The Morphed Psyche – Developmental Perspectives on Hate (II)

The edited version of the paper I presented at the Conference for Hate Studies at Spokane, WA. I have deleted citations and references for ease of reading. The last paper on Music had been, I realised, a difficult read with all those citations etc.

Introduction

This paper has grown out of my own ambivalence and struggles with acculturalisation and consequential feelings of love, indifference and hate, hence it is pertinent to provide the audience with a brief snapshot of my background as well as the events which form the context of this paper.

Background

I am by birth a Hindu Brahmin, from Kashmir in India. I am 49, and I have spent roughly equal amounts of time – 16 years each – in several cities, located in five different countries over three continents that had dominated by Hinduism, Islam and Christianity respectively and it is in the developmental theories Melanie Klein that I found my own psychic development across the borders – international borders as well as the borders of my own emotional sanity. An in-depth understanding of my own psyche has helped me understand the national psychology of the people and the nations and cultures that I inhabited over the last 49 years. As above, so below, and what is within, lies without.

Countertransferential Material

As I prepared an abstract for this conference, I wondered what I would say because I had never encountered hate on a personal level ! What does it mean to hate, I asked myself ? What is hate? Why don’t I experience it ? As the sages would say – be careful what you wish for, for your quests may be answered. And they synchronistically did get answered, in the form of a woman I shall call Tammy Blankbird.

Case of Tammy Blankbird

Tammy is a female psychologist about 35 years of age. I met her about 3 years ago on an electronic message board that shall remain unnamed for reasons of confidentiality. There she idealized intelligent people but when they disagreed with her, which is what intelligent people do, she would traumatize them. She knew full well that Freud attributed all humor to the deepest unconscious fantasies, but that didn’t stop her from saying “Do you all concede to my superior knowledge?” People who needed to be led, were drawn to her, forming a sort of lynch mob and harassing others who dared to disagree. The fireworks had been increasing in frequency and intensity over the months while I was there and many knowledgeable and accomplished professionals who had been her friends, but fell out of favor, eventually ended up leaving the message board.

Almost everyone who could be a threat to her hegemony had been hounded out of the message board, until I interpreted this dynamic to our colleagues and the awareness of her interpersonal style of relating caused them to become less supportive of her, which made her angry and resentful of me. In my culture, there is a saying “you must walk past a bag of shit without disturbing it, for nothing good can come out of kicking the bag of shit!” So here I was, minding my own two Jungian psychodynamic cents, making all efforts to stay away from Tammy, but finding little success. She relentlessly pursued me, jeering and mocking me for my refusal to confront her. It felt like I was walking on eggshells around her, in order to maintain peace on the boards. My cultural prescription of walking away, my refusal to fight was, of course, not perceived as my strength, but was interpreted as a developmental deficit. “Emotionally healthy people do not escape from confrontations!” she said of and to me. In India, we have an expression that says “Laaton ke bhoot baton se naheen maante” – the deadbeats used to being kicked, will not yield to verbal reasoning. After many months of being harassed, stalked and hounded, eventually I give her an experience of what it meant to be intruded upon, I confronted her by exaggerating her behavior and mirroring it back at her. She promptly complained that she was victimized by me, labeled my intervention as a part of my “ugly projections” and so it went and so it went…

This is a perfect example of what is going on in the external world, how an intrapsychic conflict is converted into individual conflict that affects a community and eventually the world peace. In onion like parallel process, this could well be a religious or a political conflict. As we go thru the rest of the paper, I hope the lines between the personal and the collective are progressively blurred, and we are able to see how this situation represents the individual re-enactment of the collective problems that we are faced with. We can well substitute the proper noun Tammy and use the word Israel, or US, or China, or even use the word Islam, Hinduism or Christianity – so that the event can be recognized not simply as conflict between two individuals, but as the story of our times, a story of religious, national or geographical intolerance, provocation and distress.

Although the developmental theories are related to individual psyche, what else is a nation if not a collection of individuals? So as I read thru the proposed conceptual model, I request the audience to correlate these two in their minds – what happens within the tender psyche of an infant provides a conceptual understanding of what is going on national, international and even on cosmological realms.

