I had just posted information in an article titled Reality vs Truth." These are some of the opening ideas to my book "Reality is Social." Let me go into my details about how this has and can continue to impact my life in the here and now and into the future. I started out as a Social Worker with a positive attitude about people in general. I still have that attitude but I know not everyone is good. I learned that the hard way. Back in 2000 with a wife who had Cystic Fibrosis getting suddenly worse in her health that year (this is a terminal disease) I was confronted with the demands of clients and others whose stories I heard and their stories did motivate me and I had great concern for their situation. Looking back, what really mattered most was the love of my wife and not harming myself and her even if the motive is to help others. In the long run, I would not be of use to anyone if I was not well.
The attacks on my character that came later and still are out there can affect the beliefs of others who are looking for a therapist they can trust. This is a reasonable belief that is not a form of paranoia on my part about what others think about me. People do google another person's name or do background checks of social media, web pages, and etc. to judge the character of a person. Getting back my license will also relate to what the NC Board thinks about me, my health and ability to be a healer. I am going to talk about how the beliefs of others impacted my career and could still impact what others think of me now. Such false and destructive beliefs can have a real impact on my ability to work in my field of expertise where vulnerable people need to trust me now and in the future.
In my profession, people come to me who have been hurt by others. That may or may not be the presenting problem or the main problem but they need to trust the character of their therapist. Any information in the public domain can be destructive to a person's career. I would think this is common sense. A person in my field would need to market himself on the web where people can find me. This is precisely how my career as a psychotherapist took off in a saturated market in Wilmington, NC where other psychotherapists had warned me that there was no need for an additional therapist in the area. However, my wife and I knew that I was more successful working one on one with clients and patients than as a part of a corporate or business organization. Other professionals did acknowledge this as well.
I highlight one individual who had a great deal of undue influence over vulnerable people with psychological or emotional disorders because this story is about beliefs, my non-fiction book is about beliefs and how they can be in conflict with the truth and with facts. Certain individuals capitalize on their ability to shape beliefs. Even my own family had to be persuaded to believe the phenomena by a woman named Ruth Parris.whose real name was Ruth Zabriskie. She had changed her name to avoid any contact with Freifeld. She explained how Freifeld had distorted her ability to perceive the real world, that if he said the sky was pink she might believe it.
The individual who was harming people was a man named John Freifeld. He had preyed upon people who had Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) when I knew him. DID is what was previously called Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD. This is a condition that causes a person to have a number of symptoms of amnesia, disorientation, and the experience of having different personalities or ego states. He would refer people to me suggesting that they might have the condition. I had appeared in the Wilmington Star - a newspaper in Wilmington, NC as an expert as it were on this condition and one who was interested in helping others with that condition. I had set up a workshop for professionals and this got covered in a news article in the paper that got the attention of others outside the state even. I suppose if someone were googling these conditions and North Carolina or Wilmington, NC, my name and that article would come up.
As it turned out, he wasn't just running a member of an online group who himself needed support. He clearly was setting himself up as a professional or a healing person. One can imagine that such a predator would be persuasive and could exert undue influence over others who are seeking answers, support, and healing. He had no trauma of his own and was not in a position to diagnose or treat anyone, online or in person. So, after a year or so, I got involved in matters that involved law enforcement and his attacks on my character began. He had to paint me as unreliable because I was otherwise a profession that others felt would be very credible with law enforcement and the American Psychological Association that was looking into his activities. The attacks on my character do not go away and Google is not inspired to remove such slander and defamation of character even after his death.
As a "support person" was he referred to himself, he was good at brainwashing or mind control. I had hundreds of clients over the years who had no complaints about my care or my professional behavior. They had nothing but good things to say about me. However, 4 people who had contact with Freifeld filed a complaint with the licensure board that oversees professional clinical social workers. Things would only get worse as he would turn to the criminal justice system and file a false complaint alleging that I had called and threatened him, and I was doing what he claimed amounted to cyberstalking. North Carolina has laws about this and he made that charge with a magistrate.
