Dr. Ralph R. Greenson born Romeo Samuel Greenschpoon,was a prominent American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.Greenson was well-known for his early work on returning WWII soldiers suffering from post-traumatic-stress. He also had other famous clients, including Vivian Leigh, Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis. Greenson and his wife Hildi Greenson, were the darlings of the Southern California psychoanalytic community, intellectuals and with certain notables in the Entertainment industry. A fan of Sigmund Freud’s, Greenson published psychoanalytic material often dealing with analyzability, beginning of analysis, interpretations, dreams, working through, acting out, countertransference, and termination.In working with borderline patients, including Marilyn, he proposed a “modified psychoanalytic approach […] a neutral technical position as a therapist, In other words, he supposedly allowed his clients to reach their own conclusions about their relationships.He published fifty-three papers in psychoanalytic journals. Greenson’s paper The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis, published in 1967, has been described as “a thorough, highly technical textbook, with an instructive treatment of the working alliance.”
Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis
Clearly Greenson was a highly qualified psychiatrist. The problem i have with him was his slavish devotion to Sigmund Freud. Freud had highly controversial theories and methods. One major mistake he made was to psychoanalyze the emotionally unstable women he counselled then he applied their mental health stages and issues to every woman in general, healthy or not. Hence, the bizarre sexual stages of development such as the Oedipal Complex and the Electra Complex, neither of which I believe are valid. I really don’t believe that to prevent herself from falling in love with her father a woman has to learn to hate him and relate more to her mother. Ick. Freud spent many years of his practice in dream analysis, believing dreams were an integral means of studying the human psyche. Of course Freud found many sexual symbols in dreams as he was wont to do and again he applied his theories not just to his clients but to the general public. A man of his times, Freud didn’t believe in incest or sexual abuse.Instead he invented penis envy as the reason his patients would “lie” about sexual molestation by fathers, relatives and family friends. One little known fact about Freud was his 10-year addiction to cocaine. (although some claim he wasn’t).He believed it was a miracle drug that broadened people’s thinking (I’ll say) and he prescribed it to many of his female patients, overlooking or perhaps not noticing the many negative side effects of the drug. After all his years of working with female patients, Carl Jung was a student of Freud’s for many years however Jung began to see the oddities in Freud’s theories and he separated himself from Freud, a rift that made the two men enemies. Years later, Freud admitted he “didn’t know anything about women.”
In 1968 Ralph Greenson offered a developmental theory to homosexuality that borrowed heavily from Freud’s book. He stated that it resulted from the need of boys to “dis-identify” from their mothers. Normally this would have resulted in the Oedipal Complex, a phenomenon that was the crux of Socrates’ Oedipus, the tragic character who has unwittingly fallen in love with and had sexual relations with his own mother, Jocasta. Ultimately, she kills herself. Oedipus removes two pins from her dress, blinds himself with them and is driven into exile. Greenson applied this concept to the Oedipus Complex in stating “The male child, in order to attain a healthy sense of maleness, must replace the primary object of his identification, the mother, and must identify instead with the father. I believe it is the difficulties inherent in this additional step of development, from which girls are exempt,(Freud would disagree) which are responsible for certain special problems (homosexuality) in the man’s gender identity, his sense of belonging to the male sex.” That is also a Freudian adaptation of homosexuality.It seems to me that Greenson was simply a walking manual of regurgitated Freud. For her part, on occasion Marilyn sent her doctor cryptic telegrams: “Dear Dr. Greenson I hope all of your roses are in bloom today including the blackest red ones. Happy anniversary to you and Mr. Greenson. Marilyn.”
A New Approach
Greenson described Marilyn to Kris as a ‘perpetual orphan’ and said he felt sorry for her. That being the case, clearly Greenson was unable to move Marilyn past the isolation and rejection of her childhood, strengthening her so she could deal with it in a healthy manner, rather than medicating herself with pills. One silver lining: he came to believe that traditional psychoanalysis wasn’t working in her case and he began to experiment with a new, unorthodox approach, inviting her into his family for drinks after the final analytic hour of the day, for dinner and to social gatherings.I don’t know that this approach was any better but it didn’t seem to help Marilyn. He also ruled that she should sever old ties and encouraged his two children, then in their early twenties, to befriend her instead. I don’t know which “old ties” Green encouraged Marilyn to sever. Was it Frank Sinatra? Joe DiMaggio? The Kennedys? Or were there other people in her life who weren’t public figures that Greenson advised Marilyn to turn her back on? For her part Marilyn occasionally telegraphed him cryptic messages: Dear Dr. Greenson I hope all of your roses are in bloom today, including the blackest red ones. Happy anniversary to you and Mrs. Greenson. Marilyn.
