Defence Mechanisms Against Dictators

Since people under totalitarian regimes, such as Iran’s, are kept unaware of their rights, complicated set of mechanisms emerges against their own collaboration ending in passive attitudes because the ruling system cannot be directly challenged. Defense mechanisms, mostly unknown, characterize their unconscious refute of the ruling system.

Defense mechanisms are psychologically distinguished from passivity or inaction despite likely similar results. In passivity, an absolute submissive attitude permits the aggressor to curb the victims forever, whereas defense mechanisms are hidden reactions to aggression. The failure of these mechanisms may contribute to personality disorders because every normal individual reacts against the aggressor.

Analyses are needed to describe the mechanisms with no risk of generalization and confusion. This kind of totalitarian societies are full of confusion between religious and secular values, especially among the youth, in terms of personal identity and compatibility. Therefore, such mechanisms emerge as solutions instead of total submission to the imposed values.

The source of the confusion among the Muslims is in fact political Islam, which opposes the very desires of ego. Political Islam has historically inflicted its credo upon people in order to force them as docile subjects. This is the contradiction between religious values and the individual desires of ego plus the secular values of superego as conscious choices.

Total submission to the values set by political Islam proves to be a psychological source of anxiety of most people born in such a society, a deep problem that has never been objectively discussed in the course of history because it is a taboo. With the evolution of today’s rationality among the new generations of Islamized societies, this problem finds more attention. Especially due to the development of social networks like Facebook and influx of ideas thanks to cyber-communication, the contradiction becomes uncontrollable for the local authorities of the Islamic world. A choice between secular and religious practices now confuses people in terms of creating their own social norms and cultural expectations.

In a society like Iran, thanks to the ruling regime, the imposed norms of religiosity are partly consciously rejected — although some unconsciously remain. The mixture of religiosity and secularism under the Shah, before the 1979 revolution, rapidly turns into the conscious rejection of religion. This detrimental process encourages the youth to understand their original non-Islamic identity and urge for individual freedom. In this light, defense mechanisms play a dominant role on a daily basis and can find new forms, a way to avoid total submission to religion.

On the one side, the ruling theocratic regime forces people to obey its imposed norms as docile populace, on the other side, people indirectly resist (I am not here talking about those who practically resist like taking into the streets), what results in conflicting requirements of highly complex and interpersonal relations. A large number of defense mechanisms appear to some extent protect relatively “passive” struggles against the theocratic regime, but at the price of a certain degree of denial or distortion of reality and concrete results – a case which is tactically used by the Islamic regime itself as a deviation-maneuver to buy time for its survival under any color.

Needless to mention that it is up to the opposition to help this category of people to know more about their defense mechanisms and how to effectively improve them. No defense mechanism means any fear and anxiety but a complete passivity or total submission to the imposed norms. Repressed fear and anxiety find a way into unconsciousness from where may appear in the consciousness under other contents or less passive forms, forms which favor survival of tyrannical regimes, but do not submit. Here are the two known forms of defense mechanisms:

1 – Repression

The mechanism of repression was first proposed by Sigmund Freud and, for some time, occupied a special place in psychoanalytic theorizing, perhaps because it involves the most direct approach to avoiding the experience of anxiety. As a result of repression, the individual is not aware of his/her own anxiety-producing impulses or does not remember deeply emotional and traumatic past events. Unaware of such impulses, a person who has suffered a mortifying personal failure in a rational way of thinking, through repression, becomes unable to recall the source of the failure.

Repression is not deliberate; it is psychologically more complicated, somehow occurs automatically as a reaction in certain situations of conflict, serving as a defense of the ego hiding the source of anxiety. Most Muslims escape from painful reality of their cult because it creates an anxiety and they do not want or cannot rationally confront it. Therefore, the painful reality and irrationality of most imposed religious rules automatically represses into their unconsciousness. The worse is when elements of such repressed experiences emerge dangerously targeting real selves or other members of the society, causing neurotic and brutal adepts of the regime, like those average and mostly non-practicing individuals, voluntarily working for the security organizations.

Repression is assumed to be more than forgetting. In support of this view, repression seems to be so deeply intensive that psychotherapy, like hypnoses or treatment by drugs, may be required to recover the forgotten sources. Furthermore, the repression may also extend to neutral events that are associated with the traumatic event. In cases of amnesia, for example, a person suffering an emotional crisis may forget not only the conflict, but also everything that reminds him of it, including his own name and identity. And when the amnesia attack begins to wear off, the memories that return first are those most remote from the precipitating emotional crisis. It is for all these reasons that repression has been termed motivated forgetting. Collective repression of Iranians due to the extreme atrocities of the early Muslim invaders seems to repress painful traumatism in their collective unconsciousness, so deep that Iranians even forget their original names by choosing the imposed and humiliated Islamic / Arabic name like “Gholam…” or slave of… (Shiite Imam). In terms of great psychoanalyst Gustav Jung, repression describes the painful archetypes that today under the Islamic regime have found an access to our collective consciousness and this is our task to diagnose it.

