Saturday, July 14, 2018
Why Donald Trump likes, loves, needs V. Putin
There is an old theory in psychology, conceived during the golden age of post-Freudian psychoanalysis and psychological research. This is W.R.D. Fairbairn’s (1889-1964) theory of “return to the bad object.” I’m only minimally read in Fairbairn’s work, and here will only give a summary of the idea based on a different psychologist’s explanation of it. David Celani’s book, The Illusion of Love – Why the Battered Woman Returns to Her Abuser, uses Fairbairn’s discoveries about abused children to explain why many women are perversely drawn to, “stuck” on, their abusive partner. Fairbairn – from the kind of meticulous studies that were common in the days when family influence, not chemical imbalance, was seen to be the basis of psychological dysfunction – found that abused orphans (and abandoned children) remained extraordinarily attached to their abusive parents and wanted to be returned to them. Children from healthier, loving backgrounds were able to move on, were accepting of being adopted by strangers.
A little thought, and this counterintuitive observation seems obvious: Children’s identities form in the crucible of their early home. They are defined, and define themselves, by the verdicts and attitudes of their powerful caregivers. The child of a predominately frustrating but spottily rewarding parent (definition of “bad object” caregiver) must cling to the minuscule shred of care or its appearance, and must absorb and rationalize the rest. “Daddy is good. He wouldn’t have to hit me if I behaved better and got good grades.” The opposite reaction is impossible: the child standing up for his rights and dignity, rejecting the parent and seeing him as a monster.
Children of bad objects can’t mature emotionally, though they will grow layers of defense and intellect and experience over their suspended needy child self (like an oyster that encases and preserves the irritant within the pearl). They are like a tree growing in quicksand or non-nutritive soil. It may grow tall, but its roots are stunted, its foundation is weak.
Take this child who is internally always in abeyance, internally defining love as harsh and unpredictable, as one drop of water in the desert, and put her in an adult’s body. She has long buried her painful unmet needs for unconditional love and empathy. She will look at a potential partner from the surface “waves” of her defenses and intellect, but will be moved more by the deeper sea of her child self. Women such as these feel inexplicably troubled by a warm, kind, loving, giving man – he threatens to open their brain to their critical loss of cherishing and childhood – and are pulled to controlling, reward-and-punishment-dispensing father figures.
Take this child and put him in a man’s body, and for our purposes now, in a man who has grown a Narcissistic Personality. The inner boy – his deep sea – needs a parent-figure, but not one who is warm, who gives real parental or older-brotherly love. That would be disintegrating. He cannot consort with those who have a humane center. These good people – ethical government workers, children, European allies – will disturb him in ways he can never understand, as they would touch his child’s heart. He will walk weakly and urgently to men like his hard father. His narcissism will idealize not decent people but predatory people, not those with genuine self-esteem but those with the prosthetic ego of power and riches. He, Donald Trump, will need to reject the love and humanity that rejected him, and will remain extraordinarily attached to the unpredictable, abusive and falsely caring.
V. Putin is the Russian people’s Big Brother. But he is Donald’s big brother.