Developmental Theories

Developmental theories posit that the experiences of the womb to childhood are embedded into our soma. They represent our instinctual strivings that are unconsciously acted out in our adult behaviors.

Infantile Omnipotence and Narcissism

In the womb all wants of the fetus are met and his mental life represents an absence of needs, a sense of omnipotence – that one has all one wants and there is nothing else to wish for (Ferenczi, 1951: 218). This is the ideal state of being, remembered unconsciously, and all thru our lives we fantasize about this state and create a fantasy of god, and heavens, in the image of this existence of the womb.

Birthing trauma challenges the infant, and a neonate’s omnipotence is frustrated and threatened. He now learns that he helplessly depends on the forces outside his sphere of influence and there is nothing he can do about that dependence. This awareness of aloneness, and of being helpless in the face of dependence on the universe, and on larger forces, is ongoing throughout life and acceptance of our limitations forms the basis of adult wisdom. Hell is but a projection of our emotions about life lived with suffering. In hell, there is no god for in adult life there is no mother to bail us out.

Splitting : Kleinian Hate & Envy

Melanie Klein has unveiled a phenomenon called splitting and projective identification that has shed more light on the process by which the emotion of hate and envy are created.
The infant feels good when it can maintain its sense of omnipotence, and it feels bad when that omnipotence is threatened. These good and bad experiences are internalized thru the relationship with the mother. When the mother is being attentive and gratifying, the infant feels good/omnipotent. When the mother doesn’t move quickly enough, or doesn’t satiate the infants’ hunger completely, she is experienced as bad. Good and bad are split apart and later become manifest as heaven and hell, god and devil in the adult fantasy. The infant does not realize that it is the same mother who is both good and bad, neither does he realize that his own behavior towards the mother is sometimes good and sometimes bad.
The growing infractions of the mother – her inability to respond perfectly every time – make the infant painfully aware that the mother can not be always good but such realization is hazardous physical and emotional safety as the infant has not yet developed the ability to metabolize disappointments. Hence all good things about the mother – positive, gratifying experiences that the infant has of her – are clubbed together and attributed to her.

But no mother is perfect !!! So all bad experiences of her – the negative , frustrating, threatening, dangerous, overstimulating things about her – are split off from consciousness and projected onto an externalized fantasy images such as a wicked stepmother, or wicked witch of children’s stories. This externalization leads to an internal sense of safety and wellbeing as the internalized self and the internal representation of mother now can continue being good. Outside is not as safe, or good. This is part of healthy growing up. As a consequence of these projections of internal onto the external, we like some things, and we dislike, are afraid of and even hate other objects of our environment.

However, when the mother has been absent in childhood, or has been negligent or “bad,” the badness gets internally trapped. The mother is still idealized, and its opposite, the badness is attributed to the self. “I must be bad for the mother to have hit me!” To mitigate that distress, the bad becomes catapulted onto the idealized figure. This two step process – where a person first carries the idealizing projection and then is assigned its opposite, the split off bad aspects of the self and mother, were labeled as envy by Melanie Klein.

In either cases, the good and the bad is an internal experience and the outer object may or may not correspond to those experiences. The mother may actually be caring, nurturing, loving, gratifying, but since no mother is perfect, the infant can never have a perfectly omnipotent world, and will always have an internalized bad mother.

The mother may also be experienced as being too attached, or too stimulating and/or exciting. In such a case the infant-child will try to pull away from her. Children also pull away from the mother when they achieve development milestones and start developing an awareness of their social worlds and its possibilities. A mother that attempts to inhibit this separation, and refuses to let go of the child is known as Terrible Mother and mythologically represents the devouring parent like Cronos and Madusa. It is the slaying of such a mother-dragon that allows a man to achieve his masculinity. In simpler words, it is necessary for an adolescent to give up the suffocating and infantile attachment/dependence with the mother before he can form successful adult relationships. A mother who disallows such separation creates psychotic islands in the psyche of the child that cause chaos in adulthood.

