" In my work as a psychoanalyst, I have found that patients often believe the stories they make up about themselves. They are self-deceived."
From today's Times:
Applies to sexual predators like Wernstein, but I can sort of see the resemblance to TRA's, (not to the thousands of people quietly wanting to live their lives as the opposite sex), but to the activists who are skewing the whole debate.
Full text here:
In my work as a psychoanalyst, I have found that patients often believe the stories they make up about themselves. They are self-deceived. With admirable self-knowledge, a patient once said to me: “My wife tells bare-faced lies. But I lie in how I am. And that is much worse.” He was aware that we may present to the world, but also internally, a justificatory version of ourselves, and live out the lie.
The cyclist Lance Armstrong fought his way back from testicular cancer, diagnosed as almost certainly fatal. Compulsively needing to be the best, he not only deceived the world with his systematic use of banned performance-enhancing drugs over many years but also, I suspect, convinced himself that he wasn’t really guilty. He created a fiction, telling the world that “we’re all the authors of our own life story”, and that you should “go out there and write the best damn story you can”. True, perhaps, except that some stories veer far from truthfulness.
Many men use power to reach their ends, mixing menace and flattery. Many seducers, or worse, are adroit, both consciously and unconsciously. In Harvey Weinstein’s world, for example, it seems from the outside that ordinary rules didn’t apply. There was for years no comeuppance for his widely reported bullying and misuse of power. All this enabled a man to allow himself to believe that what he did was fair enough. It could come to feel normal.
Seduction ranges from the wonders of mutual falling in love, via making clumsy passes, right down to cynical exploitation. It can be a form of salesmanship in which someone is led aside from an authentic path, a matter of being persuaded to do something that she or he does not fully consent to. Full consent is a complex idea. A young model may say yes when inveigled into some form of sexual enactment, as for example when she is enticed into believing, or allows herself to believe, that the man is genuinely interested in her. But is this “full consent”?
Clearly some men with power and a kind of prestige in the public eye have got away with murder over the years. For this to have happened, the cultural atmosphere must have played its part, alongside the protagonists’ persuasive and tyrannical personalities. One factor in the prolongation of these scenarios has been the stigma and shame experienced by the victims at the prospect of disclosure, another the disbelief among law enforcers (though there is of course the opposite risk, that of believing every accusation without evidence). A third element has been the silence and passivity of the cover-up, arising from envy and fear of the seducer. Working on my recent book, On Form, I realised that being on form applies not only to worthy ends, such as playing the violin or being a brain surgeon, but also to unworthy practices and deceptive ways. Thus I recognised the dubious form achieved by the likes of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Don Juan), who seduced wives, scorned husbands and killed the father of one of his victims. One feature of such stories is that the perpetrators frequently come to believe in their own fictions.
The psychoanalyst Richard Rusbridger has written that Mozart’s music shows Giovanni to be empty of substance and originality. The arias given to him are blank: less rich, sensual and moving than much of the music sung by the women. When he interacts with Leporello, his servant and procurer, the music becomes flighty and light, escapist. As Rusbridger argues, Giovanni evacuates his own sense of need, pain and guilt into others, while he constantly turns to excitement and risk. His manic flight consists of violating women and attacking their fathers or husbands. He also violates all boundaries or limits.
My analytic experience tends to support Rusbridger’s speculation that such a character may be creating in the abused and then abandoned women, and in some of the male characters in the scenario, something of his own early feelings of desire for and subsequent abandonment by his mother, when she seemed to favour his father or his siblings. The mental process enabling Giovanni to function in this way is a form of projection. His demeanour and behaviour lead to parts of his own identity being transposed into others; one could say that emotionally he forces himself on them. This clearly is a psychological parallel to sexual forcing.
Questions remain: why are so many women strangely attracted to the Giovannis of the 18th or indeed the 21st centuries? Why are so many men envious of them and therefore, as well as being afraid to stand up to the bully, liable to be collusive?
Rusbridger argues that it is Giovanni’s very characterlessness that is the clue to his seductiveness. He elicits in Zerlina, whom he tries to seduce on her wedding day, the neediness that he so cleverly rids himself of. He exploits her deep infantile need, expressed sexually. The message is that if he is without needs, he can satisfy all hers.
Living out his mask of entitlement, Don Giovanni could congratulate himself on his skill and his wonderful form as a seducer. Like him, modern-day, real-world Don Juans can be creative in making for themselves unconscious masks and fictions that help them to achieve their exciting, short-lived conquests. But the compulsive desires are insatiable, and like other drugs demand ever more frequent fixes. Whatever ensues with Harvey Weinstein in the courts and the public forum, he may find it hard really to believe that he has done anything wrong.
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