I've talked here a little about projection. It is a term that is extremely important to understand in the therapeutic process, and something that counselors pay attention to as we watch for transference and counter-transference. Most of the time, it has little effect on our day to day life if we are reasonably healthy (from a mental health standpoint) and functioning well.
What many people do not understand about mental illness, is that in all cases except one,* a necessary criteria for a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, is the effect on the ability to function. An individual may have a delusion, but if the delusion does not otherwise interfere with the activities of daily living, then a diagnosis of a disorder is not appropriate.That does not mean that an individual cannot have symptoms of a mental health disorder and exhibit features that are typical of someone with poor coping skills, one of the more common being projection. It also does not mean that everyone with poor coping skills and difficulty functioning has a mental illness. It is all too easy for armchair psychologists to diagnoses those they see in the news and decide what they should or should not do. Just as we complain about the pundits making pronouncements we disagree with, it is too easy to state that those we disagree with have some sort of mental illness.
Projection occurs when you place your fears and insecurities onto someone or something else. Everything that you dislike about yourself, everything that you are afraid of,is out there. The qualities you least like about yourself are those you are most likely to react to in others. Does the saying "thou doest protest too much" ring a bell? Are you having an affair, or seriously tempted to have one? You probably feel guilty about it, which sets up a cognitive dissonance. The brain does not like dissonance. It is uncomfortable. To resolve it, it projects those feelings onto someone else, so you believe your significant other is cheating, thus making your behavior okay. Do you cheat on your taxes? Then you assume that everyone else does. Do you lie? Even "tiny" lies (and tell me, where exactly is that line)? Then so does everyone else.
We assume that everyone else is just like us, that they behave like us, that they think like us, and that they will respond like us. We also believe that if people look like us, they will like us, so we like them. People tend to like those who like them, so if you like those around you, they will most likely like you. We tend to agree with those we associate with, and conversely, people who associate with us tend to agree with us. This is called the false consensus effect. It is an interesting dynamic and one that organizers of Tea Parties and Town Hall disruptions and other similar events understand. I am certain that along with all the other experts employed by public relations firms, social psychologists hold an important place.
People who project their fears and insecurities on others, have learned to avoid responsibility and to blame others. By projecting what is wrong onto someone or something else, you do not have to deal with it. Is everything going wrong in your life? Are you having problems at work or at home? Can't get along with your neighbors? It's the governments fault, those illegal immigrants, those minorities, that fake president, or something out there. It is not your fault, so you have no responsibility to solve the problem. It is somebody else's problem to fix.
If people don't look like us, then we become confused, especially if we have no frame of reference for dealing with people that are not like we are. Our normal method of processing information is shaken, and we look around for something or someone to help us and we become vulnerable to the likes of Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity; people who look like us and appear to have authority and talk and act as if they know what they are doing. When our locus of control is external, then we look to external sources to regain control.
Someone like Glenn Beck is projecting all of his anger and hate onto the people he blames for everything wrong with this country; President Obama and the Democrats and progressives. It does not matter what the president does, what Congress does or does not do, because they are who they are, it has to be wrong. Glenn is so full of rage and has focused that rage on President Obama, that he must generate ever more illogical "facts" to maintain the emotional momentum he is building. It still is not clear whether or not he believes what he is saying or whether or not he is in it purely for the money, but it is clear that there is an underlying hate in this man. He has incited acts of violence that have caused death. He continues to do so and laughs about causing the deaths of those he disagrees with. At this point, his motives don't matter. What matters, is that he has a national platform, a lot of followers, the support of the Republican Party, and a society with a lot of deeply disturbed people looking for directions.
Stop and think about this for a moment. He laughs about the possibility of Speaker Pelosi dying, and of his causing her death. He laughs at the thought of the President dying. He laughs at the thought of revolution. What does revolution mean? It means death, war in the street, people dying. He assumes that his followers are just like him. That they believe as he does. He opens his show and tells his viewers to "be sure to DVR this." And they do. What else will they do?
Sarah Palin is on her book tour this week. Over the weekend the AP fact checked her book and found numerous instances of out and out lies, which she referred to on her Facebook page as "opposition research." What is that? On Oprah, she accused "Obama's people" of coming to
On Keith Olbermann's show last night, he had great fun showing video clip after video clip side by side of lies told. One thing said a year ago and reported differently in the book. Most of them so trivial it was dumb to lie about it. Rachel Maddow had AnaMarie Cox on her show to discuss Sarah Palin's treatment of Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace (McCain campaign staff) in the book. Again, out and out lies easily verified through emails, video, and statements from others who had been present during the events spoken of.
But remember, in the Palinverse, just like the Beckverse, and in the world of those who are unable to cope with their own problems so project them onto others, everyone lies, so they do. All of their problems are caused by factors outside their control - in this case, President Obama - so they blame him. Sarah Palin lost the election (funny, I thought McCain did), so therefore it was the fault of everyone who worked on the campaign. The facts weren't quite interesting enough in the book, so re-write the scenes and make them fit the Palinverse. Have the truth come out? Oh well. Everyone lies. So what. That's what life is like in the Palinverse and how she wants to recreate our country.
Why should we care? Because there are many, many people in this country who are angry, scared, confused, filled with rage, hurting, and deeply disturbed. There are many, many people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, and thus their medications. People who have trouble coping and who have perhaps begun to (or continued to) self-medicate themselves as a way to cope. People who watch Fox News and grasp onto anything they can as an external locus of control, any way possible to blame someone else. Glenn Beck does it. Sarah Palin does it. Rush Limbaugh, the head of the Republican Party does it. Our legislative leadership stands back and allows it and in fact, appears with them and tacitly supports them. So we are sending the message to these people that violence is the answer. We are sending the message to people who are deeply angry and deeply disturbed that violence is okay.That these powerful, important people would like for the powerful, important Democrats to be dead.
President Obama receives on average 30 death threats per day. This is a 400% increase from the average 3,000 per year that President George W. Bush received.
The people that Sarah Palin speak to, that she is trying to attract, are the people who carry guns to presidential events. When asked by Oprah what her plans were for a presidential run in 2012 were, she responded with something her father had said, "She didn't quit, she just stopped to reload." Shortly afterward, a woman called into a newspaper in
AnaMarie Cox suggested last night that with this book, any political aspirations that Sarah Palin might have are over. Other political pundits disagree, saying that with a Republican party membership at about 20%, and a primary field so large, it is very possible that Sarah Palin could win the nomination. She really doesn't need that many votes to actually win the Republican primaries. Many Democrats say yay, no way could she win against Obama. But look at the progressive and Democratic anger against Obama. Are we sure? She may be a liar and a joke, but even the Joker was dangerous.
Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.
* DSM-IV criteria include as a condition for a diagnosis, an impairment in the ability to function in one or more of life's major activities, except one, dysthymia, which is characterized as a low-grade, chronic depression, sort of like always having the blues, but not enough to really interfere with your day to day life.
So in effect, a legitimate DSM-IV diagnosis, treatable, but does not require the criteria of functional impairment.