Thursday, May 31, 2012

Psychology and Ideology. How Could Anyone (Except the Rich) Vote for George Bush? By Peter Prontzos (4/6)

In this view, a person’s political and social norms derive to a large extent from the style of parenting which they experienced.  The “Strict Father” model is associated with a more rigid, individualistic, authoritarian, patriarchal, and conservative type of moral code.  The Strict Father model celebrates traditional family structures and authority, and the father has primary responsibility for supporting and protecting the family, setting strict rules for children, and enforcing those rules.

The “Nurturant Parent” model, on the other hand, tends to produce children who are less rigid, more socially-minded, and who do not base morality on obedience.  This model, although it has some aims in common with the Strict Father approach (such as self-discipline), has a different style and different priorities.

Love, empathy, and nurturance are primary, and children become responsible, self-disciplined and self-reliant through being cared for, respected, and caring for others, both in their family and in their community…The obedience of children comes out of their love and respect for their parents…not out of fear of punishment (ibid).

The literature of developmental psychology shows that there is no contest between the two paradigms: childrearing according to the Strict Father model harms children; a Nurturant Parent model is far superior.  The Strict Father model “does not make for a harmonious society or for social progress” whereas Nurturant Parent morality encourages “the largest number of citizens can work together productively and cooperatively” (ibid).
“Parenting styles” refers not only to the ways in which caregivers treat children directly, but also to the social modeling that children observe (e.g. treating other people with respect - or not).  Lakoff writes in Moral Politics, that people tend to view their society, government, and political issues through the unconscious conceptual lens of metaphors.  The most potent of these metaphors is that of society as a family; hence, people’s attitudes to politics and “common sense” often reflect their own particular family experiences.  But he cautions that
Nothing is “just” common sense.  Common sense has a conceptual structure that is usually unconscious…not unconscious in the Freudian sense of being repressed, but unconscious simply in that we are not aware of it (Lakoff, 1996).

General support for this position comes from the research of Jost, et al, who did a meta-analysis of 88 samples from 12 countries, and established, inter alia:

dogmatism correlates consistently with authoritarianism, political-economic conservatism, and the holding of right-wing opinions;
a strong connection between intolerance of ambiguity…and political conservatism;
in the United States and Australia, people who hold politically conservative attitudes are generally less open to new and stimulating experiences;
conservatives are more susceptible to fear;
right-wing parents are apparently less close to their children.

The study also quotes conservative U.S. pundit George F. Will who writes that: “Conservatives know the world is a dark and forbidding place, where most new knowledge is false, most improvements are for the worse” (op. cit.)  This attitude, which serves as an argument for the status quo, has been associated historically with conservatives, from the Pharisees to Edmund Burke to Mitt Romney.  It is an especially appealing to ruling elites, as its ideological hegemony (Gramsci) serves to support their continuing power.

For instance, in one study (cited above) which examined the connection between parenting styles and politics, Milburn found that  repression and denial correlate with childhood trauma; specifically, that the “higher level of punitiveness among political conservatives is very strongly associated with experiences, generally, of harsh punishment from childhood”.  More specifically, “High punishment males were also more conservative than low punishment males” (Milburn, 1995).

In other words, a child’s experiences “can be displaced onto adult political attitudes” (ibid).

This research builds on the insights of Wilhelm Reich (The Mass Psychology of Fascism), who was among the first to point out that repressed, unfulfilled, and angry people are more disposed to violence, authoritarianism, and even totalitarianism.  Eric Fromm, who, like Reich, escaped from Nazi Germany, viewed authoritarian childhoods as more likely to create adults who see obedience as the best way to win the approval of father figures in power.  This tendency is exacerbated by the authoritarian behaviour and ideology of national leaders:

Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism have in common that they offered the atomized individual a new refuge and security.  These systems are the culmination of alienation.  The individual is made to feel powerless and insignificant, but taught to project all his human powers into the figure of the leader, the state, the fatherland, to whom he has to submit and whom he has to worship (Fromm, 1955).

Feelings of hurt, rage, fragmentation, and alienation provide a fertile soil for anti-social behaviour such as aggression and mindless obedience.  Indeed, both neglect as well as the harsh physical punishment of children are associated with increased levels of personal aggression (ScienceDaily, 7 April 2008; 14 Nov. 2005).

There have been many studies which have looked for consistent psychological differences between conservatives and liberals.  For instance, there is

consistent and converging evidence that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are robust, replicable, and behaviorally significant, especially with respect to social (vs. economic) dimensions of ideology (Carney, 2009).

Other researchers have concluded that:

In general, liberals are more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives are more orderly, conventional, and better organized (Carney, op. cit).

