Why has academia become so hostile to psychoanalytical self-exploration? A distinguished panel joins Frontpage to discuss this issue. Our guests today are:
Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, a retired physician (prison doctor and psychiatrist), a contributing editor to City Journal and the author of Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.
Dr. Kenneth Levin, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Princeton-trained historian, and a commentator on Israeli politics. He is the author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.
Dr. Nancy Kobrin, a psycho-analyst, Arabist, and counter-terrorism expert.
Dr. Joanie Lachkar, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in private practice in Brentwood and Tarzana, California, who teaches psychoanalysis and is the author of How to Talk to a Narcissist (2007), The Many Faces of Abuse: Treating the Emotional Abuse of High -Functioning Women (1998), and The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment (1992). Dr. Lachkar speaks nationally and recently presented, "The Psychopathology of Terrorism" at the International Psychohistorical Association, and at the Rand Corporation. She is an affiliate member of the New Center for Psychoanalysis, and writes in the Journal of Emotional Abuse.
Dr. David Gutmann, emeritus professor of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.
Lloyd deMause, Director of The Institute for Psychohistory, Editor of The Journal of Psychohistory, founding President of the International Psychohistorical Association and author of seven books and 80 articles on historical motivations. The central thesis of his work is that wars and authoritarian societies have their origins in child abuse. He has demonstrated, for instance, that those who created Nazi Germany and the Holocaust had childhoods in which they were routinely tied up, beaten, raped and tortured and that they then as adults re-inflicted these abuses on Jews and others. See his work at www.psychohistory.com. Interested readers who would like free copies of his work can also email him at email@example.com.
FP: Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, Dr. Kenneth Levin, Dr. Nancy Kobrin, Dr. Joanie Lachkar, Dr. David Gutmann and Lloyd deMause, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Dr. Gutmann, let's begin with you. How would you begin a discussion on the Closing of the American Psyche?
Gutmann: Twenty years ago the philosopher Alan Bloom wrote "The Closing of the American Mind," a powerful indictment of American academia, which he charged with betraying it's central mission: to expose students to great thinking on great matters. "The Great Books" have been condemned as the corrupted products of Dead White Males, off-limits to the enlightened. The new academics, Bloom charged, were depriving students of the nutrition that their developing minds required, leaving them stunted.
But it is not only the rational mental functions that have been deprived; in the last decades the major routes to the Inner Life - the less rational side of the mind, the source of madness but also of creativity - have been blocked as well. All of the usual disciplines through which we studied the personal, social and political expressions of the American unconscious have shut down such investigations in favor of less dangerous excitements. We have witnessed the closing of the American Psyche.
Even psychiatry, a profession devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorder, ignores the unconscious processes, and concentrates instead on the biological (usually neurological) contributions to mental illness. Review the chart of almost any patient in any psychiatric ward of almost any hospital and you will see this avoidance at work: the patient's intimate history of development and trauma has been replaced by a perfunctory history of psychiatric symptoms and interventions - usually a sequence of medications. You will find little or no mention of early developmental history in the family of orientation, or of the fantasy life. Diagnostically useful descriptions of idiosyncratic fears and distortions have been replaced by the blanket term, "delusions" - the implication being that these aberrations are the product of over-excited neurons
rather than a troubled persona.
Psychotherapy has moved in the same "rationalist" direction. Under the sway of Freudian thinking we tried to restore rationality via a paradox: the exploration of the irrational; but nowadays, "Cognitive" therapists work at pointing out and correcting their patient's errors in thinking, without asking why the fearful patient needed these errors, and clung to them, in the first place. This is the new directive in Psychiatry: "Straighten out their thinking; and if that doesn't work, then drug them. And if that doesn't work, then go with electroshock." The same avoidance of the inner life is evident in academia as well.
Sociology and especially Anthropology once used Freudian tools to explore the personal consequences of socializing and acculturating practices, and to trace out the contributions of the emotional life to society and to culture. Some brilliant studies and powerful insights were the result. But here again, we see the withdrawal from the shores of the inner sea, in favor of variables external to the individual - particularly the politically correct dimensions of Race, Ethnicity and Gender. In the Psychodynamic calculus, the troubled individual was not primarily a victim of society, but of his own Motivated Misperceptions – mental constructs which, however painful, served to keep disastrous self-conceptions in check. But if the individual was the author of his own troubles, then the sources of his pain also belonged to him, and he could, with help, undo them. However, under the current Marxist regime in the Social Sciences, the troubled individual is always a Victim, not of himself but of outside forces - the economy, the capitalists, the homophobes, the sexists, George W. Bush - that he can only change through collective revolutionary action.
Today's Social Scientists run away from the frightening but fascinating realm of the inner life, and they disguise their fears by bellowing revolutionary slogans as they skedaddle.
At the Freud museum in London, a movie showed the aged Freud summarizing the history of Psychoanalysis, while crying out: "The resistances were always Inexorable!!"
In the visitor's book I wrote, "Freud: the resistances are STILL inexorable." So here is a question that I would like to propose to the symposium participants: Why, when we were learning to probe deeply into the hidden side of human nature, did we seem to turn tail and run away from what was being revealed to us? Was it indeed the power of the revived resistances? Was it fear of the unknown within ourselves? Did the new generations of practitioners and scholars entering Psychiatry and the Social Sciences bring new ideologies with them? Was it impatience with the theoretical and therapeutic errors of Psychoanalysis?
Was it a fascination with the new tools for exploring the structure and actions of the brain? Was it all of the above?
Again, those are my questions. You will no doubt have your own - as well as your own answers.
