Thursday, October 4, 2018

What Did Christine Blasey Ford Really Want?

If we learn nothing about what happened to Christine Blasey Ford thirty six years ago, the current discussion about sexual trauma is teaching us something about therapy. And, after all, that’s what we all want to know more about.

For example, Ford claimed that she raised the issue of her trauma in a couples counseling session. She said that she and her husband had been arguing in 2012 about installing a second door on their house. Intrepid researchers have discovered that the Fords requested a permit to build the door in 2008… thus manifestly contradicting the account that she gave her therapist in 2012.

Did she lie? Almost assuredly, she did. Why did she do it? I suspect that she did not want to expose the real reason that she and her husband were undergoing counseling: namely that their sex life had diminished significantly.

At the beginning of the Ford/Kavanaugh beat down, I wrote this:

Ford brought up the incident in couples counseling, when it could serve a purpose. Was her marriage failing? Were she and her husband headed for divorce? Had their sex life declined? Was she trying to elicit sympathy from her husband and her therapist?

Or, was she offering the kind of rationalization that makes sense to certain
narrative-loving therapists. That is, perhaps she was explaining that her sex drive had gone dormant because of the aftereffects of a trauma. For all we know, the situation was more complex. We do not know anything about the way her or her husband’s sex drive played out in their marriage. And we do not know the role that medication or hormones might have played.

In short, we know that she introduced the story to serve a purpose. Might this have led to a misremembering of what happened? We do not know. And we must allow for the fact that Ford believes completely that her memory is accurate... even though it is not accurate.

I would emphasize the point: Ford’s account of sexual assault served a purpose. It served to explain why the couple’s sex life had diminished. Of course, given their ages, the proximate cause might have nothing to do with the trauma and everything to do with biology. But, Ford chose not to explain the real reason.

I will add that Ford had reason to blame her marital difficulties on a sexual trauma. It relieved both her and her husband of all responsibility. We do not know anything about their interpersonal dynamic or their home life. It is easier to shift the blame and to accuse.

With this in mind, I will quote from an account offered by psychoanalyst Erica Komisar in the Wall Street Journal this morning. She shows us how psychoanalysis is currently practiced. This will show also why so few people still submit to this therapy:

Consider that according to Ms. Ford, she first told the story during therapy. The therapist’s role is different from that of a detective, journalist or lawyer. When a patient tells me a story, I don’t test it to see if it’s objectively accurate. I may help patients see things from a different perspective, but I never doubt the reality of what they are saying—or, as Sen. Cory Booker put it, of “her truth.” The therapist’s job is to empathize with and believe those in pain.

In many cases therapy leads patients to change the stories they tell themselves to heal their emotional wounds. A therapeutic narrative may be a mix of accurate and inaccurate memories, along with inferences to fill in the gaps. Like mythology or other literature, it can provide truthful insights into one’s inner life even if it doesn’t pass the test of objective accuracy.

As I said, in my book The Last Psychoanalyst, this is overpriced storytelling. Most sensible minds have long since overcome the tendency to consider it a treatment of any sort.

Komisar ignore the fact that Ford told the story in couples counseling, where it could serve a purpose. She, like most psychoanalysts, ignores the context and the purpose… preferring to send the patient scurrying off into her memory bank, the better to concoct a new and more satisfying story.

Patients sometimes seize hold of past traumas, because they explain what they have messed up in the present, and therefore tend to exonerate them for their own bad behavior. The patient who can shift the blame by concocting a meaning will avoid all responsibility.

As for the hidden truth that therapy is supposed to recover, we know that, for Freud, it meant simply that the patient was suffering from the trauma because she could not bear to admit that she had wanted to be molested. Today’s psychoanalysts would never suggest such a thing, but Freud himself is quite clear about it.

Case in point: Dora, a young woman whose case constitutes Freud’s longest study of hysteria. For the record, when Dora was sixteen, her father’s mistress’s husband made a move on her at a house by a lake. She slapped his face.

When she contracted some hysterical symptoms, Freud, a personal friend of her father-- if I recall correctly-- tried to persuade her that she was suffering because she really wanted to have an affair with the man. But that she could not admit it to herself. In a later iteration, Freud altered his view slightly and declared that Dora was really lusting after her father’s mistress… thus, that she was a closeted lesbian.

If you believe that this exercise will provide emotional solace,you have done too much therapy.

