Francescatti v Germanotta

For those of you who've been with me for the duration of this lawsuit (5 years, 8 months): Francescatti v. Germanotta, et. al. was settled April 4, 2017.  Thanks everyone for your support.  

At this time, I've contributed all I can in the fight to protect songwriters from the U.S. music industry's corporate-run hegemony.  I hereby pass the torch to the next individual courageous enough to stand up to Goliath.  

Archaic copyright laws must be updated to reflect digital realities, or the very best versions of art, music, songwriting, writing, and photography – those crafted by unsung heroes slaving over pencil, guitar, typewriter, or camera – as we know them, will perish. 

The humanities and U.S. copyright law are a symbiotic pair. Where one goes, the other follows.  

Much love,

Rebecca F. 4/20/17  


Luckily I also got to write about my collaborator in Ghost Rat, who is a Pop figure to me, perhaps.  Get it?


            Rat Man is the quintessential Freudian study of the “father-complex” (Freud, 1927, p. 69) or the manifestation of the super-ego, whose “capacity” it is “to stand apart from the ego and to rule it” (Freud, 1927, p. 69).  “As the child was once compelled to obey its parents,” Freud (1927) writes in The Ego and the Id, “so the ego submits to the categorical imperative pronounced by its super-ego” (p. 69).   Thus spoke Freud on his famous patient, Rat Man, whose obsessional vow perhaps compels us all with its lingering imperative: “Now you must really pay back [the debt]” (Freud, 1909, p. 56).

            But what debt is that?  For Rat Man, whose psychosexual development was stunted by premature sexuality (Freud, 1909, p. 7), and whose early adulthood was plagued by obsessional neuroses for which he sought treatment, it can be summarized thus: to obey or not to obey.  But who? 

            Father, of course.  Rat Man finds himself tormented in early adulthood by the ghost of his father, which follows him around in obsessional specter, along with grotesque images of Father and Lover tortured by rats “bor[ing] their way…[i]nto” (Freud, 1909, p. 12) their anuses.  How did Rat Man find himself in adulthood plagued by such thoughts? And what did Freud do to help? 

            Conveniently, Freud presents a detailed resolution of this disorder in his eloquently written case study on Rat Man. For the purpose of this paper, though, we’ll pretend that he didn’t.  Hinging on this, our own fantasy, we’ll begin by elucidating Freud’s basic concepts of structuralism and psychosexual development.  From there we’ll trace the roots and symptoms of Rat Man’s obsessional neurosis, and finally we’ll move to explore Freud’s methods for producing relief.  In this way, we’ll understand how Rat Man came upon his illness, and how best, in Freud’s opinion, to cure. 


            To begin, Freud was a neurologist, underpinning structural theory’s proposed “anatomy,” if you will, whereby “psychological functions occur in discrete or separate parts of the brain” (Berzoff p. 21).  Broadly speaking, Freud’s psyche is composed of three (metaphorical) elements, the id, ego, and superego, which direct and control instinctual, managerial, and ethical tasks, respectively.   

            Employing science further, Freud draws on physics (Berzoff, 2011, p. 44), when he views the interplay between the id, ego, and superego as essentially “quantitative” and “economic” (Freud, 1927, p. 11) in nature.  Theorizing that energy (libido) directed toward one part of the psyche (superego, for instance) results in its corresponding lack in another (ego, for example), Freud proposes a state of shifting dominances.  This dance between desires affords a limited supply of libido, making conflicts between psychological functions common. So common, in fact, that Freud used the phrase “conflict theory” to label the dance.  For Freud, the workings of the mind are really a “zero-sum game.” 

            Despite the many competing demands of the id, ego, and superego throughout a lifetime, resolution of structural conflicts in healthy individuals results in an integrated personality, for the most part free of obsessions and neuroses.  Id, dwelling as it does in the deep unconscious, largely repressed, and carrying with it primitive animalistic drives of sex and aggression (pleasure principle), thus in a healthy individual will be contained and managed by ego, and led by the executive functioning of the superego, which, ideally, displays a reasonably balanced, correcting influence on ego decisions (reality principle).  In this scenario, demands of Mother and Father would be integrated in a way such that an individual develops mature adaptive coping strategies.  Using these adaptive strategies an individual would successfully maneuver challenges of adolescence, adulthood, and old age free from excesses of fear, guilt, shame, and other emotions that, in excess or otherwise divorced from reality, could instead pulverize a personality (Cytrynbaum, 2016a).           

            Reality, unfortunately, is less perfect. Psychosexual in nature, Freud named early childhood development stages – oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital – eponymously for tasks achieved and the “zone in the body where libidinal energy becomes manifest” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 27).  Biologically driven yet epigenetically resolved, according to Freud these stages are guided primarily by mothers and fathers, or surrogates thereof.  Each stage thus ruled by biological imperatives driving the child to survival, and “nurtured” by imperfect caregivers (typically Mother and Father), allows for the development of frustrations resulting in adulthood neurosis.  Crucially, as each psychosexual stage builds on the one before it, adaptive defenses elaborate or augment the previous stages’ strengths or weaknesses (Cytrynbaum, 2016a).  Development is thus progressive and nonlinear, with backslides common.  As Berzoff (2011) elaborates:          

            Development is hierarchical, invariant, and sequential….Within this paradigm,           there are regressions (or returns) to earlier stages of functioning, and there can be                       fixations (getting stuck) at each stage of development, which may form the basis       for pathological relationships or character traits in later life.  (p. 33)


In his psychosexual theory of development, Freud largely focuses on interactions of id and superego, leaving ego’s elaboration to his daughter Anna. 

            Take, for example, the oral stage, the earliest phase of development, in which unconscious (id/survival) instincts predominate.  The infant’s first task is almost wholly oral, his or her main occupation being the drive for gratification from mother’s milk (pleasure principle). A simplistic dyadic relationship results. For the fist year of life baby is perfectly helpless, and his or her sensual developmental tasks (sucking and biting) connected as they are to food intake and basic care needs of food, touch, and physical care, are absolute.  As Freud theorizes, if these needs are met, Baby will display upon adulthood healthy character traits like “capacity for trust,…self-reliance, and self-esteem” (Berzoff, 2011, p. 33).  If not, their opposite.    

            In the next developmental stage, anal (from about 1 to 3.5 years old, and a particularly detrimental period for Rat Man), the vagaries of motherhood and fatherhood start to impose their influence, complicating structural development.  Anal stage’s “potty training” task – centering around issues of holding in and letting go – awaken in the child issues of control of self (id) and others.  Successful developmental tasks include self-governance, agency, and independence, but also corresponding obedience to authority and societal demands (superego).  Berzoff (2011) writes: “Ultimately toddlers must begin to manage their anal struggles over independence and autonomy by internalizing parental wishes and prohibitions” (p. 35); in other words, they discover what is permissible and what is not.  Thus the superego is born, and with it, corresponding struggles between desires of self versus the desires and regulations of others.   

            Next occurs one of the more crucial stages in (particularly male) development, the phallic, whose insufficient resolution we see plaguing Rat Man. Occurring from ages three through five and culminating in the resolution of the Oedipal (Electra for females) situation, the phallic stage revolves around “romantic feelings and sexual fantasies, often directed toward…[a] parent or parent surrogate of the opposite sex” (Berzoff, 2011, p. 36).  Before this, the primary relationship of child, or key figure, is the mother.  Around ages 3 to 4, however, the child recognizes that instead of a “dyadic relationship with the mother alone” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 27), the child is instead involved in a triadic relationship – there is another person, besides himself, competing for mother’s love: Father.  The child’s relationship with mother is thus not a pair but a triangle.  A child’s successful adaptive maturation depends on how well he or she developmentally manages his or her own feelings of jealousy and competition in this love triangle, imperfectly guided by parents or surrogates.  The quality of this resolution creates the nature of the mature adult character and/or in the case of underlying vulnerabilities, symptom formation (Cytrynbaum, 2016a).


            We will now explore how insufficient anal and phallic/Oedipal developmental stages play out for Rat Man, resulting in corresponding symptom pathology of obsessional neurosis with delusion, and its subsequent cure.

            The dictates of psychoanalysis’ reliance on free association –  “to submit to the one and only condition of treatment – namely, to say everything that came into [one’s] head, even if it was unpleasant…seemed unimportant or irrelevant or senseless” [Freud, 1909, 6) – and to pay particular attention to “the very first communications made by patients” (Freud, 1909, p. 7n3) led to the following admissions by Rat Man, which we will explore next.  As the “true technique of psychoanalysis” necessitates that an analyst grant “the patient complete freedom in choosing the order in which topics…succeed each other during…treatment” (Freud, 1909, p. 19), Freud portrays Rat Man’s experience of plunging into the depths (preconscious/unconscious) to bring up to the surface (conscious) traces of memory, fantasy, and associations (residuals of the unconscious) with which to work as a pursuit nonlinear, slightly confusing, and ultimately dense with clues.  Fond of the archeological comparison, Freud encourages Rat Man in this technique (whose ends are the termination of obsessional neurosis) by analogizing that it is like artifacts from Pompeii, whose “burial had been their preservation,” and whose destruction “was only beginning now that it had been dug up” (Freud, 1909, p. 21).           

            Rat Man presented the following data in the first session:  First, that he has been slighted by a friend who “had only taken him up in order to gain admission into [his] house” in the interest of romantically pursuing his sister (a kind of homosexual betrayal); and second, that at age six, Rat Man comes into contact with “infantile sexuality” (Freud, 1909, p. 7) through two governesses, who allow him to fondle them and explore their bodies. 

            This second revelation is of course more urgently connected to acute symptoms of obsessional neurosis, as the report stems from early childhood experiences occurring before appropriate psychosexual development.  But the two admissions are linked, as we shall soon see.

            Regarding the experience of infantile sexuality.  From fondling the governess at age six, the patient starts obsessing: 1. over the wish to “see [girls] naked”; 2. that his “parents knew [his] thoughts” (delusional formation); and 3. about an “uncanny feeling, as though something must happen if [he] thought such things, and as though [he] must do all sorts of things to prevent it” (Freud, 1909, p. 8).  When prodded for what this thing might be, Rat Man responds: “that my father might die” (Freud, 1909, p. 9). 

            In other words, Rat Man’s sexuality is physically consummated before the appropriately adaptive psychosexual developmental stage (genital or beyond), thus unleashing in a developmentally immature and unprepared psyche “sexual and aggressive drives,” that, according to Freud, “are [usually in this stage] relatively quiescent” (Berzoff, p. 40). This latent stage “infantile sexuality” so traumatizes the patient that Freud sees this incident as containing “at once the nucleus and the prototype of the later disorder” – ­a “complete obsessional neurosis” (Freud, 1909, p. 9).  So strong are these obsessions, in fact, that the patient is compelled toward lifelong “compulsive fears” that plague him as disruptive harassing symptoms which, in adulthood, force him into a “performance of defensive acts” (Freud, 1909, p. 10) so problematic that they ultimately propel Rat Man onto Freud’s couch.  Thus while Rat Man’s case may seem eccentric to some, Freud finds it to be instead quite ordinary, a classic example of the development of chronic obsessional neurosis stemming from “premature sexual activity” (Freud, 1909, p. 11).    

