Lipton’s Journal/February 7, 1955/529

But this opens the peculiar understanding and lack of understanding of the analyst. Adele[1] always yells at me, “If you talk about bisexuality so much, you must be feeling an awful lot of anxiety.” I’m not. I swear I’m not. If there’s anything I “feel” at fairly deep levels it’s when I’m anxious, uneasy, suspicious of my motives. Unless this anxiety is buried deeper than any I’ve known—which I suppose is possible—it is the part of Adele’s mind which is mired in analyst-concepts which is wrong.

There is a paradox worth exploring in the analyst-patient relationship. As the patient free-associates, material comes up, H (er) material. Only the patient actually knows the intensity and the complex mysterious character of the actual emotion(s). The analyst either draws a blank, puts a concept—an S concept given their ideology—on the material, or empathizes.

But the character of empathy is the most mysterious of all. For when we empathize we can never know if we’re right. The fact that we feel certain we are feeling the same thing as the other person cannot be verified. If they say yes, particularly in an analytic relationship, it may be for a variety of reasons and can even be an outright lie. If they say no, they may be unaware but actually feeling that, or again they may lie. The mystery of empathy is whether it is valid or not—I suspect it is—but it may be valid in peculiar ways—er-conscious for some, er-unconscious for others. So, the analyst, except for the more adventurous ones find that empathy is very undependable and dangerous—they can never know if they are right or wrong and they get into terrible deep accepting waters. For to empathize is to admit weakness in the social sense—one is saying, “Yes, I have had that terror too.”

So, as a practical matter, empathy is in that dangerous illogical, irrational, socially and psychoanalytically condemned area bounded by paranoid projection and telepathy. Most analysts are frightened by it. Herbert Aldendorff[2] is terrified by it because he has so much of it, and therefore Germanically, characteristically, he is resolutely passive in his analyses—his only defense outside of self-hatred from keeping him from taking a wild plunge off the Freudian board into the oceanic unconscious.

Therefore, I would wager that most analysts, nearly all bad ones, and even most good ones depend upon S-concepts, sup-understandings of the patient’s er-deliveries. “I . . . er . . . want to say . . . er er er . . . you’re . . . er . . . good guys . . . errrrr”. (Maybe the Naa or the Hih or the Ugh would be better than the Sup as the opposite number to er—which I’ve now decided is perfect.) (I just now wrote hich for which, leaving out the w. Maybe the hitch is the word for the sup. Ah, well.)


  1. Adele Morales (1925 – 2015), who he married in April 1954, was Mailer’s second wife. The mother of his daughters Danielle (b. 1957), and Elizabeth Anne (b. 1959), she separated from Mailer in early 1961 a few months after he stabbed her with a penknife, just missing her heart. He pled guilty to felonious assault and was given a suspended sentence. They divorced in 1962.
  2. A New York City psychoanalyst. Connection to Mailer unknown.