Saturday, January 03, 2004

Welcome to the corpus callosum. Today's article will pertain to one of the greatest mysteries that has perplexed psychotherapists for the past hundred years. It has occurred to me that there is a striking parallel to this mystery, and a similar mystery that has perplexed political scientists for the past thousand years or more. The question that has been perplexing psychotherapists is this: why do people keep going back to those who abuse them? The question that has been been perplexing political scientists is: why do people keep electing those who abuse them?

At least part of the answer to the psychotherapist's dilemma is this: after a person has been abused, that person craves protection. It is this craving for protection the drives the person back to the abuser. Abusers who are successful at capturing an audience are invariably people who are able to project an air of competence and power. Typically, abusers are narcissists. (The definition of narcissism is beyond the scope of this article. See http://www.suite101.com/topic_page.cfm/6514/2051 for a brief treatment of this topic.) Such persons characteristically have two basic modes of operating. One mode is to be " calm, cool, and collected. " The second mode is to be rageful. The successful narcissist skilfully weaves these two melodies, to remind the victim that he/she is not safe, all the while imply that staying with the narcissist is the only way to have any hope of ever being safe. In pure form, this personality type is easy to recognize. However, a good narcissist has many disguises.

So it is with politicians. A good politician has many disguises. A good politician always seems to be in control. Yet, a good politician is able to convince others that he/she is capable of exerting power on demand. In modern times, this is done with carefully-scripted, stern-sounding sound bites. (Sound familiar?) Such a politician is most likely to be popular when the people are feeling unsafe. A really clever politician will have ways of making people feel unsafe. Of course, it always must seem to be be someone else who is making the people feel unsafe. Feeling unsafe, the people elect a politician believing that he/she can make the people safe again. Almost universally, this is done in the name of patriotism.

The key to staying safe from abusers and politicians: learn to recognize the multiplicity of their disguises.