My new book, Resurgence of Global Populism: A Psychoanalytic Study of Projective Identification, Blame-Shifting and the Corruption of Democracy, (Routledge Publishing, August 2022), offers evidence of how populists can wrest power and sow discord while eroding democratic processes in a slow decline towards authoritarianism. The undermining of social equality occurs when lies, deception and false assumptions replace representation by the people which occurs as populists fail to follow through on their commitments. While Donald Trump did not start illiberal forms of government, my book describes how he provided new tools to populist leaders which has threatened freedom throughout the world.
"This important book cogently applies psychoanalytic thinking to a host of serious dangers that threaten democracy and even our very survival in the United States and in the rest of the globe. Starting with Donald Trump’s unscrupulous rise to power and deeply damaging presidency, Messina studies the regressive dynamics of his supporters. She then broadens her discussion to include 15 additional countries being weakened by authoritarian leaders. Messina is a role model for psychoanalysts who want to apply their understanding of individual and group dynamics beyond the consulting room." - Richard M. Waugaman, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown University School of Medicine, USA
"Karyne Messina has her psychoanalytic hand on the pulse of growing authoritarianism throughout the world. This book takes us on a guided world tour of corrosive trends from the United States to South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania to analyze the causes and effects of populist and authoritarian governments. What sets this book apart is her sure-handed use of a psychoanalytic lens to examine the developmental causes of threats to democracy and good governance, the invasive effects of social media, and the erosion of good governance worldwide. Students of international relations and all who care about the health of our planet will benefit from sharing her examination."
David Scharff, MD, Winner of the 2021 Sigourney Award in Psychoanalysis, Co-Founder, The International Psychotherapy Institute
Our divided country is putting our democracy at risk. We must find a way to talk with people who have different ideas. You can learn how to begin this process by reading scripted dialogues found in this book.
Donald Trump’s behavior encouraged the development of a generation of people inclined to hateful identity politics and bigotry, while trying to also dismantle our country’s institutions and natural resources.
Aftermath is a guide about how we can heal, with ideas on how each of us can help bridge the divide that has only grown deeper since Election Day in November 2016. These problems emerged in part due to the way Trump constantly shifts blame.
This behavior is known in psychoanalytic circles as projective identification, a phenomenon people employ who unconsciously dislike something about themselves. Instead of taking responsibility, they blame those feelings, thoughts, or actions on others. Trump is an expert at this, and it's hurting all of us.
To heal will take time, patience, and a willingness to take stock of our viewpoints and square them with divergent ones. It’s not so unusual anymore for families and friends who find themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum to refrain from engaging in any sort of meaningful conversation for fear that such discussions will ruin already fractured relationships. It shouldn’t be that way.
Though rooted in psychoanalysis, Aftermath gets at the essence of projective identification as nurtured by Trump, and how we can combat its prevalence in order to once again engage in thoughtful, meaningful debate with those on opposite ends of the political rainbow without resorting to violent rhetoric.
We must demand that our leaders engage in a process that incorporates a respectful way of communicating between and among people. Aftermath shows the way.
When democracy falters anarchy can emerge. While we aren't there yet, when people storm the capital, threaten to kill representatives in Congress and insist that a former president won an election he clearly lost, it might not be far away.
Democracy is a privilege, not a right. If we want to preserve it, people on b
What he actually did: When people disagree with Donald Trump, he summarily dismisses and discounts them. He doesn't appear to be able to consider different points of view. He also gets rid of things he doesn't like about himself by projecting them onto others. He then accuses the receiver of his projections of having his discarded qualities.
Many radical members of various right-wing groups decided to go to Washington to harm those who they thought were responsible for treating their leader unfairly. The problem is, the whole scenario was based on fake news and false information spread on social media
"When you look at women making a difference, you won’t find a more shining example than Karyne (pronounced plain old Karen) Messina. From her earliest moments as a child and throughout her career she has spent her waking moments thinking about, observing and advocating for people, especially women. She has been a teacher, counselor, facility director, psychoanalyst—and now author--who analyzes women. What makes them tick? Why don’t they get the good jobs and pay they deserve?
Why are they so much like their mothers, yet yearn to be separate individuals? Why do they tolerate being mistreated—by men of course, but also other women? What can she do to effect change and make this world a better place for women?"
What do you, Hillary Clinton and Clara Thompson have in common? You all face misogyny, projective identification and mentalization. These are the concepts that help therapists and lawyers work with their clients to understand how misogynistic patterns appear at all social and political levels across America and the World.
These same concepts are important in corporate America as well. Shifting roles and changes in the status quo can raise anxiety, decrease engagement and threaten people in positions of power. As more women rise to top positions, misogyny increases. Why? Many men don't dislike women but they don't consider themselves to be misogynists. However, there is no escaping that we live in a patriarchal world. The idea that men are more powerful is embedded in our society.
These notions are perpetuated by men who want to retain power and women who look for a man when they need something to be done from changing a lightbulb to driving to a vacation spot. Many men grow up learning they need to protect women who, in turn, don't always disavow them of that idea.
The model of men as protectors can work until men are replaced by women in positions of power. Since many segments of society still promote the idea that men deserve top positions, misogyny creeps into otherwise congenial work environments when women gain power. The fight for equality must continue until women are truly equal participants in today's world since to date, it is still a man's world
My book examines the lives of four women whose lives were upended by projective identification and misogynistic behavior, as well as groups of women who suffered from dismissal and abuse, including the Radium Girls of the 1920s, the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II, Tutsi and Hutu women as well as women and girls brought into sex trafficking and then persecuted for it.
