reality in the room which subliminally gives her some gravity, some mastery, some childhood friendship immanent in the friendly adult conversation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I think Nevada, or at least Las Vegas, must be a different animal when it comes to mental health practice. Back in Ohio, one would know of unqualified or neurotic managers or department heads, more rarely an agency director who, rumor had it, didn’t know how to run a mental health center. Generally, the feeling of most places was viability, solidity. But Vegas – it seems to be the Bermuda Triangle of hiders and charlatans, crooks and the weirdly ambitious: people who left their crime in one state; new CEO’s with old rap sheets and complementarily, a litigious bent; psychiatrists one can google for scandalous court cases, others who run an operation like a Prussian general; the echoing whisper of insurance fraud. What is it about this area? I work with a majority of down-and-out clients, with résumés of misery and life blaming and slip-and-falling whenever a success approaches. But they don’t go and open mental health centers! It’s these other folks, a kind of plastic elite species who are pastors of storefront churches on the side, a plumber franchisee with Tony Robbins-type gonzo, a beautician who probably enjoyed therapy in her earlier life.

Honestly, I have little idea. Is it easier to start a company here? Burned a few times, I began opening my eyes wider during searches. Gauche, perfumey agency names with “hope,” “thrive,” “heart,” “angel,” “blessed,” “keep faith,” “tender loving care,” “never give up,” “aloha,” popping up biweekly like those weeds that look like flowers. No websites, or generic ones with atrocious, Japanese-translation verbiage; no staff listed, no reviews. Perversely, their ads would often be four to six inches long: tedious, torturous details of job functions as if a therapist must be led by hand and cattle prod through his day. And most ads specifying “one year experience,” at the most two. I have twenty-plus years’ experience. Am I the leper?

My only guess is linked to the fact that in Ohio, mental health treatment is either private practice or community government-based. In Columbus and environs, there are many state- and local-levy-funded centers and branches. The heads are business experts or individuals who rose through the ranks of social services – therapist, department head, clinical or administrative director, CEO. They are employees with personal, clinical and professional association's ethics and governmental oversight standards under their belt. Nevada, as far as I understand, does not have this system. There are some state-run or -supported facilities such as the state psychiatric hospital, the domestic violence shelter, one or two outpatient offices. Everything else – where you go for therapy for depression and anxiety and trauma, personality disorder, a sense of meaning, marriage, loneliness and self-esteem – is a twinkle in the eye and the seed of some individual with a dream. A dream of what? Medicaid money, I’m guessing.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A little summation at sleepy 4 a.m.

There is a conflict between “there is nothing new under the sun” and “everything is new under the sun” for each person and each generation. What wrong and right ideas haven’t been known in the past? Life’s meaning and meaninglessness, power-hunger and other success, parenting, abuse, love and loss, conflict and tyrants and conscience, religious beliefs, disbelief, violence, group-think and iconoclasm. These ideas have been said. People don’t learn. Families don’t learn.

The human race has always written the same self-help books over and over again, has always made the same errors over and over again. We stake our life on our neighborhood gods. We believe in political parties or somebody’s idiosyncratic concept wardrobe such as socialism or capitalism. We’re alarmed a billion times by the same stories.

Why is it so hard for people to know what makes sense? Why is there universal lip service to the good values such as love and cooperation? The answer is that most persons and generations are sick, and sickness bends the mind. The sickness comes from pain and injustice and loss of self in childhood. Every problem stems from these. When we’ve scarred over our organic self, our answers can never be right. Or they can never stay right.

We can hardly imagine what we, the world would be like if all were healthy. I almost picture the Earth leaving its orbit and taking off through outer space, going somewhere, always joining new mysteries. As it is, we stagnate more than we should. We get nowhere, ever, like the animals and plants, but by the mercy of blind evolution.

Somehow it doesn’t seem right.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Theory platform #2: Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter

I wondered if I had anything new to say about the Las Vegas shooter. I do feel it’s too soon to try to generate an authoritative diagnostic opinion, as more facts continue to come out. (Just today, some tv profiler said that Paddock liked to tie up prostitutes and ‘make them scream,’ that he was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and that he ‘liked to take credit’ for his father’s crimes, whatever that means.) And facts – more and more and detailed ones – are critical in actual, as opposed to DSM-5 Manual, diagnosis.

So for now I’d just like to say that it’s fine if the shooter didn’t state a reason for his atrocity, didn’t leave a manifesto, hadn’t joined one of the ideological hate clubs. Because any explanation of those sorts would be no different from what any troubled person in therapy offers as his understanding of his problem or behavior: It would be a rationalization, an intellectualization, a cognitive escape or cover over the real motivation.

Which is a feeling. A complex feeling that either finds its right causes or cleaves to the wrong ones.

A client says, “I don’t like people. You can’t trust anyone.” Though he’ll pay lip service to making an exception for the therapist, he really does feel a general angry frightened alienation. But he is wrong. He dislikes people because he was, forty years earlier, an inconvenience to his partying mom, a complete nothing to his absent father. No one ever gave him reparative love, and he had to close the wound by killing hope. He won’t know this without therapy – and honesty.

A “white supremacist” speaks of his own superiority when it’s crystal clear in therapy that he has never had a good feeling about himself in his life. Maybe a grandfather gave him some time, the only non-punitive attention he got. But a baseline pain lived beneath that. Why couldn’t grandpa’s attention heal that? Because it didn’t address it. Later, he needed his mere existence, not his accomplishments, to be important – his whiteness – just as a child actually does need his value to be a given to his parents: They love him simply because he exists. But the client won’t know he’s just a child wanting to be loved for who he is.

