2 w ago in Quotes
The emergence of the stranger and his externalization stands in direct relationship to the degree of impairment of that which is most personal - namely, a person's identity. But how can inner development take place in children if everything that makes up their individuality is rejected and made foreign? Then identity is reduced to adaptation to those external circumstances that insure a child's psychic survival. Children do everything to fulfil their parents' expectations, and the way they do this is to identify with their parents, but then the child's individuality is replaced by a foreign element. That is why the 18th Century English poet Edward Young wrote: "We are born as originals, die as copies".
An identity that develops in this manner is not oriented to its own needs but to the will of an authority.
I want to emphasize that the "stranger" in us is bred by a culture that won't accept the spontaneous expression of children's aliveness and vitality. This aspect of a culture gives rise to violent behavior and is responsible for the development of deficient identities. Personalities formed by the processes producing the inner stranger were never able to develop trust as an underlying component of their personality. Instead, they take on a "false identity" that makes them idealize repressive authorities in the hope that they will be rescued by the very people who are their tormentors.
Under such circumstances there cannot be an interior life that is able to protect us from that "abstract nakedness" of being human which Hannah Arendt (1973) spoke of. This nakedness is exposed when a true identity is prevented from developing and its place is taken by a false identity based on outer achievement, an identity that falls apart when the social context makes such achievement impossible.
The stranger is the real victim within us. The self has been distorted through being obedient, which makes it almost impossible to recognize what is really happening. Obedience, one could say, serves to subordinate oneself to the oppressor but also to disguise his deeds. In other words, obedience reinforces power, making it impossible to direct one's bottled-up rage against those who are responsible for it. But the rage is there as is the hatred for the victim in us, who must be rejected as foreign in order to accommodate those in power.
If a child finds no response in this "dance of the eyes," it is just as fear-inspiring as a physical threat. Murder is therefore not only a physical act but a psychic one as well.
When children are exposed to this kind of inner terror they must do everything possible to survive. This leads to what Ferenczi (1984) described in 1932 as the transformation of anxiety and terror into a feeling of security. This process originates in a social environment that allows adults to exploit children's dependence in order to advance their own feeling of self-worth and leads children to quickly reject their own feelings and perceptions for the sake of preserving their vitally essential bond with the care-giving adult. A child does this by submitting totally to the adult's expectations. Ferenczi puts it as follows:
"Children feel physically and morally helpless; their personality is not sufficiently consolidated for them to be able to protest even in their thoughts. The adult's overwhelming power and authority makes them mute, often robbing them of their senses. Yet their fear, when it reaches a peak of intensity, automatically forces them to submit to the will of the aggressor, to intuit and obey his every wish, to forget themselves entirely, to identify totally with the aggressor."
Such identification not only causes victims to ally themselves with their victimizers but to idealize them as well. In the eyes of the victim the victimizer appears to be a source of security. At the same time the victim begins to feel his or her pain as weakness because the victimizer forbids these feelings. If he were to become aware of his victim's pain, he would feel guilty. That is something the victimizer must avoid by inflicting further violence. Yet the pain and resulting rage persist in the victim, only this time the rage is turned against the self, which is now experienced as foreign. It is part of the normal process of adaptation to direct this rage against the external stranger. The ubiquity of this phenomenon determines the course of human history.
And so one passes on one's own victimization through the act of punishing the stranger out there, the one identified as being everything one has learned to hate in oneself. The result is what we characterize as normal behavior in our culture: the life-long attempt to gain control over the painful part of our nature - the part of us that we have lost and that keeps on making us feel impotent and helpless - by making victims of others in order to punish them for the pain we are not permitted to feel and for the victim in us that we are not allowed to be.