Excerpts from Must Read Books & Articles on Mental Health Topics
Books, Part IV

The Denial of Death- Ernest Becker
Chapter Seven- The Spell Cast by Persons. pp. 127-158.

Ah, mon cher, for anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadul. Hence one must choose a master, God being out of style.- ALBERT CAMUS

... men, incapable of liberty--who cannot stand the terror of the sacred that manifests itself before their open eyes--must turn to mystery, must hide ... the ... truth.- CARLO LEVI

    For ages men have reproached themselves for their folly--that they gave their loyalty to this one or that, that they believed so blindly and obeyed so willingly. When men snap out of a spell that has very nearly destroyed them and muse on it, it doesn't seem to make sense. How can a mature man be so fascinated, and why? We know that all through history masses have followed leaders because of the magic aura they projected, because they seemed larger than life. On the surface this explanation seems enough because it is reasonable and true to fact: men worship and fear power and so give their loyalty to those who dispense it.
    But this touches only the surface and is besides too practical. Men don't become slaves out of mere calculating self-interest; the slavishness is in the soul, as Gorky complained. The thing that has to be explained in human relations is precisely the fascination of the person who holds or symbolizes power. There is something about him that seems to radiate out to others and to melt them into his aura, a "fascinating effect," as Christine Olden called it, of "the narcissistic personality"'' or, as Jung preferred to call him, the mana-personality."' But people don't actually radiate blue or golden auras. The mana-personality may try to work up a gleam in his eye or a special mystification of painted signs on his forehead, a costume, and a way of holding himself, but he is still Homo sapiens, standard vintage, practically indistinguishable from others unless one is especially interested in him. The mana of the mana-personality is in the eyes of the beholder; the fascination is in the one who experiences it. This is the very thing that has to be explained: if all people are more or less alike, why do we burn with such all-consuming passions for some of them? What are we to make of the following report by a winner of the Miss Maryland contest who describes her first meeting with Frank Sinatra (a crooner and film star who gained wealth and notoriety in the middle decades of the 20th century in the United States):

He was my date. I got a massage, and I must have taken five aspirins to calm myself down. In the restaurant, I saw him from across the room, and I got such butterflies in my stomach and such a thing that went from head to toe. He had like a halo around his head of stars to me. He projected something I have never seen in my life. . . . when I'm with him I'm in awe, and I don't know why I can't snap out of it.... I can't think. He's so fascinating .

    Imagine a scientific theory that could explain human slavishness by getting at its nexus; imagine that after ages of laments about human folly men would at last understand exactly why they were so fatally fascinated; imagine being able to detail the precise causes of personal thralldom as coldly and as objectively as a chemist separates elements. When you imagine all these things you will realize better than ever the world-historical importance of psychoanalysis, which alone revealed this mystery. Freud saw that a patient in analysis developed a peculiarly intense attachment to the person of the analyst. The analyst became literally the center of his world and his life; he devoured him with his eyes, his heart swelled with joy at the sight of him; the analyst filled his thoughts even in his dreams. The whole fascination has the elements of an intense love affair, but it is not limited to women. Men show the "same attachment to the physician, the same overestimation of his qualities, the same adoption of his interest, the same jealousy against all those connected with him. Freud saw that this was an uncanny phenomenon, and in order to explain it he called it "transference." The patient transfers the feelings he had towards his parents as a child to the person of the physician. He blows the physician up larger than life just as the child sees the parents. He becomes as dependent on him, draws protection and power from him just as the child merges his destiny with the parents, and so on. In the transference we see the grown person as a child at heart, a child who distorts the world to relieve his helplessness and fears, who sees things as he wishes them to be for his own safety, who acts automatically and uncritically, just as he did in the pre-Oedipal period."
    Freud saw that transference was just another form of the basic human suggestibility that makes hypnosis possible. It was the same passive surrender to superior power, and in this lay its real uncanniness. What, after all, is more "mysterious" than hypnosis, the sight of adults falling into instant stupors and obeying like automatons the commands of a stranger? It seems like some truly supernatural power at work, as if some person really did possess a mana that could enmesh others in a spell. However, it seemed that way only because man ignored the slavishness in his own ' soul. He wanted to believe that if he lost his will it was because of someone else. He wouldn't admit that this loss of will was something that be himself carried around as a secret yearning, a readiness to respond to someone's voice and the snap of his fingers. Hypnosis was a mystery only as long as man did not admit his own unconscious motives. It baffled us because we denied what was basic in our nature. Perhaps we could even say that men were all too willingly mystified by hypnosis because they had to deny the big lie upon which their whole conscious lives were based: the lie of self-sufficiency, of free self-determination, of independent judgment and choice. The continuing vogue of vampire movies may be a clue to how close to the surface our repressed fears are: the anxiety of losing control, of coming completely under someone's spell, of not really being in command of ourselves. One intense look, one mysterious song, and our lives may be lost forever.
    All this was brought out beautifully by Ferenezi in 1909, in a basic essay that has not been much improved upon in a half-century of psychoanalytic work."' Ferenczi pointed out how important it was for the hypnotist to be an imposing person, of high social rank, with a self-confident manner. When he gave his commands the patient would sometimes go under as if struck by "coup de foudre." There was nothing to do but obey, as by his imposing, authoritarian figure the hypnotist took the place of the parents. He knew "just those ways of frightening and being tender, the efficacy of which has been proved for thousands of years in the relations of parent to child." We see the same technique used by revivalists as they alternatingly harangue their audiences with a shrieking voice and then immediately soothe them with a soft one. With a heart-rending scream of agony and ecstasy one throws himself at the revivalist's feet to be saved.
    As the highest ambition of  the child is to obey the all-powerful parent, to believe in him, and to imitate him, what is more natural than an instant, imaginary return to childhood via the hypnotic trance? The explanation of the ease of hypnosis, said Ferenczi, is that "In our innermost soul we are still children, and we remain so throughout life."" And so, in one theoretical sweep Ferenczi could destroy the mystery of hypnosis by showing that the subject carries in himself the predisposition to it:

... there is no such thing as a "hypnotising," a "giving of ideas" in the sense of psychical incorporating of something quite foreign from without, but only procedures that are able to set going unconscious, preexisting, auto-suggestive mechanisms. . . . According to this conception, the application of suggestion and hypnosis consists in the deliberate establishment of conditions under which the tendency to blind belief and uncritical obedience present in everyone, but usually kept repressed ... may unconsciously be transferred to the person hypnotising or suggesting.

    I am lingering on Ferenczi's unlocking of the secret of hypnosis for a very important reason. By discovering a universal predisposition at the heart of man, Freudian psychology itself gained the key to a universal underlying historical psychology. As not everyone undergoes formal hypnosis, most people can hide and disguise their inner urge to merge themselves with power figures. But the predisposition to hypnosis is the same one that gives rise to transference, and no one is immune to that, no one can argue away the manifestations of transference in everyday human affairs. It is not visible on the surface: adults walk around looking quite independent; they play the role of parent themselves and seem quite grown up--and so they are. They couldn't function if they still carried with them the childhood feeling of awe for their parents, the tendency to obey them automatically and uncritically. But, says Ferenczi, although these things normally disappear, "the need to be subject to someone remains; only the part of the father is transferred to teachers, superiors, impressive personalities; the submissive loyalty to rulers that is so wide-spread is also a transference of this sort ."

Freud's Great Work on Group Psychology
With a theoretical background that unlocked the problem of hypnosis and that discovered the universal mechanism of the transference, Freud was almost obliged to provide the best insights ever into the psychology of leadership; and so he wrote his great work Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, a book of fewer than 100 pages that in my opinion is probably the single most potentially liberating tract that has ever been fashioned by man. In his later years Freud wrote a few books that reflected personal and ideological preferences; but Group Psychology was a serious scientific work that consciously placed itself in a long tradition. Early theorists of group psychology had tried to explain why men were so sheep-like when they functioned in groups. They developed ideas like "mental contagion" and "herd instinct," which became very popular. But as Freud was quick to see, these ideas never really did explain what men did with their judgment and common sense when they got caught up in groups. Freud saw right away what they did with it: they simply became dependent children again, blindly following the inner voice of their parents, which now came to them under the hypnotic spell of the leader. They abandoned their egos to his, identified with his power, tried to function with him as an ideal.
    It is not so much that man is a herd animal, said Freud, but that he is a horde animal led by a chief. It is this alone that can explain the "uncanny and coercive characteristics of group formations." The chief is a "dangerous personality, toward whom only a passive-masochistic attitude is possible, to whom one's will has to be surrendered--while to be alone with him, 'to look him in the face,' appears a hazardous enterprise." This alone, says Freud, explains the "paralysis" that exists in the link between a person with inferior power to one of superior power. Man has "an extreme passion for authority" and "wishes to be governed by unrestricted force. It is this trait that the leader hypnotically embodies in his own masterful person. Or as Fenichel later put it, people have a "longing for being hypnotized" precisely because they want to get back to the magical protection, the participation in omnipotence, the "oceanic feeling" that they enjoyed when they were loved and protected by their parents. And so, as Freud argues, it is not that groups bring out anything new in people; it is just that they satisfy the deep-seated erotic longings that people constantly carry around unconsciously. For Freud, this was the life force that held groups together. It functioned as a kind of psychic cement that locked people into mutual and mindless interdependence: the magnetic powers of the leader, reciprocated by the guilty delegation of everyone's will to him.
    No one who honestly remembers how hazardous it could be to look certain people in the face or how blissful to bask trustingly in the glow of another's power can accuse Freud of psychoanalytic rhetoric. By explaining the precise power that held groups together Freud could also show why groups did not fear danger. The members do not feel that they are alone with their own smallness and helplessness, as they have the powers of the hero-leader with whom they are identified. Natural narcissism--the feeling that the person next to you will die, but not you--is reinforced by trusting dependence on the leader's power. No wonder that hundreds of thousands of men marched up from trenches in the face of blistering gunfire in World War I. They were partially self-hypnotised, so to speak. No wonder men imagine victories against impossible odds: don't they have the omnipotent powers of the parental figure? Why are groups so blind and stupid?-men have always asked. Because they demand illusions, answered Freud, they "constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real." And we know why. The real world is simply too terrible to admit; it tells man that he is a small, trembling animal who will decay and die. Illusion changes all this, makes man seem important, vital to the universe, immortal in some way. Who transmits this illusion, if not the parents by imparting the macro-lie of the ' cultural causa sui? The masses look to the leaders to give them just the untruth that they need; the leader continues the illusions that triumph over the castration complex and magnifies them into a truly heroic victory. Furthermore, he makes possible a new experience, the expression of forbidden impulses, secret wishes, and fantasies. In group behavior anything goes because the leader okays it. It is like being an omnipotent infant again, encouraged by the parent to indulge oneself plentifully, or like being in psychoanalytic therapy where the analyst doesn't censure you for anything you feel or think. In the group each man seems an omnipotent hero who can give full vent to his appetites under the approving eye of the father. And so we understand the terrifying sadism of group activity.
    Thus Freud's great work on group psychology, on the dynamics of blind obedience, illusion, communal sadism. In recent writings Erich Fromm especially has seen the durable value of Freud's insights, as part of a developing and continuing critique of human viciousness and blindness. From his early work Escape From Freedom to his recent The Heart of Man, Fromm has developed Freud's views on the need for a magic helper. He has kept alive Freud's basic insight into narcissism as the primary characteristic of man: how it inflates one with the importance of his own life and makes for the devaluation of others' lives; how it helps to draw sharp lines between 'those who are like me or belong to me' and those who are outsiders and aliens." Fromm has insisted, too, on the importance of what he calls "incestuous symbiosis": the fear of emerging out of the family and into the world on one's own responsibility and powers; the desire to keep oneself tucked into a larger source of power. It is these things that make for the mystique of "group," "nation," "blood," "mother or fatherland," and the like. These feelings are embedded in one's earliest experiences of comfortable merger with the mother. As Fromm put it, they keep one "in the prison of the motherly racial-national-religious fixation." Fromm is exciting reading, and there is no point in my repeating or developing what he has already so well said. One has to go directly to him and study how compelling are these insights, how well they continue what is essential in Freud and apply it to present-day problems of slavishness, viciousness, and continuing political madness. This, it seems to me, is the authentic line of cumulative critical thought on the human condition. The astonishing thing is that this central line of work on the problem of freedom since the Enlightenment occupies so little of the concern and ongoing activity of scientists. It should form the largest body of theoretical and empirical work in the human sciences, if these sciences are to have tiny human meaning.

