Psychoanalytic Interpretation of the Artwork “Hope Duplicated”

Hope 2

“Hope Duplicated” is a surrealistic work of art of oil on canvass that was created in 2012.  Art is another conduit linguistic expression can take as surrealism probes feelings, sensations and oneiric images. This artwork explores feeling and sensations of the unknown, of an overwhelming sense of loss of control. At the center of the photo we see encapsulated in a circle a germinating coconut. The peripheral edges of the painting express a sense of floating on a vast and open sea where turbulent currents and atmospheric forces (like wind and rain) might be imagined to push and pull the object, making it sway this way and that. It express a sense of loss of stability and sure footedness, as the bottom of the ocean can’t be reached because it is several feet away. No sure ground to stand on. The artist tries to express the water’s depth with a darker blue color on the “above surface” of the water, in addition to the color of the sky. The sky is cloud covered as a storm might be approaching and the absence of light. The central focus in the painting illustrates the teal blue color of shallow water, where the bottom can be reached and stability and sure footedness can be re-established. This focal point expresses the position of calm, unturbulent forces near the water’s edge, near shore. Here in this position,  the coconut might find solid ground and establish itself. Also, the sky near the shore in the central focal point is periwinkle blue with wind swept clouds further indicating a bright, sunny, calm, and clear day. No forces to be reckoned with except those belonging to a calm, clear, and bright afternoon. The artist further tries to express a method of transparency in the artwork by trying to portray a sense of “What’s beneath the surface?” expressed in the foamy white wave line of color that separate the image into “What’s above the water?” and “What’s below the surface?” and indicating the difference between the darker and lighter colors which separate the two realms. Perhaps, this artwork may be viewed as a linguistic expression of the postmodern tides of uncertainty.

Artwork is the creation of the author of Proclivities’ Principle Wisdom and is a surrealistic interpretation of feeling. Dated September 16, 2012.

When Object Love Becomes Confused With Fantasies Of Omnipotence

Trompe L'oeil - Warrior killing soldier
Trompe L’oeil Artwork; South Korea Trick Eye Museum

Sex is a form of violence. It is a form of benign violence that leaves one vanquished and the other conqueror. The theories on intersubjective relations both address the manifestation of homosexual erotic love as well as the paranoid schizoid personality position of the malevolent rapist (the serial killer). Theories based in the notion of the dead mother in psychoanalytic literature.

Thus, whatever the outcomes of our pre-oedipal and oedipal phases, they leaves us stranded in a world of unresolved mourning adhering our sexual identities to our psyches like paper to glue (as well as adhering our individual identities and preferences), all blended with our unique way of relating to others (that is to say, with our intersubjective relations with other objects in our fields of orientation) which are filled with conscious and unconscious fantasies. Some are benign like homosexual relations, while others are malevolent filled with blood and rage.

“The fantasy of object love comes to compensate for narcissistic loss. But oedipal love is both a resolution and a perpetuation of mourning. One cannot yet embody the ideal of femininity or masculinity that mother and father represent, and one cannot yet “possess” the other body in love: one can neither be nor have.”

Analyzing the elements of the symbolic space of the oedipal phase we find constitutive elements of: envy and dread of maternal capacities and power, denigration of the mother-baby dyad, denial of feminine identifications and bisexual wishes, projection of aggression and retaliation into the other, reversal from passive to active, and the defensive displacement of omnipotence onto the idealized oedipal father – another symbolic equation.

“Subsequently (1988), [Susan Suleiman] investigates that foreclosure in an analysis of Mary Gordon’s Men and Angels, a book that reaffirms the zero-sum stakes of a mother’s choice and finds no way out of its harsh alternatives. A mother who chooses to pursue her own writing really does place her children at risk of death [metaphorical death]. Suleiman points out that this portrayal depends upon the unconsciously clinging to the image of a perfect mother and splitting the good mother from the bad “other mother.” the other mother, the babysitter, takes on the indifference, selfishness, and hatred that are intolerable in the real mother, and she becomes the object of omnipotent rage who must be killed off. The book disavows the possibility that a “real” mother might acknowledge the deal with the strain (Kramer 1994) of her hatred for her children and their interference with her life. Thus the kill-or-be-killed world of omnipotence.”

Thus, fantasies become our protective amniotic sacs of delusional thoughts which can be perceived as illusions manifested in a type of “La La Land of make-believe.” The question to ask is this, “What force, and how much tension is required to break the sac? That is, break the cycle of the fantasy? Is the fantasy even necessary? Is its function to serve us in a productive fashion?”

“When the tension between complementarity and mutuality breaks down – individually or culturally – the absence of a real other creates a kind of paranoid free fall.”

When we say or have derogatory thoughts of someone’s “otherness”, (which we all do by the way with the silent little voice in our heads) by formulating an idea like, “She is a whore” or “He is a chauvinistic Nazi pig,” what we may really be forming is a fantasy rooted in omnipotent narcissism that may not be based in reality because we didn‘t get our own way. Then again, you maybe dealing with a psychopath too, but it is important to realize the difference between habitual habits, casual habits, and rarely occurring phenomenon. We all make mistakes and fail all the time. That is the nature of the human condition. Everyone from time to time expresses or displays what I like to refer to as “Hegel’s meanest character”, we, as humans, demonstrate how uniquely we can become such “little shits” sometimes. We all have that potential within us. We all have good and bad traits. However, humans have a tendency to focus on one aspect of a person’s character and ruminate over and over on it, yet there are many more observable traits to be witnessed if we only seek to uncover them. Humans then are overcome by the tendency to become blind to all other personality traits, especially the good ones. When the tension between complementarity and mutuality breaks down – individually or culturally – the absence of a real other creates a kind of paranoid free fall. When this happens, we then must evaluate the conduits of our self-expression paying careful attention to our actions.  If you find yourself in a position where complementarity has broken down, you may want to ask yourself, “Am I really seeing the full picture? Am I really seeing all there is to see about this person?” Ask yourself further, “Or am I stuck in a illusory deluded thought, a Tromp L’oeil of my own cognitive making?” Then discuss it with a trusted friend. The answers you arrive at might surprise you.

I am including the link below because art, like writing, music, and organized sports can be an avenue of sublimation and cathartic release.

Welcome to the Trompe L’oeil Museum in South Korea


Halloween’s Potential for “Fascination and Fear of Annihilation” Psychic States in Young Children


“…….the crucial role of fear of annihilation in excessive projective identification and in fascination can be understood in its initial impetus, which is an excessive defense against death anxiety. Therefore, the projective identification becomes itself a source of death anxiety. “This paradox can be understood as linked to each other in two ways: on the one hand in the ego-status of the object, and on the other hand in the mental impoverishment of the subject.” ~Michel Thys

The Phenomenology of Fascination

Fascination is defined in psychoanalytic terms as a sense ‘of a paralyzing state of loss of self,’ “where the subject is radically captured by an object from which it is hardly separate. Conceived in this way, the condition of fascination is linked to several other forms of object relating but it nevertheless has its own specific character.”