Things got rather difficult for my defense against such an individual and his cult. Cults do exist and they often ensnare an unsuspecting subset of the population who otherwise seem normal. These people who lead cults are sometimes called gurus. They form groups, organizations, religious movements or other entities and members might be said to be part of a cult. Many cult members do not realize they are in a cult for years if not decades. Freifeld targetted vulnerable people but remember even normal people are affiliated with "cults." Cult experts would call his group a therapy cult. As such, a leader like Freifeld would need to persuade people not to trust a professional such as me but to trust him instead.
He convinced 4 of my clients to file a complaint with the licensure board and I also had needed to step away from my practice for a while with the chaos in my life around my PTSD symptoms and my wife's illness. So, my income went down very fast. Within about 6 months' time, I would go from a 6 figure income to homelessness. I would later end up on Social Security Disability. The criminal charges brought by Freifeld were the first time I ever saw a courtroom. It was a shock to me, having grown up with a sheltered existence in Southington CT. Initially, I had no insight into how to think like a criminal. When my wife, Lynn, warned me not to get involved, I thought "what can he do?" He can persuade a magistrate to issue a warrant for harassing phone calls. He can persuade a very small number of my clients, four in total, to file complaints with the NC Board that licenses Clinical Social Workers and later convince them and create a case to file medical malpractice claims against me for my quality of care.
That was done and in fact, other legal and financial issues made it hard for me to defend myself in the civil malpractice case. My insurance company that provided malpractice insurance for my private practice provided a lawyer who attempted to defend me in the matters that were brought against me by those 4 clients. That might seem damaging and part of a pattern but the 4 clients did admit that the complaints were all the same and were all written by Freifeld. The NC Board also confirmed that the complaints were identical. One client of mine had not even worked with me for some 6 months prior to filing her complaint. She had previously reported that she was satisfied with the success of our work together and she decided she was going to step away from therapy, thanking me for my services.
Defending oneself in judicial matters requires both financial means ( justice is often based on the ability to pay for good representation) and social supports, aka a support network. My family had a hard time or didn't want to get involved for reasons that were never known to me. That left me with no social network. I could not turn to the hundreds of other clients who had been helped by me and who were extremely satisfied with the level of care they received. In the years of my work, I remind myself that I touched the lives of well over a thousand people in very positive ways. This is not bragging but is an expression of my need to provide myself with positive affirmations. The results of a legal proceeding can impact a person for life. This is where belief again is key to being able to work in a particular field.
The beliefs of potential clients, as well as a licensure board and a malpractice insurance company, will have an impact on my life going forward. Any medical, psychiatric, or mental health professional needs malpractice insurance to move up in one's career and find opportunities. I got started by renting office space from a colleague who was not using his office every day of the week. To get my license to practice back, I will need to get supervision for the Board to approve my reinstatement. I was told by my lawyer who represented me many years ago that I could apply for reinstatement but would need legal representation to do this.
The story I am relating is not one of having financial means. In fact, society doesn't believe that low-income individuals will face these barriers. This is because most people cannot relate to experiences as I have described. That is the point of my book, to describe experiences that are not common everyday experiences for most people in society. This can consist of experiences of being shy, the experience of a trauma survivor or victim (victim experiences and PTSD are recognized as not the normal experiences of life that are common to most people). Being a victim of a crime is by definition an experience that is horrifying and not a common everyday experience. In addition, the results of such legal matters can affect a person for years later. Such legal matters will have an impact on my life going forward as a Clinical Social Worker as discussed above.
To illustrate this further, the criminal matter where Freifeld accused me of harassing him on the phone did not work out so well since my lawyer was a public defender and decided to go to a trial with a judge and no jury. The judge would hear a normal guy like me and he would listen to a charismatic, persuasive cult leader and decide who he believed is telling the truth, that's it. That didn't work out so well. My public defender said he could have gotten the phone records to clear me. I should not have had to tell him how to defend me as I had no court or legal experience dealing with criminal matters, as is the case for most people. Clearly, the pattern would develop where a public defender in North Carolina fails to provide proper representation in a criminal matter.
I made this clear to my limited support network at the time, which consisted of my family, my sister and my parents. I was asking them to do what I would have done if I was in their position and any family member was in a similar situation. When a woman attacked me a couple of years later and lied saying I attacked her, it would have been against a backdrop of this pattern of failure by a public defender. This was now radically different than anything imaginable. She was alleging a violent assault by me when I had been the victim. Clearly, I was going to need a support network to survive this matter. It would be expected to have a lasting impact on my ability to work in my field.
