9/11 Memoir: Alter Ego/Dr. Phil
comments on Sigmund Freud’s “Why War” letter to Albert Einstein
and feelings about the WTC bombing.

By Joan Lavanant

Dear Mr. Freud,

I can appreciate your views on violence and war. Today, we are facing a form of aggression more extreme than that which of which you spoke in your letter to Albert Einstein.

When you speak of group force, you say in essence that the victor is such because of skillful use of advanced weaponry. You cite not only a physical achievement in overcoming the enemy but a psychological one as well. If I am to understand you correctly, you conclude that the casualities of war weaken the spirit of the opponent, impairing his strength to continue the battle, his ability to strike back in retaliation. The victor gains not only through physical force but through psychological intimidation as well. I wholly agree with your theory. This may very well have been the objective of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center, but it has not been the outcome as the United States declared war.

You once said that social crises allow us to see aspects of human nature normally hidden in everyday life. To this end, you speak of primal conditioning, an aggressiveness that is inherent in all human beings.The United States is dealing with terrorists with exaggerated primal instincts it would seem; people who have been conditioned to hate Americans. The words America and enemy seem to be synonymous to these people though many of them have never personally known an American.

In turn, some individuals in the United States have grown angry and suspicious of fellow citizens – people who are their neighbors who are of Middle Eastern decent or fit a stereotypical image of the Middle Easterner to some. Some citizens of the United States have taken retaliation into their own hands and hurt their innocent neighbors because of fear and ignorance. So, too, have our leaders embarked on a quest to annihilate innocent people outside our borders in an act of revenge.

You speak in your letter to Einstein of violence finding an outlet not in slaughter but in subjugation. You say the victor in such cases must reckon with the craving for revenge that rankles in his victim thus forfeiting to some extent his personal security.

This statement, Mr. Freud is perhaps at the heart of the matter. In speaking of primal conditioning with reference to aggression, I cannot help but take into account the desperate conditions under which many of the people of Afghanistan live. I believe such circumstances are the perfect breeding ground for dissension. I believe you wholly understand this. As the founder of psychoanalysis and a Jew, you were an enemy to nazi Germany. The evidence of your resentment of ill treatment is found in your last interview with the Gestapo. Upon instruction to sign a statement saying you were mistreated, it is reported you asked if you could add, “I can highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone.”

You state in you letter to Albert Einstein that the recognition of a community of interests engenders among the members of the group a sentiment of unity and fraternal solidarity which constitutes its real strength. Today, we would refer to this as there being power in numbers. I believe we need to realize that what happened to the World Trade Center was not the work of a small group of terrorists but due to the underlying ideologies of both America and terrorist societies.

I think as an American and a psychologist, I would like to see the United States take a look at what unifies us as a country and why. We need to take a closer look at what basic necessities are lacking in the countries of our enemies and question whether this poor standard of living could indeed be the provocation for the hatred and aggression which seems to be so deeply rooted.

I addressing nature vs. nurture with concern to war, I am on the side of nurture. I think it is always a struggle against the underlying instinct toward aggression in social crises, but I believe we can be conditioned by way of nurturing to tame aggression. Here’s hoping.


Best Regards,

Dr. Phil McGraw

Dr. Phil's Message to the People of Oran / The Plague

Dear People of Oran,

I am so glad somehow, some way despite the plague this letter has gotten to me. I am saddened to hear of your plight. Don’t despair however, because a lot of good can come from tragedy. I have seen it countless times in my work as a psychologist.
I’d like to congratulate all of you for the fortitude you have shown during such difficulty. It is apparent that the plague has brought out the best in people. I, myself believe people to be inherently good. I commend you for all your efforts.

Dr. Rieux I would like to address you first, and tell you what a good job you did in helping to stop the spread of the plague. I know you expressed a great deal of guilt in not having acted more swiftly. You did the best you could in the midst of sending your wife away to the sanitarium. To try our best is all we can expect of ourselves. You are not responsible for the destruction brought by the plague. I would like to add that you are of no use to yourself or others if you stay stuck in guilt. You are a skilled physician and are sorely needed at this time. Forgive yourself.

