October 15, 2006

On Psychology - Or the Philosophy of Evil and Good

There is no question that Europeans were deeply traumatized by both World War I and World War II in a way that we Americans--who fought in both wars but did not experience destruction on our own soil

I don't think that is why they are the way they are, so I'd have to disagree and say that there is some question. Americans have pride in WWII, Germans don't. It doesn't matter how much destruction there is, so long as you win, a victory is a victory is a victory. Britain for example, are quite proud. But it had nothing to do with not experiencing destruction on their own soil. Britain's problem derives from their sacking of CHurchill after the war and instituting government coerced national unity, in the form of democratic socialism.

Europeans are deeply traumatized by the fact that wars have never brought them prosperity and it has never solved their problems. Until the Americans interfered that is, then they have the Pax Americana to feel resentful about. Americans have had many many wars, and in 90% of them, it has solved our problems. The Revolutionary War solved the question of independence and sovereignty. The Civil War solved the problem of the legality of slavery. The War of 1812 solved the problem of American doubt about national power and status in the world. The Spanish American War. WWI. WWII. Cold War. Gulf War. Korea.

The only wars which we didn't solve anything with, was Vietnam. And even there, it didn't solve anything in our favor. But our beef with Vietnam was over the minute they won, which solved our problem in the whole region. Not in our favor of course, nor in the Vietnamese's favor, but it solved it.

Europe sees American warlikeness and they wonder, "Why are Americans so warlike?". Then they wonder, and yes they did say this in Germany, "Maybe they learned it from us". No, we didn't learn war from the Germans or the Euros. We learned to favor war because wars solve problems, in a way that "debate" and "diplomacy" cannot. Europeans have never solved their social problems with wars. So they don't use war in that manner. The French Revolution? Went Kaput. The English Revolution? Crushed, Oliver Cromwell executed.

If you told France that they would get major moola if they sent people weapons and aircraft, and helped to invade a country, France would support it. If you told France that you need weapons and their help invading a country to solve social problems underlying terrorism, France will say yes but then stab you in the back. War for resources is justified in the European mind, War to solve social and problems of justice are not.

America is the entire opposite. Our wars for resources always sucked and weren't really productive. Our wars for ideology rocked and have brought us much pride and success. Psychologically, it makes sense for Americans to support wars for ideas and Europeans to support wars for resources.

There is a lot of useful perspectives in the American-German carnival on the blogosphere. I've always believed that the best way to learn about Europe was from reading what EUropeans wrote. Mellanie Phillips and Davids Mediencrikit are critical resources.

Europe has become far less religious in recent decades

In the sense that religion is a belief and deals with guilt, anti-Americanism is their religion. It is not that they have become less religious, it is rather that they have converted from the Old Christian religions.

Anti-Americanism gives people the same things Christianity gives them. It gives them a hell and a heaven, a satan and a devil. Those with sins and those without.

What remains as a tool for dealing with guilt is the somewhat secular religion of psychiatry and psychology, and Shrinkwrapped's tale of his patient's treatment reveals some of the limitations of that approach to the problem.

I think the problem with psychological approaches is that it is too intellectual in trying to find root causes and treatments. There are natural tools in the human mind to deal with these things, and psychology instead of using them, actually try to override them. Such things as denial, projection, displacement, no recall, memory block, those things are natural human defenses. Emotional beliefs such as religion, rechannels the mind's mental defenses to get rid of the negative emotions to make people feel better. But it is somewhat irrational in the process. Psychology, in seeking rationality and normal logic, has to discard nature's natural tools. That, without reading Shrink yet, is counter-productive.

I myself have undergone some psychological stress in my life, and even though I could understand it intellectualy and I knew the intellectual solutions and that they would work, that didn't mean emotionally I was changed. Tug of wars between the heart and the mind should not happen, at least if you seek to reconcile some problems.

After having read Shrink's 2nd post, some highlights I might mention.

The gap between what she knew intellectually (that she had no responsibility for what had happened) and what she felt (that she was the descendant of evil) was unbridgeable.

I can personally sympathize with that, since I've experienced it. It is a very weird experience. To understand the problems psychologically, requires that you distance yourself emotionally, which emotions like hate, cruelty, and disgust tends to cloud the issue as Shrink experienced herself in the therapy. And yet the very separation between emotion and thought, renders a person incapable of resolving their own base emotions.