Paddock does seem somewhat Asperger’s-like with his adolescent-stage lack of social harmony, his penchant for numbers and detail. He seems Schizoid: the glassy eyes and isolative affect in his junior high school photo, his apparent lack of a need for affiliation. He may have been born a psychopath, one of those “callous and unemotional” children* like the “bad seed” in the 1956 movie.** All these “types” can be understood to be based in loss of emotional connection, needful connection whose starvation causes pain.

Look at pain. It has different natures in different early environments. If it came in hellish birth trauma – being born in crack cocaine withdrawal and screaming for six months*** – any capacity for bond will be burned away. If it was less deadly, was succored soon after birth by a loving, not-solipsistic mother, it may flow deep beneath a bountiful land and emerge only during moments of quiet or loss later in life. If pain strikes and accumulates in childhood, we will have so many of our clients who try, then sabotage themselves; need love, fall into unloving relationships; feel hopes and dreams, and watch them evaporate before their eyes; be caring, but then coarse and rejecting.

I suspect the shooter’s end-of-life script was his birth template: some trauma that killed his heart but drove him on, like Janov’s “sympath”**** character. He was “soul murdered”***** at the starting gate. With no strand of bond, or maybe a vagrant molecule of it, he would not see people as hearts but as bodies that are both impertinences and appurtenances. And as he drifted into old age, that necessary quiet, he’d feel the worst possible pain: what he never had but which other people do: love and humanity.

Kill it, before you die from it.

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*** The history of an eleven-year-old psychopath I treated.

**** Excerpt from "Janov's Reflections on the Human Condition" blog:

“What we have found is that very early events in life determine the settings of our nervous systems. What sways the two key nervous systems – both under the aegis of the hypothalamus – is the kind of biologic and neurologic reaction that is forced on us and our brains while under specific kinds of threats very early in life, during gestation and birth. There is the struggle-and-succeed syndrome, the sympath, and the struggle-and-fail syndrome, the parasympath. This latter gives up easily and smells failure. Not so the sympath who tries and tries and does not give up. And when a new patient struggles to feel even when he is not ready, we generally have a sympath on our hands. The parasympath comes in listless, down regulated, worn out, unmotivated and depressed. He sees no point in anything. This is where the therapist needs his full capacity to meet the challenge. Should he be encouraged? These are the questions we take up constantly in our staff meetings. We often bring the patient in and ask him what works. He sometimes knows and sometimes does not. With long-time patients I ask them if I made a mistake and what was it? I get good answers and I learn.”
***** There are two or more books with this title. I’ve read Shengold’s --

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Janov, in memoriam

Dr. Arthur Janov, the creator of Primal Therapy, has died at age 93. Though a bit poetic and speculative, it makes sense that he lived this long, as he was an exemplar of his understanding of healing, of release of the pains that cause our psychological problems. He deserves to be – he is in the pantheon of brilliant thinkers who could understand truths that later seem logical to so many people (though they still may understand only the surface of them). He saw that we are holistic in mind, body and time. We are also what we were. We are roots – birth and childhood – and we are the trunk, branches and leaves that grow from those roots.

We know the world of people is, in the main, lost. Our human brain holds pain which bends, corrupts, blinds us, or rather grows blinders to self and others. And then that brain passes that pain on to the next generation. Part of this lostness is to form psychological ideas that are “self-medications” – no different from so many big ideas like political, religious and ideological ones. Therapies that believe we can think our way to a healthy body-mind, can hope health into existence. Magical thinking, magical doing. Dr. Janov could see what a child knows better than his parents usually do, that we are responding to the injuries that remain virulent inside us.

Our need for survival, and to answer our obscured birthright of happiness and love, is tenacious. Even many of those psychotherapists who see our source in pain and starved need put that fact aside, in a box, and focus on the here-and-now and “positives.” What a disconnect! What a displacement of fact and necessary act. If we are hurt, we must go there, to the dark, to ‘where we are wounded,’ as Arthur said. I will never see my clients otherwise – as obvious to me as something exists.

I do see some things differently from the doctor. It is probably fair to say he was optimistic while I am more pessimistic. I believe that despite all the potential opening up and pouring out, we must remain a default of defenses, our same self, and that we cannot recover from our developmental stopping point. Am I more realistic than Janov? I think so. But he may have been better for people. Because ultimately we do need to have love, believe we can deeply recover.

What a great man he was!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Soldier boy and soldier girl

I remember reading in an Intro Psych book, many years ago, this fact: Viet Nam War soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress were not “simply” those who had suffered singular or cumulative overwhelm or a near-death experience during combat. Rather, these were individuals whose recent crisis lay upon the porous ground of childhood troubles. I think it will benefit clinicians to take this as both baseline assumption and treatment inspiration for those in the military – women in the higher percentage, according to a recent NPR report – who have attempted or completed suicide.

The most wrongheaded aspect of the numerous therapy approaches to battle trauma is the assumption that these soldiers are the persons they seem to be: adult, competent, strong yet mortally stressed, in a career theyve chosen with open eyes. Psychology knows that early injury – on a continuum of incest and brutality to neglect and lack of empathy – creates the base of later problems. We know, too, that personalities are formed in the crucible of childhood pain; personalities that see the world through self-sacrifice and need, through immaturity and anger, through errant convictions, through fatalism and revenge. And there is reason, coming from the therapy room, not to be surprised that certain backgrounds lean to certain career choices. Troubled kids inner fragility often gravitates to an interest in forensic science and criminal justice, to a desire to join the police or the military.

