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Hillary Rodham Clinton
On The Couch
By Alma H. Bond
Bancroft PressCopyright © 2015 Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
August 19, 2013
Shortly before I was to leave for Washington, Rivka, my elfish secretary, came into my Manhattan office with a look of excitement on her face. I can always tell from Rivka's expression whether the new patient waiting for me will interest me or not. This time, I had never seen Rivka so excited, not even when she had shown Marilyn Monroe into my presence lo those many years ago. Who can be more exciting than Marilyn Monroe? I wondered.
"I'm not going to tell you who is waiting for you," she said. "I want to surprise you. Believe me, you'll be surprised!"
"I guess I'll find out soon enough," I said nonchalantly, not wanting to give Rivka the satisfaction of knowing that she had indeed aroused my curiosity.
I walked into the waiting room, took one look at the lone person sitting there, and almost gasped. There sat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
What a coincidence! I thought. But then Jung said there is no such thing as coincidences. Perhaps the powers that be had seen to it that we would meet. (Such sweet destiny!)
She was silently weeping into her handkerchief. When she saw me, she tried to disguise her tears by pretending to be blowing her nose.
To fully take in her appearance, I allowed her some time to recover. I was surprised to find that she was quite pretty, far better looking than in her photographs. Looking closely at her in such an intimate setting, I could see that she had good bone structure, lovely white teeth, and beautiful skin. Her shoulder-length blond hair softly curled at the ends.
I had read somewhere that she was 5'4" tall, weighed 115 pounds, and worked out regularly to keep in shape. 115? I would have guessed more like 130. A little white lie, I wondered, or might she just be lighter than she looks?
Because her apparel has often been judged harshly since she appeared in a velvet headband on 60 Minutes in 1992, I was surprised to note that she was dressed in a sophisticated, although casual, outfit — a dark blue blazer with gold buttons in the shape of her earrings. Under the blazer, she wore a light blue cashmere turtleneck sweater that exactly matched her baby blue eyes. (I learned later they were so blue because of tinted contact lenses). From her appearance, she could have been a New York society woman who did her shopping at Bergdorf's.
"Mrs. Clinton," I said, stepping up to her, "I am happy to meet you in person. But I'm sorry to see you so upset."
She stood up and immediately reached out her hand. As I expected, her handshake was firm and rigorous.
"Sorry for the tears," she said, "but if you had just found out that your husband had begun a new affair, I imagine you would cry, too," she said, looking fiercely into my eyes. "I discovered that he has a mistress in Chappaqua, where we own our house in New York. And to make matters worse, I'm just so tired. After working as hard as I did as Secretary of State, I thought I'd finally get a minute to rest and recuperate!"
"I certainly would cry, too," I answered compassionately. "But let's go into my office and you can tell me about yourself."
"I suspect you know all about me already from the media," she said.
"The media and I have a very different interpretation of so-called facts," I said.
She smiled and said, "We may just get along."
We entered my office. Hillary did not look around but sat down on the chair across from my desk and carefully examined her knuckles. It was only later that I found out that not one aspect of the room or its decor had escaped her notice.
"Well, where shall I begin, Doctor? The new affair?"
"Not immediately, Hillary. May I call you Hillary?" I may have had nerve addressing the former First Lady by her first name, but since that was my habit with patients, I decided that I would treat her no differently. To her credit, she nodded, as though she expected nothing else. "Let us begin where your life began, at its very beginning."
"Is that necessary? I came here because of the problem with my husband, and I am a busy woman. I have no time to waste."
"Believe me, I am well aware of that. But to understand a problem, we have to know its origin, its place in your life, and why it has happened at the present time. I have to know more about you before I can help you overcome the difficulties that brought you here. I am also very interested in what you said about being tired after your tenure as Secretary of State." I sat back and waited.
Hillary was silent for several long moments, seemingly engaged in an inner struggle.
I felt sorry for this eminent woman who was finding it so difficult to talk about feelings that were important to her.
"Tell me about yourself," I finally said. "It doesn't have to be anything you think is consequential, just whatever comes into your mind."
She hesitated. "That's not so easy for me to do. I find it hard to talk about myself. Whenever I'm interviewed about me, I freeze up. When I have to give interviews, I find it much easier to discuss topics like poverty in Burma, the mistreatment of children, or prejudice against women. I don't even think about my feelings much. It's also very unusual for me to cry in front of other people, especially those I don't know," she said.
I pictured a door with several heavy locks on it, and with me banging on it without success. I thought: She may be a wonderful woman, but her character structure certainly will make her a difficult patient. I remember reading somewhere that her high school newspaper labeled her "Sister Frigidaire." I know what they meant. People who close off their feelings so much are often impossible to know.
