16. Howard's Story

I always knew that success would come hard as a scientist. No one who had been truly successful had had an easy road. But there was another part of me that viewed science as Louis Pasteur played by Paul Muni. Do the right experiment and publish it, and recognition would come. I had forgotten about Mendel and Meischer; that they were dead long before their superb work was acknowledged by the scientific community.

My work peaked in 1970, fourteen years after getting my doctorate. For all of those fourteen years, I plodded; staying true to my ideal that a good scientist follows where his curiosity leads. At last, my exploring became meaningful. The various pedestrian projects that I had been working on paid off. In a flash of insight, I was able to tie together all of my work. It culminated in one lovely experiment. With five animals, I was able to tie together the ways that tumors of circulating cells metastasize with the migration patterns of normal cells. True, it wasn't earth shaking, nor the stuff that Nobel Prizes are made of - but it was good. It was the kind of work that I had hoped to be able to do. The experiment and the reasoning that accompanied it was elegant. No more plodding research; I was on a roll. I published the results of my elegant experiment and then I changed the direction of my work to exploit this find to its fullest. But I hadn't reckoned on one of the ubiquitous realities of life -federal budgets. Nor was I aware of the politics of research grants.

A person never learns much about the way that things work when he is successful. If your car always ran well, you never have to find out how an ignition system or a carburetor function. That was the way that it had been with me. My early research had been moderately successful and it had been in an area that several influential people at the National Cancer Institute had been interested in; so they made sure that little me got money to do his research. Of course I didn't know that at the time -I thought that I was either good or very lucky.

It was a time of budget cuts. I naively thought that the best projects would be funded, while the mediocre ones would fall by the wayside. I couldn't have been more mistaken. The boondoggles survived, and my wonderful new work was cut out. Had I known about the politics of funding, I would have renewed the application for my pedestrian research and probably been funded because the powers that be would be reluctant to scuttle a project into which they had already pumped a substantial amount of money. But my new wonderful project was unknown, untried, untested and meat for the cutters knife. I ended up without the money to continue my work; and with it, my salary and position.

My world had collapsed. What to do?

I wrote a book. Readers of it praised it to the skies, but no one wanted to publish it. When it was finally published, years later, one of the reviewers called it "the finest book ever published on cancer for the layman. But that was later. Now I was a failure. My book had told the truth, so I was personna non grata in a number of quarters. Besides, no one wanted to hire a research scientist who couldn't bring in the money to do research. It was also a time of teacher surpluses so, try as I might, I couldn't find a job as a teacher. It was interesting, though. I applied to a number of small colleges in the east. One replied that "while their students came from all religions, their faculty was Protestant." I even applied to junior colleges, only to find that my Ph.D. was a liability rather than an asset. Four years later, after my book had been published, I got a job teaching in a medical school in Nigeria. But that was because the person who hired me believed the same fairy tale that I did: that quality was important. By the time I got there, he had suffered as rude an awakening as I had. But that's another story.

I was a failure! A failure is someone who tries to do something and doesn't achieve it. .If I was successful, wouldn't I believe that it was because of my competence? Of course I would. So it was natural that when I was a failure, that I should attribute it to my incompetence -and I did. I knew that I wasn't incompetent as a scientist. It had to be my personality. I just didn't understand myself nor people.

It was time to change careers, I told myself. I would become a psychotherapist. In that way I could both learn to understand myself and others, as well as earn a comfortable living. I had a head start on it all: I had read everything that Eric Berne had written and understood it. I had applied it to my life and it had helped to collapse my first marriage. But now I had Laura, so things had worked out for the best.Thanks to her, my world didn't collapse completely. My marriage was O.K.- I was O.K. and Laura was O.K.

Many of us have some fairy tale or other that is part of our Life Script. Mine was the movie version of the Wizard of Oz. So you don't believe that people have Life Scripts! That's all right with me. Just, for a moment, suspend your belief and accept that what I tell you is true for me, even though it may not be true for you; that I have a Script and an important part of that script is The Wizard of Oz. This is, after all, a work of fiction -so why not a Fairy Tale guiding one persons decisions?

Where to go for my psychological training? Why Oz, of course, where Eric Berne, the Wonderful Wizard, had presided over a flock of minor wizards. Of course, the Wonderful Wizard had gone to Kansas (as good a euphemism for the other side as I know), but there were still the Straw Man, the Lion and the Tin Man. Maybe it was only the chief wizard who was gone. Could Dorothy have come back to Oz?

Oz was, of course, the San Francisco Bay Area. Even people who don't believe in Life Scripts should have no trouble with this.

I got a job running an animal colony in Berkeley and Laura got a job teaching in a small private school; and we packed our things into a U-haul and took off.

Laura and I settled into our jobs, and I started exploring the psychology field. I went to meeting of the Transactional Analysis (hereafter refered to as TA) society. I met some of Bernes disciples and inquired as to where I might be trained as a TAer. The only person who had a formal training program leading to certification in TA was Lydia Carter.

I enrolled in a two week intensive course given by Lydia. I don't remember what it cost, but it was substantial, without seeming excessive. I think that there must be some formula for determining exactly what the market will bear.

