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)

See main introduction to this panel.    Posted on 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 in Jacob 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 anachronisms.
  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 for fishing.
  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, not science.
  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 your scene?
  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 adds]:
 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 equals.
  MORENO: [haughtily] I am going to be a modern-day prophet.
  FREUD: [feeling left out] Fra lein, what about me? What should I give up?
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 personal metaphors].
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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