DeMause: Dr. Guttmann is absolutely correct and insightful when he accuses academia of ignoring the inner life and irrational fantasies in scholarly research and teachings. I first found this out 40 years ago when I was at Columbia University and had to choose a doctorate topic in the political science department. Since I had also been taking courses at a psychoanalytic institute, I said I would like to research the childhood origins of WWII and the Holocaust, since the Nazis were obviously delusional and no one had investigated what made them so irrational. My Columbia advisor told me: "Oh, no you don't. We don't know Freud here. Columbia is not a democracy, and you do what we want on your dissertation."
I told them to forget about the doctorate, and went out and founded my own scholarly journal studying the irrational motivations of historical individuals and groups, The Journal of Psychohistory, and for over 35 years have gathered hundreds of scholars from both the university social sciences and from psychotherapy and psychiatry and published over 800 articles for subscribers and libraries in 30 nations around the world on psychohistorical motivations and political psychology.
I also founded an Institute for Psychohistory in NYC, with 30 branches around the world, and an International Psychohistorical Association that has had conventions for 31 years where scholars from many countries share their research into inner emotional life and social behavior.
We have learned in developing these organizations that the main opposition from academics and even psychiatrists to psychohistory is their reluctance to admit that their own emotions affect their lives, so mostly we get people who besides their formal training in universities have had some psychotherapy themselves and can actually imagine that their developmental history is important, so the developmental history of their historical subjects might also be important.
We also have found that those who know the more recent theories in psychoanalysis beyond the instinct-based theories of Freud a century ago can more easily apply them to historical groups. It doesn't help much if you are investigating terrorism to think, as Freud and Jung did, that you inherit death wishes in your genes since terrorism occurs in certain places and times and not others and gene pools of nations do not change. Instead, more recent theories of early childhood attachments and of how early abuse is replayed out in adult life lead one to investigate the terrible child abuse and neglect of Islamic families that lead to acting out of violence in later life.
When good psychoanalytic theory is applied to research in the inner life of historical actors you are able to see the psychogenic, not just the genetic, sources of historical violence. "The resistances are STILL inexorable," as Dr. Guttmann rightly says, but there are now college courses and institutes in dozens of countries studying the books and journal articles we are turning out.
Kobrin: The previous comments and questions make me think of perhaps one of the most pressing issues functioning behind the scenes – terrorism in academia. I agree with Dr. Gutmann that the vast majority of people do not want to think and feel. They want it easy because they are terrified and they don't even know it. I have an unusual background coming from the Humanities and yet having become a psychoanalyst.
Like Mr. DeMause, I also experienced terrorism in academia. While working on my doctorate in comparative literature, I wound up on a training analyst couch. I never intended to become a psychoanalyst. I subsequently trained with psychiatry residents and then taught and supervised them.
Prior to that I had been studying Arabic and Aljamia. I wanted to be open minded as a Jewish woman having spent years studying Hebrew and Ladino so I studied Arabic and Aljamía. Yet I increasingly sensed that the department was anti-Semitic, pro-PLO in the 80s.
In 1983, I finished my dissertation under an adviser who was a Lebanese Christian. As he lay dying, he gave me his invitation to present at a conference in Tunisia in his stead. Meanwhile Arafat was ensconced about a mile away from the conference in La Marsa. I got to the conference and realized that the Saudis were funding it as they had already infiltrated academia.
On the psychoanalytic front it was okay to use it if it had a Marxist bent like Deleuze and Guattari or Lacanian. It was politically incorrect to experience psychoanalysis as a therapy and worse than that to be a clinician.
Having also served as director of graduate studies, academia functions like a cult with its charismatic intolerant leaders and the horde mentality of vulnerable students who are pawns in power plays.
To be sure, the slippery nature of the personality further complicates the matter. Additional questions that come to mind are – while Christopher Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism, are we now dealing with a Culture of "Borderline-ism"? Certainly David Horowitz is spot on in confronting academia. It is a way to "open the closed circle" of academia's cult and hence, opening such a closed mind.
Dalrymple: I would like to provide a slightly different perspective. What I am about to say cannot be proved in the scientific sense, but is merely the result of observation and intuition.
I think that the thinning of the way in which we account for the psyche (not just in America but elsewhere) is paralleled by the thinning of the psyche itself.
First let me say something about the thinning of the psyche, or the character, or the personality. We seem to live in highly individualistic societies, but societies without much individuality. (Individualism and individuality are very different.) No doubt there are many reasons for this. One of the things that strikes me about people nowadays is how little they like to be alone, at least alone without any stimulation from electronic apparatus. We cannot be in a bar, an airport, a store, a railway station, and in some cases a bus or train without having stimuli poured into us as if we were too fragile for our own thoughts and had to be entertained 100 per cent of the time. A high proportion of homes have televisions or computers constantly illuminated, often several at once. Young people now cannot bear silence; it makes them nervous, confronting them with their own thoughts. But a capacity to bear silence, and even a desire for it, are necessary for concentration, contemplation, reflection and probably for creativity.
Social pressures to conform to demotic tastes are, paradoxically in an age of mass bohemianisation, very strong, much stronger than, say, 50 years ago, which is thought to have been an age of conformity. In the name of diversity and the freedom of the individual, uniformity develops. That is why the spread of tattooing is an interesting phenomenon. People try to establish themselves as individuals by having a tattoo of a butterfly on, say, their left buttock.
The cult of celebrity is important here. Most celebrities are pretty mediocre, perhaps with one talent. What is important is the combination of glamour and banality. In the cult of celebrity, ordinary people worship themselves. Unfortunately, the glamorous nature of life conferred by celebrity renders ordinary but perfectly honorable and indeed essential occupations a wound to the ego.
