Conservatives Defend Us From Our Real Enemies, Liberals Defend Us From Our Enemy, Reality (1.21.10)
In my book I refer to these enduring, or "crystalized" pathological remnants as “mind parasites”; but remember, healthy functioning always involves a sort of fluid dialectic between the two positions, analogous to metabolism and catabolism. Carl Jung in particular emphasized how a psychological "breakdown" can be a prelude to a new level of integration. In fact, it happened in his own life, when experienced what amounted to a psychotic break during World War I (I forget all the details at the moment).
Here, I'll look it up. This might be helpful. In his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote that after his break from Freud in 1913, "a period of inner uncertainty began for me. It would be no exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation. I felt totally suspended in mid-air, for I had not yet found my own footing." Interestingly, this coincided with the onset of the war, which was experienced as a sort of psychotic breakdown of the world's order. Jung could not distinguish between his internal experience and the world situation:
"The pressure I had felt in me seemed to be moving outward, as though there were something in the air. The atmosphere actually seemed to me darker than it had been. It was as if the sense of oppression no longer sprang exclusively from a psychic situation, but from concrete reality. This feeling grew more and more intense."
Hmm, this is getting interesting. What happened next? "In October, while I was alone on a journey, I was suddenly seized by an overpowering vision: I saw a monstrous flood covering all of the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps.... I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood. This vision lasted about one hour. I was perplexed and nauseated."
Soon he was plunged into an "incessant stream of fantasies" that made it difficult to function. "Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them. There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would have inexorably fallen into a neurosis and and so been ultimately destroyed by them anyhow."
More on Jung's psychotic break in a later post. For our purposes, the point is that he did not defend himself against the unconscious through manic defenses, but fully plunged into it in an ultimately creative and healing way.
Now, a "borderline" individual engages in severe splitting between good and bad, and has difficulty distinguishing between "inside" and "outside." As such, if you disappoint or frustrate them, they can suddenly perceive you as all bad (which they have projected into you), completely forgetting the many positive experiences they have had with you. It is as if these experiences never happened, and the “good you” no longer exists, because it has been banished to some black hole of unconsciousness (this process should not be confused with garden-variety PMS).
Likewise, a narcissistic individual only has use for you so long as you serve as a mirror for their primitive, paranoid-schizoid grandiosity. As soon as you fail to idealize them, they will react with anger or contempt in order to maintain their illusion of greatness. They will flush you from their life like a bad object.
The manic defenses are those defenses that prevent movement from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position, and include contempt, triumph, control and idealization. Basically, you can think of these defenses as coming into play when reality threatens to impinge upon fantasy. In fact, these defenses ultimately consist of attacks on a reality the individual has already dimly perceived but does not wish to consciously entertain.
At the same time, the manic defenses prevent recognition all of the implications of the unconsciously perceived reality, which is obviously a huge impediment to fruitful and generative thought. It explains why the left does not profit from experience, and why they continue proposing irrational and utopian ideas and policies that have already failed and will surely fail again. But only by arresting thought in this way can they keep their audaciously manic hopes alive. (Thomas Sowell calls this the inability to "think beyond stage one," which in practical terms comes down to failing to appreciate the law of unintended consequences.)
In the past we have discussed deMause's concept of the “group fantasy.” In my view, the philosophy of secular leftism is very much rooted in the paranoid-schizoid position, whereas the classical liberalism embodied in the conservative intellectual movement is much more reflective of the depressive position. Here, I hope it should go without saying that I am not primarily referring to individuals, as there are obviously many immature conservatives and mature liberals. Rather, I am specifically discussing the group dynamic.
If I am correct, then we will see in conservatism a much more sober and realistic assessment of mankind. As I have mentioned before, I am of the view that conservatism is as much an inclination, temperament, or “cast of mind” as it is any set doctrine. In fact, the doctrines follow from the temperament -- or, you might say, the depressive position -- rather than vice versa. This would explain why normal people generally become more conservative as they mature and grow wiser, whereas leftism mostly appeals to the young or to the permanently immature of academia and Hollywood.
A while back, I wrote a post which summarized the main tenets of conservatism and liberalism. Let’s review them and see how they line up in terms of the paranoid-schizoid vs. depressive positions. I think they basically speak for themselves.
Russell Kirk summarized the six canons of conservative thought as
1. Belief in a transcendent order; and that most political problems are moral problems resulting from bad values. (To cite an obvious example, if Hispanic or Black Americans adopted Asian American or Mormon values, they would be just as successful.)
2. Appreciation of the ineffable mystery of existence, and with it, opposition to the tedious uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of of most radical systems.
3. An understanding that liberty and equality are contradictory aims; a belief that there are distinctions between men and that classes will emerge naturally and spontaneously in a free society. “If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum.”
4. A belief that property and freedom are intimately linked. “Economic leveling... is not economic progress.”
5. Distrust of radical schemes by liberal intellectuals “who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs” that simply mask the intellectual’s lust for power.
6. Recognition that change and reform are not synonymous, and that “prudent change is the means of social preservation.”
In contrast, contemporary left-liberalism has entirely different assumptions and attacks (manically, in my estimation) the existing social order on the following grounds:
1. “The perfectibility of man”; the belief that education, environment or legislation “can produce men like gods; they deny that humanity has a natural proclivity towards violence and sin.”
2. Contempt for tradition. “Formal religion is rejected and various ideologies are presented as substitutes.”
3. Political leveling: “Order and privilege are condemned,” accompanied by “an eagerness for centralization and consolidation.”
4. Economic leveling: “The ancient rights of property... are suspect to almost all radicals.”
The first six postulates are true or revolve around truth; the second four are false or rooted in falsehood. But worse than that, the latter are manic defenses against the sobering reality of the former. To put it another way, to believe in the latter four is to never "grow up" in the pneumacosmic sense.