Maybe she isn't treatable and I shouldn't be taking her on. I could never forgive myself if I accepted so important a person for psychoanalysis and failed to help her. Nevertheless, if she will let me, I will try — for her sake, for my own, and perhaps even for the sake of the world. Never mind writing her biography. It would be much more useful to her as well as our country if I can help her to function better.
In my mind, I mulled over the possible sources of her impenetrable psychological armor and hypothesized that she had painful experiences during and after childhood that she could not bear to remember, so she projects them onto the outside world. When she handles earth-shaking problems on a purely intellectual level, it's not Hillary who is in pain, but all the abused women and children on earth. Hillary lives in her head, not her heart, and maintains what she calls "a zone of privacy" about her inner life.
Hillary finally broke the silence. Throwing back her head, she said, "I totally dismiss unthinking emotion. In fact, I find it pitiful."
My heart sank. In my opinion, it is much more pitiful not to experience one's feelings. And given that seemingly unchangeable attitude, Hillary Clinton was, I decided, far from the ideal candidate for psychoanalysis.
"Let's try," I said, feeling helpless. "I will help you learn to tolerate your painful feelings."
Tears began to roll down her cheeks again. She turned her head away from me and hastily wiped away the tears with the back of her hand. "I'm not sure I'm up to it."
"Oh, Hillary," I said, "from everything I've read about and seen of you, I know how brave and straight-forward you are. You have lived through the worst kind of scandals, you've been abused by the media as no other First Lady ever has been, and yet you've survived, and quite well. I know you can overcome this challenge, too."
She abruptly stood up. "I hear through the grapevine that you'll be in Washington for a year. I presume you'll see patients while you are there." I nodded but didn't tell her that I'd had no intention of carrying on a full-time practice while I was in Washington, though I would certainly make an exception for her. "I want to leave now," she continued, "and I need to think again about whether I want to do this."
I was shocked at the suddenness of her decision. "Certainly, Hillary," I said, thinking I had bungled the initial interview. "Please call my secretary if you want to make another appointment. I will be here for another week, and Rivka will take messages after I leave."
She walked hastily to the door and, to my surprise, stopped, turned around, and smiled. She may come back after all,I thought.
After she left, I thought about what I had learned from the media about Hillary Clinton's character, about her sometimes puzzling behavior, and how it compared with what I had observed during this brief introductory session. Most of what I had just seen of her confirmed what I had read, although I must admit I found her more likable than she'd been portrayed in much of the media. I knew she was intelligent, and I had read somewhere that she had so much energy that she wore out much younger staff members. (Come to think of it, I was pretty tired, too, and I had only seen her for one short session!)
According to all reports, her organizational and leadership abilities were unsurpassed. She was highly ambitious, both politically and professionally, and almost certainly more so than she would admit. As I had already noted, she was remarkably charismatic when she chooses to be. Reputedly a deeply religious person, she was strongly committed to her family. I had been impressed many times by the love she had shown her husband and daughter, at least as captured on video and in photographs. I guessed that love of her family was the strongest feeling she would readily acknowledge to herself.
On the darker side, it was also well known, at least via the media, that she was impatient and has frequent outbursts of temper, that she is a worrier often overcome by anxiety, that she is the victim of a constantly philandering husband and, as the family breadwinner, may have cut some ethical corners at times to make an extra buck or two. Although many people love her, that is hardly true across the board.
All in all, a very interesting woman, I thought, although Freud himself would have had trouble treating her.
August 21, 2013
Indeed she came back, just two days later.
She came into my office and greeted me with another sweet smile. No wonder voters like her, I thought. I don't know what she's like in private, but she really can be charming and likable when she wants to be.
"Good morning, Doctor," she said. "As you can see, I have decided to try this out, at least for a little while. But don't be surprised if I quit soon. Although I attended a few psychology classes at Wellesley, Sigmund Freud is not one of my heroes."
"What don't you like about him?"
"All his stuff about penis envy is bullshit," she said in a voice reeking of certainty. "I never wanted a penis. If I had one, what would I do with it? Do you believe in all that crap? If so, maybe I'm in the wrong place."
I smiled. "Women's studies have come a long way since Freud."
"Well, that's a relief! Maybe psychoanalysis will work on me, after all, but you'll have to prove it to me before I give you a gold star. Well, what do you want to know about me, Doctor?"
"Whatever you want to tell me."
"You're a big help, I can see!" She was silent for a moment, and then said, "I guess I should start with my birth. I am one of the first Baby Boomers. I was born on October 26, 1947, two years after the end of World War II." She stopped and then said, "I think I'd rather tell you about my father, Hugh Rodham, who was probably the most important person in my life. Is that all right with you, Doctor?"
