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My Head and My Heart: Sex, Love, Life, and the Unconscious

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Sex, love, work, how our days and lives unfold—in this extraordinary book, Jorge De Gregorio explores how the human unconscious works, and shows how an understanding of the unconscious can help us assess and change our own behavior, as well as gain insight into the otherwise inexplicable actions of others, including world leaders. "What did I ever see in her?" "Why do I feel and behave this way?" "Why did Bill Clinton risk so much over Monica Lewinsky?" Dr. De Gregorio draws on years of experience as a ...
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New York, NY 2000 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. NEW HARD COVER, INCLUDES DUST JACKET. SHIPS FROM WA-USPS. EXPEDITED SHIPPING AVAILABLE. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 240 ... p. Audience: General/trade. NEW HARD COVER, INCLUDES DUST JACKET. SHIPS FROM WA-USPS. EXPEDITED SHIPPING AVAILABLE. Random House (NY), 2000. Sex, love, work, how our days and lives unfold--in this extraordinary book, Jorge De Gregorio explores how the human unconscious works, and shows how an understanding of the unconscious can help us assess and change our own behavior, as well as gain insight into the otherwise inexplicable actions of others, including world leaders. "What did I ever see in her? " "Why do I feel and behave this way? " "Why did Bill Clinton risk so much over Monica Lewinsky? " Dr. De Gregorio draws on years of experience as a psychoanalyst to reveal how the dramas in our inner worlds, the important episodes of love and loss, become imprinted in us and are reenacted by us in our daily lives; and how, once we under Read more Show Less

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Overview

Sex, love, work, how our days and lives unfold—in this extraordinary book, Jorge De Gregorio explores how the human unconscious works, and shows how an understanding of the unconscious can help us assess and change our own behavior, as well as gain insight into the otherwise inexplicable actions of others, including world leaders. "What did I ever see in her?" "Why do I feel and behave this way?" "Why did Bill Clinton risk so much over Monica Lewinsky?" Dr. De Gregorio draws on years of experience as a psychoanalyst to reveal how the dramas in our inner worlds, the important episodes of love and loss, become imprinted in us and are reenacted by us in our daily lives; and how, once we understand that this unconscious "genetic code" is written in our hearts and minds, we can go on to rediscover ourselves, and to create lives of greater originality and freedom.
        Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to himself in which he carried on an imaginary dialogue between what he called "My Head" (the conscious mind, with its rationality and rules) and "My Heart" (the unconscious, the source of our passions, instincts, love, and sexual behavior). Using this letter as a model for knowing ourselves, Dr. De Gregorio discusses why, when it comes to sex and love, "it's never just sex." An interpretation of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair and of Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings; why insights into the private lives of world leaders often don't seem to match their public personalities; stories about people who discover the unconscious meaning beneath their bizarre behavior; how character andpersonality can be reconfigured and redefined—these and many other topics are illuminated in this brilliant and provocative book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679462972
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/10/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Jorge De Gregorio, M.D., is the director of the Freudian Research Center in New York City and Buenos Aires. He is a training psychoanalyst at the Argentine Psychoan-alytic Association, and a member of the International Psychoanalytic Association. In 1976, he received the Sigmund Freud Award. He teaches and practices in New York and Buenos Aires.
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Read an Excerpt

DE GREGORIO: MY HEAD AND MY HEART

1 HAUNTING LOVE

Something uncanny happened to Robert after he had finished his Ph.D. in economics at Cambridge, England, many years ago. He was arrested on two charges—for disorderly conduct and for resisting arrest.

Robert had arrived at a London hotel at seven o'clock in the morning. He had a reservation and was exhausted after his flight. He checked in but was told that his room would not be ready until one o'clock that afternoon; the hotel was full. Robert became furious, proceeded to have a loud argument with the manager, and then lay on the floor in the middle of the hotel lobby, acting as though he were a homeless person. The police arrived and arrested him for resisting their attempts to get him to end his protest.

Robert spent five hours at the police station. The judge ruled that he must pay a fine. Thus, the case concerned, with the judge's verdict, was an enactment of man's law. But beneath the surface of this strange episode lies a conflict not with man's law but with the inner code of the law—a conflict between Robert's Head and Heart.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: "MY HEAD AND MY HEART"

In 1786, one hundred years before the writings of Sigmund Freud, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, wrote an astonishing letter in which he expressed a passionate battle going on within himself, a battle he described as between "My Head and My Heart." Jefferson, a widower, was in Paris, and he was in love with a woman whom his Head told his Heart was inappropriate. Nevertheless, he had an incontrollable passion for her.

Jefferson'sletter, "My Head and My Heart," shows an extraordinary psychological perception on the part of a United States president of himself and the nature of the conflicts that go on in all of us, conflicts between what moral consciousness tells us and the passions and desires of the Heart.

Jefferson wrote this and other documents in Anglo-Saxon English:

Head: Well, friend, you seem to be in a pretty trim.

Heart: I am indeed the most wretched of all earthly beings. Overwhelmed with grief, every fibre of my frame distended beyond its natural powers to bear, I would willingly meet whatever catastrophe should leave me no more to feel or to fear.

According to Jefferson, Heart is the realm of feeling, of fear, of instinct, and most of all, of love. Head tries to control Heart, and therefore the self. Jefferson went on with the dialogue:

Head: These are the eternal consequences of your warmth...This is one of the scrapes into which you are ever leading us. You confess your follies indeed; but still you hug and cherish them; and no reform can be hoped, where there is no repentance.