Why does someone want to become a “killing machine,” a passive actor in a world of hierarchy, discipline, medals, vigilance and the inebriating ether of macho, in a time when his or her country is not under threat? Could there be a problem embedded in that? The teens I see in therapy who wonder about the military are lost selves, though you have to look below their stubborn surface to see that. They are creatures of anger and sadness fused together, acid opinions thrown at wide targets. They were held down in their childhood injustice yet are trying to look outward. At some moment they may have felt like suicide, but would leave the house and go to the woods to hunt or the street to skateboard. Their fathers may never have talked to them, but harshly or distant.

There are countless ways this background might be ignited – not only by the military, but by the adult world itself. Rejection by a girl- or boyfriend. Failure to be interested in the job; having a belittling boss. Scattering of childhood friends to moves, drugs, college, marriage. Next to the mundane world, the military would be a forest of matches to their pool of gasoline. Powerful father and mother figures – and frozen regression to that dynamic. Forcible growing up. Friendships based on similar wounds, macho and aggressive dreams. And in the extremis of trauma and death and killing, the love for their fellow soldier is forged stronger but more desperate than all the life they ever knew, because that is when they were most alive and most dying: the greatest beauty melted to the greatest ugliness.

These are ungrown boys and girls for whom death, the end, became the norm before they became their own life.

If you want to help the wounded soldiers, you must be kind and cruel enough to point them to their child inside. Turn the clock back, let them know their anger came from hurt, their present from their past. You cannot accept they are their warrior self, this character that says “yes, sir!” ten thousand times and marches off to kill strangers. Suicidal souls are not “simply” in pain, but have never gotten their pain out, have never expressed it, given it to a strong heart, a listening person. If in therapy you see only the soldier, as empathic as you may be, with care and camaraderie and the telling and retelling of his story, and eye movement therapy and peer support and Suicide Hotlines, he can only be the soldier, and the deeper, younger person will remain unseen and unheard, and possibly too lonely to keep going on.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Human cosmology #2*

It annoys me, it gnaws at me with aggravation, that photons travel at, well, the speed of photons – the speed of light – the top speed of the universe as Einstein would have it, as if they were cursed or blessed with rabid energy without appeal. It’s absurd to me that these tiniest of massless particle-waves (that is to say, minim mysterioso**) work so damned hard as their nature, their root existence. Other things stop, start, slow down, stumble, peter out, rest. Does a photon, in the relative vacuum of space or air or water or Jell-O, ever weary, lose energy, get the stuffing knocked out of it, die? Why in the hell not? Huffington Post headline, July 2013: “Photons Last At Least One Quintillian Years, New Study of Light Particles Suggests.” (A quintillian is a billion times a billion.) How utterly convenient that photons are just what we need, and travel as fast as we need them to, in order to see. Outside of that, what could possibly be the purpose for all that mindless drive?

Photons are my symbol for the incomprehensibility of the universe: Lord Nobody’s joke on human consciousness. Pure, relentless energy that never dies? I thank God that I don’t take them as the role model for my life: I have practically no energy and find the idea of chronic, or even predominant, movement (progress, success, struggle) laughable in a caustic way. I don’t even have racing thoughts. Like many spiritual people, meditators and the dysthymic, I value the idea and fact of stillness – a quiet, or empty, or perceiving, or just emotively sensing mind, gazing out from a mountain top or a starry night. But inside that mind there is plenty of movement: electrons, fluids, blind busy nature. I wouldn’t want any photons in there, little bastards!

I think we are most fooled when we believe we are different from the momentum sludge of the cosmos. Even a professional deep thinker like Sam Harris, who has argued intricately against free will, wants the possibility that consciousness is a separate existent that may survive death. He’s an atheist, but that is his substitute for God. What if we – our thoughts, beauty, loves – are just the same celestial wheel of All, turning inexorably? As meaningful as a facial expression molded in clay? Though not a pleasant thought, that seems it would put an upward limit on the power of our passions, our direst screams, our deepest needs, where soul would revert to molecules. As light speed is supposedly the upward limit in nature.

This is why we need, ultimately, more feeling than awareness. We just want to feel love, in the end, not sense its limits.

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** I made that up.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The seeds of our politics

My political opinions should be acceptable to everyone, because I dislike all politicians, parties and ideologies equally: Hillary, Trump, Bernie, democrats, liberals, socialists, conservatives, republicans, alt-rightists, libertarians. To me they are all wrongheaded because they are systems, and their believers, that grew from individuals’ childhood psychology – from feelings – which can never accurately translate or be “projected” into universal policy. The political world today is an acting out of this interior logic: “I hurt, so the entire world must pay and be prevented from ever hurting me again.” All ideologies, in their bare essence, follow that logic. Differences are due only to the nature of the hurt and one’s defenses against it.

A liberal may be someone who, early on, suffered powerful, controlling people such as parents or teachers or bullies. He may have been inculcated to a bent-over self-esteem that says we are our “brothers’ keeper.” In his adult life, he will value the poor by despising the wealthy and powerful.

A conservative or libertarian may have been an ego-less and falsely loved child who manufactured self-esteem from a creed of alienation, individuality, ultimate autonomy (“I own my life, and therefore all the property and goods that come from my individual effort”). Out of touch with his own heart, he will not see, or want to see, the heart in others.