Conservatives are also less likely to accept new social, scientific or religious ideas than liberals are.  Studies on how the brain processes information found that “conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences.  These tendencies are not confined to ideology, but also “influence everyday decisions” (Gellene, 2007).

It appears, however, that both Democrats and Republicans are equally adept at ignoring “inconvenient truths” when making decisions (LiveScience, 2006), and that, in general, “Americans prefer to read political articles that agree with the opinions they already hold” (ScienceDaily, 29 May 2009).

In another study of children in nursery school:
future conservatives were described as easily victimized, indecisive, rigid, fearful and inhibited. The budding liberals were described as self-reliant, prone to developing close relationships, energetic and somewhat dominating (Seed, 2006).
Jack Block observed that such findings show that there is “an undeniable linkage between early childhood character structure and much later adult orientation toward political issues and political choices.”  Block argues that these characteristics tend, “to evolve into a worldview, a weltanschauung, on a wide variety of issues, many of them political” (ibid).  Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these differences play out in a host of other aspects of life:
  Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio. Liberal men like romantic comedies more than conservative men. Liberal women are more likely than conservative women to enjoy books, poetry, writing in a diary, acting, and playing musical instruments (Dixit, 2007).


  1. Hi,
    -"Common sense has a conceptual structure that is usually unconscious…not unconscious in the Freudian sense of being repressed, but unconscious simply in that we are not aware of it (Lakoff, 1996)"-.

    This is so important but written rather generically.

    To cut to the chase one could say that we humans need to make Evolution the mainstay of common sense and then perhaps people would rarely if ever find themselves behaving "counter-intuitively". In order to 'do the right thing' as has been said: " if we were not traumatised we would not need morality"; therefore our intuition would always align with what is truly ethical ie: empathic with peoples' needs. That is reality.

    Morality is the rule book of common sense.

    Common Sense is a cognitive cop out for the individualists who always know better than others but only after the event!

    -"Shoulda dunnit like that, 'scommon sense innit"?

    Common sense is nearly always pulled out of the hat as the personal possession of the magician with hindsight.

    Lastly few understand the "unawareness of the social assumptions" when they are driven by personal inclination. Personal inclination rarely can be bothered with building bridges over the chasms of wrong assumptions (ignorance). Personal inclination doesn't want to harm others but also cannot accommodate complex social situations. Personal inclination erects a barrier to the complexity of groups with "Common Sense". Thus the right wing view of the rugged and independent individualist must result in a totally reductionist and fragmented society. At least the liberal view tries to accommodate variety which is not the same as promoting "rugged individualism".

    Rugged individualism must adopt a cognitive and unfeeling view whilst acting out a caring role; but really the caring is actually controlling.

    There you have your vertical hierarchy and your totalitarianism. The assumption that power is an end in itself and the powerful must be right to tell the weak what to or not to do because the weak are unable to fend for themselves, etc etc. A self fulfilling prophesy.

    I feel socialist and conservative politicians (as we call it in UK) are doomed to involve into their opposites because both are an act out. Neither actually reflect the needs of the majority; both feed off our need to delegate the administration of our social, economic and environmental groupings to maintain their own power bases.
    It is therefore vital that Evolution becomes the mainstay of Common Sense. Somehow we gotta do that.

    Paul G.

  2. Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism have in common that they offered the atomized individual a new refuge and security. These systems are the culmination of alienation. The individual is made to feel powerless and insignificant, but taught to project all his human powers into the figure of the leader, the state, the fatherland, to whom he has to submit and whom he has to worship (Fromm, 1955)

    It's my Dad!!!!!!!!!!!! The Fatherland!

    Liberals in the UK are considered the centre ground though their alliance with the Tory's at the moment will mean they will be consigned to the wilderness for a generation come the next election.

    The Tory's are, conservative, narrow minded, hypocritical, corrupt, in bed with big business to a corrupt level often and closed to anything creative that is outside the norm.

    Labour tends to be more open minded is less patronising to women though has positive discrimination for women which I don't like. I just see them as equals. Labour is now seen as more caring, more progressive in social policy.

    However having been involved in some local politics a lot of them are quite mad especially the Tory's. Arrogance and lack of conscience abound. Sociopaths rule the roost.

    Love, empathy, and nurturance are primary, and children become responsible, self-disciplined and self-reliant through being cared for, respected, and caring for others, both in their family and in their community…The obedience of children comes out of their love and respect for their parents…not out of fear of punishment (ibid).

    That worries me. Obedience of children comes out of the love and respect for their Parents. That is still rather pedagogical. I would have though that it out to read "The respect and consideration of adult requests comes out of the adults respect for the children from the first'. Obedience suggests a dictatorial heirrachy and I would suggest that a decent family structure is based upon the learning of negotiation and mutual respect. This piece still has smatterings of what I would call adult biased teaching.