When we say we are fascinated by something we usually have in view an intense experience, in which our attention is fully and actively engaged in relation to an object that captivates and attracts us in an extreme way. We are full of the object: as an object of admiration, it enriches us and we seek it out. In this conception, the subject plays an active role and remains the centre and instigator of the whole situation or dynamic. However, the reverse of attraction is terror, fear, and repudiation. In this sense the terror and fear renders the subject captivated by the object and what follows from this captivation is a threat and the loss of the inner space of self as a consequence.

The term ‘precarious objects,’ which are objects that are not clearly experienced by the subject as separate, have been described by psychoanalysis in various terms; primary narcissism (Freud, 1914), primary identification (Freud, 1923), confusion between internal and external reality in excessive projective identification (Klein, 1957), transitional objects (Winnicott, 1951), bizarre objects (Bion, 1956), mirror objects (Lacan, 1966), the Thing (Lacan, 1986), self-objects (Kohut, 1971), adhesive objects (Tustin, 1980), the autistic-contiguous position (Ogden, 1944) and the equivalent mode (Fonagy et al., 2004),

These ’precarious objects’ which have been described throughout psychoanalytic literature describes the experience by a subject to an object which has clearly not been experienced. “Although we can meet such confusing states of mind where the distinction between object and subject is blurred predominantly in psychopathology, this state is also latent in everyone and can become manifest in vulnerable circumstances.” In this blurred and confusing state a person can feel uncomfortable around objects that evokes memories from a time not fully remembered by our conscious state of awareness. Reading about this phenomenon I immediately recalled a time when terror over took me and produced a fascinated psychic state. Over come by fear of annihilation I was rendered immobile with a paralyzing sense of fear, rendered in a state of self-loss. I was in my early 20’s and I was home alone for the evening. My parents had took a trip to visit some friends who lived a few hours away and wouldn’t arrive home until quiet late that night. I had all the lights out in the house and was curled up on the couch watching a TV program. Suddenly I heard rattling coming from what seemed like the windows and doors. I had decided it must have been the wind howling. I dismissed the sounds as a by-product of nature and continued watching the TV program. Suddenly the rattling sounds became stronger, louder, and more forceful. I opened my front door to evaluate the weather conditions and realized it was a perfectly clear and calm evening. No wind was blowing. I suddenly realized that whatever was making this noise was at my backdoor and it wasn’t nature but another human being. As I walked into my kitchen to approach our back entrance, this violent and forceful sound of someone pounding on our backdoor permeated the kitchen space. I realized someone was trying to break in! I froze in fear, totally unable to move my legs, unable to speak, (I tried to yell but couldn’t), frozen in a catatonic state of helpless loss. It seemed like an eternity this immobile state lasted but in actuality it only lasted about 10 seconds. Finally when I regained my faculties the police were called and they arrived in time to find a totally inebriated older Polish man who had mistakenly took our house for his.

Case Vignette

Halloween holds the potential for illiciting such fear and terror in small children. These psychic states hold the potential for evoking “fascination terror states” in children who Fascination and Fear of Annihilation.jpgare not of age to yet fully understand the concepts of masks and make believe fantasy scary creatures. I am writing this because the implicit memories of childhood can have longstanding and detrimental effects on a human child and I want to share a case vignette of a young woman who had an implicit fascination and fear of annihilation memory surface in her adult life. This particular case involves a young girl, will call Claire, 22, who was admitted to a psychiatric ward for personality disorders. She stayed at a psychiatric ward for one year for self-mutilation, increasing withdrawal from social interactions and dissociations but without a real breakdown. During her stay at hospital moments of paralysis occurred where she was unable to walk or move, and she caught herself compulsively and involuntarily lying. She locked herself in her own thoughts and self-reproaches, and made demands of herself. She dropped out of school, but the relationships with her boyfriend continued. When she contacted a therapist for further help, her condition had clearly improved but she wanted further therapy to prevent a relapse.

Claire appeared to her therapist as an intelligent and verbally skilled individual. Her initial hesitation hides a strong motivation for therapy and an obstinate strength of will. She has been brought up in a very protected manner. Her father is described as emotionally absent, while her mother is undoubtedly idealized, praised for her endless unselfish love. When the patient catches herself in a critical thought about her mother she pays for it with painful feelings of guilt. Nevertheless she remembers a lot of indeterminate sadness during her primary school period, and the slow development of the difficulties she experienced from puberty onwards. During her analytic psychotherapy Claire speaks meticulously, anxious to express herself precisely so as to have her therapist adequately understand her. She views her therapist as a careful ideal figure and Claire wishes to make everything as comfortable as possible for her therapist, making the experience as optimal and pleasurable, full of as much ease as possible. Claire also, at the same time, keeps her therapist at a distance: “It must not get too personal.”

One day after some years into her, at times, turbulent therapy which is two sessions a week face to face. Claire reluctantly gives an account of an experience which she just had during the present session. While talking about it she feels confused. During the experience she said she couldn’t draw out a word, she felt far removed from speaking at all: everything concerning language and speech seemed suspended. Her therapist noticed that in this silent moment she found herself in a strange condition for a while, absent-minded, turning pale as death. In an offhanded way, and with indifference, Claire described that she had seen a white wall with glossy tiles (like in a bathroom) in the workplace where she would soon commence work. Such bathroom tiles make her sick, she hates bathrooms. It is then that her speech broke down and she became silent. After quite a time of silence she stammers:

“Suddenly there was this image of a bathtub, a green bathtub with green tiles around it, that very specific kind of green. There is also a water tap, a lift tap, not a turning tap. The water runs in the bathtub. There is a hand at the tap and beside the bathtub there is a piece of leg. I see everything from a nadir view, from below to above. The bath is abnormally narrow and short but with an ordinary depth. Being an adult I wouldn’t be able to sit in it. I saw the spout of water from the tap into the bathtub, but it did not move, nor did it make any noise. Neither did the hand nor the leg move. The image was strikingly static and clean-cut. There was nothing outside this image. Besides the image and myself, nothing existed. Actually, even I myself didn’t exist, there was simply and solely the image. Now I feel empty in my head and sick, I could throw up. I only feel this now, not when I saw the image. Then I felt nothing. I didn’t breathe – there was nothing to say. I really was gone, or rather: I was that image. Now I feel oppressed, I can recover my breath a bit and take some distance. What does this mean? It is so absurd. I’m completely in tatters, out of sorts.”