I still don't understand what happened, but I found myself hooked to Lydia. My mind still functioned in that I was able to explain things and answer questions, but I accepted every answer that Lydia gave in the same way that I accepted what my mother said when I was an infant. I literally sat at her feet and worshipped. And I was not alone; most of the class did the same. I can now say that her understanding of psychology was so superficial as to be ridiculous; but at the time, it was gospel.

How do I describe my feelings in Lydia's class? How does one describe the color red? If you were color blind, it would be impossible. I could say that it is the same color as the top element on a stop-light; but that would not be the same sensation that I have. But I'll try as best I can to give you that feeling.

Think about your attending a lecture as you are now. The lecturer seems to you to be a person, like yourself, who expresses opinions and presents information. He or she is a human being like yourself, with some special information that you may or may not have. That is all that he/she is. This is an adult attending a lecture.

Now imagine yourself in the first grade, in your first class with your first teacher. The teacher is not a person, like yourself, but someone apart. If you have children, think about them at this stage. The teacher, usually female, is a giant, like your mother. She knows things and you don't. She has the power to open your mind and pour things into it; and she does. Whether you perceive her as pleasant or frightening depends upon what your experience was at the time. Close your eyes and think of TEACHER.What do you see? Is it someone pleasant or an ogre? Either way, what can she do to you? I'll wager that she can do almost anything. She can make you feel wonderful or can knock the props out from under you and plunge you to the depths of dispair.

That was how I felt in Lydia's class. It sounds silly, but it's true. Is this similar to what people describe who have been "saved" at a religious revival? If this does not describe the experience exactly, it is certainly something similar.

We "interacted" and I felt wonderful. She was giving to me and I was taking. She heard me and acknowleged me; answered my questions with kindness.

But I was a professional scientist and my questions were much more penetrating than the rest of the participants. It was this ability to ask pertainent questions that had helped me to enter one of the best graduate programs in biology in the country. My questions went far beyond her understanding, although she never even hinted that that was so. She had an answer for everything, just like my mother did. I must have struck a chord, because when the course ended and it came time to discuss a training program, my Dorothy suddenly became the Wicked Witch. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was "sick", was playing "third degree games" and that I needed therapy beyond what she was capable of. I was too sick and needed a psychiatrist. I wept like a child being severely admonished. Of course, she was right;I was sick. But it was not therapy that I needed, but merely to get away from her. My cure, in fact, was miraculous. I changed from a wide eyed, uplooking child to an adult again. By the time I had had one session with the analyst she sent me to, it was obvious that his major interest was in getting me into analysis. I had Acute Pecuniary Psychoneurosis. Once away from these people, my vivid dreams which seemed as if they were really happening, reverted to their former state, as did my entire mind.

I learned a lot from that experience. A year later, I was talking to someone who was well schooled in psychology about that experience:

"Oh yes, I was mentally raped; but I learned a lot." I said.

He sneered: "One always learns a lot from being raped."

What had happened? I'll try to explain it.

Most of us are aware that our parents are special to us in a way that others are not. They are a part of us; so much so that we feel great pain when they are seriously ill or die. It is as if we, ourselves have been hurt. Loosing a parent feels, to most of us, like loosing a part of one's own body.It is possible, and frequently happens, that a person can invest someone else with with that kind of relationship. Psychologists call this process cathexis (German: besetzung) and its most common manifestation is the relationship that a person has with a spouse. A person often considers a husband or wife as a part of themself. Further, it is not done on a conscious level. In other words, it is done without you thinking about it; it seems to be an automatic thing. If the right buttons are pushed, it just happens. When this cathexis happens, one cannot simply walk away as one does from an acquaintance or stranger -there is a strong bond.It is the breaking of this bond that is responsible for the pain of divorce, even in a marriage that is a total disaster. When a child leaves home, there is great pain if there is an attempt to break the bond. If, on the other hand, the bond is left intact and there is a physical separation by mutual consent, it is not excessively painful. It also seems as if the bond can weaken with distance and time.

Giving it a name doesn't explain it. It is something that one must experience, but the experience of cathexis is so universal that almost anyone can understand it. So when I say that Allen cathected Brother James, you will understand what I am talking about. That he had, at least partially, decathected me should also be understandable, since most of us have to some extent decathected their own parents. It seems not to be an all or none process. For some, the process of decathecting ones parents can be very painful, while for others it seems relatively painless. There are rare individuals who have the need to literally destroy their parents. For me, there have been varying degrees of cathexis with different people; while for some it seems to be an all-or-none process. With Lydia, it was total, while with most of my professors, it was partial.

Anyone who has worked psychologically with people can tell you that bonds seem to be necessary for sanity almost in the same way as gravity is necessary for preserving the integrity of bones. No one can explain why. Babies who are not handled soon stop eating, waste away and die. The condition is called marasmus and it is also not understood.

I have discussed this because the understanding of the process will allow me to deal with Allen without literally threatening a part of himself.

The lecture is over, students. You can close your notebooks.

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