Yes, it's another Friday night, and time for another installment of our long-running series on the psychology of hatred, especially obsessive hatred. But we've neglected the topic of self-hatred, and self-hatred is often at the root of long running hatreds. Because, if we hate someone for years, can it really be all their fault if we are dragging around an anvil of hatred? Wasn't that anvil always there?
When I get the urge to write these diaries, i am often influenced by a specific author. In this case, it's Karen Horney, who deserves much more credit than she gets these days. She was considered the first feminist psychoanalyst, but that underestimates her importance. Her groundbreaking ideas are very mainstream now, but at the time they were radical break with Freud's "Drive Psychology" which would cost him many of his professional relationships. It was Horney's influence that would eventually force much of the misogyny from Freudianism. Horney is a good starting point for a discussion of psychology to disarm the folks who to shut down any discussion of psychology because "Freud was a misogynist."
The Idealized Self Image
The idea of a idealized false self image was probably first developed by Alfred Adler, who gave us the concept of the "inferiority complex" and the "superiority complex." A person feels inferior (or is inferior), so they create a fictional persona of superiority. Adler saw human relationships as being about power while Freud would dogmatically emphasize the role of sex.
Horney describes the "idealized self" image wherein we each all see ourselves as a brave, kind, wise person, who is at worst an innocent victim of circumstance. not only should they be the best, they must also have counterfeit emotions to match.
The creation of make believe feelings is most striking in those whose idealized image lies in the direction of goodness, love, and saintliness. They should be considerate, grateful, sympathetic, generous, loving, and so in their minds they have all these qualities. (p. 83)
But everyone sees themselves that way, including hardened criminals. And then there is the "actual self," the real person, with the real person's vanity, hatred, envy, and sadism. The actual self may be hard to pin down, since everyone has good days and bad days. But there is usually a big gap between the actual self and the angelic idealized self.
In the gap between the deeply flawed actual self and the idealized self is "self hatred," where the actual self berates itself for not living up to the image of the ideal self. And the more self-hatred someone has, the more "pride" they need to cover up the gaps between the real and ideal selves. This sort of pride is prominent in the substance abuser, and this malignant pride can easily be pictured as alcoholic pride. If you want to picture a situation that will scar kids for life, picture the "pride war" between two parents having a 20 year argument about who's better based on absolutely nothing but displays of "counterfeit emotions" and somehow being proud of themselves.
Horney saw the conflict as false pride attacking the instinct for growth.
With increasing clarity, the battle is now drawn between the pride system and the real self. Self-hate is not so much directed against the limitations and shortcomings of the actual self as against the emerging constructive forces of the real self. (p. 112).....Self-contempt is mainly directed against the striving for improvement or achievement (p. 132)
If Horney had explored the use of projection, she would have deduced how this "contempt" against "striving" would show up in the behavior of the codependent parent that sabotages their child's school, or the codependent spouse of a recovering drunk that encourages them to drink.
All the branches of psychology have largely merged at this point of the conflict of the real self and ideal self, although they use different terminology. We can see the same principle in Adlerian psychology, Ego Psychology, Self Psychology, Object Psychology, Transactional Analysis etc. For the most part, different schools just use different terms for the same general concepts (worse, they sometimes use the same term to mean diffferent things.)
Horney shot herself in the foot by ignoring Freuds ego defenses (projection, denial, etc) Because of this, she did not use the term "reaction formation" in which a person rejects an unacceptable emotion and declares that they really feel the opposite way. Horney herself had this experience because of the somewhat frosty relationship she had with her mother while growing up, but she filled her diaries with declarations of love for her mother.
Also, Horney does not discuss "projection" (pot-kettle-black accusations) which is the bread and butter of many neurotic people. If she has seriously considered the role of projection, all of her talk about self-hatred and self-criticism would have naturally circled around to the inevitable accusations and criticisms of others. We see that today in politics where conservatives call liberals "racists" and strangely always call them "terrified." And when she says that striving for achievement is attacked with self-contempt, she neglects to make the obvious point that striving in others would also be treated with contempt.
