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Psychopathology of totalitarianism 3/3

Dernière mise à jour : 8 juil. 2021

Series in 3 episodes, published by L’Antipresse, n°286, 287 & 288 23 & 30 May 2021, 05 June 2021 - and translated by

Ariane Bilheran, normalienne (Ecole Normale Supérieure), philosopher, clinical psychologist, doctor in psychopathology, specialized in the study of manipulation, paranoia, perversion, harassment, and totalitarianism.

Episode 3.

Delusional contagion and psychic alliances, leaving the delusion.

“Freedom is the most intimate thing, and it is from it that the whole edifice of the world of the Spirit rises.”

Hegel, Principles of the philosophy of the right,

“Course on philosophy of the rights of 1831”.

To see a way out of totalitarianism, we need to understand how minds have been imprisoned in paranoiac madness.

This implies making the phenomenon of delusional contagion[1] intelligible, and to bring to light the unconscious psychic interactions that combine to promote ideology.

The paranoia is a contagious pathology, which erodes the traditional bonds to submit the psyches to new bonds, those of the ideology[2].

It is first necessary to understand (and I will not be able to go into the details of an overly complex psychological process here) that the psyche tends to defend itself against the violence of harassment, media propaganda and terror.

For that, it builds ramparts which enable it to tolerate an unbearable reality, among which: denial, repression, banalization, idealization, cleavage, projection, radicalization, interpretation, isolation, discharge in the passage to the act, automation of the facts and the gestures, the emotional anesthesia, the disinvestment…[3]

These “defense mechanisms” erode the individual’s lucidity.

In particular, denial is an absolute impossibility of representing the violence of what is happening, to the point of making any argumentation or evidence of the facts impenetrable.

I specify that this psychic process has nothing to do with intelligence, but concerns the psychologically “most fragile”, i.e., those who do not have sufficient internal resources to resist such an interpretative distortion of the world: the majority of human beings.

For it takes extraordinary psychic strength to maintain healthy reasoning in a world that is going mad, where reference points are inverted, the truth is disguised as a lie, and the innocent people are designated as guilty, while the guilty people exercise indecent terror, in the name of the good of the people, and beautiful ideals such as “health for all” or “the protection of our elders”. The delusional contagion operates from these ramparts, making the individual permeable to the ideology, and henceforth an unconditional follower of the totalitarian cult.

There is a hierarchy of psychic profiles in the access to the structuring functions of civilization that are symbolization and sublimation[4]. We can already distinguish those who have structurally integrated the fundamental taboos of the prohibition of murder and incest (and their derivatives: slander, envy, sexual transgressions etc.), and the others.

The latter, who are no longer bound by an external structure, are then “activated” by the paranoiac delusion, which henceforth authorizes them to act, without any legal repression, as long as the mortifying and transgressive action is in line with the dogmatic ideology.

Thus, under propaganda, individuals with pervert profiles can torture with impunity (cf. Klaus Barbie), individuals with paranoiac profile can spread terror[5], and psychopaths can be used as mercenaries of the regime.

Ordinary neurosis[6]are weakened, that is to say that in “normal” times, people who behave in a way that respects the fundamental prohibitions, can, thanks to a totalitarian ideology, regress, and in particular in a perverse way.

Clearly, the totalitarian system, by its massive delusional dimension, makes perverts decompensate[7] into paranoia, and neurotic profiles regress into perversion, perversion being a kind of ultimate psychic barrier to avoid sinking into delusion (cf. Racamier).

The deployment of the totalitarian system thus leads to the occurrence of numerous abuses of power and sadistic acts, committed by leaders who reveal themselves. And one wonders how this good family man, usually so pleasant, and known for so long, became capable of so many atrocities…

I remind you that the perversion[8] is the conscientious and skillful executor of the paranoiac madness.

The paranoiac defines the strategy, while the perverse deploys the tactics.

The other neurotic profiles, rarer, are all the same weakened, up to nourishing depressions and suicidal ideas, or to convert their anguish into serious obsessive neurosis: the individual functions on an automated mode, by ritualized attitudes, which prevent him/her from thinking about his/her function in the whole system, like Eichmann in the Holocaust, who only made sure that the trains arrived on time.

The individual prefers in fact to be dragged into the collective psychic regression, rather than to face the experience of solitude, loss, and separation (experience to which the traditional philosopher is generally seasoned). Thus, in inciting situations, out of norms, the authors of barbaric acts are also “honest people”, with obedient profiles.

Only three types of profiles resist the totalitarian surge:

Some “Anti-socials”, already accustomed to not submitting to the rules of the world that they always question with great vitality,

- Some people anchored on the ground with a good down to earth sense which vaccinates them against any ideology out of ground,

- Some intellectuals and artists. All who have an inner emotional depth, an internal autonomy, and moral references to the transcendent authority, sufficient to anchor the affirmation of themselves in a vertical temporal filiation (old masters, genealogy, ancestors…), which frees them from the horizontal adhesion to the group and from the bonding to the ideology.