As for psychiatry, I think there are two aspects of it that have done damage. The first is psychotherapy in the debased version that has entered popular culture. This has resulted in psychobabble, which consists largely of talking about oneself without revealing anything of oneself, and as a substitute for genuine self-examination. If psychobabble is indulged in for too long, it actually empties the mind and character of real content.
The second aspect is DSMIII and DSMIV. In trying to become more scientific by operationalising its definitions, psychiatry has become terribly thin. It is as if psychiatry had automata for patients. The definition of depression in the DSM, for example, empties life of all meaning and consists simply of a checklist. The DSMs are to psychiatry what behaviourism was to psychology. I do not think it is necessary to be a Freudian to criticise this dehumanising trend.
If you read the 19th Century French psychiatrists, say, and then a current textbook, you will see that for all our technical sophistication, a great deal of real understanding has been lost.
Lachkar: I share the sentiments with my colleagues that the very profession that professes to analyze one's inner life has been hijacked and replaced by such perfunctory therapeutic modalities as psychopharmacology, cognitive and behavioral therapy, and dialectic behavioral therapy, focusing more on the external than the inner world with all its delusions and distortions. We could say psychiatry and psychoanalysis has become a victim of its own defense--regression. Perhaps the "Closing of the American Psyche," has been invaded by the American Dream, a collective group fantasy offering a false delusion of happiness at the expense of real thinking and analytic exploration.
I would like to share my personal experience as did deMause and Kobrin. When I was looking for an analyst to chair my dissertation, "The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Psychoanalytic Study," I could not find a chairperson. I was met with such remarks as, "It is impossible to analyze an entire group of people; psychoanalysis is meant for the individual." Several prominent analysts at our institute turned me down (couldn't think outside the box). Then, finally, Dr. James Grotstein, renowned scholar and Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and author or numerous books and publications, enthusiastically embraced the idea of expanding the use of in-depth psychoanalytic principles and tools to apply to political conflict. In providing justification and to avoid making wild speculations or stereotyping, he noted that we do not have the right to analyze an entire nation or culture, but we do have the right to analyze the myths, the religious, child rearing practices as well as the collective group fantasies (very much as an analyst would analyze a patient's dream).
Peter Loewenberg in his article "Kristallnacht" (1987) was one of the first along with Lloyd deMause in analyzing Hilter's Holocaust to recognize that one cannot get rid of violent behavior without understanding projective identification, how one rids of a despised hated part of oneself to project onto his victims (the dirty/anal part—the Jews). I think deMause clearly dispels the myth of democracy at Columbia when he is "ordered" to think as they think and not as an individual. Nancy Kobrin expresses another irony that it is "politically incorrect to experience psychoanalysis." Translated at the unconscious level, one might say that one must conform to the group and any outside "thinker" or as Bion refers to it: the "thinker without a thought." This person will be ostracized from the group. What a bitter paradox.
This brings me to Dalrymple's point about how people cannot tolerate being alone and need to saturate themselves with noise or any outside stimulation as if we are too fragile. I'm sure many on our panel are familiar with the works of Wilfred Bion (1957), and would like for a moment to have this analyst revisited. Bion's basic sign of mental health is the capacity to tolerate and live in a state of not knowing, chaos, and confusion without have to join up with others for the quick relief—the state of "O." I thank you all for giving me this opportunity to express what has for a long time been very troublesome to me.
Levin: I believe we cannot talk about the closing of the American psyche without emphasizing the corruption of American academia or, as Dr. Kobrin put it, "terrorism in academia."
We can note, as several panelists have, factors within psychiatry, and medicine more broadly, that have dramatically marginalized the teaching and clinical use of psychoanalytic psychodynamics. These factors include developments in psychopharmacology and the neurosciences and, perhaps most importantly, the pressures from government and private insurers to promote cheaper "fixes" to mental illnesses - medications, etcetera - over serious psychotherapy.
But looking beyond psychiatry and medicine, and turning particularly to the former widespread and fruitful application of psychoanalytic and related psychodynamic insights to issues in the social sciences and humanities and the current virtual proscription of such work, the explanation lies in psychoanalytic psychodynamics presently being perceived as subversive, which indeed it is in the context of today's academia.
As Dr. Guttmann notes, psychoanalytic psychodynamics, in its clinical application, is essentially a tool for helping troubled people recognize how they have developed ways of looking at themselves and their relations with others that have contributed to their own misery, and helping them liberate themselves from those self-defeating patterns. But in the orthodoxies of today's academia, all misery is politicized and seen as the inevitable consequence of the actions of nefarious external agents.
Not only are many of today's academic gatekeepers not interested in seeing individuals take responsibility for their own unhappiness and seek to liberate themselves; they prefer to have that unhappiness become a political tool to be harnessed to political objectives. The traditional social sciences and humanities, and new "disciplines" such as gender studies, have widely cast off any valuing of disinterested inquiry and have replaced such inquiry with the valuing of narrowly construed political advocacy.
Dr. DeMause has written and spoken of child abuse and neglect in Islamic families and their leading to acts of violence in later life. Similar observations have been made about German child-rearing practices prior to the rise of Nazism. Part of the agenda of both the Nazis and today's Islamo-fascists has been harnessing to the service of their genocidal ideologies everything that predisposes their peoples to violence. In a similar way, the agenda of today's ideology-driven academics is harnessing to their "cause" everything that predisposes their students to unhappiness, discontent and free-floating anger. I fully concur with Dr. Kobrin's statement that in much of academia today intolerant teachers exploit for their own political ends mentally vulnerable students. I also agree with her on the yeoman service done by David Horowitz in exposing the rot in contemporary academia.
