WEIRDLAND: Jim Morrison, Borderline Personality

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Jim Morrison, Borderline Personality

"Even the bitter Poet-Madman is a clown. Treading the boards" (Wilderness, Jim Morrison).  "The boards" are theatrical jargon for the stage; Morrison here again recognizes that he has become an actor.  In this poem Morrison calls himself a clown because he realizes that his message is being overshadowed by his image, as the audience expects entertainment from him, instead of guidance. As Dylan Jones pointed out, "Jim Morrison was unable to harness his own stardom, and because of this, he began lampooning himself."

Imagine a mind marred by an unimaginable dread, in which there is no sense of oneself, and no reference points—a self-threatening mental state, an indescribable sense of catastrophe. Unable to comprehend the reality of others, the mind thus cannot comprehend itself or a recognizable self-reality. In clinical practice, it is currently known as borderline syndrome or borderline personality disorder. That chaotic internal state of mind that characterized Jim Morrison's psyche was relentless, leading him in the process to experience profound and consuming identity conflicts at times. German-American philosopher Paul Tillich characterized existential anxiety as "the state in which a being is aware of its possible nonbeing", listing three categories for the resulting nonbeing anxiety: ontic (fate and death), moral (guilt and condemnation), and spiritual (emptiness and meaninglessness). Psychoanalyst William W. Meissner has conceptualized these “emotive vs detached” borderline types as constituting what he calls a “hysterical - schizoid spectrum”, placing Janis Joplin on the hysterical end and Jim Morrison on the schizoid end. On some level, Morrison realized that the danger of the times was also internal—that the "love generation" was hardly without its own dark impulses. In fact, Morrison seemed to understand that any generation so intent on giving itself permission to go as far as it could was also giving itself a license for (self) destruction. He also talked of pursuing sanity through insanity, and so he embraced the mysterious, the inscrutable, the extreme, the illogical, the disordered and the sensual. The purpose of his self-destructive substance abuse was not to discover the other side but to escape the other side. Sometimes he seemed to propose taking on the audience's evil urges or even becoming evil’s repository. 

James Riordan offers one of the best characterizations of his performances: “Watching him sing was like witnessing a man dangling in his own anguish. Seeing him scream, writhe, and whisper his way into a head-on clash with some ultimate truth could be truly frightening.” In Man Against Himself (1938) and Love Against Hate (1942), Karl Menninger described that inexplicable external behaviors are the result of struggles with untamed, internal forces present in all humans. In the case of Morrison, these self-destructive and aggressive forces could be avoided only by achieving some form of psychological mechanism such as sublimation or personality integration. Jim Morrison's charisma, and some of songs and poetry emerged from the most conflicted elements of his personality. —"Living in the Dead Zone: Jim Morrison—Borderline Personality" (2010) by Gerald Faris

Peggy Green spent considerable time with Jim Morrison in a romantic relationship. She has pleasant memories about Morrison and their special bond. She was a waitress at Thee Experience, and later worked at the Whisky and the Rainbow in the early seventies. She was Daryl DeLoach`s (Iron Butterfly) roommate at the townhouse on Bronson. Peggy remembers: “It was 1969, summer. Anyone who was a Sunset stripling remembers that we served a traditional English breakfast at Thee experience after hours. This particular night the Grateful Dead had been playing and with them was their pal Stanley Augustus Owsley (yes, that Owsley). As I recall it seemed that everytime I’d go in the kitchen to pick up orders from Chrissy, Owsley would pop a piece of ice cream into my mouth. I thought, how cute, and kept taking bites. Turns out he was doing the same to almost everyone in the club. Suddenly I found myself sitting on the steps that acted as bleachers in the back of the room with some customers burger which I was finding mesmerizing. I kept throwing it up and down and it was turning into the most beautiful colors I’d ever seen. The first time I met Jim, we didn't speak much, at least not out loud. It was at the Troubadour bar, probably on Monday when all the world seemed to gather there. I was with my friend Sally, who had recently moved to LA from England and was working at Thee Experience along with Joan Tripp who was married to Artie Tripp of Captain Beefheart. Jim was silent and sullen, all the things I found irresistible in a man, back then. I was a goner and from that point on we seemed to run into each other everywhere." 