This is a case vignette in which the subject becomes completely captivated by an object, in the case it’s the bathroom image. She is so captivated she can’t take any distance from it. This condition is much more than being fascinated with the fear of annihilation, it is about a moment in which a radical condition in which, for a moment, language, symbolization, and meaning become impaired. It is in the fascinated psychic state, the world seems to completely vanish and the person becomes absent as a person. What follows this state is the dissolution of the paralyzed psychic state and the person becomes “freed” and unobstructed to feel, think, and act again. This “freed” state may feel like and explosion of surprise, overwhelming the senses of the subject. “The affective intensity that fascination is usually associated with, is what surrounds the fascination and is strictly speaking not part of the fascination itself. The affective freezing point and the affective boiling point find themselves right next to each other. As soon as the fascination is broken the most striking sensation that Claire has is mental emptiness, disgust, and a frightening suffocation.” The suspension of a person’s inner space during the fascination moment is followed by fear of choking, and fear of death. At the peripheral edge of this fascination experience lies the hollow space of an event horizon of, what Michel Tyes calls a “Black Hole,” thus this space creates an enormous power of suction. In Claire’s condition of fascination, it is one of freezing of an overwhelming affect in which, in combination with an uncontrollable sucking in, a hardly bearable anxiety seems to play an important role, and in which the subject can hardly distinguish itself from the object. Claire tells her therapist, “she doesn’t exist anymore,” that only the image exists, and that she herself is the image. It is as though the object is something else and yet, at the same time, the subject is the object itself as well. The precariousness of the event is that there remains object and subject distinction as there is no fusion. Fascination in and of itself seems to be a defense against the possible merging with the object in a complete loss of self, and in situations in which the fascination isn’t sustained, that is its dissolution, it is theorized to be the result of ‘minimum subjectivity’ which states that the subject is in possession a minimum amount of ego. The metapsychology of fascination “experience of a state in which the distinction between the ego and the object – which more specifically is an exclusive object – threatens to disappear; but this is not a fusion of ego and object because of a minimum ego position is a necessary condition of the state of fascination.“ Thus the fascination is dissociate in nature, even disconnected in character, as the subject loses for the most part the connection with the world and with itself; but a the time there is a very strong tie with the exclusive fascinating object. The state of being captivated can be fleeting, a condition that is disconnected to what is unconsciously at stake, and the inability to form affective associations, can persevere in a more obvious dissociative condition and its aftermath can obstinately endure for a long time. It took Claire months before the undermining and obstructive impact of the fascination gave way and something meaningful could ultimately emerge from it.

Projective Identification and Fear of Annihilation
Theory Formulation by Klein

Klein describes a projective identification in which the formation of unconscious fantasy in primary narcissism is projected onto an object. Klein states that it is the first source of anxiety in a person’s experience of their own death drive or destruction drive: the baby is frightened to be destroyed from within. “In his primitive fantasy world the baby perceives painful and frustrating bodily sensations as ‘dangerous persecuting bad objects,’ which for Klein act as ‘internal representatives of the death instinct. (Klein, 1948, p.30)” One part of the death drive is converted into aggression towards the object – first of all the breast and by extension the mother’s body. This primary identification with the breast has also been suspect to being a cause of homosexuality by the fact that the subject during primary narcissism views him or herself as an extension of the mother (Benjamin, 1995). The infant child is unable to differentiate between the self and the maternal object, and therefore, the mother is seen as an extension of the self during the period of primary narcissism. In addition, hated parts of the self can be expelled and projected into the mother as in an infants painful anal excrement of bowel movements. These projections are suppose to damage the object, gain possession of the object as well as keep it under control. The mother is then no longer seen as a separate and individual object but rather a part of the bad self. Klein concludes: “This leads to a particular form of identification which establishes the prototype of an aggressive object-relation. I suggest for these processes the term “projective-identification” (Klein, 1946, p.8)”

“Projective identification belongs to the logic of the paranoid-schizoid position and in the first place it is a defense against fear of annihilation.” The object becomes more or less the extension of the self in the ego’s perception of the self. The longer this projective identification endures in the subject the more obscure the plain object becomes. “For as far as the object becomes identified with parts of the ego, the object becomes a stand-in for the ego, and s a consequence it is more difficult for the subject to distinguish itself from the object.” It is important to note that projective identification is not a sufficient condition for the state of fascination: not every excessive use of projective identification and the resulting confusion between self and object necessarily leads to fascination.

What is important to understand through this psychoanalytic case vignette is how the fear of annihilation seems to emerge from primitive and tyrannical superego violence and that the affective flattening and compulsive self-critical morality we see in our culture is indicative of the result of an excessive superego-problem. Successful integration can be achieved through the discovery of and a reworking through the aftermath of such primary event revelations and the connections that can be made to other psychic material in order to bring about an understanding to the patient of their symptomology. By inviting the patient to reintroject the frightening material, the analyst often has to suffer a great deal in the transference because he is placed in the role of a rejecting and cruel authority. “If fascination is the eye of the storm, then fascination cannot exist without the storm. Not surprisingly, in the end both the patient and the analyst arrive at this storm of extreme ambivalence. By settling again in the dynamic wave of motion that exists between the conscious and the unconscious, the psychoanalytic process itself acts as a violent infringement of the smooth surface of the fascination. This “violence of psychoanalysis,” of breaking through this surface, requires caution, but it should not be avoided by the analyst.”

Additionally, the crucial role of fear of annihilation in excessive projective identification and in fascination can be understood in its initial impetus, which is an excessive defense against death anxiety. Therefore, the projective identification becomes itself a source of death anxiety. “This paradox can be understood as linked to each other in two ways: on the one hand in the ego-status of the object, and on the other hand in the mental impoverishment of the subject.”

Ten Subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder


“Malignant psychopaths represent structurally defective variants of the psychopathic pattern. Their features frequently blend with those of the paranoid personality disorder. They are characterized best by their autocratic power orientation and by their mistrust, resentment, and envy of others. Underlying these features is a ruthless desire to vindicate themselves for past wrongs by cunning revenge or callous force, if necessary.” ~The Malignant Psychopath

Following is an outline of several types of character traits and aspects to various forms of narcissistic personality otherwise known as narcissistic personality disorder. It should also be noted that some people suffering from this form of personality disorder may exhibit hybrid combination of two or more of the following conditions. Most recently in a published article discussing Donald Trump’s fitness for office, John Gartner, a psychologist who trained as a resident at John Hopkins, has asserted that Donald Trump suffers from, not narcissistic personality disorder but, malignant narcissistic personality disorder. A diagnosis that has been considered pretty hard to make outside the clinical setting since it violates the American Psychiatric Association’s so-called Goldwater Rule, an ethical dictum that discourages mental health professional from diagnosing public figures from afar.

The Unprincipled Psychopath

The unprincipled psychopath is seen most frequently in conjunction with narcissistic personality patters. These individuals are often successful in keeping their activities just within the bounds of the law, and infrequently enter into clinical treatment.

These psychopaths exhibit an arrogant sense of self-worth, an indifference to the welfare of others, and a fraudulent social manner. There is a desire to exploit others, or at least expect special recognition and considerations without assuming reciprocal responsibilities. A deficient social conscience is evident in the tendency to flout conventions, to engage in actions that raise questions of personal integrity, and to disregard the rights of others. Achievement deficits and social irresponsibility are justified by expansive fantasies and frank prevarications. Descriptively, we may characterize this psychopath as devoid of a superego – that is, as evidencing and unscrupulous, amoral, and deceptive approach to relationships with others. More than merely disloyal and exploitative, these psychopaths may be found among society’s con artists, and charlatans, many of whom are vindictive toward and contemptuous of their victims.

The unprincipled psychopath often evidences a rash willingness to risk harm and is usually fearless in the face of threats and punitive action. Malicious tendencies are projected outward, precipitating frequent personal and family difficulties, as well as occasional legal entanglements. Vengeful gratification is often obtained by humiliating others. These narcissistic psychopaths operate as if they have no principles other than exploiting others for their personal gain. Lacking a genuine sense of guilt and possessing little social conscience, they are opportunists who enjoy the process of swindling others, outwitting them in a game they enjoy playing, which others are held in contempt because of the ease with which they can be seduced. Relationships survive only as long as this type of psychopath has something to gain. People are dropped with no thought to the anguish they may experience as a consequence of the psychopath’s irresponsible behaviors.