Dr. Kobrin also notes her own experiences in encountering anti-Semitism in academia and in getting a first-hand glimpse of how Saudi money promotes intolerance and an extremist political agenda in Middle East-related studies. The corruption of Middle East Studies departments presents a paradigm that extends beyond our universities. The Saudis have also been funding, often through sympathetic university academics, the preparation of Middle East-related and Islam-related curricula, all with a biased political agenda, to be promoted for use in American public and private schools. This is one illustration, among many others readily available, that the corruption of education, the substitution of enlightenment by indoctrination, reaches well beyond our universities and is permeating our education system at all levels.
An education system that opposes, at least in much of the humanities and social sciences, students' free exploration of subjects of interest without bias and without pre-formed conclusions is hardly going to be receptive to students' free, unbiased, psychodynamically informed, exploration of their personal motivations and objectives, explorations aimed at self-liberation even as their educators seek to narrow and channel their "freedom" to illiberal political ends.
FP: So what is to be done?
Gutmann: The other contributors agree that academia, particularly in the social sciences, in the humanities and in medicine, has played a major role in shutting down access to the inner life.
The academics have also shut down access to research funds for psychodynamic investigators in psychology, the humanities and Anthropology. Outside of academia, the visual arts have become increasingly abstract and "conceptual," thus depriving our psyches of the vivid images that match the dramas of the inner world (nobody, not even an abstract-impressionist painter, has abstract-impressionist dreams – or delusions).
But Dalrymple suggests that our real antagonists are not poorly analyzed or never-analyzed Marxist professors. The real opposition comes from the very subject of our investigations – the American mind itself – which, in Dalrymple's view, is an empty vessel that requires constant filling from external and (usually) electronic sources of stimulation:
"I think that the thinning of the way in which we account for the psyche (not just in America but elsewhere) is paralleled by the thinning of the psyche itself."
Dalrymple's striking observation excites in me a mix of excitement and depression: excitement over its boldness, depression over the bleak prospects for our society and culture. In an effort to harness the excitement and to cope with my depression I suggest a few alternate explanations for the phenomena that Dalrymple describes.
The first is that Dalrymple may not be observing essential emptiness but something that mimics it: a sub-acute depressive syndrome endemic in much of the population. That syndrome is being treated by massive doses of noise, bright lights, booze, drugs and random sexual coupling. Depression may not be much preferable to psychic thinning, but it is at least reversible.
Along similar lines, here is another hunch: that the inner life of Americans is far from "thin." Instead, it can be too tumultuous, and many Americans swamp their ears and eyes with compelling external stimuli in order to drown out the insistent, unwelcome messages welling up from within.
Bear in mind that contact with the inner life can inflict narcissistic wounds: the internal world is the repository of our cherished dreams, but also of all the grubby appetites and infantile longings that threaten our fragile self-esteem. Accordingly, in our narcissistic epoch, the inner life will be shunned, and the "ME Generation" will seek out the rock stars, the hip teachers, the gurus, the therapists, and the sex partners who help them drown it out. Freud's "Inexorable resistances" are not forced on Americans by repressive authorities; instead, in the absence of reliable internal boundaries, many Americans may be searching for and even creating the external agents of repression.
Jamie asks, "What is to be done?" If my second hypothesis - that Americans are covertly collaborating with their "repressors" to create a culture of externalization - is correct, then the only possible answer is, "very little."
Nevertheless, as Robinson Jeffers once reminded us, "Corruption is not compulsory," and in America individuals and groups who elect to stand aside from a deculturating society are still free to band together, to construct their own institutes, their own schools, their own dialogues, and even their own communities.
The Irish monks in their monasteries preserved classical wisdom during the Dark Ages; those who are interested in preserving the culture of dedicated internal and external exploration, free of suffocating political dogmas, still have the opportunity to do the same.
"When the cities lie at the monster's feet, there are yet the mountains."
DeMause: I cannot agree more with all the above commentators about the need in academia and in much of American intellectual life to externalize and drown out their inner life with external noise. But as Gutmann so well says, this isn't just "emptiness," it is really defenses against inner conflict and depression. The cause? You really must study what childrearing was like just one generation ago, in the 1970s and 1980s. The overwhelming majority of children in America were then battered badly and routinely (as I was in my childhood in the 1930s), their individuality was badly discouraged by their parents and teachers, they were taught to obey not individuate or invent, and good studies even show a majority of girls were sexually abused -- yes, a majority -- and about a third of boys too, imprinting traumas from all these abusive childhoods in their amygdalan fear centers. That is what the "emptiness" really is. Defenses against fear, fear of individuality.
Psychoanalytic theory in the past two decades has caught up with this new picture of the psyche in the discoveries of attachment theorists from Bowlby to Masterson (Masterson has in fact revised the DSM checklist radically), showing that all neurosis and even psychosis is due to "abandonment depression" and a flight from the search for your true self. Psychotherapists are beginning to apply these theories to their patients, and psychohistorians apply them to societies, past and present. Any readers who would like a free copy of the Journal of Psychohistory issue on "The Childhood Origins of WWII and the Holocaust," just email me at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With childrearing improving a lot (especially in Europe, where nations now give mothers three years of pay when they have children), this "flight from the self" is decreasing and society is changing. I just finished reading a book called "Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?" by James Sheehan that tells of how, in many European nations, certain children have had better childrearing – and as adults they do not idealize military service and are not nationalistic in the military sense. After centuries of starting wars every 25 years, nations like Austria now are not militaristic.