Also, give yourself credit for taking the right action when realizing the seriousness of the situation. Remember that you urged the authorities to take strict precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the plague. It is not your fault that they chose to procrastinate and not take significant action that it took a death toll of thirty people on two consecutive days to propel authorities to act. People often find themselves steeped in denial when a crisis is occurring and it isn’t until things escalate and there is no other choice but to do something that something gets done.

I can see that the isolation of Oran has brought a lot of distress to the people. The shortage of food and necessities and the separation from loved ones can play on one’s emotions. You are no doubt feeling like helpless captives.

I think a good lesson about this can be learned from Raymond Rambert who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He could not have expected when coming to your city on a journalism assignment to find himself locked inside the city’s gates with no chance for exit. He turned this hardship into something positive by joining the fight. He was then no longer an outsider, he was one of you by virtue of the fact that he is a member of the human race and a crisis was occurring to those like himself.

Oprah says life is about service and I have to agree. Giving is one of the best ways to get out of your own head, out of your own way, people. You have to get real. You get so much from giving and what you learn from it, you pass on, you teach others through experience. If you could ask Tarrou and Grand what they and their team of volunteers have gotten back from helping the medical community, they’d no doubt tell you that they got back far more than they expended.

We had a little crisis of our own here in the United States, our WT C was bombed. There were so many people volunteering, many had to be turned away. Why so many volunteering? Because people feel better when they are actively participating in making a situation better and it makes them feel good inside to know they’ve helped someone else. As human beings we say we do it because we want to be generous to others but the real deal is what it does for us, how it makes us feel as individuals. When all is said and done, everyone is served and that’s what counts.

I realize it is difficult to continue to push forward in the face of so much destruction and death but collectively you are stronger than the plague. You will continue offering solace to one another over the deaths of your family, friends and neighbors and you will see that your anger over these deaths acts as the catalyst to push you forward to fight on for your survival and that of your city, Oran. You have been courageous, I know you will continue to be. You have done an excellent job in banding together in the face of advesity. I hope one of you will choose to chronicle your experience. It would give so many suffering people hope.


Best Regards,
Dr. Phil McGraw

Dr. Phil/The Day the Leader was Killed

Dear Mohtashimi,

Thank you for writing to me for guidance on the manner in which you are expressing your grief.  It is wholly understandable that you are exhibiting great despair at the loss Elwan. 

People respond to tragedy in different ways.  Some are visibly shaken while others becomes stoic and bottle up their emotions.  In writing to me Mohtashimi you have taken the first step to releasing your pain.  The imprisonment of a loved one is a terrible thing for family members to endure.  I can see from your words that you are a caring and feeling person.  It’s natural to feel off or undone by such an occurrence.  There is no right or wrong way to react in such a circumstance.  One can only work through the grief and heal with time.

In tragedies such as this, there is always a choice.  Family members can either withdraw from life or face feelings of despair and deal with them. Should you choose to withdraw, you will miss out on the vibrancy of life. What will help most psychologically is to move through your days keeping up with chores and routines and connecting with others who are missing him too as well as others who have no idea of your sorrow who may add a new dimension to your life by offering up fresh life experiences.

You spoke with melancholy of your advanced years.  Your tone sends the message that you are reconciled that death is imminent yet you say you are in very good health.  I believe this is due to your feelings of depression.  Because of your loss perhaps you feel a sense of hopelessness. What redeems you here, however, is your belief in your God.  I think it’s wonderful that you are using prayer in your daily life. It can be an incredible vehicle for healing.Now I would like to speak to you about anger. I cannot dismiss the power of working through anger Mohtashimi.  This is very important.  Anger is often the manifestation of three primary emotions - hurt, fear and frustration.  If you release this negative energy in positive ways you will feel much better.  Your anger may be justified and to that end I say turn it into passionate outrage as this can be very empowering.  Let your anger lift you to action.

You are in this world for a reason Mohtashimi.  You told me that when you spoke to your God you said that you had braved the vicissitudes of this world.  I can see that you have, but this is part of living – giving up on life is not and age is not an excuse to stop participating in life.  You have survived Soliman Mobarak’s evil eye.  I’m sorry you were so depressed you called to your God to welcome you into the great beyond.  I am glad however, that you thought better of it and have decided to get busy Mohtashimi!  There’s more to life than sandwiches and tea in old age. 
Your idea of dedicating yourself to the glorification of God is a good one.  Nothing positive can come from bitterness over what has happened in your country and to Elwan. I will keep a good thought for you, your country and Elwan.
You have a story to tell Mohtashimi.  The new generation needs to hear it!