"Certainly," I said. "Talk about whomever or whatever you want." I couldn't resist forming a new hypothesis: Her father was more important in her own life than she was, which already told me a great deal about her.
Her shoulders drooped, though her face remained emotionless. I waited patiently while she pulled herself together. She had let an actual emotion slip through and, I suspected, was already regretting it.
She retreated to practical matters. Her father, she began, was Hugh Rodham, the son of Welsh immigrants. What she then told me about him, she recounted in a monotone that horrified me. She described a sour-faced and crabby man who tyrannized his children with scornful, unrelenting sarcasm and embarrassing penny-pinching, and who forced the kids to watch as he constantly humiliated and mistreated their mother. She said he beat his sons, but didn't say whether he hit her, too. Was she protecting him,I wondered, or was she simply his favorite who remained untouched?
According to her account, he was, whatever his assets — and I'm sure there were plenty — an awful father. He was so brow-beating and humiliating a man I find it incredible that Hillary turned out as well as she has. How she grew up to be the person she is with so abusive and mean-spirited a father is beyond my comprehension. At this early point in our journey, I suspect we have her heredity and perhaps her mother to thank.
"I spent a lot of my time trying to please my father," Hillary said. "I was rarely successful. A typical example concerned my grades in school. I was always a great student and usually brought home a report card full of A's. One day, I took him a report card containing all A's and one B. I waited patiently, silently praying for a complimentary word. His response was, 'How come you got one B?' The next month, I showed him a report card that had straight A's on it. His reaction? 'You must go to an easy school.'"
No matter how well Hillary did, her father kept raising the bar. What a frustrated child she must have been, desperately trying to please a father who refused to be pleased! I can see why she might like to be elected president. A whole country full of people voting for her just might soothe memories of never having satisfied the one man whose opinion she most valued.
A neighbor once said of Hugh Rodham, "He was rougher than a corn cob, and gruff as could be." He was not a nurturer, leaving that parental function to his gentler wife Dorothy, whose intelligence and abilities he frequently mocked. He was a crude man. (Like her father, Hillary, lady that she is, also can sound overly direct and brusque at times). Whenever Dorothy threatened to leave Hugh because of his abusive treatment of her and the children, his comment as often as not was, "Don't let the doorknob hit you in the ass on your way out."
What a way to treat a loving wife!I thought. I wouldn't stay with such a man for ten minutes! Sometimes the children laughed at his remark, said Hillary, but not all the time. Surely they must have been aware of the cruelty behind it, although they don't admit it publicly, even now.
At dinner, Hugh held forth in long monologues about life and didn't take kindly to being interrupted or challenged. Most of the family would quietly squirm as they pretended to listen. Only Hillary would argue if she thought he was wrong. Apparently, she alone was allowed to disagree with her father without suffering dire consequences, but if Dorothy tried to voice a contrasting opinion, she was subjected to the scorn and ridicule of her husband and tagged "Miss Smarty Pants!"
Yet as provocative and insulting as Hugh was to his wife, Hillary made it clear that the couple managed to impart to their children a sense of family and love for each other that determined much of her future life. Looking at their relationship in analytic terms, I would have to label it a sadomasochistic one, which for Hugh meant that in the words of Oscar Wilde, "Each man kills the thing he loves." I figured it must be the example of Hillary's parents' marital life that allows Hillary to put up with her husband's infidelities.
Nobody is all bad, though. Even Hitler loved his dog. Hugh Rodham's excuse for mistreating his family, Hillary said, was his belief in old-fashioned values prevalent during the mid-century — that hard work, discipline, and education at home, school, and church would make any child's dream come true.
Hillary was told that it was her obligation to use her mind in order to have some control over her life as an adult. Thus, she and the other Rodham children had to do well in school. Hugh Rodham's favorite remark was, "You get in trouble at school, you get in trouble at home." Despite his unpleasantness, Rodham's philosophy paid extraordinary dividends in the case of Hillary, if not that of her brothers. To his credit, he taught her that opportunities for success would not be limited by her gender. In this respect, at least, he was ahead of his time.
I decided to take a chance and send out a trial balloon. I said, "Hillary, you puzzle me. Here you are, telling me the most emotional things about your father, and yet you remain utterly calm. How do you manage to look so unaffected?"
"I've been through it so many times that I'm used to it," she answered. I was skeptical, but thought it best to drop the matter until a later time, assuming there would be a later time. She impressed me as being an angry woman — not all the time, but much of the time — who does all she can to hide it. From what I'd already heard, she had plenty to be angry about. But worse was yet to come.
Excerpted from Hillary Rodham Clinton by Alma H. Bond. Copyright © 2015 Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Bancroft Press.
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