While it is easy to object to my idea that all who believe a dogma or have joined a political club are injured “inner children,” this is more apparent if we look at the defense mechanism of dissociation. Dissociation is the burying or stifling (repression or suppression) of our pain – practically the Operations Manual of childhood. We lose touch with our Self. In that lost place, we become more suggestible, impressionable, to where a network of disparate notions (capitalism and socialism sleep together in both major parties) or agendas can be “believed” as if they were a singular principle. Secondly, children’s self-suppression is the incubator of global attitudes that, again, gravitate to emotional ideologies. Who, after a moment’s awareness, can’t see that our lofty political systems are feeling systems – ‘They need, you must provide, I deserve, they don’t deserve, we demand, get off my lawn, get a job, distribute your wealth or well do it for you’?

We are children who grow up to carve our pain and our attitudes in granite and in our politics. Maybe because of this deep flaw, we should turn back, like children, to the golden rule.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Molecular mess #4*

This is another light self-observation. Presently my life is different: I have, for family caretaking reasons, removed one of my five workdays and now have a three-day weekend – Saturday, Sunday, Monday. My small Saturday cash practice ended. This means that all three days are at my disposal. My wife, a hospital nurse, does three 12’s that coincide with my time off. So not only can I be quite indolent; I have especial alone-time freedom from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. three days in succession.

The result has been a lesson in the psychology of a peculiar dysthymic person – or maybe of many persons. Depression, strange happiness, boredom, much questioning of myself, some anxiety, are all at play and mitigated by my personal philosophy of acceptance. I find that in an entire evening, the only ambition I have is to write an article. But that has to wait for an idea, and an idea usually has to wait for new experiences in sessions. So, like a meditator, or a tree that sees its landscape day and night but doesn’t move – not like an animal as I don’t excessively sleep or have strong instincts – I do little but exist in the world. Pretty much, in my apartment. All those moods stir. I come home from work; my wife has already left; and I have a delicious feeling to be alone with the full evening ahead of me. During which I will do almost nothing. (I know that if I had no wife, there would be no delicious feeling. I can be very dependent from a distance.) Ive discovered, surfing, that I no longer like science fiction movies unless they’re recent and deal with interstellar travel, no monsters, or future time-travel. I would rather read a hundred cereal boxes than watch movies about drug cartels, the hood, and international espionage. Most dramas are depressing to me, because the people are psychologically botched yet this is presented as interesting and deep.

I wonder about meaning. I’m reminded of Slomo (see New York Times video), the early-retired psychiatrist who finds great meaning in the momentum of roller-blading day and night and conjuring fantasies (what he calls a “personal delusional system”). To me that’s all fake. Yes, movement can give you a sense of purpose or meaning. Yes, fantasies can feel good. But it’s all temporary, contrived.

Is there any meaning and purpose for adults that is not temporary, contrived, delusional?

I admit that in a very rare moment I imagine being magicked: being given a meaning by the recondite turnings of inner nature, or by the arrival of aliens in a big, beautiful spaceship. Mostly, though, I wonder what is left to those of us who do not have the wild hair of happiness or drive. My assumption is that there are the few among us, such as writer Ray Bradbury, whose original fuel packet of joy was never buried or poisoned. But the rest of us are also part of nature’s blueprint. There must be something right about it.

No matter how lousy, or nothing I feel, when I step out the door at dark and feel the breeze or stillness, see the far-off lights (yes, it’s The Strip and Vegas and Summerlin) and the regular dots of small planes over Henderson, see the moonlight on the path, and walk, I am good. But I know that were I to come out at, say, 4 a.m., and stay ’til the dawn and a bright day, the ‘good’ would evaporate and something else would have to engage. The day: too real, too demanding of action. That’s when I’d probably Slomo in some way or another. But before long, I will have my four days to see clients. Good, nice, engaging moments. Always meaning. I will wonder, though: What do they do in their hours between struggling?

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes

I may have a little debate with myself, tonight, about whether to write to my sister or not. In casual fashion, I “disowned” my surviving family some years ago. That is, I performed the ceremony in my head, with the exception that my sister knows I feel rejecting.

My reasons for being so cold are two: an immature and a mature one. The first is that I remain to this day the hurt, abandoned child who has always been unseen by all of them, and if they will not open their eyes now, screw them. My sister (nearing 71, I believe) and I have written deep-think earnest letters sparsely over the years, but I still judge that she knows nothing of empathy, cannot get, or see, outside of her polished armor over childhood injuries. The mature reason is that I have never owing to birth trauma, early anxiety, and the neuroses of my parents experienced the slightest atom of affection or emotional neediness for any family. Psychic neediness, yes: In fact, I will never grow beyond the loss of bond with my mother. That I feel nothing is, I believe, an honest and even high-integrity reason not to pretend, or make, a connection, even as we travel our final decades or years.

For a long time I let myself conflate need with affection. I’d write, have an ephemeral burst of faux-bright feeling, assume “the clan.” The others were more honest: They didn’t need it, couldn’t fake it, and even in high-opportunity moments remained cordial, distant, non-giving. There are two reasons for that: They were not reaching-out types; and for most of my life I was invisible, lost, unreachable. Only now, with a couple decades of self-birth and growth under my belt, would communion be possible.

But it won’t be.