Heart: Oh, my friend! This is no moment to upbraid my foibles. I am rent into fragments by the force of my grief! If you have any balm, pour it into my wounds.

Unfolding both the power of the passion that possessed Thomas Jefferson and the guilt and punishment he felt he deserved because of it, he left this written testimony, a kind of Platonic dialogue, that expressed the war he realized was erupting within himself. While he named the two intimate characters in his inner drama "My Head" and "My Heart," both are reflections in an inner mirror in which Jefferson could not help but recognize himself as a whole. It is as though there were "two Thomases." When one of the images looks at the other, he experiences at the same time an uncanny sense of self-estrangement.

A similar despair over his own behavior—an inability to understand himself—caused Robert to come to see me after that strange episode in the London hotel lobby. What could have possessed him—what could he have been "thinking of"—to have behaved in a way that he felt was "not really like me"?

Strange as he seemed to himself, Robert had created the scene that took place. He was the inner author of it.

Robert was a man who traveled extensively. He knew that his plane was scheduled to land at Heathrow Airport at five-thirty a.m., and that since hotels usually have a check-in time toward the middle of the day, he could have reserved a room for a day earlier. Or he could have asked the hotel in advance to try to arrange a room to be ready for him when he arrived. He did neither. This was because intense unconscious desires unknown to him were met and fulfilled by the strange and punishing scene that took place: arriving with no place to go, lying on the lobby floor, being arrested by the police, and subsequently being punished by a judge. It seems as if this scene had already been written by Robert, like a theatrical story line or script, before he acted it out.

Many years earlier, he had been a student in London, where he had met Michelle. He had formed such a deep bond with her that she forever became the love of his life. After graduation, he returned to Australia, planning that Michelle would follow him one month later and that they would marry.

Before Robert left, however, he and Michelle's father had a heated argument. Her father felt that if she emigrated, he would lose her forever. There was yet another reason for his reaction: Michelle's family had already chosen a young man from an upper-class British family to marry her. Her father wanted her to marry this other man, to bring these two families together through this marriage. The argument between Michelle's father and Robert became violent. The moment Robert left London, Michelle became deeply depressed; she felt she would lose either Robert or her family. Her father had condemned her: "If you ever leave with him, you no longer have a family here!"

Shortly after Robert's arrival in Sydney, he received a phone call from a friend informing him that Michelle had been hospitalized only a few hours after he had left and that she had lost her voice.

He immediately returned to Europe and found Michelle in a coma. She was suffering from a rare disease that had no precise medical diagnosis. Robert was the only one to stay by Michelle's side, never leaving her for an instant. He remained with her for an entire month, until death won the battle.

At her funeral, Michelle's father blamed Robert: "Damn you! I curse the day she met you. If it weren't for you, this wouldn't have happened!" Robert was stricken with guilt. To him, the words expressed by Michelle's father were both a curse and a verdict.

After he told me about his behavior in the London hotel, I offered him the hypothesis that his enigmatic action in the lobby was related to Michelle's death. He had discussed her death with me before he decided to go to London, after so many years, for a vacation. Robert was filled with the surprise of discovery. "But of course! That's it!"

Michelle had died on August 3 at seven a.m.—on the same date and time as the episode in the hotel, which occurred six years later. Robert said, "During that month before she died, I slept on the floor next to her bed many times."

In light of this and in reconsidering the hotel scene, everything takes on a new meaning. Robert was told that there was no "room" for him, just as Michelle was "unavailable" to him: he lay down on the floor as if he were homeless, as if he were next to Michelle in the hospital room. He did not hear the police trying to persuade him to get up, because he was lying next to his beloved. Like a guilty man, he was arrested by the police and had to pay for his crime.

When the police released him, instead of going back to the hotel, Robert felt the need to go to the apartment where he and Michelle had once lived. An old woman was now living there. She invited him in, and he told this stranger the story about Michelle. Disconcerted and moved, the old woman could do nothing but hold her arms out to him. This shocked Robert. In her arms, he cried inconsolably; for the first time since Michelle's death, his grief was like an explosion.

In this strange episode, with its own logic in Robert's inner world, it appears as though Robert were in two time-space dimensions at once. To Robert, it seems as if there was only one dimension, yet his decisions and actions were determined from another reality, a dimension of which he was totally unaware. Robert, in his own powerlessness over his inner drama, sought relief in being arrested—in man's law, a punishment by the police for his "crime." This is the point at which he recognized that he did not "know" himself, and that he was somehow the author of his need for punishment, and thus of his own fate.

To Robert, the analysis of his profound mourning for Michelle became a peculiar exorcism and liberated him, in his unconscious, from being enslaved to his dead love. This enabled him to fall in love again.

Today Robert is married and has two daughters. The elder is named Michelle. It is as though the unconscious evolution of his mourning for Michelle's death had healed the wounds of his pain by breathing life into his beloved again, now his daughter. He became "Michelle's father," but in a different version of Michelle's real father at her funeral. In Robert's inner world, it seems that he gave life to Michelle again, a victory in life (Eros) over eternal mourning death (Thanatos) in order to heal from loss and trauma and be able to choose new possibilities.

As heart told Head in Jefferson's dialogue: "When Heaven has taken from us some object of our love, how sweet it is to have a bosom whereon to recline our heads, and into which we may pour the torrent of our fears!"

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Preface

The stories that follow are all true. I tell them as a way to show the extraordinary power of the human unconscious mind, and how it works–how it is that the unconscious determines so much about our behavior, including the behavior of our world leaders, and thus what we call history and fate.
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