Perhaps wars do require abusive childrearing as their underpinning, as we say in our Journal. Perhaps with more loving childrearing we can negotiate international differences rather than sending up missiles. Perhaps we can even think in academia, think about our emotions and how they cause social problems. Perhaps, some day, we can even think about the causes of all violence and reduce it radically. At least, that's my dream and the goal of my life.
Kobrin: Thank you, Dr. Levin, for publicly acknowledging how terribly difficult it must have been to train under such adverse circumstances. No student should have to study in such an environment.
I encounter resistance, even intolerance and have been ridiculed for my thinking about terrorism. I take it as a backhanded compliment riddled with the unconscious disclosure of how terrified the bullying ridiculer is. The majority of people want it "simple." I am not sure that it has significantly changed over the generations. I tend to think not. People are people. It is a minority who has a need to make sense out of reality. The majority do not.
I cannot paint as bleak a picture about tattooing, nose rings or internet use as symptoms of the thinning of the psyche. These kinds of things have pluses and minuses. Each individual needs to discover for themselves what works and what doesn't and maybe in the process they will ponder why and what is it that they are trying to express, process and work through. Indeed these experiences may even be helpful in the mastery of traumatic experience. I am a practical person in this regard.
I have one caveat about psychoanalytic thinking that it can remain "too much inside the head" and as I write this, perhaps this contributed to its becoming closed out of academia. It is scary for many people. People tend to be highly dissociated from experience because life can be and is for many quite terrifying. The technological toys are attempts at connection. There is something to be said about concrete experience.
What can be done? I wish I had an eloquent answer. There is no quick fix and I can only speak for myself – keep plugging away, keep trying to explain what is going on in order to open the discussion. I feel that David Horowitz's project for academia is incredibly necessary and FP provides the space that hitherto has been closed for this I am profoundly grateful.
Dalrymple: Let me focus on Dr. DeMause's assertion that most children brought up in the 1970s and 80s in America were battered or sexually abused, or both. I confess that I find this frankly incredible.
In England, my father would sometimes (not often, rarely in fact) beat me with a garden bamboo cane, and my mother once bent me over her knee and smacked me with a slipper, and in the process my forehead accidentally hit the side of a chair and I needed a stitch or two. I had thrown a hammer at my brother and it had flown over the garden fence and landed on the tea tray of our 80 year old next door neighbour. I deserved punishment.
I regard it as preposterous to say that I was a battered child, or to suppose that my parents, whatever their defects, were sadists. I did not grow up to be xenophobic, militaristic, physically aggressive or anything of the sort.
No doubt, however, some people might say I was battered, and induce a state of self-pity in me. In fact, the inducement of an awareness of one's status as a victim, by virtue of having suffered almost any kind of distressing event, seems to me one of the no doubt unintended effects of the spread of psychological, psychiatric and psychoanalytical ways of thinking into the general culture. All judgment, said Doctor Johnson, is comparative; but the intense focus on the self, rather than on the world, deprives one of any ability to judge, to put one's own sufferings or disgruntlements into any kind of perspective.
I therefore cannot entirely agree that a focus on the world, rather than on internal conflicts, is a bad thing; it depends on the reasons why one focuses on the outer world. History is now often taught as the backward projection of current discontents; there seems to me little attempt to imagine that people in the past may have reacted to the world differently from us, and our concerns or obsessions may not have been theirs. In other words, the focus on the outer world is really merely an attempt to justify and maintain our own sense of victimization, though by most counts we are the most fortunate people who ever lived. A sense of victimhood is, of course, an answer to the existential anxieties in people to whom the consolations of religion are not available, but resentment is a useless and indeed harmful emotion, though a beguiling one.
As to our demand for constant stimulation, I think it is more an attempt to fill a vacuum than to drown out too complex or 'noisy' an inner life, as schizophrenics sometimes try to drown out their hallucinations, but I cannot prove this.
I would like to protest at the idea of self-esteem being a positive quality. It is not. It is solipsistic and antisocial. Criminals are full of it. I think we should, as people living in a civilized society, talk of self-respect, which is a social quality, rather than self-esteem, which is purely narcissistic.
Finally, what is to be done? Cultural processes are complex and not easily prescribed. I think it is important that we should have an understanding that human existence has frustrations built into it, or, as Keats puts it, Ay, in the very temple of delight/Veiled melancholy has her sovran shrine. Mature people do not expect to be happy all the time, to go from high to high without interruption. I think we have lost this appreciation, but it cannot be taught like arithmetical tables can be taught. So I think intellectuals have a lot to do to try to help people to a more realistic view of life's possibilities.
FP: I think Dr. Dalrymple is right in questioning Dr. DeMause's point about most children being brought up in the U.S. in the 1970s and 80s being battered or sexually abused. It definitely sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. But when Dr. DeMause refers to people who were battered, I don't think he is referring to individuals like Dr. Dalrymple who might have been disciplined now and again but who, as he describes, were clearly not battered -- as many children were. Dr. DeMause is talking about children who truly were battered -- and he is discussing the influences this has on a culture.
Now of course this is all a bit difficult to calculate in terms of percentages etc.
One thing is for sure, however: what happens to Arab and Palestinian children as youths, for instance, and how they are abused and live in a culture of sexual repression etc., this surely has a huge influence on engendering a society of rage that seeks to strike out not only at women but also at the foreign "enemy.".
Lachkar: I am in appreciation of Dr. Kobrin's concept of "terrorism in academics." She speaks of intolerant teachers who exploit their students for their own self serving purposes. This is a very powerful point and should be expanded into our studies.
Dr. Levin supports this notion by saying psychodynamic psychotherapy has become subversive, while Dr. Guttmann notes that we have abandoned our inner selves only to be replaced by external "nefarious agents."
