JUNE 11, 1991

He joined the Alliance's course on Psychoanalytic Theory even though  he knew I was going to be a student in the program.  We have been talking about this for months. He has said many times that we shouldn't see each other outside the office. All the while I have been talking with great excitement about taking this year-long course, especially about how it will help me in my doctoral work, he hasn't mentioned a word about his being a part of the progam as a discusion leader.  I know for a fact that the discussion leaders were not chosen so early on as when I went to that first meeting, held to get a sense of how many people would be interested in taking the course. The meeting was held a year or so ago; and we discussed it at length.

I am beginning to feel a real sense of betrayal. He is not as honest a human being as I have made him out to be.  It's not simply that he made a mistake. He lied to me. And more.  He has put me in a position where my ability to learn is hampered.  He knows from our work together that learning around family members has always been difficult for me. And the familial transference is well established by now. He has denied me a separate place for myself. He is always talking about boundaries and how there weren't enough for me growing up; and, yet, he takes away my right to act in the world outside the office without him.  He wanted to be a part of that program, and he gave no thought to the effect his presence might have on me.  Moreover,  I don't believe he cared. I think he carries around the attitude that the clinician has a right to psychoanalytic knowledge and the analysand does not.

"You could have told me you were going to be there," I say to him.  "Why didn't you tell me you were going to be there?"

"I thought you knew." 
"How do I know what you're doing when you're away from this room?"  I ask him.  "All of a sudden I'm clairvoyant?"

"A letter was sent out with the names of the discussion leaders," he says.

"I got no such letter."  (Tonight I called someone I know in the program and she said the letter that was supposed to go out didn't).

He's silent as he usually is when he has to cover his tracks, when he needs to be distant or thinks he should be for methodology's sake. I let it go. I let the whole damn thing go. I rationalize that it's ok, it's ok. I can handle this.  It will be a challenge for me, I tell myself. But I know I'm in trouble here. Deep down I'm in trouble with this man, and I have no idea how to get out of it.

At the class, at the orientation, when he was sitting in his chair alone, on the corner of the circle, I walk up to him. "Hi, what are you doing here?" I ask.  He just looks at me. I walk away, sit on the other side of the room.  We stare at each other all the while we try not to stare at each other.  The evening was impossible. I can't imagine how this course will go for me. How am I to learn in such an environment? He has no business being there. 

Why didn't he at least mention that he would be there? We could have discussed it, as he always says we should if we happen to see each other out of the office.  On the one hand, he says we shouldn't be in the same environment; on the other, if it helps his career, he turns up. He said he was asked to be a discussion leader and he wanted to do it, or some such thing.  People who go into this business are more concerned with their relationship to their colleagues and their careers than they are with the people they're supposed to be helping.

copyright2005Esther Altshul Helfgott

copyright2005Esther AltshulHelfgott
From Psychoanalysis: The Magic and The Lie by Esther AltshulHelfgott
All Rights Reserved


Esther Altshul Helfgott:
"I underwent a four-and-a-half year five-day-a-week analysis with a traditional male Freudian psychoanalyst (or he tried to behave that way).  The maternal aspects of the analysis were wonderfully  gentle, but the paternal/fraternal aspects were horrendous.  He came to hold an incredible amount of power over me and would not help me leave, terminate, be done with the process that was, from the beginning, highly sexualized and erotic...  He refused to confront the "here and now" between us, always taking me back to my past; in so doing, he helped repeat/reenact a condition that brought me to analysis in the first place... In the end, I thought he would keep me there forever ... and so I left.  Eventually I came back to the study of psychoanalysis which is, with all its faults, one of my intellectual homes; another is poetry."
- Esther Altshul Helfgott

read Esther's

Review of D.M. Thomas'
Eating Pavlova

Review of Joan Fiset's
Now the Day is Over

Psychoanalysis as Place: Diary Entry

The Psychiatrist As Poet

At the Hospital

The Homeless One: A Poem in Many Voices

Analytic Entrapment, American Imago (Oct 2005)