Dominick Grundy, Ph.D
(One of the presentations on the
panel moderated by Adam
Blatner (on this topic)
on April 17, 2010, at the Annual Conference of the
American Society of Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama)
main introduction to this panel.
Adam’s website 4/22/10.
I imagined this dialogue occuring at a meeting in Vienna between
Sigmund Freud and J. L. Moreno. There are elements in which Moreno is a
young medical student around 1916 at which time he was
that era's version of a bit of a hippie, with a beard and dramatic
outfit. Freud supposedly gave a lecture on dream interpretation, and
afterward Moreno claimed to have said, "Professor Freud, your lecture
was interesting; but while you interpret people's dreams, I plan to
give them the courage to dream new dreams!" (This anecdote is mentioned
Gershoni's article in the December '09 issue of GROUP).
The encounter to be presented, though, also portrays Moreno in mid-life
when he had then developed psychodrama, say, in the later 1930s. Had
this meeting been different, perhaps psychoanalysis and psychodrama
would have had a combined history, rather than two separate ones. I use
a fictional form to suggest that, while we cannot not rewrite history,
we may, together, change its influence. As it was, each founder
projected his own issues onto the movement he founded. Here Freud is in
his mid-50's, famous, distant and characteristically ironic. Moreno, an
unkempt 20-something with long beard and green cloak, known only to
friends and a few intellectuals, is impassioned and
impetuous. But each is more flexible and sounds more like the other
here in surplus reality than he did in historical reality.
The word metaphor is used frequently. In metaphor, a meaning is
transferred from one state or action to another. Although often
considered an aspect of writing, it is in fact the way we think much of
the time. Sense impressions are stored and then combined with others
through chains of associations, so that new perceptions are
created. FREUD used free association to encourage the
patient to transfer experiences at one level "upward" to the conscious
level of speech. At a certain point, the psychoanalyst took over, so
that a patient's dream about wolves sitting in a fir tree could be
interpreted as a metaphor for the primal scene.
Likewise, Moreno's stage was not for theatrical production, or
reproduction, but it served as a space in which to examine old
connections and forge new ones through creative role-taking. At the end
of their dialogue, the Nymph of the Danube, the river flowing through
Vienna, appears on the scene to scold our heroes for lack of
spontaneity. The narrator has inserted some asides and there are a few
MORENO: I have heard much about your work, Sigmund, and I must
tell you to your face that free association on the couch results
in aimless chatter.
FREUD: Tell me about it. I am often tempted to violate my
principles and interrupt.
MORENO: You treat them as narcissistic atoms, but human beings
naturally bond. It is their relationships that belong on the couch.
FREUD: Well Jakob, we disagree there, but since time is short
and I am eager to hear your improvements on my methods, let's
pass over that. [Narrator: the youthful enthusiast sometimes misses the
older man's irony]
MORENO: Under the influence of the psychoanalyst, free
association is hardly free. If the therapist likes fishing, you'd
be amazed at the number of associations to casting the net, baiting the
hook, reeling in the catch, to say nothing of the monster that got away.
FREUD: But the patient should not know of the doctor's passion
MORENO: As if, Sigmund. Patients have eyes. Your art collection
is not exactly invisible. You often pet your dogs during sessions. Some
people say you prefer animals to people.
FREUD: [In an undertone] Well, they are less likely to stop and
give me a lecture.
MORENO: And patients read your books. They know that you think
little boys desire their mother and little girls their father. In
a few decades this will appear on T-shirts. Soon no one will remember
what the expression “motherfucker” means. Patients will reliably dream
about all this in your presence.
FREUD: [Ironically] Jakob, you need not worry so much about my
influence. Intellectual knowledge does not save men or women from
blindness to their motives. Younger women familiar with my work marry
men nearly twice their age without a thought. Men who have learned
about fear of the father go ahead and start revengeful wars. Even some
of my trained psychoanalysts [he is unable to finish the
sentence] This is the power of defenses, and they are mightier than
both of us.
MORENO: But I have found a way to evade them.
FREUD: You have? [ FREUD perks up].
MORENO: Instead of merely words, actions.
FREUD: Is this a kind of vaudeville?
MORENO: We all conceive of reality in chains of metaphors.
Remember how you presented the ego, the id and the superego? You
described citadels defended by the watchman, metaphor; we had the horse
and the rider, metaphor; we had warning bells from the ego that id
forces were about to burst their dam. Transitions from feeling like a
murderous child to becoming a respectable butcher on Main Street, from
seeking re-connection to the lost world of mother's uterine rhythms to
becoming a musician, are based on psychic metaphor this new thing
reenacts that old thing. Something is carried over from the old
instinctual goal to the new adult activity.