            To continue: around this time Rat Man “complains” to his mother that he’s “suffer[ing] from erections” (Freud, 1909, p. 8).  Although we don’t know how Mother responds in this instance, after the prodding of Freud, Paul ultimately discovers from Mother important biographical data confirming what Freud has suspected all along: an insult occurring even earlier than his premature sexuality with the governesses, an insult that established deep long lasting rage against his father – and fear.  Though it’s not exactly as Freud postulates (that at some point under the age of six Rat Man “had been guilty of some sexual misdemeanor connected with onanism and…soundly castigated for it by his father” [Freud, 1909, p. 45]), Mother reveals Rat Man’s disciplining “between the age of three and four years old” – during the anal stage – “for something naughty, for which his father had given him a beating” (Freud, 1909, p. 45).  As it turns out, Rat Man had “bitten some one” (Freud, 1909, p. 46), then raged while Father beat him (indicating indignation, or at the very least ardent enthusiasm of some sort).  It is ultimately to this beating by Father, in fact, that Rat Man attributes his lifelong cowardice (Freud, 1909, p. 46).  Here, then, is the anal insult so severe that it “left behind…an ineradicable grudge against his father and…established [Father] for all time in his role of an interferer with the patient’s sexual enjoyment” (Freud, 1909, p. 46).  Said another way:

            …[T]here was something in the sphere of sexuality that stood between

            the father and son, and that the father had come into some sort of opposition to

            the son’s prematurely developed erotic life.  (Freud, 1909, p. 42)


            The connections to the sadistic captain (“I had a kind of dread of him”) (Freud, 1909, p. 12); RM’s need to prove that “people like me…could stand a great deal too” during rigorous military maneuvers (Freud, 1909, p. 120); his lack of assertiveness in looking for the lost prince-nez and needless abandonment of them, starting off the whole obsessive “farce of returning [the captain] the money” (Freud, 1909, p. 18); his obsession with being “cowardly” (Freud, 1909, p. 16, p. 28); his tendency to “put off” or procrastinate resolution of the debt (Freud, 1909, p. 17) and other important life decisions; his “doubting mania” (Freud, 1909, p. 34); his postponement of “the completion of his education for years” (Freud, 1909, p. 40); his father’s warning that he “would only make a fool of himself” with his ambivalent lady friend (Freud, 1909, p. 43); his refusal to decide once and for all to ask for her hand or leave her behind; his staying with her despite that she was “condemned to childlessness” (Freud, 1909, p. 55) while he wanted children; his staying with her despite that “she did not love him” (Freud, 1909, p. 28); his “tak[ing]” out his penis and look[ing] at it in the looking glass” as though father was there, to prove that now Son was at last “hard at work” (Freud, 1909, p. 45); even his remembrance of Fräulein Lina’s “slight” that “Paul…is too clumsy, he would be sure to miss it” (Freud, 1909, p. 8): all these expose a chronic, habitual lack of agency, a near ritualization of failed autonomy and independence – or if you prefer, failed stereotypical “manliness” – in favor of a dreadful “indeterminateness” (Freud, 1909, p. 9).  Indeed, this passivity clothed every aspect of Paul’s life.  Call it defense mechanism or character, call it what you will.  The insult delivered upon Rat Man during the anal development stage by Father ultimately frustrated his maturation to such a degree that, in many ways, beyond just the repressed “derivatives of his infantile character surviving in his unconsciousness” (Freud, 1909, p. 29), Rat Man was, indeed, still a boy.    


            Perhaps this was Paul’s fear, all along, as dreams and fantasy and delusions pun, that he was and forever would be the “butt of the joke.”  Indeed his lady friend had once been forced to explain “that these words of hers which [Paul] had misunderstood had been…intended to save him from being laughed at” (Freud, 1909, p. 33).  Paul certainly “made an ass of himself” in a formulaically emasculating way in his description of Fräulein Lina’s sexual slight; “funny,” perhaps, but only in the way humor can make the tragic tolerable, revealing as it does a little boy holding himself to a performance standard of a fully mature, virile, man.  Indeed one could say that Paul makes an “ass” out of himself in most of his foundational male relationships: in his jealousy of his “stronger and better-looking” brother, whom Fräulein Lina prefers, and who he fails to “kill” (Freud, 1909, p. 28); in Father’s “interference” with his sexual gratification (the ultimate mortification); and perhaps mostly, in his obsessive wish to kill himself (Freud, 1909, p. 30).  Like Lucius in The Golden Ass, who is turned into a donkey after he slays three criminals, Paul’s attempt to murder three men (his brother, his father, and himself), even if only in his mind, illustrates Berzoff’s (2011) eloquent statement on Oedipus: “He kills his father because he does not know himself” (p. 38).  

            Moreso, one could deduce that in an age reliant on transmission of property through patrilineal blood lines, Paul’s staying with a woman unable to have children could be considered “funny,” in that both what he wanted (not to have to decide one way or the other) and what he didn’t want (not to be able to have children) when taken together, cancel each other out.  Similarly, Freud finds “[c]ompulsive acts…in two successive stages, of which the second neutralizes the first,...[to be a] typical occurrence in obsessional neuroses” (Freud, 1909, p. 34).  This tendency is exposed in Paul’s absurd “farcical” (Freud, 1909, p. 18) romp to pay back the debt (and then not doing so), and in the strangling nature of his obsessions (for understanding [p. 32-33]; for protecting [p. 32-33]; that his parents could read his thoughts [p. 10]; with seeing women naked [p. 9]; with rat torture [p. 12–13]; with the death of his father [p. 10, 23, 45, etc.]; with killing the grandmother [p. 31]; and through his farcical moving of the stone both into and out of the road [p. 32–33] to both “kill” and “save” his lady love; all of which are in some way “funny” in their absurdity, in the way delusions are “funny,” or divorced, as they are, from reality.  And tragic in their oppressive hold over his life.  One is perhaps reminded of Freud’s description of ego in relation to the id as:

            like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the          horse; with this difference, that the rider seeks to do so with his own strength    while the ego uses borrowed [economic] forces….Often a rider, if he is not to           be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go; so in the   same way the ego constantly carries into action the wishes of the id as if they            were its own” (Freud, 1927, p. 30)


The idea of being the “butt of the joke,” in fact, is embedded in Freud’s use of “mésalliance” (Freud, 1909, p. 20) or “a marriage with a person of inferior social position” (Ehrlich, et al, 1980, p. 557) which he employs to describe an inappropriate marriage “between an affect and its ideational content” (Freud, 1909, p. 20). Freud’s language was chosen carefully, however.  Because in the word itself, we find Rat Man’s ultimate complex: Father. 


            To participate in an examination of Rat Man’s torturous obsessive thoughts, we must then explore the patient’s primary relationship: Father.  Rat Man’s internal struggles are born, even from his earliest memories, in that rather “funny” Oedipal stage, in which Rat Man desires both to be like (identify with) Father, and to “kill” him (metaphorically).  Crucially Freud (1927) considers “hidden the first and most important identification of all, the identification with the father, which takes place in the prehistory of every person” (39); a prehistory that, in line with Freud’s topographical model, must be “excavated to be understood” (Berzhoff p. 21).

            Let us begin this excavation.  Who was Father to Rat Man?  Perhaps we can start with the question: Who was he not?  He was not alive, yet his presence tormented Rat Man.  He was not self-made, having “been taken into [his wife’s family’s] business, and…by his marriage made himself a fairly comfortable position” (Freud, 1909, p. 40).  He was not free to marry the woman of his choosing, “a pretty penniless girl of humble birth” (Freud, 1909, p. 40) whom he loved before RM’s own mother. Enter the economic and social demands of patriarchal late 19th/early 20th century Viennese middle class, concentrated as they had been for so long (pre-contraception) on the “debt” of patrilineage, or transferal of wealth through rightful, paternal, heirs.    

            Indeed, Freud pinpoints Father’s death “as the chief source of the intensity of [Rat Man’s] illness” (Freud, 1909, p. 29).  And how could it not be?   It was after all “[a]fter his Father’s death” (Freud, 1909, p. 40) that Mother approached Paul with a “family plan”: that “one of her cousins declared himself ready to let him marry one of his daughters” (Freud, 1909, p. 40).  It was Rat Man’s obligation, or duty (the duty of patrilineage, or Father), to secure transference of property to future rightful (male) heirs who would be guaranteed inheritance (as much as possible) through marriage, by blood.  This would necessitate marriage to a fertile woman of reproductive age, which Mother knows (superego).  None of these qualities describes “the lady he loved” (Freud, 1909, p. 40) who was poor and barren – and much like the woman his father had given up to ensure Rat Man’s own existence and acquisition of family wealth.  No, Rat Man, confined by tradition, custom and loyalty to The Family (superego) was to “marry the lovely, rich, and well-connected girl who had been assigned to him” (Freud, 1909, p. 40).   He would, indeed “pay back the debt” of life his Father and Mother had made when they bore him, and passed along for him to bear.

            How could they be so ensured?  Through a series of punishments designed to beat the id into submission, to pulverize RM’s instinctual wishes with obligation, duty, and guilt, beginning with the harshness of punishments dealt out at his possible suspected mésalliance with Fräuleins Peter and Lina.  And this cultural intrusion of Father and superego, though admittedly cruel in this scenario, is not all bad. It is disciplined, controlled, directed.  Wars are won, structures built, music composed, paintings painted, literature written, etc., through internalizing enforcers of discipline, punishment, laws and regulations in art and culture.  Without superego, or “Father” we would have the “state of nature,” brutish and animalistic.  Institution is harsh; soldiers, dutiful.  But they produce.

            And in ways diametrically (and historically) opposed to the feminine: Mother.  So perhaps we should begin again, in the spirit of Freud: in opposition. Regarding Rat Man’s relationship with Mother, what is absent?  Perhaps, largely, she herself from the narrative.  Rat Man’s traumatic early “infantile sexuality,” which produced “a complete obsessional neurosis (Freud, 1909, p. 9), is indeed largely based on Mother’s absence, on being left in the care of surrogate caregivers who allowed him to “[take] a great many liberties” (Freud, 1909, p. 8) with them. 

            This, too, is culturally in line with customs and restraints of the late 19th/early 20th century Viennese middle class (superego).  Fräuleins Peter and Lina (surrogate mothers) were indeed the first causes of RM’s infantile sexuality, which battered his psychosocial development such that fears, obsessions, and neurosis developed.  Mentions of Mother are also reveal how Paul feels about his own (questionable) masculinity (agency/ego).  Specifically, RM feels guilt at being asleep when his father calls out for him at his moment of death, a guilt he expects Mother and Sisters (the feminine) to share, but they don’t: “He had thought he noticed that his mother and sisters had been inclined to reproach themselves in a similar way; but they had never spoken about it” (Freud, 1909, p. 19).  Certainly Mother is the holder of his life “task” or “debt,” as she is the one who arranges for an “appropriate” marriage union shortly after Father’s death, the threat of which triggers an intensification of Paul’s illness (Freud, 1909, p. 29).  She is the one who remembers his life-altering anal insult, the “naughty” something “for which his father had given him a beating” (Freud, 1909, p. 46) and which creates the rage response in Rat Man so extreme that Father condemns: “The child will either be a great man or a great criminal!” (Freud, 1909, p, 46).  Like Father, she is the one who, thus, helps along Paul’s lifelong obsession with failure, cowardice, passivity, and being a “criminal” (Freud, 1909, p. 6). 

            For it is criminals who are forced to endure Chinese rat torture (Freud, 1909, p. 12).  The ultimate symbol of mésaillance, anti-Semitic propaganda portraying Jews as “filthy” “contagious” “sneaky” “low class” “criminal” rats proliferated throughout pre-Nazi Weimar Republic, paving the way for the impending genocide.  Creature of the dark, predatory, spreader of illness (Bubonic plague), the rat’s profuse symbolic cultural significance during Rat Man’s lifetime would have been undeniable.  Indeed, Rat Man may have felt somewhere in his unconscious that his attraction to the post office clerk and his love of his poor barren lady friend would make him, essentially, the ultimate “rat,” a betrayer of his family’s legacy – and with it all of Vienna’s, and Western Europe’s, class and social codes (superego). A history of sexual acts with governesses (forbidden), of aggression (biting back), expose Rat Man’s repressed desire not to comply with class and inheritance rules in marriage: all of which might just make him feel like…a rat. For what could be more “rat”-like at the time than throwing over fortune and the family in favor of “slumming it” with a lower class maiden objectionable to his society and class on every level, who would be excluded from social functions by birth, and with whom, if he had them, his children would be not accepted in middle class Viennese society, but rather viewed as illegitimate “rats”?  He wanted to see them naked, laid bare, without clothes; as they were; Rat Man wanted to love whom he wanted to love; he wanted to answer the beast in him; and Father said No.


            Thus we let the doctor speak for himself: “The solution is effected by bringing the obsessional ideas into temporal relationship with the patient’s experiences” and “when the interconnections between an obsessional idea and the patient’s experiences have been discovered,” analyst and patient can start the process of “cleaning it up” (Freud, 1909, p. 30).  And how does one do this with ideas deposited in the unconscious in infantile state, inaccessible by the adult mind?  

            Through the techniques of transference and regression, which Freud details in the “exciting cause” (Freud, 1909, p. 40) of RM’s illness (his forthcoming arranged marriage) wherein Paul experiences a “transference phantasy” (Freud, 1909, p. 41).  Freud expertly recreates “the very episode from the past which [Paul] had forgotten” (Freud, 1909, p. 41) when Paul: imagines a stranger to be Freud’s own daughter (she’s not); imbues Freud’s family with “wealth and position” similar to that of his betrothed (which they don’t have); accuses Freud of being “kind and…patient with him” only because he “wanted to have him for a son-in-law” (he doesn’t, but this instance also plays out the troubling pseudo-homosexual betrayal of his youthful friend for his sister);  discovers that in this scenario marriage hinges not love, but money (Freud, 1909, p. 41).  Transference and countertransference also play out when Rat Man addresses Freud as “Captain” (Freud, 1909, p. 15) during a particularly triggering session. Rat Man’s cure is instituted here when the patient “talks to therapist as if he is talking to a ghost” (Cytrynbaum, 2016a), in this case, a ghost from the past: Rat Man’s father.             

            In summary, the therapeutic process succeeds when unresolved childhood issues are reactivated by building relationships of countertransference and transference through regression, thus nudging the preconscious and unconscious into consciousness (Cytrynbaum, 2016a). The therapeutic relationship is thus an intervention between past unmet needs and present behavior that isn’t working, focusing on where a patient is arrested developmentally.  Ultimately, Freud is successful in striking with his pick the buried artifact of Paul’s obsessional neuroses; unearthing it; and bringing to light data needed to propel Paul forward toward mature development and integration. 




Apuleius. (1951). The Golden Ass (R. Graves, Trans.).  New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


Berzoff, J., Flanagan, L.M., & Hertz, P. (Eds.).  (2011).  Inside Out and Outside In: Psychodynamic Clinical Theory and Psychopathology in Contemporary Multicultural Contexts.  Plymouth, U.K.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.


Cytrynbaum, S. (2016a, October). Lecture. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Cytrynbaum, S. (2016b, October). Course Handout. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL


Ehrlich, E., Flexnerm S. B. F., Carruth, G., & Hawkins, J.M. (Eds.).  (1980).  Oxford American Dictionary.  New York, NY: Avon Books.


Freud, S. (1909). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis: In P. Reiff (1996). Three Case Histories.  New York, NY: Touchstone.


Freud, S. (1927). The Ego and the Id. London, U.K.: Hogarth Press.


St. Clair, M. (2000).  Object Relations and Self Psychology.  Ontario, Canada: Wadsworth Brooks/Cole. 


























August 24, 2016 I woke from an extraordinarily lucid dream in which Bowie and I were married and had a six-year-old daughter who was at "Karen's."  (Let it be known that while before the dream I thought Bowie was a genius songwriter, I never had any feeling of intimacy about him.  And let it also be known that I've never been married.  And I don't have children.)  Anyway in the dream I had to tell Bowie that he was dead.  We both sobbed.  There's more to it than that, but it produced this and an enduring fascination that extended to the great Iggy Pop.  Wow!  I'd love to write songs and perform with him!  Anyway I'm grateful to be able to explore Bowie or Pop in any genre, including during my current studies at Northwestern University.  Here's an imperfect start.


            The following is an introductory analysis to songwriter, artist, musician, and performer David Bowie’s (1947–2016) struggles with mental illness during his artistic ascension from 1968 to 1979.  The creator’s profoundly varied, prodigious, and critically acclaimed songwriting came to the fore during prolonged periods of cross-dressing, androgyny, and bisexuality. Using Kohut’s self-psychology and Winnicott’s object relations theory, we will explore how, through the use of artistic persona and personal relationships, David Bowie ostensibly “healed himself.”


            Our first area of study is based on Winnicott’s notions of dependence: “If dependence really does mean dependence, then the history of an individual baby cannot be written in terms of the baby alone.  It must be written in terms also of the environmental provision which either meets dependence needs or fails to meet them” (1971, p. 95). 

           In David Bowie, born David Burns Jones, we have a grappling with Mother, starting from his birth as Margaret Mary “Peggy” Burns’ third illegitimate child, and continuing throughout the course of his life. Having a “reputation as a sexual predator” (Sandford, 1996, p. 10), and known for her coldness and mood swings, Peggy was from a long line of madness.[1] With a “growing tendency to depression, and later, schizophrenia” (Sanford 10) Peggy “found it hard to display emotion towards anyone but young children” (Gillman & Gillman, 1986, p. 42), and was according to her sister Pat “affectionate…in her handling of babies” …but not much else. Bowie’s childhood friend Dudley Chapman paints a rather grimmer picture: “Peggy would open the door and stand aside as David entered without exchanging a word.  ‘It was a very cold household…It was as if he was there but not there.  There was no sign of affection at any time.  I don’t think it was a family. It was a lot of people who happened to be living under the same roof’” (Gillmans, 54).

         To put it euphemistically, Bowie’s childhood environment was the antithesis of “facilitating” (St. Clair 65), and Peggy Jones’s mothering was the opposite of “good-enough” (Winnicott 66).  Complicating matters, Terry, Peggy’s son conceived with “the love of her life” (Gillman and Gillman, 1986, p. 37) – notably not David’s father John[2], which embittered the ne’er-do-well to no end – “move[d] into” the family home at age ten.  This corresponded with Bowie’s birth, and little baby Bowie “slept in the bed next to” (Stanford, 14) Terry throughout his infancy[3]

         To complicate matters, Peggy’s sister Una, confined to an insane asylum, contributed to the already cramped household when she sent six-year old daughter Kristina to stay at the Jones home while David was an infant.  Kristina “smeared excrement from [Bowie’s] nappy on the wall” (41) she later disclosed, because she “was jealous” (41).  She also reports to have “punched David to make him cry, and the first time he stood up,…screamed with laughter and pushed him down” (41).  “I intended to be the only one who walked” (Gillman, 41, 1986), Kristina announced to one biographer.  Worse, David’s father John, a failed piano bar owner who worked as a hotel porter, seethed jealous animosity toward David’s half-brother Terry, who bore a strong and uncanny physical resemblance to Peggy’s idealized absent lover.  Broadly put, Bowie biographers (Gillman, Stadford, Leigh, Bowie) report an early childhood of entrapment in a tiny home rife with mockery, humiliation, paranoia, and abuse, with alternating periods of favoritism in which David was treated “like a god” (Sandford, 1996, p. 66). 

         There was one light for David, however: his older half-brother – and future deranged and in-and-out-of-institution[4] manic depressive and schizophrenic who would eventually commit suicide – Terry.  Bowie’s infant bed mate, childhood conspirator, and close friend would perhaps give baby Bowie his first experience of mirroring, or Winnicott’s notion of: “When I look I am seen, and so I exist” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 71).  As one biographer writes, Terry and David were very close: 

         The fondest relationship in the [early childhood] household at that time…was between David and Terry.  They shared a bedroom on the ground floor, and on cold mornings David would snuggle into Terry’s bed.  He worshiped Terry…and Terry idolized him” (Gillman and Gillman, 1986, p. 43)

         It was half-brother Terry – not Mother – who David slept with as an infant, and Terry would continue to provide baby and then childhood Bowie with the “facilitating environment” deficient in Mother.  Indeed it could be argued that Terry provided David with a “transitional object”[5] (Winnicott, 1971, p. 12), of sorts, a kind of Mother-Brother figure, which facilitated his growth as a creator, songwriter, musician, and artist.  For critically, Mother shunned not only David but his art – as Bowie put it: “A compliment from [Mother] was very hard to come by.  I would get my paints out and all she could say was ‘I hope you’re not going to make a mess’” (Sanford, 14) – while half-brother Terry provided a nurturing artistic and educational environment in which Bowie could stretch his gifted and precocious wings: 

          Over the next fifteen years Terry, the good-looking boy with a taste for jazz and Beat authors like Jack Kerouac, became a role model and virtual tutor.  As Peggy’s sister Pal said, ‘David worshipped Terry. And Terry idolized him.”  Bowie’s obsession with madness remained a constant, but he drifted apart from its flesh-and-blood archetype” (Sandord, 1996, p. 15).    

          There were wrinkles in this tenuous and deficient pseudo-holding environment, however, even as it would be Bowie’s only childhood experience of “good-enough (bro)thering.” First was Bowie’s father John, who hated Terry for bearing an uncannily similar physical resemblance to the “love of [his wife’s] life” (Gillman and Gillman, 1986, p. 37); so toxic was John’s jealous animosity toward Terry, in fact, that “John actively discouraged signs of affection toward Terry from both David and [cousin] Kristina” (Gillman and Gillman, 1986, pp. 49-50).  Worse, David’s mother repeatedly kicked older half-brother Terry out of the house, during which he would wander for weeks, homeless. Terry’s sometimes-dependence on Bowie for food and other necessities during these intervals, which Bowie would as a child “sneak him,” would become a lifelong psychological, if not physical, dependence.[6] 

          Psychologically put, Peggy Bowie provided the opposite of what Kohut’s self-psychology necessitates in healthy childhood development: “empathetic attunement” (Berzoff, 2011, p. 166).  If “repeated empathic failures are the roots of disturbance and thwarted growth” (Berzoff, 2011, p. 166) then the effects of Peggy’s coldness would be a crippling nonexistence of the mother-infant merger: to lover Ava Cherry, Bowie disclosed he “felt nothing for his mother” (Sanford, 1996, p. 144).  When David’s mother then repeatedly exiled his older brother – whom he idolized, loved, revered, felt union with and learned from – David would likely be forced to consider what his mother would do to him if she knew of the parts of himself he and his brother shared.   Winnicott would say that to combat this fear, David buried his “true self” (St Clair p. 67) with a “false self” that would account for much of what was reported offstage throughout his twenties as “cold natural reserve,” controlled manner, and paranoia, a state lacking intimacy in which he trusted “no one” (Sandford, p. 66).  Indeed, intimacy was not safe.

           Perhaps this was a family/genetic prescription for survival: shutting down.  Both parents and even half-brother were known as “aloof” and “cold” people, perhaps shutting off emotions as a way to deal with fear of madness, a proclivity/tendency David Bowie was to purport using to “control himself.”  This does not, however, signify David’s desperation for attention, love, and nurturing as a child, not only artistically but essentially. While displaying precocious focus, musicality, and body awareness (grace and talent for dance and movement), as a child of four:

…the…neighbors would routinely be startled by the arrival of the borough ambulance, summoned by [Bowie’s] plausible, yet always          unfounded, claim to be ‘dying.’…As he grew older, David grew more ambitious in his efforts to draw attention to himself.  Kohl remembers a winter’s night when ‘two fire engines – half the local brigade’ arrived at Stansfield Road on a fire alarm” (Sanford, 12-13). 

          In a way, Bowie was “dying” the death of his “True” self, an arrest in maturation that would persist throughout Bowie’s 20s and to which Bowie would attest exhaustively in interviews: “There is no David Bowie.”[7]  Mother would live on to torment, as evidenced by David’s first wife of ten years Angela, who would describe their adult relationship in 1967 as “pecking at each other like psychotic vultures in [a] closed little house” (A. Bowie, p. 61, 1993), and Peggy “as mean as she was miserable,” a woman whose “abuse came in multiple forms, from out-and-out diatribes to low-level harassment” (A. Bowie, p. 62, 1993), even as Terry’s need became more pronounced, perhaps culminating in that “Space Oddity” was released in the same month that Terry was institutionalized” (Sanford, 1996, 15). 

          David Bowie’s early childhood, then, was fraught with favoritism, intense competition for approval from and with half-sibling Terry and troubled daughter-of-a-schizophrenic-mother Kristin, a household overcrowding, and paranoid schizo-affected mother.  As has been shown, this would be the exact opposite of Winnicott’s “good-enough mothering” and safe “holding environment” for early childhood development (St Clair, 64).  Bowie’s early childhood experiences with Mother, Brother, and cousin Kristina then offer snapshots of a childhood encouraging Winnicottian notions of fragmentation and depersonalization (St. Clair, 2000, p. 72) rather than “integration” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 70), to say nothing of Mahler’s necessity of “a libidinally available mother who allows for the unfolding of innate potential” (St Clair 94). 

