"Can I get you anything?" a caftan-draped Rod Steiger asked when I arrived at his white clapboard beach house in Malibu. After leading me into a separate brick structure located outside the residence - and learning that I desired nothing - he headed back into his house. He returned shortly with a large cup of tea and box of Kleenex for himself.
A Tiffany lamp overhead helped brighten our meeting place, which serves as a retreat where Steiger can work at his desk, take phone calls and review scripts. A built-in wall barbecue, pictures of Steiger in various roles (including Napoleon), a poster advertising "W.C. Field & me," awards, tennis rackets and the contents of six boxes of memorabilia collected by the actor's mother gave this room a sense of both familiarity and function.
During the course of his sometimes philosophical remarks, Steiger frequently left sentences unfinished and syntax in disarray. Occasionally, he would excuse himself for digressing. But he was a solicitous subject - "Am I helping you?" he would inquire - and displayed a winning warmth under what sometimes passes, to his chagrin, as a gruff exterior.
People go into therapy for different reasons at different ages. At any age in your life, the basic problem is a matter of connecting with another person.
I know when I first went to see a psychiatrist it was because I knew a lot of girls but, for some reason or other, I wasn't very happy about the whole thing. And I decided they couldn't all be bad: There must be something wrong with me.
I knew a lot of them at a sexual level, but then I still didn't feel satisfied emotionally; I didn't feel fulfilled. And it wasn't because I didn't allow my emotional self to get involved with my physical self. I was trying to keep them apart, I guess.
The basic problem that I had was my trying to be everything unto myself, which is an impossibility. I came from a broken home, so I was trying to be my mother to myself and my father to myself. When I made love to somebody, it really was almost like I was by myself: I wasn't sharing anyting emotionally.
No matter what tricks you may play with yourself, you ain't gonna make it by yourself. It's much more fun with somebody else. There is the necessary other half of you, or other person that you need.
The only thing I thought was bad about analysis in the beginning was the tendency of the new patient to analyze everything, to overanalyze - and I went through this.
When you first go, you tell everything. The big shock, of course, is that after you've described how you want to wipe out half the world - or told how you think half the world doesn't like you - the analyst says, "Well, that's normal. Everybody thinks like that." And you say, "What do you mean that's normal? How can you say that?"
But it's good to have somebody to talk to once in a while in your life. I went to talk to a doctor just recently when I went through a depression. They say you have crisis years in your life - when you're 17, 30 and 50. Evidently no matter what you've done - whether you've done a lot or a little - you're going to be dissatisfied.
I go to see a man now - I talk to him maybe twice a week. I don't like it. I kind of resent it a little bit, because I say, "Here I am 50 years old: What is this - can't I learn anything?" But you also learn it's a different person than it was last time. I have problems now I never had years ago. Years ago I had certain goals. Now all of a sudden you find you've accomplished those goals and you're wondering why you don't quite feel satisfied. I have won the English Oscar twice, the German Oscar, the Italian Oscar and the American Oscar. And sometimes I look at them and wonder, "What's it all mean?"
The funniest thing - and one of the most constructive - an analyst ever said to me was that we all have a tendency to think we're special and we're going to suffer for the world. He said, "I'm going to ask you a question, and I just want you to say "yes' or "no."" I was surprised because he never put things like that.
He said, "This is just a game. Do you think you're Jesus Christ?" So I said, "No." He said it took five seconds to get over the shock of the question and five seconds to say "No," but how did I account for those other five seconds? And I had to laugh.
In therapy I found out that at certain times I would condemn myself because I didn't want to realize that perhaps someone I was deeply involved with in my life was not good for me. So rather than face that, I'd think there was something wrong with me. Or, the other way around, I'd find myself condemning the other person because I didn't want to face the fact that I had an inadequacy.
One of the most difficult things to do sometimes, in a sense, is get out of bed. It's so easy to lie in bed and moan and groan to yourself. The bed is like a big womb or something. I know when I went through a great depression, jeez, I would stay in bed 10 or 12 hours, and it didn't bother me at all. I loved it. I'd read.
There's a certain amount of pain in any growth. People are supposed to be unhappy in their lives from time to time. You're not supposed to have eternal happingess: It would be a definition of monotony. Discomfort and unhappiness have brought forth probably most of the progress of mankind.
Life is kind of a glorious treadmill, but it is a treadmill. But there ain't any other thing, so you might as well try to enjoy it as much as you can. Which may sound kind of depressing - but it isn't. Struggle is maybe the most important necessity in life, because only when you've struggled and won do you really understand the pleasure of living.
Unfortunately, we're also the only animal equipped to dream. Now that is one of our most glorious and tragic gifts of nature. Impossible dreams are necessary to give you the strength to go forward. In front of an acting class I said, "An artist has to have these necessary dreams that will crucify him." To dream costs a lot. To accomplish a dream, though, has a reward that's incredible. CAPTION: Picture, Rod Steiger as Napoleon in the movie "Waterloo."