SUMMER 2017 VOL 45 ISSUE #1

SUMMER 2017

The 2016 Election, Authoritarian Childrearing, and Our Suicidal Trajectory, Kenneth Alan Adams and Audrey Crosby

ABSTRACT: It is argued that the election of Donald Trump, facilitated by Russian and FBI interference, may trigger a calamitous instance of what deMause has described as the fatal flaw in restaging. Trump’s narcissistic and authoritarian persona, when combined with the destructive policies of the Republican Party, and the formidable challenges facing this country, could accelerate our progression along a suicidal trajectory. The failure to address climate change, the negativity and obstructionism in our politics, and the failure of gun control are cited as illustrations of this deadly dynamic. It is asserted that our future is imperiled by growth panic and the consequences of authoritarian childrearing. It is argued that when authoritarian childhood traumas are restaged in the political arena, the residue of punitive childrearing is magnified, i.e., the impulse to destroy life is magnified, and, the reality that the 2016 election has delegated the capacity to destroy the earth to an unstable leader with a fascination with nuclear war is noted.

On the Origins of Terrorism, David Lotto

ABSTRACT: Starting with Heinz Kohut’s insights about narcissistic injury, narcissistic rage, and the desire for revenge this paper examines terrorism, both on the part of state and non-state entities, through the lens of Kohut’s theory.

The role played by humiliation in the creation of narcissistic injury is discussed emphasizing how important this is to understanding how terrorism arises and from where it gets its strength, fury, and desperation. There is a description of how this process can feed vicious cycles of violence and war as one group’s humiliation at the hands of another group leads to acts of vengeance directed at those who are seen as responsible for their group’s humiliation.

There is a brief historical survey of the ways in which Muslims have been humiliated at the hands of Western powers and the suggestion that this is the main factor which has and is driving “Jihadi” terrorism directed against the United States and its allies.

The response of the United States to the September 11 terrorist attacks is explored as an example of the same process of narcissistic injury generating feelings of humiliation leading in turn to acts of violent retaliation. The paper concludes with suggestions for disrupting this cycle of humiliation and revenge.

The Return of the Ghost of Thoma Dewey in 1948: Hillary Clinton and the 2016 Election, Ken Fuchsman

ABSTRACT: Why Hillary Clinton lost in the Electoral College to an unprepared Donald Trump is a major question. Understanding her life patterns, how she conducted the 2016 campaign, where she fits into the spectrum of the Democratic party, and the historical forces at work in the wake of the Great Recession are clues to this astounding defeat. From her college years on, Hillary Clinton sometimes is a collaborator, bridging the gap between competing factions, and at other times exhibits an arrogance and over-confidence in the prospects of her triumphing. This paper traces these patterns from her childhood through her defeat in November 2016, shows how she and President Obama deviated from some Democratic Party traditions established during the New Deal, and how her underplaying the concerns of those still impacted by the Great Recession contributed to her residing in suburban New York and not in the White House.

Psychohistorical Perspectives on Current Events and Issues

Trump’s Appeal to Myth and the 2016 Presidential Election, Mark Cronlund Anderson

Abstract: Much ink has been spilled trying to understand Donald Trump as something new in presidential politics. A deeper reading of American history suggests that framing Trump as something novel not only misses a critical part of his appeal as a political candidate, but also actually enhances his attractiveness as a particular kind of authentic American nonconformist, which holds a natural appeal to voters. What has gone unnoticed is Trump’s remarkable ability to channel two core elements of the most ancient American cultural yarn, its nation-building or creation story.

Clearly, much of Trump’s attractiveness stemmed from the novelty of what and how he preached. Just consider the new ground he plowed. For example, he broke and flouted established behavioural norms with impunity, charted new territory without flinching, nourished and nurtured grudges real or imagined, threatened to get even with those who had done the “real America” wrong, and wrapped it all in a thinly-veiled coded racist nostalgic appeal to “make American great again.” It was all new.

Or was it?