Misogyny, Projective Identification, and Mentalization tells the stories of these women who have been erased, dismissed, and devalued, while putting forth a hypothesis about why the phenomenon occurs and what can be done to change this dynamic. I propose that projective identification—the mechanism that allows a person or group to get rid of negative feelings, thoughts, or fantasies by attributing them to someone else or others—can create a hivemind that leads to dismissal, humiliation, violence, and atrocity against women; a process that can clearly be seen in most parts of the world today.
These issues could appear at home, at work, in school, or in any other place where you encounter those who project unwanted aspects of themselves onto you. Misogyny, Projective Identification, and Mentalization sets a new agenda for understanding how misogyny is expressed socially and how to stop it.
Karyne Messina is trying to change the conversation about misogyny. First stop, Corning, NY.
Projective identification is a defense mechanism that allows people to rid themselves of some aspect of their personality that is intolerable. In the process, this quality is projected onto another person.
The original projector feels temporarily like the "bad" characteristic is gone. The end result is that the first person feels he or she has gotten rid of the attribute or quality and is thereafter, at least temporarily, relieved. In this person's mind, it is a trait that the other unwitting person exhibits.
The receiver of the projection often initially feel stunned. It is as if he or she doesn't know what has happened. Eventually, however, this person may start to believe the characteristic belongs to him or her.
Mentalization is a healthy process. When it occurs, people feel free to express themselves while allowing others to also do so. In this state, a person knows his or her view and respects those of another person or other people.
When mentalization is in play, all ideas are valued and no ideas are judged. Everyone has a voice and free to express their beliefs. In an environment where people mentalize, personal, community, and corporate engagement becomes possible.
This process is important whether people are in school, at work, on a playground, in a family setting, or part of a corporate environment. Collaboration between and among people is possible when mentalizing is part of all exchanges.
It is a one-mind process and most likely it has happened to you. It occurs when one person accuses another person of doing something he or she didn't do. For example, bullies often project something about themselves onto someone else.
It is a two-minds process yet can include many people. This way of interacting with others facilitates optimal communication between and among people in most all settings. When all ideas are valued and respected by others, people feel engaged.
We currently see this phenomenon occurring in Washington, DC as people blame others for what they themselves have done. These types of accusations range from lies to serious crimes that are potentially life-threatening.
It can be observed in groups that collaborate effectively, in companies that participate in authentic engagement, with couples who respect opinions of the other, and with parents who encourage children to form and express their own opinions.
Projective Identification can be observed in cases of physical or emotional abuse where victims believe those who have harmed them, on play-grounds where bullies threaten them, and in situations of sexual harassment.
Mentalization helps people overcome the impacts of projective identification. Learning how to respect the opinions of others is imperative in all areas of life whether it is at home, at work, in school, or when providing services to others.
Mentalization can improve corporate engagement and responsibility
Helping people feel successful about what they do while meeting the goals of any enterprise results from authentic engagement. This can most effectively be achieved through respectful dialogue among all participants. According to the authors of The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, frequent feedback can be positively correlated with engagement.
Mentalization can also improve employee retention
Company leaders who mentalize share ideas with employees at all levels and offer opportunities for people in all divisions to work together towards a common goal while respecting the efforts of everyone involved. Emotional investment in a company's success often increases when all members are valued.
Projective identification can impact morale in any organization
Projective Identification can appear in a myriad of ways. Bullying is a classic manifestation of this mechanism and can occur in all types of settings, e.g., one person might try to get rid of a label by claiming an attribute belongs to someone else. The person receiving this projection initially is often stunned but can eventually begin to believe he or she possesses the quality.
Projective identification can happen to anyone at anytime
Recipients of projections usually become very upset. Initially victims of this type of assault may feel stunned by the accusation. However, when the person is shunned, laughed at and dropped by a group of friends, the victim can begin to question himself or herself or think he or she might actually be perceived in the way the bully or perpetrator has claimed.
Mentalization or valuing and respecting the opinions of all patients is vitally important. People return when they are satisfied with the treatment they receive.
Mentalization can set the tone for engagement. This is important in any business setting since everyone is more productive when his or her opinion matters.
Mentalization is extremely important in industry where all people want to be respected. When this occurs, job satisfaction and productivity increase.
Everyone who lives on a college campus should know about projective identification because it can be the mechanism that leads to sexual harassment and assault.
Have you opened a new location, or added a new product or service? While these things matter, what matters more is how customers are treated.
In schools there are bullies who project or accuse others of things they actually do. Because they can't stand these things about themselves, they blame others.
This phenomenon occurs in all types of settings. When any employee, supervisor, parent, teacher or coach blames someone else for something he or she actually did, projective identification could be occurring. It's kind of like corporate bullying. A clue that this is happening is when the person receiving the projection feels stunned or confused. He or she may not be certain whether what is being said is true or not. Eventually though, the receiver of the projection can begin to believe that he or she has the characteristic that the projector got rid of because the trait or behavior caused him or her to feel uncomfortable or bad. An excellent example of projective identification is evident when examining what happened to Hillary in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Yes, in many settings a person can let the accuser know what he or she has said isn't true. They can verbally "give back" the projected part of the other person.
In corporations, a person's supervisor may be able to help. If not, HR might be the next step. Other options may include government agencies such as the EEO.
A person who is unfairly accused of something he or she didn't do can always contact an attorney who specializes in employment law. If the stress seems like it is too much to handle, a therapist may also be able to help.