Where does this all come together? What is the intention or main goal of psychotherapy?
According to many theorists, the goal is to develop a sense of self or what Winnicott refers to as the "true self" as opposed to the "false self." In essence, this means to find one's own voice and to express openly and honestly one's own opinion without getting sucked into the distortions, delusions, projections and misperceptions of others. Perhaps this is what prompted Guttman to validate Dalrymple notion of how we "Americans" are like empty vessels "thinning of the psyche." But what was missing for me in this analysis was the reason why we give way to these externalized "quick fixes" and go along with teachers, professors, politicians giving up our own ideas (feeding into their grandiose selves). The bitter paradox is that the more we do that the more empty we become, In the final analysis, we could conclude that the more we give way to these externalized "quick fixes" and repress our minds with submission or conformity, the more empty we become.
So what is to be done Jamie asks? First, I would prepare every student before entering college, not to believe everything that they are told, but to question, challenge, think independently. I would prepare students for the dangers of the mass and group like thinking, more especially cult-like behaviors, to teach students the dangers of conformity. Teach them that everyone has a need to belong and get along, but the price to pay is the loss of individuality, sense of self and creative thinking. Yes, be suspicious of such courses such as gender and Islamic studies. Are these courses designed to question and challenge? If I were a mother of a child who attended a college that was supported by the Saudis, I would remove my child from that school, and would encourage others to do the same. Perhaps we could form a web site of scholars who believe in our cause, something like "Children's Voices," or perhaps some already established groups like Professor Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch and Stand With Us, excellent organizations that are aware of these dangerous state of affairs.
In response to deMause and Dalrymple, I agree with Jamie that one cannot compare Dr. Dalrymple's "abuse" experience with that of deMause's. DeMause's was omnipresent and consistent, whereas Dalrymple was an occasional attempt at discipline. The point deMause makes is that children who are physically and emotionally subjected to parental and governmental abuse, grow up with not only fear that makes them repress their true selves.
Levin: I have difficulty subscribing to Dr. DeMause's assertion that the overwhelming majority of children in America were routinely and badly battered in the 1970s and 1980s and question data that support that claim. Certainly many were badly abused, as they had been in prior generations. My own perception of what was most notably different in the child-rearing of the last three to four decades was the extent to which children were left on their own, either because both parents were working or because the children were in one-parent households and that parent was working.
This neglect has widely engendered a sense of emptiness, detachment and primitive narcissism. I believe this can perhaps be seen in Europe even more clearly than in America. One notable consequence of that narcissism is the precipitous drop in birth rates in Europe - significantly more dramatic than in the United States - as those of childbearing age deem child-rearing too demanding, requiring too great a compromise of their pleasure-seeking as they strive to fill up the emptiness within them.
I also question Dr. DeMause's attributing the decline of interest in military service in Europe to more benign child-rearing practices there. Certainly there is a correlation between being physically abused as a child and sadistic impulses later in life, and some may be attracted to the military as a potential outlet for such impulses. It is no less true that, among the reasons people join the military, many in America do so out of a sense of communal obligation. At the same time, many who denigrate such a choice do so in large part because their own narcissism renders such an impulse to communal service, to a willingness to risk one's own well-being for the protection of others, beyond their ability to comprehend.
Totalitarian regimes specifically recruit the abused and sadistic in their societies, explicitly declare that their society is faced with "eternal" enemies - defined less by any actual aggressive deeds than by religion or race or ethnicity or nationality - whom it will be the recruits' duty and purpose to destroy.
In contrast, in most democratic societies what is held up as the highest objective of the military and the greatest mark of its success is to prevent war by presenting such an image of strength to those who would wish the society ill that they choose not to act on that wish. This is hardly an objective designed to attract the society's sadists, even if some are nevertheless drawn to the military.
Those whose early experience entailed chronic neglect, growing up without a family-provided sense of meaning and connection, and who emerged from childhood empty, detached, narcissistic, will, like those who emerge from their growing up with other types of psychopathology, be vulnerable, in today's academia, to having their unhappiness politicized and cast as the consequence of evil external forces.
Dr. Lachkar raises the question of why the scarred or compromised psyche allows itself to be filled up by the political formulas purveyed by much of the professoriat. Part of the seductiveness of agenda-driven academics, part of their preying upon the psychologically vulnerable, is to cast their selling of their politics as an inducting of the students into a select sodality of the enlightened, superior to the hoi polloi, seers of truth, of the true, political causes of human misery, including their own misery, while the vast majority of people are blind to it.
In earlier decades, when the principle objective of education, including in the humanities and social sciences, was not indoctrination but teaching students how to think, how to seek out data, weigh evidence and arguments, and judge for themselves, the impact of such an education, the freedom of thought it engendered, often itself led individuals to self-examination and even to psychotherapy to address what they at least dimly came to recognize as self-imposed limits on their own freedom and capacity for fully living and enjoying the lives that were available to them. Education then in this respect, too, fostered the opening of the psyche, instead of militating for its closing.
What is to be done? Beyond educating the public to the rot in our universities, and indeed in our schools at all levels, and challenging the substitution of indoctrination for education, I believe perhaps one step that may have a salutary impact is to mobilize parents who are paying for their children's university education. Parents seeing their children being indoctrinated rather than educated - seeing it in biased, politicized syllabi and in their children's reports of classroom censorship and one-sided presentations of complex and contentious issues - should be encouraged to sue the universities for selling a shoddy and substandard product, promising education and providing something else, something actually inimical to education.
