Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Unseen

Gaghdad Bob:

[A] national opinion poll -- including an election -- doesn’t necessarily provide much in the way of objective information about objective circumstances, but subjective data about how it “feels” to be part of a historical group at a particular time. In fact, deMause turns the presidential approval rating on its head. He doesn’t believe that it actually measures approval but disapproval about how effectively or ineffectively a fantasy leader is “containing” the public’s anxiety. Since the group is largely driven by fantasy, it naturally follows that they will look for a leader who can reassure them about the world and diminish their anxiety.

In this regard, it is a mistake to think of the fantasy leader as an oedipal parent; the process is much more primitive, involving the need for pre-oedipal projection and containment. Using this method, one would not say that President Bush has a 35% approval rating, but a 65% “toxicity” rating. But the toxicity is a measure of how much unconscious material is being projected into him by a large segment of the group.

This is one of the reasons it is so wearying to be president, because it involves the day-to-day processing of so much irrational projection of hatred and anxiety. I personally don’t know how President Bush puts up with it. All therapists know how difficult it is to deal with just one borderline patient in their practice, but it is as if a president must deal with the projections of fifty million or so difficult patients who are irrationally experiencing him as evil incarnate. The president must be a receptacle for continuous projections from various levels of emotional immaturity and unreality. And in the case of President Bush, who tends not to fight back and engage with the projections, it only makes that part of the population more enraged with him, just as a borderline patient would feel outraged if the therapist did not take their perceptions seriously, no matter how distorted. One of the difficult things about being a therapist is “holding” the patient’s negative projections. You cannot just say, “I’m not your father who abused you! I’m me!” Rather, you must patiently tolerate being Dr. Evil while helping them discover the psychic truth behind their projection.

It is fascinating to note that the left is so out of touch with their fantasies about President Bush, that one constantly reads about how they imagine that he is fighting back in the most dangerous and extreme way -- that he doesn’t tolerate dissent, that he questions people’s patriotism, that he is destroying our civil rights, that he punishes ideological enemies. Pure projection.


deMause outlines a four-part process that the fantasy leader undergoes in relation to the group. At first the group will see him as unrealistically strong, magically able to unify the group and keep enemies at bay. Certainly we saw this in the months after 9-11, when President Bush was so popular. Again, his popularity had little to do with the actual merits of his policies, but with the public’s need to feel safe, and the feeling that Bush would protect them. Stage two is the “cracking” stage, when the feelings of magical nurturing begin to deteriorate, so that the public’s mood begins to feel unstable and dangerous. The leader begins to be experienced as weak, unable to control events. Looking back, I believe that this really started with the successful attacks on President Bush’s Thanksgiving trip to Iraq a couple of years ago, but especially after the Terry Schiavo matter.

Stage three, “collapse,” occurs when the public begins to feel that the fantasy leader is helpless to prevent catastrophe -- when the group’s anxiety has become unhinged and uncontained in a completely unrealistic way. This brings on pure rage and free-floating paranoid fantasies of death and destruction. Thus we see the President unrealistically blamed and vilified for all sorts of things outside his control -- homosexual predators, hurricaines, rising (but never falling) gas prices, global warming, deadly flu pandemics, etc. He is seen as weak and vulnerable, which triggers a wave of near homicidal anxiety that aims to purify the group by ritual slaying of the divine king, identical to what took place in the most primitive tribes.

One of the geniuses of the American system is that it accounts for both our civilized and our primitive natures. In holding national elections every two years, it provides an outlet for primitive anxieties that historically toppled regimes. In other words, it institutionalizes the logic of human sacrifice, which is stage four of the group fantasy cycle. Thus it is no coincidence that President Bush performed a human sacrifice and held up the head of Donald Rumsfeld to the baying MSM fantasists on the morning after the election. If you keep up with the ranting of the infantile left at dailykos or huffingtonpost, nothing less than some form of human sacrifice would have answered their homicidal rage. But one thing we can know with certainty: it won’t work, for magic is a symtom of that which it purports to cure.

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