Dr. Deutsch

October 12th, 2016

Dr. Deutsch

I was pretty much a complete wreck after leaving Wabash at the end of the sophomore year.  Maybe on the surface I looked okay: I did go out and get a job in town, in the art department of General Telephone Directory Company, about a half-hour walk from home.  I did manage to get up every morning, buy the NY Times, freshly delivered to the train station, and make a reasonable pretense at doing the job.  But inside, I was miserable and confused.

If you’ve never been confused about your sexual identity, I have something to tell you: It’s hell.  It’s a crazy, mixed-up hell, in which you’re not sure what it is you’re confused about–>in fact, you may not even know you’re confused, just that there’s something very, very wrong, and it won’t let you alone.

So: Doctor Deutch, on the recommendation of Elfrida Horst, who had been my pediatrician when I was a child, and a long-time family friend.

My little brother John also saw Dr. Deutsch, as did Mom and Dad, just to see what was up.  But I think that none of them ever got it.  Because Dr. D. was a hard row to hoe.

Dr. Deutsch, or Hans Deutsch (more on that later) was a strange man.  He was very much of the German persuasion, with a rich, sometimes impenetrable accent that never stayed on one subject (it seemed) for more than two seconds, and then reverted to pointing at his mouth and posturing and strutting about the room in a high dudgeon, and it was hard to know just what was going on??

The rest of my family, over time, gave up on Dr. D. after awhile; they just didn’t understand it, and so gave up on it.  But I stayed with it.  For over a year.  I should have received a medal.

Dr. Hans Deutsch was Viennese, a student of the Freudian school.  In fact, he was just a small number of years younger that the Master himself.  Hans Deutsch emigrated to the United States in the late 1930’s, force from his home by the rising and-semitism of the time.  He moved to Chicago and was one of the founders of the Chicago Psychological Society (this before psychiatry was a recognized profession).  He was the Society’s President for some years,until he realized that strict Freudian psychoanalysis was a dead-end pursuit, at which point he broke off from the Society to practise his own brand of therapy.

Dr. D was a small man, made smaller by his advanced years, probably at least in his late seventies, when we’ve all had a chance to shrink by several inches.  Although clean-shaven, his heavy German accent and commanding bearing betrayed his Viennese roots.  There were days when his pants were pee-stained at the crotch; at such times I couldn’t bear to look.  Sessions with Dr. D took place in his office, a room on the ground floor of his home in Chicago’s elegant Gold Coast, just above Lincoln Park.  I think it was on Schiller Street, or maybe Goethe.  One of the German romantic poets.

Mostly Dr. D talked, and I listened.  Here’s what I think he was driving at:

That language was responsible for much of our confusion, because of its identification with the ego.  He pointed often to ancient Greek theater, where the actors wore masks, called personae, which were just that, masks that would be discarded at the end of the performance; our own ‘personalities’ were similar, except we forget they were masks and mistook them for integral parts of ourselves.  The ‘self,’ the inner chatter of our minds, was equally insubstantial; it was for us to throw off the confusion, to take off the mask, to end the delusion.  Two pictures were on the wall of his office, one of a poet, with eyes raised to the sky, the other of a scientist, who was looking down, examining what was on the table before him.  The poet, the fool, and the scientist, the realist.

At least, that’s what I think he was saying.  Almost two years of listening to Dr. D talking, and that’s what I got out of it; and not at once–it took me many years to realise the truth of his lesson.

Whether that’s really what he was saying or not, as a year and and a half went by, I started feeling better about myself, and accepting myself for what I was.   I was meeting people, getting out in the world, both working in my off-year and then going to gay bars and starting college again.


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