grif -

grif -
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
September 17
One of my favorite places to go is about 12 miles out in the Atlantic my little 20 ft. skiff. The clear water is a deep emerald color and the sunlight bounces around and shimmers randomly. I meet survivor sea turtles, bow-riding dolphin, silent sharks, giant rays rocketing out of the sea and backflipping, schools of porgies, sea robins, slashing blues and Spanish mackerel, the occasional whale, and stray birds. I love the quiet and solitude and vastness. I am a way too veteran educator - special education teacher, high school principal, college professor and some other fun waystops. A political junkie, a cowboy in a previous life, a lover of synchronicity in daily life...meditation and prayer, and a believer that the best days are still ahead. My plan is to finish strong. ************************************ I love following politics and current events, but they all take second place to watching a hockey game. I write occasional Op-Ed pieces - usually on educational issues. My two kids are the true loves of my life. ************************************

Grif -'s Links

OCTOBER 14, 2011 6:00PM

Meaning of Life Explained: "Spot it, got it!"

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 "The Meaning of Life Explained"

All my life I have been fascinated by people with rigid and somewhat doctrinaire beliefs. These folks espouse strong opinions about other’s behavior and beliefs and often act as if they are “right.” It’s almost as if they have secret information or facts that I am not privy to and that they will neither verbalize nor share with me.  They are rarely open to considering alternative viewpoints and in my experience they tend to get somewhat agitated if confronted or called on their beliefs. I probably became sensitized to this through the moralistic and preachy ways of my mother as she constantly and unapologetically denounced people of color, gays (homosexuals, lesbians, transgender – you name it), non-Christians, rock stars with long hair and – well, you get the point. My father, on the other hand, was well read and was at least open to discussing beliefs and ideas that were contrary to the way he lived and he tried to understand and tolerate alternative lifestyles (it was the 60’s folks). So I grew up during those formative years (anyone remember Wonder bread?) with a double-shot of contempt for all on one side and tolerance of alternatives on the other. Enough to make one schizophrenic, don’t you think?

 So here’s the deal. I really think there is something to be said for the psychoanalytic understanding of defense mechanisms and in this case, the defense mechanism of reaction formation.  Here’s the definition:

A defense mechanism by which an objectionable impulse is expressed in an opposite or contrasting attitude or behavior.

Here is a slight variant on the definition of reaction formation:

A defense mechanism in which a person adopts conscious attitudes, interests, or feelings that are the opposites of their unconscious feelings, impulses, or wishes.   

Those who tend to hold rigid beliefs about the “wrongness” of other’s beliefs and behaviors and who also espouse and act on these beliefs are often (not always) defending against their own unconscious impulses and thoughts toward that very behavior.  The way they handle these unacceptable impulses is to rail against it in others.  We see examples of this all the time in the public sector.  How many times have we seen politicians trample over gay people with various pronouncements and bills and laws, and then they get “caught” in the very behavior they attempt to regulate? Check out Mark Kirk,  Mark Foley,  David Dreier,  Ted Haggard (threw in a preacher here), Larry Craig, Bob Allen, Glenn Murphy, Jr. and well – you get the point. In essence they are exhibiting classic signs of reaction formation carried to its extreme. 

So I look at people with rigid beliefs about the “wrongness” of others and I think reaction formation. It’s a variant of the psychological defense mechanism of projection.

The definition of projection is:

Projection is a defense mechanism that involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people. For example, if you have a strong dislike for someone, you might instead believe that he or she does not like you. Projection works by allowing the expression of the desire or impulse, but in a way that the ego cannot recognize, therefore reducing anxiety.

A favorite phrase of mine is “You spot it, you got it.” In essence this is projection.  When I’m around people and I find myself agitated or irritated or perturbed by someone it’s usually because they are behaving in a manner that is actually me; but, because I cannot admit this to myself I project my disdain onto the other person. For example, I react internally very strongly to people who behave arrogantly and judgmentally and I immediately form opinions about their entire personality and life.  The truth is that I find myself to be quite capable of behaving arrogantly and judgmentally and this is not acceptable to me; however, it does trigger a visceral response in me when I see it in someone else. My solution is to engage in the classic defense mechanism of projection as a way of dealing with this. It doesn’t mean that the other person is in fact not acting arrogantly and judgmentally; they usually are.  It just means that my internal reaction (feelings) is way stronger than warranted because it’s really me. I see this all the time.

So we have reaction formation and projection teaming up to make interactions pretty lively and emotional and often counter-productive.  Need some more examples of this in action?  Watch the Republican presidential candidates’ debate next Tuesday evening and think “reaction formation and projection” and you’ll have some fun understanding the impulses these folks are defending against. Bachmann-gay?  Santorum-fear of being unloved?  Newt-not really that smart?  Perry-inferiority feelings?   Paul-I really hate everybody? Cain-can’t get enough approval? Huntsman-need Dad’s validation? Romney-I’ll never measure up?

Okay, okay – enough bashing the Repubs.  It obviously means I just feel gay, unloved, inferior, not enough, and in need of parental validation or something like that or I wouldn’t find these folks so maddening.  Except, they are engaging in these rigid behaviors and thought patterns and I’m just observing it; but, not getting all wrapped around the axle over it.  At least not right now. J Don’t you hate smiley faces?  I think Forrest Gump gets the credit and I do love him.