If repression were a simple matter of blotting out the conflict and all its attendant anxieties, it would of course be the ideal defensive reaction. However, this blotting out does not seem to happen effectively when an oppressive regime is the main profiteer. The relief from anxiety bought by repression is paid for in other ways, for example, in reaction formation.

2 – Reaction formation

Reaction formation can be described as an unconsciously care for someone, something or idea: for example, a young woman cares for her old husband, while unconsciously wishes his death so that she can remarry a young man – probably this is the reason the Prophet Muhammad banned his young wives to remarry after his death.

In a society, where a totalitarian regime or belief system rules, the reaction formation might partly lead to the active collaboration of the oppressed people.

This psychoanalytic mechanism of anxiety-provoking impulses is often accompanied by a counteracting tendency that is exactly opposed to relatively passive repressive mechanism. For example, a victim of the regime may have become a fanatical adept of the regime by this twisted mechanism. The victim may repress his own impulses by denouncing the very vice of the regime while unknowingly siding with the regime. In similar manner, the manifestation of concern for such a formation mechanism may mask (repressed) hostility toward the regime – a similar behavior of Stockholm syndrome, which bizarrely is characterized by love of hostage (the conquered) for his captor (the invader, or the conqueror). This must psychologically be a reason for the expansion of Islam first through extreme brutalities against the conquered nations, and then new converts of these conquered nations towards their own non-converts fellow countrymen and women.

Once we unveil this process, political Islam will get bogged down deeper in its illegitimate origin. So the extreme regard that many people have towards the imposed religion may really find its origins in concealed disdain; since bravado may mean hidden fear. The point is that most people do not know the reason of this regard. In revolutionary circumstances, with the help of secular opposition, the reaction formation can become a freedom-mechanism or the calm before the storm, in other words, the regard changing into disdain.

Reaction formation can prevent the individual from behaving a way that would most basically create anxiety as frequently can prevent him from behaving in an antisocial manner, i.e., secular people in a theocratic regime. On the other hand, reaction formation is also likely to have counterproductive consequences because of the irrationality of analytic character. For example, it can explain why our oppressed ancestors converted to the imposed religion and then became themselves oppressors against their own non-convert fellow countrymen and women. We can also see the actual effects of that today through some victims of rape and torture in the prisons of the Islamic regime. Once repentant, some of them become collaborators of the same regime!

Knowing only a little about the phenomenon of reaction formation makes all too easy to develop a thoroughly skeptical attitude toward people’s motives. If things can sometimes mean just the opposite of what they seem on the surface how can one distinguish the real motivation in any given case? The answer is that reaction formation, like every defense mechanism, occurs only under fairly special circumstances, in the degree of obvious exaggeration of the behavior.

Since beneath the self-righteous exterior in every human being there lies a savage reminiscent from the very past, early Muslim invaders used this primitive instinct of aggression to expand with extreme brutality against the conquered communities. For these invaders, paradise with 72 Virgins is the eternal rewards if they are themselves killed or martyrs for the sake of their faith. Most of the conquered communities of those early days are embedded by the painful memories, what historically has fed anxiety and various forms of defense mechanisms. The violence committed by the Islamic regime in Iran is a reminder of this painful past and its psychological consequences.

The principle evidence that such a process, as repression exists, rests upon a large body of clinical observation made in the course of psychotherapy. However, no genuine psychological research is permitted under an ideological or theocratic regime because such a research would identify the totalitarian system as the source of collective anxiety. A totalitarian system would enforce its ideology in an attempt to define any individual attitude through it. Laboratory experiments are rare or twisted and abused by and under such systems. Political abuse of psychiatry is reported under all totalitarian systems. During the USSR, psychoanalysis and psychiatry were illegal or abused by the regime to “re-educate” its opponents for“Sluggish Schizophrenia, Anti-Soviet Political Behavior…. “!

Many of items in this repertoire of defense mechanisms are by now familiar to us, the diffusion of psychoanalytic concepts in our everyday practices, however, is mostly unknown, but we cannot wishfully generalize about all. Mechanisms must be discussed by experts to shed light on the reasons of passive or little resistance of our people to one of the most barbaric and brutal regimes in the history, the Islamic regime.

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