Gutmann: While I agree with DeMause that American kids used to be routinely thumped by their parents, I don't believe that such practices produced all the social pathologies that he lists. The truly destructive abuse is more apt to be social-psychological than purely physical in nature. Thus, Levin points to the toxic effects of abandonment: divorcing parents who never laid a hand on their offspring have wrecked far more kids than spanking ever did. But right or wrong, De Mause opened up a controversy that has engaged most of the participants, and they have come up with insights that bear on the closing of the psyche.
For me the central issue has to do with what I have termed the "Culture of Externalization:" the shared and growing tendency to look outside the psyche for distracting stimulation, for justification and for control. Documenting this notion, DeMause would say that brutal parents have raised generations of frightened people, who seek external rather than inner direction: they fear that their inner promptings, if heeded, will get them into bad trouble. In his turn, Dalrymple argues that the "thinned out" contemporary psyche can only be filled by external, outer world stimuli, while Levin puts much of the blame on proselytizing teachers, who stifle their student's capacity to think for themselves in order to stuff their depleted heads with radical propaganda.
I continue to dispute Dalrymple's notion of thinned-out psyches. The inner life contains the human unconscious - an evolutionary adaptation million of years in the making, that serves to restrain primitive, infantile impulses. If they were acted out instead of being contained in the unconscious, such urges would interfere with sensible thinking, with effective behavior and with harmonious group living. As such, the human unconscious appears to distinguish us from even the most advanced sub-human primates, and I do not believe that it would "thin-out" in the span of a few generations. But I heartily agree with Dalrymple's major insight, seconded by Levin, that much external input, coming from teachers, media and pop culture, serves to reinforce the individual's sense of victimization by malign social forces.
Victimhood is the new pseudo-identity, one that implies a dramatic history, comrades who share that history, a cause to fight for, heroes to venerate and persecutors to hate. But the victim identity must be constantly refreshed from outer sources – the battle against the victimizing forces can never, must never, be finally won. The victim sponsors and even creates his victimizer.
Here perhaps is a partial answer to the question raised by Dr. Lachkar, namely, "why do we give way to these externalized "quick fixes" and go along with teachers, professors, politicians… giving up our own ideas?" The answer may be that we hunger for and even generate those quick fixes that, to quote Dalrymple again, "justify and maintain our own sense of victimization." In a time and culture that celebrates victimhood, the psyche closes itself.
DeMause: It is not surprising that most respondents to my posting above did not think physical and sexual abuse of Americans was as high as I stated. I have been researching all the studies of abuse for over 45 years, along with about 30 of my fellow childhood historians, and publishing our evidence for 36 years in my Journal of Psychohistory and my seven books on the subject, and most academics still have not read any of this massive work. Americans in recent decades battered the majority of their little children routinely and 45 percent of girls and 30 percent of American boys remember being sexually abused as children. The Canadian and U.K. figures are slightly higher. I will be happy to email anyone who asks for it a speech I gave at King's College, London recently that cites the sources for these studies. Just contact me at email@example.com).
In the past four decades, I have also published widely on the way physical and sexual abuse in childhood implants alternate personalities in the right amygdala of the brain ("alters"), and the precise psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that require the re-enactment of early abuse in homicide and war.
Overall, I have shown how violent criminals and violent leaders and nations re-enact early traumas, and would be pleased to email anyone who contacts me my chapter of my new book "The Origins of War in Child Abuse" that is on the neurobiology of violence. Perhaps after seeing the excellent evidence in hundreds of clinical and social science studies it will not seem so "incredible" that childhood fears remain in our brains from child abuse and neglect and are then acted out in social violence and wars. As one prison psychiatrist reported, "every one of the violent criminals I interviewed was horribly abused as a child, and told me things like 'I never felt I had any respect until I get a gun in my hands.'"
Kobrin: I don't think that the problem of victimization must be traced back to child abuse exclusively – no matter what the statistics might be. The problem is one of narcissism which is a double-edged sword in that the narcissist seeks to be special but at the same time desperately craves the need for approval. Abused children are terrified to express their own thoughts because their survival strategy is to submit and comply. This is understandable especially since their entire lives have been under the will and domination of others.
Furthermore child abuse can not possibly account for the current state of academia as a cultural reflection of political correctness' closed mind riddled by its terrors. It is a piece of the puzzle but such a closed mind or thinning of the psyche is an indicator of not being able to be proactive while moving through the layer of terrors coming to choose not to externalize and not to blame pervasively. In this regard I ascribe to Dr. Gutmann and Dr. Levin's conceptualizations of cultural narcissism and the stifling nature of the superficiality of life today. People are terrified to be vulnerable. Few wish to really think through, feel and process problems.
Dr. Lachkar's mentions the true and false self which merits much closer attention. However, the binary is more complicated than meets the eye. Winnicott was revolutionary in his thinking about how people engaged the world. Time doesn't permit the discussion to move deeper into Object Relations and the use of hard objects. I loved the image of Dr. Dalrymple throwing a hammer across the fence and smashing his elderly neighbor's tea pot. I won't analyze that! It does, however, call to mind how hard it is for us as human beings to contain rage, to find the words that help defuse that rage and above all to connect with others. Bonding through rage is the strategy of the terrorist. Ironically it is also a quest for intimacy – the proverbial elephant in the room. A secure maternal attachment provides the ground upon which intimacy is nurtured. This permits the mind to think freely and to live in a confident and competent way which in turn generates compassion and empathy for others, something which is in short supply.
Dalrymple: I must confess that I hesitated before admitting to having thrown the hammer that landed on my neighbor's tea table in case conclusions about me might be drawn!
