Monday, October 08, 2018

The Politics of Projection: In-sight vs. Out-blind

Can't spellcheck 'til later. Deal with it.

Despite being a clinical psychologist, I don't think or write much about psychology per se anymore. I don't know whether it's become so internalized that I just take it for granted, or whether my concerns are so focused on a higher reality that the lower ones fade from view.

The Aphorist tells us that The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths. However, it can also work conversely: sometimes the higher truths can eclipse the lower ones. Eclipse doesn't necessarily mean deny; rather, the light from one can obscure the light from the other -- as in how stars are overshadowed by the sun, even though they are much larger.

And just as one must maintain horizontal and exterior order, one must maintain vertical and interior order -- which necessarily involves hierarchy; no hierarchy, no vertical order. And I assume it hasn't escaped your attention that the left opposes all hierarchy (except when when they are at the top of the hierarchy). For example, now that more women than men attend college, feminists are not screeching that the sexes must be admitted on a 50/50 basis. Nor do we hear them complaining about "incarceration inequality":

For that matter, far too few women are killed on the job. Why do they avoid the dangerous ones? Do they think they're special?

The Aphorist also reminds us that In order for a multitude of diverse terms to coexist, it is necessary to place them on different levels. A hierarchical ordering is the only one that neither expels nor suppresses them. Psychology still exists, but it is psychology, not metaphysics or theology. If it does displace the latter two, then it inevitably ends up projecting the lower into the higher -- into the vacuum created by their absence.

Note that the same thing can happen at lower levels. For example, there was a time just yestercentury when psychology was in danger of being displaced by behaviorism. For the behaviorist, the mind doesn't exist, or if it does exist, it doesn't matter. Rather, there is only visible behavior, with no invisible mind behind -- much less above -- it.

Now, is there any truth to behaviorism? Of course. It just needs to be kept in perspective. Similarly, as mentioned in the previous post, there is surely truth in physics. But to suggest that physics is all truth is going way too far. This is when a scientific discipline becomes a mania.

And mania, like acting out, is a term of art. In psychoanalytic parlance, mania is a defense against depression. Except that in this context, depression too is a term of art. It doesn't just mean "sad" or dysphoric or bummed out. Rather, it implies the rejection of omnipotence and the acceptance of reality. You might say that it is resignation to the real. And reality can be kind of sad and sobering, at least compared to fantasy.

We're touching on some very important ideas that I'll need to flesh out further as we proceed.

Anyway, if I were to write about psychopathology, the past few weeks have provided a wealth of material. In fact, too much material. How to boil it all down to a simple explanation of the madness of the left?

By the way, another good reason to avoid psychology -- in this case psychologizing politics -- is that it's too easy to pathologize people with whom one disagrees. Anyone can do it, even a psychologist. As you know, the field of psychology leans left (to put it mildly), and there are countless papers that explain how and why conservatives are such mentally ill fascists. So if they do it to us, and we do it to them, doesn't that just prove the whole field has the validity of astrology?

Could be. Just as religion could be nonsense, since some religions believe in human sacrifice, while others call it murder.

I was trained in a certain school of psychoanalysis (itself a small and shrinking corner of psychology as such) that regards the exterior world as secondary to the interior world. No, not in the "I think I am" way of the rationalist. Rather, more like "I am this (pathological) way on the inside, so I imagine the exterior world is that way." In other words, pain, conflict, and frustration are projected from the inside out and regarded as real. You could call this the Primordial Conflation.

Now that I think about it, I am indeed tempted to think of man's fallenness in these terms. Pursuing this hunch will take us far afield, but you have to admit that a persistent bug in mankind -- ever since the dawn of history -- involves the confusion of inside and out, mind and world.

There is a section or two on this subject in our book, but the subject could easily be expanded into its own book. Or thousands of books. That is, externalization is a constant feature in human history, such that history cannot be understood at all without an appreciation of this defense mechanism.

