Monthly Archives: June 2016

Our Nation at Peril

Long before famed neurologist, Antonio Damasio, discovered that without emotional input from our pre-frontal cortex our judgment is profoundly disturbed, Freud and his co-workers recognized this pathologic state can result from “splitting,” that is, by an act of mind. Whether from neurologic or psychologic impairment, a critical function for mindful behavior becomes non-operative by negating emotions.

Mind is the active principle in human beings. Classically, it has a tripartite structure: mind thinks, mind wills, mind judges. These are actions. By contrast, emotions are passive. They come awake, as it were, in response to an action or an event. They have to be roused. Where were they sleeping? In our physical self. Our body houses the emotions, so when we get “emotional,” it becomes a physical event. Without that participation by our body, how would we experience anger or sadness or joy? William James recognized that emotions are feelings that we feel by changes in our body, such as quickened heart rate, shallow breathing, trembling lips, visceral stirrings, clenching of the teeth. Emotions are as much a part of who we are as our skin, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. They create relationships necessary for survival and provide the glue that holds them together. And they make our  beliefs flesh!

Now this somatization of emotions has a profound consequence. We react to actions of mind – such as a belief system – emotionally. Our political beliefs are as much a part of us as the rumblings of our bowels. Our affiliation with a particular political Party is as deeply grounded in our being as our breathing. An allegiance to one political party or the other is not simply an idea – I think, therefore I’m a Democrat. No, I FEEL, therefore I’m a Democrat. One’s political affiliation is on file with one’s liver and lungs and bowels and skin. It is embedded in the organic self.  Little wonder one doesn’t bring up politics without asking for trouble. Of course one votes the Party, even if headed by Donald Trump.

It is a truism that folks vote their Party, regardless of the candidate. One can marshall facts enough to blot out the sun, it doesn’t result in a political conversion. Political argument unleashes immensely powerful emotion. Our whole body rings out like a giant gong. Watch the Senators filibustering  in Congress for Gun Laws as we speak; the agony is physically visible.

So now, we have a candidate who is truly an existential threat to our America, beyond reasonable doubt. Yet 43% of the populace will vote for him. Guaranteed. Cromwell pleaded a hearing based on the bowels of Christ. He was no fool. Hillary leads in some polls by three per cent. That’s within the margin of error.

Splitting is in full gallop within Republican leadership. It is done with knowledge aforethought. When asked about Trump’s innuendo that President Obama supports terrorists, today Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan said they do not take questions on statements made by Donald Trump, who in fact is now the head of their Party. (Recently, Trump claimed that Obama “is a black Muslim in the White House,” an egregious affront to the President.) When splitting is done with full awareness, it shines a bright light on character.

The hatred for Obama is a sight to behold, the hatred for Hillary inexhaustible. But they are not on the guest list for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Trump is. His Presidency is unthinkable. That may well be, but we vote with our liver and lungs. They anchor our deepest beliefs. If a member of the Republican Party,

I FEEL, therefore I will vote for Trump!

Psychoanalysis Weighs in on Republicans

A leopard can’t change its spots. Freud and company discovered changing one’s character is almost as difficult. Donald Trump is who he is. He will not change. He will not turn Presidential next week, or next month, or next year. The Donald is The Donald. Trump himself acknowledged this fact, one of the few truthful statements he has made.

Republicans have put Party ahead of Country.  They don’t experience self-condemnation, despite the enormity of this reversal.  They don’t register guilt. They give no evidence of remorse. They are not conscience-stricken. They are not drawn up short by George Will likening them to quislings. How is it possible they have no shame?

They have undergone a virtual lobotomy!

Antonio Damasio has famously shown that when emotional centers in the frontal cortex get damaged, through accident or disease, the patient, a normal, responsibile citizen up to that point, turns psychopathic. He loses any semblance of conscience, utterly indifferent to his defective behavior and lack of social responsibility. He exhibits a criminal state of mind. He suffers from a neurologic disorder, his judgment lacking necessary input from his cortex.

Splitting brings about the same pathologic state. It is not a neurological defect, but a defect of mind. By cutting off necessary emotional input, splitting results in impaired judgment. Damasio’s key concept is that mind begins at the level of feelings. “I think, therefore I am.” Wrong! “I FEEL, therefore I am.” No better proof of this observation than conscience, that powerful component of mind that makes cowards of us all.