These psychopaths display an indifference to truth that, if brought to their attention, is likely to elicit an attitude of nonchalant indifference. They are skillful in the ways of social influence, are capable of feigning an air of justified innocence, and are adept in deceiving others with charm and glibness. Lacking any deep feelings of loyalty, they may successfully scheme beneath a veneer of politeness and civility. Their principal orientation is that of outwitting others – “Do unto others before they do unto you.” A number of these psychopaths attempt to present an image of cool strength, acting arrogant and fearless. To prove their courage, they may invite danger and punishment. But punishment only verifies their unconscious recognition that they probably deserve to be punished for their unprincipled behaviors. Rather than having a deterrent effect, it only reinforces their exploitative behaviors.

In many ways, the unprincipled psychopath is similar to the disingenuous psychopath, to whom we will turn next. They share a devious and guileful style, plotting and scheming in their calculations to manipulate others. However, the disingenuous psychopath, a variant of the histrionic personality, continues to pursue a strong need for attention and approval – characteristics not present in the unprincipled psychopath, who exhibits a basic self-centeredness and indifference to the attitudes and reactions of others. Unprincipled psychopaths prey on the weak and vulnerable, enjoying their dismay and anger; disingenuous psychopaths, by contrast, seek to hold the respect and affection of those they put aside in their pursuit of new sources of love and admiration.”

The Disingenuous Psychopath

The disingenuous psychopath’s behavior is typified by a veneer of friendliness and sociability. Although making a superficially good impression upon acquaintances, this psychopath frequently shows a more characteristic unreliability, impulsive tendencies, and deep resentments and moodiness among family members and other close associates. A socially facile lifestyle may include persistent seeking of attention and excitement, often expressed in seductive behaviors. Relationships are shallow and fleeting, frequently disrupted by caustic comments and impulses that are acted upon with insufficient deliberation – characteristics typically found among histrionic personalities, which the disingenuous psychopath most resembles.

Others often see this subtype as irresponsible and undependable, exhibiting short-lived enthusiasms and immature stimulus-seeking behaviors. Notable also among these disingenuous psychopaths are tendencies to be contriving and plotting; to exhibit a crafty and scheming approach to life; and to be insincere, calculating, and deceitful. Not likely to admit responsibility for personal or family difficulties, this psychopath manifests a cleverly defensive denial of psychological tensions or conflicts. Interpersonal difficulties are rationalized, and blame is projected upon others. Although self-indulgent and insistent on attention, the disingenuous type provides others with erratic loyalty and reciprocal affection.

A flagrant deceitfulness is a principal prototypal characteristic of his variant of psychopathy. These individual are more willful and insincere in their relationships, doing everything necessary to obtain what they need and want from others. Moreover, and in contrast to other psychopaths, they seem to enjoy seductive play, gaining gratification in the excitement and tension thus engendered. Often they are calculating and guileful when someone else has what they covet, be it the attention of a person or some tangible possession. Developmentally, their need for the approval of others gradually erodes over time, and is replaced by the means used to achieve approval. In the end, only a manipulative and cunning style remains.

The deceitfulness of the disingenuous psychopath is extended to the self. The attention and commendation of others are always perceived as consequences of the psychopath’s own plotting and scheming behaviors; rarely are they seen as expressions of unconditional regard. Beneath the surface, such psychopaths’ greatest fear is that no one will care for or love them unless they are made to do so. Despite this recognition, they attempt to persuade themselves that their intentions are basically good, and that their insincerely, motivated scheming is appreciated for its intrinsic worth. Throughout these mixed internal messages, nevertheless, the disingenuous psychopaths persist in seeking what is most important to themselves, always angling and maneuvering to acquire it. These psychopaths are no less self-deceptive about their motives than they are about those whom they deceive.

Although their weak points are usually concealed through veils of deceitfulness, disingenuous persons are often fearful that others may see them as indecisive or soft-hearted. When mildly crossed, subject to minor pressures, or faced with potential embarrassment, these psychopaths may be quickly provoked to anger, often expressed in a revengeful or vindictive way. The air of superficial affability is extremely precarious, and they are ready to depreciate anyone whose attitudes touch a sensitive theme. When the thin veneer of sociability is eroded, there may be momentary upsurges of abuse and rage, although these are infrequent.

The Risk-Taking Psychopath

The next type of psychopath often engages in risk taking for itself – for the excitement it provides, and for the sense of feeling alive and involved in life, rather than for such purposes as material gain or defense of reputation. Many individuals respond before thinking, act impulsively, and behave in an unreflective and uncontrolled manner. Beyond such simple impulsiveness, however, the risk-taking psychopaths are in addition substantially fearless, unbalanced by events that most people experience as dangerous or frightening. Practiced to this degree, their venturesomeness seems foolhardy, not courageous; they appear blind to the potential consequences of serious physical harm. Unwilling to give up their need for autonomy and independence, lacking habits of self-discipline, and unsure that they can ever achieve or fulfill the emptiness they feel within themselves in the real world, they are tempted to prove themselves against new and exciting ventures, traveling on a hyperactive and erratic course of hazardous activity. Descriptively, we may characterize these psychopaths as being dauntless, intrepid, bold, and audacious. Thus, this subtype represents an admixture of commingling of both antisocial and histrionic personality features.

In contrast to many psychopaths, whose basic motivations are largely aggrandizement and revenge, these individuals are driven by the need for excitement and stimulation, for adventures that are intrinsically treacherous. They are, in effect, thrill seekers, easily infatuated by opportunities to prove their mettle or open their possibilities. The factors that make them psychopathic are the undependability and irresponsibility of their actions, and their disdain for the effects of their behaviors on others as they pursue a restless chase to fulfill one capricious whim after another.

The Covetous Psychopath

In the covetous psychopath, we see in its most distilled form an essential feature of the DSM’s antisocial personality disorder and the ICD’s dissocial personality disorder: aggrandizement. These individuals feel that life has not “given them their due”; that they have been deprived of their rightful level of love, support, or material rewards; that others have received more than their share; and that they personally never were given the bounties of the good life. Thus, they are driven by envy and a desire for retribution – a wish to take back what they have been deprived of by destiny. Through acts of theft or destruction, they compensate themselves for the emptiness of their own lives, dismissing with smug entitlement their violations of the social order. They act on the rationalization that they alone must restore the karmic imbalance with which life has burdened them.

For those who are merely somewhat resentful, and for whom some conscious controls remain, interact, small transgression and petty acquisitions often suffice to blunt the expression of more extreme characteristics. For the more severely disordered, however, the usurpation of others’ earned achievement and possessions becomes the highest reward. Here, the pleasure lies in taking rather than in having. Like hungry animals pursuing prey, covetous psychopaths have an enormous drive, a rapaciousness. They manipulate others and treat them as pawns in their power games. Although they have little compassion for the effects of their behaviors, feeling little or no guilt for their actions, they remain at heart quite insecure about their power and their possessions; they never feel that enough has been acquired to make up for earlier deprivations. Regardless of their achievements, they remain ever jealous and envious, pushy and greedy, presenting ostentatious displays of materialism and conspicuous consumption. For the most part, they are completely self-centered and self-indulgent, often profligate and wasteful, un-willing to share with others for fear that they will take again what was so desperately desired in early life. Hence, such psychopaths never achieve a deep sense of contentment. They feel unfulfilled, empty, and forlorn, regardless of their successes, and remain forever dissatisfied and insatiable. Believing they will continue to be deprived, these psychopaths show minimal empathy for those who are exploited and deceived. Some may become successful entrepreneurs, exploiters of others as objects to satisfy their desires.

Although similar in certain central characteristics to the unprincipled psychopathic personality, the covetous variant manifests smug or justified, rather than benign, entitlement. Here an active exploitiveness, manifested through greed and the appropriation of others’ possessions, becomes a central motivating force. The narcissistic psychopaths, however, experience not only a deep and pervasive sense of emptiness – a powerful hunger for the love and recognition not received early in life – but also an insecurity that they perhaps really are intrinsically less than others, somehow deserving of life’s marginal dispensations.

The Spineless Psychopath

Some psychopaths are habitually powerful and vicious tormentors of others. The explosive type (described next) acts In this manner periodically, and then is troubled and contrite about the conscionably of such irrational actions. In contrast, another variant is deeply insecure and irresolute, perhaps even faint-hearted and cowardly. Psychopathic aggression in this variant represents a paradoxical response to felt dangers and fears, intended to show persecutors that one is not anxious or weak, and will not succumb to external pressure or coercion. In our typology, such craven and cowardly individuals are spineless psychopaths. These personalities commit violent acts as a means of overcoming fearfulness and of securing refuge. For them, aggression is not intrinsically rewarding, but is instead essentially a counterphobic act. Anticipating real danger, projecting hostile fantasies, spineless types feel it is best to strike first, hoping thereby to forestall their antagonists.

The dynamics of the spineless psychopath are derivative of the avoidant and dependent personalities. Here, others are fantasized as powerful, aggressive, sadistic enemies. In contrast, the self is viewed as a precariously and helplessly undefended target. Experiencing panic, spineless psychopaths seek to head off inevitable annihilation by engaging in the very acts most deeply feared as a form of preemptive attack. By public and strong display of the opposite of their deep fear, they present a façade of formidable strength. Their behavior is counterphobic, as noted above, and as the analysts have pointed out so clearly. Not only does this mechanism serve to enable them to master their personal fears, but it serves to divert and impress the public by a false sense of confidence and self-assurance. Some turn inward as soon as the invaders have been repelled. In others, however, we see the publicly swaggering spineless type, a belligerent and intimidating variant; these individuals want the world to know that they “cannot be pushed around.” As the many other psychopaths, public aggressiveness is not a sign of genuine confidence and personal strength, but a desperate means to try to feel superior and self-assured. Neither naturally mean-spirited nor intrinsically violent, these spineless variants become caricatures of swaggering ‘tough guys” and petty tyrants.

The Explosive Psychopath

The explosive psychopath is differentiated from other psychopathic variants by the unpredictable and sudden emergence of hostility. These “adult tantrums,” characterized by uncontrollable rage and fearsome attacks upon others, occur frequently against members of the psychopath’s own family.

Such explosive behavior erupts precipitously, before its intensive nature can be identified and constrained. Feeling thwarted or threatened, these psychopaths respond in a volatile and hurtful way, bewildering others by the abrupt change that has overtaken them, saying unforgivable things, striking unforgettable blows. As with children, tantrums are instantaneous reactions to cope with frustration or fear. Although the explosive behavior is often effective in intimidating others into silence or passivity, it is not primarily an instrumental act, but rather an outburst that serves to discharge pent-up feelings of humiliation and degradation.

Disappointed and feeling frustrated in life, these persons lose control and seek revenge for the mistreatment and deprecation to which they feel subjected. In contrast to other psychopaths, explosive individuals do not move about in a surly and truculent manner. Rather, their rages burst out uncontrollably, often with no apparent provocation. In periods of explosive rage, they may unleash a torrent of abuse and storm about defiantly, curing and voicing bitter contempt for all. This quality of sudden and irrational belligerence, as well as the frenzied lashing out, distinguishes these psychopathics from the other subtypes. Many are hypersensitive to feelings of betrayal or may be deeply frustrated by the futility and hopelessness of their lives.

When explosive psychopaths are faced with repeated failures, humiliations, and frustrations, their limited controls may be quickly overrun by deeply felt and undischarged resentments. Once released, the fury of the moment draw upon memories and emotions of the past that surge unrestrained to the surface, breaking out into a wild, irrational, and uncontrollable rage. From the preceding descriptions, it would not be unreasonable to hypothesize that explosive psychopaths possess beneath their surface controls a pattern similar to that of individuals described as “sadistic borderlines.” Usually under control, but lacking the cohesion of psychic structure to maintain controls across all situations, these individuals periodically erupt with precipitous and vindictive behaviors that signify their psychopathic style.

The Abrasive Psychopath

In contrast to other psychopaths, who exhibit a struggle between doing the bidding of others and expressing their frustrations in a passive and indirect manner, the abrasive psychopath acts in an overtly and directly contentious and quarrelsome way. To the abrasive psychopath, everything and everyone is an object available for nagging and assaulting, a sounding board for discharging inner irritabilities, or even a target for litigious action. More than merely angry in a general way, these persons are intentionally abrasive and antagonistic. Abrasive psychopaths have incessant discords with others, magnifying every minor friction into repeated and bitter struggles. They may have few qualms and little conscience or remorse about demeaning even their most intimate associates. The following adjectives may be used to characterize this abrasive type: contentious, intransigent, fractious, irritable, caustic, debasing, quarrelsome, acrimonious, and corrosive. Not surprisingly, many exhibit features usually associated with the negativistic and paranoid personality disorders.

Some abrasive psychopaths insist that their quarrelsomeness is dedicated to certain high principles; though a kernel of truth may be found in their beliefs, these higher principles invariably correspond to positions they themselves hold. Others are unquestionably wrong, and they are unquestionably right. Fault-finding and dogmatic, these psychopaths achieve special delight in contradicting others.

They take less pleasure in the legitimacy and logic and their reasoning than in its use to frustrate and undermine their opponents.

Not surprisingly, the behavior of the abrasive personality resemble that of adolescents who, seeking to establish their separateness and individuality, act in ways that clearly oppose their parents. Thus, the children of deeply committed conservatives will favor highly liberal or socialistic values, whereas those of liberal parents may adopt intensely conservative points of view. But the rebellion of adolescents against parental customs and standards is usually time-limited-a stage of development in which strategies of self-assertion are appropriate. Once a sense of independence is achieved, oppositional teenagers are likely to drop this style of behavior, often reverting to the very customs previously opposed. In contrast, the hostile and opposing manner of abrasive psychopaths is part of the core of their being. Their knack of belittling and denigrating anyone in the name of whatever principle they happen to espouse is well rehearsed and persistent. Criticism of others as “good for them” may even be viewed as an essential corrective mechanism. Believing that they take no personal satisfaction in telling people off or in having ulterior motives for doing so, these individuals feel unconstrained, free to say and do anything they please “to set people right.”