Barbara –
Happy very serious birthday.
Do you remember the dogs we had when we were kids – Lady and Waggles? Do you remember anything about them? I only have the sadness of repressing my memory and feeling about them, because I repressed my life as it was happening. Did our parents get rid of Lady because a neighbor complained of her barking? Really? Did they keep our fox terrier outside? I remember nothing. What was she like? How long did we have her? I remember that I never grieved. I never knew what happened to her when and after it happened. How could I have been so meaningless in the family? I think I loved my dog, though I doubt she was mine. Mother’s? And Waggles. I don’t remember ever playing with her, but I can almost feel a happy stirring. Was I actually too shut down to get close to my own dog? I remember one night, sitting on the living room floor and seeing mom and dad carrying him (her? I don’t remember what sex Waggles was) out the door in a big cardboard box. She looked awful. All I remember or believe I heard, later, is that she had swallowed a chicken bone and was bleeding internally. I was never told things sitting down, to my face, with any attention to my response, my feeling, but only offhandedly as a perfunctory act, an aside. She never came home again. There was never a word spoken about her. I don’t know if I grieved. I remember nothing. Were you there? Did you notice we had dogs? Did you ever play with them, or hold any of the cats, or was your life too elevated on a different, superior plane for that?
I don’t know how many of my clients had lives so detached from themselves and parents and family. I don’t think I’ve heard, in twenty years, any of them describe an alienation this drastic: It’s always family problems, distance, pain, need, enmeshment; abuse in childhood and sick bonds into adulthood. But I can’t be so unique. Maybe even depth therapy clients dont want to look in utterly cold places. One thing, though: I believe it’s made me a better therapist: understanding a bit more of human potential.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Theater of farce and illusion

Not to brag, but I am certain that the term “lost soul” would lose face to the point of humiliating death were it to know how lost and non-functional a person I was at twenty-six and newly in a relationship. It was my first real relationship, and saying that, this image forms: “one to nothing,” as in a baseball score. But in my case, it meant there was one person on the field – my future wife – and in my place a non-existent, a cosmic error masquerading as a person.

Up to that point, I had wandered around on Greyhound buses, had been an embarrassing blight in music graduate school, had been a narcissistic waste of my parents’ money in college, had been so many kinds of neurosis growing up from childhood through my teens. Had certainly begun in birth trauma: failure at the starting gate. In the same way a comatose person can’t elevate himself off the hospital bed and push a boulder into the sky, I was incapable of answering, or even knowing, these questions: “who am I?” and “what am I feeling?”

Essentially, I was as clueless and unformed at twenty-six as I had been at four. But I could type, and worked as a typographer.

There came a day, maybe half-a-year into the relationship, when I experienced an unavoidable sensation: I felt bad. Not good, in the molecularly recondite and unknowingly meaningful way of neurotic feelings. Why was I not happy? I had a partner, and she had two little girls, I had a job, an apartment, a future, because the future is ahead of you when you are twenty-six. Many years later I’d know I had felt like a dying child in prison, but at the time I wouldn’t even have understood what “self,” “causes,” or “emotional problems” meant. I took myself to a psychiatrist.

This was a Dr. Hull (who, by a fluke, did psychotherapy, which is what I was seeking.) He may have been fine, but I only went twice, and could name – even such a lost soul as I – a plausible reason for stopping: My father, visiting from out of state, attended the second session with me. Narcissistically sociable, he and the psychiatrist schmoozed together like old war buddies while I sat apart, a third wheel.

Had I continued, though, nothing would have happened. Nothing could have happened. I could not have held a mirror. Lost, empty, opaque, timeless sat in that chair. Looking back, I can inhabit that person again, and it gives me a sense of the impossibility many people ignorantly suffer in therapy, to identify feelings when feelings can’t attach to a Self, because there is not a Self. Birth trauma. The abortion of early neglect and being unloved. I think you have to be something, a core identity, to feel what is not there. Otherwise you will feel a nothing that covers the deeper nothing.

This means, I am certain, that many clients are never able to find their truth. Their talk is always their character escape from a void – akin to a funnel starting at the point of birth or toddlerhood and widening to the “O” of their adulthood in which they live. They talk, talk and talk and are never there. Or they sit in silence, as unpresent as I was. I think this is what so much therapy is: theater of farce and illusion.

What can help, can show an invisible door? Information – about identity, early disturbance, the absence of parents who appreciate you, not their own needs. It can help to be seen by the therapist. Because by the workings of psychology, the barest smidgeon of identity awakens when someone finally sees you.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My hippie moment #2

There will always be someone coming along who changes the world. Whether an Aristotle or a Hitler, Einstein, Gates-Jobs – somebody will change the channel of the river we flow down, though the destination will be the same. Actually, some changers will create a different destination one’s inner sense of meaning that travels on through one’s years. Hitler changed meaning for many people. But I doubt that the invention of the computer or smartphone or automobile can change any person’s fundamental capacity for happiness or unhappiness, her deepest center. Idea systems – Platonist or Marxism or Christianity or Ayn Rand’s Objectivism – can alter an impressionable person, but not someone who thinks on his or her own. I was once a Randian capitalist-egoist-rationalist, but it faded away decades ago.

Mostly we are each alone in a populated world of objects and events, discoveries and wars, politics and the great classics and popular songs, colored lights and news stories and the millennium, where all of it is just the dim backdrop to our own life. None of these fantastic things gives us meaning. We have it from other sources.

Music is deceptive. I can listen to some classical piece and while it plays I’ll feel like a different person, from ganglion to soul. A Gershwin turns me into a worldly New Yorker of the 1920’s. Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto puts me in a universe where a celestial choir does sound and reveal the noble meaning of everything. A Grieg Lyric Piece or folk tune and I am a poetic peasant, Norwegian mountain variety. Chopin, and I am the drastic child who was ahead of his time in neurotic feeling. But end of piece, these changes evaporate immediately, completely.

