Email to Annah

Hi Annah,

We tried to go to the movie Interstellar last week but missed its start time so went over to Luck’s for dinner. We got home around 7pm with Fannie and I getting into bed to read, when you unexpectedly joined us toting the book A most dangerous method by John Kerr. I read this book when it was first published in 1993 and enjoyed it thinking I would like to direct/produce its movie. Only in my dreams; one being if I were able to re-live my life, it would be as a movie director. We saw the movie together and when it came out, I followed up reading more on Sabina Spielrein’s life by watching the movie on her The Soul Keeper (Wikipedia) here on Youtube.

The Soul Keeper

I sure took notice last week when you were carrying Kerr’s book and told me you had started to read it. I had often read books with you and Aaron when you were younger and wanted to continue reading them when you were older with books like The catcher in the Rye that you recently read. However, I never got to doing this with all my reading for my psychology projects. I now see that reading and examining the art of poetry and the art of the novel is at the center of where I am now in life. The other day, Fannie in response to someone said I was retired and later I corrected her saying, “I do not like the concept of retirement! I like to use Jung’s life-stage concept, I have moved to the last stage of life, one defined with a focus on writing – far from retiring. I will return to this creative-stage of life later.

Yes, this is another thread that is being tracked but for now back to you, Annah, jumping into bed with us the other night. We all were time-traveling back-to-the-fudture 10 years to second grade when you first started reading in bed with us. However, I am also thinking of a time back to the fall of 1963 when I was a sophomore at UND majoring in pre-medicine and struggling with the decision to change majors to psychology. Annah, I told you about this and have wondered, if I had it to do over would have completed my medical degree and then specialized in psychiatry. I again took notice when you said you were thinking of entering pre-med at UND on your way to becoming a psychiatrist. This is a very challenging decision to discuss but first let me continue describing the scene that unfolded the other night.

Annah, you have read Kerr’s introduction, chapter one, and had just read the first section in Chapter 2, A psychiatric monastery, which after Chapter 1 Her father’s hand, sets the scene where Sabina will enter for treatment. So, let’s start there. The Burgholzil in Zurich Switzerland was soon to become the leading psychiatric hospital in the world under the direction of Eugen Bleuler, who hired CG Jung in 1901. We briefly covered this history and the characters’ names to see them pronounced and then we focused on the key ideas. You identified the first idea as Bleuler’s “revolutionary notion that even the most sever condition could sometimes be arrested if one developed a personal relationship with the patient” (p41). This was followed by Bleuler realizing the “value of reality-oriented tasks” for patients. We read together, when patients were pressed into helping with an outbreak of typhoid fever, they performed well only returning to their delusions and withdrawn behaviors afterwards. Similar incidents brought Bleuler to the conclusion that “the challenge of dealing with reality could be therapeutic in itself” (p42) – oh really now? This lead to Bleuler’s contribution of modifying Emil Kraeplein’s revisionary synthesis of mental illness into three basic groups manic-depression, paranoia, and dementia praecox (later to be called schizophrenia), by adding his important finding that with “personal rapport’ it was possible to reverse some of these conditions.

I mentioned to you, Annah, that this discovery by Bleuler is the precursor to The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) which refers to a phenomenon whereby individuals improve or modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. The original ‘Hawthorne effect’ study suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention from such could lead to temporary increases in workers’ productivity” (Wikipedia). “The term was coined in 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger when analyzing earlier experiments from 1924–32 at The Hawthorne Works (a Western Electric factory outside Chicago). The Hawthorne Works had commissioned a study to see if their workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers’ productivity seemed to improve when changes were made, and slumped when the study ended. It was suggested that the productivity gain occurred as a result of the motivational effect on the workers of the interest being shown in them” (Wikipedia). These Hawthorne Works’ findings are central to U.S. business schools management education pedagogy but have significantly been truncated in order to suppress worker self-actualization – another thread being follow.