Self-Hatred Becomes Hatred Of Others
The person with low self esteem and self-criticism experiences these feelings as a sort of outside influence.
Injuries to their pride can come only from the outside. Any questioning of their motivations, any uncovering of a handicap is felt as an insult'
There is a need to try to project that criticism out and blame it on other people. If someone feels persecuted, they can believe that they are a martyr, but if they simply hate themselves that means they are sick. Therefore they need to find a "persecutor" who they can blame for their feelings. By getting someone to criticize them, they can finally acknowledge these negative feelings, but they attribute the criticism to an external source, so that they are finally free to attack these feelings. Blatant hypocrisy is a good way to generate disgust from other people while inflating their own ego.
I think her she is describing the low self-esteem bully. Not that they'd ever see themselves as a bully, it's just them and their friends ganging up on people that they think are weaker than them. Attacks using guilt and shame are prominent revealing a projections of their own guilt, as well as the codependent belief in being able to control others, and the need to find and attack people who they think are too weak to resist. And yet, almost magically, they are unable to see themselves as bullies.
feeling abused ... (causes) vindictive resentment against others...(Awareness) of this vindictive hostility... must be suppressed because it endangers ... his idealized inage of absolute goodness. (p 232) The amount of largely hidden vindictiveness in most neurosis is rather great (p 51)
If we look at incidents of Twitter shaming of people that lose their careers for a single dumb tweet, it's a lot like the sadism of cyberstalking and slut shaming that drives so many teenage girls to suicide. It's the primitive orgy of sadism that we associate with a witch hunt, where some innocent person is accused of being an all-powerful source of evil so a sadistic mob can rip them to pieces.
She also describes a very Republican sense of justice, where the emphasis is on punishing the poor.
The overemphasis on justice may be, but is not necessarily, a camouflage for vindictiveness (p. 55)
Guilt And Shame? Who Me?
Guilt and shame usually play a big part in self-hatred. Maybe a person grew up neglected and poor, and in fact people often brag about that. And many parents deliberately manipulate their children through blame, guilt, and scapegoating. A child may grow up blaming themselves irrationally for being abused, or their parent's divorce, or the death of a sibling.
Through projection, a neurotic person assumes that it is the other guy who guilty. And because it's really the other guy that's guilty guilty, that means he should be punished!
This works even better if there are allies who will join in the punishments, and if there is a shared sense of power that will motivate the group, and any sense of guilt is reduced. This would mean that in any group of people with typical neurotic issues of shame and guilt, the group will naturally, almost inevitably, select a scapegoat.
The false love for mankind may take the form of a supposedly noble pursuit of Truth or Justice. A vindictive vengeful agenda can be hidden in a crusade for "justice" and fake outrage that claims to speak on behalf of distant strangers with whom they have no connection
(Their principles) lack the moral seriousness of genuine ideals. (p. 72) They are, in this sense, the neurotic counterfeit of normal moral strivings. (p. 73)
Online shaming seems to match Horney's ideas of the general vindictiveness of self-hatred. By being part of a group, they can identify will all sorts "injustices" (real or imaginary) that gives them and excuse for revenge.
The more arrogant he is, the surer he will be that such vengeance is the doliling out of justice(p. 56)
But of course it's usually necessary to wildly exaggerate the seriousness of the offense. The group unites in accusing their target, and the accusations are often just silly, but the bar has never been very high for witch hunts.
exaggerate the wrong done ... build up the case ... that looks (air) tight... (becoming) total condemnation (p 56)
This is, of course, all about power. Several people broke with Freud because he seemed to ignore these daily issues of power and control. It's not clear if anyone ever bothered to tell Freud he was a control freak to his face.
Often people are ashamed of all sorts of emotions. But they might be quite proud of their rage. Rage is proof they are a good person!
If he is proud of his vindictiveness, vindictive rage may be keenly felt. However is his vindictiveness is glorified and rationalized in terms of dealing out "justice," he does not experience vindictive rage as such, although it is so freely expressed that nobody else has any doubt about it. (p 162)
Here Klein mentions the importance of accusations
"(they) enforce their compliance" "through hardhitting accusations," even if in the process we "ruin others."
