Thursday, November 17, 2016

The fundamental conflict*

If we avoid psychology – as most people and pundits do – it becomes easier, or even necessary, to simmer down after the election and see ourselves as one nation, to believe that we must “come together,” and that “millions of people can’t be racist.” But if we look to psychology, we won’t fall into that desperate place of conciliation and hopeful thinking. We’ll find, instead, a different desperation, coming out of unsavory questions and their answers.

What does it mean to be a “good” person?

You can love your wife and not give a damn about “the people starving in Asia” (a pre-meme meme of the ’50’s). You can treat your African-American coworkers with respect while your “implicit bias” thinks they all slipped out of the ghetto under false circumstances. You can stop to fix a stranger’s flat tire but think that Jews are hook-nosed schmucks. You can be committed to good works while believing you’re smarter than everybody. You can hope that Hillary Clinton will spend twenty years in prison or that Donald Trump will die of a heart attack on the toilet. Or you can “love humanity” – “I never met a man I didn’t like”** because you’re lying to yourself, are still a subservient child, are unconsciously begging for mercy, are blind.

You can read the Bible (about revenge, child sacrifice and God’s jealousy) and believe you are a good person.

Do we have to like anybody?

Depth psychology shows that childhood unmet needs for love and respect are the adult psyche’s first contact with the world and incessantly importune in the present. A “regular guy” or woman may be a deep magnet of need that compels every behavior making everything selfish – even a giving act, even an altruistic character. All liking, then, would be a silent mental mechanism of manipulation. Needy and frustrated, we couldn’t be truly there for another person. Extend that logically, and we will dislike everyone.

People’s historical pain is often the substrate of anger, where anger is a facet and distillate of hurt, loss, need, pain, frustration. We harbor it deep in our soul, though may partly cover it with better sentiments. It emerges in misdirection because the past is buried, hidden. The female candidate has a penchant for power and secrecy and we boil with murderous rage. The president-elect wins over the country by dint of narcissism and we think he is garbage. We condemn the elite, ignorant rednecks, immigrants, the closet terrorist woman and her children in their hijabs. We are the discontented angry.

The conflict most of us have felt and still feel with the other side, around the election, is fundamentally the war within our individual self: between the adult’s survival mind and the child’s injured heart. It’s the pain of unhealing. It causes our disproportionate anger, our incapacity for empathy, our hurt magnified by the lens of our past into global fears and prejudices, and our tendentious ideas and dogmas. Until we go to that solitary inward place to heal, we will continue to be hypocritically forked, continue to have injured relationships – and will have no ability to love the other side, say what we will.

- - - - - - - - - - -

* This post was inspired by a phrase from a Baltimore Sun newspaper article, Trump Didn't Rally Whites, sent me by a friend. One line that I took objection to was: In this way the candidate did his tens of millions of well-meaning supporters an enormous disservice and exposed them to this attack. My off-the-cuff email response to my friend was: Why are they well-meaning? Did they choose Trump despite his ugly ideas? Does refusing to vote for Clinton make them well-meaning for Trump? That phrase is a non sequitur thrown in in the middle of an otherwise plausible argument. The pro-Hillary Sun seems to have gotten a little too gallant post-election. The post is a more on-the-cuff response.

** Humorist Will Rogers’ (1879-1935) heartwarming absurd remark.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.