Monday, October 17, 2005

How do you Conquer a Fantasy?

Projective identification is one of the most important concepts in psychoanalysis. Whereas projection is a defense mechanism through which we unconsciously project something from ourselves into someone else, projective identification goes deeper. It involves first projecting into someone else, and then forcing the other person to actually take on the quality that has been projected into them. While projection is a neurotic defense mechanism, projective identification is much more primitive and troublesome.

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.


Dan tdaxp said...

But are any ideologies truly "rationalal"? All serve several purposes, including helping the group spread and appeasing the believer, but very few are arrived at "soberly"!

That doesn't make the adherents stupid, though.

Dan tdaxp

USMale said...

Didn't you mean, "HOW do you conquer..." I'll leave the Freudian slippage interpretation to you.

Living amonst psychoanalysts as I do, I have come to believe that their stated goal of "consciousness" has in fact become a nothing more than a justificatory ideology for liberalism, a set of beliefs and positions that any Democrat party hack could come up with, lacking their years of school and analysis. The work of consciousness for them is almost entirely introspective. This introspection is not specifically personal but national, that is, they peer into the depths of their depravity as Americans. And since they naturally find unpleasant, primitive, aggressive, aquisitive parts of themselves (ie, the human parts), they move immediately not only to self-flagellation as Americans but to its sibling state, self-congratulation as conscious global citizens, and then to an absolution of the Other: Since We are so bad, why would They not hate us?
I, poor benighted fool that I am, always thought that the work of becoming conscious was not about me without also and always being about Reality. I might be a kinda narcissistic obsessive-compulsive, but my mother might also have been a raging alcoholic witch. My pathology doesn't turn her into the Virgin Mary. That's part of Reality. And consciousness. Or so it seems to me.

Hence, America and the West may have our shadow. Well, of course we do. But that doesn't turn the Muslim thugs and their hundreds of millions of silent and passive co-religionists into saints. We've all got our issues, but when Ghengis Khan is at the gates, it doesn't matter.

Gagdad Bob said...

You asked "But are any ideologies truly "rational"? ... "very few are arrived at "soberly"!"

Not so sure about that. You might want to compare, for example, the Federalist Papers with the charter of the PLO. The distance between the two documents may be measured in terms of developmental psychology.

Robert said...


/lifts eyebrow

Gagdad Bob said...

Raised eyebrow? About projective identification? Something tells me you've never been married.

Bill said...

"Something tells me you've never been married."

LOL! After 25 years I now have a name for it!

Definitely a different way to look at the situation. But whereas my wife and I may have an argument and apologize, the resolution here is much longer term and more intense. I agree the elections are part of it, but some negative reinforcement (read military action) does seem essential as well.

gumshoe1 said...

"I agree the elections are part of it, but some negative reinforcement (read military action) does seem essential as well."


you THIRD graders better watchitt.
you're gonna peeve the 2nd graders off.

and they're gonna call ya
"arrogant" anna "bully".


gumshoe1 said...

i don't like
playing "apologist for islamists",bob,
but we *can* be sucked into tthe game becuase we too have a shadow:

"they're the primitive
and undeveloped,and
...well...gosh...we're superior."

as noted,
when Ghengis Kahn's at the gate
alla this is moot.


90 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LiquidLifeHacker said...

Bob...again I enjoyed your words. I agree that even if you don't think you have an enemy, what good is that thought if someone is standing on the other side of your comfort zone constantly yelling that "YOU are THE ENEMY!" Because even if you don't hear it or see it...the one that has this passion inside their mind and has in their own fantasy, as you would say, created the conflict and the desire for the conflict, is already on the front line starting battle. Its just a matter of time when the front line gets closer and closer and the next thing you are part of it. In a way its like being stalked into action isn't it Bob? Islamist wonder walls are being built in Israel. It's to keep the stalkers out!!! Stalkers with bombs!

90 said...

I liked everything you had to say under this post but when I came to “the only way to do that is to bring reality to the Islamic world”, I had to shake my head at the monumental task. The problem being this, that what is “normal” in an islamic society is entirely based upon the teachings of Mohammed. And Mohammed was a man who had visions from Allah that he was to marry the (not yet) 6 year old child of one of his companions. Indeed all of what is “normal” and “lawful” in an islamic society is based on the deeds and teachings of Mohammed. If you know anything about this man’s teachings, you know this is a monumental task. One which there is not enough anti-psychotic medication to bring a semblance of reality to that part of the world.