Those with whom abrasive psychopaths relate know their pretensions of principled behavior to be but a thin veneer. Faced with any opposition, especially from person they consider of lesser stature than themselves, these person spew forth bitter complaints of how they are utterly unappreciated and ill- treated. Anything personal they have done to others does not really reflect their character, but is merely a justified reaction to the uncaring treatment to which they have been exposed. Thus, they are justified in what they say and do, with no qualms of conscience or remorse for having acted in the most obnoxious way. As the argument is joined, the deeper origins of their personality style are perpetually reactivated and refueled.

The Malevolent Psychopath

The malevolent subtype is one of the least attractive of the psychopathic variants. These individuals are particularly vindictive and hostile; their retributive impulses are discharged in a hateful and destructive defiance of conventional social life. Distrustful of others and anticipating betrayal and punishment, they have acquired a cold-blooded, ruthlessness, and intense desire to gain revenge for the real or imagined mistreatment to which they were subjected in childhood. Here we see a sweeping rejection of tender emotions and a deep suspicion that others’ efforts at goodwill are merely ploys to deceive and undo them. They may assume a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, a readiness to lash out at those whom they wish to destroy or cause as scapegoats for their revengeful impulses. Many are fearless and guiltless, inclined to anticipate and search out betrayal and punitiveness on the part of others. The primary psychopathic characteristics of these individuals blend with those of the sadistic and/or paranoid personality, reflecting not only a deep sense of deprivation and a desire for compensatory retribution, but also an intense suspiciousness and hostility. Many murderers and serial killers fit this psychopathic pattern. Such persons might be described as belligerent, mordant, rancorous, vicious, malignant, brutal, callous, truculent, and vengeful.

To “prove” their courage, malevolent psychopaths may even court punishment. Rather than serving as a deterrent, however, punishment often reinforces their desire for retribution. In positions of power, the often brutalize others to confirm their self-image of strength. If they are faced with persistent failure, beaten down in efforts to dominate and control others, or finding aspirations far outdistancing their luck, their feelings of frustration, resentment, and anger mount to a point where their controls give way to raw brutality or secretive acts of vengeful hostility. Spurred by repeated rejection and driven by an increasing need for retribution, aggressive impulses will surge into the open. At these times, the psychopaths’ behaviors may become outrageously and flagrantly antisocial. Not only do they show minimal guilt or remorse for their violent acts, but they may instead display an arrogant contempt for the rights of the others.

What distinguishes malevolent psychopaths is their capacity to understand guilt and remorse, if not necessarily to experience it. Although they are capable of giving a perfectly rational explanation of ethical concepts – that is, they know the difference between right and wrong – they seem nevertheless incapable of feeling it. These psychopaths often relish menacing others, making them cower and withdraw. They are combative and seek to bring more pressure upon their opponents than their opponents are willing to tolerate or to bring against them. Most make few concessions and are inclined to escalate as far as necessary, never letting go until others succumb. In contrast to other subtypes, however, malevolent psychopaths recognize the limits of what can be done in their own self-interests. They do not lose self-conscious awareness of their actions, and press forward only if their goals of retribution and destructiveness are likely to be achieved (calculating). Accordingly, their adversarial stance is somewhat contrived and works as a bluffing mechanism to ensure that others will back off. Infrequently, actions are taken that may lead to misjudgment and counter-reaction in these matters.

The Tyrannical Psychopath

Along with the malevolent type just described, the tyrannical psychopath stands among the most frightening and cruel of the psychopathic subtypes. Both relate to others in an attacking, intimidating, and overwhelming way; are frequently accusatory and abusive; and are almost invariably destructive.

Unlike the malevolent psychopaths, however, the tyrannical psychopaths seem to be stimulated by resistances or weaknesses, which encourage attack rather than deter it or slow it down. Some are crudely assaultive and distressingly vulgar, whereas others are physically restrained, but overwhelm their victims by unrelenting criticism and bitter tirades. This variant derives a special sense of satisfaction from forcing victims to cower and submit. Among those who are not physical brutal, we see verbally cutting and scathing commentaries that are both accusatory and demeaning. Many intentionally heighten and dramatize their surly, abusive, inhumane, and unmerciful behaviors. Although these individuals are in many respects the purest type of classical psychopaths, they do exhibit features of several personality disorders, most notably the SM-III-R’s sadistic and DSM-IV’s negativistic personality disorders.

Especially distinctive is this type of psychopath’s desire and willingness to go out of the way to be unmerciful and inhumane. Often calculating and cool, tyrannical psychopaths are selective in their choice of victims, identifying individuals who are likely to submit rather than to react with counter-violence. Quite frequently, they display a disproportionate level of abusiveness and intimidation, in order to impress not only their victims but those who observe the psychopaths’ unconstrained power. More than any other subtype, these individuals derive deep satisfaction in creating suffering and in seeing its effect on others. In contrast to the explosive psychopaths, for whom hostility serves primarily as a discharge of pent-up feelings, the tyrannical psychopaths employ violence instrumentally as a means to inspire terror and intimidation. These experiences then become the object of self-conscious reflection, providing the psychopaths with a sense of deep satisfaction. Many other subtypes, by contrast, have second thoughts and feel a measure of contrition about their actions.

Much of what drives tyrannical psychopaths is their fear that others may recognize their inner insecurities and low sense of self-esteem. To overcome these deeply felt inner weaknesses, they have learned that they can feel superior through overwhelming others by the force of their physical power and brutal vindictiveness.

The Malignant Psychopath

Malignant psychopaths represent structurally defective variants of the psychopathic pattern. Their features frequently blend with those of the paranoid personality disorder. They are characterized best by their autocratic power orientation and by their mistrust, resentment, and envy of others. Underlying these features is a ruthless desire to vindicate themselves for past wrongs by cunning revenge or callous force, if necessary.

In contrast to the other subtypes, the malignant psychopaths have found that their efforts to abuse and tyrannize others have only prompted the others to inflict more of the hostility and harsh punishment experienced in childhood. The psychopaths’ strategy of arrogance and brutalization has backfired too often, and they now seek retribution, not as much through action as through fantasy. Isolated and resentful, they increasingly turn to themselves, to cogitate and mull over their fate. Left to their own ruminations, they begin to imagine a plot in which every facet of the environment plays a threatening and treacherous role. Moreover, through the intra-psychic mechanism of projection, they attribute their own venom to others, ascribing to them the malic and ill will they feel within themselves. As the line between objective antagonism and imagined hostility becomes thin, the belief takes hold that others are intentionally persecuting them. Not inter beliefs play a secondary role among malignant psychopaths, in contrast to their primacy among fanatic paranoid personalities.

Preeminent among malignant psychopaths is their need to retain their independence and cling tenaciously to the belief in their own self-worth. The need to protect their autonomy and strength may be seen in the content of their persecutory delusions. Malevolence on the part of others is viewed as neither casual nor random; rather, it is seen as designed to intimidate, offend, and undermine the individuals’ self-esteem. “They” are seeking to weaken the psychopaths’ “will,” to destroy their power, to spread lies, to thwart their talents, to control their thoughts, and to immobilize the subjugate them. These psychopaths dread losing their self-determination; their persecutory fantasies are filled with fears of being forced to submit to authority, of being made soft and pliant, and of being tricked to surrender their self-determination.