Best Regards,

Phil McGraw


Dr. Phil/All’s Quiet on the Western Front

Dear Paul,

You have been through a terrible ordeal.  I am glad you have written to me for advice and I hope I can be of help to you.  From you letter, I can see that you are both an intelligent and sensitive young man.  Going to war has offered you a chance to learn many of life’s lessons.

The first and most important of these lessons is to always look at things, weigh them and make your own choice.  This sort of thing comes with maturity.  You and your friends joined the war effort to save Germany from its enemies at the urgence of your teacher, Kantorek.  You trusted that war was the glorious thing your teacher described it to be and then were hit by the rude awakening that it was far from glorious.

You told me in your letter, Behm was the first of your classmates to be killed.  This, perhaps, was your first experience with death.  The death of one so young and your increasing knowledge of the brutality of war no doubt has aged you.  You told me you blamed Kantorek for the death of your classmate but Behm made his own choice in going to war. I think this is a common reaction to such a tragedy because there seems no credible reason for the loss of a person so young.  Some would say it is all part of going to war Paul, but this was your classmate and friend and not an anonymous soldier with whom your only connection was the battle you were fighting.
I think your poetry writing will serve you well through the process of grieving and journaling may also help you to release many of your frustrations.  I understand that you are angry and you are right to be.  War is a destructive animal that savagely rips to shreds all in its sight.  You are a survivor Paul.  Despite having grown weary witnessing this waste of life that fighting has caused, you have not lost your humanity, soldier.  I was moved to tears by your story of the starving Russian prisoners. 
You told me in your letter that experiencing the death of your friend was the turning point for you from boyhood to manhood.  I disagree Paul.  I believe the measure of a man is in his ability to be humbled not hardened by life’s experiences.  The fact that you reached out to the Russian prisoners and shared what little food you had with them and forgot the war - in that moment, in the fact that you didn’t see them as faceless creatures, as the enemy - that in my view; is the true measure of a man.  It is my sense Paul, that war is not making a man of you but rather you were very much a man upon entering the war and despite it’s horrors have had the strength to hold on to your authentic self.  This is no small feat and certainly one worthy of admiration. 
Paul, you will face many perils until returning safely to your friends and family.  Some of the decisions you will make will not be wholly of your choosing, because your environment and others may force you to make decisions you would not under ordinary circumstances.  Sadly, war is about survival.  You are a survivor,Paul.  Whatever you encounter, whatever choices you may be compelled to make, I believe you will sustain your sanity when all is said and done. 
You have the ability to see beyond this war and its devastation. I realize this may not be easy for you to recognize in your current situation.  When you can continue to function in the face of such horrors and not lose your humanity Paul, you are fighting for your own sanity.  You are coping by bringing normalcy and decency to a situation that contains neither.  You are arresting the chaos.  You are the sort of man who will not allow your comrade’s death to be in vain.  There is an inner strength, a hero inside you which you seem to have the ability to summon at will. This is your gift, Paul. 
Best of luck to you. Your friends are lucky to have such a good friend.  I hope to meet you one day after the war.  I think you would make a wonderful psychologist.


Your Friend,

Dr. Phil Mc Graw


Alter Ego – Phil McGraw/God Dies By the Nile

Looks like I have my work cut out for me. What kind of place is this where men lay down and suckle nipples of buffalo – Freud would have a field day with this. Grandpas are having sex with grade school girls - grade school girls are becoming women while there are mere children – children giving birth to children – young boys being taught to rape girls. I have my work cut out for me in Kafr El Teen.

Dear Fatheya,

Thank you for your letter. I am always happy to receive correspondence from women with an interest in self-esteem issues. May I take this moment to say that I feel it is truly a shame that the Middle East is not farther ahead concerning equality of gender. Oprah and I hope to bring this message to the Middle East someday.

There is however, a way out of oppression Fatheya and the answer lies within you. It does not surprise me that you tried to hide atop the oven when you were about to be turned over to the Mayor. From what you’ve told me about him, I believe I would’ve done the same. What a life you have had Fatheya.

