The Moralistic Psychiatrist

Pinto was the only child of a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna. His father was baptized as an adult and became a town official who rose through the ranks of civil servants at the end of the nineteenth century. Pinto was sent to a prominent Realgymnasium in Vienna, where he proved to be a promising young boy. He studied medicine at the the University of Vienna and worked at a psychiatric hospital. He was an adept of the school of psycho-analysis, which had so recently taken the academic circles by storm. He followed in the footsteps of his old professor Joseph Breuer and the still young Sigmund Freud. When the sentiment in Vienna became too hostile for Jews, Pinto moved to Paris and set up his practice in Montparnasse.

In Montparnasse, Pinto gradually built up a name as an unconventional analyst, which attracted evidently a colorful clientèle. Some of his patients were rich noblesse or nouveau riche, while others were poor artists, who could not spend a centime. He was most fascinated by the Bohemiens, whom he saw en gratuit. Perhaps he grew up as a Jew in a gentile society, he shared a certain compassion for these outcasts. All his patients offered the greatest variation of psychological deviations and suffered from it with such intensity that it took little effort to reveal their pathologies.

“My father was a dominant man in our household. He behaved like the patriarch of the family, a king in his own house. He always ordered me to get his cup of tea in the morning and demanded our home to be in meticulous order. As a child I was simply afraid of him.”
“Well, every child looks up at its father, and it is not abnormal that the child fears its parents . It’s not special at all, all children idolize the father and aggrandize him in their memories . You simply project your own guilt onto your father, blaming him for falling short of your own aggrandizements, but they are your own shortcomings that you detest, your own imperfections that you loath.”
“My mother on the other hand was a sweet, timid woman who sacrificed herself for my dad.”
“A weak mother figure is devastating for a child. You must reject your mother’s weakness.”

Nin was referred to Pinto by a friend of the family, who had been deeply worried about the suspected intimacy that the psychiatrist Rank had developed with her. Pinto felt a strong nausea rise in his intestines and knew he objected to Rank’s irresponsible opportunism. After the first session with Nin however, she had not returned to Pinto and returned to Rank for further treatment. He blamed his failure on treating Nin on the specific pathological characteristics of her illness. Nin, in his opinion, had not been seeking a cure at all in reality, she had not been ill to begin with. Instead, she had willingly invented an illness that would liberate her from the moral restrictions that proved she had been socially and psychologically healthy. The mental illness she claimed to suffer from, as far as Pinto believed, proved Nin to be a perfectly healthy woman.

Pinto developed his own school of psycho-analysis called the Strict School of Psycho-Analysis. But despite tits initial success among his patients, Pinto did not receive the same recognition from his colleagues as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung or Otto Rank experienced. The case of Anais Nin was typical of the prejudice against his method among his fellow psychiatrists. Anais Nin, an infamous example, was often quoted by Pinto in defense of his method, while his opponents liked to refer to the case as a success. Pinto blamed the need for recognition, the coquette attitude of his colleagues who seemed more star hungry than scientific professionals in his eyes. Pinto considered Freud nothing short of a charlatan, a typical Jew who was obsessed with becoming a part of the very high society that rejected him. Freud had created his own myth, his own dream world, in which he was a gentile of noble birth moving amidst the noblest of the gentiles as if he was one of them. The delusions that Freud suffered from were as much caused by his addiction to morphine and cocaine as by his wish to be a member of the gentile society. Pinto had seen this desire often among the Jews in Vienna. Especially, after the emancipation acts many Jews became fanatically obsessed with the new opportunities and outperformed one another in adopting gentile fashions. His own father had rushed to the church to be baptized and pretended to be as Christian as the inquisitors that had persecuted his forefathers. Pinto felt a deep repulsion about this forgivingness of the Jews toward a society that had despised and excluded them for hundreds of years, hunting them down like animals, in endless pogroms.