Suddenly he'd turn up at Thee Experience and just as suddenly vanish. A few days later a group of the Whisky servers came down to Thee experience after hours for breakfast. Someone said there was a party in Bel Air and we were invited. My friend Jackie and some others that worked with us decided to go and sure as I walked the door, there was Jim. That night we talked for a long time, about both being from Florida and how we needed to stick together. Night after night he'd show up with his friend Frank Lisciandro. We'd talk a little, the truth is we were both really shy in a time when shyness was not prevalent. Our next encounter was at a party in one of those interminable Hollywood courtyards which look like bungalows. Again I was with Jackie and again Jim was with Frank. This was the night that we actually began whatever it was that we had. "A God needs a Goddess," Jim mumbled after drinking his fourth beer. I think Jim might have once been admitted to a mental hospital. One of his (prose) poems read: "I glanced at the red second-hand clock of the institution. The plastic dome covering the black numbered hours was no longer transparent but chipped, scarred, and grayed with age. I looked down at my wrists and a neatly typed plastic bracelet stating my new identity. I’d just become an inmate of Ward 4-A." He confessed me he had romantic feelings for Pam Courson, although they argued profusely. He pulled me down next to him without hesitation. I let myself roll aimlessly on the bed with him. It was sort of fun, actually, frolicking like clumsy puppies. When he kissed me, I feel him transfusing me with warmth. “Love me,” he said in a sensual drawl, causing an electric bolt of shock and excitement to shoot through me. I felt strangely alive. One Sunday afternoon I had seen The Doors performing at the Cheetah, in Venice Beach. I stood talking with friends at the lobby. We had moved inside the blackened room and sat on the floor while Jim walked inside the illumined circle; a soft light playing over his face; he wasn’t just cute, he was beautiful—and stoned on something I needed immediately.

I’d been listening to that voice for months, and now I was making love to him. After that concert, I remember seeing Jim walking behind a red-haired girl in a miniskirt. It looked as if they were on an invisible leash—the way a dog off leash remains attached, aware of the owner’s slightest shift. I could sense they belonged together, even though they deliberately walked far apart. In retrospect, that girl was probably Pam. I realized his feelings toward Pam overwhelmed him at times. But he seemed comfortable enough in my presence to reminisce about his early courtship. "Pam, she was a tough chick. I asked for her phone number twice. She didn't even look at me when I approached her the first time. I fell in love with her at first sight," Jim laughed at this memory. Then I realized I was going to be only another adventure for Jim, but he was really worthy. “I really love Pam. But with her love is tough. She’s always giving me trouble,” he complained. “She’s always disturbing me on purpose. To make me react. So I won’t react!” He looked proud of this, but then his irritation turned to guilt. “I mean, she’s been everything to me. I love her. She’s been my friend, lover, wife. Every time we live together, I’m optimistic… Maybe she'll change, maybe I'll change.” He sighed. I didn’t ask for all the gory details and felt torn between jealousy and sympathy for Pam.

“I don’t feel I’ve ever seen the real you,” Jim blurted with a note of challenge. I wanted him to see the real me, whatever that was. “I’m really shy,” I said, thinking this was a clue. “You, shy?” He traced my breasts with his hands lightly, as if daring me to prove it. “Yes, I really am,” I insisted. Then he leaned on me, telling me what great sex we were going to have. “What you should do—is just be really luxurious in black lingerie.” He smiled naughtily. I started cackling at the tought. His eyes bored into mine, his magnetism hypnotizing me. He wrapped his arms around me, enfolding me, molding me to him. Tilting my head back, his fingers played over the contours of my face, pulling my body against his. He kissed my breasts with tenderness. His desire blew me away, I felt this moment was unrepeatable, unforgettable. Jim Morrison was an amazing, gentle lover. After we ended, I dressed and was brushing my hair, when he came up behind me. “You have such good taste, doll” he said, looking awestruck. I was wearing a strapless, flowing tunic. Maybe Pam wasn’t the only good dresser? Then he hugged me, a big teddy-bear hug. “You’re going to be my new girlfriend from now on. Huh?” ”Uhm-hm,” I agreed, taken over by his charm. “It’s not just the sex. I could just go on holding you like this forever.” He was saying dangerous things. I didn’t want to hear his words run through my head at night when I was trying to sleep. So I remained calm. There was longing in his voice now. “I wish I could mellow out. I keep thinking maybe someday I’ll have peace of mind.” I gave him a peck on the cheek. “I’ll call you,” Jim said, smiling at me. I smiled back at him. From a distance, watching the way Jim walked alone, the full impact of his aloneness hit me. 