Developments Beyond Freud
Today we do not accept uncritically all of Freud's arguments on group dynamics or consider them necessarily complete. One of the weaknesses of Freud's theory was that he was too fond of his own phylogenetic myth of the "primal horde," Freud's attempt to reconstruct the earliest beginnings of society, when proto-men-like baboons-lived under the tyrannical rule of a dominant male. For Freud this craving of people for the strong personality, their awe and fear of him, remained the model for the basic functioning of all groups. It was Redl, in his important essay, who showed that Freud's attempt to explain everything by the "strong personality" was not true to fact. Redl, who studied many different kinds of groups, found that domination by a strong personality occurred in some of them, but not all . But he did find that in all groups there was what he called a "central person" who held the group together due to certain of his qualities. This shift of emphasis is slight and leaves Freud basically intact, but it allows us to make more subtle analyses of the real dynamics of groups.
    For example, Freud found that the leader allows us to express forbidden impulses and secret wishes. Redl saw that in some groups there is indeed what he perfectly calls the "infectiousness of the unconflicted person." There are leaders who seduce us because they do not have the conflicts that we have; we admire their equanimity where we feel shame and humiliation. Freud saw that the leader wipes out fear and permits everyone to feel omnipotent. Redl refined this somewhat by showing how important the leader often was by the simple fact that it was he who performed the "initiatory act" when no one else had the daring to do it. Redl calls this beautifully the "magic of the initiatory act." This initiatory act can be anything from swearing to sex or murder. As Redl points out, according to its logic only the one who first commits murder is the murderer; all others are followers. Freud has said in Totem and Taboo that acts that are illegal for the individual can be justified if the whole group shares responsibility for them. But they can be justified in another way: the one who initiates the act takes upon himself both the risk and the guilt. The result is truly magic: each member of the group can repeat the act without guilt. They are not responsible, only the leader is. Redl calls this, aptly, "priority magic." But it does something even more than relieve guilt: it actually transforms the fact of murder. This crucial point initiates us directly into the phenomenology of group transformation of the everyday world. If one murders without guilt, and in imitation of the hero who runs the risk, why then it is no longer murder: it is "holy aggression. For the first one it was not." In other words, participation in the group redistills everyday reality and gives it the aura of the sacred-just as, in childhood, play created a heightened reality.
    This penetrating vocabulary of "initiatory acts," "the infectiousness of the unconflicted person," "priority magic," and so on allows us to understand more subtly the dynamics of group sadism, the utter equanimity with which groups kill. It is not just that "father permits it" or "orders it. It is more: the magical heroic transformation of the world and of oneself. This is the illusion that man craves, as Freud said, and that makes the central person so effective a vehicle for group emotion.
    I am not going to try to repeat or sum up the subtleties of Redl's essay here. Let us just underline the brunt of his argument which is that the "spell cast by persons"--as we have called it--is a very complex one, which includes many more things than meet the eye. In fact, it may include everything but a spell. Redl showed that groups use leaders for several types of exculpation or relief of conflict, for love, or for even just the opposite--targets of aggressions and hate that pulls the group together in a common bond. (As one recent popular film advertisement put it: 'They follow him bravely into hell only for the pleasure of killing him and revenging themselves.") Redl was not out to replace Freud's basic insights but only to extend and add nuances to them. The instructive thing about his examples is that most of the "central person's" functions do have to do with guilt, expiation, and unambiguous heroics. The important conclusion for us is that the groups "use" the leader sometimes with little regard for him personally, but always with regard to fulfilling their own needs and urges. W. R. Bion, in an important recent paper extended this line of thought even further from Freud, arguing that the leader is as much a creature of the group as they of him and that he loses his "individual distinctiveness" by being a leader, as they do by being followers. He has no more freedom to be himself than any other member of the group, precisely because he has to be a reflex of their assumptions in order to qualify for leadership in the first place .
    All of which leads us to muse wistfully on how unheroic is the average man, even when he follows heroes. He simply loads them up with his own baggage; he follows them with reservations, with a dishonest heart. The noted psychoanalyst Paul Schilder had already observed that man goes into the hypnotic trance itself with reservations. He said penetratingly that it was this fact that deprived hypnosis of the "profound seriousness which distinguishes every truly great passion." And so he called it "timid" because it lacked "the great, free, unconditional surrender." I think this characterization is beautifully apt to describe the timid "heroisms" of group behavior. There is nothing free or manly about them. Even when one merges his ego with the authoritarian father, the "spell" is in his own narrow interests. People use their leaders almost as an excuse. When they give in to the leader's commands they can always reserve the feeling that these commands are alien to them, that they are the leader's responsibility, that the terrible acts they are committing are in his name and not theirs. This, then, is another thing that makes people feel so guiltless, as Canetti points out: they can imagine themselves as temporary victims of the leader. The more they give in to his spell, and the more terrible the crimes they commit, the more they can feel that the wrongs are not natural to them. It is all so neat, this usage of the leader; it reminds us of James Frazer's discovery that in the remote past tribes often used their kings as scapegoats who, when they no longer served the people's needs, were put to death. These are the many ways in which men can play the hero, all the while that they are avoiding responsibility for their own acts in a cowardly way.
    Very few people, for example, have been impressed with the recent "heroics" of the Manson "family." When we look at them in the light of the group dynamics we have been discussing, we can understand better why we are shocked--not only by the gratuitous murders they committed, but by something more. When people try for heroics from the position of willing slavishness there is nothing to admire; it is all so automatic, predictable, pathetic. Here was a group of young men and women who had identified with Charles Manson and who lived in masochistic submission to him. They gave him their total devotion and looked upon him as a human god of some kind. In fact he filled the description of. Freud's "primal father": he was authoritarian, very demanding of his followers, and a great believer in discipline. His eyes were intense, and for those who came under his spell there is no doubt that he projected a hypnotic aura. He was a very self-assured figure. He even had his own "truth," his megalomanic vision for taking over the world. To his followers his vision seemed like a heroic mission in which they were privileged to participate. He had convinced them that only by following out his plan could they be saved. The "family" was very close, sexual inhibitions were nonexistent, and members had free access to each other. They even used sex freely for the purpose of attracting outsiders into the family. It seems obvious from all this that Manson combined the "fascinating effect of the narcissistic personality" with the "infectiousness of the unconflicted personality." Everyone could freely drop his repressions under Manson's example and command, not only in sex but in murder. The members of the "family" didn't seem to show any remorse, guilt, or shame for their crimes.
    People were astonished by this ostensible "lack of human feeling." But from the dynamics that we have been surveying, we are faced with the even more astonishing conclusion that homicidal communities like the Manson "family" are not really devoid of basic humanness. What makes them so terrible is that they exaggerate the dispositions present in us all. Why should they feel guilt or remorse? The leader takes responsibility for the destructive act, and those who destroy on his command are no longer murderers, but "holy heroes." They crave to serve in the powerful aura that he projects and to carry out the illusion that he provides them, an illusion that allows them to heroically transform the world. Under his hypnotic spell and with the full force of their own urges for heroic self-expansion, they need have no fear; they can kill with equanimity. In fact they seemed to feel that they were doing their victims "a favor," which seems to mean that they sanctified them by including them in their own "holy mission." As we have learned from the anthropological literature, the victim who is sacrificed becomes a holy offering to the gods, to nature, or to fate. The community gets more life by means of the victim's death, and so the victim has the privilege of serving the world in the highest possible way by means of his own sacrificial death.
    One direct way, then, of understanding homicidal communities like the Manson family is to view them as magical transformations, wherein passive and empty people, torn with conflicts and guilt, earn their cheap heroism, really feeling that they can control fate and influence life and death. "Cheap" because not in their command, not with their own daring, and not in the grip of their own fears: everything is done with the leader's image stamped on their psyche.

