Thursday, March 09, 2006


From Day By Day.

Let me refresh your memory about some basic psychological defense mechanisms.

Denial, which is an immature defense is defined as an attempt to reject unacceptable feelings, needs, thoughts, wishes--or even a painful external reality that alters the perception of ourselves. This psychological defense mechanism protects us temporarily from:
-Knowledge (things we don’t want to know)
-Insight or awareness that threatens our self-esteem; or our mental or physical health; or our security (things we don't want to think about)
-Unacceptable feelings (things we don’t want to feel)

One type of denial is Repression , a neurotic defense characterized by a seemingly inexplicable naivete, memory lapse, or lack of awareness. Repression is often dismissed as an artifact of diminished attention by cognitive psychologists, but I find that it almost always reflects a rather creative method to resolve some inner conflict for the person who uses it. With repression, affect is out in the open, but the associated idea is out of the mind and unavailable to consider. Someone who has repressed some knowledge may be genuinely astonished that anyone would consider them to have deliberately ignored the issue.

The "forgetting of repression is different from ordinary forgetting in that there is often some sort of parallel symbolic behavior that goes along with it.

Most often repression is associated with histrionic traits. A typical example might be the doting and dutiful wife who remains blissfully unaware of the husband's constant philandering--although the evidence is obvious to everyone else; and she may not understand why she feels anger at her spouse. She may defend him passionately from his accusers, but the anger will find a way to express itself in various ways within their relationship. (PSYCHIATRY NOTE: we won't consider the example of a formerly powerful man, resentful over the attention his wife gets that he feels rightly should be his; who may behave in ways to undermine her position and credibility--that will be for another day).

Thus, we might conclude that Hillary's surprise in discovering that Bill was being paid by Dubai and the U.A. E., even as she was denouncing the port deal is an example of:

(a) PSYCHOLOGICAL DENIAL (suggesting she is out of touch with reality)
(b) PSYCHOLOGICAL REPRESSION (suggesting that she has neurotic conflicts)
(c) DELIBERATE LYING (suggesting that she is a liar)
(d) NORMAL FORGETFULNESS (suggesting that she is clueless and inattentive)

As far as Mr. Gregory's response in the cartoon, suffice it to say that neurotic defenses may be used by all sorts of intelligent people; and his willingness to believe anything that is said by a Democrat (no matter how obviously ridiculous); compared to his overt anger and rage just a short time ago, directed toward a prominent Republican, also suggests an underlying neurotic conflict.

Displacement, anyone?

No comments: