Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Sane Look at the Mechanics of Insanity

I was watching Lord of the Rings and as the hordes of beastly loathesome orcs and uruk-hai prompted by Saruman and Sauron displayed unbelievable feats of derring-do, the King of Rohan asked plaintively "How can one oppose such reckless hatred?

Reading a representative slice of ultra-left blogs brings somewhat the same question to mind. Just where do they derive their vicious hateful animus? Jesse Jackson himself yesterday called Jerry Falwell a man he disagreed with, but a man "with a heart of gold." You wouldn't get that from the often obscene and deeply hateful responses coming from the likes of Amanda Marcotte, for example, recently John Edwards blogrep. Just where does their profound distemper originate?

It's all about confronting evil within you and outside you. Watching The Sopranos for the first time on A&E, I thought the sessions with the female shrink Dr. Melfi were in this context when Tony just wouldn't let her know what was really bugging him, preferring instead to describe symptoms of panic attacks while avoiding the intensely felt fears and hatreds he harbored within himself.

Just what makes people fail to recognize the real problem? At times when I ask myself such questions, I turn to Dr. Sanity. Here is her take on what she calls MORE DISPLACEMENT, LESS REALITY.
As a psychiatrist, I can't help but notice that there's an unbelievable amount of psychological displacement being used right now (see here and here for more discussion) to cope with the painful realities of our day.

Displacement is one of the primary psychological maneuvers that covers-up or disguises blatant self-deception and self-delusion. It is, for example, behind most of the more vicious attacks on President Bush for anything he does; and for anything he doesn't do. He is behind every evil like some modern-day Moriarity, a criminal and godlike genius who is simultaneously a moron and incompetent. We are not talking about a mere dislike of the President; nor is this simply "politics as usual". Rather, it is an unreasoning and implacable, visceral hatred of George W. Bush for the sin of existing. This hatred is so intense that it is stunning to any rational observer; and its manifestations have been justly made into a diagnosis of "Bush Derangement Syndrome". Clinically, the symptoms of this syndrome are as disabling and as dysfunctional as any other post-traumatic stress disorder.

Displacement is the separation of an emotion from its real object and its redirection toward someone or something that is less offensive or threatening in order to avoid having to deal directly with what is frightening or threatening. It is a very useful type of psychological denial which distorts and obscures reality.

You suspect that this type of denial is at work when an individual expresses an emotion toward someone or something (e.g., anger or fear) that is way out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Ordinary dislike is transformed into a visceral, implacable hatred; anxiety morphs into hysteria; and ordinary frustration at being thwarted in one's desires becomes rabid, impassioned rage.

The purpose of displacement is to avoid having to cope with an unpalatable reality in order to maintain a belief, a world view, or even one's sense of self. By using displacement, an individual is able to still experience his or her anger or fear; but since it is now directed at a less threatening target than the real one, the individual is able to feel better. Thus, the individual can delude themselves into thinking they are doing something about what threatens them, when in reality, they are blind to it ("fiddling while Rome burns" so to speak). Conveniently, the individual using displacement (or any other form of denial) does not have to take responsibility for the consequences of his/her emotion and can also externalize any blame or consequence on the object of their emotional displacement. They simultaneously feel safe AND virtuous, even though neither emotion is justified--at least, not for long.

From BDS, whose sufferers claim that Bush is more evil than Bin Laden (a bit of intellectual idiocy from the moral relativists of the left!); to the insane belief that a Christian theocracy is imminently going to be imposed on the U.S. by the BushHitler, when radical Islamic fanatics are actively trying to do exactly that; to the latest jaw-dropping assertions we should be diverting resources to combat global warming because it is far more of a national security threat than Islamofascist terrorism--these are examples of the wonderful world that you too can live in if you are willing to subscribe to a creative interpretation (i.e. denial) of reality.

Dr. Pat Santy lives in Ann Arbor and is a psychiatrist for NASA among other attainments, so she has a sort of extraterrestrial perspective from way above that distinguishes a lot of her insights.

My guess is that a Martian coming to Earth would quickly see the Global Warming hysteria from the perspective of Mars' own melting icebergs, and consider the AGW hysterics hopelessly self-referential in blaming themselves and their fellow Earthlings for what is probably a solar phenomenon.

And the Martians would also perhaps note that the BDS enthusiasts worried about a Christian theocracy have no belief in a power higher than themselves.

And that is a hopelessly terrestrial perspective.

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