The Larger View of Transference
From this discussion of transference we can see one great cause of the large-scale ravages that man makes on the world. He is not just a naturally and lustily destructive animal who lays waste around him because he feels omnipotent and impregnable. Rather, he is a trembling animal who pulls the world down around his shoulders as he clutches for protection and support and tries to affirm in a cowardly way his feeble powers. The qualities of the leader, then, and the problems of people fit together in a natural symbiosis. I have lingered on a few refinements of group psychology to show that the powers of the leader stem from what he can do for people, beyond the magic that he himself possesses. People project their problems onto him, which gives him his role and stature. Leaders need followers, as much as they are needed by them: the leader projects onto his followers his own inability to stand alone, his own fear of isolation. We must say that if there were no natural leaders possessing the magic of charisma, men would have to invent them, just as leaders must create followers if there are none available. If we accent this natural symbiotic side of the problem of transference, we come into the broadest understanding of it, which forms the main part of the discussion I now want to dwell on.
    Now that we have sketched some of the highlights of the easy symbiosis of groups and leaders, we have to be careful not to leave a one-sided picture; there is another side to show, a very different one. The guilt of all the followers does not vanish so easily under the spell of a leader, no matter how much he takes upon himself or how godlike he seems. Not everyone can be equally caught up in identification with him, and not everyone's guilt is so easily overcome. Many people may feel deeply guilty if they violate long-standing and deep-felt moral codes on his behalf. Yet, ironically, it is just this that puts them even more in the leader's power, makes them even more willing putty in his hands.
    If, as we have seen, the group comes ready-made to the leader with the thirst for servitude, he tries to deepen that servitude even further. If they seek to be free of guilt in his cause, he tries to load them up with an extra burden of guilt and fear to draw the mesh of his immorality around them. He gets a really coercive hold on the members of the group precisely because they follow his lead in committing outrageous acts. He can then use their guilt against them, binding them closer to himself. He uses their anxiety for his purposes, even arousing it as he needs to; and he can use their fear of being found out and revenged by their victims as a kind of blackmail that keeps them docile and obedient for further atrocities. We saw a classic example of this technique on the part of the Nazi leaders. It was the same psychology that criminal gangs and gangsters have always used: to be bound closer together through the crime itself. The Nazis called it blood cement (Blutkitt), and the SS used it freely. For the lower echelons, service in the concentration camps accomplished this loyalty; but the technique was also used on the highest levels, especially with reluctant persons of prominence and talent whom they wanted to recruit. These they induced to commit extra atrocities that indelibly identified them with the SS and gave them a new, criminal identity. (See Leo Alexander's excellent paper: "Sociopsychologic Structure of the SS'., Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 1948, 59: 622-634.) And, as the Nazi epoch wore on and the toll of victims mounted, the leaders played upon the fears of reprisal by those who would revenge the victims the Nazis had made. It was the old gangster trick, this time used to cement together a whole nation. Thus, what may begin as the heroic mission of a Hitler or a Manson comes to be sustained by bullying and threats, by added fear and guilt. The followers find that they have to continue on with the megalomanic plan because it becomes their only chance of survival in a hostile world. The followers must do what the leader wants, which becomes what they themselves must want in order to survive. If the leader loses, they too perish; they cannot quit, nor does he allow them to. And so the German nation fought on until the final destruction of Berlin; the Manson family held together under persecution and his threats, to flee to the desert and await the end of the world: This gives an added dimension, too, to our understanding of why people stick with their leaders even in defeat, as the Egyptians did with Nasser. Without him they may feel just too exposed to reprisal, to total annihilation. Having been baptized in his fire they can no longer stand alone. (On all this see Ernst Kris, "The Covenant of the Gangsters," Journal of Criminal Psychopathology, 19423, 4:441.-454; Paul Roazen, Freud, pp. 238-242; T. W. Adomo, "Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda," in Psychoanalysis and the Social Sciences, 1951, pp. 298-3oo; and Ed Sanders, The Family:-The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion, (New York: Dutton, IL971). Cf. esp. pp. 145, 199, 257.)
    Freud had already revealed as much about the problems of followers as about the magnetism of the leader, when he taught us about the longing for transference and what it accomplished. But just here, trouble lies. As always, he showed us where to look but focussed down too narrowly. He had a conception, as Wolstein succinctly put it, "of why man got into trouble " and his explanations of trouble almost always came to rest on the sexual motive. The fact that people were so prone to suggestibility in hypnosis was for him proof that it depended on sexuality. The transference attraction that we feel for people is merely a manifestation of the earliest attractions that the child felt for those around him, but now this purely sexual attraction is so buried in the unconscious that we don't realize what really motivates our fascinations. In Freud's unmistakable words:

. . . we have to conclude that all the feelings of sympathy, friendship, trust and so forth which we expend in life are genetically connected with sexuality and have developed out of purely sexual desires by an enfeebling of their sexual aim, however pure and non-sensual they may appear in the forms they take on to our conscious self-perception. To begin with we knew none but sexual objects; psychoanalysis shows us that those persons whom in real life we merely respect or are fond of may be sexual objects to us in our unconscious minds still.

    We have already seen how this kind of reductionism to the sexual motive got psychoanalysis itself into trouble very early and how it has taken a succession of thinkers of great stature to extricate psychoanalysis from this obsession of Freud's. But in his later work Freud himself was not too troubled by his obsession when it came to explaining some things more broadly; the same holds true for his narrow sexual emphasis on transference surrender. In 1912 he said that the fact that transference could lead to complete subjection was for him "unmistakable" proof of its "erotic character ." But in his later work, when he accented more and more the terror of the human condition, he talked of the child's longing for a powerful father as a "protection against strange superior powers," as a consequence of "human weakness" and "childish helplessness ." Yet, this phrasing doesn't represent an absolute abandonment of his earlier explanations. For Freud, "eros" covered not only specific sexual drives but also the child's longing for omnipotence, for the oceanic feeling that comes with a merger with the parental powers. With this kind of generalization Freud could have both his broader and narrower views at the same time. This complicated mixture of specific error and correct generalization has made it a difficult and lengthy task for us to separate out what is true from what is false in psychoanalytic theory. But as we said earlier with Rank, it seems fairly conclusive that if you accent the terrors of external nature--as Freud did in his later work--then you are talking about the general human condition and no longer about specific erotic drives. We might say that the child would then seek merger with the parental omnipotence not out of desire but out of cowardice. And now we are on a wholly new terrain. The fact that transference could lead to complete subjection proves not its "erotic character" but something quite different: its "truthful" character, we might say. As Adler saw with complete clarity long before Freud's later work: transference is fundamentally a problem of courage. As we have learned conclusively from Rank and Brown, it is the immortality motive and not the sexual one that must bear the larger burden of our explanation of human passion. What does this crucial shift of emphasis mean for our understanding of transference? A truly fascinating and comprehensive view of the human condition.

Transference as Fetish Control
If transference relates to cowardice we can understand why it goes all the way back to childhood; it reflects the whole of the child's attempts to create an environment that will give him safety and satisfaction; he learns to act and to perceive his environment in such a way that he banishes anxiety from it. But now the fatality of transference: when you set up your perception-action world to eliminate what is basic to it (anxiety), then you fundamentally falsify it. This is why psychoanalysts have always understood transference as a regressive phenomenon, uncritical, wishful, a matter of automatic control of one's world. Silverberg gives a classic psychoanalytic definition: "Transference indicates a need to exert complete control over external circumstances. ... In all its variety and multiplicity of manifestation ... transference may be regarded as the enduring monument of man's profound rebellion against reality and his stubborn persistence in the ways of immaturity."
    For Erich Fromm, transference reflects man's alienation:

In order to overcome his sense of inner emptiness and impotence, [man] ... chooses an object onto whom he projects all his own human qualities: his love, intelligence, courage, etc. By submitting to this object, he feels in touch with his own qualities; he feels strong, wise, courageous, and secure. To lose the object means the danger of losing himself. This mechanism, idolatric worship of an object, based on the fact of the individual's alienation, is the central dynamism of transference, that which gives transference its strength and intensity.

    Jung's view was similar: fascination with someone is basically a matter of  ". . . always trying to deliver us into the power of a partner who seems compounded of all the qualities we have failed to realize in ourselves." And so was the Adlerian view: "[transference] ... is basically a maneuver or tactic by which the patient seeks to perpetuate his familiar mode of existence that depends on a continuing attempt to divest himself of power and place it in the hands of the 'Other.'"
    I am citing these several authorities at length for two reasons: to show the general truth of their insights and also to be able, later on, to bring up the immense problems that these truths raise. Already we can see that transference is not a matter of unusual cowardice but rather of the basic problems of an organismic life, problems of power and control: the strength to oppose reality and keep it ordered for our own organismic expansion and fulfillment.
    What is more natural than choosing a person with whom to establish this dialogue with nature? Fromm uses the word "idol" which is another way of talking about what is nearest at hand. This is how we understand the function of even the "negative" or "hate" transference: it helps us to fix ourselves in the world, to create a target for our own feelings even though those feelings are destructive. We can establish our basic organismic footing with hate as well as by submission. In fact, hate enlivens us more, which is why we see more intense hate in the weaker ego states. The only thing is that hate, too, blows the other person up larger than he deserves. As Jung put it, the "negative form of transference in the guise of resistance, dislike, or hate endows the other person with great importance from the start. . . ." We need a concrete object for our control, and we get one in whatever way we can. In the absence of persons for our dialogue of control we can even use our own body as a transference object, as Szasz has shown. The pains we feel, the illnesses that are real or imaginary give us something to relate to, keep us from slipping out of the world, from bogging down in the desperation of complete loneliness and emptiness. In a word, illness is an object. We transfer to our own body as if it were a friend on whom we can lean for strength or an enemy who threatens us with danger. At least it makes us feel real and gives us a little purchase on our fate.
    From all this we can already draw one important conclusion: that transference is a form of fetishism, a form of narrow control that anchors our own problems. We take our helplessness, our guilt, our conflicts, and we fix them to a spot in the environment. We can create any locus at all for projecting our cares onto the world, even the locus of our own arms and legs. Our own cares are the thing; and if we look at the basic problems of human slavishness it is always them that we see. As Jung put it in some beautiful words: ". . . unless we prefer to be made fools of by our illusions, we shall, by carefully analyzing every fascination, extract from it a portion of our own personality, like a quintessence, and slowly come to recognize that we meet ourselves time and again in a thousand disguises on the path of life. ."