FREUD: [Disappointed] Those are figures of speech, my friend,
MORENO: But they are natural actions of the mind. There are no
cigars in the engine of the psyche.
FREUD: Well, there is some truth to this. When I stopped using
hypnosis I would press my hands on a patient's head. Literally it
meant nothing. Healing hands, a metaphor.
MORENO: But under the spell of these hands, she (yes it was
often she, Sigmund) sank back and associated from a passive
position. Words that come while lying on a couch are not the same as
those uttered when the body moves freely. I give people a stage on
which to forge their associations. I am not saying all are new; they
may be old memories brought forward to the present in different images.
They need not be accurate, as my stage is not for replication but for
embodiment of imagined reality in the here-and-now.
At the beginning of my therapy there is
a warm-up, a metaphor of the athlete or, if you like, of
the performer. "Introduce yourself as a homeless person, " a new
role. Under pressure of action, the mind transforms the new situation
with old impressions. "I am not homeless, but now I use fragments of my
life to embody this fiction, fragments I was not even aware I
possessed." Mental states from a different sphere feeling afraid at
night, feeling alone in a schoolyard, feeling neglected by family these
states are creatively transformed into images of destitution.
FREUD: Hmm, sounds like acting to me.
MORENO: But there is no script and, in the end, the audience is
oneself through the medium of
the group. We expose the false self behind which people hide,
Sigmund, you through free association in private, and I through
public acting instead of just "talking about."
FREUD: But the aim is discovery. How can there be discovery if
you tell someone what role to
MORENO: On my stage people discover through action that for
which they may not yet have language. Let us imagine acting a
scene from history any scene you like.
FREUD [Musing] The infant Moses supposedly found by the
Pharaoh's daughter in the reeds beside the Nile.
MORENO: Interesting choice, Sigmund. It represents your
grandiose idea of the hero who is an outsider here an Egyptian
and who becomes a leader of the chosen. You are, in the metaphor, a Jew
seeking to teach the gentiles about human nature. And, according to
you, the Jews killed Moses for his trouble.
FREUD: You'd make a good psychoanalyst, my friend. But what is
MORENO: My mind went to the assassination of Julius Caesar. The
idealistic but disappointed follower, Brutus, who kills the
leader for the good of society. [Moreno stares at Freud rather
strangely] I did not know I was going to say that.
FREUD [gloomily] Jakob. I am not your father, and I dare say my
demise would hardly improve your lot. But several of my followers want
to get rid of me.
MORENO: In my system, the assassination scene could go several
ways. The patient could adopt both Caesar's and Brutus' point of
view. There could be changes in the outcome. The murder of Caesar will
be different for everyone who enacts it. I bring people to the point
where they can change their reality. Whereas your method, Sigmund, of
binding them to the Procrustean bed of Oedipus, confines them to the
past. They stay on that bed, or rather couch.
FREUD: Jakob, there is something about my couch that troubles
you too much. It is only a piece of furniture when all is said and
done. After the session is over, patients leave it and go back to their
life. For you the couch is a metaphor from your past of being passive
and powerless. Think back. Where do your associations lead?
MORENO: [Moreno declines the gambit, realizing he might become
entangled in memories he has repudiated] I choose not to engage in
repetition, Sigmund. The musician who fears that he will make a mistake
you would ask him to travel back to an early loss of faith in himself.
But I take him in the opposite direction, to expand his repertoire with
free improvisation. Then differences between correct and incorrect
playing will not trouble him.
FREUD: [Ironically] He will owe you a great deal, Jakob, his
income, his professional survival, his self-esteem. How will he endure
being so chained to his rescuer?
MORENO: He will owe me something, but others will share in the
rescue. In my therapeutic theater, everyone is included, the other
musicians, the conductor, the composer, the musician's family, even the
musical instrument. For me, it is the relations among group members
that count more than the leader. Your methods cultivate dependency;
mine set people free.
FREUD: [Takes a step toward Moreno]. I use a couch and you a
stage, but we should not be distracted by furniture. You mentioned
defenses. Our minds defend against dangerous urges so that we are often
blind to our own motives. Letting people say what comes into their head
uncovers these and frees them. But you are right: sometimes people
babble out their associations, so that there is nothing worth
interpreting. In fact, my Wolf-Man has been doing this for the past
year, and I have given him a fixed termination date to shake things up.
But do we agree that much mental energy is wasted in defenses?
MORENO: Your defense, in my view, is an unserviceable role
repeated ad nauseam, but under pressure of acting in a new one,
it slips away.
