Adults Who have Grown from Children with Psychological Traumas and Autistic Barriers as a Reaction on Them

Autistic barriers are erected in order to avoid the pain linked to the traumatic awareness of the gap between self and object. They would appear to involve an overly-narcissistic relationship between the infant and one or other of the parents, a relationship based on the illusion of continuity. It is impossible to break free of that illusion without feelings of being torn or wrenched apart: a catastrophic discontinuity. These barriers make it difficult to overcome caesuras and leave primitive experiences in an untransformed state… They reproduce those forms of object relations that are overly narcissistic.
Prof. Didier Houzel, “Memories in Feelings and Autistic Barriers”

While observing the violent emotions and deeds of the neo-conservative politicians or the extremist behavior of corporate financial leaders, it is difficult not to feel that their psychological response to the problems and the world in general is highly defensive, rigid and mechanical, that they are not collaborating with the reality to get more efficient results, but instead are fighting it to force it to surrender. They don’t know how to unweave the problems, for this reason they approach life with frustration and aggression (conservative politicians) and forceful and cruel strategies (financial manipulators). How could these people become like this? What made them so violent? And what is possible to do to help them?

When American morbid conservatives and morbid corporatists (AMCs) meet the otherness (when other people are not doing what they want and “stubbornly” keeping their identity and perspective) they try to fill the gap between them and the objects through defensive/destructive instruments: hate, weapons, money and manipulative tactics. These instruments in the hands of AMCs function as a kind of autistic objects.

The discovery of otherness, according to Frances Tustin, “is experienced by children with autism as a terrifying discontinuity, for they do not have the capacity to integrate it within their internal world by means of representation and symbolization. The trauma in this children…has to do with a child’s becoming aware of the fact that mother and infant are not in a state of reciprocal continuity… it is the awareness of bodily separateness between self and object which is experienced as traumatic. As Tustin put it, ‘the infant’s awareness of bodily separateness had been experienced as a black hole associated with elemental panic and rage about the seeming loss of part of his body.’ The infant cannot tolerate the gap which at that point opens up between self and object because he or she does not have the requisite psychological means to process, in the internal world, the discontinuity that is experienced in the self’s relationship to the external world. That discontinuity is felt to be an unmitigated loss, a hole that fills up with persecutory [in today’s terms: terroristic] objects.” (Prof. Didier Houzel, ibid)

Let’s transpose the information about how autistic children react on the fact of separateness between them and their mothers (self and object) into the situation of AMC’s reaction on the very otherness of the world when they discover the resistance of other people to their will and feel that they cannot “integrate” this “terrifying discontinuity” “by means of representation and symbolization”. While politicians and financial entrepreneurs with democratic sensibility (who didn’t have autistic trauma in their infancy) are capable of dealing with the world which is full of otherness, AMCs “cannot tolerate the gap which opens between self and object”. They become autistically (blindly) infuriated. “A hole” is opened (in their unconscious) between them and the world which they feel is filled with “persecutory objects”: terrorists, insurgents, Moslems, Arabs, Commies, liberals, trade unions, academicians, etc., and in their fury they are ready to destroy the civilian populations “hiding the enemies” or put countries through economic shock therapies and World Bank/IMF types of manipulation (seducing them into pernicious financial dependence). Like an emotionally distressed child unintentionally provokes the mother into irritation with his/her preventive animosity (because of fear not to be responded to), the political and financial leaders with autistic features unintentionally provoke terroristic response from the world by their despotic greed and megalomaniacal egoism in international affairs.

“As a protective measure against the return of this traumatic awareness [that the world is full of otherness and not a continuation/extension of “our” interests], the child with autism has recourse unconsciously to ‘AUTISTIC MANEUVERS’ the aim of which is to deny or disavow otherness by plunging the infant into an UNDIFFERENTIATED WORLD OF ILL-DEFINED SENSATIONS which act as a barrier between the child and his or her awareness of the other person and the external world. In such a state, any clearly differentiated shape or form is fraught with threat and persecution. Denial of otherness encompasses not only the human beings in the child’s environment but also his or her perception of the surrounding world as a whole – it is impossible to tolerate the fact that objects can co-exist separately and in their own distinctive manner.” (Didier Houzel, ibid)

THE INABILITY TO ACCEPT THE OTHERNESS OF THE WORLD AND ITS OBJECTS is the basic autistic feature of American corporate and political leaders who come to another countries (or to American people) not with idea of mutual interests but with one-sided agenda of maximizing their profits (that includes bribery of local elites and neglect of the other countries or American population’s economic needs).

The second autistic feature of such anti-democratic approach to the world is THE AUTISTIC MANEUVERS – for example, the use of pressure diplomacy instead of democratic negotiations, maneuvers to control other countries’ politico-economic processes, and military interventions which we justify by local terrorist resistance to our bombastic and awkward (autistic) expansionism and interventionism.

But what is in our political and financial leaders (AMCs) an equivalent of “UNDIFFERENTIATED WORLD OF ILL-DEFINED SENSATIONS” Didier Houzel and Frances Tustin mention in their analyses of autistic children? It is, it seems, first of all, the pathetic feelings of our superiority and glory (giving us the right to transform the world into an extension of our interests) – this primitive megalomania is the primordial drug we humans make from the very substance of our emotions reflecting our social nature. Secondly, it is our obsession with the mass culture of entertainment and consumerism (based on symbiotic connectedness with another people, with images that “reflect me”, things that are “mine” and services we are addicted to, like cosmetic surgery, bodybuilding or prescription or illegal drugs). Inability to let otherness of people, countries and cultures be free from “our” narcissistic appropriation (transforming them into “our” extension) and blind identification with characters in Hollywood and soap-opera entertainment means to behave autistically, to live in a world where subject symbiotically attaches itself to its objects.

“Autistic barriers, which are encountered in many different kinds of pathology in children, adolescents and adults, involve states of non-differentiation between self and other, accompanied by a more or less pronounced lack of demarcation in the patient’s representation of the world; these co-exist with more differentiated parts of the self and with clearly-defined representations of the perceptual universe.” (Didier Houzel, ibid) The inability to learn how to co-exist with otherness of the world is an autistic feature which must be therapeutically addressed. A lack of psychological distance between people’s personalities and their impulses and partial interests (for example, symbiotic ties with food, personal weapons or with financial profit) is not less detrimental than “non-differentiation between self and other”.

To overcome this illusion of psychological continuity between us and the natural, social and international environment we need to be able to experience the third position – not that of a participant inside relationships but observer, and then to learn that real mutuality is not absolutized symbiotic relationship but the one where there is a place for dissimilarity, positive disagreements and otherness. Our AMCs in their childhood didn’t learn how to enjoy this third position, they, for example, were not helped to recognize as normal and positive the fact that parents have a relationship with each other beside and outside their relationships with their child. They suffer from never having known of “triangular psychological space”. They don’t have the psychological space for contemplation and existential spirituality. For this reason they are prone to perceive the world as their property and are hatefully intolerant and aggressive when it reminds them of their place.