During his opening talk for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, UNFCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer stressed the importance of political will in a successful climate change outcome.
The problem is George Bush refuses to sign a binding agreement on cutting emissions, unless China also does so. Such childish behavior is puzzling to me. Why doesn’t our President choose the high ground and take the lead? The stakes are so high, it is worth taking a look into the psychological root causes of our leader’s attitude. In his book, ‘Bush on the Couch‘, Dr. Justin Frank, offers us a unique perspective on the pathology of George Bush. Below are some excerpts from an interview with Dr. Frank.
I came to the conclusion that his entire life, from early on, has been dedicated to managing, through evasion- his anxiety. That he was an overwhelmingly anxious person who built up layers and layers of different ways to protect himself from anxiety.The anxiety, in a child like that, is usually about their own destructiveness and also about being humiliated. His father was a star. His mother was cold and distant. He was the first born and his sister died; there was no mourning. There was no discussion of her death. And so, he was sort of left on his own.There are lots of different ways of managing anxiety, and, there are several of them that have come out since he stopped drinking. But, of course, the first way to manage anxiety is through alcohol. But, by being a born-again Christian, he can also manage anxiety by being connected to God, by feeling that he’ll be saved in any kind of a rapture, by feeling that he’s always on the side of the Good.
Another way to manage anxiety is to make other people anxious, so he can project his anxiety into the rest of us. So we can experience the kind of anxiety-and the rest of the world does, in lots of ways, experience the kinds of anxiety that he must have felt as a child. Another way of managing anxiety is to simplify things; to divide the world, his own inner world, into good and bad, into black and white. . .
Another way to manage anxiety is to be cruel to other people, by making them anxious, and by gratifying your own sense of power to compensate for feeling helpless.
And, finally, there is another way to manage anxiety, which is to become detached from the consequences of your behavior. Something that I call malign indifference, which is a repudiation, really, of the damage that you’ve done, and not taking responsibility for it. . .
So, that’s what my book is about. My book is, essentially, a detailed study of the psychological phenomenon that involves mental splitting, mental function, mental action, and how, ultimately, Bush has decided to play his anxieties out on a global scale. . .
He is essentially saying that he wants to spread freedom throughout the world, which has to do with getting rid of anxiety. I think that when he’s talking about tyranny, he’s talking about his own internal experiences, that he is feeling tyrannized by his own anxiety and his own fears. And, he’s getting the rest of the world to live out his own inner fantasies. It’s amazing that he’s come this far. I think part of it is that he’s been able to manipulate and sweet-talk lots of people who are far better than he is. I mean, I think that people who are really good people, well-meaning people in middle America, are really seduced by his religiosity, his posturing, and of course, by their own fear, that he has helped create. . .
For somebody who is grandiose, and for somebody who is using everything at their disposal to manage anxiety, those people can never fully rest. So, he’s going to get worse and worse, psychologically; although, he may, at times, seem to be very calm. But the increase in his grandiosity and his paranoia are, if unchecked, just going to take over. He already wants to break down the Social Security system that’s been working for a long time.
And, he is very interested in doing certain things such that, if he’s driven to manage anxiety, he will be indifferent to the results of his destructiveness, because, if he looked at the results of his destructiveness in a serious way, it would make him anxious! So, this is why he can’t really look at Abu Ghraib, or look at the devastation you caused our own troops, and certainly the Iraqi citizens-it’s not possible for him to really take those things in. And, of course he doesn’t allow much exposure to come into this country. So, I think that the future is that he is going to have to run faster and faster to manage anxiety, and the victims of that race that he is having against his internal tormentors, are going to be the rest of us. So, I’m not very optimistic about the future. . .
Well, there will be an unraveling. All these defensive layers are definitely frightening to people who live outside of those layers, because, you are being bullied. You are being intimidated, and that’s very frightening. But, if people ever stand up to him-first of all, he’s going to show his teeth, and do the kinds of things you’ve just cited. But, it’s also going to show a massive defensiveness and an eventual collapse.
Bullies are basically frightened people, even though they are frightening. And, all of the behaviors that I’ve talked about, and that you have asked about, are the behaviors of a bully. . .
And, his behavior has always been him, and what he’s done is, he’s allowed people to think that there is optimism, everything will work out, he’s not really doing anything, he’s not that smart. He is very smart, but in a certain kind of way. He is very tricky, very cagey, and extremely dangerous as a President, and as a person. . .
We, the people, cannot reason with George Bush’s pathology, but we can take note of Dr. Frank’s assessment and draw inspiration from it, for an action plan:
Now, one of the things that happens with a megalomaniac person, is that people who are that grandiose and that desperate, have to control more and more things, and take over more and more things, and challenge more and more traditional sets of values, or traditions, really. And, the last person who did that, in a clear way, was [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy, when he, essentially, was beginning to challenge Eisenhower himself. And, I think that what happens is that, these people never stop, unless some outside force stops them. And, Bush will not stop of his own choosing. He will only have to be stopped. And that would have to be, by people who are willing to stand up and say, “Stop it! You can’t do this any more. I don’t care if you’re President.”
Where are those people, with the power and will to stand up to our President?