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[xmca] Fwd: Guilt, projection, and the psychology of resentment in Freud, Tolstoy, and the Bible

This blog post seems relevant to discussion of emotions and activity.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: *Jeff Weintraub*
Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Subject: Guilt, projection, and the psychology of resentment in Freud,
Tolstoy, and the Bible

 *Guilt, projection, and the psychology of resentment in Freud, Tolstoy,
and the Bible*<http://jeffweintraub.blogspot.com/2013/03/guilt-projection-and-psychology-of.html>

In a recent post, Norman
a passage from Tolstoy that expresses a brilliant insight into human

In the footsteps of both
Austen <http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2007/07/cause-and-conse.html>,
Tolstoy. This is a passage from his Hadji

[Czar] Nicholas frowned. He had done much evil to the Poles. To justify
that evil he had to feel certain that all Poles were rascals, and he
considered them to be such and hated them in proportion to the evil he had
done them.

 Norm drew that quotation from a piece in the *Forward* by Austin Ratner.
After quoting Tolstoy, Ratner
the following reflections:

Tolstoy’s inspiration for this idea may have come from the great Roman
historian and psychologist Tacitus, who said, “*Proprium humani ingenii est
odisse quem laeseris*,” or, “It is characteristic of human nature to hate
the man you have wronged.”  [....]

In other words, the motivations for feeling resentment and doing evil can
include, paradoxically, "a rather surprising element of misguided
conscience."  As Ratner correctly observes, "the psychology of guilt
management" can be dangerous and harmful, "not only to ourselves, but also
to others."

Sigmund Freud would not have been surprised to see conscience behind bad
behavior. He spent his career studying the ways that conscience causes us
to avert our eyes from certain of our own thoughts, and the ways that this
sort of “repression” can sometimes do more harm than good — not only to
ourselves, but also to others. In his 1916 paper “Some Character-Types Met
With in Psycho-Analytic Work,” Freud describes one type, to which he gives
the name “Criminals From a Sense of Guilt.” While that short segment does
not cover Tacitus’s or Tolstoy’s ground — it doesn’t touch on bigotry at
all — it does supply a useful title to a general principle of psychology
that’s highly relevant to bigotry: the notion that guilt can *cause* crime
in addition to preventing it. What an idea!

And our mental processes are sufficiently ingenious that we don't
necessarily have to project our guilt onto the ones we've harmed.  There
may be all sorts of other possibilities targets for deflecting guilt (and
shame, and even embarrassment) away from ourselves.

The term “scapegoat,” which is by now a commonplace in explanations of
racism, has to do with, of course, guilt — what else? It furthermore
derives from the traditions of the ancient Jews — who else? Today, we use
the term to mean a person or a people blamed for something he/they didn’t
do. It’s invoked almost in a sense of mistaken identity or sloppy detective
work. Yet the origins of the word itself in the book of Leviticus point
directly back to the psychology of guilt management. What William Tyndale
translated as a “scapegoat” in 1530 was a reference to an actual goat in
primitive Jewish atonement ritual; the goat was magically bestowed with the
sins of the Jewish people and then shooed into the wilderness to carry away
the sins. In one of Leviticus’s creepier dalliances with paganism, the Lord
decreed that the scapegoat should specifically be dispatched to an angry
demon of the wilderness named Azazel (who is thenceforth scarce in the
Bible but does turn up in Marvel Comics as an ancient mutant enemy of the
X-Men).  [....]

Such magic acts derive from a condition of blindness, a refusal to look
with the rational mind. The Freudian irony is that the courage to look upon
and acknowledge a sense of guilt instead of invoking goats and demons to
dispel it, helps forestall criminality of a much more damning kind. [....]

Then again, projection and displacement are often less painful, more
attractive, and more emotionally satisfying responses.  Facing reality,
including emotional realities, is often tough and unpleasant.

—Jeff Weintraub
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