FREUD: [Ironically] "Slips away." Just like that? Jakob you are
indeed a magician.
MORENO: [Stepping back from him] Actions precede words, Sigmund.
I admit that patients revisit their problems more than once and that
Rome was not built in a day.
FREUD: I have written about Rome, Jakob, in an extended metaphor
about human personality as a series of layers built over other layers,
as with the city of Rome. The psychoanalyst is a vertical excavator of
the most distant level. But I understand that your method is
horizontal, pushing the patient to act differently in the present and
toward the future in order to make the past wither away. I do not think
we shall agree about technique, but we are both attacking something
fundamental about human beings, their unacknowledged attachment to the
past. And I must say that, despite our efforts, the past seems to live
on quite well.
MORENO: [Moving closer again] I accept your metaphor, Sigmund,
of the vertical versus the
horizontal. Merely correcting logical errors of thought, like the
cognitive psychologists, is to skim the surface. We both allow the
patient to paint on his or her own canvas using the colors of mental
life. We both discover what meaning a particular mind gives to past
experience and how that meaning can be changed.
FREUD: Now you're talking Jakob. I have also written about
repetition and the desire to reenact an old scene in order to make
things turn out differently. But [consulting his fob watch] our
allotted 17 minutes together draws to a close.
MORENO: Would you attend an event I am planning soon at a local
theater? They may not know it when they enter, but the audience will
become the actors. You too perhaps.
FREUD: [Stepping back] My friend I thank you for the invitation
but such spectacles are foreign
to my nature.
[ MORENO is insulted but has no time for a retort]
[Enter from left field the NYMPH of the Danube dressed as a waitress
with a snow-white apron and starched cap. She carries a tray on which
are cups of hot chocolate and cake lavished with whipped cream as the
Viennese do so well.]
FREUD: Is this someone from your therapeutic theater, Jakob?
MORENO: No. But I may invite her to one of my events.
NYMPH: Today's Vienna is one open-air cafe
Where customers harp on each other's foibles
My thankless job is to bring what they ask
And dodge the insults that fly through the air.
Tray after tray of sweet desserts and chocolate
Seem only to fuel the furnaces of grievance.
It saddens me to see you two follow this pattern
Of small differences enlarged though pride.
I therefore, Spirit of the Danube, Europe's mighty river,
Urge you to partake of what I offer here.
[Under her spell, the two men reach out to her tray, but quickly she
On one condition. You must each give something up.
MORENO: [furious] Bitch. You stole my Magic Shop!
NYMPH: Sonny, this isn't your magic shop. It's my magic shop. In order
to enjoy this scrumptious chocolate with cake and whipped cream, you
have to stop being so goddam Viennese. It's the same with all you
professional gentlemen. You use big words like "logoid" and "axiodrama"
and do weird stuff called Godplay, but then you act like everyone
around you is a kleptomaniac. [To MORENO] You say you
believe in people being equal, but only if you get to be first among
MORENO: [haughtily] I am going to be a modern-day prophet.
FREUD: [feeling left out] Fra lein, what about me? What should I
NYMPH: I was coming to you. You've been leading this young man on. You
don't care about his ideas because he isn't on your team of
psycho-whatever-you-call-it people. You can be charming, Herr
Professor, as they call you, if people in your stable stay in the stall
you assign them. If they stray, you call it "wild analysis." It's like
these gentlemen at my tables: one of them states an opinion about the
emperor or the proper angle of a handlebar mustache, and soon everyone
is shouting that opinion down because it's not his. Instead of forming
a secret committee to protect your status as first among equals, you
should let people work out their own ideas. [Smiles seductively]
Old man. Come. Are you able to give up your suspicions?
FREUD: [Morosely] Fraulein, I have often tried to be
open-minded and generous to others and have just as often learned to
regret it. This is how I became certain the Jews killed Moses and, to
disguise their crime, later portrayed him as the founder of their
ethical code. Fliess, Adler, Jung, Rank, Ferenczi . All murderers. [He
breaks off overcome with pain]
MORENO: [Wrapping himself tightly in his green cloak]
Well, Miss Danube and Sigmund, goodbye to both of you. [He pauses as if
he expected them to stop him]. No more psychoanalysis for me. We shall
never see each other again. [Defiantly] I go my own way from now on,
most likely to America, my metaphor of freedom.
[ FREUD is unaware of either of them, rapt in
his Moses narrative of what he considers his
betrayals past, present and to come. It is of course a chain of
NYMPH: Well. A pity to waste all this good stuff. [She sits on
the ground and begins eating and drinking, intermittently
smacking her lips.] Mmmmmm. [She smiles] No metaphors here.
- - - - -
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