  3. Hi,
    -after-thought-. . .

    -I've often wondered how it is possible for any of us to point the finger at others, blaming them for a crime (usually petty, sometimes serious) when we are doing exactly the same ourselves.

    Ok, well we all know this syndrome. . . we all like to believe we ourselves are never like it. Most of us know 'hypocrisy' is a defence but how, HOW does that work? The 'why'? I have heard people explain as the inability to face one's own pain, ones' own shortcomings and to put them onto some-one else. Ok, that's still generic though, isn't it?
    So, from Primal Theory point of view I'm thinking to myself that the inner painful drives are coming up 1, 2, 3 and for sure the 3rd line is the slowest to react. Cognition is not fast. That would explain why insight can take so long after a re-living experience (hours, days, weeks, months even); even longer when only a cerebral function on its' own. Why homework gets handed in so late, along with tax returns and the correct updated drawings. Thinking always takes so bloody long. Intellectual function is slow. Period.

    I wonder if 'proximity' in neural networks equates to proximity in time? By this I mean we know memory can ruminate in 'loops' unconsciously without our knowing it and over time those loops can become shrouded in mystery, shrouded in literal, actual neural disconnects. So, even though yesterday I ignored and dismissed my neighbour (for whatever reason), this morning when I insult him, no sooner does he look at me with a frown of concern about all these behaviours of mine, than I am reading his frown as a rejection of me. It's now his fault he frowns and I can continue to believe that the reasons why I dismissed and ignored him yesterday are completely founded.

    Cause and effect as an exact law in time sequence have been dismissed. I have free will so I have the right to believe in any 'principle' I like, don't I?

    And so we have the disconnect between cause and effect. It is a lot like the analogy Andrew raised earlier: You bash my thumb with a hammer and I look at you with disdain and because of that it's my fault so you do it again to punish me!

    Disconnects in the brain bypass the laws of cause and effect and the victimisers feel justified in victimising the victims, again and again and again ad infinitum.

    Disconnects in the brain. Cerebral strokes, 'belief systems', Hypnosis, brainwashing, CBT. Well, they are all 'disconnecting' but it's amazing how many of the CBT type therapies describe themselves as "Integrative"! ! !

    Integrative of what? It is as Art has said: Integrative of the freedom to 'believe', to 'prefer' and to 'choose' but only inside of a personal and subjective "Moral" framework.

    Basically these bastards are making us swallow their false privilege by grabbing the status, high ground and the resources. I am because I am because I am. F*****s!

    Paul G.

  4. And the Liberals aren't much better seeing they have enabled this bunch of Tory toffs to send the country back to a pre-war social structure. Just so these Tory boys can pretend that being ripped away from their Mothers aged 8 and sent off to private schools that don't love them did them some good.

    1. Thank you planespotter for saving me the BRAIN STRAIN, the wear on my key pads and for affirming the shitty privilege I keep on vomiting up like the poisonous pedagogy it really is.

      I found myself compelled to share in the joy of the royal pageant on the Thames yesterday as I turned up at my brothers place with my daughter. . . Bloody high definition wide screen TV to boot.

      Symbolising the GREAT MATRIARCH. . .

      Oh Christ don't get me started. Any way Art, I thought this was a psyche blog. . . how come we got onto socio/psycho politics?
      Paul G.

  5. And conservative types are attracted to people who are also like themselves, and talk like they are totally certain of their one of my boss's who sucks up all this crap from other subordinates (some of whom are quite stupid) and not me, because I am honest with my uncertainly for where it exists...but, because of this I don't come off as "strong" and should likewise not be taken seriously in their "conservative" mind.

    I think so much damage is done in this world by people who are far too sure of themselves, and only because others are craving for that [false] sense of security in their "leadership".


    Just a point. You will also find conservative tendancies inside left-wing politics. I understand, for example, that Nazi-ism begun as a left-wing movement.

    It's not so much the ideologies, but the psychological relationship the individual has with them, I believe. People can get very right-wing with their left-wing politics. You will find creeps and fools in every territory.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      -"talk like they are totally certain of their views"...

      I used to be like that, a long time ago; once I had 'adopted' a new belief system that then gave me a script to hide behind, something to spiel. . . 'an organ to grind'. . . To cover up my uncertainty of my true self.

      It's very difficult to evangelise primal to most people because that is like preaching to the unconverted and frankly the only converts to primal are the self converters. . . you can't really evangelise Primal, can you? I mean, Art's tried. . .

      Paul G.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.