          Since Winnicott’s theory lack a unified theory of development, it does seem prudent to use Mahler here, in brief, to theorized developmental processes.  Postulating that “Disruption of the parent-child relationship during the autistic, symbiotic, or separation-individuation phases results in varying degrees of serious pathology” (St Clair, 2000, p. 94), Mahler’s four developmental subphases show how Bowie’s self could have become profoundly fragmented, requiring intervention in the form of analysis or (in Bowie’s case) art therapy:  Bowie’s childhood experiences exposed disrupted: 1. “differentiation and body image” or “symbiotic emotional supplies” (St Clair 89) – exemplified when cousin Kristin spread Baby Bowie’s feces in his playroom; when Peggy outsourced infant nighttime duties to Terry, with whom Bowie slept; and Peggy’s overwhelming disinterest, volatility, and aloofness; 2. “practicing,” wherein “[t]he ability to crawl and then walk, to move physically away from mother, plays a crucial role in the clear psychic representation of the ‘I’” (St Clair, 89) – as when cousin Kristin pushed him down when he tried to walk; 3. rapprochement[8], or the time “when the toddler wants the mother to share each newly acquired skill and experience” (St. Clair 91) – consider Peggy’s dismissal of Bowie’s painting, for instance; and the fourth subphase: “emotional object constancy and individuality” which “depends on the internalization of a positive inner image of the mother that supplies comfort to the child in the mother’s physical absence and that allows the child to function separately” (St Clair, 93).  This gives way to the next section because in David’s case, it seems, in order to internalize Mother, he had to become her.


            The following section explores in brief how Bowie integrated fragmented aspects of his self through the use of stage and songwriting persona.  A thorough exploration would formally dissect these aspects, and thoroughly integrate Bowie’s lyrics, albums, and overarching topical concerns – but, regrettably, this far exceeds the limits of this paper. However we will explore in brief how Bowie through artistic relationship, artistic output, and stage persona tripped through the three poles of the self to ultimately integrate[9].  

                                    GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER

            Picture it: David Bowie steps off a plane into U.S for his first American tour in 1970 wearing…a dress (A. Bowie, p. 128, 1993).  His long hair, thin waist, and graceful mannerisms culled from years studying theater, dance – and his own wife – make him a wondrous, androgynous, vision.  What a lovely…woman. By donning a dress and following his first wife’s lead[10], Bowie participated in a form of “transmuting internalization” by which “aspects of the selfobject are absorbed into the child’s self” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 142).

            The first need of the child is mirroring, which, when done correctly, leaves a child singing “I am terrific, perfect; look at me!” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 143).  Yes, David Bowie’s wife of ten years, Angela Barnett was an exceptional mirror.  In some ways, Angela Bowie’s role to Bowie personifies the term “selfobject”: “persons…experienced as parts of the self or that are used in the service of the self to provide a function for the self” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 142).  It was Angela who both found the dresses that made Bowie a hit and encouraged him to wear them. To her, David was a “gleam in the mother’s eye” (Kohut and Rogers handout, 1985); she fawned over his appearance and encouraged his creative fancy.  A “Space Oddity den mother” (A. Bowie, 1993, p. 77), as she called herself, with an unshakable conviction in his genius and talent, she managed Bowie’s managers; “promoted and protected…the ideas he stood for” (p. 182); provided him a “home base secured and operational” (p. 83) known as Haddon Hall; and advocated when David became passive: “More and more, I became the person who put his ideas into action, found and secured the resources he needed, and kicked down the doors he wanted to walk through” (A. Bowie, 1993, p. 57), she reports. 

          Good-enough mothering, indeed.  Through “optimal mirroring, interaction, and frustration” (Berzoff, p. 176) Angela helped strengthen – or perhaps form – David’s first pole of the self by mirroring the grandiose self, and “reflect[ing] and identit[ifying] its unique capacities, talents, and characteristics” (Berzoff, p. 170).  And in the sufficient nurturing of that pole through mirroring, Bowie’s adult self-esteem was born: with “I can make it happen” ambition, he stormed the U.S.  To catalyze growth, as a mirror, Angela was also uniquely a twin.  Photos of Bowie and Angela evidence striking physical similarities perhaps enabling the untrusting and paranoid, or narcissistically compromised David to “merge” (Rogers and Kohut, 1985): both were bisexual, pale, blondish, tall and waif like, they had short similarly shaded hair and similar (nearly familial) facial features.  When David Bowie married Angela the “door kick[er]” (Bowie, p. 83, 1993) whom he “did not love,” (Bowie, p. 64, 1993) he committed himself to spending ten years facing, cohabitating with, relating, and making love to a powerful, dominant, female, loving version of himself (and Mother) – barring the genius-level talent, of course.  In this way, Angela was both an empathetic mirroring selfobject…and a twin.

         Functioning as a selfobject, Angela helped “evoke the structured self” Bowie lacked from childhood and helped begin David’s trend toward “the continuity of…selfhood” (Rogers and Kohut, p. 171).  A dysfunctional childhood produced in Bowie a fragmented self trapped in arrested development.  As a 22 year-old, he was nearly erupting with all forms of “narcissistic injury” (171)…and these frequently made the news.  Outrageously bisexually sexually promiscuous; a chainsmoker and addict of everything, though preferring cocaine (grandiosity) and alcohol (numbing); prone to frequent “withdrawals” or “rage” (Kohut and Rogers, 1985); David was vulnerable to using the kinds of ineffective coping strategies Kohut covers at length (St. Clair, 2000, pp. 150–152). 

          But Angela helped close the gap on these huge developmental deficits.  She shared clothes, and at least one biographer finds that: “Androgyny was...[a] way [for David] to put clear water between himself and the stultifying world of [his parents]” (Sanford, 1996, p. 48).  In the pursuit of his interests she was a “storm trooper”(Sanford, 1996, p. 61), who mirrored his infant mother-merger needs by living with him “in a fantasy world” – or more accurately a “bisexual fantasy” world” (48).  In this sense, Angela became an “idealized parent image” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 149) to David, replicating the early mother-child relationship in which “the child tries to hold onto global narcissistic perfection by assigning it to an archaic object, the idealized parent image, and by striving to stay merged with this object” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 149).  Indeed, despite their differences, Bowie remained with Angie for a decade, suggesting that feelings he derived from this “idealizing transference,” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 149), the mobilization of the idealized parent image, felt safe, productive, and necessary.

          The relationship might have been complicated, it might have been messy, but it was a good start.  As Kohut theorizes, “the formation, cohesion, and health of the self actually occur from the taking in of good psychological nutrients from selfobjects. That is their function—to create and build a strong, vibrant self” (Berzoff, 2011, p. 167-168).  Angela most assuredly did that, placating Bowie’s grandiose, mirroring, and twinship needs, and even in many ways the idealized parent imago he lacked, thus opening up David to a world of possibility for self-development through the use of persona – and sexuality[11].

                        GOOD ENOUGH (MOTHER)–BROTHERS

            Another Kohutian developmental hurdle Bowie appears to have resolved through the use of persona was his alterego or twinship needs, expressed through the character of Ziggy Stardust[12], an alien from Mars.  Sharing a childhood bedroom, a bed, and who knows what else with his ten-years senior schizophrenic half-brother, Bowie was reared on the strange but sadly predictable schizophrenic cocktail of paranoia, alien invaders, and divergent thinking.  Consider the image of a teenager and a boy gazing out into the night from their shared bedroom window, aliens in their own home, avoiding the hell downstairs, whose gaze catches the “coaching-lamp of the Crown pub,” an “old lantern at dusk” seen as “‘romantic’ by a neighbor” (Sanford, 1996, p. 19), and we may just get a glimpse at what Bowie was feeling when he wrote in the eponymous song “Ziggy Stardust”: “Just a beer light to guide us” (Bowie, 1972, Track 9).  To cope, Bowie transformed into Ziggy Stardust.  “I was stalking time for the moon boys, the Bewlay Brothers”[13] (Bowie, 1971, Track 11), he would sing in a song of the same name.   

            Alter ego and twinship needs were actualized, and talents and skills “optimally utilized” (Rogers and Kohut, 1985) by Ziggy Stardust, the red-headed exhibitionist “alien” Bowie created to project confidence on stage and protect his fragmented, vulnerable, and developmentally immature self.  That Bowie chose a persona closely allied with the interests he shared with his “twin” brother (both creative, intelligent, divergent thinkers, plagued by various degrees with “the family curse”) makes sense when once considers madness was Bowie’s lifelong chief fear.  Marketed as his “alter ego” (Sanford, 1996, p. 107), Ziggy displayed an attractive “messianic quality” (Sanford, 1996, p. 78), a posture that must have been comforting Bowie, and yet just “beneath the arctic exterior there was a fragile ego” (165).   So obvious were Bowie’s attempt to distance himself from his troubled genetic past through the complicated use of personas that would bind him to it, even music critics noticed that:

            Bowie’s characters were a contradiction, or a series of contradictions – ‘like

            Houdini’s underwater cages, self-set traps from which he executes miraculous

            Escapes that work as well as the tricks they create’. The final word was from the      

            Illusionist himself: ‘There is no definitive David Bowie’ (Sanford, 1996, p. 160).

            Yet the Ziggy Stardust persona allowed David Bowie to integrate the “alien” and “mad” and “brother-like” parts of himself in a uniquely stable environment – the stage.  Wrestling with “true” and “false” selves left over from dysfunctional childhood – on his own[14] – would have been difficult enough.  But the stage’s unique “holding environment” (Winnicott) offered a safe place where Bowie in the persona of Ziggy could experience “positive feelings…of being actual and real.”  Winnicott theorizes: “In short, good maternal care brings the infant into existence as a person” (St Clair, 2000, p. 71).  This certainly applied to Bowie, whose stage persona Ziggy Stardust cemented his arrival as “a Star.” But identity confusion also made the coming down to “reality” harder.

            Welcome to the more “frustrating” (Kohut, pp. 144–145) aspects of Ziggy, which Bowie successfully endured, and which Kohut regarded as “playing a central role in the building up of self structure” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 144).  With the birth of Ziggy (Mahler might consider this another form of “practicing,” or “learning how to walk” – on stage) Bowie’s marriage to Angela fizzled (Mahler might insert here that the first subphase had been complete, wherein Angela’s attention suddenly became “too smothering and too intrusive”) (St Clair, 2000, p. 89) once Bowie realized he didn’t need to “check back” for Angela’s gaze as often – or at all.  As with most progress, there are regressions, and Bowie was no exception.  On the last night of Ziggy Stardust’s “life,” after which the persona would be retired, Bowie sobbed to strangers in an alley  in costume before his last show (see endnote 7), then carried on professionally with the performance in character.  Afterwards, he calmly walked into his dressing room, shut the door, and destroyed the place.  Described as a “rampage,” Standford writes:

            The table with its wine bottle and flowers, the walls, the chairs, the lamp and

            windows were all kicked and spat on.  But it was against himself, finally, rather

            than his fans or staff, that Bowie turned.  When he emerged it was noticed that, as

            well as his bloodshot eyes, he was scratched about his neck and face and showed a

            red bruise the size of an apple on his cheek (1996, p. 4).

            Kohut considered such “narcissistic rage to be pathological because it emerges when the very fabric of the self has been injured. Indeed, Kohut called narcissistic rage a “‘disintegration product,’ because it occurs when a person feels he or she is literally falling apart and has returned to a state of primitive disorganization” (Berzoff, 2011, p. 167).  With the “death” of adaptive strategy Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was alone again, left with the hollow center from childhood he and his half-brother shared, full of divergence, creativity, and paranoia.  The alien Ziggy fully integrated into his psyche, there was nowhere left to go, and Bowie would wander alone, taking comfort in cocaine – that enabler of grandiosity and “god” – until his next character/persona manifestation.  In other words, until the next persona – or actual person – helped Bowie internalize developmental needs and deliver crucial lessons and until it/he/she was wrung out, exhausted by overuse[15].   

            Around this time, collaborator, colleague, and “twin” Iggy Pop further helped Bowie carve out a “cohesive self” ­through the satisfying of twinship and idealizing needs – this time with a real, live, male figure.  Kohut postulated that “selfobject needs can and should be met by a variety of people and experiences throughout the life cycle” (Berzoff 173) and historically speaking, Iggy Pop remained a lifelong supply for Bowie.  If Kohut’s third pole “refers to the need to feel that there are others in the world who are similar to oneself,” and if “working through involves completing processes that were traumatically stopped in childhood” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 154), then merging with Iggy Pop, a punk rocker, was a strange but effective solution.  Ejected from his band, The Stooges, which had gained much acclaim but little in the way of finances, Pop and his career stalled when he wound up in the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA “on the verge of a mental breakdown” (Gillmans, 419). At this, Bowie “saved” Pop: he helped produce Iggy’s hit album Raw Power (1973), and invited Pop to room with him in Berlin between 1976–1979 where they would both work on “cleaning up” from drug addiction.  In essence, Bowie became, naturally, his “brother” in the true sense of the word: he became his friend.  Ultimately they co-wrote an album together (The Idiot, 1977), and Bowie even backed up Iggy on stage playing keyboard as a member Iggy’s band, thus becoming “one of the boys” after years spent on stage, out front, all alone.

            Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy – as his three solo albums from that era are known – together represent some of Bowie’s most critically acclaimed works.  Is it because Bowie made so much advancement in self-cohesion by twinning with Iggy?  Certainly, the benefits of woking with one’s “twin” were reciprocal: while in Germany Iggy dressed like Bowie, dyed his hair blonde, and imitated the sophisticated Brit at every turn (a bit of a My Fair Lady period).  Crucially, however, their merging was born of an alterego: Bowie met the Michigan-born Iggy Pop during his first (dress-wearing) 1971 U.S. tour and promptly started:

‘scrawling notes on a cocktail napkin about a crazy rock star named Iggy or Ziggy.’

Within hours of returning to Beckenham, Bowie was raving – to the point of

obsession when he was in the mood – about creating a fantasy character ‘who looks

like he’s landed from Mars’ (Sanford, 1996, p. 74).  

Fantastically, Bowie’s savior alter ego Ziggy had been based partially on Iggy Pop.  A sort of Mother-Brother-Alter Ego-Twin. 

            What drove Bowie to merge with Iggy so?  We can consult Kohut for guidance, who as a psychoanalyst theorized “There is no ego without id” but as a self-psychologist postulated “There is no id without ego” (St. Clair, 2000).  Described in their first meeting as “pale, intense, faultlessly manic, a hallow-eyed vagrant twenty pounds underweight” who “[i]n his first hour at the club…ate four full-scale breakfasts” (Sandford, 2000, p. 82), Iggy might have stood out plainly as…more of a “freak” than Bowie himself.  According to biographers “Iggy’s ways intrigued Bowie. His humor diverted him: the stories about Detroit and Ann Arbor, growing up in a trailer park, the clinical discussions about heroin and methadone. Bowie was shocked.” (Sanford, 2000, p. 82).  Further, after “three days without sleep,” Iggy, Bowie’s id-alterego-twin personified, proclaimed that “‘the only good rocker [is] a dead rocker’ and rendered himself insensible by smashing a beer bottle over his head” (Sanford, 2000, p. 82).   Bowie reported that Iggy “unleash[ed] the animalistic parts of rock…with no apparent inhibitions, least of all when performing on stage, a state that David himself hoped to achieve (Gillman and Gillman, p. 259).  But as one biographer writes:

            There was another component too.  At the core of the friendship was a therapeutic

            interaction that was of benefit to both.  As David helped nurse Iggy back to health

            [from a heroin addiction], through his loyalty and his diligent steering of Iggy’s

            career, it was as if he was vicariously solving his own problems.  Iggy helped David

            directly in turn, showing by his example that a body racked by drugs could recover

            its vitality and physique.  The other irresistible inference was that David had found

            in Iggy a sufferer from metal distress whom he could help, free from the risks of     

            confronting [his brother] Terry” (Gillman & Gillman, 1986, p. 419)

Thus Kohut’s three-pole theory of development and identity bore out: there was more to motivation for behavior than aggression and sex – the feeling of being “special.”  For Kohut, “self” as the central organizing principle existing simultaneously with id, ego, and superego, and narcissistic development, had to do with vicissitudes of self-esteem (Cytrynbaum, 2016a).  Clearly, Bowie and Pop helped each other find it. 

            Perhaps this is why Kohut’s self-psychology works well with lower-functioning borderlines, who are essentially psychotic in the middle with flimsy defenses circling them (Cytrynbaum, 2016a).  How closely does this resemble the fledgling Bowie and Pop, gender-bending, self-flagellating, underdeveloped, vomiting out uninhibited stage performances while internally riddled with a terrible turmoil? As with psychotics, you don’t want to rip away defenses – they need them (Cytrynbaum, 2016a).  Effective regression can only happen when individuals are a certain amount stable, and borderlines need more protection. Borderline, schizophrenic, psychotics, need more adaptive supportive therapy – not “assaultive” therapies that would most closely resemble Bowie’s dark childhood days.  Because borderline, schizophrenic, psychotic, and narcissistic patients have a hard time maintaining relationships, and have severe attachment disorders. Bowie’s finding of a “twin” or “alterego” on which he could “see himself” and attempt a stab at cohesion seems fittingly brilliant of his genius.  As Cytrynbaum states, “There are very dark caves in you that you can climb out of – with a very secure rope” (2016a).  Bowie and Pop were each other’s ropes.

            The experience of efficacy in psychoanalytic treatment “I can elicit a response, therefore I am somebody” (Wolf, p. 175) offers an inlet into how Bowie developed a cohesive self through persona and personal relationships.  With his “merger-hungry personality” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 148) he created personae that allowed him to wend his way through developmental stages he didn’t experience as a boy.  And fortunately, Bowie’s “true self” was found. By 1978, Bowie told a friend he had “grown up at last” (Sanford, 1996, p.190).  His addictions had fallen off, he had a string of hits, and when he performed them, it was “in his own clothes” so to speak.  In his success his mother finally approved of him, visiting one show once, an act of “rapproachment” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 190).  In 1979 Bowie was quoted as saying:

            Now I look at other people.  I even go into shops and, if somebody talks to me,

            I chat back.  Three years ago I could have no more done that than fly – literally.

            They couldn’t drag me on an airplane screaming, at one time.  Now, every day,

I get up more nerve and try to be more normal and less insulated against real people” (Sanford, 1996, p. 190).     

That Bowie had been in dangerous territory in his pursuit of a cohesive self, however, became clear later in life.  In 1993 at 46 years old, middle aged, Bowie remarked: “I often wondered at the time how near the line I was going…how far I should push myself.’  Ziggy and the other characters, explained Bowie, had been ‘alternative egos,’ a form of madness through which he had meant to save his sanity” (Sanford, 1996, p. 15).   Bowie’s exploration was risky, but luckily for him, successful. 

            More conservatively, Kohut, Mahler, and Winnicott’s theories would be better applied by a professional clinician in a safe holding environment for maximum expediency in the quest to bring about a cohesive self.



[1] As definitive biographer Bowie biographer Christopher Sandford writes, “The Burns history was chilling enough.  Peggy’s younger sister Una suffered from depression and schizophrenia, underwent electric shock and finally confinement at a Victorian asylum...and died in her late thirties.  A second sister, Vivienne, suffered a schizophrenic attack, and a third girl, Nora, was lobotomized in an effort to cure what her mother described as ‘bad nerves’.  Of Peggy’s two remaining siblings, a brother won a Military Medal for ‘utter disregard of his own life’ in the African desert, and a fourth sister, Pat (described by Bowie as a ‘frightful aunt’…was cast as the family rabble-rouser.  Peggy’s parents, Margaret and Jimmy, were, respectively, a frustrated poet and self-confessed ‘madwoman,’ and a fantasist who concocted a fictional career as a war hero” (Sanford, p. 14, 1996).


[2] Terry was born in 1937 “from an affair with James Rosenberg, a Jew with whom she fell in love despite her active membership in Oswald Mosley’s fascist, pro-Nazi Blackshirts” (A. Bowie, p. 33, 1933). 


[3] Erchak writes, “When male babies sleep with their mothers while father sleeps elsewhere, they identify with their mothers, a cross-sex identification; when they sleep with both parents, they identify (nonsexually) with adults” (p. 65, 1992).  What then happens when male babies sleep with their brothers?  It would follow that a same-sex identification might be born. 


[4] Bowie’s heralded album The Man Who Sold the World’s (1970) original U.K. album cover – a photograph of a beautiful long-haired Bowie lying supine and suggestively in a dress tossing playing cards – was summarily rejected for transatlantic transmission by Mercury Record executives.  Friend Mike Weller produced the new design, an image of a cowboy in front of Cane Hill Hospital, the institution “where Terry Burns was confined” (Sanford, 1993, p. 75), which became a telling “version” of Bowie to which U.S. audiences were first introduced. 


[5] A full analysis of Winnicott’s transitional object would be helpful but is too exhaustive for the limits of this paper.  Some considerations “made on the basis of accepted psychoanalytic theory” would be that that transitional object: 1. stands for the breast, or object of first relationship; 2. precedes reality-testing; 3. passes from “(magical) omnipotent control to control by manipulation (involving muscle eroticism and coordination pleasure)”; 4. may develop “into a fetish object and so persist as a characteristic of the adult sexual life”; 5. may “because of anal erotic organization, stand for feces (but it is not for this reason that it may become smelly and remain unwashed)” (1971, p. 12).   


[6]After the end of one institutional hospitalization in 1970/1971 Terry stayed with newlyweds David and his first wife Angie at their artistic commune Haddon Hall for about a month (Bowie’s seminal “Space Oddity” had been written mid-January 1969 and released July of the same year).  It was perhaps his feeling of being understood by the song that drew him to seek refuge with his now-22-year-old-half-brother, though he would repeatedly be “turned away” (Sanford, 1996, p. 58) by the very busy Bowie thereafter.  This symbolized a lifelong desperation: Terry reaching out the brother he heard on the radio and whom he idolized, and Bowie’s distance attributed by Aunt Pat – who maintained a lifelong relationship with the institutionalized brother – to being “afraid of losing his sanity and ‘terrified’ to visit Terry” (Sanford, p. 217).  Shortly before Terry’s successful suicide at age 47 (1984), and despite Bowie’s “neglect” (Leigh, 2014, p. 225), Terry continued to maintain that “David could get him out of Cane Hill” (Gillman and Gillman, 1986, p. 475), and after one unsuccessful attempt (of many) awoke from unconsciousness muttering “‘David would be waiting’ for him at home” (Sanford, 1996, p. 237).  One might imagine that Terry’s last thoughts, lying with his head on the tracks, were of his half-brother.  Though Bowie sidestepped, denied, and avoided much of his childhood and fraternal obligations and implications, his artwork – featuring many portraits of Terry – belies his lifelong “survivor’s guilt” of sorts: a guilt that he had abandoned his mother-brother and failed to be even a marginally adequate “brother’s keeper.”


[7] One particularly illustrative example is given by David’s close friend and guitarist Mark Ronson occurring during Bowie’s last performance as persona Ziggy Stardust (explored in the next section).  Before the show Bowie was struck by a “hoarse shout from his manager of ‘Where’s David?’ According to Bowie’s guitarist, his exact response to the question was to mutter, ‘You tell me’, before surrendering to the frantic cries from the dressing room” (Sanford, 1996, p. 2). 


[8] St. Clair eloquently explains: “Maternal unavailablility can make practicing and exploratory activities brief and subdued.  A child preoccupied with [his] mother’s availability is unable to invest energy in her environment and in the development of other important skills and often returns to her in efforts to engage her.  The child can become insistent and even desperate in attempts to woo her.  This desperation depletes energy from the ego, and the child may revert to earlier splitting mechanisms; serious developmental arrest can result in pathological narcissism and borderline phenomena” (2000, p. 93).  


[9] Akin to Mahler’s necessity of “a libidinally available mother who allows for the unfolding of innate potential” (St. Clair, p. 94), Kohut describes narcissism as “a withdrawal of instinctual energy from external objects and an investment of libido in the ego” (St Clair, 2000, p. 140) by an infant/child due to inadequate mothering.  In “good-enough” mothering (Winnicott’s term, but applicable) grandiose-exhibitionist needs are established when a “selfobject…empathically responds to the child by approving and mirroring this grandiose self” and idealized parental imago needs are met by “permitting and enjoying the child’s idealization of the parent” (St Clair, 2000, p. 143). 


[10] A strong case could be made that Bowie’s first wife Angela consistently met all three Kohutian healthy development needs – grandiose/exhibitionist, alterego/twinship, and idealizing – during David’s early adulthood, and that by providing such consistent responsiveness (barring bad behavior, of course), she helped Bowie shore up “psychic structures capable of dealing with anxiety an so on” (St. Clair, 2000, p. 150).  But for the subject of this paper, here we limit our focus to grandiose/exhibitionist needs.