Transference as Fear of Life
   But this discussion has led us even further away from a simple, clinical approach to the phenomenon of transference. The fact is that fascination is a reflex of the fatality of the human condition; and as we saw in Part I of this book, the human condition is just too much for an animal to take; it is overwhelming. It is on this aspect of the problem of transference that I now want to dwell. Of all the thinkers who have understood it, none has written with greater breadth and depth on the meanings of the transference than Rank.
    We have seen in several different contexts how Rank's system of thought rests on the fact of human fear, the fear of life and death. Here I want to accent how global or total this fear is. As William James said, with his unfailing directness, fear is "fear of the universe." It is the fear of childhood, the fear of emerging into the universe, of realizing one's own independent individuality, one's own living and experiencing. As Rank said, "The adult may have fear of death or fear of sex, the child has a fear of life itself." This idea has been given wide currency by Fromm in several books, as the "fear of freedom." Schachtel put it well in speaking of the fear of emerging out of "embeddedness." This is how we understand the 'incestuousness" of the symbiosis with the mother and the family: the person remains "tucked into" a protective womb, so to speak. It is what Rank meant when he talked about the "trauma of birth" as being the paradigm for all other traumas of emergence. It is logical: if the universe is fundamentally and globally terrifying to the natural perceptions of the young human animal, how can he dare to emerge into it with confidence? Only by relieving it of its terror.
    This is how we can understand the essence of transference: as a taming of terror. Realistically the universe contains overwhelming power. Beyond ourselves we sense chaos. We can't really do much about this unbelievable power, except for one thing: we can endow certain persons with it. The child takes natural awe and terror and focusses them on individual beings, which allows him to find the power and the horror all in one place instead of diffused throughout a chaotic universe. Mirabile! The transference object, being endowed with the transcendent powers of the universe, now has in himself the power to control, order, and combat them .31, In Rank's words the transference object comes to represent for the individual "the great biological forces of nature, to which the ego binds itself emotionally and which then form the essence of the human and his fate." By this means, the child can control his fate. As ultimately power means power over life and death, the child can now safely emerge in relation to the transference object. The object becomes his locus of safe operation. All he has to do is conform to it in the ways that he learns; conciliate it if it becomes terrible; use it serenely for automatic daily activities. For this reason Angyal could well say that transference is not an "emotional mistake" but the experience of the other as one's whole world-just as the home actually is, for the child, his whole world.
    This totality of the transference object also helps explain its ambivalence. In some complex ways the child has to fight against the power of the parents in their awesome miraculousness. They are just as overwhelming as the background of nature from which they emerge. The child learns to naturalize them by techniques of accommodation and manipulation. At the same time, however, he has to focus on them the whole problem of terror and power, making them the center of it in order to cut down and naturalize the world around them. Now we see why the transference object poses so many problems. The child does partly control his larger fate by it, but it becomes his new fate. He binds himself to one person to automatically control terror, to mediate wonder, and to defeat death by that person's strength. But then he experiences "transference terror"; the terror of losing the object, of displeasing it, of not being able to live without it. The terror of his own finitude and impotence still haunts him, but now in the precise form of the transference object. How implacably ironic is human life. The transference object always looms larger than life size because it represents all of life and hence all of one's fate. The transference object becomes the focus of the problem of one's freedom because one is compulsively dependent on it; it sums up all other natural dependencies and emotions. This quality is true of either positive or negative transference objects. In the negative transference the object becomes the focalization of terror, but now experienced as evil and constraint. It is the source, too, of much of the bitter memories of childhood and of our accusations of our parents. We try to make them the sole repositories of our own unhappiness in a fundamentally demonic world. We seem to be pretending that the world does not contain terror and evil but only our parents. In the negative transference, too, then, we see an attempt to control our fate in an automatic way.
    No wonder Freud could say that transference was a "universal phenomenon of the human mind" that "dominates the whole of each person's relation to his human environment." Or that Ferenczi could talk about the "neurotic passion for transference," the "stimulus-hungry affects of neurotics ." We don't have to talk only about neurotics but about the hunger and passion of everyone for a localized stimulus that takes the place of the whole world. We might better say that transference proves that everyone is neurotic, as it is a universal distortion of reality by the artificial fixation of it. It follows, of course, that the less ego power one has and the more fear, the stronger the transference. This explains the peculiar intensity of schizophrenic transference: the total and desperate focalization of horror and wonder in one person, and the abject surrender to him and complete worship of him in a kind of dazed, hypnotic way. Only to hear his voice or touch a piece of his clothing or be granted the privilege of kissing and licking his feet--that would be heaven itself. This is a logical fate for the utterly helpless person: the more you fear death and the emptier you are, the more you people your world with omnipotent father-figures, extra-magical helpers. The schizophrenic transference helps us to understand how naturally we remain glued to the object even in "normal" transference: all the power to cure the diseases of life, the ills of the world, are present in the transference object. How can we not be under its spell?
    Remember we said the transference did not prove "eroticism," as Freud earlier thought, but actually a certain "truthfulness" about the terror of man's condition. The schizophrenic's extreme transference helps us to understand this statement too. After all, one of the reasons that his world is so terrifying is that he sees it in many ways unblurred by repression. And so he sees, too, the human transference object in all of its awe and splendor-something we talked about in an early chapter. The human face is really an awesome primary miracle; it naturally paralyzes you by its splendor if you give in to it as the fantastic thing it is. But mostly we repress this miraculousness so that we can function with equanimity and can use faces and bodies for our own routine purposes. We may remember that as children there were those we did not dare talk to, or even look at--hardly something that we could carry over into our adult lives without seriously crippling ourselves. But now we can point out, too, that this fear of looking the transference object full in the face is not necessarily what Freud said it was: the fear of the terrifying primal father. It is, rather, the fear of the reality of the intense focalization of natural wonder and power; the fear of being overwhelmed by the truth of the universe as it exists, as that truth is focussed in one human face. But Freud is right about tyrannical fathers: the more terrifying the object, the stronger the transference; the more that the powerful object embodies in itself the natural power of the world, the more terrifying it can be, in reality, without any imagination on our part.

Transference as Fear of Death
   If fear of life is one aspect of transference, its companion fear is right at hand. As the growing child becomes aware of death, he has a twofold reason for taking shelter in the powers of the transference object. The castration complex makes the body an object of horror, and it is now the transference object who carries the weight of the abandoned causa-sui project. The child uses him to assure his immortality. What is more natural? I can't resist quoting from another writing, Gorki's famous sentiment on Tolstoi, because it sums up so well this aspect of transference: "I am not bereft on this earth, so long as this old man is living on it." This comes from the depth of Gorki's emotion; it is not a simple wish or a comforting thought: it is more like a driving belief that the mystery and solidity of the transference object will give one shelter as long as he lives.
    This use of the transference object explains the urge to deification of the other, the constant placing of certain select persons on pedestals, the reading into them of extra powers: the more they have, the more rubs off on us. We participate in their immortality, and so we create immortals. As Harrington put it graphically: "I am making a deeper impression on the cosmos because I know this famous person. When the ark sails I will be on it." Man is always hungry, as Rank so well put it, for material for his own immortalization. Groups need it too, which explains the constant hunger for heroes: "Every group, however small or great, has, as such, an "individual" impulse for eternalization, which manifests itself in the creation of and care for national, religious, and artistic heroes . . . the individual paves the way for this collective eternity impulse . . . . "
    This aspect of group psychology explains something that otherwise staggers our imagination: have we been astonished by fantastic displays of grief on the part of whole peoples when one of their leaders dies? The uncontrolled emotional outpouring, the dazed masses standing huddled in the city squares sometimes for days on end, grown people groveling hysterically and tearing at themselves, being trampled in the surge toward the coffin or funeral pyre--how to make sense out of such a massive, neurotic "vaudeville of despair"? In one way only: it shows a profound state of shock at losing one's bulwark against death. The people apprehend, at some dumb level of their personality: "Our locus of power to control life and death can himself die; therefore our own immortality is in doubt." All the tears and all the tearing is after all for oneself, not for the passing of a great soul but for one's own imminent passing. Immediately men begin to rename city streets, squares, airports with the name of the dead man: it is as though to declare that he will be immortalized physically in the society, in spite of his own physical death. Compare the recent mournings of the Americans for the Kennedys, the French for De Gaulle, and especially the Egyptians for Nasser, which was a more primitive and elemental outpouring: immediately the cry was raised to renew the war with Israel. As we have learned, only scapegoats can relieve one of his own stark death fear: "I am threatened with death--let us kill plentifully." On the demise of an immortality figure the urge to scapegoating must be especially intense. So, too, is the susceptibility to sheer panic, as Freud showed. When the leader dies the device that one has used to deny the terror of the world instantly breaks down; what is more natural, then, than to experience the very panic that has always threatened in the background?
    The void of immortality-substance that would be left by the absolute abandonment of the leader is evidently too painful to support, especially if the leader has possessed striking mana or has summed up in himself some great heroic project that carried the people on. One can't help musing about how one of the most advanced scientific societies of the 20th century resorted to improvements on ancient Egyptian mummification techniques to embalm the leader of their revolution. It seems as though the Russians could not let go of Lenin even in death and so have entombed him as a permanent immortality-symbol. Here is a supposedly "secular" society that holds pilgrimages to a tomb and that buries heroic figures in the "sacred wall" of the Kremlin, a "hallowed" place. No matter how many churches are closed or how humanistic a leader or a movement may claim to be, there will never be anything wholly secular about human fear. Man's terror is always "holy terror"--which is a strikingly apt popular phrase. terror always refers to the ultimates of life and death.