Goesh said...

Thanks for the excellent commentary. I maintain that 9/11 has not fully registered with most Americans. The simplicity of jihadis was evidenced via the use of box cutters to hijack airplanes. Something so simple, in contrast to the highly complex. Box cutter V. high tech. We seem to not comprehend this. We grapple with this. We need and demand complex reasoning to explain this, but it is not to be had because their core beliefs are equally simple and pristine. They want us, our children and our way of life dead. It doesn't get any easier than that. Like our street thugs, jihadis can only respect and respond to a force greater than themselves. Hence reason equals weakness, compromise equals fear, compassion equals cowardice, empathy equals ignorance and dialouge equals servitude. The attributes of extremely rigid monothesim and patriarchy in their world only complicate this, but don't fully account for it. We are left with the dilemma of constantly asking ourselves how much force is truly needed? We at least have historical precedents to rely on, but there is a collective disconnect with viewing fundamentalist islam as a threat equal to nazism and Japanese imperialism. Oil. We can only disengage from the paradigm by either developing real alternatives to oil, or by declaring total war on the bastards. How about both? Two for the price of one, to make a crude, no pun intended, business analogy.

Anonymous said...

What about bringing reality to western liberal progressive socialist world

LiquidLifeHacker said...

I agree their reality, it is as if they are still children in a dream slaying dragons, but I do think alot of them that are living in the luxury of the western world, are having an identity crisis. I think Islam is being exposed not only to the rest of the nonmuslim world but also to those victims that were unfortunately born into the curse. I know many are afraid and that is why they wear the victimhood for others to see because its much easier for them to be a victim than deal straight up with their legacy. They trod over it with pride and self made arrogance. Also, the intimidation within Islam on apostate fatwas keeps many of them silent. Fear is their motivation both internally and externally.

I really respect those that stand up and try to remove themselves from it all. It really must be like crawling out of the pit of hell. When you explain the "fantasy" which has been beat into many of them literally, it must be devestating to wake up and realise everything has been an illusion. For those that do have a break through of revelation, can you imagine the hurdles they have inside their own families when they do want to leave it all? I think it would be great if you did some piece on the psychology of leaving a cult. Because its one thing to have awareness finally...but another to have the strength to walk away from the evil that binds you.

The legacy left for so many now is shame ... its like watching a child make up excuses for an alcoholic parent that is always embarrassing him and instead of being able to cope properly they continues to "create" this fantasy that the parent is lovingly good, caring in a responsible way and peaceful....when in reality they are abusive,threatening and duplicitous. I really think the biggest illusion is the "Peaceful' front that is peddled to the west. You all have heard it. This is NOT Islam because Islam is Peace! I mean, where is the peace? I ask all the time...where is it?????
It is like a store front to fool the masses while in the back of the store, criminal activity is taking place.

Anonymous said...

"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." It seems to me that it creates the reality it intends to in a backhanded way. Yes, 'America is evil because they are the enemy', but also: 'we are good because we fight evil', and 'we are great because we have great enemies'.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Well...I have the personal belief that the father of all lies is what better way for him to get souls to do evil deeds than to give them the fantasy of this evil thing you do is good?

When I think that Allah rewards his followers for suicide and murder, when their minds and hearts have been "fooled" into thinking its a worthy spiritual cause and perhaps their only real guarantee for eternity, then I have to look at the core of that belief....and in my opinion, it's pure deceptive evil at work driving souls into it's direction until it uses that person up for it's agenda.

I really think that the strings that puppeteer that person's thinking process are not only embedded into them at a very early age but it is enforced and encouraged by the flock that embraces the concept that Allah knows best!

I know that not all choose to adopt the "holy war jihad" but when you look at the statistics of the percentage that do....its a big group that has chosen to be our enemy! The thing is this...sure you can hope to educate and stretch your hand in tolerant love....but with the ideology in that koran itself...who is to say there is any guarantee that the next generation doesn't take on the dual meaning and wage war in the literal sense that we see minds like Bin Laden? I think Islam is in need of great reform, but I know its been tried before and each time it is pushed for gets intimidated down because Islam cannot take criticism. My heart goes out to the men and women that have tried to question it in Islamic countries only to be put to death or a life in prison.

M. Simon said...

There are two answers to the Middle East question. Short term and long term.

1. Short term we need to dope them up to relieve the suffering caused by PTSD.

2. Long term we need to understand the cause of the PTSD ( child rearing practices. We need to fix them.