[11] It does not escape me that Jung could provide guidance in an exploration of Bowie’s artistic cobbling together of a fractured self.  Particularly useful would be Jung’s Red Book tanglings with Philemon (his own flirtation with psychosis) during which a woman “interfere[d] with [him] from within” (1965, p. 186).  Inspired to conduct a longterm dialogue with her in the realm of active imagination, Jung would later conclude from this internal relationship “I came to see that this inner feminine figure plays a typical, or archetypal, role in the unconscious of a man, and I called her the ‘anima’” (1965, p. 186).    



[13] Here one might scrutinize Winnicott’s exploratory writings on Baby’s first sounds as they relate to birth order, thumb, and transitional object (1971, p. 11).  Was “Bewlay” Bowie’s first “Baa” word? A conflation of “brother” (or “brother-mother”) and “Terry”?  While we’ll never know, the possibility is intriguing to consider. 


[14]That Bowie was able to cobble together the Kohutian developmental skill sets he didn’t learn at home was even more shocking in light of his view of analysts at the time. Disenchanted with the deleterious effects mental health institutions and professionals had on his relatives (suicide and institutionalization abounded), Bowie admitted: “I hadn’t been to an analyst…my parents went, my brothers and sisters and my aunts and uncles and cousins, they did that, they ended up in a much worse state, so I stayed away. I thought I’d write my problems out” (Sanford, 1996, p. 15). 


[15]While living in Berlin with Pop, Bowie developed The Thin White Duke character, through which one could make a case that he continued to integrate the “idealized parent imago” pole.  At his best, the Duke represented an idealized image of “Father” Europe, the well-dressed, suited, short-haired gentleman of sophistication, charm, and erudition. Internalizing these values allowed Bowie to “see the strength and wonder outside of the self, in others, in order to merge with their growth-enhancing qualities” (Berzoff p. 173).  However, The Thin White Duke also contained its shadow, helped along by Bowie’s frequent cocaine psychosis, containing the destructive mythology of modern colonial Western White man.  One biographer reports that in:

the magical side of the…Nazi campaign, and the mythology involved’; the myth of national regeneration and of the ‘new man’…[Bowie] saw the core of the involvement as the appeal to personal growth through leadership of an all-wise guru, who like Nietzsche’s ‘superman’ dared to stand apart (Sanford 177). 

David’s idealization needs were thus complicated by his obsessive use of cocaine which made him psychotic and paranoid, ultimately bringing about the very thing he feared: madness.  Thankfully after a German orthodontist produced Holocaust victims’ skulls “to demonstrate the dental merits of ‘Nordic blood,’” Bowie “reversed himself” (Sanford 178), completely and remained ashamed of himself and the episode, which he attributed to…a lot of coke. 




Berzoff, J., Flanagan, L.M., & Hertz, P. (Eds.).  (2011).  Inside Out and Outside In: Psychodynamic Clinical Theory and Psychopathology in Contemporary Multicultural Contexts.  Plymouth, U.K.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.


Bowie, A., and Carr, P.  (1993).  Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie.  New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 


Cytrynbaum, S. (2016a, November). Lecture. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Cytrynbaum, S. (2016b, November). Course Handout. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.


Erchak, Gerald M. (1992).  The Anthropology of Self and Behavior.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


Gillman, L. & Gillman, P. (1986).  Alias David Bowie.  New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.


Jung, C. G. (1965).  Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York, NY: Vintage Books. 

Kohut, H. (1984).  How Does Analysis Cure?  A. Goldberg & P. Stepansky (Eds.).  Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 

Kohut, K.H. & Rogers, C.  (1985, August).  American Psychologist


Leigh, Wendy.  (2014).  Bowie.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.


St. Clair, M. (2000).  Object Relations and Self Psychology.  Ontario, Canada: Wadsworth Brooks/Cole. 


Sandford, C.  (1996).  Bowie: Loving the Alien.  London, U.K.: Da Capo Press. 


Winnicott, D. W. (1971).  Playing and Reality.  New York, NY: Routledge. 


Wolf, E. S.  (1988).  Treating the Self: Elements of Clinical Self-Psychology. New York, NY: Guilford Press. 


Kanye West, and whatever combo of whatever symptoms he has – from his paranoia, schizoid personality type [divergent]; from his creativity, manic-depression; from his narcissism, trauma – would have benefited from a counselor.

Why a counselor?  

Well, counselors talk to you.  

They don't:

* give you pills.

* change your life (like a social worker). 

* cost as much (as much a psychologist)

They don't, even, really try to be your friend.  Though they're acting like one.

                                                                     #   #   #

The Greeks personified "counsel" as the goddess Themis.  Known as "the lady of good counsel," she personified "divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom" (Wikipedia, 12/7/16, "Themis").  The Greeks liked to personify concepts because it encourages upper-level thinking.  

And actually, Themis was even more badass than your average "Greek goddess": Themis was a Titaness.  Titans descended from Mother Gaea – Mother Earth (and the name of an enlightening bong at the house where I lived in college, Rowdy Bush) – and Father Uranus (um, you figure that one out these days) (1).

Often depicted blindfolded and holding a sword (kinky), she is symbolized by the Scales of Justice, tools "used to remain balanced and pragmatic."  And the sword symbol is no joke: it's "believed to represent the ability Themis had from cutting fact from fiction; to her there was no middle ground" (Wikipedia, 12/7/16, "Themis").

Also, she could predict the future.  This ability "enabled her to become one of the Oracles of Delphi" (Wikipedia, 12/7/16, "Themis").   I won't go into the "goddess of divine justice" part, as the words "divine" and "justice" bring to mind modern-day insanities like creationism and global warming deniers.  But let's just say Themis "built the Oracle at Delphi and was herself oracular" (Wikipedia, 12/7/16, "Themis").

All that to say that if Kanye West had a good counselor around, he may not be where he is right now: Paranoid.  Kicked out of his home.  A wife with full-court press saying she’s divorcing him, and was planning to for some time, anyway (kinda shitty, gotta admit it). 

A counselor would have, well, er…counseled. 

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How long has he been having symptoms?  Can he trust anybody?  Does he have a more formal therapist?  Is he using substances?  Of his prescribed medications, are his dosages correct?  How is he sleeping?  What are his dreams?  Does he remember his dreams, and if yes, anything stick out?  

Consider, too, the strangely symbolic situation: West has entered a matriarchal clan as a wounded son of a lost mother, lost to the very industry he sacrificed his life to enter.

(Could be a lyric.)  

And recently his wife (surrogate Mother) was nearly killed in a traumatic event in some ways also caused by the couple's admittedly self-chosen materialistic lifestyle (mother was killed by vanity/materialism, now wife has been nearly killed by vanity/materialism.  It's reasonable to ask how one processes that *without* good counsel).  

Anyway, we’ve had lots of joy, groove, Kanye’s hands, and it would be easy to discount and scapegoat him right now.  But for the most part what Kanye's given us has been creative and courageous.  

Remember, for instance, when West announced “George W. Bush hates black people” at the post-Katrina Hollywood telethon one day after National Guardsmen finally arrived at the Louisiana Superdome where people had been abandoned for days without food water and basic sanitation (horror stories of individuals plummeting to their death from upper levels of a stadium whose roof "peeled away" in the storm; of women getting raped; of toilets blocked up flooding feces and urine into the stadium corridors) (Wikipedia, "Effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Louisiana Superdome," 12/7/16). 

So so what. West may be slightly paranoid, but so was David Bowie. 

Visionary people are often rather paranoid. 

At least, that’s how they seem to the people who don’t see what they do. 

                                                                      #   #   #

So let’s withhold judgment on Chicago's Kanye for the time being, and perhaps reflect on our own shadows.  Where, in ourselves, do we see Kanye, and how do we feel about those places?  Where are those places?  In our hands, heads, or hearts?  Where do we see Kanye in ourselves in general, and how to we feel about him if and when we see him there?  Do we see him there at all?  (If we don't, we're lying to ourselves, at least according to Jung's theory of "collective unconscious.")

Anyway, this is the kind of relationship a good counselor might have had with Kanye, perhaps preventing hospitalization.  Gentle.  Sophisticated.  Creative.  Counselors are trained in psychoanalytic technique, when they’re really good.  They’re rigorously vetted by colleagues who are rigorously vetted by professional peers in rigorously vetted get the drift.  There’s lots of rigor, vetting and professionalism.

That usually just means they’re pretty smart. 

                                                                        #   #   #

So for these reasons and all of the above, I submit that Kanye West would have benefitted from a longterm relationship with a good counselor, and I offer my services on an informal basis since I’m also a songwriter, musician, and writer who is in the process of being rigorously vetted, professionally.    

Thank you for your consideration.  


Themis, er, Rebecca

                                                                        #  #  #


(1) Is Trump Uranus?  Also, Prometheus is one of Themis' children.  Thus Themis is the mother of Prometheus, who created mankind by stealing fire from Mount Olympus and giving it to mankind.  So, like, Themis is the mother of the Father of Mankind.  <– Whoa!


Wikipedia: "Greek mythology"; “Themis”;”Gaea”; “counsel”; "Effect of Hurricane Katrina on the Louisiana Superdome"; "Kanye West"; "A Concert for Hurricane Katrina"  <– attribution = good!

Update on Appeal

Special thanks to my tireless attorneys Bill and Chris Niro. On Monday 11/9/15 we filed an appeal Brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals in our copyright infringement case against Lady Gaga et al. 

For over a year we tried very hard to settle Francescatti v. Germanotta, et al., but were unable to do so. We believe the District Court made errors that are pointed out in our Brief. 

As many of you know, there’s a problem with unattributed authorship in the digital music world. 

My attorneys stated our position in the Brief and we invite you to read it here: Docket #14-2432, or please message your email address and I’ll forward you a copy. 


Bad Economy: Bad for Artists, Bad for You

Probably stating the obvious here but the less money there is, the more struggling artists have to work longer hours at shitty jobs just to survive.  

And the less they create.  

Which is a big problem.  The worse the economy is, the more humans need to – yearn to – connect with simpler, human, and yes inexpensive experiences of...just being human.  

Is there anything more ooga booga than a rock concert?  Primal Man danced around fires, watched his shadows, and thus began to think his way out of cold, hunger, sickness, death. 

Live concerts make you feel – but they also inspire you to imagine.  A good song played through speakers frees the mind.  Conjuring up whatever you want is a liberating and delicious experience.  Never forget the thought police in Orwell’s 1984.

Just as ingenuity is essential to struggling people, as hustlers are sick creators at root, the digital global world is forcing us to be creative to survive. 

Need to find different work in a bad job market?  Imagine your life differently.  Need to figure out how your analog skill set can be harnessed and traded in a digital world?  Think your way out of it.  Blend, paint, stab at the paper.  Reinvent yourself.  Your story is what sells.  Acts that inspire humans to be more creative are thus life-inspiring. Necessity is the mother of invention, because without mothers we’re all dead.

ISIS already knows this.  

Do we?

I worry that as artists drop out of their crafts in order to survive, the world, our local communities, will suffer, too.  

Less independent art means less creative outlets, less space to feel think and be, and more suffocating parades of pictures and voices telling us what to buy, what to think, where to go, and what to do.  

So someone save the artists.  Give them money, give them a break.  Give them help, scrap metal to sell, your old gold jewelry, whatever.  Because without them we’re all a little less creative.

And a lot less able to survive. 

Humanity Will Never Be a Product

This country's so hell bent on perfection (perfect bodies, minds, spirit, etc.) I've come to find myself embracing the most human reveal of all: imperfection.

What separates us from the Coke can?  We're full of dents bumps and wrinkles.  We don't always have fizz.  We go flat.  We never taste the same way twice, and we smoke, drink, and fuck.  How's that for better?

I'd like to teach the world to sing.  In their own voice, whine and screech.  Depth and dolt.  Depression, despair, grief, disability – all of it.  What separates us from the animal is memory – and so much more separates us from the machine. 

How could we have forgotten this?  Every image bombarded our way has been perfected; we now have humans preaching consumerism of the self in every way imaginable.  Look this way; this cut; this sculpt; this Botox; don't move your forehead, even; act like you're on TV.  Be plastic, be fake.  