The Twin Ontological Motives
   Much of what we have said so far about transference puts mankind in an unflattering light; it is now time to shift the tone. True, transference is a reflex of cowardice in the face of both life and death, but it is also a reflex of the urge to heroism and self-unfolding. This puts our discussion of transference on still a different level, and on this new perspective I now want to linger.
    One thing that has always amazed man is his own inner yearning to be good, an inner sensitivity about the "way things ought to be," and an excruciatingly warm and melting attraction toward the "rightness" of beauty, goodness, and perfection. We call this inner sensitivity "conscience." For the great philosopher Immanuel Kant it was one of the two sublime mysteries of creation, this "moral law within" man, and there was no way to explain it--it was just given. Nature carries feeling right in her own "heart," in the interiors of striving organisms. This self-feeling in nature is more fantastic than any science-fiction fact. Any philosophy or any science that is going to speak intelligently about the meaning of life has to take it into account and treat it with the highest reverence-as 19th-century thinkers like Vincenzo Gioberti and Antonio Rosmini understood. Curiously, this vital ontology of organismic self-feeling--which was central for thinkers like Thomas Davidson and Henri Bergson--hardly made a rustle in modem science until the appearance of the new "humanistic psychology." This fact alone seems to me to explain the unbelievable sterility of the human sciences in our time and, more especially, their willingness to manipulate and negate man. I think that the true greatness of Freud's contribution emerges when we see it as directly related to this tradition of ontological thought, Freud showed how the particular rules for goodness or conscience were built into the child in a given society, how he learns the rules for feeling good. By showing the artificiality of these social rules for feeling good, Freud mapped out the dream of freedom of the Enlightenment: to expose artificial moral constraints on the expansive self-feeling of the life force.
    But the recognition of such social constraints still leaves unexplained the inner urge of the human being to feel good and right--the very thing that awed Kant seems to exist independent of any rules: as far as we can tell-as I put it elsewhere--"all organisms like to 'feel good' about themselves." They push themselves to maximize this feeling. As philosophers have long noted, it is as though the heart of nature is pulsating in its own joyful self-expansion. When we get to the level of man, of course, this process acquires its greatest interest. It is most intense in man and in him relatively undetermined--he can pulsate and expand both organismically and symbolically. This expansion takes the form of man's tremendous urge for a feeling of total "rightness" about himself and his world. This perhaps clumsy way to talk seems to me to sum up what man is really trying to do and why conscience is his fate. Man is the only organism in nature fated to puzzle out what it actually means to feel "right."
    But on top of this special burden nature has arranged that it is impossible for man to feel "right" in any straightforward way. Here we have to introduce a paradox that seems to go right to the heart of organismic life and that is especially sharpened in man. The paradox takes the form of two motives or urges that seem to be part of creature consciousness and that point in two opposite directions. On the one hand the creature is impelled by a powerful desire to identify with the cosmic process, to merge himself with the rest of nature. On the other hand he wants to be unique, to stand out as something different and apart. The first motive--to merge and lose oneself in something larger--comes from man's horror of isolation, of being thrust back upon his own feeble energies alone; he feels tremblingly small and impotent in the face of transcendent nature. If he gives in to his natural feeling of cosmic dependence, the desire to be part of something bigger, it puts him at peace and at oneness, gives him a sense of self-expansion in a larger beyond, and so heightens his being, giving him truly a feeling of transcendent value. This is the Christian motive of Agape--the natural melding of created life in the "Creation-in-love" which transcends it. As Rank put it, man yearns for a "feeling of kinship with the All." He wants to be "delivered from his isolation" and become "part of a greater and higher whole." The person reaches out naturally for a self beyond his own self in order to know who he is at all, in order to feel that he belongs in the universe. Long before Camus penned the words of the epigraph to this chapter, Rank said: "For only by living in close union with a god-ideal that has been erected outside one's own ego is one able to live at all ."
    The strength of Rank's work, which enabled him to draw such an unfailing psychological portrait of man in the round, was that he connected psychoanalytic clinical insight with the basic ontological motives of the human creature. In this way he got as deep into human motives as he could and produced a group psychology that was really a psychology of the human condition. For one thing, we could see that what the psychoanalysts call "identification" is a natural urge to join in the overwhelming powers that transcend one. Childhood identification is then merely a special case of this urge: the child merges himself with the representatives of the cosmic process--what we have called the "transference focalization" of terror, majesty and power. When one merges with the self-transcending parents or social group he is, in some real sense, trying to live in some larger expansiveness of meaning. We miss the complexity of heroism if we fail to understand this point; we miss its complete grasp of the person--a grasp not only in the support of power that self-transcendence gives to him but a grasp of his whole being in joy and love. The urge to immortality is not a simple reflex of the death-anxiety but a reaching out by one's whole being toward life. Perhaps this natural expansion of the creature alone can explain why transference is such a universal passion.
    From this point of view too we understand the idea of God as a logical fulfillment of the Agape side of man's nature. Freud seems to have scorned Agape as he scorned the religion that preached it. He thought that man's hunger for a God in heaven represented everything that was immature and selfish in man: his helplessness, his fear, his greed for the fullest possible protection and satisfaction. But Rank understood that the idea of God has never been a simple reflex of superstitious and selfish fear, as cynics and "realists" have claimed. Instead it is an outgrowth of genuine life-longing, a reaching-out for a plenitude of meaning--as James taught us.," It seems that the yielding element in heroic belongingness is inherent in the life force itself, one of the truly sublime mysteries of created life. It seems that the life force reaches naturally even beyond the earth itself, which is one reason why man has always placed God in the heavens.
    We said it is impossible for man to feel "night" in any straightforward way, and now we can see why. He can expand his self-feeling not only by Agape merger but also by the other ontological motive Eros, the urge for more life, for exciting experience, for the development of the self-powers, for developing the uniqueness of the individual creature, the impulsion to stick out of nature and shine. Life is, after all, a challenge to the creature, a fascinating opportunity to expand. Psychologically it is the urge for individuation: how do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion?
    Now we see what we might call the ontological or creature tragedy that is so peculiar to man: If he gives in to Agape he risks failing to develop himself, his active contribution to the rest of life. If he expands Eros too much, he risks cutting himself off from natural dependency, from duty to a larger creation; he pulls away from the healing power of gratitude and humility that he must naturally feel for having been created, for having been given the opportunity of life experience.
    Man thus has the absolute tension of the dualism. Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. it creates precisely the isolation that one can't stand--and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. This is natural guilt. The person experiences this as "unworthiness" or "badness" and dumb inner dissatisfactions And the reason is realistic. Compared to the rest of nature man is not a very satisfactory creation. He is riddled with fear and powerlessness.
    The problem becomes how to get rid of badness, of natural guilt, which is really a matter of reversing one's position vis-a-vis the universe. It is a matter of achieving size, importance, durability: how to be bigger and better than one really is. The whole basis of the urge to goodness is to be something that has value, that endures. We seem to know it intuitively when we console our children after their nightmares and other frights. We tell them not to worry, that they are "good" and nothing can hurt them, and so on: goodness = safety and special immunity. You might say that the urge to morality is based entirely on the physical situation of the creature. Man is moral because he senses his true situation and what lies in store for him, whereas other animals don't. He uses morality to try to get a place of special belongingness and perpetuation in the universe, in two ways. First, he overcomes badness (smallness, unimportance, finitude) by conforming to the rules made by the representatives of natural power (the transference-objects); in this way his safe belongingness is assured. This too is natural: we tell the child when he is good so that he doesn't have to be afraid. Second, he attempts to overcome badness by developing a really valuable heroic gift, becoming extra-special.
    Do we wonder why one of man's chief characteristics is his tortured dissatisfaction with himself, his constant self-criticism? It is the only way he has to overcome the sense of hopeless limitation inherent in his real situation. Dictators, revivalists, and sadists know that people like to be lashed with accusations of their own basic unworthiness because it reflects how they truly feel about themselves. The sadist doesn't create a masochist; he finds him readymade. Thus people are offered one way of overcoming unworthiness: the chance to idealize the self, to lift it onto truly heroic levels. In this way man sets up the complementary dialogue with himself that is natural to his condition. He criticizes himself because he falls short of the heroic ideals he needs to meet in order to be a really imposing creation.
    You can see that man wants the impossible: He wants to lose his isolation and keep it at the same time. He can't stand the sense of separateness, and yet he can't allow the complete suffocating of his vitality. He wants to expand by merging with the powerful beyond that transcends him, yet he wants while merging with it to remain individual and aloof, working out his own private and smaller-scale self-expansion. But this feat is impossible because it belies the real tension of the dualism. One obviously can't have merger in the power of another thing and the development of one's own personal power at the same time, at any rate not without ambivalence and a degree of self-deception. But one can get around the problem in one way: one can, we might say, "control the glaringness of the contradiction." You can try to choose the fitting kind of beyond, the one in which you find it most natural to practice self-criticism and self-idealization. In other words, you try to keep your beyond safe. The fundamental use of transference, of what we could better call "transference heroics," is the practice of a safe heroism. In it we see the reach of the ontological dualism of motives right into the problem of transference and heroism, and we are now in a position to sum up this matter.

Transference as the Urge to Higher Heroism
The point of our brief discursus on ontological motives is to make compellingly clear how transference is connected to the foundations of organismic life. We can now understand fully how wrong it would be to look at transference in a totally derogatory way when it fulfills such vital drives toward human wholeness. Man needs to infuse his life with value so that he can pronounce it "good." The transference-object is then a natural fetishization for man's highest yearnings and strivings. Again we see what a marvelous "talent" transference is. It is a form of creative fetishism, the establishment of a locus from which our lives can draw the powers they need and want. What is more wanted than immortality-power? How wonderful and how facile to be able to take our whole immortality-striving and make it part of a dialogue with a single human being. We don't know, on this planet, what the universe wants from us or is prepared to give us. We don't have an answer to the question that troubled Kant of what our duty is, what we should be doing on earth. We live in utter darkness about who we are and why we are here, yet we know it must have some meaning. What is more natural, then, than to take this unspeakable mystery and dispel it straightaway by addressing our performance of heroics to another human being, knowing thus daily whether this performance is good enough to earn us eternity. If it is bad, we know that it is bad by his reactions and so are able instantly to change it. Rank sums up this vital matter in a particularly rich, synthetic paragraph:

Here we come upon the age-old problem of good and evil, originally designating eligibility for immortality, in its emotional significance of being liked or disliked by the other person. On this plane ... personality is shaped and formed according to the vital need to please the other person whom we make our "God," and not incur his or her displeasure. All the twistings of the ... self, with its artificial striving for perfection and the unavoidable "relapses" into badness, are the result of these attempts to humanize the spiritual need for goodness.