Fears and Hopes about Donald Trump’s Presidential Performance, Herb Barry

ABSTRACT: Donald J. Trump has admirable attributes, including abstention from alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. Additional merits include his close mutual affiliation with his children, who are products of his three marriages, and his executive experience as a real estate developer. He defeated his Republican rivals for his party’s presidential nomination, and then the rival Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Worrisome attributes of President Trump include lack of prior elected governmental office or military service. His special achievements are presumed great wealth and celebrity as host of a television program “The Apprentice.” Adverse traits of Trump include extreme narcissism and combativeness. He has repeatedly stated his intentions to make America great again, to renegotiate or terminate international agreements, and to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Reassuring conditions are the tendency for Presidents of the United States to serve conscientiously, and the limited powers of the president

Book Review Essays

Psychopathological Aspects of World Affairs, Review by Juhani Ihanus

Psychopathology and World Politics, Ralph Pettman, New Jersey: World Scientific Publishing Co., 2012.

With his classic work Psychopathology and Politics (1930), Harold Lasswell opened the way to the psychological investigation and profiling of political actions and actors. Ralph Pettman, professor of international relations at the University of Melbourne, follows Lasswell’s lead in his Psychopathology and World Politics by trying to describe and explain abnormalities and dysfunctionalities connected with political issues, pertaining not only to individuals but also to larger communities and even to whole societies, cultures and countries. Pettman constructs world politics in terms of individual life histories and collective irrationalities rather than in terms of reified institutions, nation-states, global social movements or economic-military power constellations. He also offers prescriptive advice to international political conflicts.

Pettman is well aware of the accusations of reductionism concerning the psychopathological approaches, but he is ready to advocate such approaches because they complete other analyses. In researching world politics, he is not downplaying the significance of strategic (military and diplomatic) analyses, market analyses or class analyses, or critiques of rationalism, for example, in the contexts of post-modernism, post-colonialism, environmentalism, religion, and patriotism. For Pettman, a psychopathological perspective “means introducing into the analytic equation an awareness of how the unconscious mind works and how motives can be hidden from the modernist/rationalist perspective” (p. 42). Such motives need to be assessed to clarify the causes of political conflicts and what kind of often irrational factors prevent conflict resolutions.

New Look at the Consequences of the Neolithic Revolution, Review by Ludwig Janus

The Good Book of Human Nature: An Evolutionary Reading of the Bible, Carel van Schaik & Kai Michel, Basic Books, New York, 480 pp.

This important book develops a new dimension of research for the understanding of cultural evolution and is in a position to fundamentally expand the perspective of psychohistory in that it takes as its starting point the changes in the existential living conditions in human societies or, more specifically, the consequences of elementary change in human living conditions resulting from the Neolithic revolution. The invention of farming and livestock breeding made the development of new ways of living together in anonymous groupings in the early cities and societies possible, for which the biological conditions were not given from life in earlier, more manageable small groupings as hunters and gatherers. This implies a failed fit or “mismatch” between humans and the new environment they themselves created. The problem of human societies identified by Freud as “civilization and its discontents” is thus accounted for in a novel way. In these small groupings of hunters and gatherers, humans lived for the most part in an egalitarian manner; they knew each other and social life was based on mediated giving and taking. Because they knew each other, co-operation was socially regulated and fair in a natural way, largely due to the inheritance of the social behavior patterns of our of primate ancestors.

The new economic and accumulation of power and property by anonymous large unrelated groups of people, who also were vulnerable to and suffered from infectious diseases due to being in closer contact with their domestic animals, as well as the consequences of a limited diet and periodic famine. The ability to understand these catastrophe-filled complex living conditions was largely lacking, as was the ability to protect themselves from their negative effects.

Poised between the Reckless and the Shipwreck, Review By Dan Dervin

The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics; The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction, Mark Lilla, (NY: New York Review Books, 2016).