I may be less susceptible to internalizing meanings than many people, partly because of my dysthymic placidity, partly because I no longer look for them. The dysthymia means that baseball or travel or possessions don’t give me a powerful feeling. Only two things do: my marriage and my work. When I’m sitting with clients, though, an instinct always kicks in that says benefits like a relationship, a job, a relocation, a hobby, a pet, a clean bill of health, are good meanings. I know these are right, though they are better than I can do.

I think one thing could give me another piece of meaning. If someone were to invent a personal starship that traveled with the “spooky action” Einstein abhorred: vast distances instantly, or pretty much that fast. I think that would do it – seeing new sights and always going toward the mystery that no one will ever solve. But . . . .

I doubt that I’d be able to leave my wife or my work.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dry humor, or wet seriousness #3: The Lady Shop

Part I

Is there anything we can make of the fact that a counseling practice I’m familiar with – in fact, have joined part-time* – has an overwhelmingly female clientele (maybe ninety percent) who want to see a female therapist? I am the one male at a Lady Shop that is quietly Amazonian in feel. I believe I have an attitude about this, thought it remains unplumbed and open to reason.

Life coaching, EMDR, womanly empathy, sisterly encouragement, motherly-like love. The natural camaraderie. The comfort of not sitting with a man while opening up about sexual abuse five or twenty years ago. Pretty offices with imperative-inspirational slogans on the walls (“do what you love, love what you do”; “yesterday NOW tomorrow”; “You are worth your weight in [gold bar image]),” and many pillows. Where is the floaty go-nowhere music and aromatherapy?

One of my big ignorances about the history of psychotherapy is: I do not know when the drastic surgery of psychoanalysis and depth therapy turned into happiness promising and quick-fix making. When did shrinks in their cloistered offices turn into sunshine and lollypops, smiling ads and mouthwash commercial promises of joy, life course redirection, and healing?

I wonder but do not know: Is there a causal link between the two – the rising of the sea of female therapists and the sea change to love and positivity?

Part II

I have for once held a deliberately depressing session. The client, mid-forties, had been adequately successful, worked as a handyman, had many abilities. He would also periodically lose what he’d gained through neurotic relationships, becoming bored with a town and moving on, sabotaging himself in small fry ways (hobbled by warrants after failing to pay parking fines, for example). One day he got in an automobile accident that caused him some mild-to-moderate neurological problems – decreased alertness, iffy depth perception.

He never worked again.

In sessions, he sullenly described his incapacities, the unpayable warrants, his helpless attorney, the Disability Income litigation limbo, his failure to get a break of any kind. I listened, offered encouragements and empathy. And when he finally asked – with masked frustration – for some feedback, I said:

‘People such as you and I came from a depressive home that bled our natural energy, our capacity for a passionate true north. So as adults we carry within us an empty anchor. We are held back at the root. And this root makes success feel subtly tragic, some kind of wrong. Now you have gotten hurt, and the early injuries of your childhood have been re-proven. Once again no one is there to see or care. You can no longer move on. You “can’t work,” though I am sure you could if you could ignore your inner truth.
‘I think we have to know our anchor, and how our horizon has been narrowed by our childhood. If you then have compassion for yourself, you can look outward from your lower hills and valleys. You won’t be punishing yourself for mountains that don’t exist. You can then find smaller fruits, maybe some gold nuggets. You’ll be in your own world, not the one that was supposed to be.
My client fell into this session, participated at a deeper level than he had in the months before. I’m not assuming, as we exited the office, he was happy. But he seemed to have something new moving inside, which I can hope will turn benign and stronger.

What do you think, ladies?

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* I have since resigned.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Negligible #1: The superior white men

We’d like to be able to find some statement of such great power that it would stop these universal haters and ungrown white men in their tracks and turn them from sickness to health. Acknowledging the magicalness of that thought, I guarantee that therapy’s words can at times give a person a sudden new awareness of himself, altering his inner landscape and his approach to the world. More often, though, we are only a hand shaking the topmost leaves of his tree and the trunk remains unmoved.

It feels almost compelled to insult and have hateful contempt for these desperate, rageful adolescents. Their greatest agony, which they project into the atmosphere, is that they were punished and love-starved children who had to grow up. They were crying, brutalized infants and youngsters who were taken from themselves: They had to get older. Hurt, they needed to be helped in the crib, held by mommy in their childhood bed. But they had to grow up, leave their true but invisible real self behind, and live like adults. The pain of this discongruity is a death that goes on forever. It may as well be the eternal hellfire of the Bible.

“Strong” men need to become weak to get better. They need to have their pain touched by a father-figure, a mother-figure, so they’re not carrying their burden by themselves. I’ve seen this happen in therapy: a solid man – a medic returning to Afghanistan – whose face transformed to his six-year-old when he remembered the compassion he had missed, the coldness he received, a little boy. But I, like you, can hardly imagine that happening to the members of the masses in their camo and gear, raging together, feeling the womb-like warmth of fellow haters. They don’t want my warmth.

So we see around us as much pandemonium and failure as there are atoms in the world. Man-children carrying into the grim battle of job or rally hundred-pound loads of their closed past; those who live on poisonous ideas – hate blacks and immigrants and Jews – as if they were the green ground and clean air. I wish there were a way to broadcast to all of them the truths of being a human being, truths that struck each one personally. I know there’s no such way. But this world could use a little magic.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Returning from El Jobean

Thirty-five years ago, on an evening in an early year of my first marriage, my wife spoke a four-word sentence that I believe is a key to Borderline Personality Disorder and other global warps of the self, including the peculiar problem of our president.

“E___” and I were driving back to Sarasota (FL) from a visit out-of-county. There had been a gathering of her friends, fossil hunting aficionados, at one member’s house. As usual, I’d been carried along by my neurotic passivity, sitting politely without identity, ignoring others’ enthusiasms. Suddenly I was jolted into a feeling of “queasy alarm.” E, engaged in the show-and-tell revelry, had tossed an autobiographical claim into her presentation. The discussion went on. I, however, could not return to my quiescent state.

As we drove through the night, I found that I had summoned the courage to say: “E, why did you tell everyone that you have a Master’s degree? You don’t have a Master’s degree.”

Her reply is the material I’d like you to consider. I will admit that I am only considering it now, first time, in any depth beyond its occasional usefulness in therapy sessions.

“Pardon me for living!” was her retort, intoned so righteously that hearing it, I felt the kind of innocent and stupid confusion only a young child can experience. I don’t remember, these many years later, if I rejoindered at all or what I might have said. But would any, or no, response have mattered? Could there be any answer that would join a shared reality?

Look at Trump and hear the man’s continual lies, which obviously feel as true to him as anything could or need be. Hear my ex-wife assuming – assuming – that her lie is valid and unquestionable. We could easily judge her as immature or as casually insane. Instead, let’s see her remark as literal. Pardon me for living. This is what I need for life. This is what I need to not disintegrate. We’d been married for over two years, yet I had never heard her say that phrase, so I don’t think it was a personal mantra, as was her over-worn “rude, crude and socially unacceptable” or “incest – it keeps it in the family.” It was sparked afresh by my throwing a terrible reality at her: a knife to her siege ego.

She was telling me that she had lived in fire and that oxygen would only make her burn up more. She was telling me that the way you are born is the way you live. She was angry because anger comes from being painfully bent, childhood on, and that’s who she had always been. “Living” meant struggling against the enemy, which was the strange present that had no love for her.

Borderline Personality, Masterson says, is the “deflated false self,” while Narcissism is the “inflated false self.” False is false, though, and when parents make this falseness live in the real world, it or the world must lose. A fire doesn’t want oxygen, a shadow doesn’t want light. Pardon her for living alone among us, in a different, darker atmosphere.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mini statement: Don One

The narcissist wakes up in the morning and he doesn’t feel good. There is no automatic sense of glory, there is no basic happiness. His bedrock is not made of bright material. A troubled feeling – which he will either not notice or will misinterpret – sparks his self-medications. Thought (“I am perfect”) may precede and trigger a chemical sensation-emotion which is interpreted as superiority or powerful expansiveness, or the sensation may come first – triggered directly by the negative fog at waking, or one later in the day – and bring some warm reminiscence of being admired recently or winning at something. These are chemical and ideational reactions not to the outer world: They are reactions to the deep self, the historical self that is a dark and unmade child. To escape, the brain and all systems have created an internality that is a perfumed bath, and that colors, uses, bends reality, makes it his name. That is to say, it ignores reality.

This is what has wheedled its way into the White House.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

When "strength" is impossible

Here is a fragmentary idea, vaguely described and hypothetically explained. It lingers in my brain and wants to be better understood.

There are adult clients who, during work on more fundamental issues, complain and grieve about their abuse-of-power parents or ex-spouses. A session starts off with actionable energy, or it seems so: Alarmed and insightful, they detail one indignity after another: divorcing husband calls Child Protective Services on his wife for malicious purposes. Parent treats live-in thirty-year-old son like a humiliated prisoner of war. Father forbids forty-year-old opiate addict daughter, who lost everything and had to crash at his home, from taking medication of any kind including her antidepressant. Grandfather sues his daughter for “grandparents’ rights” or custody, treats the little boy like a king, the girl like baggage. Mother slanders her daughter to their friends. Father restricts adult son’s use of toilet paper and doesn’t let him sit in “the master’s” easy chair. New stepmother barges in and harps every time son phones his dad (who probably colludes in his own pussy-whipping).

There is nothing suspect about these complaints, on their own merits. Fairly early on, though, I will get the sense that the client is in narrator mode. He has one predominant tone throughout the speech, an inscrutable one that brings to mind humorist Dave Barry’s compliment to readers who sent him grist-for-the-mill anecdotes: “alert.” There is no anger. There is no sense of resignation, victory contempt or rolling of the eyes. There is not a sense that this is a problem to solve. And it may be just when this mystery strikes one’s awareness that two equal but coup de grace ones appear: The client has chattered his litany for the entire hour. And my interventions have been unheard; they have had as much effect as a leaf flittering down upon a charging bear.

The leaf, though, eventually takes a stand. “You are naming all these crimes,” I say, “but I get the feeling that you are somehow one with them, are not really ready to do anything about them.” The client’s response is: “He drives me crazy! Sometimes I just want to sit in my room and be left alone, but he stands at the door yelling about how much gasoline I used or that I ate some leftover he wanted. And my mother doesn’t believe me: She and he are a perfect team, though she sometimes listens. When my sister visits, she always takes their side. I try to be as polite and reasonable as I can be. Sunday night I listened to him pacing – or marching – back and forth outside the bathroom door as I was doing my business. I guess he wanted me to know I was taking too long. . . .”

If only these clients were as single-minded and driven in their health as they are in their misery, their chains would be broken. Or it seems so.