Rage & Aggression

The reactive rage of a child who is not fed, or is not fed adequately, or not quickly enough, is not only about hunger. It is also a narcissistic injury to the threat of infantile omnipotence, a threat to infantile illusion of self sufficiency, it is displaced to the outside. Outside objects – plants, animals, people, things – seem to be raging against oneself. The world seems to be full of aggression. In reality, much of this aggression is within oneself but the world appears aggressive. Thus the universal psychic roots of aggression lie in the ontogenic development of an individual. This rage has to be expressed and exhausted in relationship with the mother, if it is not to accumulate silently in the unconscious psyche.
Developmental Differences between the Eastern and the Western Psyche
We can apply these theories to understand how people from the East differ from people in the West.

Western Childrearing Practices

From the moment of birth, the tactile interaction of a Western infant with mother is minimized, and the infant is quickly trained into a regimented routine of timed feeds and an existence in the crib. The separation causes disconnection from the mother, and because the mother also represents the self during the first few months, there is a disconnection from the Self. The infant is forced into early self sufficiency. As this infant turns into a child, it encounters more resistance from the environment that further frustrates it and erodes its sense of omnipotence and a sense of specialness and symbiotic unity. The left brain – which supports asymmetrical modes of relating and encourages separation- if formative at an early age when the child witnesses that the mother’s ministrations are diverted to the father, and siblings and the child learns that it needs to compete against them for mother’s affection. The template for competition is thus created in the cradle simply by the way we mothers nurse our infants.

The expression of rage in childhood is a developmental necessity, however, in the Western families, the child is expression of rage is severely curtailed and both the mother and child attempt to manipulate each other thru guile rather than direct demands and verbalized anger. The unexpressed rage is pushed into unconscious and becomes the shadow element of the individual as well as society. One wonders how people who stand patiently in line at grocery shops could wage wars so indiscriminately and ruthlessly – but it is the shadow elements that has been repressed and is bursting forth, with accumulated interest.

Further, the emotions of duty, responsibility, loyalty, commitment in their simplest forms are symbols that first arise in context of a relationship with the mother and the father. The constructs of nation, culture, god and religion represent symbols for the father and the mother. The right brain, also called the unconscious psyche, cannot differentiate between these. Since the bond with the mother and the father is diluted by the early self sufficiency, the bond with all symbolic representations of mother and father is also diluted. Since mother is not an all encompassing object, therefore nation, culture, language, ethnicity evoke relatively less emotional intensity in a Western psyche. In the Western psyche, the libidinal investments are turned inwards, more energy is invested in the Self than in the external objects. The child, hurried thru childhood, has not had any time to revel in the gleam of its mother’s eyes, and the narcissistic hunger and longing for attention to the itself is carried thru adulthood, a phenomenon well described by Neville Symington in his pioneer work called “Narcissisism of our age.”

Eastern Childrearing Practices

The infant from an Eastern culture remains attached to the mom for a longer time, the attachment being of a lifelong dependence. The mother is always available to the child, and the father recedes into the background not as a competitive but as a protective figure. Since siblings and relatives are usually experienced as compensatory or adjunct metaphorical mothers and fathers, the template of competitiveness is underdeveloped and the psyche is selflessly protective of those that depend on it. Hence the emphasis on the collective at the expense of the personal.

The idealization continues through life. The good is always projected onto the mother. The bad is internalized, or projected on the outside objects. However, the growing child feels dependent and helpless in his attempt to break away, causing an inherent sense of envy and rage that is more pronounced in cultures where breaking away is more difficult. It is not directed towards the loved objects, but is displaced or projected outwards, on external objects.

Imagine a baby in a bath of deep water, with its eyes glued onto the eyes of the mother’s eyes as she prevents it from sinking. This image conveys the terror experienced by the infant. This glue like attachment – infantile dependence – is accompanied by intense hatred that is felt towards the imprisoning object and then displaced, whereas it is in fact the hatred is towards the dependence. Violent emotions are encapsulated within this complex causing oral rage.