“I dreamed that I was never circumcised, doctor.”
“Absurd. You are a Jew.”
“I know, I know, doctor, but I dreamed that I was eight years old again. It was Sunday and my family and I were on our way to church.”
“As I walked down the aisle, the pews were filled with the important gentiles of our town.”
“An idiotic rejection of who you really are.”
“They were cheering, clapping, and I was as happy as I could be.”
“This eternal self loathing of the Jew! When will you grow some pride?”
“And then I stood in a pool. The priest locked his arm around my neck and pushed me under water. I was wrestling to get up, but I couldn’t breath and another priest grabbed my legs and held them under water.”
“This helplessness! This impotency of the Jew!”

Rank’s treatment of Nin had created a psychological monster out of a perfectly healthy rather charming woman. Under the manipulative influence of Rank, she had transferred the limitations of Rank’s own repressed state of mind, onto her own healthy psyche and out of it had created an illness of her own. Nin had convinced herself that she was suffering from repression by adopting the mental deviations of her psychiatrist, who was her spiritual guide. Rank had not been able to restrain himself and had fully given in to the devastating chemistry between patient and doctor, betraying the sacred oath of Hippocrates. In return for this transference, Nin had found a reward in the attention by her psychiatrist and in the following by famous intellectuals and critics that admired her case. Her newly found illness had generated a cause célèbre and for the first time in her life Nin had found the celebrity that she aspired to. But her liberation was in fact the real restriction of her happiness, and the cure that she sought was the real sickness. The real cancer in her illness was Otto Rank, the man who was supposed to help her. She had not found the fame in a recognition of her own self, but instead through the proxy of Rank.

Colleagues however dismissed Pinto’s theories as conservative and uninteresting. The wave of new theories and psychiatrists who made sensational discoveries had captivated the minds of his time and generated a tide by which the fashion of his profession was moved. The apparent was rejected as false, suspicion became the foundation of every new theory. No one was interested anymore in Pinto’s theories that affirmed the existing by providing a solid scientific basis for the observations. Instead, everyone dug deeper into the unknown, into the hole of what Freud had labeled the unconsciousness.

Otto Rank of course, was the first to retaliate bitterly against the accusations that had been untactfully publicized by Pinto. Rank’s influence in the world of psycho-analysis reached beyond the modest network of Pinto and almost destroyed him. He was able to sustain only by financial support of his father, a humiliating experience for Pinto.

Pinto’s Strict Method consisted in the systematic correction of deviations from which the patient suffered, by using what Breuer had labeled the babbling method. His patient lay comfortably on a sofa while he asked them questions. He then encouraged his patient to freely associate, to not stop talking, to not let a single pause slow down their thoughts, while Pinto interrupted them methodologically and regularly by correcting the fantasies of his patient.

“So in your dream, you say, you saw a woman at a desk, correcting your exam.”
“Yes, doctor, I had to score an A in order to pass on to the next year. So, I was terribly nervous, as you will understand.”
“Very good. Very good.” Pinto commented, while taking note of this desire for approval.
“The woman was wearing glasses, her hair was black and tied to the back in a French twist. But the strange thing was that apart from her glasses and a pair of black pumps, she was absolutely naked, and her legs spread apart under the table.”
“Absurd, you must learn to control your impulses.” Pinto mumbled.

The basic principle of Pinto’s method was the notion that man belonged to a social group, and was thereby submitted to the rules governing group membership. The ethics of society were the basic principles for the individual’s moral actions. The moral nature of man distinguished him from the world of the animals. Freud however had unleashed the lower nature of man. He had not simply revealed the lower origin of man like Darwin had done, but he had elevated the ape to sit on the throne of man. Freud had revealed the hidden perversions of psycho-analysis instead of solving them. Freud had opened Pandora’s box.

Slowly, Pinto lost the little influence he had established. The theory of Freud was a self-fulfilling prophecy, popular and fashionable, and the number of patients who found salvation in it quickly dominated also the scientific debate. One by one, Pinto lost his patients. He became effectively outmaneuvered to the margins of the psycho-analytic debate, until he found himself unable to publish his research in any of the medical annals. Finally, deeply disappointed, he left for America in the early thirties, not only to escape the rising antisemitism and sentiments of war, but also his own obscurity.

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