Sometimes however attempts to shame people fall flat because they assume that the target has the same quality as the attacker:
Neurotic self-contempt make the neurotic hypersensitive to criticism and rejection
God help you if you fail to show shame on cue or you are likely to get the slut-shaming mob treatment! Now the group is likely to become an out of control mob. Complaints about their aggression will not be tolerated, and the victim will suffer additional blame and attacks. Remember, Daddy only drinks because you cry!
In Freudean terms we see the primitive sadistic superego containing the criticisms of the abusive parent. Melanie Kelin, another female psychoanalyst that split from Freud developed the idea of self-hatred as a split-off part of the ego that contains guilt and sadistic "persecutory superego introjections." It gets a little complicated, but those criticisms and guilt are often directed at other people.
We also see the usual tipping point for someone with false positive self image - the inability to acknowledge their own sadism and pleasure in hatred. Remember, these are people that are very sensitive to criticism, so a pointed threat to their false self image is going to be resisted violently. And that's really a shame, because people that truly understand them are likely to be driven away be a torrent of accusations. These are the problems of cognition (distinguishing good and dangerous people) and affect (open hostility to normal people) that we associate with codependency.
Entitlement And Hypocrisy
Although it's rarely mentioned any more, the early psychoanalysts were often shocked at the tremendous sense of entitlement that went with neurosis and other problems.
The neurotic feels entitled to special attention, consideration, deference on the part of others (p 41) ... never to be criticized, doubted, or questioned (p 43) .... without his making adequate efforts ( 49)
Sure sounds like neurotic demands for "respect," eh?
In "Neurosis And Human Growth," she describes the person who
"(he) feels entitled to unabridged expression of his unfavorable observations and criticisms but feels equally entitles never to be criticized himself" (p. 200)
Hmmm.... There's a big gap between the idealized self's morality and actual self's actions, and many people would call that "hypocrisy." It sounds like someone that would run around shrieking "Don't Be A Dick!!!" Maybe we'll reach a conclusion about the likelihood of DBAD degenerating into outright bullying.
Horney also described such people as hypersensitive to criticism and with a constant need for admiration, affirmation, and attention. Although they hate criticism, they also crave criticism so they can
"treasure and keep alive injuries received." (p 201).
. Isn't nice that we never see any of that around here? Today, the phrase "injustice collectors" is popular. The "vindictiveness" of people with their precious grudges is featured prominently in Horney's writing, and no doubt she was influenced by the professional persecution that followed her throughout her career.
And while one hypocrite is a nuisance, a group of hypocrites is downright dangerous. And remember, Horney said these oversensitive people need their need for constant affirmation and that means they travel in packs. There we see the potential for the sort of workplace bullying that in the UK is called mobbing. But is there enough aggression and sadism to feed that sort of group bullying? Horney certainly found herself the object of decades of group bullying no matter where she ran.
Often this reaction formation of false love for mankind takes the form of a supposedly noble pursuit of Truth or Justice. But even that creates a fantasy world of opponents and enemies, and "displacement" can also be used to describe the malicious forces they are supposedly fighting.
Problems In Affect And Cognition
More recently, studies of "object relations theory" have been trying to refine the various problems that laymen call "codependency" which result from a bad childhood. There are two areas where the rift between the real self and the ideal self is evident - cognition and affect. Problems with cognition, impair the ego's ability to test reality. Because of the need to pump up the actual self to try to match the ideal self, there is a lot of fantasy at work.
Codependent people are notorious for cognitive problems that prevent them from understanding others and get them into bad relationships. Potential healthy relationships are rejected and good people are devalued. Bad people are idealized, and usually a codependent person has the need to see themselves as the victim in the relationship. Affect (the emotional response to the world) is also disturbed, and may be paranoid, self accusing, angry, depressed, or hostile, and this has to be explained by the cognitive distortions that let them see themselves as the victims.