Personality disorders, including psychopathy, may represent extreme variants of common personality traits (Costa & Widiger, 1994). This hypothesis has been supported by studies that have indicated a close association of the dimensions of the five-factor model (FFM) of normal personality functioning with personality disorder symptomatology (Widiger& Costa, 1994).


In The Madness of a Nation

Donald Trump.jpg

Being an independent student of psychoanalysis and psychology in search of answers for the manifestation of those things peculiar to the human race like mass random shooting events, elements of repressed denial, anger, and rage have shown themselves to be some of the main causes to peculiar manifestations of aggressive violence. It seems we have become a nation of blood thirsty madmen.

In the Rolling Stones featured article in the October 5, 2017 issue, “The Madness of Donald Trump” author Matt Taibbi askes, “Is he crazy enough to be removed from office?” The answer, of course, is no. A removal of Trump from the White House would be a political strategy orchestrated by Trump’s opponents. There is simply no evidence, as of yet, to prove high treason or serious crime. It seems he’s rattled the cages of people who simply disagree with his style and political approach. Impeachment is unlikely unless, of course, serious criminal activity can be proven in the widespread sweeping investigation to his “Russian ties.” It is most likely that Donald Trump will be sitting POTUS for the remainder of the term. If he is removed early it is more likely that his removal will be prompted by pursuing Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. This would be a form of legalized mutiny in which the people in Trump’s orbit conclude he is mentally “unfit” to hold office. It would require Mike Pence and the bulk of Trump’s cabinet to write a letter to Congress stating that Trump is unable to perform his duties. These people would have to defy their commander and chief. A letter to Congress from this crew would begin a process that would put Pence in the Oval Office as the acting president. Under the 25th Amendment, the president is never removed, but merely sidelined with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress which would be required in order for his political campangneros (his political cronies) to secure the play.

Trump, among other things, has been suspected of madness. But is this madness directly effecting his ability to lead the nation? Evidence points to the contrary. Although he has been suspected of possessing a narcissistic personality this diagnosis, in and of itself, isn‘t enough to prompt a removal. This suspicion stemming from his expressed personality traits of grandiosity, a tendency to exaggerate achievements, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love, a belief in one’s specialness (which can only be understood by other special people), a need for excessive admiration and a sense of entitlement. America has had its share of narcissistic leaders, this didn’t necessarily make them “unfit” to lead. In fact, some might say, some of those characteristics are exactly what contribute to great leadership. John Freerick, a Fordham law professor who helped work on the original bill “makes clear that “inability” does not cover policy and political differences, unpopularity, poor judgment, incompetence, laziness or impeachable conduct.” The political leaders would be required to satisfy a very high bar. An “inability” effort would probably require sworn statements from psychiatric professionals. The president can’t be merely a disordered, inappropriate, incompetent, destructive embarrassment. He has to be genuinely unable to work. For Trump to be impeachable, he probably has to be responsible for crimes. To be declared unfit, he probably has to be demonstratively insane. As of yet, there is no evidence of either.

Recently I read an article published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. It was entitled “Intimacy: The tank in the bedroom.” The author of this article, Adrienne Harris, wrote the article on the heels of Trump’s campaign and candidacy. She believes that “the genesis of the truly mad idea that it is the other that has animated the violence and hatred, bringing destruction upon themselves,” that this phenomenon is responsible for contributing to the power and manic excitement over Trump’s candidacy; and the paradox of Trump candidacy is the paradox of nation. Part of what got Trump elected is the camaraderie he shared with other reality-averse Americans who similarly chose to live in castles of self-aggrandizement, denial, and blame-shifting, a journalistic product we offer to just about everyone these days.

Harris wrote in her conclusion of the paper, “This paper was drafted during a long and frightening campaign before the American election and finished in its stunning aftermath. One argument of this essay is that symptoms and history co-exist, that we are invaded and constituted by much of social violence, in its benign and horrible formations. We need to be able to transform symptoms back into history. It is for this reason that we need the work on intergenerational transmission, particularly the work of Faimberg (2005), Apprey (2014), and others (Grand and Salberg, 2016).”

Some could argue that this is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to collateral damage. We are used to demonstrating the “idealized individual,” soccer dads and moms who feed their children nutritious wholesome foods, respectable people whose goodness is self-evident. Now that the mask of respectability is gone, we feels sorry for ourselves because our sickness is showing.

“Trump is no malfunction. He’s a perfect representation of who, as a country, we are and always have been: an insane monster. Frankly, we’re lucky he’s not walking around using a child’s femur as a toothpick.” ~Matt Taibbi, The Madness of Donald Trump

The tank in the bedroom is one register of the strange disturbing manic excitement of the Trump campaign. We experienced the overturning of reason and lawful speech, a stirring to which none of us is immune precisely because it hits in such an intimate spot, our infantile sexuality with all its primal fantasies. So much of the Trump phenomenon is about history. The Trump movement culturally represents an absolute denial of our sins from slavery on – hence the intense reaction to the removal of Confederate statues. The next question that should probably be asked is, “Has America become an insane nation?”

On Oedipal Sexuality, the Barring of Women’s Sexual Subjectivity, and the Fantasy of ‘Lost Territory’; aka The ‘Mother Monster’ Fantasy

Lady GaGa’s ‘Born This Way’ music video touches on themes of unconscious fantasy as in the oedipal “Lost Territory,” Primal Scene Fantasy (narcissistic omnipotence), Castration Fantasy (fantasies of destruction), and the Fantasy of The Omnipotent Mother.

The complementarity of subject-object relations: Understanding the roots of domination to lie in narcissism, the theory envisioned overcoming narcissism only through the oedipal structure of subordination to paternal authority, usually conceived as a kind of universal principle or law (see, for example Chasseguet-Smirgel 1985). The theory …….assumed that two subjects alone could never confront each other without merging, one being subordinated and assimilated by the other; and it gave the father the role of bringing the child into reality and creating the triangular field. Thus Juliette Mitchell, summing up a position taken by many Lacanian feminists, wrote, “To date, the father stands in the position of the third term that must break the asocial dyadic unity of mother and child. We can see that this term will always need to be represented by something or someone” (1982, p. 23)

…..the issue is whether we believe that an external force must “break” the dyad, whether we even think that the dyad is “asocial” or a “unity” ….. If the identification of the symbolic function with the agency of the father or third person were itself a symbolic effect, it would be the collapse into symbolic equation that we would want to investigate. Let us speculate that this collapse could be the result of foreclosing the negotiation with the mother, of transferring her omnipotence rather than dissolving it. The distinction between symbol and thing would then disappear, and the father’s function would appear to be the engendering of difference not merely to stand for it. .. So a rendition of the oedipal solution would emerge, in which paternal power appears to be necessity of culture (J. Mitchell 1974); the displacement of mother’s power onto father would be posed as the way out of omnipotence rather than the effect of it.

Yet this “solution” actually constructs the undifferentiated maternal ideal it purports to cure. . . . The struggle around separation and recognition is split off from the maternal figure. The anger and loss in relation to her are not felt and worked through, instead, power and aggression are simply redirected onto a rival father (Sprengnether 1995).*** The omnipotence once attributed to her is revived in the fantasy of paternal rescue – as in Freud’s view of religion. In the oedipal solution the mother is at once idealized as unattainable object of goodness and repudiated as possible subject; the “other woman” becomes the denigrated but tempting sexual object, frequently the target of the split-off aggression that was felt toward the controlling, powerful mother. This splitting bars the way to the representation of women’s sexual subjectivity and denies the mother’s oedipal sexuality. The oedipal complementarity negates the mother’s subjectivity by locating her in what Kristeva (1986) has termed the fantasy of a “lost territory.” This fantasy is, in effect, less about the maternal relationship than about “the idealization of primary narcissism” (Kristeva 1986, p. 161; discussed in Sheperdson 1993).

This rendition of oedipal disturbance has been theorized about in the generational telescoping of homosexuality as well as in the manifestation of variant types of personality disorders such as malevolent psychopathy and sadistic rape.

***Sprengnether’s analysis of Freud’s courtship letters (1995) makes a compelling case for the way in which Freud’s own maternal idealization, his difficulty in acknowledging loss in relation to his mother, and his reiterated belief in a mother’s unambivalent love of the firstborn son contributed to his formation of the Oedipus complex. In his self-analysis, from which his theory derives, Freud’s aggression is turned towards the father, as in, the wake of his father’s death, the consciousness of loss. Sprengnether contends that unacknowledged grief and mourning for the mother, with whom there could be no struggle, lead to a series of displacements, culminating in the centrality of aggression (see also Sprengnether 1990). A close reading of Beyond the Pleasure Principle shows how aggression and death (the final separation) come to hold the place of loss in his theory.

Intimacy and Social Violence: The Radioactivity of the Las Vegas Shooting Event

Many aspects of our identity and subjectivity are subtly linked with our early childhood experiences; infantile sexuality and early attachment. Interwoven in our psychic life is the formations of unconscious and conscious fantasies. These unconscious and conscious fantasies move us toward our ultimate destinies. The aspects of our adult life give subtle clues to our previous early childhood experiences. Considering, children imagine themselves in different roles all the time, in different contexts too, or even involved in different activities. A defeated child may imagine himself triumphant. An excluded child may imagine herself as part of the inner circle or as indifferent to being the outsider. A child disappointed in his parents may imagine having a new set of parents. An envious child, or one whose pride is wounded, may imagine herself with greater riches. Usually these scenes are constructed in the context of children’s subjective relational experiences. The revised scenes provide strategies aimed at altering unsatisfying circumstances. So a child will gravitate toward and embrace one particular fantasy because it is better suited at expressing and working out the specific developmental dilemma the child faces. It is for this reason that primal scene, family romance, and castration fantasies originate in one’s relationship with one’s parents, since they are essentially representation of, and solutions to, the problem of how to work out a satisfactory relationship to the parents, given the intensity of the passionate, loving, and hateful feelings that are at play.

How we navigate and negotiate social change can manifest itself in forms of “violent shaming” as in the act of Stephen Paddock and the Las Vegas mass shooting event. This act, on first appearance, may have its roots in anti-fascism. It is similar to other acts of violent shaming like those experienced by transgendered and homosexual individuals. When we begin to dress, look, and act in different ways, ways that deviate from someone’s previously held beliefs we create a discontinuity that can become unintrojectable by some individuals. Comparing the transitional space of a transgendered couple, “Transition upends a person, a dyad, and a surrounding social system; turmoil surfaces.” It is agony to work through difference and it is for this reason many delay mourning and therapy. The phobic hatred that emerged from yet another mass shooting event revealed itself as a someone who was tormented by someone else’s, some Other way of “being.” This traumatic scene exposed the silent, repressed, primal rage of the perpetrators early psychic life. This scene of social violence which was triggered out of someone’s discontinuity with individual identity and individual subjectivity reverberates itself off the political and social landscape of America.

Erving Goffman, from 1963 and his book Stigma: The Management of Spoiled Identity, put it his way:

“In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, Northern, heterosexual Protestant a father, college educated, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports.” (Goffman, 1963, pg. 153)

There is intimacy closely tied in human torture. In Carlos Liscano’s Truck of Fools, torturers have a particular group of prisoners under their control, and are termed “responsables,” an astonishing word that conjures care and control. The intimacy arises through the terrible facts that it is the “responsable” who sees, witnesses everything the prisoner experiences, and witnesses very close in. Liscano is never masochistic in this account, he remains spiritually clear and distinct but violence and intimacy are inextricable in the links to campangneros (the political cronies) and the responsable (torturer).

In this account we are granted a glimpse into the relational world of Liscano’s body, and to the bodies and sounds of others. We capture the excruciating mixture in subjectivity of tenderness, violence, and precariousness (a much favored term in her work). “The encounter with the other to whom you are responsible is painful. We see the precariousness in the face of the Other. We see the precariousness in the face vocalizing agony. Here we see intimate awareness and the requirement to protect the violation in the most intimate of settings. And yet, torture is also the most political of settings.

In a recounting of the human failure in witnessing, the witnessing is described by a woman, Helen Bamber, working with survivors from the Belsen concentration camp as it was being liberated:

“People were in very difficult situations, sitting on the floor, they would hold on to you and dig their fingers. into your flesh and they would rock and they would rock and they would rock and we would rock together. You saw people rocking, but the act of rocking together and receiving their pain without recoil was essential. The reason people are so humiliated by terrible assaults on their body and mind is that they have a sense of contamination and the realization I had was that one had to receive everything without recoil. It was one of the important lessons I had in Belsen.”

These two moments are paired together in theory put forth by Adrienne Harris, one of horror and one of enormous capacity to witness. It is our challenge to see how both moments operate in such intimacy. Phobic hatred is a particularly potent brew of social violence and intra-psychic conflicts soldered into racial hatred, homophobic hatred, and even religious hatred. Hatred that often includes a hatred of gender and sexuality.

How similar was the execution of some 58 people and the inflicted injuries of some 500 in a closed arena that mimicked a prison or concentration camp? In this event we see the manifestation of hatred in a type of matrixial space of power and primacy. We see within this psychic space the reverberations of a statement, “We hate them because they . . . .” Here we see the genesis of the truly mad idea that it is the Other that has animated the violence and hatred, bringing destruction upon themselves. Here one may imagine a young child’s feelings of defeat and/or loss of power in an act that reinforces his triumphant. Violent images, practices, excitements, potential and actualized forms of destructiveness and lawlessness: these are at the bedrock of intimacy and they are all formed through these process of seduction and regulation. These manifestations are symptoms that co-exist with our American history. That we are invaded by so much social violence, we need to be able to transform symptoms back into history. Part of this history lay heavily on woman, as it is they who have bore too much of the burden of intimate life, of care, of surveillance, of protection, and seduction. It is this spot, this contact zone, where intimacy, sexuality, bodies, and violent destructiveness meet that we must stand in order to understand collective silences and collective action.