If people believed I was capable of this kind of criminal behavior, they would not trust me ever as their therapist. This had become a matter that was so bizarre and unjust that it seemed for over a decade that there was no hope for me. No one was there to step in with advice and support on how to remedy a matter that would stand in my way many years later, like today in 2019. It's hard to persuade potential clients to believe this is "fake news" or a "fake allegation." It would not matter that I had a pattern of behavior that painted me as the kind of person who would never hurt a person. I was a person who as a therapist had a tremendous amount of empathy. Someone once said, too much empathy. Having too much empathy caused me to be overwhelmed and develop PTSD in reaction to talking on too many clients and spending too many hours with clients who had been traumatized.
I have known all too well what it feels like to be hurt and not believed. The TV series "Unbelievable" on Netflix helps the viewer see how not being believed hurts a person who has been hurt already by a perpetrator. The woman in that TV series had been raped by a serial predator. It would take 3 years for her to get a chance to sue the city for damages caused by their failure to take her seriously. The detective who failed to take her rape report seriously did go back and apologize to her and he supported her civil suit, saying he doubted for a while that he deserved to be one of the good guys.
He had thought and believed originally that she was not telling the truth. That belief was not accurate. The facts later revealed that she had been raped by a serial rapist who was charged in another state for other rapes. Her friends were angry at her and she was scapegoated for making up a story that would scare them. She had been a minor staying in a foster care program and the housing unit had others like her who had been frightened and then angry at her because they believed she had lied and made it up. Had the rapist not been caught and her victimization not been established soon enough the statute of limitations would have expired and she would have no options for justice. That was my situation. Like it could have been the case for her, we hear what we should have done in the past.
The beliefs of others regarding her credibility might have changed the trajectory of her life. Instead of having the opportunity to move on with her life, she might have remained stuck. Specifically, over three years later she got a civil settlement of between $200,000 and $300,000 allowing her to move to a new place, get stable housing, go to school, and move on with her life The lawyer who helped her get this settlement did not require any money upfront. That sounds like it all makes sense as a way to achieve restorative justice. It allows one to restore what was taken from you by the criminal acts of another and the years of life not being believed.
That is what I am pursuing. It is not about dwelling on the past or seeking a free ride in life. I merely want to get back what was taken from me. I want to be believed and trusted. I should be believed and trusted since I earned that. However, it doesn't matter as much as what can be proven. The truth often is less important than what can be proven in court. We also tend to believe that the proceedings in a court are always proof of innocence or guilt. We also believe the incidents of a crime actually happened as described and not in some very different way. In my situation, I had been a victim of an assault and instead I never got the chance to charge my attacker with a crime or to seek civil justice.
Most of us have little exposure to the system of justice in America nor do most Americans understand what it would be like to pursue justice. We prefer not to think about it. That's understandable. Unfortunately, it makes it hard for many people, like myself, to be understood. It often seems that no one has any idea what I need or want... or they don't understand the very real obstacles that exist in life as a result of experiences like I have described. So, I am writing to help others come to understand how beliefs about a person can be radically different than the truth. In fact, there are few cases where the truth and the reality of beliefs are so different than in what I have experienced.
My own reality is a factor, as it is for all people, of what others believe about us and our own understanding of life and the world as it develops in relationship to others. In fact, my ability to help others understand the story I am relating is the point and the focus of a book on the differences between facts, truth, and reality. My reality is as a person within a society. As such I try to share my life, my self, my character, my insights, my ideas, and my thoughts. Like everyone else, I want to be understood. That goes back to being a shy person growing up. I just wanted others to understand who I really am - the real me - but was too shy to express myself.
I hope that in this book about beliefs, truth, and reality, others will relate to similar experiences where people had beliefs that were not shared by others. Maybe your friends don't seem to understand things when you try to share certain ideas or experiences. You might be greeted by looks of complete bewilderment or you feel that this is how others are reacting to what you say. This is going to be described in my book, as I highlight the differences that exist between what we believe to be true and what is true and how that impacts our understanding of the truth.