    As we will see in the next chapters, one can nourish and expand his identity of all kinds of "gods," on heavens as well as hells. How a person solves his natural yearnings for self-expansion and significance determines the quality of his life. Transference heroics gives man precisely what he needs: a certain degree of sharply defined individuality, a definite point of reference for his practice of goodness, and all within a certain secure level of safety and control.
    If transference heroics were safe heroism we might think it demeaning. Heroism is by definition defiance of safety. But the point that we are making is that all the strivings for perfection, the twistings and turnings to please the other, are not necessarily cowardly or unnatural. What makes transference heroics demeaning is that the process is unconscious and reflexive, not fully in one's control. Psychoanalytic therapy directly addresses itself to this problem. Beyond that, the other person is man's fate and a natural one. He is forced to address his performance to qualify for goodness to his fellow creatures, as they form his most compelling and immediate environment, not in the physical or evolutionary sense in which like creatures huddle unto like, but more in the spiritual sense. Human beings are the only things that mediate meaning, which is to say that they give the only human meaning we can know. Jung has written some particularly brilliant and penetrating pages on transference, and he has seen that the urge is so strong and natural that he has even called it an "instinct"-a "kinship libido." This instinct, he says, cannot be satisfied in any abstract way: "It wants the human connection. That is the core of the whole transference phenomenon, and it is impossible to argue it away, because relationship to the self is at once relationship to our fellow man . . . . " A century earlier Hermann Melville had put the same thought into the mouth of Ahab: "Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God. By the green land; by the bright hearthstone! this is the magic glass, man; I see my wife and my child in thine eye.
    The meaning of this need for other men to affirm oneself was seen beautifully by the theologian Martin Buber. He called it "imagining the real": seeing in the other person the self-transcending life process that gives to one's self the larger nourishment it needs. In terms of our earlier discussion we could say that the transference object contains its own natural awesomeness, its own miraculousness, which infects us with the significance of our own lives if we give in to it. Paradoxically, then, transference surrender to the "truth of the other," even if only in his physical being, gives us a feeling of heroic self-validation. No wonder that Jung could say that it is "impossible to argue away."
    No wonder too, for a final time, that transference is a universal passion. It represents a natural attempt to be healed and to be whole, through heroic self-expansion in the "other." Transference represents the larger reality that one needs, which is why Freud and Ferenczi could already say that transference represents psycho-therapy, the "self-taught attempts on the patient's part to cure himself." People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves. The implications of these remarks are perhaps not immediately evident, but they are immense for a theory of the transference. If transference represents the natural heroic striving for a "beyond' that gives self-validation and if people need this validation in order to live, then the psychoanalytic view of transference as simply unreal projection is destroyed. Projection is necessary and desirable for self-fulfillment. Otherwise man is overwhelmed by his loneliness and separation and negated by the very burden of his own life. As Rank so wisely saw, projection is a necessary unburdening of the individual; man cannot live closed upon himself and for himself. He must project the meaning of his life outward, the reason for it, even the blame for it. We did not create ourselves, but we are stuck with ourselves. Technically we say that transference is a distortion of reality. But now we see that this distortion has two dimensions: distortion due to the fear of life and death and distortion due to the heroic attempt to assure self-expansion and the intimate connection of one's inner self to surrounding nature. In other words, transference reflects the whole of the human condition and raises the largest philosophical question about that condition.
    How big a piece of "reality" can man bite off without narrowing it down distortingly? If Rank, Camus, and Buber are right, man cannot stand alone but has to reach out for support. If transference is a natural function of heroism, a necessary projection in order to stand life, death, and oneself, the question becomes: What is creative projection? What is life-enhancing illusion? These are questions that take us way beyond the scope of this chapter, but we shall see the reach of them in our concluding section.

Mastering Family Therapy- Salvadore Minuchin
Chapter 10- "The Oedipal Son" Revisited, pp. 131-144
(Salvadore Minuchin's words are in Italic; his supervisee, Gil Tunnell's, are in regular type)

The truth is, I don't remember Gil's first two years of supervision clearly. Very early on I identified his style of learning as one of keeping distant and assimilating knowledge without risking personal involvement. I accepted that style, but it coopted me. I gave feedback that was almost exclusively theoretical and didactic.
    Then Gil began to work with the Hurwitz family. They were a nice, middle-class Jewish family who genuinely cared for their children. David, the youngest, had been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward because of poking his finger in his eye so hard that it threatened to blind him.  David was asymptomatic in the hospital. His symptom reappeared whenever he went home. In a wiser world everyone would realize that his symptoms must be related to his family. But psychiatric staffs are blinded (no pun intended) by their ideological zeroing in on the internal world of the individual patient.
    Gil worked in that world, too. He viewed David as an individual patient when he started family therapy. Gil had brought from his own family a capacity for distance that saved him from the Hurwitz family. He created a therapy of parallel journeys. Family and therapist traveled alongside each other without touching.  But to change psychotic families you need a therapy of passion. Gil could have learned a lot from Carl Whitaker, who enjoyed the absurd intricacies of irrationality and conveyed to his students the creativity lying at its sources. My style of irrationality is different. I tilt at windmills. But Gil could not follow me into direct challenge.  Still, there are many ways to challenge, and many of them are gentle. There is a difference between challenge and confrontation. My style is frequently confrontative--in fact, that is my signature. But therapists also need to know how to intervene in a family at different levels of intensity. They need to have a whole repertoire of ways of challenging family patterns.
    In a violent family, courtesy can be a challenge. Support, open emotions, and caring can bring hesitation and discomfort. "Crazy thoughts" a la Whitaker may introduce discontinuity to a proper and logical family. As for intensity, I remember a session in which Charles Fishman asked a patient, "Why don't you leave your parents' house today?" His voice was gentle and soft, but he repeated the question twenty times during the session. A very gentle therapist can be an extremely effective challenger without ever raising his voice.  But the Hurwitz family needed more. Gil carried generations of courtesy; it was in his genes. But with this family he would have to jump out of the grooves of his detached, intellectual style. He was going to have to create an intensity that wouldn't always be so polite.

    Supervision on the treatment case described here began during my third year of training with Salvador Minuchin, which followed several years of graduate-level training in family therapy. Prior to this case, systems thinking had been mostly a cognitive exercise for me. I enjoyed teaching comparisons of the various schools of family therapy and developing interesting interventions in my clinical work, but I see in retrospect that I wasn't emotionally engaged in my work with families. I rarely felt their pain, nor did I participate actively with them in their struggles. My distant "don't get too involved" therapeutic style was a consequence of several factors. I am a Southern WASP, cautious about getting too close to people either in real life or in therapy. My initial training as a research psychologist had taught me skepticism about the possibility of change through psychotherapy. And my earliest training in family therapy was from a strategic (Haley/Erickson) model.
    When I left the South and was exposed to other ways of being, I began to appreciate how dominant a determinant of my personality being raised as a Southern WASP had become. But I was many years into training before I realized the extent to which my background had influenced my therapeutic style as well. In my family, feelings were anathema. They clouded the mind and hampered objectivity. One might have feelings from time to time, of course, but one should somehow get rid of them and generally keep them to oneself. Emotions most certainly did not serve to connect people to one another. Even when it was clear that a family member was upset or troubled, I learned as a youngster the WASP code that it was impolite to notice. Family members cared about one another, but individual boundaries were more highly regarded than emotional connections.
    Although great importance was placed on family life in my small rural community, far more importance was placed on appearing as a family unit to the community than on feeling connected with one's relatives. The extended family on my father's side almost never missed a weekly Sunday afternoon visit to my grandparents. Part of it was like a family tribunal, where the younger members of the family were called to account and the elders disbursed advice. The emphasis, it seemed to me as a young child, was on amassing achievements about which the family could feel pride. Anything more emotionally complex was downplayed. Good marks in school were praised, but a relative's drinking was only whispered about. In the view of my family, people could be pretty messy, and one should try as much as possible to avoid the mess. My family photo album has many photographs of holiday tables elegantly set with wonderfully prepared Southern food. But these photos have no people in them; they were taken before the family sat down. Children, who were regarded as "little adults," were expected to be seen but not heard. Physical nurturance almost never occurred beyond a very young age, especially for boys.
    The positive part of being raised this way was that children were taught to be autonomous and independent, to take responsibility for themselves and solve their own problems without bothering others. But reaching out to family members on an emotional level was discouraged and was rarely gratifying. When one chanced to confide in someone, the feedback was usually of the "pull yourself up, get yourself together" variety. The essential message was that life is foremost about accepting responsibility for oneself. Too much involvement with others would get you sidetracked.
    For as long as I can remember, I had been curious about human behavior, although I was routinely criticized by my family for asking too many questions of that kind. Only my paternal grandmother and an aunt indulged me. When it came time to choose a career, I didn't pursue clinical psychology. I got a doctoral degree in social and personality psychology research, a choice that again reflects an attitude of keeping distant and being objective, taking great pains not to get involved. I did research and was happy teaching psychology and statistics courses to undergraduates, until one summer I began supervising social work students on their master's theses. I found myself less interested in their research designs than in the clinical matters they were writing about.
    Several years later I returned to graduate school for respecialization in clinical psychology. I did not pursue the traditional psychologist's interest in individual psychodynamics, however, but instead opted for training in family therapy. Systems thinking seemed far more objective and less mysterious than the unconscious. Still a social psychologist at heart, I thought that the phenomena of interest--families--could be more readily observed (especially from behind a one-way mirror), and that therefore potentially more "objective" interventions could be constructed.
    In my seminars in family therapy, I read Minuchin's classic texts on structural family therapy, but my earliest clinical work followed a strategic model. From strategic supervisors, I learned to give lots of homework tasks and to tell metaphorical stories, using the sessions to sow ideas and expecting change to occur between sessions. This model allowed me to maintain a proper scientific attitude. If the family changed between sessions, it showed that the intervention had been effective.
    In the strategic model, the therapist is viewed as the expert who knows the solution to the family's problem. The therapist just has to be clever enough to design an intervention that will change the family before they return for the next session. (This model now seems vaguely reminiscent of my family's Sunday afternoon tribunal, with my grandfather giving his weekly advice to each individual but generally not getting too involved.) For me, the strategic work was very exciting, but essentially it was an intellectual endeavor. I was getting somewhat more involved with people, but my clinical work was decidedly conducted from a distance.
    During my first two years of training with Sal Minuchin, I quickly learned that structural family therapy attempted to create change within the session and that these sessions were often intense. I saw Sal create change in many families, and strategic therapy began to seem tame by comparison. But I couldn't see myself acting so forcefully. It demanded far too much personal involvement in the clinical process. So I continued working at some distance and managed not to present my family cases very often. Sal must have sensed my reluctance to show my work, but he didn't address it. I learned passively, by observing Sal work with the other trainees.
    I was relieved that he didn't challenge me, yet I knew I was missing out. Sal works with trainees by challenging their therapeutic style, much as he works with families by challenging their family process. just as he chooses which family member to challenge and does not work with everyone with equal intensity, Sal does not work with every trainee with equal intensity. I wondered privately whether he saw me as not strong enough to take his intense style of training, or whether he believed my clinical skills were so undeveloped that I didn't really have a "style." For whatever reason, not much change occurred for me in those first two years. I think now that the most fundamental reason nothing major happened was that I was so withholding as a person and with my clinical work that I didn't give Sal much to work with. I was not ready.

