The unconscious mind, the election, and paranoia

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Dr. Bob Godwin of One Cosmos writes one of his trademark essays, moving back and forth among the psychoanalytic, the political, and the spiritual/cosmological levels of analysis. Because some of his terminology and his way of arguing are so unfamiliar to many, and because his conclusions and comparisons tend to be somewhat breathtaking, the essay will not be easy reading for anyone. But there are some breathtaking mental gymnastics on display, which readers may wish to at least consider, even if unwilling to jump into the deep end of the pool. A sample:

Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause observes that 'most of what is in history books is stark raving mad —— the maddest of all being the historian's belief that it is sane.' He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different 'group fantasies' which are designed not to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties.

This is why the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear —— witch hunts, senseless wars, racial and religious scapegoating, panics of various kinds. But if your perceptual abilities have not been damaged by multiculturalism, you can see the fantasies just as clearly in the present. For example, as noted above, our 'war on terror' is being waged against Islamist fantasists for whom reality does not enter into the equation. Unfortunately, this doesn't make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very existence, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti—Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal.

The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the 'mood of the country,' which mostly consists of 'gut feelings' that have nothing to do with actual conditions, only with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.

As such, the fact that the economy is thriving is literally inconsequential to the significant majority of Americans who fantasize that it is not. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression. In fact, this is often what makes a 'great leader': the ability to forge a strong and compelling fantasy for people to believe in. When the mood of a populace is 'angry' or 'sullen,' as pollsters have been repeating ad nauseam, it is almost always because the group fantasy —— whose purpose it is to contain primitive anxiety —— is breaking down.

The identical thing happens to a patient who is 'decompensating.' The colloquial term for this is a 'nervous breakdown,' but what it really means is that the ego's customary defenses are failing and that the person is being overwhelmed by unconscious material. People will often make rash and irrational choices in such a situation, for example, making Nancy Pelosi speaker of the house and imagining that it will stop the psychic bleeding. It might, but only for the time it takes for the unconscious cycle to renew itself.

It is not for everyone, but it is provocative.

Thomas Lifson   11 10 06

Dr. Bob Godwin of One Cosmos writes one of his trademark essays, moving back and forth among the psychoanalytic, the political, and the spiritual/cosmological levels of analysis. Because some of his terminology and his way of arguing are so unfamiliar to many, and because his conclusions and comparisons tend to be somewhat breathtaking, the essay will not be easy reading for anyone. But there are some breathtaking mental gymnastics on display, which readers may wish to at least consider, even if unwilling to jump into the deep end of the pool. A sample:

Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause observes that 'most of what is in history books is stark raving mad —— the maddest of all being the historian's belief that it is sane.' He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different 'group fantasies' which are designed not to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties.

This is why the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear —— witch hunts, senseless wars, racial and religious scapegoating, panics of various kinds. But if your perceptual abilities have not been damaged by multiculturalism, you can see the fantasies just as clearly in the present. For example, as noted above, our 'war on terror' is being waged against Islamist fantasists for whom reality does not enter into the equation. Unfortunately, this doesn't make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very existence, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti—Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal.

The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the 'mood of the country,' which mostly consists of 'gut feelings' that have nothing to do with actual conditions, only with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.

As such, the fact that the economy is thriving is literally inconsequential to the significant majority of Americans who fantasize that it is not. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression. In fact, this is often what makes a 'great leader': the ability to forge a strong and compelling fantasy for people to believe in. When the mood of a populace is 'angry' or 'sullen,' as pollsters have been repeating ad nauseam, it is almost always because the group fantasy —— whose purpose it is to contain primitive anxiety —— is breaking down.

The identical thing happens to a patient who is 'decompensating.' The colloquial term for this is a 'nervous breakdown,' but what it really means is that the ego's customary defenses are failing and that the person is being overwhelmed by unconscious material. People will often make rash and irrational choices in such a situation, for example, making Nancy Pelosi speaker of the house and imagining that it will stop the psychic bleeding. It might, but only for the time it takes for the unconscious cycle to renew itself.

It is not for everyone, but it is provocative.

Thomas Lifson   11 10 06