Camouflaged personality problems

One of the absolutely most frustrating things in a democracy is when you find people that believe that anyone who disagrees with them are not just wrong but downright evil. And that belief is then sometimes used to justify severely mistreating those people either directly or, as is becoming more and more common, applying what is now called the cancel culture; getting people fired, expelled or kicked out.

One explanation for the last example could be very simple. The people doing it are in fact bad people themselves.

One of most important things I’ve learned:

Severe personality problems find *camouflage.* No one thinks “I’m a sadist” or “I’m a malignant narcissist.”

They find a belief system/social group that validates their most hateful, destructive impulses & construes them as virtues.

The most toxic and hateful people in the world are 100% convinced they fight for what is true and right.

They find a way to give free rein to their cruelty, to attack, to treat others cruelly and viciously. *And they find allies to cheer them on* who also believe they are on the side of all that is true and good.

For colleagues looking for more theoretical explanation, the psychological processes are splitting, projection & projective identification.

Splitting means not recognizing one’s own capacity for hate, cruelty, and destructiveness. The person is blind to the bad in themselves.

Instead, they project the badness onto some designated other. And this other person, via the defense of projection, is now seen as the repository of all that is bad and evil and necessary to destroy. That’s the projection.

The person now feels fully justified in unleashing their viciousness and hate on the other person, who is now seen (via projection) as someone monstrous who must be destroyed at all cost. If the person who is projected on attempts to protect or defend themselves, this is now seen as further confirmation of how hateful and evil  they are (this is what is called is “projective identification.”)

The end result is that the person can deny their own sadism, cruelty, and hate—while simultaneously acting it out without restraint. And feel themselves to be 100% on the side of truth and right as they do it.
Jonathan Shedler












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