Republicans now support Donald Trump, whom they universally railed against as a con man, a cancer, and a malignant ignoramus pounding his chest like a potential tyrant. How can they in good conscience do that?

“Conscience?” Republicans ask, feigning bewilderment.

– Yes, the one psychoanalysis recognizes, breaking like a Category Five hurricane on the traitorous head of Judas – that conscience!  Judas committed suicide to escape its fury.

A bad conscience is as terrifying as George Foreman. Ask Muhammad Ali.

I done wrestled with an alligator,
I done tussled with a whale;
Handcuffed lightning,
Thrown thunder in jail!

I don’t see Ryan up to his hips in alligators, no sign of the terrifying lightning and thunder  that crashed on Judas.

The most powerful Republican in the land, The Speaker of the House, the grand Poo-Bah who alone decides which proposed legislation comes to the floor of the Congress for debate and a vote, condemns Trump as a racist; and then, splitting off emotional awareness of this damning indictment, assures the Party he will vote for him. The entire Republican leadership recognized Trump’s narcissism, grandiosity and malignancy for a year, then hardly breaking a sweat, promised him their unconditional support.

Splitting operates on the basis of the Pleasure Principle. Freud discovered we can evade this harsh world by fantasy, picking and choosing what is in keeping with our wishes. This imaginary power is not outgrown. We are forever vulnerable to its blandishment.

Splitting has destroyed the Republican Party. It has split off that most potent “feeling” power, conscience. Mindlessly, it supports Trump, like them, also without conscience. With the indifference of sociopathy, the Republican Party has put in jeopardy our way of life.

 

Quislings

Hillary created a Great Pause in her speech on Foreign Affairs last week. The nation took a deep breath. There was a sense of relief. Perhaps this was true only for Democrats, but the Republican establishment never uttered a peep. Trump himself managed only a banal Tweet or two, and, risking apoplexy, thundered that Hillary should be put in jail.

For most of the primary season, Republicans had railed against Trump, calling him a cancer and a con man, utterly unfit for the Presidency. When he won the primaries, they split off the emotional resonance of their judgments, flattening them into irrelevance.  Paul Ryan, no less, Speaker of the House, now said he would vote for Trump. The Republicans’ paranoid-schizoid thought disorder enabled Trump to go from con man to their champion.

In a recent column, George Will wrote,  “Donald Trump’s damage to the Republican Party, although already extensive, has barely begun.” Psychoanalytically, Trump wreaks his havoc by  going Narrow and Deep, or Shallow and Wide. That must sound srange, but take the matter with Federal District Court Judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel. He is presiding over a civil suit against Trump University. The judge has a long and distinguished career, including prosecution of Mexican drug cartels. Even though born in Indiana, and, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, an American citizen, the judge is of Mexican descent and therefore, Trump claims, prejudiced against him. Why? As President Trump, he intends to build That Wall. Trump goes Narrow and Deep by splitting on a grand scale. He attributes deep significance to one element, in this instance, the judge’s ancestry, all else excluded. Structually, of course, racism is Narrow and Deep – something as trivial as color blots out the sun. From this narrow dimension, a  meaningful contact with reality is not possible. Splitting is not a trivial disorder. It is psychosis in action.

What about Shallow and Wide? In this variant of a thinking disorder, the mind is unable to make meaningful connections. Splitting chops reality into separate pieces. Each piece by itself is recognizable, but one can’t string them together. Their interrelatedness has been split off. They don’t cohere. Is there a better example of someone going all over the map, moving rapidly from one thought to another than Donald Trump? He doesn’t use a teleprompter. Of course not. His intent is to go Shallow and Wide.

The two thinking disorders, and Trump suffers from both, are not intended for the advancement of learning.  Shallow and Wide in fact launches a bombardment, Narrow and Deep a cutting penetration. Out of love, Juliet may have wanted to cut Romeo in little pieces like the stars, but these mind disorders are driven by hate. As is obvious from the blight of racism, they are a constant threat to civilized life.

From a psychoanalytic perspective, Trump displays a paranoid-schizoid disorder of the first magnitude. If he becomes President, “everything will change”….for the worse. For the Republican leaders, particularly Paul Ryan, to continue their support of Trump is the doing of a quisling. That’s George Will’s judgment, also.

What made Hillary’s Foreign Affairs speech so welcome is that it took the Shallow and Wide rantings of Trump and made them cohere. Trump retorted Narrow and Deep, “Hillary should be put in jail.”

(to be continued)