The Therapist-Client Relationship
It would be fair to say that in the last year of Marilyn’s life, nobody knew more about Marilyn’s fragile state of mind than Greenson. Stories conflict regarding how Marilyn first got in contact with Greenson. He either came recommended by Marilyn’s lawyer Milton Rudin (Greenson’s brother-in-law), by Arthur Miller’s friend Frank Taylor, or by Marilyn’s New York psychoanalyst, Dr. Marianne Kris, in August 1960, when Marilyn was flown back to Los Angeles for hospital treatment during shooting on The Misfits. So troubled was Marilyn that even in the midst of Miller’s movie while working with her favourite director, Billy Wilder, Marilyn had to leave Nevada and seek psychiatric treatment. By the end of her life she was visiting Dr. Greenson at his Beverly Hills office every day of the week or he visited Marilyn at her home in Brentwood. To me this is proof that Greenson was not the doctor for Marilyn. Therapy is supposed to enable the cilent to function more independently, rather than to become completely reliant upon the doctor.Of course Marilyn also received a steady supply of barbiturates from Greenson and this was another reason for the excessive visits. The scenario was described in this manner:
However leaving Marianne Kris to receive therapy from Greenson was a good move on Marilyn’s part. It was Kris who was responsible for Marilyn’s involuntary stay in the notorious Payne Whitney clinic: A harrowing stay in a padded cell followed; cut short after four days thanks only to an intervention by her first husband, Joe DiMaggio. On March 1st, Monroe — resting at the New York Hospital — wrote the following six-page letter to her other psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, and spoke of her ordeal.” The image of Marilyn trapped in a padded room, isolated and terrified, is unthinkable. It would seem to me that Marilyn was already isolated enough in her regular life. What Kris was thinking is beyond my understanding.If anything I would have thought that a female therapist would have been more understanding and empathetic with Marilyn Monroe than a male. How wrong was I.
Letters to Greenson
There was no empathy at Payne-Whitney — it had a very bad effect — they asked me after putting me in a “cell” (I mean cement blocks and all) for very disturbed depressed patients.(except I felt I was in some kind of prison for a crime I hadn’t committed. The inhumanity there I found archaic. They asked me why I wasn’t happy there (everything was under lock and key; things like electric lights, dresser drawers, bathrooms, closets, bars concealed on the windows – the doors have windows so patients can be visible all the time. Also, the violence and markings still remain on the walls from former patients). I answered: “Well, I’d have to be nuts if I like it here” then there screaming women in their cells — I mean they screamed out when life was unbearable I guess...They said: “You could sew or play checkers, even cards and maybe knit”. I tried to explain the day I did that they would have a nut on their hands. These things were furthest from my mind. They asked me why I felt I was “different” (from the other patients I guess) so I decided if they were really that stupid I must give them a very simple answer so I said: “I just am”.
Susan Strasberg once commented on Marilyn’s experience in the Payne-Whitney clinic: “[Marilyn] said “I know I have my problems but these people were really crazy.”
The first day I did “mingle” with a patient. She asked me why I looked so sad and suggested I could call a friend and perhaps not be so lonely. I told her that they had told me that there wasn’t a phone on that floor. Speaking of floors, they are all locked — no one could go in and no one could go out. She looked shocked and shaken and said “I’ll take you to the phone.while I waited in line for my turn for the use of the phone I observed a guard (since he had on a grey knit uniform) as I approached the phone he straight-armed the phone and said very sternly: “You can’t use the phone”. By the way, they pride themselves in having a home-like atmosphere there. I asked them (the doctors) how they figured that. They answered: “Well, on the sixth floor we have wall-to-wall carpeting and modern furniture to which I replied: “Well, that any good interior decorator could provide — providing there are the funds for it” but since they are dealing with human beings why couldn’t they perceive even an interior of a human being”. The girl that told me about the phone seemed such a pathetic and vague creature. She told me after the straight-arming “I didn’t know they would do that”. Then she said “I’m here because of my mental condition — I have cut my throat several times and slashed my wrists.