Well here's the gist.  The more I'm told to be perfect, look perfect, eat only protein; drink only water; meditate every day; don't get angry, lustful, mean, jealous, happy, sad; don't dream; the more I will gravitate to the mess, the swampy fertile organic mess out of which humanity springs.

Bring it on.  More toxicity.  More tears.  More pain.  More struggle.  More mistakes, so many more mistakes!  I am human, hear me fail!   



            That afternoon, I’d sprung a musician friend out of the Jabba-the-Hutt-looking hospital across the street which I’d always feared, but never been in.

            Ten days later, eight inches of colon removed,  I pick him up. 

            Push the wheelchair. 

            Drive, at his bidding, six city blocks on the rim of his Jeep to the gas station at Oakley and Grand where I filled the fucker with air to appease him, another zombie spinning out on Oxy, even as the tire was so shredded wind kicked me in the face as I worked.

            My grandfather taught my brother to read a tire gauge.  I had watched them.

            Well, know I know how to do it myself.

             Shower, hair, makeup, outfit, (Bill needs drugs from the pharmacy by six), Mitch stuck in traffic, (Bill is calling), (Colin can’t do it), okay, running out-of-house, black boots, heels, fishnets, choker, “Mitch, do me this favor. Let’s spin around to Randall Pharmacy and get him his drugs.”

            Mitch sighs.  I put on Ekhart Tolle.  He says, “This makes me want to kill myself.” 

            Friendly faces, hospital time, pharmacy world, aging and sickness, reality slow, slow.  Bureaucracy.  No one escapes the Real World. 

            “Thank you for helping us.”

            We’re at Augusta and Western, and “the beast” is happy again.

            “It’s your gig, if you want to be late, fine.”


DSC 0438a

            Under the umbrella of Fearless Radio, inches from the Hollywood film for which someone’s snarling up Michigan Avenue we arrive.

            On time. 

            We’ve handed off pills and cruised the Kennedy, Mitch soothing, in a way only bassists know.           

            Load in.  Set up.  

            Ah, the stage has holes. Built from slabs of wood with wide mouths where planks don’t match exactly, vaginal slits wait to suck me in. 


            Despite taking note, I’ll stick my heel in again and again, the same groove over and over, throughout the show, so that by the end the divot will be a known friend – or an enemy? – a slightly annoying but entirely manageable inconvenience I must contend with.

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            But first…spectacle.

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            Color crushed women boasting hubcap tits.  Bryan Sperry the artist sporting silver pants, silver shoes, his amour, Melanie, in a silver sequenced dress.

            “Is she his muse?” people whisper near “Diamond,” the silver mirror woman whose ass I photograph, only because it frames in its hearts a picture of me. 

            Why yes.

IMG 2218

            Isn’t that a better story?

            Phenomena-ing the dream.  We’re inside the mind at night; wild black place; half-asleep, colorful, cascading, faces turning into tongues that wrap around brains; fright pockmarked Middle Ages monks and birds as men, black with heavy oil paint; long room-sized swaths of geometric shapes.

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            And the women.

            The women: everywhere.

            Are they even women?  Or machines?

            Is the body mine, or plastic it will be?

            Am I a robot or a sentient being?

IMG 2220

            Women possessions, mannequins to toy with, to dress up, to own and play with, whose stories we invent for our own use.  Will you one day come alive to take us back?

            Beautiful hourglass machine women, wearing automobiles.

            Huge space, white tiles and walls, and rail-less stairway, the sense of freedom.  

IMG 2211

            The people balconies, surveying the room.

            Space, idea, color, shape, creativity.  Speaking from the center of your mind.  Not for products or sales or advertisement or corporations, but for yourself.

            In yourself.

            For the good of humanity.

            For the god of humanity.

            Or some such shit.

IMG 2225


            Bassist-by-trade, tonight Mitch is playing keys.

            A schoolboy to my right, he looks up from time to time.

            “Is it good?  Is it okay?  Are we having fun?”

            We are having fun.  Pure, body-sick, magical, other worldly fun.

            In a room we barely know to strangers.

            For Mitch, the fright and joy of toying with an instrument you know and love, but which is your second hand.

            Is it okay to have fun doing this?

            Is it okay to make mistakes?

            Is it okay to not be perfect?

            Yes yes yes yes, a resounding Yes.


            Suzanne Weaver like Arachne spins the event at Motor Row Gallery, unassuming, quiet, stable, strong, a piercing gaze web of wisdom and sense.

            Patrick sets everyone at ease, his love radiant and kindness brimming over his cheeks like light, then falling around to occupy his surrounding place.

            Kris, our hippy mother, off the shoulder in blue, ruffles and flowers, a beauty and sweetness that sets the hue.  That kind of femininity once possessed, but since been lost, painted over, by a hard masculine jaw, a survivor’s song, the admission that a chivalric code has been lost and you’re prey, damn it, better act accordingly.

            To see this live through, and perhaps only because of, the embracing charms of Patrick and Kris, this duo keeping alive independent music in Chicago, near their beautiful spectacular loft at 23rd street and Michigan, cozy with their beloved Jaco; a sun-drenched studio on the third floor; quiet, open, huge; space to breathe, to play, to be with music; to talk, to feel, to share; to be respected; a place where independence and creativity and the striving to connect and share uniqueness is not just respected but finally given the wide prairie place that matches its humble charms, its garden soul, its desperate need for breathing space.

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            Steve arrives from Milwaukee with roses wearing his black t-shirt with white cursive message: "To err is human, to forgive divine."  

            There is Roman Sobus, posing in a curvaceous slink only known to the photo soldiers who’ve spent years in dark rooms; bracing heavy cameras in dark venues stable against frenzy dancing shoulders; peering from a square aware of chemicals and shutters and lights, all of its spinning into the crystal of his sight: perspective, composition, light, mood, moment, snap.


            At the end of the night, Bruce Bilek of the tongue tornado says, “Everyone loves that one.  It isn’t even well-executed.”

            His army green jacket with strange admiral patches.  His self-defeat.

            “The songs I love the most are always just for me,” I say.  “What people love is never what I love the most.  But the ones I love lead the way for the others, so I love them anyway.”
            He wears Lennon glasses and looks at me curious.


            We walk into the cold, we disperse.

            For a few hours at least, we painted a dream.

            Moving through marvels of sound and vision, touch and remedy, we felt at one and at once that we were in each other’s dream.

            Aren’t we?


Why the U.S. Health Insurance System Sucks Monkey Balls (and is a Form of Genocide)

And I mean no offense to monkeys.

Yeah, some people might find this tack offensive.

But someone’s got to say something.


Monkey balls: primate, dirty, probably haven’t been bathed in a while.

Not something you’d like to have your lips on for too long, if at all.

In the realm of basic sexuality, not necessarily the most gratifying place to suck, if you know what I mean.

The seat of maleness. Testes, dominance, aggression, competition.

Monkey balls: the U.S. health care system.


Since both my parents both worked in the medical field, I was encouraged to pay into the fucked-as-monkey-balls U.S. system health insurance system right out of college.    

I’ve been self-employed ever since, humbly shelling out $80 a month for shitty health insurance – in 1996 – and continuing to this day’s rate of $350 plus a month.  

Just to secure the privilege of paying health insurance companies not to cover my medical bills.      

That's around 20 years or so of sucking monkey balls.  Big ones, too.  But on a positive note, it's given me plenty of time to see how what we mistakenly refer to as a health "care" system – is actually a health "insurance business."


Economics 101: the U.S. health insurance system is for-profit.  

Translation: no matter how much you like (or don't like) President Obama, Obamacare sucks.


Because in order to be for-profit, U.S. companies must by law post profit growth each quarter to their stockholders.

That means it's against the law for for-profit companies to lose money.  

In other words, Blue Cross, Humana, your basic "Health Insurance, Inc." – like all other publicly traded U.S. capitalist businesses (cars, wheat, fashion, makeup, hair cuts, grocery stores, etc.) – must continually GROW.  

There's just one teeny fucking problem to this equation (not to mention the growth-only nature of capitalism itself): Humans wax and wane like the moon.  We're young for a time, middle age for the rest, we grow old – if we're lucky –  we get sick, we die.  Biology 101.

Not ever, not at all, not once does a human ever "just keep growing."


These irreconcilable differences between U.S. monopoly capitalism and human frailty expose the essential scam of the U.S. health insurance system.  Health "insurance companies" – as for-profit businesses – are required by law to treat human beings (who don't grow forever) in for-profit (growth only) ways.

And there's only one way to do this:         

Deny care.  


What other way could companies continually post profits in a no-growth “industry” (the sickness and aging of human beings)?

Health insurance companies deny care because it's not profitable to give you the "care" you "purchased."

It's only profitable to pocket your money, deny your claim, and make you foot the bill.

Beginning to see why giving $350 a month to Blue Cross is like sucking on monkey balls?  

Noting a familiar business plan here? 

Smelling Ponzi?

Or just plain monkey balls? 



Known as "denying claims," the refusal to pay for customers’ medical care even when those customers have paid into the insurance system for the purpose of getting care is the only way health "insurance business" companies can post profits.

So Health Insurance, Inc. denies people medical care in several major ways:

1.  Most people can’t afford monthly premiums.

If you can’t afford your premium, and your premium covers nothing (as we've shown), you’re legally bound to pay into a system that gets you nothing.

2.  Even if you can afford your premium, you still pay out of pocket for your medical needs.

The only way for-profit health insurance companies continue to post profits is to pocket your money (monthly premiums), deny your claims (needed health care), and make you foot the bill (for what they said they'd cover). 

3.  Because customers end up paying out of pocket for medical costs, they don't even use the health services they’ve "supposedly" purchased – by buying insurance – because of the bills they’ll get afterward.

Let’s face it, if you’re 49, have a few kids and a wife, can barely afford the premiums as it is, and you're having chest pains, why the fuck would you go to the doctor?

How could you pay the bills that came in?  

Do you know how ridiculously expensive EKGs are?  MRIs?  Blood tests?

Do you know how much it costs to see a specialist?    

No.  Think I’ll deny this chest pain and have a beer, take some aspirin, sweat in bed.

And what about those bad headaches and strange moods?  Hmmm...must just be me.  I mean, I can't afford to go to the doctor anyway, so it better be.  

Short of breath?  Let's see, the power of positive thinking.  Okay, well, if I die my kids' college tuitions will be covered by my life insurance, which is more than I’m worth right now, anyway.          


We all know it, Europeans think we’re insane, and most of the informed members of this country admit it’s criminal.

The “richest country in the world's" citizens aren’t going to the doctor.  

So they wind up in the hospitals for weeks at a time due to preventable illnesses. 

They suffer massive strokes that could have been prevented with simple daily meds.

They weaken heart muscles by ignoring warning signs of mini-heart attacks and end up out of work and, worse, residing in institutional health care facilities that bill the government tons of cash because there’s no regulation, and they can.   

In other words: human beings in America are, through brash institutional subterfuge, being denied basic health care – something which is considered a right in other countries.  

And this is happening for a profit.


Smell monkey balls?

Don't see them dangling there?

Let's start by noticing that U.S. health insurance system propaganda is extraordinarily embedded.  Many brainwashed – and harebrained – citizens in this country even defend the scrotum system, justifying their right not to have adequate health care.  

"Seeing doctors is for pussies," you might overhear an American idiot say as he sips his PBR.

Compare this with Japan, where an average citizen visits his/her doctor 17 times a year.  That country has provided universal health care for its citizens since 1961.  

Contrary to the lies forwarded by the well-oiled health insurance propaganda machine – and repeated by dumbfucks – Japanese citizens aren't seeing doctors because “they're pussies."  Like most citizens of industrialized nations (including the nations of Europe, and Canada, etc.) they've grown up in a human-friendly culture.  They learned that good health comes from taking advantage of preventative medicine and having an intimate relationship with your doctor.  

To these citizens, doctors aren’t just the mechanic you call (at the emergency room) when you’ve totaled your car (body) on the highway (middle age).  

Our motto in America? “If you’d have come in for new tires (heart scan) when you were due for a checkup (40 years old), your car (body) wouldn’t be beyond repair (fucked).  Sorry, dude.” 


I know this sounds like “just how it is,” because we were raised on it, and being patriotic, want to defend the right of our country to be “different.”  But like all Earthen systems, the U.S. health “insurance system" is actually very basic, very tenuous, and created and run by humans themselves. 