Another relevant image for this is that of a little roo, an inch long, in the pouch of its mother. It is imprisoned in the pouch and would die if it were to fall out. The emotional centre of the personality is in a state like that of the roo. The roo hates the mother, analyst, benefactor because the pouch is seen to inhibit its freedom. What imprisons the roo is the attachment that inhibits freedom. The person in this state believes that freedom can only be bought by killing the analyst/mother. In marital relationships, it requires a divorce, on national levels, a war.

What Does All This Really Mean ?

So what do these theories really mean, what do they have to do with hate and violence that is expressed thru Iraq, Afghanistan, 911 ? What do they have to do with Tammy Blankbird?

Tammy Blankbird

Tammy had disclosed a traumatized background, and having been in therapy for over 20 years as a child and an adolescent. Childhood trauma is always carried as a negative potential in human psyche, a sort of a garbage bag, the circumstances become a pattern, a theme of life, and at every opportunity the psyche attempts to dump the toxic waste on the environment, subjecting everyone to the same toxic waste. Kinda like a person carrying a virus and infecting the environment and everyone else who comes into contact with that virus. The person remains rooted and attached to his own trauma/virus. Events of external aggression and conflicts are consequences of momentary shifts in consciousness which, more often than not, shifts in response to the intra-psychic material embedded deep within the psyche, in the same way that the earthquakes are a consequence of geographical fault lines embedded within the bosom of the earth. The damage to the environment is caused by the fault within the earth. Similarly, the external situation is not causal, but merely a manifestation of the intrapsychic environment. Hence the expression “as within, so without”.

Tammy idealized intelligence and intelligent people the same way a child idealizes mother. In the perception of a child, the mother is the most intelligent and beautiful person in the entire world. And intelligence held the same god like halo for Tammy. However, this idealizing the other also meant that Tammy was less intelligent, less good – something that her psyche was loathe to accept. This created a roo like state within her and she fell into the complex of her infantile wounding. And so, after her idealization was established, she swapped her emotions and now projected on others, the badness, the worthless she had earlier felt for herself when other had possessed her idealization. The other was vilified and eventually hounded off of the message board. She thus remained engaged in the constant repetition of her childhood trauma.

Middle East Conflicts

And how is this so different from the Arab-US conflict? The current geography of the Arab states is crafted by the Western world. The Arabs have been slow to build an internal structure, being totally dependent on the West for survival and growth. It is again the roo like existence of the pouch, the infantile terror of abandonment creates a resentment of this dependence , causing Kleinian envy where internalized “badness” that is dumped on a previously idealized object. The West is idealized, copied, and cherished, but also demonized.

And what about the Western world? We are more like a Terrible Mother who refuses to acknowledge the limits on our role in the development of the nations that we gave birth to and supported during their infancy. We refuse to let them become self sufficient, to individuate and separate from us, to have their own preferences in religion, law and social norms. We refuse to let them craft their own existence, carve their own identity. Like terribly clingy mother, we impose our own aspirations, our beliefs, our ways of working, living, playing on these nations and dictate how they should think, feel, act. We long to remain connected. We need to feel loved, thanked and honored. And of course we expect to be rewarded for the part that we have played in their lives. Like aging mothers who have not saved up for our own retirement, we want to utilize their resources for our existence. We want to be taken care of, and if they don’t take care of us, we wreck vengeance on them. This is often symbolized in the myths as a mother that devours her own children.
These nations, struggling to individuate, invoke the archetype of dragon slaying hero. The mythological dragon is the mother who attempted to devour her child – Iraq and Afghanistan – and whose slaying was attempted in the form of 911. There is a hero archetype in all of us. The US war of independence against the British Empire was invoking the same archetype – the quest for freedom and to find an independent existence away from the mother. And since the infancy of this nation in particular has been traumatic, since the national psyche has experienced a terrible mother, it comes as a little surprise that the US forces recreate and re-enact this trauma everywhere, helping nations to reach a certain development and then destroying them when they wish for total independence. The need to re-enact the primal trauma of our own childhood is like a morphed and damaged dna, or a toxic virus that was passed intergenerationally to us by our symbolic mother, the Great Britain, and now we pass it to those that we mother. We have inherited the psychic dna of toxic mothering.

