Chapter 6: Historical Group-Fantasies

pages 172-200





In my previous four papers,(1) I have introduced the use of the concept of historical group fantasies as that part of my psychogenic theory which describes how the values produced by the evolution of parent-child relations are translated into historical movements. In this paper, historical group-fantasies are defined as those shared fantasies which are [1] massive displacements onto the public stage of feelings connected with the individual’s search for love, [2] allowing people to use groups to relieve shared private feelings and [3] to act out and defend against re-pressed desires, rages and prohibitions which have their origins in childhoods common to the group, [4] using the same ego mechanisms of splitting, condensation, reaction formation, etc. as in personal fantasy formation, only [5] forged in public discussion [6] out of materials provided by recent historical events, [7] distributing group roles by psychoclass, and [8] producing group dynamics which can lead to a breakdown of group-fantasy, a period of paranoid collapse, and an attempted restitution through the formation of a group-delusion, [9] which result in a group-trance state which may require discharge in violent historical action.

Each of these points will receive extended empirical illustration during the course of this paper. First, however, in order that the concept of


historical group-fantasies may be distinguished from ones like “myth,” ”group mind,” and ”national character,” I will briefly elaborate what I mean by each of the nine elements of my concept.

[1] “massive displacements of feelings onto the public stage connected with the individual ‘s search for love”: That historical group-fantasies are displacements of private emotion onto the public stage has been commonplace ever since Freud wrote the world’s first psychohistorical article on “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood” almost seven-ty years ago.(2) But that the core of these displacements always has to do with feelings produced by one’s search for love-that the displacements are always from family to religion and politics-has not been equally as evident. Just as many psychotherapists still do not recognize that their task is to assist the patient “on a voyage of self-discovery toward the goal of love,” as Reuben Fine puts it,(3) so too most historians still do not recognize that their subject matter involves emotions continuously being displaced from this same search for both the giving and receiving of love in the lives of those they study.

At first glance, although one can readily imagine people wanting to receive love from and to give love to a leader or a group, it is admittedly difficult to imagine how such violent historical events as wars and revolutions can be a result of an individual’s search for love. Upon reflection, however, it is perhaps no more difficult than it once was in individual psychology to imagine murder and suicide to be part of one’s search for love. It is only when the psychohistorian has a full realization of the overwhelming quantity of desperate clinging, inner emptiness and violent rage which have been the sad result of the loveless atmosphere in most families throughout history, that they can begin to appreciate the full force of the displacement of the drama of unfulfilled love, disillusionment and hostility onto the public stage.

Displacements from family to political and religious activity occur in two senses: (a) in the indirect sense that the kinds of personalities produced by the childrearing modes of each age ultimately determine the group-fantasies of a generation later, and (b) in the direct sense that the psychosexual conflicts between men and women, and between men and men, in any period of history are sources for the historical group-fantasies of that period, however distorted these erotic fantasies may appear in projected form in an historical event.

I have long been puzzled by the problem of the central moving force for change in historical group-fantasies. In previous papers I have used a working theory that the passage of time itself was sufficient to produce the decay and collapse of group-fantasies and the perception of the weakening of the fantasy-leader which my empirical research has revealed. My reasoning has been that since group-fantasies have such a large defensive function, they are inherently unstable, and, like personal


defensive structures, are subject to eventual breakdown due both to the return of the repressed and to the inability of reality to live up to the requirements of the fantasy content. This latter dynamic – – particularly the inability of the real leader to fulfill his fantasy-leader expectations emphasized the group’s need to have the fantasy-leader provide magical nurturance, effortless solutions to its emotional needs and conflicts. Therefore, I have tended to view the leader-group relationship in my work to date within a more or less maternal, pre-oedipal theoretical structure.

My investigations into this pre-oedipal material in my previous four papers using the “failure of nurturant leader” model has led me to earlier and earlier imagery which I discovered in my historical material, until finally, in my “Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy” essay, in which I outlined a theory of group-fantasy stages moving from “strong,” “cracking,” and “collapse” to “upheaval,” I suggested that these stages paralleled the stages of the earliest pre-oedipal period of infancy: birth. The more I work with the historical evidence, however, the more I see that this parallel with birth stages is only part of a more complex picture. These four group-fantasy stages – – which I initially found empirically in the historical material – – have a validity all their own over and above the birth metaphor, summarizing the basic feeling tones of the historical group as its confidence in their fantasy-leader moves toward collapse. The imagery of rebirth which I found can now be set in a more comprehensive framework. It is not so much a question of whether or not birth imagery is present in historical material. It is there in quantity, and no psychohistorian can afford to ignore desires for rebirth in historical groups. It is, however, more a question of what meaning it has, what function it plays within the group dynamics. Beginning with the “collapse” stage of the group-fantasy, the reason that there is always a proliferation of violent birth imagery-just as there is an upsurge in violent oral, anal and oedipal imagery-is because the containing group-fantasy, which had previously bound and defended against the repressed material, has collapsed.

Even though my previous excursions into early pre-oedipal material were useful in identifying the symbolic content of the regressive phases of historical group-fantasies, still the limitation in the working model in previous papers retained its emphasis on the maternal, nurturant leader-group relationship. As one trained in Freudian psychoanalysis, I have often asked myself “Where is the oedipus complex in history?” There are no obvious mothers to gain and fathers to kill in religion and politics, and history does not appear to be overtly erotic. At most, if all enemies, internal or external, are seen as fathers, there are only fathers in politics. (And only mothers in religion?) The situation seemed confusing to me for a long time. It was only when I questioned the central model of the


leader primarily as nurturer-and the traditional model of politics as the distribution of goods-that I recently have moved to a more comprehensive model, one which would contain its own group-fantasy dynamics beyond the notion of “natural decay of nurturance.”

The solution is not difficult to find once the correct question is asked, which is: “If the various pre-oedipal nurturance roles are positions which historical groups are found to regress to, what are they regressing from?” The answer is, as it is with individual neurosis, the oedipal conflict itself.

But who is the father and who is the mother in historical group-fantasies? The answer is perhaps not so obvious, and will take the rest of this paper to begin to examine. I now believe that the fantasy-leader is usually the imagined father and the group itself is usually the mother in group dynamics. The central force in the movement of group-fantasy from one stage to another-which is to say the ultimate source of the movement of history itself – is therefore the continuous displacement of erotic fantasies, including pre-oedipal fantasies, organized by the oedipal drama of the killing of the leader-as-father to win the group-as-mother.

Whether or not the leader was somehow chosen by the group or whether he is said to rule “by force” is beside the point. Even if he is chosen, he is chosen to be deposed, or, more accurately, to handle the inevitable disillusionment and hatred somehow, whether through heroic defensive postures, through displacement of the rage onto enemies, or through his own symbolic death. It is also of no consequence that the individual members can in no real sense be said to be able to really “win” the group-as-mother. The leader-father is perceived as “owning” the group-mother, and every effort of every individual acting in history is influenced by this central group-fantasy and its consequences. The buildup of disillusionment and rage toward the fantasy-leader is the cause of the eventual collapse of the effective group-fantasy and the source of the leader’s perceived weakening, and is avoided only when he does something to increase his apparent power over the group, to appear as its heroic savior, or to deflect this rage from himself onto others.

The various choices which fantasy-leaders and historical groups make in attempting to solve personal emotional problems with historical action will be the focus of the later empirical sections of this paper. What I would like to emphasize in this opening theoretical section is the strange role the leader plays in this psychogenic model of historical group-fantasy. Whereas in the most common model of history, that of political science, the leader is conceived of primarily as a source of power, and whereas in sociology the leader is conceived of as a distributor of nurturance, in my psychogenic model these two roles are both present but only as regression positions, only secondarily important within the primary drama of containment of and defenses against oedipal conflicts.


Both power and nurturance roles therefore vary in history according to the evolutionary stage which the group-fantasy has reached – – which is to say, according to the specific form of erotic life at each historical stage.

A more precise description of these changes of form of historical group-fantasies will become evident later in this paper. First, I want to make one more remark about the emotional task of the fantasy-leader. Even though the leader must be masochistic enough to take on the continuous oedipal hatred of the individuals within the group, he must also be sadistic enough both to be able to identify with the group’s hatred of himself and also to be able to convince the group it should displace some of its rage onto others. This displacement, of course, often includes the assumption by the leader of responsibility for the most destructive actions human beings can undertake, so that the sadism normally found in each of us is not really sufficient to make an effective historical fantasy-leader. In addition, the leader must find enough gratification in “crazy” thought and action to allow himself to be a receptacle for the continuous psychotic projections of the group, including various levels of unreality, splitting, paranoid suspicion, grandiosity, violent rage and other forms of psychotic anxiety. The only thing a fantasy-leader need not be is mature. Leaders every day are “successful” though extremely disturbed emotionally-witness the Napoleons and Stalins of every age in every country.

As I shall describe in a later section, the fact that the changing forms of erotic life in each historical age determines the group-fantasies of the age means that one of the most important tasks of psychohistory is to ex-amine the precise level of relations between the sexes attained by evolving historical personalities for each group and age. Even though this psychohistory of sex has yet to be written, there is enough material already available to see something of how the evolution of sexual attitudes are projected into historical material. Each forward step in sexual relations between men and women-whether it is the new idealization of women in medieval courtly love, the attempts to explore sexuality within marriage in early modern times, the changes in the family produced by the Victorian women’s rights movements or the emotional effects of the contemporary feminist movements-all are sources of the anxieties, desires, rages and guilts projected onto the political and religious spheres in each period. This is to say, the sexual relations of each age and group are indicators of and indeed effects of the higher and higher levels of solutions to the conflicts posed by the oedipus complex within continuously more evolved childrearing modes. The same, of course, holds for the psychohistory of homosexual feelings, a subject even more hidden, but crucial to the understanding of all power relationships between men. In fact, the study of “power” in history turns out to be less a matter of armies and more a question of the degree and form within which


each age arranges the homosexual surrender of resources by the majority to the few – – a subject which is part of the psychohistory of sex, not force.

The psychogenic theory of historical group-fantasies exactly reverses the direction of the casual arrow assumed in other theories of history with respect to the relationship between private love and hate and social institutions. Rather than private emotions “reflecting” the economic or social “base” of the period, the psychogenic theory states they determine the economic and social forms of each age. For instance, social commentators from Friedrich Engels to Steven Marcus have said that the ownership of women by husbands was a reflection of the economic ownership of goods, and that sexual attitudes toward women which use capitalistic terms such as “saving” and “spending” were derived from the economic sphere. This seems to me to state the case precisely backward. What actually happens is that families teach growing children attitudes toward their bodies which make them fear their own sexuality so much that they construct a sexual code which teaches them to ”save up” their desires (and secondarily their goods) until marriage. Later, as adults, they project these sexual attitudes onto the economic sphere and construct a group-fantasy of erotic materialism to help them master their individual sexual anxieties. Notions of “saving” and “spending” of a man’s sperm can be found in the history of sexuality all the way back to Aristotle, and are thus hardly new to capitalism. What is modern is the group-fantasy that money is infused with sexual fantasy, and that schemes for the redistribution of money are used to relieve castration anxieties. In the real world, it is only in the sexual sphere where great numbers of people actually fight off a desire to “spend,” real capitalists in fact rarely “save” to build up their capital as the capitalistic group-fantasy imagines them doing. Thus the casual arrow in fact runs from the psychosexual to the economic sphere, not the reverse.

The same principle holds, of course, for projections of oedipal conflicts, the love and hate of each age, onto other historical group-fantasies of the time. One of the central advantages of having historical group-fantasies in the first place is that using the historical stage for projection of one’s intrapsychic conflicts affords the opportunity to use group divisions to gratify libidinal desires with the “good” section and to ventilate pent-up resentments against the “bad” section without any of the irritating ambivalences present in interpersonal relations.

All of these conditions relate to the psychohistorical discovery that the end result of all historical childrearing to date has been to produce adults who, in their personal lives to various degrees, severely condemn their own deepest feelings, and who then use historical groups for the simultaneous projection and condemnation of these feelings in other persons and groups. The ability of the psychohistorian to recognize this central importance of the displacement of love and hate into history allows him or


her to discover the consistencies behind the bewildering multiplicity of historical events, no matter how well they are disguised and distorted, and to locate in the symbols of each period-from Christ on the cross to the Hiroshima mushroom cloud-the erotic group-fantasies of the age. On the other hand, failure to recognize this central hidden theme can on-ly lead to the view that all historical events are unique and beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. The focus on displaced emotional conflicts also radically sets the psychohistorian apart from those whose emphasis in studying history is on the need for equilibrium within society (sociology), or on the concept of “culture” as cause (anthropology), or the notion that historical events are primarily caused by reactions to previous historical events (narrative history).

[2] “allowing people to use groups to relieve shared private feelings”: One of the foundations of psychohistory is the principle that there are major psychological advantages to individuals to get together in groups and to form and act out group-fantasies – – advantages, that is, beyond those merely private fantasies can furnish. It is not sufficient for a psycho-historian just to recognize that participation in group life somehow produces new kinds of shared fantasies, because this formulation sidesteps the all-important question of exactly what the advantages are to individuals to form new groups in the first place.

That historical group-fantasies are absolutely essential to the psychic well-being of individuals is unquestionable. People stripped of important group-fantasies-even though their private fantasy systems remain intact – – nevertheless feel they are going crazy. The most dramatic examples, perhaps, are those found in anthropologists’ accounts of groups who are suddenly “deculturated,” who lose their rituals and beliefs through traumatic contact with Western or other cultures. This dramatic loss of traditional group-fantasies generally leads to such severe outbreaks of personal anxieties that new group-fantasies with apocalyptic and millenarian content are usually quickly formed to replace them.(5) It ap-pears that being without a set of group-fantasies is one of the most dangerous personal conditions which can be experienced.

For instance, Germans had lost wars before World War I, yet its end came so suddenly and unexpectedly that, as Binion’s study shows, most Germans felt a “paralyzing terror,” “a genuine panic,” a “fearful moral breakdown” with “effects so catastrophic and consequences so fateful” that even the replacement group-fantasy of the “stab in the back” by internal enemies could not contain the outbreak of anxiety.(6) The sudden removal of the group-fantasy of German invincibility produced the traumatic effects, not simply the loss of the war, for other wars had been lost without producing severe group trauma. As Binion puts it:

Eloquent among the momentos of the defeat is this diary entry of 3


October 1918 by a German seaman: “We have lost the war as if overnight… the German people were completely in the dark about developments down there. Now all at once the crash comes…” Ar-resting testimony came from many a moral casualty of the crash. Thus Franz Schauwecker: “With one blow the most tremendous expectations were dispelled. Suddenly everything had been in vain. The world appeared senseless.” Ernst Junger felt weak and vulnerable at first, then developed “symptoms that, as in a chronic illness, were now more, now less pronounced without ever vanishing entirely. Among them was a sense of constriction, of being tight pressed…”(7)

Thus it is the psychological rather than the material damage which groups experience which is felt as more dangerous, even though what are actually lost are “only fantasies.”

It should be emphasized at this point that I in no way mean to imply that human history is “nothing but” projections of individual anxieties, or that history is determined solely by historical group-fantasies. Like all groups, historical groups have real work to do, aside from fantasy work, and this real work is determined very much by the material reality as well as the psychological reality of the moment. When a group has a plague or a volcanic eruption or a Mongol horde sweeping down upon it, these material events certainly effect the history of the group, and the sciences of epidemiology, vulcanology and demography will be consulted to provide the explanations for the causes of these events. What psychohistory can provide as an independent science of historical motivation through the theory of historical group-fantasies is the explanation of what level of response to different situations is possible by groups made up of different psychosexual levels, with different personalities, and different strengths, anxieties and solutions available to them. Whether psychological or material reality is “more important” at any one time in history depends on whether the eruption of Vesuvius or of the group’s own group-fantasies is more imminent.

[3] “to act out and defend against repressed desires, rages and prohibitions which have their origins in childhoods common to the group:” That one of the main functions of historical group-fantasies is to handle repressed desires, rages and prohibitions rooted in childhood is possibly the most controversial part of the concept, for nothing seems more ob-vious to common-sense historians than that public adult historical events, not family matters, count most in producing the historical events they study. One nation is defeated in war by another, it then constructs a revenge fantasy… surely the military defeat caused the fantasy? Yet common sense is nonetheless false, for just as often military defeats do not produce revenge fantasies. It is only when a historical event is invested


with important unconscious tasks that it has later causal effects at all. (The same, of course, is true of personal events, for unless a childhood event, however “dramatic,” is woven into a personal fantasy, powered by a wish, it has no effect on later life.) If a military defeat was not unconsciously linked to repressed rage from the purely personal sphere, people would not have national revenge fantasies at all, but would say to themselves simply, “Thank God that’s over. Let’s never have another terrible war.”

This is not to say that the outcome of historical events themselves “does not matter.” It indeed did matter whether Germany won or lost World War I. The question is: How did it matter? What did it mean? Strictly speaking, saying that Germany’s loss of World War I caused World War 11 is as misleading as saying a person’s second marriage broke up because the first one did, when in fact both broke up for similar psychological reasons relating to the person’s childhood, psychosexual development and present personality organization. Indeed, one of the most demanding yet most rewarding tasks of a psychohistorian is tracing the contents of historical group-fantasies to their roots in childhood and later developmental patterns common to members of the group-a task requiring an intimate knowledge of the details of the history of childhood for that specific group, empirical research into the typical range of psychosexual developments, careful biographical work on representative figures important in forging and acting out the group-fantasy, and a skill in tracing the connections between these family sources and the disguised contents of the historical group-fantasy itself.

[4] “using the same ego mechanisms of splitting, condensation, reaction formation, etc. as in personal fantasy formation”: In order to decode historical group-fantasy, a psychohistorian must be thoroughly familiar with every single ego defense mechanism used to interpret private fantasies, dreams and myths, as described in psychoanalytic literature over the past eight decades-and even be able to discover a few new mechanisms used only in group-fantasy formation. Sometimes the distortions are transparent, at least to one not taking part in the group-fantasy-which is to say it is always easiest to analyze other people’s fantasies when one does not share them. But most of the time it takes literally years of study to unmask the many levels of disguises that underlie seemingly simple but in fact highly condensed historical group-fantasies as “the Crusades,” “witch-hunting,” “the Divine Right of Kings,” “Protestant martyrdom,” “the Secession of the South,” “the Dreyfus Affair,” “the November criminals,” “the Jewish poisoners,” “the Cuban Missile Crisis,” and so on. Moreover, historical group-fantasies are multiple, are related to each other, and – – like individual fantasies – – must be classified according to their psychological connections within the emotional life of the people who hold them.


[5] ‘forged in public discussion”: It is not enough for fantasies to be shared for them to be considered historical group-fantasies-they must also be formed over a period of time through public communication. A crowd on a beach may all at any one moment share a fantasy of making love in the sun, but this remains on the level of a private fantasy simply held simultaneously by many individuals. Group-fantasies can be seen to evolve over time, as different people in the group suggest variations, until the precise formulation is reached which best fits the unconscious needs of the largest number at that historical moment.

To those who are unaware of the enormous emotional stake which underlies such group-fantasy work, the discussions during the formation of historical group-fantasies seem patently ludicrous. My favorite prototype of the work that goes on during the formation period for a historical group-fantasy is the early christological controversies, such as those discussed at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., as one watches the group hammer out the precise formulation of the image of the Christian deity which would satisfy the emotional needs of the time. Was Christ god or man; how did he suffer; how die; how separate was he from God; did he defecate; how was he born; was his mother’s hymen intact after his birth; and so on – all anxiety-ridden questions involving intense personal childhood fantasies shared by the people of the time. Watching the discussions about whether or not Christ was “consubstantial after the flesh” is good practice in recognizing the similarly arcane, hair-splitting, but very important formation work going on in every group-fantasy’s early stages.

It is, of course, the public character of this formation process which gives the psychohistorian the documentation needed to unravel conflicting emotional strands within the group-fantasy, for fights over minute distinctions early in the formation process often reveal unconscious conflicts which are smoothed over and thoroughly disguised in the final formulation. In our example, when the Nicene formula concludes that Christ is “one substance with us as regards his manhood” it would be difficult if not impossible to untangle the condensation of personal fantasies which lay behind this final formulation, as difficult as it is for the therapist to untangle the condensations of a dream without free associations. The psychohistorian often has voluminous documentation at hand which, like free associations, can reveal the fantasies and anxieties embedded in the final formulation-in this case, the whole history of the Arian controversy which preceded the Nicene formula.

Of course, to speak of “public discussion” which is conducted as a group-fantasy evolves is not to imply that the unconscious contents of the fantasy always appear clear or undisguised. As we shall see in detail shortly, group-fantasies are communicated in a hidden language, using emotionally powerful imagery, and using metaphors, similies, body


language and other emotion-laden words which are carefully enshrouded in enough defensive material to deny them entry into conscious awareness.

[6] “out of materials provided by recent historical events”: The central tenet of the narrative historian – – that historical events are simply reac-tions to earlier historical events – – turns out to be precisely the main rationalization needed to sustain a group-fantasy. How obvious it is to everyone sharing the group-fantasy that countries are simply reacting to events “the only way they could have,” and how difficult it is for the psychohistorian to demonstrate unconscious choice, hidden goals, motivated historical “mistakes.” Historical “mistakes,” like private “slips of the tongue,” are motivated. Indeed, notions like “the mistake of Munich,” repeated in every history of World War II, are part of the group-fantasy. It remains for the psychohistorian to invent a science of mistakes which can reveal their hidden motivations rather than accept the public opinion of the time.

Recent historical events, as has been said before, only gain emotional importance when woven into a developing group-fantasy. Without this, they pass like ripples in the sea, leaving no trace, no matter what their “real” importance is, until they are needed later for some new group-fantasy. People wonder why interest in the Holocaust, for instance, waxes and wanes as though fulfilling some hidden needs of each decade – but in fact this is the rule for all historical events, not the exception. This becomes most obvious when we deal with the history of a far earlier time (as everything in much earlier periods seems more obvious, since we have such vastly different childhoods now and therefore do not share their most basic group-fantasies).

When, for instance, the English concluded after 1066 that William’s invasion was successful because God was angry at them for having sent away so many English babies to the Irish, we smile at their linking two historical events so absurdly. Yet we do the same thing every day ourselves in order to cover up the internal group-fantasy sources of our contemporary historical actions.

As just one recent instance, when word was received in America that North and South Korean troops were fighting at the 38th parallel, the conclusion that the North had unilaterally invaded the South at the command of the Russians seemed irresistible. Evidence to the contrary was simply ignored: that the North was not mobilized for war, that the South’s President, Syngman Rhee, was about to be deposed by his legislature and had good reason to provoke war, that the Russians had just walked out of the U.N. Security Council and were obviously taken by surprise by the fighting – all were ignored in the “sense of relief and unity” which the new war provided America psychologically.(8) An American ally had been “attacked” – what choice had we but to “re-


spond”? That America had many choices, that in fact we actually helped cause the conflict to break out at that time through our announcement a few weeks earlier that Korea was now outside our defense perimeter, are unpleasant facts which are denied by the group-fantasy formulation of the attack as stimulus and our troop movements as response. Like all behaviorist thinking, however, this stimulus-response model of the world is designed to hide motivations, not reveal them; and it is the internal sources of our desire to go to war in Korea which are here being hidden by the standard “behaviorist” narrative historian.

[7] “distributing group roles by psychoclass”: The historical drama produced by successive group-fantasy cycles involves the splitting up of various group roles, a splitting which I believe more accurately reflects psychological class (shared childrearing modes) than economic class. This approach runs counter to that assumed by all other major contem-porary theories of history. The psychogenic theory of history is based upon the main thesis that the evolution of childrearing modes within the family produces new historical personalities, that society at any one time is made up of several of these kinds of personalities, that the values of the most advanced psychoclass clash with those of the older psychoclasses, and that this value-clash is then reflected in the conflicts of each new historical group-fantasy. Within these dramas, historical roles are taken according to psychoclass, which only roughly coincides with economic class.

One example which might be mentioned in this respect would be in comparing the roles taken in the revolutions which form the early modern nation-state. In France, because eighteenth century childrearing tended to differ considerably by economic class, roles in the French Revolution split along economic class levels more than in any other country (and thus furnished Marx with the empirical basis for his economic theory of history). But in England, where differing childrearing patterns were more closely divided between different religious groups, the Civil War split more along religious than economic lines. In contrast, in the American Revolution, it is agreed that neither economics nor religion explains why individuals became rebel or royalist, so that one must actually study family by family the differing childhoods of the two groups to understand group roles. Finally, the American Civil War split between North and South not primarily because of economic interests, but because this geographical division most closely coincided with psychodass divisions-the North having been initially settled by advanced psychoclasses, mainly intact families escaping persecution for having advanced religious views, while the South was settled more by [1] single men, [2] later-born sons who were rejected by their families and who had poorer parenting than their first-born brothers, and [3] convicts, servants and other lower psychogenic mode personalities. Thus, even when, at first


glance, groups seem to be splitting along economic, religious or geographic lines, they are in fact taking roles by psychoclass.

Role-taking by psychoclass is, of course, the central finding in many studies in applied psychoanalysis ever since Adorno’s Authoritarian Personality demonstrated the correlations between authoritarian childrearing and authoritarian political attitudes. Even so, a full theory of psychoclass as the basis for historical role-taking in every historical period has yet to be attempted – owing as much, I believe, to the difficulties in conceptualization of such a radical notion as to the lack of empirical evidence on historical childrearing and personality.(9)

In any case, my psychogenic theory conceives of history as a combination of the evolution of historical personality-which I view as progressive toward greater maturity-expressed in cycles of group-fantasy, together producing a spiral pattern of history rather than merely a linear or cyclical pattern, with each spiral representing attempts toward a more mature solu-tion to the problems of living together in groups. During each cycle, the more advanced psychoclass becomes the “liberals” of the period, identifying with the id (while denying its infantile content), fearing mainly separa-tion, and seeking security in revolt, while the less advanced psychoclass becomes the “conservatives,” identifying with the superego (while denying its infantile content), fearing mainly gratifications, and seeking security in order. Each sub-group represent partial psychological truths, and together they split the emotional tasks of working out the group’s historical problems.

[8] “producing group dynamics which can lead to a breakdown of group fantasy, a period of paranoid collapse, and an attempted restitution through the formation of a group-delusion”: Since group-fantasies require that the fantasy-leader be under continuous attack for his possession of the group, and since the leader’s attempts to counter these attacks through magical and heroic efforts to prop up his image are doomed to fail, every group-fantasy eventually reaches a “collapse” stage where the leader is experienced as being extremely weak, unable to nurture the country, and in-creasingly powerless to contain the growing rage and anxiety within, the group. This collapse of ego defenses releases previously bound material at all psychosexual levels, a condition within group development which parallels that which occurs in preparanoid individuals just prior to the formation of their paranoid delusion.(10) In preparanoid individuals it often happens that some new life situation removes an important authoritarian “leader” figure from the person’s emotional life, someone who previously had served to direct, organize and give meaning to his or her life. This lack of direction and containment produces a collapse of structure in the individual – a collapse from which the new paranoid delusion itself is in effect an attempt at restitution.(11) This collapse of structure can be looked at productively from any one of a number of theroretical positions: as a col-


lapse of ego functions (Freud’s disintegration anxiety), a collapse of self structure (Kohut’s dread of self-dissolution), collapse of alpha-function (Bion’s dispersal of contact-barrier), or collapse of womb-surround (Grof’s Basic Perinatal Matrix stage 2). With historical groups, this “paranoid collapse” of an important group-fantasy produces an historical moment of extreme anxiety, narcissistic rage and confusion. Since one function of historical group-fantasies is to redistribute anxieties through historical role-taking, the collapse of the effective fantasy threatens both to release id and superego elements which it had previously bound and to produce a threat of total disintegration of the self. Objectless paranoid fears, often with religious apocalyptic overtones, sweep through the group. During this “paranoid collapse” period, fears of sexual license and of political anarchy appear most prominently; oral, anal and oedipal conflicts long hidden erupt into the public consciousness and language of public discourse; and rebirth and millennial fantasies proliferate.

These periods of “paranoid collapse” – during which group-fantasies of anarchy, sexual license and rebirth emerge in full bloom – are perhaps most clearly expressed in Reformation and early modern times. For instance, during the English Reformation, the collapse of Catholic mythology led to widespread fears that changes in ritual would produce widespread bouts of wild “beast-like carnal liberty” by anabaptists, anarchic violence by sacramentarians (many of whom were in fact pacifists) and so on.(12) Similarly, the English Civil War was prefaced by fears of the outbreak of adultery and incest, including millenarian rebirth fantasies among Fifth Monarchists and others,(13) the French Revolution was preceded by a paranoid “Great Fear,”(14) the American Revolution was prefaced by groundless conspiratorial fantasies on both sides, and so on. As I shall describe later in detail, every violent group-delusion in history is preceded by a “paranoid collapse” period, whether it is called a Popish Plot, a Gallic Peril, a Yellow Peril, Alien and Sedition Acts or a Communist purge. All perform the function of concretizing the objectless rages and anxieties of the group after the collapse of the group-fantasy

During this collapse period, groups often split into opposing camps even more hostile to each other than usual. Each sub-group claims the other is the real threat to order, hierarchy and authority, projects all id material onto the other group and itself identifies with the moralistic superego. At other times, minority millennial groups, often overtly bizarre in membership and purpose, are delegated the task of acting out the anxieties of this collapse period-groups which previously the larger society paid little attention to but which now capture widespread interest and even awe as delegates of the majority’s emotional state. As the fantasy-leader appears at this stage to be extremely weak and helpless, these “crazy” delegate groups appear to be both uncontrollable and yet


somehow extremely meaningful-whether they are Nazi youth groups or Millerite millenarians or Bolshevik revolutionaries or McCarthyite paranoids, they are able to hypnotize the public body far beyond their tiny size, because they reflect the main emotional conflicts of the moment of paranoid collapse far better than does the more prosaic fantasy-leader.

One note of caution in regard to the period of paranoid collapse should be emphasized here: it has nothing to do with the periods of economic collapse, as most sociological theories have posited. In fact, economic recessions are almost always periods of decreased paranoid content, and leaders during periods of low economic activity are relatively inactive in foreign policy. It is only when a group’s emotional values seem to have fallen apart that it looks for fantasy-leaders who are activists in foreign policy, who will provoke other nations in order to set up as many crisis areas as possible out of which new group-delusions may be formed in order to restore the group’s psychological stability.

A group-delusion, then, is a more irrational and violent group-fantasy adopted by individuals in order to ward off feelings of paranoid collapse and to gain relief from what feels like an intolerable state of emotional dissonance between the relatively calm external world and the turmoil of their internal world. The intolerable ambivalence of the collapse stage is now avoided by splitting: the repressed narcissistic rage gets directed toward the enemy, while the unfulfilled love and grandiosity are projected onto the group itself. The country is now seen as infinitely precious and superior, but endangered from the outside, not from one’s own hostility.

Given the central role of the removal of “sinful” feelings in group-delusions, it is no coincidence that they are so often conducted as crusades, for the Crusades of the Middle Ages are a paradigm of violent group actions conducted for the stated purpose of cleansing the soul of all sinsince Crusaders joined the movement with the promise that this would wash their souls of all sinfulness. The group-psychological pur-pose of group-delusions is in fact identical to that of all scapegoating and sacrifice in primitive and ancient societies: the purging of pollution and impurities (which is to say sexual and hostile wishes) through redirection toward substitute victims, a purification undertaken in order to restore group stability.(15)

Like the formation of an individual delusion, the formation of a group-delusion is always restitutional. Often, it is formed during one dramatic incident, one which might be termed a “moment of group-psychotic insight,”(16) when specific concrete enemies are suddenly perceived as the cause for one’s present painful condition. The psychoanalyst O. A. Will has described this moment in the formation of the individual’s paranoid delusion in these terms:


As communication fails, isolation increases, and the sufferer finds himself caught in a nightmare, driven by a feeling of urgency to make sense of the incomprehensible with which he is involved. He seeks a simple formula to make all clear, and if he is unfortunate he may elaborate the paranoid solution with its grandiosity, apportioning of blame, and chronic reformulation of the past and present to refind and protect a “system” that will reduce anxiety.(17)

This group-delusion then takes over and structures the needed authoritarian component of the old group-fantasy, only in a new, more fixed, less rational and more violent form. If the group-delusion focuses on an enemy external to the group and the group goes to war, the once-weak fantasy-leader is now seen as “tough,” “fighting,” while his hated oedipal aspects are split off into the external enemy. If the group-delusion turns to an enemy within the group itself, the leader can be “tough” in eradicating “Jewish poisoners,” “internal Communist conspiracies,” or “bourgeois enemies of the people.” If the group-delusion is millennial, the group can unite under a “tough” messianic figure who will effectively split the world into those to be saved and those to be killed in the coming apocalypse. And if the group-delusion is regicidal, the old weak leader can be killed off, in reality or in fantasy, under the direction of a “tough” new revolutionary leader. In all cases, the group delusion allows the anxiety, confusion and ambivalence of the paranoid collapse to be relieved by establishing a new authoritarian figure to organize the group’s fantasy activities-only now with more irrational components: more paranoid, more inflexible, more irreversible, more power-centered, more intolerant, more grandiose, more violent.

This “moment of group-psychotic insight” can occur over a long period of time with each of the delusional elements being worked out by different delegate groups(18) which have split off to develop the group-delusion. Alternately, the delusion can be formed rather quickly, particularly when the group has long been in search of a delusional solution to its condition of collapse. Assassinations, for instance, are favorite organizers of group-delusions. Whether they lead to war, like “the shot at Sarajevo,” or to internal persecution, like the assassination of Vom Rath which produced Kristallnacht and intensified the persecution of Jews, assassinations occurring after an extended period of paranoid collapse produce the precise feeling of “Aha! I knew the enemy was real and not just in my head” which is necessary to justify the respective group-delusions of “Germany really is being strangled by enemies” and “Jews really are blood poisoners.” Although the dramatic external event appears to trigger the delusional solution-as, for instance, when the burn-ing of the Reichstag was fantasied to be a conspiracy and was used to unify Germany under Hitler-the actual formation of the group-


delusion precedes the moment of psychotic insight. For instance, as we shall show in detail shortly, the group-delusion that Fidel Castro was a dangerous extension of Russian power, and had to be wiped out by American forces, was actually formed by July of 1962. It was only in September, after Congress gave President Kennedy special war powers directed at Castro, that America sent the U-2 planes over Cuba which discovered the missiles which then appeared to trigger the delusion-based confrontation known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It is therefore important for the psychohistorian to be alert – when studying periods in which the main group-fantasy has disintegrated – for evidence that a paranoid collapse may have occurred and that a group-delusion may have formed. As Sullivan was the first to point out,(19) in in-dividuals this transition to the delusional phase is accompanied by a sense of uncanniness, suspicion and confusion-feelings which then disappear when the delusional insight is formed, because all the weaknesses and defects which during the collapse phase were felt to be “in” the individual are, during the delusional phase, projected into the enemy, so that the world seems once more to make sense, however dangerous the real enemy then appears. These group dynamics explain the hitherto unexplained fact that when the political psychologists Holsti and North(20) constructed a “paranoia index” and conducted a content analysis of German communications before World War I, they found that the paranoid content reached its apex at the very moment when the decision to go to war was made – that is, at the moment of psychotic in-sight when the group-delusion was formed The anxiety on their graph then declined sharply, for the world “made sense” again once the external enemy was identified and the decision was made to fight, even though the actual war had yet to break out. However disastrous the next four years of carnage were to prove, they were less threatening than the terrible feelings of internal collapse and objectless rage which preceded them.

