Tough Sissies or Just Frighten Children Trying to Forget Their Fears by Looking Tough

The repressed rage will look for a scapegoat.
Alice Miller*

Russians have a historical record of patient love for their leaders and bosses. They tolerated the abuses of Tsars’ wars, pre-revolutionary deprivations in the hand s of land-lords and employers, and 70 years of communist dictatorship (that could continue if not the self-serving radical decisions of the Soviet political elite). They endured endless mistreatments with a heroic readiness to suffer for the sake of being loved – by Tsar, by Christ, by Lenin and Stalin, by the Kremlin Ruby Star, by the god of communism, by their country. But the very possibility of the eight years of Bushmerican rule and Cain-with-cane’s electoral success in 2008 (even after the dickchain of military and financial disasters he came too close to Obama in numbers) is an indicator that Americans also carry within their hearts a touching political love for their tough conservative decision-makers.

Americans swallowed without protests mass loosing of jobs (the corporate leaders prefer foreign labor), the fraudulent war in Iraq (launched instead of punishing those who attacked us on 9/11), the disappearance of their savings and foreclosure of their houses (taken place because of ruthlessly reckless decisions of the rich money-worshippers), and the Medical Insurance Companies’ tyrannosaur appetite for profit. If love without critical thinking is a sign of fixation on mother-child dyad, the suffering love for the object that abuses you is a sign of the fixation on abusive dyadic relations. The acceptance of “abusive love” is the only option for the child because it psychologically needs adults even when the last ones behave abusively. The child tries to “adapt” to abuse for the sake of keeping the parents near by. It doesn’t know that a not abusive parenting exists, so it thinks that abuse is the norm. It is like the situation with our soldiers who sincerely believe that Iraq “did it on 9/11” just because it was said so and who think that by occupying it they are defending their country and punishing the perpetrators. An abused child cannot develop rational thinking. It can endure the abuse only by believing that abuse is the form of love.

“It doesn’t matter how hating and humiliating life is I will not disagree and will not complain, I will obey and accept its conditions, go through hell with honor, valor and optimism. I will endure severest, harshest military training, and I will prevail. If my mother or father beat me up I will tolerate everything and will continue to love them. If my Commander-in-Chief sends me off to any country and orders me to kill, to torture and die I will do this gladly, without any hesitation.” Young people who are grown up from abused children don’t have the minimum of personal autonomy to back up their own independent conscience and thinking. The farther we get from the democratic (civil, tolerant and rational) spirit of the 60s and 70s there are more adults among us who have been abused as children. It means that more “heroes” we’ll have who are ready to follow any authoritarian slogan with unconditional belief and readiness to sacrifice themselves.

For little children the desire to accept abuse is the same as for the 20 year-olds to take the misjudgments and errors of their leaders as smart and wise decisions. The abused child has only one option and that is to survive – to adapt to abuse, it is learning to tolerate it and even to like and to defend it. When the mistreated children become adolescents and late teens they continue to follow the same old defensive psychological strategy – in order not to be abandoned they become sentimentally heroic. They feel that for their leaders to readily sacrifice the young people is a valid and proper way to act.

Sissy heroism is a sentimental agreement to accept abuse. It is a form of unconditional love to prevent conflict with the authority figures so as not to create their displeasure and then risk the loss of their love. It is an attempt to keep the parental substitutes’ love by any price. People with sissy heroism complex are either enthusiastically prone to hate and are ready to kill any scapegoat that is pointed out by their leaders, or become indifferent to and turn away from political issues to be occupied only with private life.

*Alice Miller is a child psychoanalyst, the author of numerous books on the topic of child abuse and its psychological and psychosomatic consequences.