If one were to offer an alternative hypothesis, one would suggest that she might have imagined that her father had made a highly improper exchange: he had traded her to his mistress’s husband so that the man would not interfere in his affair.

One thing that is missing from these accounts is the notion that Dora might have been well within her rights, as a sixteen year old, to refuse a sexual entreaty from a man who she did not in any way desire.

Komisar obscures the truth that psychoanalysis is seeking out. And yet, if you go back in the literature, you will see that it involves accusing women of not knowing what they want. And it also says that if a woman becomes distraught over a proposition or an assault the reason can only be that she is denying her desire. If this is the hidden truth that psychoanalysis wants to reveal, it has condoned more than its fair share of sexual assault.

21 comments:

Wye Pei Mor said...

She does stand to get $900,000 as result from GoFundMe. Isn't that motive enough?

Ares Olympus said...

I really don't know what to make of this post, except as an attempt to distract. Yes, people want to be able to denounce Ford as delusional because it explains Kavanugh's denials.

The only reasonable narrative I have is that Ford really believes she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, whether or not it is central to the symptoms she was trying to ease decades later. And her accusations were as mild as can possibly be imagined, where she reasonably had fears of possible rape, but more she experienced it clearly as two boys having fun at her expense, and the likelihood that even if she had reported the assault 36 years ago, it would have been the word of two boys against one girl and it would have caused unhappy attention to her, and accusations that she did something to encourage them, or perhaps dismissed as just playing around. So if I were to judge her motives it would be as a 51 year old woman, she is stronger and more willing to carry the weight of this situation, even if the consequences of death threats and such are much worse than she would have experienced as a 15 year old girl accused of lying about boys.

Anonymous said...

If the relatively mild event she described traumatized her, how is she able to cope with anything?

/Esther

Ares Olympus said...

Esther: If the relatively mild event she described traumatized her, how is she able to cope with anything?

In order to answer that question perhaps you need to look at examples in your own life, events that scared you that still affect you negatively. From what I've read what creates a sense of trauma is a psychic splitting where one innocent part of you can't handle what happened, and another part of you arises up as a protector to avoid the situation from repeating, and the problem is that "protector" persona by itself isn't teachable, and it freezes people into a certain unconscious responses to perceived danger. So to answer your question, the trauma response itself is adaptive, and it is what enables you to pass through something, but it can be maladaptive in the bigger picture because it prevents certain forms of self-awareness that enable conscious choice.

Like one useful response to aggression by others is self-blame, so if you can convince yourself that you're responsible for their thoughts, words, and actions, that might encourage you to develop an attractive and pleasing personality (as Hatch actually described Ford), so then you can feel in control and reduce other people's aggression. Its a credible strategy because it partially works, while its premise is false - we're not responsible for other people's thoughts, words, and actions.

Dr. Irredeemable Dreg said...

"I really don't know what to make of this post, except as an attempt to distract."

Distract whom? From what? And to what end? Did you comprehend the post? Let me help - it was a post about psycho-analysis/therapy, which is pretty much the point of this blog, "Had Enough Therapy?" You're welcome.

But, after all, you are a failed blogger, so building a coherent "narrative" that anyone cares about obviously isn't one of your strengths.

Dr. Irredeemable Dreg said...

And your reply to Esther, Ares, is another perfect example of what this blog is about. You may call it "building a "narrative", or even "jabher-wocheigh" if you like fancy names. To most other sane people, aka Deplorables, Dregs, and Bitter Clingers, it's called "making shit up".

Ares Olympus said...

Dr ID, you're absolutely right - there's a shit ton of "making shit up" on all sides here, motivated reasoning all the way down in many cases. I agree sanity easily looks like something extremely rare if we base our sense of things based on what we read on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Growing up with a holocaust survivor parent, maybe I have a higher baseline for what constitutes a traumatic experience? Adapting to non danger mode is definitely a problem for the traumatized, which I wish I knew a long, long time ago. Plus, trauma is said to be epigenetic, I hate that idea.


/Esther

Ares Olympus said...

Esther, that's surely true. Trauma must be a wide word that could be a phenomenon on a continuum of adaptions including all unconscious defense mechanisms but perhaps also related to more positive adaptions. And our even unconscious reactions to traumatic experience might be the primary way some vital skills are developed. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or the paradox of antifragility. But even so what makes this "unconscious first learning" dangerous is once we inhabit it, it filters how we see the world, so we can't see out of it, and even harder if it somehow gives us some sense of power or control in our world.