[9] “which result in a group-trance state which may require discharge in violent historical action.” The more I have studied historical group-delusions in the past decade and tried to empathize with the individuals I followed through my documents, the more I have realized that something very strange was going on inside myself during this study. As I worked with primary documents, my head began to feel stuffed with cotton, my memory seemed to dull, and I began to realize that I felt exceptionally passive in the face of problems I was trying to solve – as though there were something in the study of group-delusions, particularly war, which would forever elude me, and which put this subject in a class by itself among all the problems I had ever encountered. I began to feel as though I were in a trance, a state I was somehow sharing with those I was studying. I began to suspect that people in the midst of group-delusions are themselves in a group-trance, in which normal rules of logic are sus-



Saul Bellow once captured this group-trance feeling rather well. When trying to think about the problem of war, Bellow observed, he seemed to become

very drowsy.. wakefulness, for some mysterious reason, comes and goes… Sometimes I suspect that I am myself under a frightful hypnotic influence – I do and do not know the evils of our times. I experience or suffer this alternate glowing and fading in my own person, and I see that others, too, are subject to it. I am familiar with the history of World War I and of the Russian Revolution. I know Auschwitz and the Gulag, Biafra and Bangladesh, Buenos Aires and Beirut, but when I come back to facts anew I find myself losing focus. Then I begin against reason to suspect the influence of a diffusing power – a demonic will that opposes our understanding. I am forced to consider… whether we do not go about lightly chloroformed.(21)

The group-trance contains all the primary process attributes of individual delusional thinking, using many of the mechanisms of what the Kleinian school calls the paranoid-schizoid position, but with the illogical thinking confirmed even further by group consensus. This is why group craziness is so much more powerful – and less studied – than individual craziness. Just a few of the more common rules of group-trance thinking include:

(a) Opposites never contradict: Jews can be simultaneously despised weaklings and all-powerful poisoners without the one image affecting the other; Russia can be crumbling and ineffective but at the same time at the peak of its power and expansionist desires; one can believe, as we all believe today, that war occurs regularly throughout history and that another war is bound to reoccur soon, while, at the same time, planning our lives around the axiom that war in our lifetimes is impossible. Opposites which, in normal conscious thinking, would modify each other, in trance thinking merely exist side by side.

(b) “Mistakes” proliferate: When, for instance, Truman permitted MacArthur to continue north in Korea despite Chinese warnings that they would respond militarily, it was called a “mistake,” despite voluminous evidence that “mistakes” of this kind are motivated. Munich is a “mistake,” Pearl Harbor is a ”mistake,” the Bay of Pigs is a “mistake,” Vietnam is a “mistake” -none are desires.

(c) Two plus two equals zero: The larger the risk, the less it is consciously felt in the group-trance. As Eichmann put it, “One hundred dead is a catastrophe. Five million dead is a statistic.” When President Kennedy told us all over TV that he was turning down Khrushchev’s of-


fer to exchange Cuban missiles for our obsolete Turkish missiles, and im-plied he would soon be forced to invade Cuba even though a hundred million Americans might be killed by Russian missiles, we all nodded our approval from the depths of our group trance, certain that this figure was too large to be personally meaningful.

(d) Personal embarrassments become substitutes for policy: President Kennedy’s way of summing up the American relationship to Russia at the beginning of his presidency was: “If Krushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.” In return, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev admitted Russia indulged in the same kind of crazy “personalized” thinking:

When I asked the military advisers if they could assure me that holding fast would not result in the death of five hundred million human beings, they looked at me as though I was out of my mind or, what was worse, a traitor.. The biggest tragedy, as they saw it, was not that our country might be devastated and everything lost, but that the Chinese or the Albanians would accuse us of appeasement or weakness. So l said to myself: “To hell with these maniacs. If I can get the United States to assure me that it will not attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, I will remove the missiles.” That is what happened. And so now I am being reviled by the Chinese and the Albanians. They say I was afraid to stand up to a paper tiger. It is all such nonsense. What good would it have done me in the last hour of my life to know that though our great nation and the United States were in complete ruins, the national honor of the Soviet Union was intact?(22)

The “personalized” reactions of the group-trance state all assume that the world outside the group is suddenly full of others who for some strange reason are out to humiliate the nation, and especially its leader. In fact, foreign policy during group-trance periods is so concerned with humiliation that the search for the group-psychotic insight is usually conducted as a search for a humiliating other.” This is a result of two group processes during the collapse stage. In the first, the leader feels his group’s growing rage toward himself, including continuous attacks on his self-esteem, but denies that it comes from his own group and displaces it instead to the outside world: “The American people are not trying to humiliate me – the Russians are.” A careful analysis of the accusations which leaders imagine outside groups are making of them usually reveals how little disguised many of them are from those current-ly being made by members of his own group. In the second process, paralleling the first, both the group and its fantasy leader, facing a breakdown of defensive structure, a disintegration of the self, experience


extreme narcissistic rage, and become humiliation-prone. The “humiliating outsider” is simply the critical, accusing, persecutory super-ego’s response, projected onto others: “American values are falling apart and we are nothing but a mass of selfish desires-the Russians see how low we have fallen and are trying to humiliate us.”

(e) Nothing is real, everything is fantasy: So powerful is the derealization process of a group-trance that I have never been able to find any na-tion anywhere in history going to war which bothered to estimate the number of dead and injured expected to result from their actions. The dead are quite unreal to the planners, who are operating out of their delusional trance. During the Vietnam War, for instance, the Pentagon never once tried to make an accurate estimate of total civilian casualties, even of the civilians we were supposed to be protecting. When in 1966 a Harvard student asked Secretary of Defense McNamara, who was famous as a “real numbers whiz,” how many civilians had been killed in Vietnam, he admitted he simply had no idea.

The function of dead people in the group-trance state is to confirm the internal violence of the group-delusion. If, for some reason, not enough people are dying to match the internal fantasy, something seems amiss. As Nixon put it when the number of American casualties had dropped sharply toward the end of the Vietnamese War: “American casualty figures in Vietnam had been reaching new lows. I knew that these reductions might be a ploy on the part of the Communists to make escalating the fighting that much more difficult for me.”(23)

(f) Historical amnesia is the rule: In a century in which 100 million people have been killed by wars, and on a planet where there is currently destructive power equal to 10,000 tons of TNT for every man, woman and child, the mere suggestion that there may be more destruction on the horizon is regularly met by blank stares and suspicions of mental imbalance. Historical amnesia is one of the first symptoms of a group-trance. If wars and revolutions always come as a surprise, that fact may have less to do with the difficulty of predicting human violence than it does with the fact that there are presently more studies on the library shelf on jewelry than on wa r- so pervasive is our need to deny even the very existence of our group-delusions.

(g) Goals disappear, action becomes irresistible: One of the most bizarre results of group-trance thinking is that no war, revolution or other group-delusion is ever begun with a goal of what is expected to be accomplished by the action One’s logical assumption that any war leader actually has a plan for what to do when the war is over and won is quite mistaken. Even though wars and revolutions are often supposed to have economic causes, no group has ever drawn up a document setting out the economic consequences of their intended action. If it had, it would never have proceeded, since group-delusions are highly


uneconomical ways of getting what you really want. The action itself is in fact the goal, not the consequences of the action. When the Japanese ignored their intelligence reports, which unanimously concluded that the U.S. would win in any conflict with Japan; when the Germans ignored their intelligence reports, which said that fighting Russia as well as England would result in German defeat; when President Johnson ignored CIA reports saying that his massive bombing of North Vietnam would not bring victory, they were not just “being optimistic.” Their goal was the violence and emotional release of action itself, not its possible consequences in terms of any tangible goals which could have been considered rational by even the most ardent apologist. In a group-trance, action becomes irresistible in order to carry out delusional motives. Literally crazy thinking-which allows such notions as “preventative wars” or “better dead than Red”-becomes the rule.

(h) Violence is imperative: Because the enemy, internal or external, serves as the repository of projections during the group-delusional stage, the impulse to action implies the need to wipe out the carriers of these projected feelings. All the objectless rage of the paranoid collapse phase is now at the service of the organized group-delusion, and the enemy is now seen as worth less than vermin, existing only to be killed. The official enemy, of course, is not the only victim-the group also indirectly kills off many of its own id-representatives, its youth, who represent itself in the life-phase when it was most sexual and most aggressive.

Oddly enough, the group-delusion is so powerful that the successful outcome of the group’s violence, an outcome which obviously depends on power factors alone, is always seen by the group as confirming the success of the moral values of the group-fantasy itself. Thus, American success or failure in “wars against Communism,” like Korea and Vietnam, is thought to indicate the success or failure of American liberal values; the various victories of ancient Athens or Sparta somehow are supposed to prove the worth of their differing political systems; the defeat of the Spanish Armada indicates the greatness of Elizabethan values; the defeat of the American South by the North indicates the moral superiority of abolitionism; and so on. All military triumphs are rationalized by reference to the courage and superiority of the “winning” group-fantasy systems, but in fact all come down to accept-ing that might makes right and to denying the premise that all violent actions in fact represent the failure rather than the triumph of real human values.

In summary, the concept of historical group-fantasies includes a theory of history as consisting of evolving cycles of attempts by individuals to form large groups organized around shared fantasy systems, based on displacements of personal psychosexual conflicts from


successively higher psychoclasses, each cycle culminating in a paranoid collapse of the group-fantasy and the acting out of a group-delusion to relieve shared feelings of inner chaos and rage. These cycles take place because of the group’s psychohistorical dynamics, in a sphere of the psyche independent from that of individual neurosis, but drawing upon its content. The independence of historical group-fantasy stages from those of individual neurosis produces the strange feeling of discontinuity between the public and private sphere that is reflected in such discussions as “Were the Germans really sick in following Hitler?” or “Did America go crazy during the Vietnam war?” The same population of individuals – with the same levels of maturity, personal psychic distress, and rates of psychosis-at one point in a group-fantasy cycle can manage successfully to bind their anxieties under a “strong” fantasy-leader, and several years later, without their individual psychodynamics or “personal health” changing at all, they can march off to war. We “go crazy together” in group-fantasy cycles of from a few to a few dozen years in length, in accordance with psychohistorical group dynamics, quite independent of cycles of personal distress, of changes in childrearing patterns, or of any other criteria.

Unlike the “natural therapy” which I believe goes on within historical families, as successive generations of parents attempt to do a better job than their own parents had done in raising their children, I do not believe that going through successive group-fantasy cycles is therapeutic. No one ever seems to learn anything from wars and revolutions, and acting out group-delusional projects seems to leave the personality structure as immature as before. In fact, group-delusional violence is actually traumatic to the individual, to the family, and to the parents’ ability to pass on a more mature psychic structure to the next generation. History can therefore be viewed as a race between the therapy of family evolution and the traumas of group-delusional violence.

The empirical evidence for my theory that historical groups repeatedly lurch from stable group-fantasy to paranoid collapse to group-delusion under the group dynamics which I have described will be the task of the remaining sections of this paper. First, however, I will introduce a new technique which I believe can be useful in the task of revealing the specific historical group-fantasies hidden in the mass of empirical material available to the psychohistorian: Fantasy Analysis.


Part of the concept of historical group-fantasy is the assumption that the bulk of the public discourse which psychohistorians regularly examine is defensive in nature, designed to beguile the conscious mind into


accepting the rationalizations which hide the underlying fantasy message being shared by the members of the group. Although this purely defensive content is interesting in its own right and cannot be ignored, the underlying group-fantasy itself is more easily seen if only the more powerful emotional words are selected and set down next to each other, where connections and themes can emerge which otherwise remain buried under the sheer mass of defensive material.

One technique I have found useful over the past few years is to go through the historical document, be it a newspaper article, a Presidential speech or a Congressional committee transcript, and pick out only the metaphors, similies, body terms, strong feeling words, repetitive phrases and symbolic terms, and then examine them for thematic content. This technique, which I term Fantasy Analysis, becomes rather easy to do when one realizes that one must first read the original material for overt content, in order to satisfy one’s conscious desire to find out what the person is intentionally saying about “real” events. Then, in a different mind set entirely, the same document must be reread for fantasy content alone. This fantasy content is rarely much more than one percent of the content of the document and can be elicited by following these eight rules:

  1. Record all metaphors and similes, regardless of context. This is not as easy as it may sound – the history of etymology shows all phrases beginning in a metaphoric haze and only becoming specific with long use. It is better to include borderline cases than leave them out – for instance, “arms cuts” begins to have fantasy overtones (in a disarmament conference) once connected with other fantasy words which comes to convey the literal meaning of cuts in the (human) arm.
  2. Record all body language, strong feeling tones, and strong emotional states. Obviously the words “kill,” “death,” “love,” “hate,” and so on convey important emotional messages – but what is fascinating is how often they occur in contexts that simultaneously deny their importance and defend against their “really” having an emotional meaning. Often a meeting which is deciding on going to war spends much of its time discussing procedural matters in a very dull, emotionless language, but just as everyone is about to fall asleep, slips in terms like “killing the outstanding bill” or “progress on the bill has come to a dead halt,” and the psychohistorian must be alert enough to pick up just the words “killing” and “dead”.
  3. Record all repetitive, unusual or gratuitous word usages. This requires total concentration, especially when a long document is being examined, since the repetitions are often pages apart and


the “unusualness” of a word or phrase depends upon context. But if, for instance, a Russian revolutionary document uses coming out” several times (to mean revolution), this should be picked up as an important unusual phrase conveying a particularly potent emotional message.

  1. Record any obviously symbolic terms, especially political terms, like flags and such, but also including familial imagery or any other overtly symbolic phrases.
  2. Eliminate all negatives. A speaker coming before you and saying “I do not want to speak today about war, revolution, death, fear and destruction” is, of course, conveying the positive message he denies. All negatives and all denials are part of the defensive, not the fantasy, structure; as Freud said long ago, the unconscious does not know the negative.
  3. Eliminate all subjects and objects. The basic defensive technique involves projection of subject and/or object, so one can-not depend on the language of the speaker to indicate the real subject/object of the fantasy. So when the document says “The Russians are cracking”, only the word “cracking” is copied down; whether it is the Russians that are truly cracking or whether it is the speaker (and his group) who feel they are cracking should be left to other evidence.
  4. Record all overt group responses, laughter, moments of relaxation in meetings, breaks, asides, tense silences, and so on, wherever possible.
  5. Note any long periods of no imagery. If, in a meeting, you cannot find a single image for pages and pages of dialogue, make a note of this in brackets in your analysis – it indicates that there is a lack of group development and that group-fantasy is being severely repressed for some reason.

In order to illustrate what kinds of new connections and themes can be seen through this technique, in this section of the paper I will take a recent historical document, the Nixon Tapes, and will present in the next several pages every single word of fantasy language located under these rules – a complete Fantasy Analysis of the entire 800 pages of tapes, as supplemented and corrected by the subsequent Judiciary Committee report comparing the White House version with actual tapes available to them.(24) As an informal test of reliability, I have compared my version of the selection technique with versions of several colleagues using these rules. They have come up with virtually the same list of fantasy words, only sometimes with a few additional words they picked out which I did not. These were generally variations of the kinds of feelings I myself included, except that I tended to be quite conservative as to what con-


stituted a “strong” feeling. (Of course readers are invited to test for themselves the reliability of the method against the easily available transcript of the tapes.)

For the first two meetings, in September of 1972 and February of 1973, I have reproduced below the full sentences wherever Fantasy Analysis words appear, and have put the fantasy words in bold type, so the reader may examine the surrounding material. I have also indicated the page number in brackets, to give some notion of the limited frequency with which group-fantasy words appear in the full text. The Fantasy Analysis of the first two meetings, both between Nixon and John Dean, is as follows:

9/15/72: Nothing is going to come crashing down…this is a can of worms as you know a lot of this stuff that went on.. the way you have handled all this seems to me has been very skillful putting your fingers in the leaks that have sprung here and spring there. [61].. So you just try to button up as well as you can…[66] 2/20/73:…he is likely to float it out there and they will grab it. [70] They would give him a hot seat. [72]…It will be hot, I think they are going to be tough. I think they are going to be gory in some regards, but I am also absolutely convinced that if everyone pulls their own oar in this thing. ..[81].. The doctors say that the poor old gent had a tumor… the man had a brain tumor. [82] .. .I haven’t the foggiest idea. It is a Sullivan story as to where the leak might have come from about the current Time Magazine story, which we are stone-walling totally here. [84].. .There has never been a leak out of my office. There never will be a leak out of my office. I wouldn’t begin to know how to leak and I don’t want to learn how you leak. [86]… I tried to get it through his thick skull. His skull is not thick… [90].. .1 am planning a number of brain sessions with some of the media people… You know, l am a small fish. [91]

The first thing one notices from following the page numbers above is the sporadic nature of fantasy content. It is as if the people in the meeting try for several minutes to hold off all fantasy language, then suddenly emit several potent emotional phrases in a short burst, then return to denial or work tasks for several more minutes. (I have found this true of most meetings, both those I have studied in transcript and those in which I have participated. Every time the group goes for five or ten minutes without any fantasy language, I begin to feel uneasy, emotionally adrift, out of touch with group development, until a new burst of fantasy language relieves the tension and puts me back in contact with the on-going group-fantasy, expressed though it is in a highly condensed language.)

A study of the fantasy words in bold type above reveals several images


and themes which I for one had never before noticed, even though I had read the entire tapes through several times previously. Although it is true that each person reading the results of a Fantasy Analysis will differ on the interpretation to be assigned to various feelings and themes, still, the existence of these themes should be something most analysts should be able to agree upon. In these two meetings, one begins by noting something small (“small fish,” “worms”), a sense of floating in a liquid (”leaks,” ”oars,” ”floating”), a container (”can,” ”button it up”), a threat of collapse (“crashing down”) and perhaps the additional themes of a hurting head (”thick skull,” ”brain tumor,” ”brain sessions,” “stonewall”) and a hurting rear (“hot seat”). Obviously, how one puts these themes together will vary according to one’s theoretical orientation. Some analysts might emphasize the concern with leaky boundaries, others might note infantile images of vulnerability, of trying to keep feelings buttoned up, of imminent danger, and still others might see a fantasy of a fetus floating in a leaking womb. But whatever the interpretation, one initial theme is certainly sounded, which will be further developed as the meetings continue: that the group’s previously contained boundaries seem to be in danger of crashing down and releasing a flood of dangerous feelings.

The next meeting, in March of 1973, with Haldeman, Dean and Nixon present, presents us with even more prolific imagery on the themes already introduced (from here on I will only reproduce the fantasy words on each meeting):

3/I 3/73:…in the drawer…bob and weave.. hide.. hunkering down .bob and weave.. bullet biter.. blowing up a little smoke up him… hang in there.. cross that bridge.. little bomb… piece of dynamite… uncover a shield.. cracking.. wash operation.. stroking… hard row to hoe.. .dry hole.. hang-out road.. hang-out road.. hang-out road… kicked around.. hang-out.. .hang-out. . .domino situation.. last gasp.. squeal.. squeal.. squeal.. got the hell kicked out of them… establishment is dying… ran up against walls… bear trap… real bomb.. .very hot.

By now, the group feeling seems to have reached a further stage of development. The initially milder image of something that’s only hot, with slight cracks and leaks, has now turned into one with real explosiveness (“dynamite,” “real bomb,” “blowing up,” “very hot,” “bear trap”) and a far more vulnerable boundary condition (“establishment is dying,” “uncover a shield,” “cracking,” “hang-out,” “up against the walls,” “hide,” “squeal,” “last gasp”). The violence of the imagery has been stepped up several notches, and one begins to feel the growing rage and fear, along with further imagery of collapse and danger.


That this danger and rage is felt by the participants to be both external to each of them, which is to say part of the group feeling, and internal, which is to say part of their own unconscious intrapsychic fantasy system, will become evident as we move on. However, it should be noted at this point that at least one of the participants, Dean, indicated as much when he later recalled this period for the House Judiciary Committee’s secret testimony on these meetings. Twice during his testimony Dean told the Committee that he felt “pregnant” during this period of time. One of the members thought he heard him wrong, and asked him, “Mr. Dean, at the risk of being indelicate, did I correctly understand you on at least two occasions during your testimony to say that you were pregnant?” Dean replied, “I used that phrase.” The member, as if in disbelief, spell-ed it out, “P-r-e-g-n-a-n-t?” Dean replied, “I was pregnant with the cover-up, as I think I started testifying, and where the phrase first came from, I said I was a reluctant lady at first and soon I was pregnant.” Later in the testimony he again confirmed that he felt the Watergate coverup was inside himself, using the phrase that he had actually felt “raped’ during the conception.(26) As we proceed with the Fantasy Analysis of this and other meetings, it will become more obvious that the feelings being expressed refer primarily to internal feelings of growing rage and anxiety and then secondarily to perceptions of the external “reality” situation of the group.

A week later, Dean began his meeting with Nixon with his famous “we have a cancer growing on the Presidency” speech-an image which was actually introduced into this group process by Nixon himself, in an “aside” he delivered during the February meeting quoted earlier: the im-age of someone he had heard of who had a “brain tumor.” (Actually, Nixon often used the ‘cancer” imagery throughout his career, only usually in international affairs, as most politicians use it, as when he said in 1962 that “Cuba is a cancer” which might spread.) The Fantasy Analysis of this meeting reads as follows (the reader should try reading this whole section aloud):

3/21/73:…cancer within… growing… growing… growing… bust… bust…disaster… fish or cut bait… blows… blow… pushed without mercy… White House is not happy… White House… White House … pushing… broken loose… containment… hold it… blow up… growing cancer… blowing… cap on the bottle… blows… growing… growing… blows… cover up… breaking… watch after their behind… protect my ass… scared… blowing… broken… pieces… over that cliff… blow… hot… blows… down the road… hunker down… cover it up… keep it buried… take the heat… take the heat… bits and pieces… broken… bits and pieces… bled to death… hanging… blowing the whistle… go down in smoke… come out… break loose… re-


luctant dragon… erosion… erosion… long road… protect their own behind… blow up… collapse… cancer growing… clean it out… clean the cancer out… cutting the cancer out… blow

Now the first thing that must be noted about this remarkably expressive and emotionally consistent meeting is that the actual Watergate situation by March of 1973 is far from having “heated up,” so that in no way can fears about the coverup be said to have been responsible for the language of this meeting. Nixon has in fact just been re-elected by a very large majority, the Watergate break-in trial has ended with very little coming out, Hunt is about to be paid his hush money after this very meeting, and the cover-up looks as if it is working successfully. As will be our point throughout this paper, the language of enormous growing internal violence precedes by days, weeks, or months the external “reality” danger situation. As our theory of historical group-fantasies posits, the collapse of group-fantasy and the fantasies of growing internal violence are in fact first experienced, as in the language above, as a “cancerous growth,” about to “blow” or “bust” into “bleeding” “bits and pieces” – – all “paranoid collapse” images common to this stage – and only then are external conditions set up by the group which turn the fantasy into a reality

This is quite clear in this March 21st meeting. First the group experiences the internal rage and collapse feelings, and only at the end of the meeting does the President say “get it” in relation to the Hunt hush money-which is the major act of obstruction of justice in which he was later considered for impeachment. The people in the meeting first experienced the feelings of paranoid collapse and only then proceeded to commit the illegal acts which objectified the paranoia and set up the delusional solution: the fantasized death of the leader, through the “smoking gun” he himself will fire through his own temple. The group present at this meeting did not “go along with” Nixon; they ordered him to find a solution to the intolerable condition of rage and collapse they all felt.

The second thing to note in the language of this meeting is the heavy anal overtones to the violence expressed. Not only in the overt sense of phrases such as “protect my ass” and “watch after their behind” and such, not only in the implicit sense of all that “pushing,” “blowing,” “coming out” and “clean it out” imagery, but also in all the “expletives deleted,” which reputedly contains mostly anal imagery, the primarily anal focus to the rising anger reveals itself. This is quite often true in modern political discourse when subjected to Fantasy Analysis: the anal hostility forms the basis within which the oral and oedipal are embedded. A group with a lower psychogenic level of personalities, a primitive tribe for instance, whose anal training is less severe, might substitute earlier


level imagery for the anal – for instance, images of growing group pollution from dangerous menstrual blood. But here, with a group whose toilet training was early and severe, as with most Americans in their psychoclass growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, the imagery is heavily anal. Every participant in the meeting (Ehrlichman and Haldeman join Dean and Nixon about half-way through), no matter what the topic (and the topics ranged widely), when reaching for a metaphor or simile or emotionally expressive term, came up with one feeling, one fantasy, which grew by the end of the meeting to a command: “We’ve got to clean out the explosive shit-rage soon, or we’ll all blow up into bleeding bits and pieces.”

The feelings of paranoid collapse of a modern group-fantasy are identical with those of the moment of “sacrificial crisis”(27) in a primitive group. Feelings of growing pollution within the group-mainly feelings of growing violence-require purging through the offering-up of a substitute, a scapegoat, in order that the “social fabric,” the effective group-fantasy, may be restored. Whether the sacrificial victim is a true scapegoat (animal or human) or an enemy (external or internal to the group) or the leader himself (as in the annual sacrifice of divine kings which bring on the cleansing rains to clear the group of pollution) is another matter, one which has more to do with the opportunity furnished by the historical situation than with group-fantasy stages, our present focus. In this case, Nixon’s own personality was partially responsible for his opting for the “suicide of the leader” group-delusional solution, in addition to the fact that another war was hard to make palatable immediately after the Vietnam War had ended. In fact, Nixon moved toward the suicidal choice as early as the day after his re-election, when he said he felt he was about to collapse “like an exhausted volcano,” and tried to combat this strong feeling state by asking for the resignations of his entire White House staff and Cabinet-thus beginning what he planned as a vast “reorganization” scheme, one guaranteed to alienate the entire executive branch and lead to the leaks which brought about his downfall. Even so, Nixon almost managed, in the middle of the Watergate crisis, to find the external enemy needed to deflect the rage outward: the October Red Alert, when he imagined out of the whole cloth a Soviet plan to land an expeditionary force in the Middle East, and when he put American forces on worldwide war alert for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. But Nixon’s “crisis,’ was too manufactured, the Russians declined to participate in the confrontation attempt, and political suicide was the only group-delusion available to him. The point I wish to emphasize here is that whether regicide or suicide or war or revolution or millenarianism are the group-delusions resorted to, all act as group purification rites designed to displace the growing rage onto others, to clear the group of violence, and to be reborn under a new, more stable group-fantasy.


A third point might be appropriately made here. Each of the four members present at this March 21st meeting shared and contributed to the development of the group-fantasy despite their quite different personalities. A more detailed biographical study would reveal how each contributed out of the store of his own personal psychosexual experience to the imagery of each stage of the group-fantasy. For instance, John Dean’s unconscious homosexuality was often evident in his contributions, as in the language of his being “raped” and “made pregnant” with Watergate. Nixon, on the other hand, often showed a strong personal preoccupation with death, stemming from his unconscious guilt for the deaths of his brothers,(29) so that he was the one most responsible for the introduction of death imagery into the developing group-fantasy-as in “establishment is dying,” ‘growing cancer” and the like. Similarly, one can trace-as Rothenberg has done so well(30) – Nixon’s preoccupation with burglarizing, bugging, eavesdropping, taping, shadowing suspects, illegally opening mail, and eliminating “leaks,” to his infantile voy-euristic desires. Our Fantasy Analysis of the tapes, by focusing at this point only on structural and content changes in order to describe stages of development, may seem to slight the biographical dimensions of the group process, which of course would be included in any full psychohis-torical study of the group. Even so, although it is always personal rage which we are examining, and although there is no group geist or “unseen hand” directing group “needs,” each member of the group contributes out of his own storehouse of unconscious emotions, to the developing group-fantasy in ways appropriate to each stage of the group’s dynamics.

What is perhaps most unexpected about the material we have seen so far in these initial Fantasy Analyses of what is secretly going on in the Oval Office is that the emotions being shared and developed by the President and his associates are also being shared and developed throughout America as a whole. When one performs Fantasy Analyses of the newspaper editorials, Presidential press conferences, Congressional meetings, newsweekly articles, cartoons and other shared emotional material, one finds the identical shift of content from the “cracking” stage near the end of 1972, with its fears of growing rage, to the paranoid “collapse” stage of March and April, with its more violent and more open rage.

As with the tapes, the media imagery is not primarily to be found in discussions relating to the Watergate developments-which actually were barely noticed in the national media at this point (the Senate Committee investigation didn’t start until later) The group-fantasy is, instead, shared at the subliminal level in seemingly innocuous ways. In September, the fantasy language of the media in headlines and lead ar-


ticles and cartoons centers around images of cracking, rising pressures and fears of coming explosiveness, just as our Oval Office Fantasy Analysis did. The newsweeklies, for instance, headlined their lead ar-ticles with language emphasizing “Rising Pressures for Longer Controls,” “Crackdown on Crime,” “Where Busing Issue is Hottest,” and in cartoons such as one showing a ticking bomb labeled “Federal Tax Boosts Timed to Explode After Elections.”(31) U. S. News, in a typical front cover and lead article on September 18th, asked “How Big a Boom Ahead?” which featured fears about a “big boom” coming, a Fantasy Analysis of which reads simply:

boom… boom… boom… danger… overstimulate… boom… steam… runaway… pressures(32)

It must be remembered that during September of 1972 American planes and tanks were slaughtering thousands of Vietnamese civilians, but that this fact was almost completely absent in the coverage which I found in the national newsweeklies. The group-fantasy, as usual, was relatively unconcerned with reality, focusing more on its “cracking” stage imagery and fears of a “coming boom” as oedipal rage at the fantasy-leader threatened to get out of hand, producing feelings which could better be projected onto domestic trivialities than on Vietnam in its final stage.

On October 2nd, U. S. News became excited about the supposed “cracking-up” of the Democratic Party, and in an article headlined “Can Democrats Rebuild Their Party?.. Breakup of the New Deal Coalition,” they projected the country’s shared internal feelings of cracking and coming violence as follows:

breakup… landslide… watershed… breakup… welded together… breaking away… slippage… war… impending disaster… collapsed… weakness… .disaster(33)

Now I would argue that it was not the breakup of the Democratic Party which was actually feared as a coming disaster by this Republican newsweekly, but rather it was the “impending disaster” coming from the hidden internal emotional state of the nation. Similarly, when at this same time Nixon made a Labor Day speech to the nation, his language was still at the milder “cracking” stage, which, in this case, he used in the sense of “cracking down on prices”:

Treadmill… treadmill… war… cracking… cut… squeeze… cripples… cutting the pie… bake a bigger pie… hatred… fear… bedrock… sit out(34)


bulls and boiling housewives were drawn independently during the same week by three cartoonists in Columbus, Georgia, Washington, D.C. and Louisville, Kentucky, all in response to “national mood” alone.

I have usually found that the body images used by the cartoonists of the nation are by far the best index of the group-fantasy stages of the nation. During the “cracking” stage of September, 1972, Herblock focused his cartoons mostly on imagery of cracking-he calls his cartoon chapter of his book on this period “Cracks in the Dam”(36) – and showed the White House’s locked doors about to break down (Illustration I) By June, for the “collapse” stage, he drew cartoons showing the walls collapsed and the cleansing torrents of water under way – calling his chapter on this period “The Flood” (Illustration 2):

Illustration 1 – ”Cracking”
September 17, 1972

Illustration 2 – “Collapse”
June 26, 1973

Returning now from national media analysis to the Nixon tapes, a Fantasy Analysis of the next three meetings in the Oval Office continues even more overtly the previous meeting’s theme of “clean out the shitty rage”:

3/22: tippytoes… cross the bridge… fighting… unstuck… get the big fish out… loose… hang out… hang out… hanging out… heavy load… put the fires out… nailed down… come out… off the lid… clean… good boy… clean… clean… clean… 3/27: cut it off… ass in this thing… apples and oranges… shaken… sticky position… apples and oranges… big enchilada… red herring… bleeding… take the dive… stream… cross-currents… clean as a hound’s tooth… 3/30: leak… in hand… cover up… cover up

By now, the illegal hush money had been paid to Hunt, and someone had


to take the next step and delegate some member to go outside the group and reveal the illegality, as the fantasy language above puts it, in order to “get the big fish out” and “clean” the “ass” as “clean as a hound’s tooth” so everyone can be a “good boy.” The theme of relieving the intolerable emotional pressures, of “pulling the plug” on the built-up shit-rage, of purging the national group pollution, is introduced at the very beginning of the crucial meeting of April 8th, the Fantasy Analysis of which simply reads:

pulled the plug.. pulled the plug… pull the plug

That afternoon John Dean acts as unconscious delegate of the group’s needs by going over to the Watergate investigators and telling them all he knows. Before he does so, Dean actually tells Haldeman on the phone he is talking to them, but not of course that he is acting out the delegated command to “pull the plug” on the group. Yet the next meeting, on the afternoon of April 8th, between Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman, held at the very moment Dean is spilling the beans across town, shows that the group knows precisely what is going on between Dean and the prosecutors – and the group begins to imagine how “painful” the coming “purge” will be, how “pricking the boil” will feel like “poison,” like “blowing up sky high,” like a “bombshell:”

4/8: nail… nailed… blow… cut… bag job… busted… broke… my water can’t rise any higher… nail… nail… straw that broke the camel’s back… bite the bullet… kills… kills… blow last straw… dragged in by the heels… roll his eyes… cover-up… cover-up… bite the bullet… take the poison… caving… caving… heads up there on the dock… cover-up… cover-up… cover-up… rape is inevitable… breaking… bottling up… blow ’em sky high… take the gas… purge yourself… bite it… bit it… bombshell… pain… painful… unscramble the whole omelet… boil had to be pricked… take the heat… prick the boil… tuck this under the run… clammed up… chips fall

Later meetings continue the anal imagery of flushing the rage “down the drain,” to the point of actually openly admitting that the group mood now feels like the group has “been constipated for eight months and all of a sudden was able to take a crap is going to enjoy it:”

4/14: down the drain… crumble… blow… kid gloves… fishing net… clean breast… freezing… freezing… dog fight… fight… drag it out of me… pealing off… big bag… on the peg… heat on… sticky wickets… dead in the water… leaked… cold turkey… lay a glove on him… lay a glove… sew up… drag kicking and screaming… big fish… constipated for eight months and all of a sudden was able to take a crap is


going to enjoy it… beat on the head and shoulders… bouncing… apple sauce… stink… spongy… sticky… wild man… mixed bag… wringer… flowing around and leaking… swallow… thrashing around… Siamese twins… 4/15: big fish… tie in… up to his navel… little fish… ebb tide… full tide

The anal violence seems to be well under way of being flushed out in such imagery above as the “big fish” which is “stinky” and “sticky,” the ”apple sauce,” the ”crap” which is going ”down the drain,” ”through the wringer” of the cleansing “tide,” en ding the “eight months’ constipation” (it has been just eight months since the formation of the first House Committee, Patman’s flanking and Currency Committee, which began investigating Watergate).

The next meeting, on April 14th, reflects the enormous decrease in rage and paranoid anxiety felt by the group after this purging. Despite the fact that publicly no changes have occurred in the Watergate situa-tion, this is the first meeting in the tapes where there is no fantasy language at all! The following two meetings after that have very little fantasy language (“snow job… splashed… feet to the fire… splashed… splashed… cut the cancer right off”), and then follows a second meeting, on April 16th, with no fantasy language at all. For the moment, the group-fantasy of those in the Oval Room is that the boil has been prick-ed. As in the Holsti and Norton study cited earlier, where the German “paranoia index” dropped sharply after the Kaiser decided to go to war, the construction of the group-delusional solution relieves the anxiety of the paranoid collapse phase.

Unfortunately, if the leader is to be the group scapegoat, if he is to be replaced by a new “strong” leader who can organize a new group-fantasy which can effectively bind the emotions of the nation, the sacrifice of lesser figures around the leader works only for a short time to remove the pressure. Once again, it is a Herblock cartoon which sums up what happens as one after another of those closest to the leader get pushed off the sacrificial cliff (Illustration 3).