Letter to Greenson – about Payne-Whitney Clinic
March 1, 1961
Just now when I looked out the hospital window where the snow had covered everything suddenly everything is kind of muted a green. The grass, shabby evergreen bushes — though the trees give me a little hope — the desolate bare branches promising maybe there will be spring and maybe they promise hope. Did you see “The Misfits” yet? In one sequence you can perhaps see how bare and strange a tree can be for me. I don’t know if it comes across that way for sure on the screen — I don’t like some of the selections in the takes they used. As I started to write this letter about four quiet tears had fallen. I don’t know quite why.
I watched as much of the Misfits as I could stand. What a yawn. it’s fair to say I didn’t see the sequence where Marilyn demonstrates “how bare and strange a tree” can be for her. My guess is that Miller wrote this metaphor into the script after a pathetic episode where a gardener had cut down flowers in the Millers’ Connecticut yard. Marilyn ran around crying, sticking the stems back into the ground trying to help them return to life. There were many such episodes in Marilyn’s life but none as pathetic, and I mean that in the saddest way, as this one. i read this account originally in Anthony Summers’ Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.
Last night I was awake all night again. Sometimes I wonder what the night time is for. It almost doesn’t exist for me — it all seems like one long horrible day. Anyway, I thought I’d try to be constructive about it and started to read the letters of Sigmund Freud. When I first opened the book and I saw the picture of Freud inside opposite the title page and I burst into tears — he looked very depressed. (which must have been taken near the end of his life) that he died a disappointed man — but Dr Kris said he had much physical pain which I had known from the Jones book — but I know this too to be so but still I trust my instincts because I see a sad disappointment in his gentle face. The book reveals (though I am not sure anyone’s love-letters should be published) that he wasn’t a stiff! I mean his gentle, sad humor and even a striving was eternal in him. I haven’t gotten very far yet because at the same time I’m reading Sean O’Casey’s first autobiography — (did I ever tell you how once he wrote a poem to me?)
Clearly Greenson had misled Marilyn into believing that psychoanalysis was a healthy therapeutic approach for her. it’s unlikely Marilyn would have studied Freud on her own and if she had I doubt she would have cried over his pictures. It takes many readings and sometimes years of discussion to understand Freud as fully as one can without seeking a degree in psychoanalysis. Marilyn may not have understood the misogyny inherent in many of Freud’s theories. Had she done so I believe she wouldn’t have worked so closely with Greenson.
Rumour and Conjecture
To some, Greenson appeared to take the “mystery” of Marilyn’s death to his grave. He made the cryptic statement “I’ll you this but I won’t tell you that...listen, talk to Bobby Kennedy.” I doubt very much that this implied a murder theory. I believe Greenson was referring to Marilyn’s obsession with JFK and Bobby’s role in “cleaning up” Jack’s mess, as he usually did when big brother stepped outside of his marriage. Marilyn’s reaction was one of extreme anxiety and depression. Greenson seems to imply this led to Marilyn’s suicide. All in all it was chiefly Freudian methodology Greenson brought to the table when he worked with Marilyn.Considering her earlier sexual abuse the results of this psychiatric work must have been traumatic for her.I refuse to believe that the good doctor had anything to do with Marilyn’s murder. If anything he cared for his client too much. However where therapy is concerned, If Greenson followed Freud’s theories and didn’t believe Marilyn’s accounts about the sexual abuse she endured as a foster child then he couldn’t possibly have helped her through this trauma. If he did but attributed it to dreams or some sort of bizarre Freudian theory then her pain would have increased by the threshold. Freud’s misogynistic views certainly would have done Marilyn much more harm than good, as they would any woman. Even though Greenson meant well and “came so highly recommended” he was exactly the wrong doctor for Marilyn. And Norma Jeane.