Epigentics adds an entirely new level. And how trauma is undone that has no memory source except through "making shit up" and while accepting its more about you than the world.

I guess exposure therapy and CBT help bring what we do unconsciously to awareness where choice exists, if we know we need it. But as best I can tell, many people would prefer to walk around with blinders on their whole life, once their defenses work, than see what's right in front of them that needs attention. And we probably can't help anyone else as long as we're doing the same ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Ares, that sounds like trauma is the grand unifying theory of everything. Maybe our molecules still carry the memory of that traumatic big bang and we all suffer from the trauma of birth shock. But, if everything is a trauma, then nothing is a trauma.

/Esther

george boggs said...

"if everything is a trauma, then nothing is a trauma."

Nailed it.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, you are a certifiable idiot. Congratulations. You really don't understand anything here. Nothing new.

Go back to your old blog. Build your own following. Stop destroying this one.

And grow up. If you seriously believe Christine Blasey Ford received death threats, your conscious idiocy is etched in stone. She lied about the death threats just like she made up the story about the attack. You see, she never accused boys when she was 15... she waited until she was 51. Oh, wait... does she know how old she is? Hmmmm...

We live in an advanced Western society, beyond the age of Enlightenment. The accuser bears the greater burden of proof. Were you on the end of the prosecutor's spear, you would think it just. Now you don't, because you're nakedly political, while carrying on about facts. You don't have any facts. Neither does she. So you go off of hearsay... he said-she said. But you like what she said, because you like the side she's on. That's rank stupidity, and it's dangerous. Robespierre blushes. TDS owns you.

You're so enamored about feelings because that's all you care about. Earlier, all you wanted was for Kavanaugh to apologize. Then, if he did, you'd have crucified him as admitting guilt. Apologies are words. And all Leftists like you love is words, words, words. Go find your own trauma ward, and minister there. The rest of us need to keep on living and working in order to fund the trauma ward.

If you think there's a "shit ton" of "making shit up" on "all sides here," then maybe you should give up the pretense of neutrality and being above it all and realize what the rest of us see from you every time you comment here: you're a partisan hack. Give up this mask that you're able to see both sides and you just want us to all get along. You don't. You base everything on what you read on the internet. You're a hyperlinking nutcase, most of the time referencing Wikipedia articles written by your partisan brethren.

You're a poseur intellectual, Ares. It's outrageous conceit. Your thinking is a disgrace. Has been for some time. Go start your own GoFundMe campaign. It can't do worse than your blog.

Anonymous said...

Humans are disgusting.

It is amazing we haven't been mass exterminated yet by the upper 1% of the technocratic elite. You know there has to be some company or organization out there is devoted to the cause of exterminating most humans, even the the Soviet Union in its final decades began stockpiling tons of anthrax spores for this cause.

Anonymous said...

Everyone here should be grateful they haven't yet been exterminated by the 1%. You simply know it is eventually going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

I think we’re safe until they perfect those AI silicone love doll robots. I notice there are some now that can even hang drywall, it’s only a matter of time.

/Anonymous Esther

Anonymous said...

Well stated IAC. In order not to get too involved in this type of politics I usually take a couple of days off to ensure I stay true to my principles and not allow feelings to over power logic. I would suggest that AO does not really care about anyone's feelings except his own. One only needs to look at some of his comments about Trump, Kavanaugh or for that matter anyone who might have the temerity to disagree. Just the screen name tells one all they want to know about a person who thinks he is the GOD of war. He stand on a higher plane than the rest of us "deplorables."
Interesting that AO, overtime when he gets a chance, tries to take over this site and make himself the center of attention. He feels that he is entitled because we, including Stuart, are cattle to be led by our betters.

All of Dean Koontz's "Jane Hawk" series describe how people who think they are far superior to others and has the right, by their existence, to rule this country use nanobots to enslave people to do their bidding. So...

dtrumpet

Dr. Irredeemable Dreg said...

Sowell put it very succinctly, dt:

"The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling."

And I might be mistaken, as it wasn't indelibly stored in my hippocampus, but I think Ares was also the Greek god of flatulence and was referred to by classical Greek poets as Boofus.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam L. said...

Dr. ID, SHAME on you for doing a funny, and on me for laughing at the funny. Damn, I NEEDED that.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ares Olympus said...

IAC, we're all limited of course, but I'm not the one name-calling just because I disagree with someone.