I think in the beginning both Gil and I were satisfied with our tacit arrangement. But I began to match his avoidance too much. I don't think he learned much the second year, at least not from me. Perhaps I felt he couldn't change or wouldn't, so my interest in his development as a practitioner waned. I don't know why he enrolled for a third year, or why I accepted him, but I'm glad we did.

    Ready or not, the situation changed dramatically in the third year of training. Minuchin began challenging me with the first supervision of the year. I did have a therapeutic style, but it was very soft. I knew then that the year was going to be different, perhaps because of the nature of the case being supervised, perhaps because Sal had finally had enough of my reticence, perhaps because I was more ready.
    Now, years later, I can put this experience in some perspective. It was a year of transformation for me--of personal disruption but also of personal growth--and it has had lasting effects on me. For the first time as a family therapist, and probably in my life, I experimented with being confrontational, being discontinuous, and also being more authentic. At no time in that year did I ever confront my client family very effectively, but the seed did take root and now I can confront other families effectively. Confrontation is still not my preferred style, but I am less afraid of it and have found ways to do it that match my basic personality. While my voice remains soft, something I suppose I am stuck with, soft is no longer the first word observers use to describe my style. More fundamental than any change in voice or style, however, is the change in the way I think. Whatever I am doing or saying to a family, I am always thinking structurally about the family and about what interventions might have a chance of helping the family change its structure. Beyond everything else, Sal taught me how to think.

I think it is important to repeat here that there are different ways to create change. Confrontation is one of them. But challenge and confrontation are different animals. You can challenge a pattern by being soft and supportive. In a violent family, being soft and polite is a challenge. So is being concrete in a family fond of intellectual abstractions, or being courteous in a rude family. My particular skill of amplifying differences and encouraging conflicts has been called confrontation. I think it is more complex than that.

    I believe Sal thinks the primary thing he taught me is to be more confrontational and challenging. He certainly did that. But he also taught me how to join emotionally with a family. I don't think he thinks of his own style in that way. In his training, he emphasizes unbalancing and confrontation, not the importance of joining and connection. Yet in his work, he is as skillful in the latter as in the former. Sal taught me how to go back and forth, sometimes working close and sometimes being distant. He would call this "zooming in and out." I can use that technique now. I can also both be empathic and sensitive with a family and be provocative. Most important, when affect emerges in the session, I am not afraid of it. Sometimes I find myself crying along with them, and that's okay.

A therapist has to know a family experientially. He has to be buffeted by the family members' needs. If the therapist always travels at middle distance, he will miss that experience. So the supervisory task is to teach the supervises how family members push and pull each other, through his own responses to them. I had to find the way to shove Gil into this experience.

The Hurwitz Family
David Hurwitz, twenty-two, was hospitalized for inflicting injuries to his right eye. He would stab the eye with his finger, stopping only when someone in the family discovered what he was doing or the eye began to bleed. Hospitalized, he was treated with a combination of anti-anxiety medication and behavioral therapy. The eye gouging extinguished fairly quickly, but the staff observed that whenever David went home on weekends, or his family visited him in the hospital, the symptom reappeared.

It is amazing that over a hospitalization of eighteen months for a symptom that reappeared whenever he rejoined his family, David remained the official identified patient.

    David was the youngest son in a family of five adult children who all still lived with their parents. David and the eldest son, Herb, thirty-five, worked in the parents' business. Mary, thirty-two, was employed and lived in a small apartment she had renovated for herself in the basement. The younger daughters, Shelly, twenty-eight, and Rebecca, twenty-four, were working part-time and going to college. Mary, Rebecca, and Shelly, with no roles in the family business and with ongoing dating relationships, were less central to the tight coalition of David, Herb, and the parents.
    In what appeared to be a traditional marriage, Herbert ran the business and Stella ran the home. Stella had been fired from several jobs because of interpersonal conflicts. She wanted to work, but Herbert said she had caused such trouble that he preferred her to stay home, run the house, and do the bookkeeping for his business. Their family dream was that all the children would eventually join the business. Stella said the children would, of course, marry, but she hoped they'd never live more than a block from home. Stella said she was very anxious when any of the children were away from her, particularly David, who'd been sickly as a child. Herbert was also anxious. He was a recovering gambler who now regularly attended Gamblers Anonymous. That was his primary social outlet.
    The first session occurred in the hospital with the entire family present. I watched Stella embrace David. He was wearing a hospital gown. Stella ran to him, threw her arms around him, then stood, hugging him, playing with his chest hair. Stunned by this, I asked them to sit down and tried to concentrate on getting a family history. Today, as I write about the scene, I cannot imagine myself not being more active then and there.  Each family member focused on David. They said he was the only family problem and complained that his behavior was disrupting all their lives. Trying to get a fuller picture of the family, one that did not center around David, I asked them to tell me about their family before David got sick. They told me about their usual routine after dinner: Father would go to Gamblers Anonymous or stay downstairs, while Mother and the children watched the best TV in the house in the parents' bedroom. David often sat beside his mother on the bed, and often remained when the other children went to bed.
    Still managing to ignore the obvious, I tried to get the family to elaborate more on who they were. I asked them what themes a television producer might pick to make a TV movie of them. They were, it seemed, a "together" family, a family that was "all for one and one for all." I ended the consultation formulating a treatment contract that attempted to reframe their enmeshment. I told them they seemed to me like a set of Christmas tree lights wired in series; if one bulb went out, they all did. If they wanted to work with me, my job would be to wire them in parallel, so that each bulb, still connected to all the others, could be independent. The family's response was indulgent. "That's a nice way of looking at it, Dr. Tunnell, and we will work with you. Just remember that we are Jewish."

Beginning Supervision
At that time Minuchin was supervising by having each trainee select three members of the group to serve as a team of peer supervisors. His role was to supervise the teams.

I like to be central and get involved in dyadic transactions with my supervisees. But sometimes I feel that this interferes with the participation and learning of all the trainees, or I may feel burnt out. So I may ask the trainees to work in supervisory groups and move myself to a more distant position of teaching the supervisory process. I think alternating between the two organizations during the year brings excitement and new learning dimensions to groups of advanced trainees.

    Sal couldn't stay out of my team's attempts to supervise the Hurwitz case. Everyone was as caught up as I was in the fascinating individual Oedipal element. Sal was critical and direct, though not harsh. He said my attempt to reframe with the metaphor of the Christmas lights was inappropriate, a Christian metaphor. He said it reflected my WASP-ish equanimity. This comment brought the Jewish/Protestant theme that had begun in therapy into supervision. Sal was also skeptical about any attempt to use stories. The narrative approach was just becoming popular in the family field, and many of us were experimenting with it. But he thought it would fail in this case. With the Hurwitz family, I would have to do more to create a change-producing crisis.

I was very worried about the evident mismatch between this family's needs and Gil's style. Here was a family with intense demands for closeness and loyalty. Extremely emotional, not self-aware, undifferentiated in internal structure but strongly defended against the outside, they would be able to adapt almost anything to their togetherness. Against this Jewish phalanx, Gil was trying to offer intelligent comments. His pronouncements didn't have a prayer of being effective. The family were behaving like good patients, requesting advice. But I had worked with this kind of family, and I knew that such families simply absorb reason, sometimes reflecting it back but never allowing it to affect their experience.
    I was glad Gil had to work with the Hurwitz family. They would be good for him. Now, how could I help Gil be good for them?  I tried first to get Gil to experience the family as his adversary. It was their fault that he looked incompetent. They were creating the situation that was showing his ineptitude to me and the entire class. I hoped very much that Gil would develop a self-defensive anger that he would take with him to the next session. With me and the entire class at the forefront of his mind, he might not so automatically use his logical responses, and instead let his uncertainty lead him into a more active search for something new.

Sal said this family was making mashed potatoes out of me. He demanded that I do something to induce structural change, because this was a very serious symptom in a serious case. Determined to create intensity, I decided to play on the Oedipal theme. In the next session I told the family that David "unconsciously" was curious about the parents' sexual relationship. I linked his curiosity to his eye-gouging: David was sticking things where they didn't belong.
    I don't think psychoanalytically, and I didn't believe this hypothesis. I used it to take a risk and to get the family's reaction. Their response was to ask David whether it was true. To my surprise, he said that, Well, yes, he had been curious and began to ask them detailed questions about their sexual relationship. I was even more surprised when Herbert began to answer his son's questions in detail, until Stella finally asked, "David, what does all this have to do with you?"
    Watching the session on videotape, Sal was less amazed by the family's conversation than by my inaction. I had allowed, if not encouraged, an inappropriate conversation between the parents and their adult son about their sexual relationship. He attacked my exploration of the Oedipal theme as overly rational and said that my conversationl style with the family was entirely too polite and too patient. I had let the session run away from me. Sal was visibly angry. He stood up and pretended to pour coffee over my head, shaming me before the other trainees.  I was dumbfounded. Hadn't I done what he told me to do? I had intensified the therapy. I had brought taboo topics into the session. The proper WASP had asked a family to discuss sex. What did Sal want from me?

I wanted this logical thinker to experience a Joycean grammar, more like the family's. Gil's "novelty" had been in the direction of more of the same. He had kept David as the identified patient, increased the parents'curiosity about David's ways of thinking and being, and, by exploring it, increased the family's proximity. All the while he had remained the curious but detached intellectual therapist.
    I was frustrated. Turning my empty coffee cup over his head was simulated annoyance, but I was becoming genuinely angry at Gil. I had spent two years trying to teach him. He was bright and competent. So why was he so damn stuck? Part of me was working strategically, creating intensity and hierarchy between us. But I was also aware that I had really blown my cool.

    I know firsthand now how a family must feel when its structure is challenged. One's sense of organization is totally disrupted. Regrouping in the old structure is impossible, but there's nothing yet to take its place. Instead, there is intense anxiety.  The hours after that supervision were agony for me. The other trainees urged me to come have lunch and talk about it. I thanked them and declined; I was due back at the hospital. Instead I walked the streets around Sal's office, feeling dazed, anxious, confused, and helpless. This case had made me feel helpless from the start, but what I felt that afternoon was far more extreme. Sal had finally succeeded in jarring me out of my rut. But what was I going to do now?  At the time I couldn't appreciate the parallel between what Sal had done to me and what I had to do with the family. I only knew that I had to do something that was not soft. But what if I made a mess of it, and David got worse? What if he actually blinded himself?
    I don't know how it happened. But somehow my distress and my anxiety that David might blind himself became the new focus of therapy. In the next session I made some very simple structural interventions. I seated the parents on the sofa, and had David sit in his own chair: Whenever the parents spoke for David, or when they interjected themselves in a conversation with David, I stopped them. I encouraged the parents to talk and stopped David from interrupting. All this is rather basic structural family therapy technique. But I had never been so active in a session.
    Sal said these structural techniques wouldn't be enough to provide either quick symptomatic relief or enduring structural change. But he did recognize what a major shift this was for me. He maintained his usual critical role, urging me to be less soft and more active, but he acknowledged the change. Interestingly, he noted that this change in style was actually rooted in who I am as a WASP, ever conscious of boundaries and appropriate distance. Maybe my heritage could be utilized as a resource instead of seen as a deficit. Here again, this was like his therapy. Sal finds a small step within a family's dysfunctional dance that can be built on. Now he had found a resource within me that could be tapped effectively with this family.
    The videotape of the supervision shows that Sal is sitting closer to me. He is friendlier, particularly as he watches my new maneuvers with the family. He continues to criticize me, but he is also very supporting. That sense of support would allow me to take greater risks in becoming adversarial with the family.

Gil was changing. It wasn't only that he was working with structural boundary definition. He was daring to take risks. His interpretations were more than intellectual. His body posture showed participation. He moved forward when he directed or interrupted a family member. I was happy that he was clearly feeling my friendliness. I had been concerned about my reactions in the previous supervisory session, so I was glad that hefelt comfortable with me.

Minuchin's Consultation with the Family
I began to try to shift the label of identified patient from David to Stella. I developed the theme that Mother was depressed and lonely because Father neglected her, and that was why she turned to her son David. Yet these ideas lacked punch. And I never said directly to the parents that their behavior, if unchecked, would finish in blinding their son. Sal did just that in a very intense consultation. In fact, in my four years of watching him work, I never saw Sal challenge a family more intensely.
    Early in the session Sal called David's gouging his eyes a private show, done for his parents' benefit. His behavior was linked to them, not to anything within him. "I am Jewish," Sal said, "and I understand these things. David is a good son, sacrificing himself for his mother. This is a Greek tragedy with Jewish actors."  These were merely ideas, but Sal began to unbalance the power structure by deliberately ignoring the intrusive Stella. When she insisted on speaking he interrupted her. When she asked whether David's compulsive behavior might be due to his eating massive doses of carbohydrates, Sal said that was crazy. David wasn't crazy. The family was. He left the room at that point.
    The parents began to fight. Herbert called Stella a stupid woman nobody wants to deal with. David was quiet but leaning forward, tracking his parent's arguments. Sal returned and dramatically punctuated what everyone had just witnessed: a wife emotionally demeaned, neglected by her husband, turning for solace to a child who had to blind himself as a way of remaining loyal to her. At that moment the understanding of David's symptom became fully systemic. By blinding himself he would give his mother a new role in life, one that would take her off his father's hands. Stella would always be there to help the disabled David. In a final flourish, Sal said there was no way out. David was going to blind himself as a sacrifice to his parents, and Stella would become his seeing-eye mother. That was that. And he walked out.
    In the supervisory debriefing that followed the consultation, I discussed my satisfaction at finally arriving at the true systemic explanation for David's symptom. It all made sense to me now. True to form, Sal was discontinuous. He said he didn't care whether the idea was correct or not. What mattered was whether the ideas were sufficiently novel to shake up the family structure. Therapy is an imaginative process that engages families to think and behave differently. Whether something is true or not, we can never know. I was uncomfortable all over again. At the same time, this freed me to find new ways of challenging the family.

In the consultation, I experienced the difficulties I always have in reaching highly enmeshed families. They are cooperative, request instructions, and seem willing to follow directions that in fact they completely deflect. I had to make an impact on both the family and the therapist with my interventions.  Gil was changing. But he still believed in the power of words. Like the Almighty, if he spoke the word, there would be light.
    A consultation is an ideal format for high emotional intensity. A consultant can be like a hit-and-run driver. He can create strong impact without the need to join and comfort. So I asked David why he was in the hospital. He said he was getting better. I said that was wrong. They treated him as if he were crazy, but it was his family that was crazy. Stella defended him by recounting his bizarre symptoms. I said he was protecting her. When Herbert attacked Stella I said he was cruel, forcing her to seek David's protection. Every element was interpreted as pushing or pulling some member of the family. Nothing was unconnected, nothing was autonomous. The "truth" of that interpretation is inconsequential. What matters is that in an emotionally charged session, it all seemed to make sense. By the end of the consultation everything was tied into David's eye gouging. As in all tragedies, everything was leading to the inevitable self destructive fall. David was going to blind himself for his family's sake. Gil was able to use that prediction as a tool for family individuation.

    In the sessions that followed I repeated the prophesy, again and again. Sadly, but inexorably, I told the family that eventually David would blind himself for Stella's sake. There was no way out.  Seeking to distract me from their sad fate and to reject the interactional framing of David's symptom, the parents countered that their drama was less tragic than the problems of other families with dysfunctional children. I shook my head at that. Their tragedy was far greater, because their son was purposely disabling himself for his mother. I was polite and quiet. But the parents became very uncomfortable.
    As we moved toward the Christmas holidays, the parents bought me a beautiful leather wallet. I thought it might be a bribe for me to back off. So I thanked them and gave it back. I did say that if by the end of my work with them David had managed not to blind himself, I would accept their gift.  My training team were shocked that I refused the gift. But Sal backed me up, which was very important to me that day. He explained that accepting gifts is often appropriate, but in this instance I had done the right thing. I think his support was more than approval of how I had handled a technical issue. I think he was privately pleased that I could be impolite. I was capable of being discontinuous, and by responding in a way that the family could not have anticipated, I had punctuated the seriousness of their circumstances.
    Sal also seemed to enjoy a subsequent session in which I compared my Protestant family to the Hurwitzes. The family was in the middle of their usual patterns, interrupting each other, everybody attending to each other's business. I said, "Are all Jewish families like this? I tell you, you're different from mine." The family began discussing Protestant families. How sedate we are. We remain poised under the most difficult conditions, but we never show our feelings for one another.  "You're right," I said. "We have different ways of handling adversity, and also of viewing the world. What strikes me about you is, you're close, but you've taught David that the world is such an unsafe place that he'll never be able to make his way in it. He'll never be able to leave you. And to a WASP, that's a very sad thing. My family isn't so close, but at least my brothers and I were able to leave home."
    Slowly over the next nine months, the family began to change. The parents stopped putting David under their microscope. They continued to fight with each other, but David learned to stay out. He stopped meddling in his parents' business, and he stopped gouging his eye. After eighteen months of hospitalization, he was discharged back home.  When it became clear that David's behavior had changed, the older son, Herb, took over as intermediary for the parents. In the continuing family sessions, Herb was coached to stay out of his parents' relationship and to spend more time with his brother instead. Different coalitions were formed, and different, flexible boundaries were drawn. David stayed symptom-free. Eventually he got a part-time job and began to develop his own friends.
    A year after Sal had met with the family, he invited us all back for a consultation. While Sal remained behind the one-way mirror, the family explained, to the invisible viewers as much as to me, how much they had changed. I expressed my doubts that these changes were real. But the family overruled me. All the children now refused to be seduced into their parents' problems. Shelly was engaged to be married. Herb and Rebecca had moved out, and Mary was looking for her own apartment. Sal entered the room and said that the family had indeed changed. Why was I so puzzled, he asked. Clearly I had been effective with this family.  Stella spoke of that first meeting with Sal, and how he had called her crazy, and how furious she had been. She said she understood now what he had been trying to do, and she thanked him. I feel the same way about my supervision.