Only a few humans, though.  That's the key here.  A handful, really, who’re making exorbitant sums, gaining enormous perks, and securing grand entitlements and advantages for doing things in this materialistic, monkey-balled, misanthropic way.

You see, letting us die of preventable illnesses while CEOs collect our money and give it to their children in the form of trust funds goes beyond “uncool.”

It’s criminal.


Allow me to wax poetic for a moment.  

It seems that if the timeworn Way of the Human ever returns, if we aren't subsumed by Robotic Fascism – which appears is happening at a rate faster than anyone thought possible – humankind will eventually view the late 20th century/early 21st century U.S. health insurance system as a form of genocide.

Why? First off, because the CEOs of Health Insurance, Inc. like Blue Cross and Humana are so rich, your money doesn’t even go to them.

It goes to their children’s trust funds. 

Yes, Timothy and Tammy's Trust Fund.  Ever met them?

Probably not.  They’re members of the Super Class.  They’re well-rounded, attractive, white, entitled, travel a lot, drive expensive cars, get facials, and have never had to work – ever.  They also marry equally rich trust fund children of equally rich CEO fathers.

And their children, and children’s children, will be equally rich from inheriting trust funds.

So when you write your monthly check, you’re paying into someone’s kid’s trust fund.                     

Picture it: Tammy Trust Fund's college tuition, grandiose and ridiculously expensive wedding, fancy cars, and third home? And that of her children? 

On you.           

Timmy Trust Fund’s love of sports cars, expensive watches, and obscure art?  And that of his children?

Yep, you’re popping.

When what you really wanted – or probably more accurately urgently needed – is a colonoscopy.


That’s why the image of me holding a pair of dirty monkey balls in my mouth comes to mind every month when I watch $350 siphoned out of my account going to Humana, or whichever interchangeable scam/Super Class dynasty I’ve randomly selected to give money to.

It’s not going to my heath care.    

It’s not going to doctors who actually provide care.

It’s not going to finance health care for poor people, the disabled, the elderly, or children.

It’s going to the stockholders of Humana, to post gains.           

It’s going toward Tammy Trust Fund Kid’s month in Boca this year.           

It's going to outfit expensive wooden boardrooms around which entitled CEOs discuss the “art projects” their multi-millionaire children are “into” and how to cut costs – meaning deny you and I medical care – so they can “post earnings.”      


Still, I'm not writing this is not to attack the injustices of the system.

We’re locked in pretty good right now.  And that’s really not my problem.  That’s the problem of the Trust Fund Fathers and Mothers who are running our government at the moment.  Though it does make it easy to see why "Obamacare" went through – meaning now we’re all required by law to pay into this criminal system – and why they simply don't give a shit that we can’t afford heart scans (they’re profiting on us not getting them).

No, I’m writing this because when it was just me paying into the system to get my parents off my case after college, at least I was comforted by the notion that most Americans weren't sucking monkey balls like I was.

That others were, in some ways, smarter.  

Risk-takers, maybe.  Rolling the dice.  But not...chumps.

Not bestial suckers.

Now, thanks to the "Affordable" “Care” Act, everyone has to pay into this corrupt system.

State-enforced lining of Tammy Trust Fund Kid’s pockets.

Not a good idea.

Not a free society.



So we’re coming upon the point of my essay: the U.S. health care system is barbaric.           

The jungle.

Every man for himself.


Monkeys are brutal, savage, cannot be reasoned with.        

They're animals.  They're selfish, they follow their instincts.  Pretty much, yeah.  That’s what they do.  

Entrusting two homes to your great-grandchild because a human wound up in a nursing home for the rest of his life because you wouldn’t pay for his heart check-up at age 52 is barbaric. 

Forcing people to mortgage their homes to pay for basic cancer treatment in middle age – because you want to turn a profit – is barbaric. 

Not caring that the entire mid-section of the populace (people between the ages of 40 and 65) are the ones who need preventable medicine the most, and denying them this, is barbaric.


How can we sit around defecating, I mean defending, it?

Last week I was lectured that I should feel "grateful" that people with “preexisting conditions” can now “get health insurance.”        


The term “preexisting condition” doesn’t even exist in Europe or Canada.   

Every other industrialized country in the world offers its citizens basic health care as a right of existence.

And it’s not because they’re altruists.

They’re not somehow more “loving” and “kind” than we are, nor are they more stupid or, gasp, "communistic."

They simply followed what their economic models told them after World War II when so many of their cities had been destroyed. 

Which was: providing all citizens with basic health care is more economically efficient for nations than not doing so.

All of Europe, Canada and Japan are not dumbasses.  

They simply accept that for-profit health care is an inefficient economic system.


So.  Question.  What will we do when the mid-section, the middle aged start dying off?                  

Who the fuck is going to take care of the children and the elderly when 50-year-olds start dropping in droves from preventable diseases because they can't afford to manage the illnesses of aging – even though they have "insurance"?     

How is this system still in place?           

How can we all be required to pay into it?


It seems we need to seriously reconsider how much catastrophic health insurance is worth. 

And not for what health insurance companies promise, but for what it actually is: infinitely recurring revenue to a bunch of super rich people.

How much are Tammy and Tommy Trust Fund Kids’ second homes in Aspen, third homes in Tampa, worth to you? 

How much is it worth to send Tam and Tom to the Superbowl, wherever it is, every year, for the rest of their lives?   

Enough for you and I to open wide and have a good suck?         

So how...does it taste?

I Didn't Say "Tip" Musicains, I said PAY Them

The amazing part about my last essay is not that anyone read it, it’s that some people got angry about “tipping musicians.”

“Tipping musicians”?

Who said anything about that? 


Musicians spend most of their lives honing their craft.

But no one wants to pay them for it.

This differs from accountants, who go to school for four to six years and then...oh yeah, get paid daily to practice their professions.

It differs from baristas who learn how to make espresso then...oh yeah, get paid to make espresso.

It differs from auto mechanics who study car bodies and engines and then...oh yeah, get paid to fix them.

These people are not “getting tipped,” mind you.

They’re not standing there like Oliver Twist with hat in hand begging. “Please sir, I’d like some more, sir.” 

They’re getting paid.


You “tip” Susie Barista because Starbucks doesn’t pay her enough in wages, so the transnational company “allows” you to supplement Susie Barista’s income.

Isn’t that nice of them?  Starbucks still pays her a wage and provides her health insurance.

Your “tip” is extra.

You “tip” Bob Bartender because the owner of the club doesn’t pay him enough in wages to make his rent. 

Your “tip” is extra.

And you “tip” Wendy Waitress because the restaurant she works at – and at which you pay heartily to eat –doesn’t pay her enough in wages to support her son.

In all these cases, “tips” are supplemental.

Not for musicians, though. 


I live in the third largest city in the country.  I know some of the region’s most talented musicians. 

These are men, usually in their thirties, forties, and fifties, who’ve been going at it their whole lives. 

And they’re dying.

They can’t afford health insurance.

They can’t afford food.

They can’t pay their rents.           

They’re dying, people. 


Of course you want them to play your weddings.  Isn’t it cute to be able to dance with daddy to a live version of “Isn’t She Lovely”?             

But after they set up, do the gig, and walk away, you pretty much don’t give a fuck about them.

Of course you want them to move you at your funerals.  “Oh Danny Boy” sung with emotion by a few acoustic guitar players trumps some cheesy recorded version, every time.

Of course you want them to be there in that hip dive bar on Division Street when you bring your friends in from Ohio.  “See how cool my city is, man?  Great live music here, badass.  Beat that, Cinci!”

Now I don’t know what’s going on down in Austin.  I’m too poor to get there.

I don’t know what’s happening in Nashville, though I’ve heard musicians work 8 to 10 hours day – and make a somewhat livable wage.

I can only speak for Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S.A.

And in this city, at this time, musicians are playing, largely, for free.


Why is this?

1. Venues get away with it.  Never bereft of the next hopeful group of troubadours, owners simply sit back and wait.  Musicians need to play, that’s how they ply their trade.  That’s how they get better.  Venues know this.

Ever see a performer look uncomfortable on stage?  It’s because he hasn’t practiced on tons.  Professionals seek stages like dancers seek out rehearsal rooms.  Like football players seek out fields.  Like athletes seek out gyms.  Like artists seek out charcoal.  Like models seek out mirrors.  Just making sure you’re paying attention on that last one. 

Players seek out stages.  Every time.  Like, every time.  Like, every time.  Like, to get good.  Bar managers know this, and offer musicians “use of” their stages occasionally – usually when the DJ they’re paying $300 a night to serve up crap is unavailable.           

It doesn’t matter that musicians attract patrons who guzzle beers, so they make venues money.

It doesn’t matter that the longer musicians play, the more patrons guzzle Jack Daniels, so the more venues makes on them.

Kinda reminds me of how the U.S. feels about health care “You can’t afford it?  You’re garbage.  You’re too poor to hire a dentist?  You’re not good enough for one then.”  It’s a barbaric jungle-oriented every-man-for-himself attitude America’s gotten away with for years now.  And it’s taking us down, both economically and culturally.                                            


2.  People don’t give a shit.  Individuals have been downloading music for free for fifteen years now.  At this point, humans feel entitled to not paying songwriters and musicians and producers and recording engineers to do their jobs.            

Only trouble is: if musicians and songwriters and producers and recording engineers don’t get paid, you have the kind of crap that’s coming out of Hollywood taking over the airwaves.  And you have a lot of sick and dead musicians in their middle years.  And you have a lot of really great musicians who give up because they (god forbid) have a family.  And you have a lot of musicians depressed and contemplating suicide.

What if someone told you marketing, teaching, advertisement, doctoring, taxi driving weren’t jobs anymore, they were volunteer positions?  Would you still go to work?  Do you enjoy your job enough to do it for free?      

I bet you would.           

Because our jobs, in many ways, define us. 


3.  Genuinely talented and gifted people make us nervous.  This is one no one wants to talk about.  And there are plenty of talented, gifted people walking around your neighborhood right now.  Look, there’s one now!  Holy crap, there goes another! 

Talented and gifted people spend their lives practicing, playing, crafting their talents and gifts.

And at the end of the day, they’re just not the same as you. 

They have a certain “edge.” 

They’ve done something “different.” 

They’ve taken a “risk.” 

They have a certain “sparkle.”

They made a choice long ago that they’re not going to follow the herd.

And you can smell it on them.

You can hear it in their voices.

You can taste it on their necks, because god, how you want these people.

They are the sexiest of them all.           


At the same time, though, meh, you’re jealous of them.

“What does she get to stand on a stage?  I have a good voice too!” you might overhear someone whining to her friend at a table in the corner.

“Why do they get to be out all night on a Wednesday when I have to work tomorrow morning?” 

“Wait that guy’s pretty good, my girlfriend’s giving him googly eyes.  Better snub him with the tips.”

And ah, yes, here we have the rub.

Back in the day, when there was a healthy diversity of songwriters and musicians in the top-40, and artists didn’t employ the same stylists and plastic surgeons, and didn’t make waaaay more than us, and actually were REAL PEOPLE not corporate stooges, they…had soul.

Their talent was authentic and seemed to “be” them, to “come from” them.

Now, at the Grammys, actors sing empty lines.

Corporate puppets do work for corporate sponsors.

And bars up and down Division Street in Chicago copy this model, playing the same hackneyed music, serving the same fru-fru drinks.           

Catering to the same people who’re afraid to strike out and themselves.

Be yourself.

Another rub.

It’s really fucking scary to just be yourself.


So when someone simply is themselves, simply does what they’re good at, it’s like a roaring fire.

When someone simply does what they’re good at, without apologies, without much ado, as though it’s simply a part of breathing, it confuses the rest of us.

“But, like, he’s not famous.  Why’s he doing this?”

“But, like, no one’s at this club?  Doesn’t that mean they suck?”

“But like I never heard of them before” which translates to: “So that means they suck.”

I’m getting off topic here.

My point is it takes more than a little balls to get on stage and sing anything, let alone your own music.

And for Christ’s sakes it takes more than courage to produce records, pay recording engineers, rent studios, pay musicians, hire publicists, pay printers, pay graphic artists,

It takes money, and it takes time.                                       


So the fury arisen by the notion that you should TIP musicians ultimately proves my point.  

Why, why, why don’t we pay musicians?    

You tell me.

I am one.                          

  © Rebecca F. 2017