I wanted in my last contribution to mention something that I have noticed in my clinic: the lack of genuine love in our society (I'm talking now of Britain), which leads to children being simultaneously over-indulged and neglected. Many parents would come to me and say 'Why has Johnny turned out so horrible? We gave him everything.' By everything, they usually mean a television in his room and the latest fashionable footwear (fantastically expensive). But they have not given him time or attention. It is a fact that far more British children live with a television in their room than with a biological father in the household. This strikes me as truly appalling. It is hardly surprising in the circumstances that children come to regard material objects as indicators of well-being, from which the more intelligent of them will deduce that a lack of equality in material objects is a sign of great injustice.
I also believe, though I cannot prove, that people require or at least crave a sense of transcendence. It can come from several sources: religion, culture, family, knowledge, science, art, etc . One important source, of course, is a political cause: Marxism persuaded people that they were part of the immanence of history, or History, and this gave meaning to their lives when they could not believe in anything else. When sources of transcendence such as art and science - to say nothing of religion - are not compelling to people, and all of which necessitate the development of inwardness, the temptation will be to seek meaning in causes - some of which, of course, may be good.
When the Soviet Union disintegrated, at least as a source of transcendent politics, I thought there would be an end of ideology. I was mistaken. Ideology became Balkanized. You can see this even in bookshops where books are arranged not so much by subject as by interest group, most people apparently wanting to read about their own grievances. Indeed, in many instances the study of history appears to have become the projection of current preoccupations on to the past.
So the ultimate problem, I suppose, is the absence of love in people's lives. I have been very struck by how girls who get pregnant early say they want someone to love and to love them. It is a terrible way to achieve this end, and it almost never works, but it is understandable. The middle classes and well-educated have causes as their teenage pregnancy substitutes.
How to repair it? I don't know - or rather I hardly dare utter proposals.
FP: Words of profound wisdom Dr. Dalymple, thank you.
Dr. Lachkar, go ahead.
Lachkar: DeMause is clearly at the forefront in understanding childhood violations supported by governmental abuse that supports the mistreatment of woman and children throughout the ages and various cultures. He maintains that the cause of childhood abuse is inextricably linked to child-rearing practices and offers a chilling account of life in Islamic fundamentalist societies filled with violence, cruelty and sexual exploitation of children. Although he expands this kind of violence to Western culture, I agree with Levin and Gutmann that today's emphasis is more based on the ever changing role in the American family. There are perilous effects of the destruction of the family, divorce, single parent families, working mothers, latch-key kids, parents that abandon, neglect and deprive their children without support or extended families.
Perhaps we could label this more as emotional abuse, a form of abuse that can be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse. I guess this leads up to why the inner life becomes so limited and everything externalized for moments of pleasure. Even more dangerous for our children is to go along with professors who brainwash their minds. They target these children as puppets. Here I agree with Levin, earlier I said I would take my child out of any school that forced children to go along with certain belief systems. To be honest I feared to say that I would actually sue the school, as Levin stated. I believe my overall fear had to do with Sharia financial. Sharia laws are now not only taking over our country, our city and our schools, but now our banks.
Levin: Dr. Kobrin notes that while terrorist recruitment plays largely upon bonding through rage, and thus targets particularly those whose early experiences of abuse and/or neglect have engendered rage, such recruitment also plays upon the quest for intimacy. Among those exposed to early abuse and deprivation, that quest for intimacy is likewise intense and at the same time unfocused, unable to comprehend gratification in "normal" relationships. This is an important point, which again speaks to Dr. Lachkar's question of why the scarred or compromised psyche allows itself to be filled up by the political formulas purveyed in much of academia.
As I suggested in my last comments, part of the preying upon the psychologically vulnerable by both totalitarian, terrorist regimes and movements and the "terrorist," doctrinaire professoriat, is to cast their selling of their political agenda as an inducting of the recruit into an elite, "intimate" sodality.
Dr. Dalrymple suggests a universal craving for a "sense of transcendence" and notes that totalitarian movements can play upon this craving as well. I concur. Nazism, Communism, Islamo-fascism, and, of course, indoctrinating academics, all seek to recruit in part by presenting their "cause" as giving transcendent meaning to the lives of those who sign on.
But while the desire for a sense of transcendence may be universal, it, like the quest for intimacy, is a particularly unfocused, nebulous yearning among those whose early experience was marked by abuse and/or neglect. It is therefore particularly such people who are ripe for buying the "transcendence" sold by totalitarian hucksters and their academic kindred spirits.
In contrast, those who enjoyed a more benign, supportive, nurturing and loving early family experience will be more predisposed to seeking and finding intimacy, and even transcendent meaning, in recapitulating in their own lives, and most notably in the family they create, the kind of rapports they knew in their family of origin. They are therefore better armed to resist the blandishments of the totalitarian recruiter. This also speaks again to why the academic purveyors of political indoctrination tend to be so hostile to psychoanalytic and related psychodynamic self-exploration. To the degree that psychodynamic psychotherapy can provide a corrective experience to abuse/neglect suffered in childhood, it helps arm the patient against the enticements - including false intimacy and transcendence - pushed by the indoctrinators.
Those who enjoyed a supportive and nurturing early family life are also likely to draw from their positive childhood experience their touchstones for what constitutes "good" in human relationships and will be in a better position to make clear-eyed distinctions between good and evil. This, too, of course, will render such people less vulnerable to the twisted concepts of good and evil promoted by recruiters to and apologists for totalitarian and terrorist creeds.
FP: A powerful and crystal clear conclusion Dr. Levin, thank you for so concisely summarizing the essence of this discussion.
Dr. Levin, Dr. Dalrymple, Dr. Kobrin, Dr. Lachkar, Dr. Gutmann and Lloyd deMause, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.