Do you realize that everything you are, everything you do, begins with and is based on a personal truth? Your personal truth is what you really believe about yourself when no one else is looking or listening. It can be positive or negative in nature and emerges when the pressure is on. I think you’ve come a long way since the day you hid atop that oven. You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for Fatheya.

From what you’ve told me of the Mayor, it is easy to see that he is a male chauvinist pig and he is attempting to raise your son to be one as well. I can understand your concern for Tariq now that he is in college and is of age to establish himself in life. Fatheya, I am a believer in teaching by example. If you want your son to think differently about females, you must adopt a new attitude about yourself.

I realize you have endured a great deal as the wife of the Mayor. I know you have had to accept that he beds down with many women and that his views on the morality of women are skewed. But Fatheya, you know when you awaken in the morning deep in your heart that what is written in the Qur’an was not written with intent that women should be emotionally and physically brutalized and second class citizens in the world.

You must ask yourself upon awakening Fatheya, am I motivated by a need to please authority and win approval from others or am I motivated by internal factors such as a sense of a mission in life and honest thinking about myself. Do I follow orders for fear of disapproval or do I make choices based on self best interest. You see Fatheya, if you present yourself from a place of self worth to your husband, the Mayor and to your son Tariq you will make great strides in personal growth.

I am proud of you for the first step you have taken when the family discussion arose about girls and equality. It took courage to stand up for those of your gender. It is clear you will get no help from the Mayor in this area since he celebrates his son’s declaration that “girls have no morals these days.” You know the hard truth Fatheya, that this is a revelation that delights the Mayor.

You on the other hand can help stop this poisonous cycle of abuse by instilling in your son a new morality of equality of gender. You were just a girl when you hid atop the oven years ago but you were a fighter even then for your own survival and now you can exercise your personal truth to fight for others. It took courage to call your son on the crime he committed in assaulting the servant girl last year. You were brave to say he had no virtue in that moment. You were fearless Fatheya in telling him you knew of the many crimes he was committing against those of your gender. Only good can come from standing up to the men in your life and you have been a champion in this area.

You have a right to the identity you choose not that which was chosen for you. You’ve identified your personal truth. You know how you’ve been living and you and those of your gender deserve to be living. You can help both the men and women in your life change their beliefs since you yourself have been able to identify what you really believe about yourself – what is at the core of your existence. You’re about to graduate Fatheya. You are leaving back an old belief system for a new one. These new truths will instinctively guide your behavior. These behaviors are directed by the love you have realized for yourself. Who you have been is not enough anymore. Good luck Fatheya

. You have been shrouded in the galabeya far too long. Keep me posted about your journey of truth; your quest and right to uncover the woman you are.

Best Regards,

Dr. Phil McGraw


Dr. Phil / Pablo Escobar (Could a talk with Dr.Phil have made a difference?)

Dear Pablo,

What possesses you? What is this demon within that rises time and again to seek its own brand of justice? What are you getting from this behavior? The past relentlessly haunts your future. This endless quest for revenge is just a tired excuse to be less than you are. Who do you hold accountable when you feel that loss of control and why does it feel so personal?

Why hurt the innocent ones, Pablo? You have killed people in shopping centers who were just going about their lives and wanted absolutely nothing to do with your dirty dealings. You cannot murder then seek repentance by transforming yourself into a Robin Hood for the poor.
Were you poor as a child, Pablo? I ask this because I find that some of my patients who had a hard life growing up have stayed angry as adults. They tell me when they see people living in squalor, it’s like looking into a mirror and seeing their own reflection. They carry a feeling of sadness and sense that they have been greatly wronged – that a terrible injustice has been done them – they want to hold someone responsible – they want someone to pay. Some blame the conditions of their present life on the manner in which they were forced to live as children.

I see you have a want for a great many material things. Pablo, this is compensation for what is lacking emotionally. Did you receive maternal love as a child, Pablo? Was your father in your life, and what sort of man was he? You had a zoo built on your estate and filled it with exotic animals brought from Africa. You have shown the world you can obtain the unattainable in many ways materially but what lies in your unfulfilled heart? And the wild animals, what of them? Do they represent the innocent creature not unlike the child you once were that deserved unconditional love? Do you feel a kinship with them?

