How do you Conquer a Fantasy?
It is actually not difficult to tell when one is on the receiving end of projective identification. That is, you suddenly feel is if you are unwillingly being enlisted into someone else's psychodrama, and being forced to play a part. The person acts toward you as if you have the qualities they have projected into you, and may goad you into responding in ways that confirm to the projector that you actually have those qualites -- that they aren't projections at all.
Psychologists see this all the time in more primitive "borderline" patients, who may suddenly experience the therapist as, say, an abusive or witholding parent. It is also ubiquitous in marriages, because intimate relationships bring more primitive parts of ourselves closer to the surface. And it is the primary mechanism of the Islamists.
Although he doesn't use the term, Lee Harris's excellent book "Civilization and Its Enemies" describes the phenomenon perfectly. First, he points out why the process is invisible to us. That is, people who have gone through the "civilizing process" forget that this took millennia, and have no understanding of those who have not completed the journey. They "forget how much work it is to not kill one's neighbors, simply because this work was all done by our ancestors so that it could be willed to us as an heirloom" (Harris).
Just because we no longer have any enemies that we need to primitively project our bad qualities into, we are deluded into thinking that we actually have no enemies, or that if we do, there is some rational, logical, "root cause" that can explain it--that if we are only nice enough, or compassionate enough, they will come around. But this is completely ineffective with projective identification, because the projector emotionally needs you to have the qualities they are projecting.
In reality, an enemy is someone who regards you as an enemy, whether or not you deserve the title. We clearly had an enemy for thirty years before 9-11, not because Islamists were our enemy, but because we were their's. We couldn't see it because it was a completely irrational process, based on projective identification.
But with sufficient provocation, we have finally been enlisted into the Islamist's psychodrama, taking on the role so vital to their psychological equilibrium. In other words, we are not their enemy because we are evil--because we have done anything in the real world, such as placing our soldiers on Saudi territory, or supporting Israel. Rather, as Harris points out, we are evil because we are their enemy.
If we do not realize the depth to which we are the enemy of the Islamists, it is almost a sort of condescending insult to them, just as it would be to a patient in therapy if the therapist dismissed their experience of us as deluded or immature. First, there is an obvious psychological need for the projective fantasy, or it wouldn't be there to begin with.
As Harris explains, a fantasy ideology such as Islamism is not a rational response to the world arrived at in a logical, sober manner. Rather, it is a transformative belief, meaning that its primary purpose is to psychologically transform the person who believes the fantasy. And believing the fantasy is an end in itself--it has no purpose other than to make the fantasy seem like reality. Therefore, the real reason for 9-11 wasn't actually to bring down western civilization. Rather, it was to further the fantasy by getting us to play along with it.
Ironically, what this means is that, even though we have no real enemy and the Islamists have only a make believe one, because of projective identification, we end up with a real enemy. However, underneath it all is a fantasy that we must eradicate, and the only way to do that is to bring reality to the Islamic world. Saturday's referendum in Iraq was a step in that direction.