The Eastern psyche, on the other hand, experiences significant sublimation and sacrifice of parental selves, and adopts that selflessness as an ongoing psychic strategy, becoming subservient to the collective. The symbolic mothers are unconsciously revered because the physical mother is revered. However, this dependence on the physical and symbolic mothers, the roo like dependence, is the cause of intense unconscious resentment, and is displaced onto the external world with a parallel intensity.

This kind of intensity, is not, and cannot be experientially understood by the Western psyche which lacks a similar intrapsychic structure. To underestimate the significance and the role of mother, and father, and thru this primal relationship, the role of all symbolic mothers and fathers, is sacrilege indeed, which is exactly how the Middle Easterners have defined Western interventions and intrusions into their national boundaries. To an Eastern psyche, the nation is synonymous with the mother. And forced intrusion into the body of the mother is synonymous with the rape of the mother – an act that is demands absolute sacrifice. It is a cause worth dying for. This hate, arising out of particular child rearing practices, becomes the cause of conflict inherent in the East-West polarization.

For the left brain oriented and sufficiently individualized Western psyche which had been forced to strive towards self sufficiency since birth, the need to accumulate resources for self sufficiency and survival, is profound. Land has nothing to do with mother, and even if it did, the mother figure, or symbol, has not contributed as much in the child’s development. The mother, and the symbols associated with the mother, are not as sacred, nor can one depend on them as much. A dilution of this relationship has impacted the constructs of loyalty, commitment, and duty, among others. All symbols associated with mother-father do not arouse the same emotional intensity, nor the same sense of duty and responsibility. It allows for rational thinking to emerge in the face of emotional intensity. The feeling function is weaker than the thinking function. The left brain orientation allows for a feeling of separation to predominate, a sense of unity is sacrificed to the point of alienation. By comparing these two psyche, we are comparing apples and oranges which create gaps in understanding and communication.

Only when we accept that the emotions of hate and envy that we feel for the others – other races, other cultures, other countries or languages – are but the externalized representation of our internal conflicts, can there be a any concentrated efforts that will lead to substantive understanding of fundamental issues. Without this exploration of the internal world, we project our internal hate onto the external and feel as if the other is seething with hate. We live in a hall of mirrors….forever reflecting hatred and love, and alternating between the two.

Containment of Hate

Can the emotion of hate be ever eliminated from the repertoire of human emotions? Is it possible to envisage a world devoid of hate? Theoretically, yes, if we can create perfect environments and perfect mothers. Since that is an impossible feat, therefore it is futile to assume a world where hatred does not exist. In fact, the rise in hate crimes, and the rise in terrorism can be traced and correlated to the growing feminization of poverty, and the spread of feminism where mothers have demanded equal participation of fathers in childrearing practices. It is questionable if the fathers have universally risen to meet that challenge. Both these phenomenon – feminization of poverty and rise of feminism – force the separation of mother-child dyad, creating an ever stronger template of injustice, hate and resentment in the infant’s psyche. Into this earliest wounding falls the later wounds that engender injustice, hate and envy.

So in effect, containment of hate is contingent on the welfare of the mother/women. Only when the sanctity of the mother-infant duo is maintained and rewarded thru the environmental support. Eventually, the welfare is the mother and the child is linked to the wellbeing of the individuals, and hence the wellbeing of the society. Hate is the price we pay for failing in our responsibilities to hold sacred all that was meant to be held sacred – the relationship of a mother with her child, which mirrors the relationship of the creator with its creation.

4 responses to “The Morphed Psyche – Developmental Perspectives on Hate (II)”

  1. Extremely rated post. I study something completely new on different blogs everyday. Deciding on one . stimulating to learn the paper content from different writers and study a little bit something from their website. I’d like to use certain of this content material on my blog you’re mind. Natually I’ll give a hyperlink here we’re at your web-site. Recognize your sharing.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for your kind comments. You’re welcome to share, provided you give credit. I removed your email and website link just to make sure your comment was genuine, and not a marketing effort. I hope you don’t mind 🙂

      M.

  2. What a nice post. I really love reading these types or articles. I can’t wait to see what others have to say.

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