Michael McClure (August 5, 1971): "I had read a piece by Jim that interested me. He was discussing the concept of evil in a way that made me feel we shared some insights. Mitchell Hamilburg, the literary agent, got us together while my play The Beard was playing in New York. Jim and I talked about poetry while The Beard was running in L.A. He was interested in writing a play himself, and he liked mine. My wife liked him, and we both liked Pam. Jim never said they weren't married. We all grew very close. The fact is, she and Jim were living together before Jim started working at the Whisky." Shortly before her death Pamela Courson was awarded Jim Morrison’s share of The Doors’ publishing rights. In November 1971, Pamela had declared: “I declare that from the 30th September 1967 onwards, I have considered myself as being married to James Douglas Morrison, to all effects I was his wife. All my bills for medical care, clothes, or entertainment were made out to Mrs Morrison or Pamela Morrison. In September 1967 I accompanied my husband on a tour and while we were in Colorado, we decided to be married by common-law. Jim and I had discussed marriage before, but according to his managers the publicity that would have accompanied our marriage would have had a negative effect on the public image they were trying to construct for him.”

Tone McGuire (manager of Pam Courson's boutique Themis) had a lot of candid conversations with Jim Morrison about Pamela, and Jim emphatically expressed to McGuire that Pamela was his one true half, they just struggled a lot with the 60s scene's lifestyle. Patricia Kennealy: "Certainly he loved her, and she loved him. They had known each other from the days before the Doors, they had a shared history, she was probably the first pretty girl who had ever paid him serious attention. I believe Jim loved Pamela as well as could love anyone. Jim needed Pam to need him, but I don't think they had a very active sex life.” Pat Kennealy stumbles again with her absurd remarks about what she imagines about the sexual habits of a couple she didn't really got to know. Morrison left behind Pamela des Barres and Nico (who ardently pursued him) to be with Pamela. Also, we have to take into account Jim Morrison's drinking was so pronounced that his sex life was often impeded. Nobody actually believes Kennealy's ridiculous claims that Morrison never failed to be excited and ready to sex action with her. Indeed, Jim hinted on several occasions he actually disliked Kennealy. He was only mildly intrigued by her writing ability. Also, Patricia Kennealy sounds like she is just a few degrees away from stealing Pam Courson’s panties and rooting through her trash.

Even in his worst physical shape while in Paris, there are friends who suggest Jim and Pam were actively sexual, although both were substance addicts (alcohol and heroin respectively). One of the funny notes found from Jim's Paris notebook (which Pam kept) reads "We’re two of a kind / You want yours, and I want mine / I hope you find my sexual affect stimulating / Glorious sexual cool." Also, Alan Ronay and Agnes Varda recall a tense argument when Pam confessed to Jim she had been living with a friend of Jean de Bretueil and possibly sleeping with him. According to Hervé Muller, Morrison didn't have the same wild impetus in Paris than in L.A. and he didn't seem receptive to other women's attentions. French women barely recognized him, and he registered as a celebrity only in the artistic underground circles like the Rock and Roll Circus. Source:

THE BOOK’S DEDICATION: “For Soon-Yi, the best. I had her eating out of my hand and then I noticed my arm was missing.” ON THE ORIGINS OF HIS DESPAIR: “There was no trauma in my life, no awful thing that occurred and turned me from a smiling, freckle-faced lad with a fishing pole into a chronically dissatisfied lout. My own speculation centers around the fact that at five or so, I became aware of mortality and figured, uh-oh, this is not what I signed on for. I had never agreed to be finite. If you don’t mind, I’d like my money back.” ON HIS PARENTS: “Two characters as mismatched as Hannah Arendt and Nathan Detroit, they disagreed on every single issue except Hitler and my report cards. And yet with all the verbal carnage, they stayed married for seventy years — out of spite, I suspect. Still, I’m sure they loved each other in their own way, a way known perhaps only to a few headhunting tribes in Borneo.” ON REPORTS THAT HE HAD BEEN DISCOVERED WITH HIS HEAD ON DYLAN FARROW’S LAP: “While Mia had gone shopping, all the kids and the babysitters were in the den watching TV, a room full of people. There were no seats for me, so I sat on the floor and might have leaned my head back on the sofa on Dylan’s lap for a moment. I certainly didn’t do anything improper to her.” ON HIS FEELINGS ABOUT DYLAN NOW: “One of the saddest things of my life was that I was deprived of the years of raising Dylan and could only dream about showing her Manhattan and the joys of Paris and Rome. To this day, Soon-Yi and I would welcome Dylan with open arms if she’d ever want to reach out to us as Moses (Farrow) did, but so far that’s still only a dream.” ON THE EROTIC PICTURES OF SOON-YI THAT MIA FARROW DISCOVERED: “At the very early stages of our new relationship, when lust reigns supreme and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other, the idea arose that we do some photographs if I could figure out how to work the goddamned camera. Turned out she could work it, and erotic photos they were, shots well calculated to boost one’s blood up to two twelve Fahrenheit.” ON HARVEY WEINSTEIN: “Despite what was printed in the newspapers, Harvey never produced any movies of mine. Never backed me. He only distributed a few already completed films. I would never have allowed Harvey to back or produce a film of mine because he was a hands-on producer who changed and recut a director’s movie. We never could have worked together.” ON HIS RESPONSE TO PUBLIC CRITICISM: “And how have I taken all of this? And why is it when attacked I rarely spoke out or seemed overly upset? Well, being a misanthropist has its saving grace — people can never disappoint you.” Source:

Ordinary People (dir. Robert Redford, 1980): This winner of four Oscars, including Best Picture, is another example of a film that combines traumatic etiology and a schizophrenogenic parent. The trauma that prompts Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) to cut his wrists is his older brother's death in a boating accident, about which he feels survivor guilt. The parent who undermines Conrad's ego is not the sensitive patriarch (Donald Sutherland) but his composed-to-the-point-of-ungiving mother (Mary Tyler Moore) who didn't visit him once during his four months in a psychiatric hospital. Conrad's return home is so tense for him that, despite the electroshock therapy, he actually misses the hospital. "Because nobody hid anything there," he tells his psychiatrist.

Silver Linings Playbook (dir. David O. Russell, 2012): Eight months of treatment for bipolar disorder is enough for Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), to insist his mother who signs him out against his doctor's judgment. Pat is still fixating on what caused him to snap: finding his wife with another man in the shower and beating the man severely. This single triggering event, however, is not the source of Pat's delusions and outbursts, his unfiltered verbalizing, his general "craziness", all of which go back much further in Pat's life. David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated screenplay implicates genetics as at least one source, specifically Pat's obsessive-compulsive father. Pat is teetering on the edge of recommitment to the hospital when he meets a young widow named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). He worries she is crazier than he is and, with that bit of turbulence, the romantic part of this comedy takes off. It grossed over $230 million worldwide and rivals Ordinary People and Rain Man for film honors. 

Narratively, cinema tends to oversimplify the onset of a character's mental illness by rooting it tidily in a single trauma. This is called the "presumption of traumatic etiology", a term used by Steven E. Hyler, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, in his Comprehensive Psychiatry article, "DSM-III at the Cinema". The portrayal of mental anguish bends from realistic to ridiculous, provoking sympathy and fear in turn. Sensitivity and insightfulness continually fluctuate alongside stereotyping and psychobabble, revealing decade-to-decade shifts in perceptions and practices. Furthermore, the films cross several genres, or bridge them, while ranging from obscure to ubiquitous, from cult classics as Donnie Darko and drive-in fare to Oscar winners. There is an oddly pleasant poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay titled "A Visit to the Asylum". The speaker in the poem reminisces about visiting an asylum as a child, presumably with her parents, and how the patients doted on her. Source:

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