So what are your favorite examples of reaction formation at work, or how does projection work in your life (what do others say/do that infuriates you when in fact it’s really you)?

And have a defenseless and pleasant weekend. And oh yeah -  none of this applies to Tink. There are simply no defenses at work there. It’s all Id – and all loveable and someday Ed I Tor is going to catch on.

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Grif, as I was reading this little masterpiece, I kept saying to myself, you gotta bring in projection, projection, and you did of course.

These defense mechanisms are all about self-blocked psychic energy. To be crude: have a man crush on a guy is erotic energy. Energy that is unacceptable. So where the hell does it go? Energy, the physicists say, is never destroyed. It changes form. So: the unwitting fella is havin a man crush on you…

You are disgusted & alarmed at your natural mancrush.

The anger is toward the enemy: not the real one, the projected one.
Rule of thumb: if you are lonely in yr head & think others are judging you, it is only you.

Inflexibility is a way of staying , literally, stiff and rigid in a protective bodily stance against outside threats. Which are inside threats. Back ache, neck ache, impotence, etc, happen, depending on the area of the body affected. The area…blocked…held manly-firm…

Opinions are grand abstract ways to bring life into the being.

No sane person gives a shit about opinions, really.

Yet this nation indoctrinates us to always always have an opinion, it is our right, our duty.

How does one know one’s “opinion” on any goddamn thing when one barely knows ones own mind?
for me, projection is: "this guy is an immature asshole"
James - I couldn't have put it better! I love the energy addition too. Maybe we can team up and write a book on the real meaning of life?
"It’s all Id – and all loveable and someday Ed I Tor is going to catch on."

And that day, won't come, and Ed I Tor will have the hit squad hit me!! Boohoohooo!! :D
guilty as i am of all charges - in my defense i do try to do better - the other day i posted a nasty comment about chris christe (whos friends call the fat fuck) any way i realize that if i had not been such an asshole i could have been the asshole running the state of new jersey further into the ground - and thats why i projected such a nasty (but factual) comment.
How ever when I call the nazis neocons and vis a vi, I am not projecting - i never wanted to be a neocon. and when I argue that bush cannot be compared to hitler - its not that i want to be either - either.
I delude myself into thinking that i am not angry when i really am - deep inside angry. i know anger is wrong but to deny it is worse.

I enjoy posts like this one - because it reminds me to do the frkn work.

I believe if just one of us can work it all out - the whole planet will know - and so I try and fail and try again to fix myself !

It is so easy to see the flaws of others - but much more difficult to repair our own.

great work!
The way these defense mechanisms operate is especially frightening when they are manifested through the actions of the rich and powerful...because they have the power to harm so many...
This piece made me think very deeply about my own perceptions of the world. This was a really great description of reaction formation and projection in a way that made sense to me without pointing fingers. Thank you. R
Tink – we’ve got your back.

Snowden- thanks for visiting and for the thoughtful comment.

Patrick – ignorance plus privilege is a dangerous combination indeed.

Rita – thanks. Good to see you tonight.
Grif, my recent 11 days with my mother was rich with opportunity for self-reflection, not that I was ready to seize all those opportunities. Sigh, you rob me of the fun of BLAME! Anais Nin eloquently said: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
Most interesting. Hmm. Thinking of some of my recent behavior, I guess I can see elements of both reaction formation and projection. I do feel murderous, but only towards my own species. But I categorically deny that projection reduces anxiety. Well, not for me at any rate.
Maria – one important thing to keep in mind here is that not everyone who acts poorly and makes us mad is due to reaction formation or projection. Often the other party is in fact behaving badly. It’s the more subtle encounters in situations where someone does something or says something and it gets a strong emotional reaction in us that we are probably involving some projection. This is not a bad thing – it just is and we just want to be aware of it so we don’t overreact needlessly.

As for reaction formation – I leave that to you to see if and how it operates for you. Thanks for commenting.

Mumbletypeg – thanks for considering these possibilities. It really is pretty complicated – the process of defense mechanisms and how they are needed and helpful to a point and then how they can also cause us problems when overused.
ah, the book was written, grif, long ago.

FROM the halcyon days of the mid 20th century mind...
neo freudianism, Gestalt, even the wacky nascent new age stuff.
it became all about chemicals.

Chicken and egg : do you get a pump of norepinephrine
or serotonin cuz ya did something "Good"
or did the chemicals somehow evolutionarily look out for ya
(ridicuous paradigm, eh?)
and make you do something not just to your benefit,
like kiss yer sweety pie gal or save a drowning puppy,

but to the benefit of the species's endless
spurting out new life..

well, i did it cuz..i felt like,, uh...i willed it.


good gosh, too bad free will is an outdated notion...
Good job Grif! And that's from a conservative Republican Independent (I voted for Jimmy Carter and would have voted for Hillary over McCain (Two faced McCain as I call him). Good piece of writing. Jim Walker Columbia Falls Montana
There is somebody I really, really don't like. And now I know why.

And I'm for sure not going to tell you what it is I don't like about her.