What generates this reportage, this constant list of small rapes and murders and abandonments? How does the client say them and not revolt against the saying? Is there an unspoken feeling within him that I am not grasping? I wonder if it’s the feeling: “Daddy, mommy, please love me, don’t hurt me!” In these jeremiads, I have never heard that feeling, but is that what is left when all the other expected expressions are not there – anger, humor, strength, futility? If this is so, then therapy would have to reach that need, and help (frankly speaking) a pitiful client be more pitiful, a childlike client become the child. He or she would need to grieve past losses dug up and snarling in the present. And I would have to put aside my own sick need and not push the client’s anger and resolve and rejection of the parent. Strength is not what I think it is.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Onward and upward: Beyond our self and the world

A person can be born in trauma (soaked in mother’s depressive chemistry, ripped out by caesarian, shut away in an incubator); have no bonding; grow up out of sync with his age, with his peers, with life; repress and lose his feeling core and real self in his childhood; live an anxious dissociated then manufactured persona; grow a warped ideational field that covers just about everything; live an ambition or a momentum that is entirely non-real – not based in a core organic person who never existed.

And we will find him a normal, standard-issue person, like you or me. He may feel something wrong, but it won’t stop him from moving about in some mundane direction, and he won’t know its this wrong which is getting in his way. Or he may be bizarre or berserk or personality disordered or a comedian. But still, we’ll think this is just a person with flaws, a guy with some challenges.

He could be a malignant demon, and be Mr. Rogers.

What keeps us unreally stable is our mind, which lies on a bed of repression. Picture this simple fact: Assuming we are troubled anywhere close to the person described: If we lived only our feelings, were lost and mutantly made as can possibly be, we would be a ball of acid on fire, rolling like the apex of torture crazily through a hellish life. It is thinking and ideas and mental attachment that create the anesthetizing, counterbalancing stability for us. Pain and loss become “understood.” A completely absent sense of self (and self-esteem) is replaced by belief or hope or narcissism, or by perceiving – our cognitive eyes – the outer world not the inner one. A sense of never having been fully human (Modrow’s* idea about the disintegration leading to schizophrenia) is saved by delusional ideas. Serial or seamless tortures in childhood are Band-aided by inspirational sayings or crusades or by having the identity of PTSD.

The mind of thought and word comes in to give us a false stage, a dream that seems real. And a bonus value: Thought makes us feel mastery, feel powerful. We’re now in a place different from our pain, from our roots, from the rolling ball. The thought occurs that this deception is related to the phenomeno­log­ical problem: our adherence to a universe of surfaces, of appearance, with no capacity to know the essence. But it’s only a parallel, that we live an illusion of ourselves and see and think only an illusion of the world. There is little choice about the first, none about the second.

Psychotherapy, on this plane, helps us find some happiness or peace by mixing our need for the self-medication of thought with our need for organic feeling in a way that “works” for each person. It doesn’t know how it accomplishes this (and probably most often doesn’t know that it accomplishes this). Our work is noble and blind.

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* One of my favorite books, John Modrow’s How To Become a Schizophrenic, quoted elsewhere in this blog.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When a lie is the truth and the truth is a lie

The Pessimistic Shrink sometimes can’t help but throw comments to the winds (of online news magazines). At’s article, “Watch Fox News Anchor’s Exasperation at Trump Administration: ‘Why Is it Lie After Lie After Lie?’” –

Picture a six-year-old boy whose four-year-old sister pesters him unmercifully under the radar of their parents. She “borrows” his action figures, rips out pages of his comic books, calls him names. He yells at her, she runs to the parents, they reprimand him as the older one who should be more “mature,” dismissing his agony. One day it’s finally too much: In retribution he rips the head off Malibu Barbie. Four-year-old manipulative demon runs screaming to mother and father and they put the boy on the hot seat. He angrily denies he did it. Of course he denies it. He should deny it. He knows he will never get any justice in this family. To confess to one crime when dozens of unpunished crimes have been perpetrated on him would be worse than martyrdom. It would be injustice, self-sacrifice, humiliation. It would be to feed his soul to an uncaring monster. I think this is where the Republicans are when they lie and accept the Trump family’s lies above them. They’re the six-year-old boy and the Democrats are the four-year-old girl. Lying saves the dignity and the self of the mistreated child within.
Other blog posts have dealt with the imperative of a delusion, such as the Narcissist’s need to believe he is perfect, even the psychotic’s need to believe she is being watched and toyed with by strangers. Here I mean a different but related state of resolution: a deep felt need to redefine truth to mean personal justice. Each of us is alone, ultimately: We don’t, we can’t live for the social compact, accept the consensus against our sense of survival. Only the most damaged symbiote, the codependent victim, will give up her identity for a “greater cause.”

How is it that truth is redefinable like this? The boy in my example, if he could dissect his feeling, might describe this process: “What actually happened – something about some doll – doesn’t matter. Many things that happen don’t matter: a leaf may fall from a tree, a ceiling fan sends shadows across the wall. And if something doesn’t matter, its truth doesn’t deserve any standing; we may not care to invest belief in it. Especially if it’s used to defeat a greater truth.” These Republicans feel persecuted and harassed to confess to being bad people who are selling their country to Russia. There is no way they can allow themselves to be so degraded by judges, “parents” and bratty little sisters who feel superior. “You are not superior! Your facts are existential irrelevancies.”

Delusions and lying for self-preservation are bonded together in the survival of the ego. A psychotic goes insane in order to survive his insane world. Trump and his son may seem to lie for narcissism’s sake, but narcissism is the lie that protects a disintegrative ego. Dignity, pride, lies and justice may be unnecessary to a person whose child is intact.