Pablo, you need to get real, buddy. You have terrorized and murdered a lot of people and held others hostage. Is the destruction of these families based in your feelings concerning your own family? When you hold others hostage, is it you who is really crying for help? Do easy money and narcotics remove the downward spiral of hopelessness and fear when you lay your head on the pillow at night? You may think these things keep you in control but they don’t. I wonder if it isn’t time rather than trying to extract in unhealthy ways what you want for yourself by being a kidnapper, you instead have a conference and negotiation with your emotions.
When you choose your behavior, you also choose your consequences. You are an adult now Pablo and must take responsibility for your actions. You must stop punishing others for what you didn’t get from someone else. You need to say no to drugs Pablo, and yes to life.

Best Regards,

Dr. Phil McGraw


Dr. Phil Visits Hell

Inez speaking to Estelle and Garcin
- Look here, what’s the point of playacting, trying to throw dust in each other’s eyes? We’re all tarred with the same brush.
Estelle - How dare you.

Inez - Yes we are criminals-murderers all three of us We’re in hell my pets they never make mistakes and people aren’t damned for nothing.
Dr. Phil - Just a moment Inez I want to focus on the external experiences that are giving you this blueprint to your current concept of self.
Inez - We’re in Hell! We’re damned souls all of us – all three.
Estelle -Stop! For heaven’s sake – keep quiet – I forbid you to use such disgusting word in front of Dr. Phil.
Inez - A damned soul that’s you, my plaster saint. And ditto our friend there the noble pacifist Garcin. We’ve had our hour of pleasure haven’t we? There have been people who burned their lives out for our sakes and we chuckled over it. So now we have to pay the reckoning.
Dr Phil - Nothing wrong with chuckling Inez – they say laughter is the best medicine but I think in this case, a dose of forgiveness is in order –it’s necessary you forgive yourself because he or she has already forgiven you. Do you think you can do that? Do you know Inez, Estelle and Garcin that the basis of your entire life and who you are can be deciphered with three simple exercises?
Garcin - Will you shut your mouth damn it.
Inez - Well, well, listen to you Garcin, listen to the little man!
Phil - Now, now Inez that’s counterproductive – you’ll never win friends that way. No male bashing, you’re in Hell not on the Oprah show Tee Hee!
Garcin - I advise you to to think twice before you say any more Dr. Phil she’s a bitch in heat.
Inez - Wait! I’ve got it! It’s simple, childishly simple – there are no physical torments here. You agree don’t you Dr. Phil? And yet we’re in hell. And no one else will come here right?
Phil - I came here.
Estelle - Are you staying Dr. Phil?
Phil - No just between stops. On my way to a counseling session with Doubting Thomas – I hope he trusts me to show up for him.
Inez - Its obvious what they’re after here, Dr. Phil. They’re after an economy of manpower or devil power if you prefer. The same idea as in the cafeteria where customers serve themselves.
Estelle - What ever do you mean? Dr. Phil what ever does she mean?
Phil - Inez I hear a very wounded inner child. People, you don’t have to buy into anything. The real power is in you. You can look at the world your in through a set of filters. You can assign a weight and meaning to every event that happens here. Let some things flow in while screening others out. These filters are internal and are mental, emotional, verbal and perceptual in nature. You need to realize people that you respond not to what happens but instead to your perception of it.
Inez - So each of us doesn’t have to act as the torturer of the other two?
Phil - That’s right Inez nor to you have to be the torturer of yourself for that matter.
Garcin - I have lots of bad material for self communings. I think I could stay ten thousand years with only these thoughts for company.
Phil -Negative internal dialogue people gets loudest when you need it least exercise your locus of control when the pressure is on and let your personal truth flow through. No need to be your own worst enemy.
Phil - Well I’m afraid our time is up – my work is done here.
Garcin, Inez & Estelle -Thank you Dr. Phil
Estelle - Will you be back Dr. Phil?
Phil - Not if I practice what I preach. Bye now.


Report of Terrorism

Flight 11 pierces New York City
Through the heart of lower Manhattan
Penetrating the north tower
Through armor of welded steel.

People jump from windows
While loved ones struggle at home
Awaiting the worst of possible news
The United States watches in astonishment.

Flight 175 bullets through Manhattan
Fatally wounding the south tower
Exploding and bursting into flames
The world witnesses the horror.

People running, panicked and disturbed
A signal of smoke billowing overhead
A message delivered in a black packet of fear
To the heart of every New Yorker.