Saturday, June 16, 2012

Miller's takedown of Freud

Freud had his famous id-ego-superego triangle. He changed up his terms often, contradicting earlier selves but simply: id is raw, shapeshifting drive. Left alone, it's a tornado destroying everything in its path. Ego is the conscious self. The superego is conscience. The superego can go too far and get people hating themselves for no good reason, but a healthy superego is a good cop controlling the id's harmful tendencies. The superego is the result of early childhood discipline. The child is scolded and the parent's voice gets stuck in their head. While super-puritanical parenting forces the child to repress too much sexuality and is responsible for mental disorders, a good parent scolds mildly for the right reasons and a healthy superego develops.

For Alice Miller, instead of id and ego, there's simply a body; and what Freud called the superego is precisely the problem, the main cause of destructive behaviors. That voice in Catholics' heads, for example, telling them they're worthless shitbags is parents, priests, and nuns torturing them. In its absence they'd just be healthy people doing things like not becoming mass murderers and giving cupcakes to their neighbors for no damn reason. In fact, says Miller, they'd be far less likely to be violent. Violence is not in the body per se, it's in the pedagogy; it gets passed down, by way of pedagogists' behavior, from body to body. The desire to hurt people does not come from any essential aspect of the body, it comes from poisonous pedagogists.

There are clear advantages for the scolders and manipulators to induce subservient behaviors. Sociologically speaking, poisonous pedagogy helps the group live on, for example, by way of a lifetime of donations to the Church. The scolders' hatred gives the ultimatum: donate and be loved or don't and be rejected/killed by your parents. At the same time, the scolders avoid having to face the fact that their own parents abused them.