That Nixon unconsciously helped push each of his associates off the cliff to ward off the day of his own demise is clear. He even admitted it himself, in a “Freudian slip,” while speaking on November 17, 1973 before the Associated Press Managing Editors Association, when he stated, regarding Haldeman and Ehrlichman: “I hold both men and others charged are guilty…,” which the Times reported with the note that “Mr. Nixon misspoke here-he meant the reverse.”(37) Even though the sacrifice of his friends was necessary, Nixon felt it was the only way to delay his own political death. In his Memoirs, he likens his decision to fire Haldeman and Ehrlichman to self-castration: “I felt as if I had cut off one arm and then the other. The amputation [was] necessary for survival… “(38)


Illustration 3-The Sacrificial Cliff
January 25, 1974

A Fantasy Analysis of the final weeks of the tapes which we have available show the return of group pressures after each substitute is sacrificed and renewed needs to “pull the plug,” hopefully without the leader himself getting “splashed,” hopefully without “pain,” but eventually knowing that even the leader would have to “throw in the sponge” and suffer a painful “death:”

4/16: cleanly. ..pulling punches.. hung.. .up the road.. drag it out.. cold turkey.. cold turkey.. pull the string.. tied it down.. .tie it down.. .deep six.. .deep six.. clean.. burning.. burn.. pain… scream out.. my tail.. .flushed.. .big fish.. splashed.. walk the plank . splashes.. .deep six.. trash.. blow.. .guts. . deep six.. .deep six… plugging a hold.. pulled the plug… full breast.. .egg on his face… bite the bullet… painful.. thrown in the sponge.. .ironed out… ironed out…quite a plate full.. .4/17: nibbled…dragged up…drag-ged out.. .save his neck.. come out.. .come out.. .come out.. .eaten alive.. leaked.. leaked.. .ass.. .in the soup.. .bomb shelter.. nibbled garbarge. . full court press.. draw the wagons up.. tying our hands.. big fish… small fish.. flying from flower to flower.. plant-ing his pollen.. .ass. . .ass.. leaks.. .eaten away.. .eaten away.. .cancer at the heart.. drastic surgery.. deep six.. baloney.. bark.. leaks… leaks and leaks.. leaks.. .down the tube… pulled the plug.. blast hell out of all of us.. .cried like a baby.. broke down.. broke down.. .cry blow.. leaks.. leaks.. leaks.. poison.. leaks.. leaks.. kicked him around.. .out of pocket.. .twist. . hang.. .frighten. . rack.. nailed… sack.. hurricane.. death.. .hurts. . cooked.. .cried…breaks…rape was inevitable…washes away…4/18: leaking…leaking…leaking… powder keg.. .come out.. .4/19: killed.. .dead. . kills.. kill.. kills… sheep to the wolves.. .panic.. .4/27: ass… kill.. kill.. .tear hell out of him.. dice.. big fish.. pressure.. .cut the Gordian knot… kill.. kill


same bag.. same bag.. clean.. .4/30: heart.. .trap

The operative term of the group as the end nears is, of course, the word “kill.” Once again, Herblock pictures it most graphically, effectively using the image of the hourglass to portray the evacuation of the shit-rage, the demise of the fantasy-leader and even the symbol of birth:

Illustration 4 – The Slide to Death
March 12, 1974

Thus the drama of the Nixon group-fantasy is over, the rages of the group have killed off the weak fantasy-leader, his sacrifice has brought the cleansing purge, the nation feels as if reborn, and a new, strong fantasy-leader steps in to tackle the job of organizing the group’s emotional conflicts.

It might at this point be argued that my choice of the Nixon period to illustrate the weakening and collapse of a group-fantasy leader is simply stacking the cards, since Nixon is the only president in American history to have been thrown out of office. What happens to strong leaders, like Eisenhower or Kennedy for instance, who have the confidence of the nation, and who are not personally prone to self-destructive acts? Surely they were not experienced by the nation as weakening and dying; surely the nation during the 1950s and early 60s did not experience cycles of growing pollution, paranoid collapse, group-delusional action and sym-bolic rebirth. Furthermore, might it also be that somehow the Nixon period was particularly prone to these anal cleansing images which form the bulk of our evidence so far? For one thing, the Watergate affair concerns secrets, and the keeping of family secrets, according to the psychoanalyst Theodore Jacobs, always stimulates fantasies centering around issues of anal control.(39) In order to answer these objections, in the next section of this paper I will give samples from my Fantasy


Analyses of the public documents of the Eisenhower and Kennedy years, and will follow the major stages of the three group-fantasy cycles which I found had occurred during this eleven-year span of American history.


The presidential campaigns of both Eisenhower and Kennedy, like those of all presidential candidates, were filled with oedipal group-fantasies of how the “hopefuls” were busy “wooing” and eventually “winning the heart” of the national group. Even without getting into a detailed analysis of their campaign imagery, one can sense that there was something special about their elections, some “charismatic” leadership qualities due to the nation’s grandiose expectations of them, which made them more idealized “husbands” to the maternal group than most. As traditional in American politics, the victorious candidate was most often shown in the media not as shaking the hand of his running mate nor of his campaign manager, but as hugging his wife. (The photo most often picked was taken from about three feet off the ground, the level of an oedipal five-year-old.) And, of course, their early weeks in office were characterized as a “love affair with the people,” a “honeymoon period,” full of hope and expectations. It is the group-as-mother who is the unseen audience and ultimate prize of all political action, and the winning of this group-mother by leader and opposition alike is the hidden agenda of daily politics.

The popularity of American presidents is, of course, carefully measured by the Gallup organization through nationwide polls asking about the nation’s confidence in the presidency. The regular decline of the leader’s popularity after his election, which is part of my psychogenic theory, is in fact found as a normal feature of every presidential term. The Gallup polls for the three terms examined in this section are shown in Illustration 4.1 have added a vertical axis in each term, representing what I found to be three similar turning-points, the military group-delusions which ended, in each case, a period of paranoid collapse: the Taiwan Crisis, the Lebanon Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis. As can be seen in the graphs, in each case the nation’s confidence in the leader recovered for a time after these group-delusional actions were under-taken, then resumed their decline once more.

Although all three group-delusions involved military movements and risks of war, all three also managed to avoid open violence-as might have been suggested by the fact that Eisenhower and Kennedy were both later-born sons. As Irving Harris has shown,(40) the only American war led by a later-born son was the shortest and least bloody, the Spanish-


American, under McKinley. All other times, the nation chose a heroic parent-socialized first-born son rather than a more conciliatory peer-socialized later-born son to lead them in war. Although birth order is hardly a guarantee of war or peace, the evidence Harris gives is certainly statistically significant.

Illustration 5 – Decline of Confidence in the Presidency and
Temporary Recovery After Group-Delusional Action


It is my intention in this section of the paper to illustrate through Fantasy Analyses of a selection of documents out of a much larger group I analyzed, how national group-fantasy pressures on Eisenhower and Kennedy produced these three crises as group-delusional solutions to recurring moods of collapse of confidence. Of all the Presidents whose public papers I have studied by Fantasy Analysis, Eisenhower is far and away the calmest in his language. The ratio of fantasy content to total words in his speeches usually runs as low as one fantasy word per thousand, compared to a rate ten times higher for other presidents. His calmness bored reporters listening to him, but it also soothed the country and helped him to become the only elected president in half a century to avoid both war and very dangerous confrontations during his term. He was consciously aware of the effect of group-fantasy projections being “put into” him, often responding to the anxiety-filled questions of reporters at news conferences with such statements as: “the mere fact that some little incident arises is not going to disturb me. I have been scared by experts, in war and in peace, and I am not frightened about this.”(41) His ability to go out and putt on the White House lawn in the middle of what others termed a crisis was a national joke, but was nevertheless his most mature leadership trait.

Eisenhower’s landslide election victory helped him end the Korean war while remaining a “strong” leader during early 1953. Even when Russia acquired the H-bomb, in August, 1953 – probably the most important real” event of the 1950s-Eisenhower was able to stay relatively calm, answering anxious questions about this development at a news conference by saying that “You don’t want to frighten anyone to death in this world… frightened people cannot make good decisions. So, therefore, you have to understand our own strength-the strength of the free world, the strength of America – at the very same time that you are weighing also our dangers and risks.”(42) The full Fantasy Analysis of this critical news conference starts out with Eisenhower responding to the H-bomb news with a few “war.. death” references, but quickly returning to standard “cracking” stage imagery of “tensions” and “breaking”:

9/30/53: heart… tension… war… war… war… death… death… leak… leak… leak… in the mill… tensions… broken… broken… broken… straining at the barrier… break(43)

By the beginning of 1954, despite his polls having dropped from 75% to 65% approval in the previous six weeks, Eisenhower continued his relatively calm response to growing Congressional pressure to get militarily involved in Indochina. When the French, in April, actually asked America to send help, Eisenhower startled everyone by saying this


was obviously impossible without a formal declaration of war by Congress!

Even when Dienbienphu fell in May, Eisenhower stressed that the rest of Indochina would nor fall “like dominoes.” Admiral Radford responded to this by saying we should drop an A-bomb on Vietnam, and Newsweek announced that “the low point of the postwar era has now been reached for American leadership.”(44) With such headlines as “Western Alliance Cracking Up, Statesmen Seem Helpless” and statements such as that the “Eisenhower Administration was walking cautiously, a slip could be politically fatal,” the media kept pumping out images of coming collapse of the group-fantasy and of national con-fidence in the fantasy-leader. Attacks on Eisenhower’s peaceful efforts to negotiate with the Russians grew in the country, and everyone watched McCarthy’s “soft on communism” crusade with delegating fascination.

By the end of 1954, Eisenhower’s popularity had reached its lowest point. Some Congressmen feared America might be in an “atomic stalemate with Communism,” and a few Senators began advocating a military blockade of China as retaliation for their shelling of some tiny offshore islands. Eisenhower’s December 2nd news conference, for the very first time, began to make use of full “paranoid collapse” imagery:

12/2/54: war… war… breaking down… destroying… insulting… anger… frustration… lash out… war.. war… war… exhilaration… war… war… anger… resentment… war… war… war… war… war… war… war… tough… love… shot down

Most of this fantasy language in this December 2nd news conference came out of a long “aside” which Eisenhower delivered to the newsmen, one which is well worth quoting in full for its astonishingly acute awareness of the origins of war fantasy in the national mood and its restitutional purpose:

For us there are two courses, and here I should like, in a way, to talk a little bit personally: in many ways the easy course for a President, for the administration, is to adopt a truculent, publicly bold, almost insulting attitude. A President experiences exactly the same resentments, the same anger, the same kind of sense of frustration almost, when things like this occur to other Americans, and his impulse is to lash out.

Now I want to make quite clear that when one accepts the responsibilities of public office, he can no longer give expression freely to such things; he has got to think of the results.

That would be the easy way for this reason: those actions lead toward war. Now, let us think of war for a second. When this Na-


tion goes to war, there occurs automatically a unification of our people. Traditionally, if we get into trouble that involves war, the Nation closes ranks behind the leader. The job to do becomes simply understood-it is to win the war. There is a real fervor developed throughout the Nation that you can feel everywhere you go. There is practically an exhilaration about the affair.

The great Lee said, “It is well that war is so horrible; if it were not so, we would grow too fond of it…” (45)

Because of this great awareness of the pressures toward going to war as a unifying purge, Eisenhower’s solution to the paranoid collapse phase at the end of 1954 was a masterful one. He began by giving a special message to Congress asking for special war powers, thus satisfying the need for release of violent fantasy. But along with the public declaration of “our readiness to fight,” and in conjunction with speeches by John Foster Dulles threatening China with the atomic bomb (Dulles told the National Security Council that “there is at least an even chance that the United States will have to go to war [and] we’ll have to use atomic weapons”),(46) what Eisenhower actually did rather than just said was to evacuate the Tachen off-shore islands as China wanted! The group-delusion that America was finally “getting tough” with someone was pulled off by words and military bustle alone, and Eisenhower was able to displace the nation’s hostility abroad while still being able to hope that the Chinese would not respond in any way to the military maneuver. The day after both Eisenhower and Dulles threatened China with the atomic bomb, Dulles, the Cold War fanatic, dizzy with the success of the military maneuver, announced that the Chinese were “dizzy with success” from their course of “aggressive fanaticism,” which he likened to that of Hitler, and that China was “more dangerous and provocative of war” than even the Soviets.(47) The media further amplified the fantasies of violence with headlines such as those in Newsweek announcing the “Birth of a Policy,” “To Battle Stations” and “Ike’s Thinking On War,” and speaking of our possible “headlong plunge into world catastrophe “(48)

After the evacuation of the Tachens, the media kept expecting a Chinese retaliation for our violent fantasies (“war may be weeks away”), but all in fact remained quiet. Newsweek announced that the country had just “shivered,” and Eisenhower’s popularity rating climbed to new heights. Because the country had, in fantasy, returned to the “strong leader” stage, it no longer needed to delegate its paranoid rage, and McCarthy disappeared from media attention.

After Eisenhower’s re-election at the end of 1956, his strength again declined, but when the Mideast blew up and the Russians sent troops into Eastern Europe, he was once again able to hold back American military


involvement because the fantasy language of the nation’s media was still at a fairly stable level. When, for instance, China again bombed Quemoy and Matsu, the newsweeklies ran tiny articles each week on the event, hardly noticing an ‘ issue” once so urgent as to require the use of atomic threats. By mid-year of 1957, along with articles headlined “Ike’s Popularity-Slipping?”, the language of collapse and growing rage began again, only projected this time onto Russia, which Newsweek featured in a cover story on Khrushchev’s “Blowup in the Kremlin,” imagining a giant “explosion” and “shakeup” in Moscow.(49) The U.S., in turn, was pictured as being “In a Fighting Mood,” and when Russia’s sputnik was launched in October of 1957, American confidence in its “values” totally collapsed. We had “stepped into a new era” with the “Red conquest,” and the country went on a masochistic binge about its “humiliating” defeat by the Russians in the “World War of Science.”(50) The humiliation came from the projected critical superego, literally em-bodied in the Russian satellite; as the Portland Oregonian put it, “It is downright terrifying with [Sputnik] staring down at us.”(51) “Not since World War II had there been such unity of purpose in the West,”(52) the media proclaimed hopefully, whistling in the dark, but after a few months passed at the beginning of 1958 questions about this “unity of purpose” began to rise, the press wondered about the “Mental Challenge: Are We Up to It?,” and then retreated to its central preoccupation once again: “Mad at Ike?”(53)

By May, Eisenhower was so caught up in these continuous paranoid collapse messages that his language began to match that of the media. A Fantasy Analysis of his address at a dinner for the Republican National Committee on May 6, 1958, for instance, begins by evoking the image of an “evil force” which was “looming” before America:

5/6/58: menace… evil force… hostile… destruction… explosives… destroy… kill… deadly menace… tie the hands… disintegration… weakening… weakening… surge… forcing back… shot… war… war(54)

Since international events were in fact rather quiet at this time, a search for a group-delusional solution to the paranoid collapse began. Three weeks later, two minor incidents provided the triggers needed. The first was a scuffle in which demonstrators threatened Nixon during his visit to Venezuela, and Eisenhower rushed American troops to the Caribbean “in case the Venezuelan police can’t protect him.” The second and more important began with some routine street demonstrations in Lebanon against its pro-U.S. president. Americans reacted to the two incidents as though they had never heard of street protests before, and Newsweek headlined the two stories: “Shock Waves: The Impact of the Global Crisis on U.S.”(55) The emotions released were so powerful they even in-


fected the adjoining pages: a routine Newsweek article on Alaska statehood was headlined “There’s a Heart-Quickening, Zero-Hour Feeling All Over Alaska,” and an article on some routine investigations in Congress was featured on the cover as “Mania in Washington.”(56)

Within a week, Eisenhower channeled these “heart-quickening shock waves” into group-delusional military action: he marched American marines into then-sleepy Lebanon, an action which his official biographer, Peter Lyon, depicted as “considerably astonishing the sun-bathers and ice cream vendors on the peaceful beaches of that country.”(57) America had “moved to the brink of war,” according to the press, because “intervention was less risky than the calamity of inaction.” A great relief was felt that “disaster has been averted with not a moment to spare.”(58) Predictably, Eisenhower’s polls rose again.

By the time John F. Kennedy took over as president, however, Eisenhower’s popularity had turned down once more, for all of 1960, and Kennedy could be elected on the anti-Eisenhower program of “get-ting America moving again.” By electing the macho-image Kennedy, America proclaimed it had had enough of Fiflies’ peace attempts. If there were to be “New Frontiers” to conquer, America would have to find some “New Indians” to fight, and there was little question against whom America wanted to “get moving again.” Much of the New Frontier imagery also reflected the underlying feelings of despair and loneliness contained in the imagery of the frontier-which is an isolated outpost only tenuously in touch with civilization-an apt symbol for some of America’s uncivilized behavior to follow during the period. Thus the depressive Fifties gave way to the manic Sixties-a decade which produced a brush with the nuclear holocaust, America’s longest war, and a manic doubling of personal income, the largest economic expansion in any country in any decade in world history. This alternation between depressive and manic periods in national group-fantasy, a phenomenon well-known to political scientists(59) (but so far having eluded rational explanation), was felt by the whole nation as soon as Kennedy was elected. Action was “in the air” from the very beginning of his term, and was reflected in the grandiosity of the messianic imagery which was projected upon him.