 “Christ!” blurted George W. Bush when asked in a 1999 debate to name his favorite philosopher. Noticing surprise, he added “Because he changed my life.” This no-doubt heartfelt answer spurred pundits to debate whether Jesus could properly be called a philosopher and whether the spirit of the Gospels would inform government policy or remain private inspiration. In contrast, JFK’s ”brain trust” was drawn from universities, governor’s mansions, Congress, business, labor, agriculture, and philanthropy (adapted from Google). Whether he had a favorite philosopher, his on-site learning mode would align him with John-Dewey-style pragmatism; nevertheless, as Mark Lilla demonstrates, pursuing the role of the independent thinker in the political arena often reaps unexpected rewards.

Case in point: admittedly not a serious reader, Donald Trump’s religious/cultural influences derive in part from the “practical Christianity” of Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” preached from his Marble Collegiate Church and attended by Trump in his youth (Wash. Post, 18 Dec 16, p. B6). His current spiritual adviser is televangelist Paula White, likewise associated with the “prosperity gospel.” As his confidante, she describes his belief mojo as “Winning equates to good, and good equates to God.” Guilt doesn’t figure in: “Why do I have to repent,” he queries, “why do I have to ask for forgiveness if you’re not making mistakes?” Bowing to spiritual authority is for losers; but if God ever wanted to book into Trump Tower, the “best luxury suite would be offered at a special price” (Noah Weiland, Times, 20 Jan 17, p. A20). Questioned on his dubious campaign strategies, his all-purpose answer, “I won!” places him in the Machiavelli school of ends-justifies-means pragmatism. But while many politicians would concur that winning is everything as well as the only thing, much darker forces are coming to the fore today. During his campaign, Trump turned to Stephen K. Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News and leading voice in the Alt-Right’s white-male dominance movement. Any desperate hopes among the Republican establishment that once elected, Trump would broaden his base, crashed when Bannon was christened “senior counselor and chief strategist” (Times, 15 Nov 16, p. A1), seated among the top brass at the National Security Council (Times, 30 Jan 17, p. A1), and delegated attack-dog in Trump’s relentless media wars (Times 27 Jan 17, p. A1). Tracking his radio pronouncements from 2015, USA Today found a consistent anti-Islam rhetoric seen as laying the groundwork for all-out war (1 Feb 17, p. 1A). After the Inauguration, Matthew Cooper of Newsweek posted (21 Jan 17) that if you judge Trump “by his Inaugural Address, you can say that Steve Bannon, is winning the battle for his soul.”

The interface of political leader and scrum of experts, advisers, counsellors, along with spiritual and intellectual authorities, lends itself to the deeper probings of psychohistory. The custom derives from prehistory when tribal heads consulted with witch-doctors and medicine men who saw the future in stars or animal entrails; in Antiquity, dreams could assume prophetic powers as we infer from Calpurnia’s premonitory dream warning her husband Julius Caesar. Antiquity also tuned in to an oracular voice for philosophers, and it is here that Mark Lilla’s work enters as an indispensable guide….

Locating this leader/thinker tradeoff in Antiquity, Lilla discounts as myth the notion that Plato overtly advocated an enlightened rule by the “philosopher-king,” yet….

Poetry and Storytelling as Psychohistory, Review by Howard Stein

The Root Is Bitter, The Root is Sweet: In the Shadow of Madness: A Memoir, Second Edition, Dolores Brandon, New York: ORI Academic Press, 2016 (orig. 2000, Sky Blue Press). 214 pp.  No index.

Two criteria determine whether a book is suitable for review in a psychohistory journal: (1) the book provides data of sufficient historical detail, together with psychodynamic insight, to be useful to psycho-historians; and/or (2) the book, together with providing data, offers psychodynamic as well as other fields’ analysis of what it was like to live in a certain era, society, and culture.  The memoir under review does both, with great depth, beauty, insight, and grace. Seamlessly eclectic, the book reads as a story, an oral history, a series of intimate interviews (with the author’s mother and other family members), a novel, a play, a poem, an autobiography, a family biography, and more.

It is a book to be read not only with the eyes, but also aloud. Uniquely aural it could well be performed as Reader’s Theater! Profoundly moving and courageous, the book attests to the power of empathy and identification as paths to personal resilience. It is a work of art.

Dolores Brandon discusses the undiscussable; she breaks the secret loyalty demanded by family shame.  As she interviews family members and reflects back on her life she bears witness to the prison of childhood and gradually liberates herself from its tenacious clasp. With the book, and in public lectures about it, Dolores helps others:  in liberating herself, she liberates others to have their own dark stories brought into daylight and affirmed—“This really happened to me.”

The book documents what it was like to grow up in Canada, from the 1940’s through the early 1970’s, with an often violent and brutal father who suffered from manic-depressive illness. Brandon weaves incisive poetry, prose poetry, verses from childhood songs, lyrical storytelling, fragments of operatic arias, and quotations from plays to describe how she and her family adapted emotionally and physically to daily life in the shadow of a bi-polar father’s towering presence.

A Glimpse into the Life and Work of Vamik Volkan, Reviewed by Jane G. Tillman

Vamik’s Room, A film by Molly Castelloe, Ph.D., 2016 (65 minutes)

In 2017 we find ourselves in a world of escalating political upheaval and international peril. How timely that award-winning documentary filmmaker Molly Castelloe, PhD has released her film Vamik’s Room, which examines the career of psychoanalyst, consultant, and five-time Nobel Prize nominee Vamik Volkan, MD. Volkan has spent over 40 years consulting to groups and governments around the world that are struggling with large group conflict. He has written numerous papers and books in the process demonstrating how psychoanalytic principles might be applied to large systems dynamics.   Castelloe, who holds a doctoral degree in theater and psychoanalysis, has been at work on this documentary for almost a decade, determined to capture the work of Volkan and to share what he has learned with a wider audience. The film, initially released in 2016, has already won the 2016 Gradiva Award in film from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, and the Sidney Halpern Award (2016) “for furthering the discipline of psychohistory through the medium of documentary film” (http://internationaldialogueinitiative.com/blog/).

….Dr. Volkan has been a founding figure in the area of applied psychoanalytic studies, using his keen mind as a psychoanalyst to move from understanding the intrapsychic motivations and conflicts of the individual, to the broader field of large group social conflict. His work focuses on how the intersection of history and culture create the conditions for the intergenerational transmission of trauma across the centuries. In the current era applied psychoanalysis is reasonably understood and accepted, however, when Volkan began his work he was stepping onto a world political stage, which was groundbreaking territory for a psychoanalyst.

The world has much to learn from Volkan’s way of understanding war, genocide, and entrenched and repeating patterns of destructiveness. Castelloe’s documentary ably demonstrates the value of Volkan’s way of understanding social conflicts that destroy so many lives, ….

Book Review

Sports on the Couch, Ricardo A. Rubenstein, London: Karnac Books, 2017, Reviewed by Tom Ferraro

At long last, a sport psychology book that speaks the truth, does not minimize the anguish suffered by the elite athlete, and provides a guiding light out of their competitive problems. For years the field of sport psychology has offered up superficial and largely unhelpful interventions to athletes. Dr. Rubenstein’s book marks a new beginning and a turning point in the field.

Over the years there have been only a few depth psychologists that have attempted to provide careful and useful long term support for the elite athlete in need. David Burston, the Jungian analyst who works with the English Premier League in London, Marcel Mario Suarez-Orozco’s study of Argentine soccer, and Professor Dan Dervin’s psychoanalytic study of sports are three analytic pioneers.   From the distant past we have Deutsch’s 1926 discussion of how sport aids in the overcoming of a sense of anxiety and Otto Fenichel’s 1939 study of counter phobia and sports. But the list goes dry after this.

In Ricardo Rubenstein’s well thought out, enjoyable and unique book, the public is finally offered the truth about the deep seated and largely unconscious nature of poor performance on the playing field.   The press, fans, agents, General Managers and coaching staff are often befuddled when teams’ high priced athletes do not play up to expectations. This book goes a long way towards illuminating these issues because it sheds light on the athlete’s unconscious.