I'm Rubber and You're Sniffing Glue!
Fascinating, isn’t it, how “I disagree with you and it makes me angry” is unconsciously converted to “you are an angry, bitter, hateful, dogmatic, jingoistic, exclusionary, and rabid PIT BULL!” But at least it was said in peace.
Talk about peacive aggressive.
I don’t want to focus on the content but the process involved in this kind of pseudo-thinking, because it obviously fills our political space. Yesterday Mikez noted that “I have to wonder why so many on the Left confuse disdain with hatred,” and asked, “Is it because there's no middle ground? Can't I dislike you, just a little, without hating you?” Exactly. Isn't there something in between "I think you might be wrong about this or that" and "you've got a rabid dogma!"
I responded that “since leftism is felt and not thought, leftists attach ‘motives’ to issues. In other words, they convert thoughts of mine that make them feel bad into malevolent feelings that they imagine I am having. That way, they can dismiss my positions due to my fantasized malevolence. They do it with all conservatives. Assigning a color to ideas that frighten you is much easier than thinking.”
In Bion’s formulation, he regarded affect, or emotion, as a connecting “link” between two objects. “Object” is a psychoanalytic term of art; an object is actually a subject. The three primary links were Love, Hate, and Knowledge, or L, F, and K (each of these also has a "minus" version as well, which we won't go into here).
When two subjects come together, an ambiguous space arises between them. Humans don’t like ambiguity, so they fill the space with what they already know. Everyone does this to a certain extent. In more extreme cases, the individual will forcefully evacuate the content of their mind into this space, which is known as projection. You can always tell when someone is projecting into you, because it is as if you are being asked to play a role in someone else’s private drama. Another name for this is PMS.
Now, the above individual believes that there is a K-link between him and me. In other words, he innocently believes that he “knows” me and is simply publicizing that knowledge. He does not know that there is an ambiguous space between us and that, in his anxiety, he has filled the void with primitive affect: bitterness, anger, hatred, cruelty, rabid dogs. Where did these affects and animals come from? They’re all real, in the sense that they represent a psychic reality. But what is their source? Are they really emanating from me? Or from him?
Obviously, in reality, not only does this person not know me, he doesn't even want to. That is, as Bion used to say, the answer is the disease that kills curiosity. In order to gain genuine knowledge of anyone or anything, one must first be curious. But for a variety of reasons, people do not want to be curious about certain things, because opening up in this manner can be confused with being passive and being forcefully attacked. So they head off the attack by shutting down their curiosity and attacking the threatening object. (I well remember this process in myself prior to my political conversion. It delayed my political maturity for a number of years.)
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is in large part the study of the space or field between two subjects, namely, patient and therapist. Bion called this space O. All sorts of things will enter this space, and both therapist and patient will be tempted to foreclose it with what they already know. Both may want to reduce O to a more conventional social relationship in order to make the ambiguity go away. Instead, it must be tolerated and studied. But most of all you must remain curious and open about what is provoked and arises in this space.
For example, if, say, a patient reports to me that he is experiencing me in that moment as bitter, angry, withholding, whatever -- I wouldn’t just deny his experience, because the experience is real. We would take note of it, but then we would want to investigate it a little more deeply. In other words, we would take the H-link and subject it to K. I wonder why you feel that way? When did it start? What exactly was it that I said? Does this remind you of anyone? How does if make you feel to feel this way? What do you imagine I am thinking? Might I retaliate? Etc. Again, it all comes down to a study of the space that arises between two individuals.
In a series of recent posts, I have been affirming what I believe about politics and its relationship to spirituality. While I don't intend to give offense, there is apparently no way to say what I want to say without being offensive to people who have a need to be offended. Here again, all we can really say is that there is a space between me and certain readers. Within that space is “offense,” but we need to understand where it’s coming from. Because just as being offensive can cause one to be offended, being offended can cause the other to be offensive (in the mind of the offended person, not in reality).
I personally am not easily offended by hearing viewpoints with which I disagree, not because I don’t think the viewpoints are offensive, but because the emotional state of being offended gives one no “added value,” and in fact, is almost always detrimental to one’s spiritual well-being. You see, being offended is one of the tricks the ego uses to justify itself. The ego secretly enjoys and gets a thrill or a “rush” out of being offended. When you are in this state, the ego achieves a false sense of nobility by elevating itself above whatever it happens to be offended about. Most "activists" are people who perversely enjoy being offended -- it's like an addiction to the ego. (This relates to the esoteric understanding of "turning the other cheek.")
Thus, the most low, common, and coarse individual can feel better than others by being in a semi-permanent state of offense, as you will have no doubt noticed that the left tends to be in. If you take away “being offended,” what’s left of the left? Just listen, if you can tolerate it, to Air America, or read Dailykos or the New York Times editorial page. They are “all offended, all the time.” Indeed, we are now in the midst of World War III because a bunch of religious fanatics are chronically offended, whether it's angry jihadis in Khartoum or jihadis angry about a cartoon.
Think of people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Randi Rhodes, Keith Olbermann -- again, all anger all the time. But does this anger in any way correlate with exemplary character? Hardly. Look at Ronald Reagan. Did you ever see him gratuitously angry and offended? Or George Bush, who has been the subject of constant bile, vilification and hatred for six years. Does he ever respond in kind? Of course not. He is a gallant man. Most of all, he’s a man. A man does not behave like a hysterical woman. If you have to shoot someone, you just shoot them. You don’t first wallow and indulge in the state of being offended. As Churchill said, if you have to kill a man, it costs you nothing to be polite. I mention this to Dupree all the time, but he tends to forget it when he's been drinking.
I am very careful not to be seduced into this egoic game of perpetual outrage. I think most people who call themselves “political junkies” are of this type. For the same reason one enjoys rooting for one’s favorite team and vilifying the other team, one can enjoy political combat. But there's very little K involved. Let alone