The group-fantasy imagery in the press and in Kennedy’s press con-ferences moved rather more rapidly than usual toward the collapse stage, perhaps aided by the failure of the Cuban invasion (into which, however, Kennedy could not throw American forces, because group-fantasy was still too stable at the beginning of his term to release the necessary group rage). It is possible that the initial grandiose expectations about Kennedy were really a defense against severe despair, so the quick disillusionment and collapse of confidence within a year should have been expected. In any case, by the end of August of his first year, when the Russians had


built the Berlin Wall, the fantasy language of the media was already moving into the paranoid collapse stage, and Kennedy responded by ordering reservists to active duty and by sending U.S. tanks down the Friedrichstrasse. The media announced that “we stand at the edge of war” once again. Cover cartoons in several newsweeklies suggested that the United Nations was collapsing, schoolchildren were reported as having nightmares about nuclear destruction, a “Great Debate” began about bomb shelters, and U.S. News began to feature regular articles on “War-The Chances Now.”(60)

The paranoid collapse feelings of America were now projected onto the Russians, who were suddenly seen to be “pulled in all directions” by big “trouble in the Kremlin,” and were pictured as full of “strain, in-decision, tension [and] uncertainty as to who is in charge.”(61) At this point in the early months of 1962, the media image of Cuba was fairly benign. Russian troops and equipment were already on the island, it was acknowledged, but no one seemed to mind, and “A Look at Castro’s Cuba From the Inside” showed only photos of happy Cubans and Russians in swimming pools.(62) Kennedy himself told Ben Bradlee that Russian troops and equipment in Cuba were of little interest to us, for they differed little from the presence of our own troops in Turkey:

The President said the presence of 17,000 Soviet troops in Cuba, 90 miles from the U.S., was one thing viewed by itself, but it was something else again when you knew there were 27,000 U.S. troops stationed in Turkey, right on the Soviet border, and they had been there some years. He warned me against me releasing this information. . it would be politically suicidal for him publicly to equate the two. “It isn’t wise, politically, to understand Khrushchev’s problems in quite this way,” he said quietly.(63)

Yet the internal group-fantasy feelings of collapse, rage and paranoid fears being experienced at this point could not be held objectless for long. Kennedy’s confidence rating was plunging fast, and every new issue of U.S. News announced the complete “crack-up” of some enemy nation-China, Russia, East Germany, whatever-along with typical paranoid feelings of uncanniness about what it termed “The Khrushchev Mystery: What’s Behind the Quiet Tones Now Underlying Talk from the Kremlin-The Growing Mystery of Khrushchev’s Calm-Is he setting a trap, lying low?”(64)

These kind of paranoid suspicions could not continue to be repressed. Although nothing new was happening in Cuba or Russia, the Fantasy Analysis of Kennedy’s news conference in July of 1962 reflected hidden language reporting the collapse quite clearly (even though the only thing he could refer to as “disastrous” was a vote on medicare):


7/23/62: danger… danger… plunges… disastrous… drain… drain… weakened… chaos… chaotic… dangerous… blast(65)

The feelings of chaos and rage could not be held in any longer: suddenly, Kennedy “discovered” that there were thousands of Russians in Cuba, and suddenly the 90 miles between the two nations seemed provocative. By the beginning of September, although the only “missiles” he knew to be in Cuba were the usual surface-to-air (SAM) defensive weapons, with a 25-mile range, he nevertheless warned Khrushchev not to put “offensive weapons” into Cuba and called up 150,000 additional reservists to active duty. The news media finally got the “psychotic insight” on where the delusional solution would be played out: although Cuba had been virtually absent from their pages up until then, they now ran cover articles on “War Over Cuba? War over Cuba, involving the U.S. with Russia, is moving closer, now that the Soviets have an advanced military base just off the coast of Florida.”(66)

Since no offensive Russian missiles were in fact in Cuba at that time (a careful reconstruction of previously classified material has shown that the U.S. had no evidence or even suspicions of Russian offensive missiles at any time in September), the best the press could do was to refer to the possibility that missile-carrying Russian submarines might be in the area. Yet despite continuing negative reports from U-2 and other CIA observa-tions, the die had been cast, and America had now moved into a group-trance. On September 17th, a secret joint Committee on Foreign Relations and on the Armed Services met to discuss resolutions enabling the President to prevent by force the establishment of a military base by Russia in Cuba. A full Fantasy Analysis of this long meeting reveals the true mood of the country prior to the discovery of any Russian offensive missiles:

9/17/62: aggression… aggression… weaken… aggression… invasion… invasion… die… suffer… fears… buildup… blockade… blockade… war… invade… collapse… collapsed… collapse… fall… buildup… force… blockade… blockade… blockade… war… war… war… blockade… war… barbs… fire… burn… heart… aggression… war… fight… fight… holocaust… angry… heart… cover… danger… threat… danger… nose to nose… hot… hot… war… war… blockade… blockade… war… blockade… war… blockade… blockade… war… war… war.. .war… fear… fear… war… blockade… blockade… blockade… war… blockade… war… blockade… war… war… war… war… war… war… blockade… blockade… war… war… war… blockade… choke… frightened… war… war… war… fighting… shooting… dead… dead… war… chicken and egg(67)

A nationwide roundup of the opinions of the American people by U.S.


News was equally strong, and the only question seemingly unanswered was whether America should just blockade Cuba or invade the island without warning: “Invade and throw the Russians out.. We’ve got to do something… Right now is the time to lower the boom on this renegade and his Red cohorts. Blockade Cuba lock, stock and barrel.. use whatever means are at our disposal to clean out this flourishing nest of vipers.. .Cuba has become like a cancer. If Russians get killed-that’s a risk they brought on themselves.”(68)

It was not until a full month later, after a limited blockade had been put into effect, followed by demands from the media and much of Con-gress for full military blockade and/or invasion, that the very first discovery was made-on October 14, by a U-2 pilot-of a possible Rus-sian offensive missile base.(69) Finally, America had an “objective reason” for its group-delusion. Not that the new Russian missiles threatened to change the balance of power. Everyone from Kennedy to the military agreed that ‘(he challenge was solely psychological. As Eugene Rostow, former Under-Secretary of State, put it recently, “Why were we so excited by the Cuban missile crisis? . . . there are missiles on Soviet submarines. And missiles can reach the United States from the Soviet Union itself, and from bombers. But the Cuban episode is worth studying because we were ready to go then. There was a rage in the country and a sense of threat, and these were extremely dangerous.”(70)

The “psychotic insight” that Cuban missiles were an insufferable threat to America which had to be removed immediately by military action rather than by diplomatic means required at least two major delusional elements as rationalizations, both of which required open lies by Kennedy to the American public. The first was the claim that America had to move militarily because negotiations might take time and the missiles might become operational, which would both be dangerous to American security and would make Kennedy’s negotiation position weaker. This rationalization has been proven quite false by a little-known CIA report which was recently declassified, which showed that Kennedy knew as early as October 22nd that the missiles were already operational, and that he simply lied to the American public when he said otherwise.(71) There was no reason for the speed, no reason for the heart-quickening military confrontation at high seas with Soviet ships-none, that is, except group-delusional needs.

The second rationalization needed to sustain the delusion was that there existed no acceptable negotiable alternative to the game of “chicken” which the two countries played out as the ships approached each other and which necessarily risked a nuclear exchange. But there was in fact a perfectly acceptable alternative, which Khrushchev offered: that Russia would remove its Cuban missiles in exchange for America removing its Turkish missiles from the Russian border. Now American


Turkish missiles were acknowledged by the Administration to be totally useless, and Kennedy had actually suggested their unilateral removal months earlier, so this alternative was quite reasonable in any rational definition of American interest. Yet even before Khrushchev’s offer, when Adlai Stevenson suggested this solution to the ExComm group on October 20th, he was thought to be a “coward” by many, an accusation which dogged him to the end of his days at the U.N.(72) In fact, any negotiated solution was “cowardice” if military humiliation of the delusional enemy was the goal. The Turkish missiles were of so little real importance to the ExComm group that at one point in their considerations many members came to support what one historian calls “a crazy scheme … first disarm the missiles in Turkey and so inform the Soviets; then bomb the missile sites and invade Cuba.”(73) The scenario of first solving the problem but then going ahead with the violent invasion anyway sure-ly reveals the delusional motivation for the entire affair!

The group-trance was actually so powerful that when Kennedy told America that Russia’s offer to trade missiles was impossible to accept, the country as a whole simply accepted his statement without question, preferring instead to risk tens of millions of lives. In fact, only 16 percent of the country opposed the military actions, even though three out of five Americans believed “some shooting” was inevitable and one out of five thought it would lead to World War III. The major responses to pollsters were opinions such as “It was long overdue” and “We’ve been pushed around long enough.” This national mood made Kennedy extremely open about his military threats. Not only did he openly threaten invasion and mass a quarter of a million men and 180 ships at the tip of Florida to do so, but he also put 156 ICBM’s at “ready for launch” and, according to the Air Force officer in charge of sending American messages at that time, sent the following communication to the Russians:

The message said the U.S. had 1300 nuclear weapons airborne-named Soviet cities which were targeted for the bombs. [General] Keegan states there was a Middle Eastern army officer visiting Nikita Khrushchev at his Black Sea dacha when Khrushchev got that message a few hours after its transmission. The officer said Khrushchev turned pale. He had four telephones on his desk and tried to pick them all up at once, calling Moscow. And that day the Russian ships turned back.(74)

Kennedy’s military “humiliation” of Khrushchev, which was to lead to the Russian leader’s removal-and which Kennedy undertook rather than suffer a “humiliation” himself-occurred, however, over too brief a time period to be a fully satisfying erotic purge of American rage. Although exactly what constitutes an adequate purge of emotions is


unclear to me at this point, clearly the news media seemed to be saying it was all over too quickly, and wondering if America had really “won.” U.S. News asked the disturbing question on everyone’s mind: “Will It Now Be A World Without Real War? Suddenly the world seems quiet.. .Big questions: Why the quiet? What does it mean?”(75) Kennedy’s confidence polls, which had jumped dramatically during the crisis, soon slid back to previous levels, and open attacks on him returned in full force. The lack of a full emotional purge remained. Nationwide media public opinion polls reported a “Big Puzzle: Strange Mood of America Today. Baffled and uncertain of what to believe.. .an odd mood… “(76) It is just this “strange mood” which leads me to speculate on whether Kennedy’s assassination at the end of the year, linked as it was in Oswald’s mind to Cuba, could in a sense be called a nationally delegated act, despite the fact that real evidence as to Oswald’s motives will always be lacking.(77) Remembering the full-page ads that attacked Kennedy for be-ing soft on Cuba at the very time he was going to Dallas, and recalling his statement after the missile crisis that if he hadn’t moved militarily he “would have been impeached,” one cannot help but wonder how much American group-fantasy rage could have contributed to his death-and how such a fantasy could have been enacted “through” the confused mind of a sick assassin.

The next American group-delusion after Kennedy’s assassination was, of course, the Vietnam War. As national confidence in Johnson began its inevitable decline during 1964, fears of “an impending collapse” were consistently projected onto “Khrushchev’s Crumbling Empire,”(78) and cartoons began to appear(79) which were identical to the Herblock “collapse” cartoon, reproduced earlier in Illustration 1, of presidential doors collapsing from outside pressures. Shortly after, the first American troops began fighting in Vietnam. Likewise, after Nixon took over the war, and also began to experience collapse messages from the country in 1969, he invented what he himself termed the “Madmen Theory” of “appearing irrational… with his finger on the nuclear button,”(80) and by invading Cambodia plunged America into yet another group-delusion. However, rather than at this point giving my month-by-month documentation for these two group-fantasy cycles leading to the Vietnam and Cambodian wars, since they repeat so many of the patterns of the military group-delusions I have already documented, I would like to examine the one instance in the past 25 years of an attempt by a president to use a peace treaty to resolve the collapse of confidence in himself. Although we have seen above how Eisenhower used the peaceful removal of troops from offshore Chinese islands to appear heroic and restore public confidence in himself, there was at least ostensible danger in doing so-it was, after all, a military maneuver. The only time during the


25-year old period we are here examining that a President succeeded for a time in restoring confidence in himself purely through peaceful efforts was in the case of Jimmy Carter and the Camp David Middle East summit meetings.


It is difficult to recapture at the time of this writing (early 1979) the idealization and even messianic hopes which so many Americans felt upon the election of Jimmy Carter. In our book, Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy, John Rartman shows in his chapter on “Carter and the Utopian Group-Fantasy”(81) how the Democratic Convention was dominated by utopian imagery of fusion with an ideal mother, and with group-fantasies of millennial and messianic expectations of rebirth which only secondarily referred to Carter’s personal religious history. Cartoons of Carter as a fetus inside a peanut, about to be born, as Christ walking on water, and other messianic references to him as a “savior” (J.C.) were widespread. The decay of this idealization is seen in the Gallup Poll on his approval ratings, which steadily declined until the mideast peace talks (see Illustration 6). The month-by-month story of this collapse and recovery pattern is a fascinating one.

Illustration 6 – Gallup Poll Showing
Decline and Recovery of Confidence in Jimmy Carter

As can be seen in the graph, it was not until September of 1977 that the polls began to turn sharply downward. This is reflected in my Fantasy Analysis of the media and of Presidential press conferences, which began


Illustration 7 – Jimmy Carter in “Strong” Stage

to show the first signs of collapse at this time. The crucial symbolic event announcing the stage was the Bert Lance Affair, a minor incident which for the time was used for group-fantasy purposes and which thoroughly captured the rapt attention of the nation for the month of September. Since the central question of an overidealized leader is “Will he abandon us?,” the Lance Affair was posed as an abandonment problem: Would Carter “abandon his closest friend” (proxy for the nation), and would Carter in turn be “deprived of his closest and most trusted confidant.”(82) The drama was blown up into unbelievable proportions. Lance was pictured as a baby about to be abandoned, and though he was “a hulking man, [he] filled the witness chair as completely as Goldilocks in the baby Bear’s rocker.”(83) Soon the abandonment drama began to use the imagery of birth to express separation anxiety.

I make a habit of doing a Fantasy Analysis of the nightly television news coverage by recording the images that appear on the NBC Nightly News. (I always turn off the sound in order to do television Fantasy Analysis, and I ignore all images of people merely talking, recording only those scenes that directly reflect the body images that carry the fantasy content.) On September 21st, while Carter was still considering whether to “abandon” Lance, the nightly news opened with some solemn statement by Carter on the affair, and then moved to its group-fantasy meaning later in the show, in the “Section Three” portion, which is supposed to contain “lighter” content, but which I have usually found is used to convey hidden group-fantasy messages about the opening news event. On this particular day it showed a mother gorilla giving birth to a premature baby, and kept zooming the camera in on her as she picked up the baby, considered whether she should nurse it, and then put it down again. Wondering at the ease with which we all accept the notion that millions of television dollars are spent to take pictures of nursing gorillas which are then transmitted to tens of millions of people as “entertainment,” I waited expectantly for the next day’s decision by Carter. It came in the morning paper-Carter had dropped Lance, and was shown crying on the front page of The New York Times (up until now photos of Carter on the front page were always “strong”). Eager to see what the group-fantasy message would be, I turned on the NBC Nightly News, and again watched “Section Three.” Sure enough, a long segment was devoted to separation-this time, the separation of two Siamese-twin babies who had been joined at the hip. The images clearly represented Carter and Lance as well as the relation of fantasy-leader and group. The cameras focused in on the nurse who showed us all how the babies were quiet when together but tearful when separated.

At this point, the beginning of “collapse” imagery appeared in the media. Both Newsweek and Time independently came out, the same week, with identical cover cartoons of a perfect collapse symbol: eggs smashing, with Bert Lance as Humpty Dumpty falling off a wall. The New York Review of Books described Carter’s near-collapse” under the headline “CARTER LANCED.” The Gallup Poll, taken before the decision on Lance, showed that 67 percent of the country thought that Lance should go as against only 21 percent who felt that he should stay, so the decision was certainly a popular one. Lance was, of course, both a symbol of the abandonment and a scapegoat for the rage deflected from the fantasy-leader. The cartoons showed him as a sacrificial victim, being


Illustration 8 – Jimmy Carter in “Cracking” Stage

pushed off a cliff (Illustration 9), in exactly the same way that Nixon had been showing pushing his associates off a cliff (Illustration 3)

Illustration 9 – Lance Pushed Off Sacrificial Cliff


Although the abandonment drama was demanded by the country, the sadness surrounding the whole incident was what remained after it was over. Joseph Icraft wondered why the Lance Affair was blown “way out of proportion,” but couldn’t figure out why it all seemed so sad. Most importantly, Carter’s confidence polls started to plunge. As a Fantasy Analysis of the U.S. News article on “Carter’s Woes” put it (under a cartoon of Carter drowning in a swamp):

11/7/77: bogged down… swamp… struggling… slump… eroded… damaged… grasped… flexed… deluge… floundering… in the dark… water

Under the headline “Cracks in the Senate Floor,” the Washington Post said the “carefully structured facade of the Senate was shattered.”(85) Evans and Novak, calling Carter “the political incompetent of 1977,” said his “shattered” image left the presidency in a “dangerously weakened state,”(86) and the New Republic’s TRB noticed that he “hadn’t seen editorial writers and columnists so patronizing and condescending to a President since Harry Truman.”(87) Carter himself began to use phrases like “the world economy may collapse” (if his energy legislation wasn’t passed), and on November 8th gave a special television address on energy, the fantasy content of which was full of typical collapse stage imagery: “come to grips… final stage… pressures… sacrifice… crucial… crucial… drain… hurts… pushes… pressures… act.”(88) U.S. News projectively announced a “Coming Crisis in Russia,”(89) and by the beginning of 1978 the media kept urging Carter to “launch an all-out attack” on unemployment, on inflation, on energy, on something or someone.