Bleuler’s discoveries were also was a precursor to psychiatrist R.D. Laing work and explains what happened when one of his patients is told to just forget your depression – learn to whistle while you walk or work. A full documentary, Did You Used to be R.D. Laing?, is enlightening and particularly interesting is Adam Curtis’s BBC Documentary The Trap section 1/3, Fuck you buddy, where Laing’s impact on American psychiatric care hospitals is presented and which is still playing out in today’s Veterans Administration Hospital disaster. Annah, I am now irritatingly thinking about last month’s removal your healthy appendix to, I think, game the system. The family had a traumatic experience with Fargo’s Sanford Care Hospital and this description of the Fuck You Buddy has now taken on a personal aspect!

This first episode examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought. The programme traces the development of game theory with particular reference to the work of John Nash, who constructed logically consistent and mathematically verifiable models, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economics. He invented system games reflecting his beliefs about human behaviour, including one he called “Fuck You Buddy” (later published as “So Long Sucker”), in which the only way to win was to betray your playing partner. These games were internally coherent and worked correctly as long as the players obeyed the ground rules that they should behave selfishly and try to outwit their opponents. As the 1960s became the 1970s, the theories of a Scottish psychiatrist, R.D Laing, and the models of Nash began to converge, producing a widespread popular belief that the state (a surrogate family) was purely and simply a mechanism of social control which calculatedly kept power out of the hands of the public. This episode shows how this belief allowed economic models that left no room for altruism to look credible, and that this underpinned the free-market beliefs of Margaret Thatcher who sincerely believed that by dismantling as much of the British state as possible and placing former national institutions into the hands of public shareholders, a new form of social equilibrium would be reached. This was a return to Nash’s work, in which he proved mathematically that if everyone was pursuing their own interests, a stable, yet perpetually dynamic society could result. But as the mathematically modelled society is run on data—performance targets, quotas, statistics—it is these figures combined with the exaggerated belief that human selfishness will provide stability, that has created “the trap”.

The Trap – Fuck you buddy

Annah, there are several threads now being tracked. A Beautiful Mind – The Documentary John Nash is very interesting and presents the background of Nash’s life from where The Trap then outlines the predicament society is now trapped in. However, in this bar scene from the movie with Russell Crowe as Nash, the concept of governing dynamics (Nash equilibrium) is addressed in pointing out that Adman Smith’s concept at the center of industrial capitalism, needs re-thinking. Nash in this bar scene suggests:

Adam Smith said, Everyone wins when doing what is best for oneself. Incomplete, incomplete okay because the best result will come from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself and the group. Governing dynamics, Adam Smith was wrong.

Governing dynamics

I then asked you, Annah, why Freud’s psychoanalysis and Jung’s analytical psychology are “a most dangerous method?” Of course this is the title of Kerr’s book and this will reveal itself as story unfolds. However, from the movie we saw together, we can see what is dangerous. In this Youtube clip spanking scene we see portrayed Jung’s concept of synchronicity – the banging bookcase, a major contribution of Sabina that “ture sexuality demands the destruction of the ego” – a confrontation with Freud’s view, and the struggle early psychoanalysis had with the issue of psychological transference between the analyst and the analysand – getting sexually involved with a patient was an ethical issue just then working itself out in the early psychoanalytical community – a most dangerous issue. Does anyone suggest that we are not still in the throws of working through sexuality?

A most dangerous method

A few days ago, Annah, I went to my banging bookcase, actually when I walk by one I look and always seem to select a book that is needed, and pulled out Robert Romanshyn book The wounded researcher: research with soul in mind.  I was looking for one of his PhD students dissertation he reported on in a chapter I had not read. There I read an analytical answer to the question what is dangerous in the section Reflection on this “most dangerous’ process (p194). I immediately read, outlined, and began testing it on several Scherling Family Research Projects being tackled with Soul in mind. To say the least, Annah, I am excited! After all, it is you, your brother, and cousins that will inherit these projects, with a less dangerous, more conscious method underway. I am looking forward to our next reading/discussion session.

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