She could not shake the feeling that no matter how much good she did in the world, she came from people capable of the greatest horrors, and could not risk being even in a small way responsible for such evil once again being loosed in the world.

I cannot help but think that a belief in patriotism, and yes nationalism, would have helped her. Not an artificial "intellectual theory" but a heart felt love of her country, of her country's heroes, and of RESPECT for her father's moral integrity in being an anti-Nazi. Respect, love, and admiration for Germany's real heroes, and a deep sadness that the failure of Von Stauffenberg in assassinating Hitler destroyed Germany for all history.

But these things cannot be learned. They can only be felt. And that is the difference between intellect and the heart.

It is hard to describe how deeply she felt this horror and how powerful it was.

I cannot emphasize enough that this woman was the most gentle of souls; the idea that she could hurt another person was enough to make her feel physically ill.


But that is the damn problem in the first place, no disrespect intended. People who have good and compassionate hearts are totally vulnerable to guilt in violence. Gentle people are disturbed and horrified by violence, on a level that ruthless and cruel people are not.

I do not speak with any contempt over being gentle. That is rather impossible. I hated thugs, the military, and anyone who used force when i was growing up. And I never contemplated the use of force to solve anything. Or if I did, I never acted upon it. People change. Gentle people can become torturers. Pacifists can become warmongers. Human behavior is malleable, even if our natures are not.

I cannot emphasize enough that this woman was the most gentle of souls; the idea that she could hurt another person was enough to make her feel physically ill. Yet she could never shake the feeling that at her own core was a horror.

I don't study sado-masochistic sexual fantasies, but from what I've heard, gentle women tend to favor masochistic sexual fantasies. If she had these fantasies before the guilt, then the guilt compounded with her sexual fantasies could be what she fears. This would interfere with her image of herself, it scares her for her to visualize herself as the dominator or as the victim enjoying violence, as the perpetrator of force and evil. And I can imagine that this might produce long term relationship problems.

Children who live with constant hostility and criticism learn to defend against the bad feelings and shame within; and to externalize blame onto others. Projection and paranoia, which are both external assignments of blame, are psychological defenses against shame.

There's another defense against shame, she didn't mention. It is pride. It's an interesting solution. Use one emotion to cancel out the other.

Often this excessive shame is dealt with by humiliating someone perceived as weaker or more worthless than the shamed person (e.g., the family pet, women, Gays, or outside groups serve this function for both individuals and cultures).

Perhaps, for some specific kinds of people. But I cannot help but think that the person who choses pride, will focus on improving himself. Perhaps that is part of the American secret. Americans focus on our pride, not on our shame. The Canadians feel proud of their country, because of their shame in being America's next door neighbors. Canada is actually one of the most patriotic countries in a world wide poll. America and Venezuella seems to top the list. Then there are the French. So why are the French/Canadian pride so different in consequences from American pride? I tend to think it has to do with a lot of other virtues, like honesty, hard work, honor, and loyalty. Same emotion, different results.

My patient resolved her conflicts over aggression, shame, and guilt, by punishing herself, destroying her own future, and making the commitment that she would never be complicit in atrocities again.

Do you see another path? I do. I see one such divergent path. The path that would lead to the destruction of evil itself.

What does it take for a person to decide that violence is evil, but that his duty to fight evil is to punish himsef? How is that different from the person that decides that violence is evil, but that his duty is to control violence in the service of fighting evil?

Not a very broad line to walk. But it is quite easy to imagine.

Their initial response had been denial of the aggression within, buttressed by their almost reflective PC-thought; however, this is not working very well.

It is very scary to see within yourself, and know that you have just as much capacity for violence as those you abhor. Very scary, it takes some courage to not turn away. But if you don't turn away, if you embrace your soul, in both its dark and light aspect as defined by Eastern philosophy, then you might become balanced. There is a serenity, and a calmness, in the eye of the storm. A sense of peace, and I think a sense of peace is what most people in Europe want. But they are not willing to do what is necessary to acquire it, however. In both the philosophical and literal sense.

I believe the "return of the repressed" is already in motion. Tomorrow, I plan to discuss how an unlikely source has confirmed some of my worst fears.

Great, just great. I've always knew our so called allies were worthless sacks of manure, if one were inclined to insult manure handlers that is, but I never thought that they were "crazy". Crazy Europeans vs Crazy Islamics. Just what we need. I can't help but think about WWII and the craziness there. The human race is one bad record, the old records. We keep skipping over and over, but as Neo quoted, not in quite the same manner.

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