Carter’s March 8, 1978 Presidential News Conference reflected this “collapse” stage imagery even more clearly, and transmitted the coun-try’s cry for action to relieve the “tremendous pressure,” as shown in the Fantasy Analysis of the press conference:

Q: deterioration… collapse?
A: deterioration…. rapidly increasing… rapidly increasing… deterioration
A: deadlock
Q: Dead?
Q: strains?
A: over-armed to the teeth… tensions… linked
Q: action… action?
A: act… act immediately… tremendous pressure… crisis

Images of the country and of Carter strangling predominated in cartoons and headlines, with Carter shown as being strangled by ape-like Com-


munists, strangled by dragons of various sorts marked “Inflation,” and as having established a Department of Energy that had been “STRANGLED AT BIRTH.”(90) To relieve this strangled feeling, the country kept asking Carter to get mad at someone, as in one columnist’s article which asked – under the headline “If Only Poor Carter Would Get Mad” – that he be ” ‘born again’ once more, this time as a tough, decisive President.”(91)

The unreality and emotional dissonance of group-fantasy at this point deepened, as the unconscious group feelings of turmoil, chaos, rage and pollution were more and more experienced as a complete contrast to the actual condition of the country-which was at the highest levels of Gross National Product and personal income in its history, with the lowest number of people below the poverty line, and with no war or internal riots. As the Wall Street Journal summed up the feeling of this moment:

We’ve all had the experience one time or another. Everything’s fine at home, the family’s healthy, the children are doing well at school, the job prospers. Yet we awake in the night with an uneasy feeling that something bad is about to happen. Psychologists call it “free floating anxiety”…(92)

By the summer, with Carter’s polls having dropped from 67 to 39 percent approval in one year, the lowest rating at this point in term since Truman, his need to find something heroic to accomplish was at its height But when a foreign affairs incident came along which might have been amenable to U.S. military involvement – – the Katangan invasion of Zaire – – Carter held back. The media called for immediate action, running cartoons of Carter punching Brezhnev in the face, and stating that we are on the verge of our most serious confrontations with the Soviets since the early 1970s when we had eyeball to eyeball crises over Berlin and the sneaky Soviet emplacement of offensive missiles in Cuba.”(93) Yet Carter’s language still stressed “constraint,” as in his news conference in the midst of the Zaire events:

5/26/78: violence… killing… deadly attack… burden… constraint… constraints… constraints… constraints… constraints… hurting… heat up… blow… heart… hands are tied… ties hands… constraint(94)

The question of why Carter did not move in some way militarily at this time is an important one. (In our book, Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy, I forecast that group-fantasy would reach extreme collapse stage at this time, and therefore it was likely that Carter might succumb


to unconscious national pressures to find some military confrontation.) The first point to note is that this minor attack in an obscure African squabble was not really a very adequate projective object for national rage. Carter attempted to make it appear that a substantial enemy, Cuba, was heavily involved, but the best he could do was to release a statement that “Cuba had known of the Katanga plans to invade and obviously had done nothing to restrain them from crossing the border” – at best, hardly a war – like non-act. Secondly, it appears possible, according to 1. F. Stone,(95), that Carter did in fact try to involve the U.S. militarily, but ran up against the Clark-Tunney amendment forbidding direct or in-direct involvement in Angola without express Congressional authorization. He then is reported to have approached both Senator Clark and Senator Birch Bayh, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and tried to get sufficient approval so he could say he had cleared the intervention with Congress. Clark and Bayh both refused to go along, which may have been the source of Carter’s continuous use of the fan-tasy terms “constraints… hands are tied… constraints” in his Zaire news conference quoted above. When the whole thing blew over as the thoroughly unimportant matter it really was, Carter then gave a major speech, on June 7th, warning the Soviets they must “end confrontation tactics” or risk “graver” strains with America – a speech so obviously full of projections that even the Soviets found it “strange.”(96)

In any case, the opportunity for heroic action slipped by and Carter’s polls dropped to new lows. The country did not forgive Carter his lost moment; he was attacked on all sides for extreme weakness. As one commentator summed up the mood of the nation at the end of June:


President Carter is a weak president. Pinned on to the wall of the office of one of his advisers is a graphic illustration of his weakness, a chart on which his standing in the opinion polls is plotted against that of other presidents over an equivalent period of office. Sixteen months in the White House and he had established a new record, below Harry Truman and Jerry Ford.
Few in Washington dispute the President’s weakness. His cabinet officers and his aides know it to be a fact. On Capitol Hill party friend and foe alike take account of it. The pollsters measure it; the press, for the most part, revels in it; and the Russians, or so it is feared, take advantage of it.

With no other foreign action in sight to use for projection, the only stage on which Carter could now perform his messianic role was that of the


Middle East peace negotiations. Although the major initiative throughout the negotiations was Sadat’s, when the agreement was finally made, the American press treated it as a messianic triumph for Carter. Newsweek’s cover had Carter with a giant grin and the headline “BORN AGAIN!”;

Illustration 10 – Jimmy Carter’s Premature Rebirth

Time had a similar picture of Carter, with his polls shown turning up, headlined “CARTER’S BREAKTHROUGH.” The New Republic summed up the messianic feeling of the Camp David meeting: “Carter worked at Camp David, hour by hour, night and day, urging, cajoling, persuading. Punch-drunk reporters began to get a sense of the thing. Yes, it is real. The Red Sea has parted. Jimmy Carter is leading them through… “(98) The country, too, was punch-drunk in the month following. Carter’s Gallup poll jumped 11 points, Newsweek’s George Will said “the summit’s effect on Washington was like that of pure oxygen on dying embers, [like] a flare of euphoria,” and Newsweek entitled their story on the summit “CAN THE MAGIC LAST?”(99)


The magic, of course, did not last, the fate of all magical solutions to emotional problems. The polls began to plummet again. Surprisingly, Carter found that a second peace triumph did nothing for him; the actual signing of the peace treaty in early 1979 was seen as negative, not positive-Joseph Kraft’s column about the event was headlined, “Carter’s Mideast Triumph Points Out U.S. Weakness.”(100) Predictably, at this point of time in writing (March 1979), the fantasy language has returned to pre-Camp David collapse and rage levels, Carter’s polls have dropped to 36 per cent, below the pre-Camp David point, editorials predict his “abdication,” and cartoons such as the three shown in Illustration II picture Carter standing by helpless, as a giant-who represents our own gigantic rage, however labeled-screams uncontrollably.

The heroic peacekeeper role apparently provided only a momentary pause in the movement of group-fantasy. Writing now, in early 1979, I cannot predict how or when the current rage will be worked off. Perhaps Carter can find a relatively safe military intervention in Latin America, Africa or the Middle East. Or perhaps he will follow the path of Nixon, and somehow commit political suicide. By the time you read this, you may already know how the paranoid collapse of 1979 will be resolved and who will be the scapegoat for our national rage.


Illustration 11 Images of American Rage, Early 1979


History is like an extended psychoanalytic treatment. One can take the short view, as I have done so far in this essay, and follow the month-by-month fluctuations in group anxiety and rage, including all wars, confrontations and minor recoveries of confidence. Or one can take the long view, ignore all the non-violent confrontations and removals of leaders, and only look at the major wars and revolutions, the most important purification rituals, the violent group-delusions that provide enough of a purge of national rage to guarantee a peaceful breathing spell for at least a few years. In this final section of the paper, I will provide a brief over-view of the eighteen major group-fantasy cycles in American history since its founding, including a review of some of the major paranoid episodes which preceded each violent group-delusion.


The study of cycles of violence in the history of nations is one just beginning to be developed, but already many regularities are well established. The latest research into the periodic upswing in the level of national violence, that of Denton and Phillips(101), which is in turn based on original statistics covering the period 1480-1900 and collected by the pioneer of war studies, Quincy Wright, confirm previous country-by-country studies that there exists a 25-year cycle in major violence. The 17 major American wars shown in the chart (Illustration 9), covering a period of 365 years, produce an average 21-year cycle, somewhat more frequent than the world 25-year average. Periods of peace in America have lasted from a minimum of four years at the end of the 18th century to a maximum of 34 years at the beginning of our history as colonies. Still, on the average, once every 21 years, just as each now generation reaches fighting age, the young men of America have been thrown into the mouth of Moloch as sacrifices to the national need for group purification.

That major paranoid episodes precede wars and revolutions is a notion that is only now beginning to reach the edge of awareness among those historians who are opening their thinking to psychoanalytic influence. The earliest of these historians, Richard Hofstadter, outlined over a decade ago what he termed “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” and he described how paranoid “movements of suspicious discontent… come in waves of different intensity” throughout much of American history.(102) Although Hofstadter only gave a few instances of these movements, and did not tie them in to war and revolution, his wry dissec-tion of the repetitive use of typical paranoid imagery in political life is a good starting point for the psychohistorian studying the subject.

But the most interesting recent development among American historians is the slow growth of awareness among traditional researchers of the paranoid dimensions within their own specialties. American historians, for instance, have long considered absurd the conspiratorial theories held by leaders of the American Revolution. It was not difficult for them to disprove empirically the colonies’ notions that they were victims of a “constant, unremitted, uniform” British conspiracy – but historians who believed that the Revolutionary leaders were reasonable people tended to ignore such paranoid theories. When Bernard Bailyn wrote a series of books suggesting that historians should take these conspiracy theories seriously, that they were “real fears, real anxieties,” and that much of colonial ideology was “morbid, pathological, paranoiac,”(103) he created a revolution of his own in American historiography. Historians such as Jack Greene, Richard Bushman and Gordon Wood tried to give rational reasons for the existence of these conspiracy theories, but the show was finally given away when a young historian, James Hutson,


published a recent article on “The American Revolution; The Triumph of a Delusion?”:

Intellectual historians are constrained from admitting that ideas under their examination are pathological, for once they concede this, they risk losing control of their subject matter to the psychologist. [Also,] since the American nation is the product of the American Revolution, theories which discredit the revolution seem to impugn the American experience. Was the Revolution caused by a pandemic of persecutory delusions? Then, the United States was conceived, not in liberty, as Lincoln would have it, but in madness, an idea which strikes most American historians as more or less blasphemous.(104)

Similarly, when another young historian, George Forgie, recently published his book Parricide in The House Divided: A Psychological Interpretation of Lincoln and His Age,(105) accurately depicting the American Civil War as a displaced fratricidal ritual in which the “good” brothers killed the “bad” brothers as scapegoats, he thought he had discovered something unique to the period, attributable to a special need to overthrow “Founding Fathers,” rather than an instance of a group-fantasy dynamic generic to all of history. Even with this limitation, Forgie’s book skillfully explains some of the psychodynamics behind both Northern and Southern conspiracy theories and Lincoln’s own peculiar conspiracy theory, which was central to his political thought, and which Forgie calls “an object of puzzlement and even embarrassment to scholars, because it seems to have so little to do with the events it purported to explain.”(106)

Although some historians may now be open to the concept that paranoid feelings may appear in history, they are a long way from the possibility that all wars and revolutions are preceded by-and in fact represent restitutional attempts to handle emotions produced by – paranoid periods. I will not attempt in this paper to present my year-by-year evidence for the major American group-fantasy cycles listed in Illustration 12, a task which I will have to defer to my next book, A Psychohistory of The West. What I can do here is to suggest some of the varieties of paranoid collapse episodes which have produced the seven-teen major American wars and revolutions.

The earliest paranoid collapse periods which concerned the American colonists were centered, of course, on English political and religious developments. They began with widespread fears of Papist conspiracies in the army and the Court, which fueled the London mob in 1640, and eventually led to the violence of the English Civil War in 1642. As men-


tioned earlier, apocalyptic millenarian doctrines were widespread both in England and the colonies at the time, and later such groups as the Fifth Monarchists were delegated to express paranoid fears of the impending disasters and upheavals expected to accompany the “shaking of Heaven and Earth,” following the execution of King Charles.(107) Even without using the tool of Fantasy Analysis, anyone reading the pre-Civil War pamphlets, speeches and sermons cannot fail to be impressed by the pervasiveness of paranoid collapse imagery, and American colonists shared the group-fantasies of their English brethren at each step. This British focus was the rule until American independence. The internal excitement produced by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was worked off by the colonists by attacking Canada in what was termed King William’s War; the European War of the Spanish Succession at the turn of the century was acted out in America as Queen Anne’s War in the southern colonies; and so on.

Although the paranoid collapse fears of these earliest periods were connected to English political conditions, the long period of peace under George I and II from 1714-38 produced an enormous buildup of emo-tional tensions in the colonies. These climaxed in such a complete collapse of old values, that historians have called this period America’s First Great Awakening. Beginning with widespread personal conversion experiences in the 1720s, it expanded into massive revival meetings throughout the colonies by the 1730s, whereby a “collapse of all old values” and a “revolt against the fathers’ ways” led to “deep Fears of Approaching Death and Judgement,”(108) and the traumatic loss of self boundaries which are typical of all intense conversion experiences It is most interesting to note in examining the chart (Illustration 9), that all three of America’s Great Awakenings occurred at the end of long periods of peace: the First after 24 years of peace (1714-38) under the Georges, the Second after 30 years of peace (1815-45) beginning with Madison and Monroe, and the Third after 31 years of peace (1866-97) following the Civil War. All three included typical paranoid collapse group-fantasies, whether more centered in personal conversion experiences (First), perfec-tionist sinfulness and nationalist political action (Second), or social reformism (Third). Whether long periods of peace always precede na-tional Great Awakening movements is an interesting question for further comparative psychohistorical study, but certainly one can say that in America this seems to be the case.

The problem comes, of course, in defining what degree of emotional upheaval must be present to constitute an Awakening, since in my psychogenic theory of historical group-fantasies all paranoid collapse periods show evidence of “Awakening” fantasies, overt or hidden. Thus, when one historian studies the period prior to the French and Indian Wars, and finds overwhelming evidence for what he calls




Group Fantasy
Dates Fantasy
Paranoid Episodes
Group Delusions
(1) 1607 –
James I.
Papist Conspiracy
Puritan millenialism
English Civil War 1642 –
(2) 1661 –
Charles II. West Indian Fear King Philip’s War
Bacon’s Rebellion
1675 –
(3) 1678 –
Charles II.
James II
Popish Plot King William’s War
Salem witchhunt
1690 –
(4) 1698 –
Franco phobia Queen Anne’s War 1702 –
(5) 1714 –
George I.
George II.
First Great Awaking War of Jenkin’s Ear
King George’s War
1739 –
(6) 1749 –
George III. Galic Peril French & Indian War 1754 –
(7) 1764 –
George III. Tax Phobia
Boston Massacre
Conspiracy beliefs
Revolution 1775 –
(8) 1784 –
Washington Excise tax phobia Whiskey Rebellion 1794
(9) 1795 –
Adams French invasion
Fear, Alien and Sedition Acts
Naval war with France 1799
(10) 1800 –
Embargo Act
Non-Intercourse Act
War of 1812 1812 –
(11) 1815 –
Second Great Awaking
Mexican War 1846 –
(12) 1849 –
Slave uprising fear,
Slaveholders’ conspiracy, Abolitionism
Civil War 1861 –
(13) 1866 –
Third Great Awaking
Gold/Silver panic
Populist conspiracy agitation
Spanish American War 1898
(14)1899 –
Submarine panic,
Zimmerman note
World War I 1917 –
(15) 1919 –
Fear of Japanese World War II 1941 –
(16) 1946 –
Truman Communist purges,
Truman Doctrine
Korean War 1950 –
(17)1954 –
Cuban phobia
Kennedy assassination
Vietnam War 1965 –
(18)1973 – Nixon,



“American civil millennialism,”(109) he tries hard to separate these apocalyptic millennial group-fantasies from those of the First Great Awakening a decade earlier, which, he says, had “died out” by then. But paranoid collapse fantasies are not diseases which “die out” or “flare up”; they are periodic shared emotional states. When Americans imagined a “Gaelic peril” in the 1750s whereby, as John Mellen put it, their “land may be given to the beast, the inhabitants to the sword, the righteous to the fire of martyrdom, our wives to ravishment, and our sons and daughters to death and torture,”(110) they are voicing projected cyclical paranoid fantasies common to many periods of American history, even though couched here in the millennial language of the colonial period. Similarly, when the Stamp Act crisis came shortly after this, and historians conclude that “what is remarkable about the ministers’ response both to the Stamp Act and to the attempt to create an American bishopric is their application of the compelling ideology of civil millennialism” from the 1750s, what they are really noticing is the similarity of paranoid collapse imagery in both periods, the grandiose apocalyptic sense of being God’s elect living in the end times and fighting the Antichrist in a cosmic war between good and evil. Only the delusional object changed. What was earlier seen as the destruction of the Antichrist in fighting the French, became an apocalyptic fight against Satan’s conspiracy against American liberties at the time of the Revolution.

As mentioned previously, traditional historians keep finding that the path of their investigations leads them toward a psychological explana-tion for these wars and revolutions, but they always stop short when faced with the evidence their research has uncovered. In the case of the American Revolution, Esmond Wright, leading historian of the period, concludes his study of the period(112) with the question “What then caused the American Revolution?”, and concludes that it was not caused by taxes, nor by lack of Parliamentary representation-which few colonists wanted-nor by planter indebtedness, nor by colonial desires for a voice in decision-making, nor by any British policies on a whole range of issues. He admits that he is perplexed, and concludes that the Revolution ”is due primarily not to ’causes’ at all but to ”executive weakness,” not to tyranny but its opposite, collapse of authority: But governmental weakness and collapse is a description of a historical condition, not an explanation for it. It is only when James Hutson finally wonders if what he terms the “spread of paranoid delusional ideas” in the Revolution should not be called a “folie collective”(113) that anyone comes close to my own concept of historical group-fantasies.
Most of the remainder of the paranoid collapse episodes listed in the chart (Illustration 12) are thoroughly familiar to any student of American history. There is no need to again go over the paranoid content of the II-


luminati Conspiracy, the X-Y-Z Affair and the Alien and Sedition Acts prior to the undeclared naval war with France in 1799, the “war fever” prior to the War of 1812 – which at times seemed to be indifferent as to whether England or France should be attacked “for national glory”(114) – or the similar war fevers preceding the Mexican War of 1846 and the “splendid little war,” as John Hay termed it, with Spain in 1898. Likewise, by now enough has been written about the rhetoric of abolitionism, filled with feelings of personal sin and guilt, the collapse of feeling of national unity, the many paranoid conspiracy theories, and what Lincoln himself termed the need for “national blood atonement,”(115) to make one suspect that the American Civil War was a delusional purification crusade. Similarly, one might even speculate with psychohistorian Michael Paul Rogin on the scapegoating function of the violent subjection of the American Indian – especially under Andrew Jackson, who was obsessed by images of “infants butchered, mangled, murdered and torn to pieces” by lndians(116) – and the role of these scapegoats in “draining” paranoid violence during the long period of peace between the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.

But in the end it is the two World Wars in which America fought – particularly the Second World War-which seem most to challenge my theory of internal group-fantasy sources for wars and revolutions. Both wars seemed to be “good” American crusades to save European liberties, and our emotional investment in this image is so great that I am reluctant, in the space available here, to even begin to touch on the sensitive question of the group-fantasy sources for America’s entry. (My associate David Beisel is now engaged in precisely this task in his psychohistory of the origins of World War II.) So within the scope of this paper, I will only claim that the theory seems capable of application to most American wars, but that its full application to all wars must remain “non liquet” until further research has been done.

