“I am a deceiver and a liar. There is part of my life that is so repulsive
and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.”
Pastor Ted Haggard on his reckoning potential. We’ll see what becomes of that.
Lefties are so generally clueless and indifferent to psychology that reading them as the pitiless scholars of human motivation they aspire to be tends to make me pull patches of hair from my scalp, so with slight relish I share an informed analysis found on Alternet today–
What are we to make of a reigning conservative regime that lists the following inglorious claims to fame: Strom Thurmond, a notoriously racist senator who turned out to have a black lover; a Republican indictment of President Clinton’s sexual license headed up by a team of philanderers; a Congress full of divorces passing an anti-gay law known as the “Defense of Marriage Act”?
In the pundit corner, we recently saw three giants of conservative moralizing unmasked as incapable of restraining their own vices: William Bennett turned out to be addicted to gambling, Rush Limbaugh to drugs. Meanwhile, Ralph Reed, the hand-picked youthful leader of the religious right, was quietly helping the corrupt lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, enable everything that religious conservatives oppose: casinos on Indian reservations and compelled abortions and sex slavery in the Northern Mariana Islands, an American territory.
And this is not even to mention the Catholic Church’s strident indictment of sexual freedom as it shuffled its own cadre of child-molesting priests from parish to parish.
…The Republican Party appears to be chock full of people who make a life of preaching against the very vices they can’t shake. Why?
For answers to the puzzles that seem to infest the conservative worldview, we might dust off our old Freud texts. From the father of psychoanalysis, we learn the concept of “reaction formation” which describes how we react to our own unacceptable impulses. Reaction formation is a classic “defense mechanism” — an unconscious behavior designed to ward off uncomfortable feelings.
…Reaction formation is one of the few explanations that help us make sense of all the hypocritical moralizing: the preachers are preaching to themselves!
What is the solution to this misplaced effort to restrict others’ behavior? For Freud, it was therapy. But more broadly, it’s a dose of introspection, an ability to look inward, and to shift focus from others’ behavior to our own. If hypocrisy in American political life is, in part, a symptom of inadequate introspection, if our fear that we can’t control ourselves leads to an unconscious effort to control others, we’ll continue to reach for a magnifying glass when what we really need is a mirror.
I’d add “sublimation” to that incisive analysis–the defense mechanism that redirects an intolerable impulse to socially approved behaviors–thus we have the Reverend Ted Haggard(s)– bigot, hypocrite, sanctimonious, both self-serving and self-loathing, coping with his psychopathologies by abusing the gay community.
I don’t think there’s much hope for them, and no compelling reason not to try to understand them.