For example, how does one understand the Aztec, whose whole civilization revolved around murdering thousands of innocent victims by slicing open their chests and cutting out the beating heart? Doing this just once would require a pretty good excuse. But thousands of times a year?

Nor do we have to go that far back in time. Nazis? Communists? Is a rational defense of these ideologies possible? Of course not. But that hardly means there weren't believed, passionately.

Speaking of which, remind me to tie this discussion into the well-written and highly entertaining The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy. Kalder describes the phenomenon without getting into the question of why all these hall of fame leftists are so evil and crazy, but that's our job. Suffice it to say at this juncture that

Great stupidities do not come from the people. They have seduced intelligent men first.

True then, true today. Look at all the professors and law students from elite universities who have condemned Brett Kavanaugh. These people are not stupid. Rather, they are plagued by something far worse.

Speaking of which, remind me also to bring in The Neuroscience of Intelligence at some point. Our merit-based society is indeed doing a fine job of sorting and rewarding people on the basis of intelligence. D'oh!

I was thinking about the implications of this over the weekend. No system is perfect, of course, but imagine that ours is pretty efficient at spotting and rewarding intelligence. Well, half of the population is of below average intelligence, so they might not like this system at all. There's your permanent Democrat base, right there.

Back to the defense mechanism of projection. When we act upon our projections, it is called acting out. Acting out is simply behaving as if one's projections are real. And as we've mentioned before, the great majority of "activists" -- in particular on the left -- have simply discovered an issue around which they can focus their emotional pain and then act out on it, instead of having insight into it.

Thus, "acting out" and "insight" are polar opposites: insight is the cure for acting out, while acting out is a major defense against insight. (And all psychological defense mechanisms are defenses against insight, e.g., denial, projection, rationalization, etc.).

According to Prof. Wiki, acting out

is a psychological term from the parlance of defense mechanisms and self-control, meaning to perform an action in contrast to bearing and managing the impulse to perform it. The acting done is usually anti-social and may take the form of acting on the impulses of an addiction or in a means designed (often unconsciously or semi-consciously) to garner attention (e.g. throwing a tantrum or behaving promiscuously)....

Freud considered that patients in analysis tended to act out their conflicts in preference to remembering them -- repetition compulsion. The analytic task was then to help "the patient who does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, but acts it out" to replace present activity by past memory.

In this context, "remembering" is synonymous with insight.

Let me get back to how this whole post started. It could have been anywhere, but it actually started with this guy. Look at what This Guy tweeted:

Time to get ruthless. ALL Republicans must go; every one; none should be allowed to appear in polite society again; must be shunned; relegated to the dustbin of history. White-nationalism dying a hard, mean, mean-hearted death of resentment & rage, trying to kill the country.

Where to begin? The first sentence implies that Democrats have not been ruthless toward Brett Kavanaugh, but that it's time to get that way. Not just toward him, and not even just his supporters, but to ALL Republicans, which is to say, half the country. So as to be precise, ruthless: having no pity; merciless, cruel.

So, this fellow is urging that half the population be mercilessly cruel toward the other half. Er, why? Presumably because you and I and all other conservatives are merciless and cruel. In other words, if you ask This Guy why he is so merciless and cruel, he'd have no idea what you're talking about. Rather, his whole worldview revolves around the idea that people with whom he disagrees are merciless and cruel.

It would be hard to find a more perfect example of projection. And he is urging people to act on this projection: acting out.

Could this guy really be this crazy, or is this just an aberration in the heat of the moment? Another tweet:

"Since 1992 Republicans have won only *one* Presidential Election with a *majority* of the overall vote. Minority rulers. UnAmerican."

Is such a crazy opinion susceptible to correction? If so, then it's just ignorant, not crazy. Now, our founders took great care to prevent the type of democracy he advocates. Does he know this? And does he know why democracy is so dangerous?

Yeah, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. He's just ignorant.