There is one further section of the chart in Illustration 12 which deserves mention before ending this essay on historical group-fantasies. In the first column, I have listed “Major Group-Fantasies” of each period in American history. These terms are explained further in Illustration 13. While, once again, I will have to defer full discussion of these broad historical categories until the appearance of my book A Psychohistory of the West, it seems useful at this point to outline the major ways group-fantasies have been organized in each historical period.

Until antiquity, infanticidal childrearing produced a schizoid personality, which regularly used primitive splitting and massive projection into gods, ghosts and magical objects. When they formed groups, their fantasies were centered around a system of Kinship Magic, against which infanticidal memories are constantly defended, through sacrificial rituals of various types, replaying and then undoing over and over again the

Illustration 13
Group –
Id Projection
“My soul would be quiet if only everyone could…”
Magical Sacrifice to ancestors relieves infanticidal fears Into magical objects and ghosts “…obey Family laws regulating sex andviolence.”
Feudal bonding and church ritual deny abandonment fears Into your lord “…be closely tied to his lord and his God.”
Obeisance to ideal paternal monarch defends against ambivalent mother. Into ruling dynasties “…obey a King who is a good father.”
Control of national boundary and control of other races reverses intrusive parenting Into other “races” and nations “…keep all bad things out of our pure nation.”
Purchase of goods relieves castration anxieties Into upper or lower economic classes “…buy endless material goods.”



death of the infant through symbolic sacrifice and rebirth. From antiquity through late medieval times, abandoning mode childhood produced a psychoclass of what I term autistic personalities-roughly equivalent to what contemporary psychoanalysts have come to call the “borderline” personalities-identified by their feelings of isolation, easy regression into and out of psychotic states, tenuous hold on reality, emotional clinging, helplessness in the absence of authority, lack of impulse controls and narcissistic grandiosity and overidealization. Because the medieval personalities use primitive splitting and projection less, they are not primarily magical, and they organize their historical group-fantasies around Ceudal Hierarchical rather than kinship structures. The feudal bond-or other personal bonds where the formal system of feudalism was less developed-is a way of undoing, through clinging, the abandonment of childhood, and most of the rituals of both Church and State revolve primarily around refusion fantasies, organized around clinging groups, both feudal and monastic. By the Renaissance, ambivalent mode parent-ing allowed enough consistency of caretaking to allow the growing child to heal the severe splitting of the mother into idealized (Mary) and evil (Eve) part-objects, and therefore allow people to feel, for the first time, real guilt toward a whole-object mother (Klein’s achievement of the depressive position, the end of Mariolatry by Protestantism). This produces a depressive personality who, for the first time in history, really internalizes conflicts in his personal life, represses rather than projects thus making the Puritan the first modern man.

From here on, the task of the evolution of historical personality changes from that of internalizing projected parts of oneself to that of reducing intrapsychic conflict. The major group-fantasy style for this period is organized around Paternalistic Absolutism, as an absolutist king is first historically invented as an idealized father who will allow separation from the ambivalent mother, allow growth, and treat all children equally-on threat of being replaced by revolutionary action. By the eighteenth century, overcontrolling intrusive mode parenting and the invention of early toilet training could produce the anal-compulsive personality, which is less focused on idealized leaders (dynasties) than on group-boundaries (nations), so that only by this period do Racist Nationalist group-fantasies form. In these, the national boundary substitutes for the self-boundary, and racist fantasies of “group purity” attempt to undo early anal intrusiveness. Finally, socializing childhood of the kind now generally predominant in the West allows the various types of anxiety personalities to drop most concerns with racial purity and shift their group-fantasies to the economic sphere, so that class war-fare Organizes most social thinking (Erotic Materialism).

Even from this sketchy outline, one can begin to see how differing styles of personalities form different historical group-fantasies. All


groups, for instance, may displace oral fears into their historical group-fantasy, but the infanticidal psychoclass imagines the giant biting monster as a magical ghost, the abandoning psychoclass as Devil or witch, the ambivalent psychoclass as Antichrist, the intrusive psychoclass as Jew or Black, and the socializing psychoclass as Communist or Capitalist. Most of the cartoons seen in newspapers today label biting monsters “INFLATION,” reflecting Erotic Materialism’s central fantasy that what is making us all unhappy today is simply a vast shortage of goods.

With these admittedly brief observations on differing styles of historical group-fantasies through the ages, I will end this essay, the last in a series of seven written over the past decade, as attempts to outline a theoretically consistent and empirically verifiable psychogenic theory of history. It is my hope that with the conceptual tools I have fashioned, I can now complete my Psychohistory of the West, which details for each period in Western history all the available evidence on childhood, on historical personalities – including dreams and psychosexual development – and on major historical institutions and group-fantasies. Hopefully, I will be able to show convincingly how the latter emerged from the former. While historical personalities cover a wide range within any period, still it is no more difficult to write about the dynamics of the range of medieval personalities than it is for psychoanalysts to write on dynamics common to a range of borderline personalities (indeed, I believe the two are identical). And while major historical group-fantasies are not easy to decode, the task of unraveling the unconscious meaning of Christianity, of nationalism or capitalism, becomes a great deal easier to accomplish once one has gathered a mass of information on the child-hoods, dreams and love lives of the people who need these group-fantasies. But then, as with all of psychohistory, the most exciting tasks lie before us. With time, we may yet come to know consciously the historical group-fantasies we unconsciously share, communicate, and act upon together – a first step, one would think, in decreasing their delusional hold upon us.


[I KNOW – L’s are 1 and too many places have ~ in them – Okay so I didn’t go over these at all = all I did was scan them CLEANED SOME OF THE FORMATTING and pasted them into this web page – – WELL I DID DO THE PAGE BRAKES LIKE ELSE WHERE IN THIS TRANSCRIPTION! .Like it says at the bottom: “To report errors in this electronic transcription please contact: ” Thank you – I’ll get to ‘cleaning up’ the reference pages once I have done the whole text. – course if some other kind person wants to . . . go a head! – Eric Heimstadt.]

1. The concept of historical group-fantasies is introduced in Lloyd deMause, “The Independence of Psychohistory,” in deMause, editor, The New Psychohistory. New York: Psychohistory Press, 1975; deMause, “The Formation of The American Personality Through Psychospeciation,” The Journal of Psychohistory 4 (t976): t-30; deMause, “The Psychogenic Theory of History,” The Journal of Psychohistory 4 (1977): 253-267; deMause, “Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy,” in deMause and Henry Ebel, eds. Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy. new York: Psychohistory Press, 1977, pp.9-31.


2. Sigmund Freud, Standard Edition, Vol. Xl, pp.63-136.
3. Reuben Fine, “Search for Love” in Arthur Burton & Associates, Twelve Therapists. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1972, p.232.
4. Frederich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. London, 1884. Steven Marcus, The Other Victorians. New York, 1966. For the most recent bibliography, see Fraser Harrison, The Dark Angel: Aspects Of Victorian Sexuality. New York, 1978.
5. For an introduction to the anthropological literature, see Kenclm Burridge, New Heaven, New Earth: A Study QfMillenarian Activities. New York: Schocken Books, 1969. For the best psychoanalytic interpretation, see Weston La Barre, The Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion. New York: Dell, 1972
6. Rudolph Binion, Hitler Among the Germans. New York: Flsevier, 1976, p.80.
7. Ibid., pp.80-81.
8. For contradictions in interpretations of the cause of the Korean War, see I. F. Stone, The Hidden History of the Korean War, New York, 1952, pp. 1-72. For the at-mosphere of Washington on the day U.S. troops were sent in, see Bert Coehran, Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidenqy. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1973, p. 316.
9 The closest attempt to envisioning history as being moved by psychoclass is Glenn Davis, Childhood and History in America. New York: Psychohistory Press, 1976. My forthcoming book, A Psychohistory of the West, will present just such an analysis of psychoelass, tying together empirical evidence for childrearing modes, historical personality types and historical group-fantasies for each major period in Western history.
10. L. Kovar, “A Reconsideration of Paranoia.” Psychiatry 29 (1966): 289-305.
11. W. W. Meissner, The ParanoidProcess. New York: Jason Aronson, 1978, pp.136-8.
12. See William Saffady’s psychohistorical article “Fears of Sexual License During the English Reformation,” History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory 1(1973): 89-97
13. See Robert Ashton, The English Civil War: Conservatism and Revolution /603-1649. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971, p. 155; B. S. Carp, The Fifth Monarchy Men: A Study in Seventeenth Century English Millenarianism. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972.
14. George Lefebvre. The Great Fear of 1739. New York: Pantheon, 1973
15. For a detailed insight into the “sacrificial crisis” of early societies, with concepts close to my “paranoid collapse” concept, see Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1972.
16. The term “psychotic insight” is Arieti’s; see especially S. Arieti, “Introductory Notes on the Psychoanalytic Therapy of Schizopbrenics” in A. Burton, ed., Psychotherapy of the Psychoses. New York: Basic Books, 1961, pp.68-89.
17. 0. A. Will, “Process, Psychotherapy and Schizophrenia” in A. Burton, ed. Psychotherapy of the Psychoses, New York: Basic Books, 1961, p.18.
18. For “delegate groups,” see Llyod DeMause, “The Psychogenic Theory of History,” The Journal of Psychohistory 4 (1977): 259.
19. Harry Stack Sullivan, Concepts of Modern Psychiatry. New York: Norton, 1953.
20. Ole R. HoIst and Robert C. North. “The History of Human Conflict” in Elton B. McNeil, ed. The Nature of Human Conflict. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1965.
21. Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Rack: A Persona/Account. New York, 1977, p.111.
22. Norman Cousins, “The Cuban Missile Crisis: An Anniversary,” Saturday Review, October 15, 1977, p.4.
23. Steven Kelman, Push Comes to Shove: The Escalation of Student Protest. Boston, 1970, p.60; Richard Nixon, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, p.404.


24. The White House Transcripts: Subotission of Recorded Presidential Conversations to the Coototittee on the Judidary of the House pf Representatives by President Nixon. New York: Bantam Books, 1974; also supplemented by changes found in U.S. Con-gress. “Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary. House of Representatives, 93rd Congress. Comparison of White House and Judiciary Committee Transcripts of Fight Recorded Presidential Conversations.” Washington: U.S. Government Print-ing Office, 1974, ser. no.34.
25. New York Times, September 19,1962, p.3.
26. Edward Mezvins, A Term to Remember New York: Coward, McCann, Geoghegan,
1977, pp. 167-8.
27. Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred, pp. 8ff.
28. Nixon, Meirtoirs, pp.768-9.
29. For the importance of the death of Nixon’s brothers, see James W. Hamilton, “Some Reflections on Richard Nixon in the Light of His Resignation and Farewell Speeches,” Journal of Psychohistory 4(1977): 491-511.
30. Alan B. Ruthenberg, “Why Nixon Taped Himself: Infantile Fantasies Behind Watergate,” Psychoanalytic Review 62 (1975): 201-223. The role of individual per-sonality styles in contributing to developing group-fantasy stages is particularly well studied in Richard D. Mann et al., Interpersonal Styles and Group Development. New York: Wiley, 1967.
31. U.S. News and World Report, September 18, 1972, various headlines.
32. U.S. News and World Report, September 18, 1972, pp. 13-1 5.
33. U.S. News and World Report, October 2, 1972, pp.24-27
34. Public Papers of the Presidents of the Uoited States. Richard Nixon. /972. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Oftice, 1975.
35 Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Richard Nixon. 1973. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Oflice, 1975.
36. Herbert Block, Herblock Special Report. New York: Norton, 1974.
37. Quoted in Rotbenberg, “Why Nixon Taped Himself,” Psychoanalytic Review 62 (1975): 202.
38. Nixon, Memoirs, p.849.
39. Theodore J. Jacobs, paper given at the New York Psychoanalytic Society, “Secrets, alliances and family fictions: Some psychoanalytic observations.” March 13,1979. In fact, political cartoons since their beginnings have been filled with anal material; see Herbert M. Atherton, Political Prints in the Age of Hogarth: A Study in Ideographic Representation of Politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974.
40. Irving D. Harris, “The Psychologies of Presidents,” History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory 3(1976): 337-350.
41. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower. /953. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1960, p.41.
42. Ibid., p.618.
43. Ibid.
44. Newsweek, June 7, 1954, p.41.
45. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower. /954. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1960, p.1075.
46. Peter Lyon, Eisenhower: Portrait of the Hero. Boston, Little, Brown, 1974, p.639.
47. Ibid., p.640.
48. Newsweek, January31, 1955,p. 19;February7, 1955,p.26;Februaryl4, 1955,p. 19.
49. Newsweek, July 15, 1957, cover.
50. Newsweek, October 14, 1957, p.38.
51. William Manchester, The Glory and the Dream, Boston: Little, Brown, 1973, p.789.
52. Newsweek, November 18, 1957, p.37.


53. Newsweek, January 20, 1958, cover; March 10, 1958, p.27.
54. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower. 1958. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1960, p.329.
55. Newsweek, May 26, 1958, p.23.
56. Newsweek, July 7, 1958, p.9; July 21,1958, cover.
57. Lyon, Eisenhower, p.773.
58. Newsweek, July 28,1958, pp.15, 24.
59. See Arthur Schlesinger, “Tides in American Politics,” Yale Review 29(1939): 217-30; Frank L. Klingberg, “The Historical Alteration of Moods in American Foreign Policy,” World Politics 4 (1952): 239~273; also see the discussion about the lawful historical relationship between domestic active periods and war in David C. Mc-Clelland “Love and Power: The Psychological Signals of War,” Psychology Today, January 1975, pp.44-48.
60. Newsweek, October 2, 1961, cover; November 6, 1961, cover; U.S. News and World Report, January 1, 1962, p.25; January 8, 1962, p.40.
61. U.S. News and World Report, January 29, 1962.
62. U.S. News and World Report, February 12, 1962, p.43.
63. Benjamin C. Bradlee, “Conversations with Kennedy” Playboy, April, 1965, p. 176.
64. U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1962, p.52.
65. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. John F Kennedy. 1962. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1963.
66. U.S. News and World Report, September 17, 1962, p.37
67. U.S. Congress. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services. 87th Congress, 2nd session. Situation in Cuba. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962.
68. U.S. News and World Report, September 24,1962, pp.47-8.
69. David Detzer, The Orlak: Cuban Missile Crlsis, 1962. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1979, p.97; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. Boston, 1965. pp.799-801.
70. William Whitworth, Naive Questions about War and Peace. New York: W, W. Norton, 1970, p.24.
71. Barton J. Bernstein, “The Week We Almost Went to War,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 1976, p. 17.
72. Detzer, The Brlnk, p.157.
73. Barton J. Bernstein, “Kennedy Brinkmanship,” Inquiry, April 2, 1979, p.21.
74. H. R. Haldeman, The Ends of Power. New York: New York Times Books, 1978, p. 93.
75. U.S. News and World Report, December 17, 1962, p.54.
76. U.S. News and World Report, February 25, 1963, p.31.
77. Daniel Schorr, “The Assassins,” New York Review of Books, October 13, 1977, pp. 14-21.
78. U.S. News and World Report, October 26,1964.
79. U.S. News and World Report, December 7, 1964, p.31.
80. William Shaweross, “Dr. Kissinger Goes to War,” Harpers, April, 1979, p.40.
81. Lloyd deMause and Henry Fbel, eds., Jbumy Carter and Auterican Fantasy. New York: Psychohistory Press, 1977
82. U.S. News and World Report, September 19,1977, p.25.
83. The New York Tiotes, September 16, 1977, p. A23.
84. Washington Post, September 25, 1977, p. C7.
85. Washington Post, October 9, 1977, p. A3.
86. Washington Post, October 10, 1977, p. A23.
87. The New Republic, December 17, 1977, p.1.


88. New York Times, November 9, 1977, p. A20.
89. U.S. News and World Report, December 2, 1977, p.23.
90. U.S. News and World Report, March 6, 1978, p.29.
91. New York Post, April21, 1978, p.19.
92. Vermont Royster, Wall Street Journal, March 1, 1978.
93. U.S. News and World Report, June 12, 1978, p. 19; Carl Rowan, New York Post, June 5, 1978, p.23.
94. New York Times, May 26,1978, p. AlO.
95. I. F. Stone, “Carter, Africa and Salt,” New York Review of Rooks, June 12, 1978, pp.22-26.
96. New York Times, June 8, 1978, p. Al.
97. The Guardian, June 25,1978, p. 17.
98. The New Republic, September 30,1978, p.3.
99. Newsweek, October 2, 1978, pp. 110,, 22-23.
100. New York Post, March 15, 1979, p.23.
101. Frank H. Denton and Warren Phillips, “Some Patterns in the History of Violence,” Conflict Resolution 12 (1968): 182-195
102. Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politic’s and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965, p.6.
103. The historiography of this controversy can be found in James H. Hutson, “The American Revolution: The Triumph of a Delusion?” in Frich Angcrmann, ed., New Wine in Old Skins. Stuttgart, 1976, pp. 177-194.
104. Ibid., p.177
105. George B. Forgie, Patricide in the House Divided: A Psychological Joterpretation of Lincoln and His Age. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979
106. Ibid., p.259.
107. B. S. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men.’ A Study in Seventeenth-century English Millenarlanism. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972.
108. For a perceptive psychological approach to America’s Great Awakenings, see William G. MeLoughlm, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in Amerlea, 1607-1977. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.
109. Nathan 0. Hatch, “The Origins of Civil Millennialism in America: New England Clergymen, War with France, and the Revolution,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 31(1974): 4070430.
110. John Mellen, The Duty of all to be ready for future Joipending Events. Boston, 1756, pp.19-20.
111. Hatch, “Origins of Civil Millennialism,” p.428.
112. Esmond Wright, Fabric of Freedom 1763-1800. Rev. Ed. N.Y.: Hill and Wang, 1968, pp.96-102.
113. Hutson, “The American Revolution: The Triumph of a Delusion?”, p.188.
114. See especially Bradford Perkins, Prologue to War: England and the United Stales 1805-1812. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.
115. Peter F. Walker, Moral Choices; Memory, Desire and Jmagination in Nineteenth-Century American Abolitionism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.
116. Michael Paul Rogin, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjection of the Amerlcan Indian, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975, p.147.