Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Disease Without a Name

A highly accomplished professional came to see me. He was miserable and tired of suffering emotional pain. His faith did not help. Meds didn’t help. Nothing helped. He decided to swallow hard and talk with a Shrink. After the usual preliminaries, we entered into a conversation, which didn’t last long. When I drew his attention to something he had just said, he threw up his hands.

“I don’t want to hear that.”
– Is it true?
“I don’t care. I don’t want to hear it.”

And I never saw him again. About half the folks who swallowed hard and risked talking followed the same pattern. They didn’t want to look at what was right in front of them. About half, however, stayed the course, many for years. Not easy!

Many books have been written about The Right and The Left, a political bifurcation recognized since the French Revolution. We know it as our two-party system, Republican and Democrat. We also know, as studies have shown, The Right favors ideology, The Left favors the workaday world. Steve Schmidt, a well-known Republican strategist, says 47% of an electorate is always Republican, 47% Democratic. Is this distribution of the electorate in our DNA? Does my experience over many years that half of the folks didn’t want to hear THAT! and half of the folks put up with hearing THAT! support this idea? If so, does it throw light on what Paul Krugman calls “post-truth politics?” Possibly.

Freud discovered that fantasy can commandeer the senses through hallucination, an option that triumphs over reality and the pain that goes with it. NOT EVERYONE EXERCISES THIS OPTION! Are those on The Right more vulnerable to hallucination than The Left? Is this the Republican template for later eperiences?

By definition, we can’t observe a hallucination. What then is the Deep Structure that begins with commandeering the senses? It is easily recognized, as familiar to us as Frank Sinatra. “I do it my way.” Wilfred Bion called it, “Arrogance.” What goes “out” over-rides what comes “in.” That reversal is the heir to hallucination, bringing with it the authority of sense experience. “I don’t care. I don’t want to hear that! I am going to do it my way.” The result of this arrogance is an ideology that disregards evidence from common sense. Here’s an example.

Every developed country in the world knows that folks get sick and need care. That’s a fact of life. Everyone gets medical insurance. Not so in our United States. Some twenty Republican governors oppose Obamacare. That’s not the problem. Until it is repealed or changed, however, it does provide medical coverage for millions of their constituents, at almost no cost to their states. Without insurance, hundreds die unnecessarily, thousands suffer, millions live in constant anxiety having no protection if they get sick. With a stroke of the pen, the governors, using Obamacare, could change this. They do not. The governors do it their way. They don’t care Obamacare is simply the best available at the moment. Ideology triumphs over common sense.

In Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale, Camillo says,
There is a sickness
Which puts some of us in distemper, but
I cannot name the disease.

The present distemper of the Republican Party is not inevitably a disease of The Right. Throughout history, The Right, beginning with Edmund Burke, has remained “average expectable.” Not true for McConnell and Boehner and the Republican party they lead. Freud observed hallucination can override reality. Bion named this disease, Arrogance. Those afflicted do it their way, disregarding any input from common sense. Creationists do it their way. Evangelicals do it their way. ISIS does as it pleases.

For the entire Obama presidency, Republicans have suffered distemper, a disease, I submit, we can name, – Post-Truth Politics. They do it their way!

(to be continued)

Freud and Post-Truth Politics

The idea that the world runs according to laws, and these can be comprehended, didn’t occur to the race until the Greeks a couple thousand years ago. Only then did we get “an edge of objectivity.” Why was science such a Johnny-Come-Lately? Aren’t our five senses tuned to the objective world? Isn’t that what they were designed for? After all, we have to read “reality” accurately, otherwise we won’t survive. That’s true for every animal.

So what gives with the Republicans? Paul Krugman observes, even though he knows they’d never admit it, “Events have proved their most cherished beliefs wrong. At a deeper level, however, what we’re looking at here is the impact of post-truth politics. We live in an era in which politicians and the supposed experts who serve them never feel obliged to acknowledge uncomfortable facts, in which no argument is ever dropped, no matter how overwhelming the evidence that it’s wrong.” Other political analysts, such as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, have made the same observation, “The G.O.P. has become an ‘insurgent outlier… unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.” The Republican denial of Climate Change is a case in point.

Suppose we have Freud examine Krugman’s statement. What he would jump on is the observation, “…obliged to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.” This is where Freud entered history. It’s the beginning of psychoanalysis. Freud subsumed “uncomfortable” under the concept of “Unpleasure,” a general term for Pain. We don’t like Pain. It hurts. True for every animal, but none is remotely as clever as we humans. Surely, we’ll figure a way out. And we do! Yes we can!

Freud discovered how we manage our escape. We come equipped with a power that overrides whatever our five senses tell us. It’s called fantasy. Well, that hardly comes as news. “It takes no ghost come from the grave/To tell us this.” We all know of Freud’s Unpleasure/Pleasure Principle. If growth and development proceed normally, fantasy gives way to the Reality Principle. Ho-hum!

There’s a deeper problem, however, that both Krugman and Mann/Ornstein recognize but are baffled by. From whence comes the thrust that hurls an entire political party into the domain of a far outlier? What enables politicians to disregard facts and not register them? I’m not talking about political corruption and sociopathy in high places, but a genuine point of view at odds with reality, like Climate Change, as mentioned.

Freud made a crucial discovery. Fantasy comes equipped with a remarkable power. It can produce “hallucination.”


Fantasy can storm our centers of communication. This is what accounts for the far-reaching consequence of post-truth politics. Hallucination is not merely a thought, or an idea. Hallucination takes over the sensory apparatus. IT REVERSES ITS FUNCTION. Rather than the five senses passively registering the objective world, hallucination turns them into actively creating one. Eyes spin out visions, ears voices. Man becomes a creator of worlds, Omnipotent. The forces of hallucination, revolutionaries, announce a reality shaped by wishes.

Hallucination doesn’t fool around. It doesn’t make us take a leap of faith. No conversion is required. It doesn’t bring a set of instructions. If we had merely a day-dream we were fed and the pangs of hunger abated, well, lots of luck. A dream is as fragile as a bubble. Not hallucination. That goes to the heart of the matter. Eyes see, ears hear, touch and smell and taste are the messengers of what’s real. They are the organs of registration. Without them, we’d be drifting in infinite space – no tools to carve out a piece of finitude, a place to land, like Noah’s dove after the flood. The five senses illuminate a niche for the human world.

Now hook the five senses to an invention made out of whole cloth, a mere wish, a chimera, messengers reporting this make-believe from “out there.” It doesn’t change the AUTHORITY of sense experience. Eyes seeing a vision are the same eyes seeing a sunset. When you route a wish through the five senses, what is “inside” comes from “outside.” Of course we believe. We get it first-hand. Paraphrasing Groucho, “Are you going to believe me or your eyes?”

It is the foundation on which post-truth politics builds its world.

(to be continued)