"Who gives a hoot anymore about what pervert Turd [by which I believe he means President Trump] thinks! What Republicans think! We KNOW what they think; cruelty is at their core."

Says the man who just advocated merciless cruelty.

Well, this sounds like something we might be able to agree on:

"I needed someplace to sooth the pain of this cruel last two weeks. I arrived at ⁦frick collection⁩ early, & began to heal some, loose [sic] myself in things bigger than I am or that *this* is. That impart the otherness & infinitude that art can grant. Art is for healing too."

Except here are some examples of what he regards as Healing Art:

We're out of time. We'll end with an aphorism or two:

The partisans of a cause are often the best arguments against it.

It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false.


Anonymous said...

This was a superior post, a good read. I feel it is right on target.

Why do people project in the first place? Your post alludes to projection as a receptacle for negative emotions. So, where is this negativity coming from?

Writer Maslow described what people need to feel OK. Starts with oxygen, food, sleep, moves on to needs to mate and have sex, feel safe/secure, need to feel loved, need to feel a sense of belonging, and need to feel a sense of purpose and significance. These are not "wants." These are requirements without which a human being fails to thrive, like a house plant which isn't watered.

Theoretically, a person with all needs met will not need to make projections. What was the Aztec lacking? My guess was they never felt safe/secure. Hence the sacrifices and so forth.

What does the Leftist lack? If this lack were identified and filled, they would become rational.

Saw Tony Bourdain featured some of final episodes. He was waxing philosophic about death. What, pray tell, did he lack?

Sadness abounds, and the culprit is always, I theorize, linked to an unmet requirement.

julie said...

Now, is there any truth to behaviorism? Of course. It just needs to be kept in perspective.

Just so; after all, the tail does wag the dog, just a little bit, in response to the dog wagging the tail.

julie said...

Wow, That Guy is a real piece of work. If he actually shuns Republican family members as he's encouraging his followers to do, said family members are probably deeply relieved.

Olden Ears said...

Anonymous asks, "Where does the negativity comcome from?" It seems to surface when people take what can be a legitimate, strongly held preference and turn it into a non-negotiable demand. Of course, notice that I said "surface." So that kind of begs the question, I guess. Surface from where? In extreme cases I believe the answer is diabolical. Doesn't that take us out of the realm of psychology?

Leslie Godwin said...

"Time to get ruthless. ALL Republicans must go; every one; none should be allowed to appear in polite society again; must be shunned; relegated to the dustbin of history."

Half of the Left is trying to rally the troops to be even more sadistic and mean-spirited, and the other half can't handle "traditional clapping" and has to insist their co-crybabies use "jazz hands" to applaud.

Daniel T said...

If you get a chance I'd be curious as to your thoughts on this blog post.

julie said...

Leslie, it all starts to make sense when you see a picture of one of these collections of leftist "toughs" who look like a stiff breeze would blow most of them over, and the recoil from their guns would likely result in them knocking themselves out after a shot or two.

Of course, what they really want is some else - preferably a horde of nuts teetering on the edge of blowing away their neighborhood at a moment's notice - to do all the real work for them. Barring that, they'll settle for having the police give them cover while they take over the city streets and bully innocent passers-by with the confidence that there will be no consequences for their actions, while anybody who fights back is likely to be arrested.

Leslie Godwin said...

Julie, Thanks for that! So they count on the civility of society so they can act out without truly serious consequences. Like a teenager with basically decent parents.

Joanne Griffin said...

If my focus weren't elsewhere these days, I would make this a pinned post on FB, Twitter, Instagram, et al:
Back to the defense mechanism of projection. When we act upon our projections, it is called acting out. Acting out is simply behaving as if one's projections are real. And as we've mentioned before, the great majority of "activists" -- in particular on the left -- have simply discovered an issue around which they can focus their emotional pain and then act out on it, instead of having insight into it.

julie said...

Leslie - yes, something like that. Except more dangerous and prone to preying upon those weaker than themselves. For instance, they feel perfectly free to assault women in public.