Childhood Psychological Trauma Transforms Human Being’s Soul into a Chimera

It is difficult to imagine Dick Cheney, Glen Beck or Berny Madow’s soul as Brauner’s chimera – so different she looks from their rude – anti-humane, anti-scholarly, anti-intellectual, anti-sensitive, anti-empathic faces. She is a beauty who refuses the cult of beauty while faces of people like Rumsfeld, Limbaugh or Ken Lay carry flames of obsession – with power, slogans and money. The look of the soul (its imaginary personifications) cannot be identical with how a person whom the soul belongs to (who belongs to soul?) looks. When our soul is crying we often shout commands, when our soul is appealing we often hate and murder, when our soul murmurs confessions we are ready to condemn the whole world, and when our soul is in pain we want to torture and mock the helpless people who depend on our will. But even when we do the opposite of what our soul whispers to us we are under its influence, our actions are determined by its reactions, our feelings by its intuitions. If our soul is in love we can become especially dangerous to the world. Our souls are always more honest than we are. Our soul is not completely ours; and we are not its. And this is especially true about the conservative leaders, political or financial, people obsessed with fighting and victories, with subduing and breaking the opponents, with muffling the different voices, with triumphing over others. The soul of this kind of people was violently, in their childhood, pushed away from their bodies, in a way that it created a rupture in their whole being. Their souls, as a result of them having been abused as children (most conservatives were corporeally punished and/or emotionally abused, or didn’t have a positive identification with paternal authority) have retreated from their being and became bitter.

When the soul loses body as a part of itself, as its soil, it starts to predatorily yearn for what is lost. But because reuniting with body is impossible – the trauma guards are on alert to prevent any trespassing of the border between soul and the body (which now is marked by the soul as a kind of concentration camp the soul tries to avoid) – the soul imagines/invents artificial bodies to symbiotically (passionately and blindly) unite with – military victories which grant soul glory or/and financial appropriations which grant a wealth beyond any limits, or emotional paradise with intimate partners.

This desperate – already frustrated predatoriness is expressed in Brauner’s Chimera. In a traumatized soul destructive greed co-exists with the trauma of loss. Such a soul simultaneously yearns for and already as if has lost what it desperately wants. It is aggressive and suffering at the same time, touching and dangerous, opened and treacherous, appealing and threatening. By looking at the Chimera of the soul we understand that the other side of murder is panic, that the inner side of hate is fear and of fear – frustration for not being loved, that the other side of suspicion is a lack of confidence, of defensiveness is shyness, the other side of greed is a desperate need to deserve love and acceptance, and the other side of envy is inferiority complex. It is from shyness and ontological confusion (a lack of being) of our soul that we can become intolerant, hateful and murderous, lovers of pompous military victories and ostentatious financial triumphs. It is from the inability to express ourselves, to realize ourselves through confession to the other that we act out – and this means we act out our fear, hate and cowardly need to dominate to preclude being dominated by the imaginary stronger opponent.

Look at Chimera:


Victor Brauner, “Chimera”, 1939

The human body is signified in the painting by the drying tree with a flower appealing to the soul as a poppy (bodily autoerotic appeal?), but it is too late – the soul is simultaneously grabbing the dry remnants of her own (already not all her own) flesh and is aloof. She is like a wooden ratchet toy (she feels mistreated by a world that separated her from her body). The violent loss of the body has made the soul indifferent, and this makes her ready for rapacious, revengeful reactions. Chimera’s lips are full, but so tightly closed up that we see the strain like a ball or a tumor on her chin. These are the lips that were never kissed with an abandon of freedom. But her eyes look so stressed – they as if have swallowed up her gaze (they became her gaze) because gaze is immaterial, and when the soul suffers too much this immateriality cannot sustain itself and becomes a sediment. Chimera’s eyes are complaining are yet demanding – their complaining is swallowed by demanding, like her eyes swallowed her gaze. This soul is wounded and crippled. She is still alive but not living. She is aloof and is looking for some another embodiments of her detached body (and she is in advance refusing what she looks for, this makes closeness to her so dangerous). Brauner’s Chimera pushes away what she pulls to herself. It doesn’t matter how much she can possess because she will never believe she is in charge of what she possesses. And she needs more and more. She is in a never ending hell of chasing after her own chimeras.

People whose soul is banished from being one with the body and their existential situation need to be compensated by a symbiotic embrace with what they misjudge as what they need (power, money, religious or political dogma, group identity, consuming goods, drugs and prescription medications, paranoid worries about personal health and longevity, etc.). For people with a split between life and soul, symbiotic fanaticism becomes a way to compensate for the alienation of the soul.

Whatever a person with a banished (by the childhood abuse) soul does, s/he is locked into a situation where unity between body and soul and human life and soul (psychological wholeness) is sacrificed. This situation makes the body conformist (standardized), and the soul simultaneously appealing and cruel, desperate and wanting to dominate, begging and despotic, wanting to love and unable to do so. This despair and misery will be behind every achievement of a person with chimera-soul. When these people are in charge of the social life – the very culture can become impregnated by the morbidity of their feelings and their aggressively appropriative and destructive behavior. Look again at the eyes and the hardness of Brauner’s Chimera, her facial expression – it is the eyes of the survivor of loss, of the possessor of it own survival, of poverty of life as property. It is poverty of the very wealth, misery of gluttony, melancholy of mania. Can we recognize here something of our own life style, hysterically excessive and feverish?

It is exactly why people need extra-wealth – to fight the morbid ontological uncertainty. Without soul in a relaxed embrace with life nobody can live – for this reason people are hooked on “survival”, on providing for life, but life never comes and never will. Life is not available for them, only “survival”. That’s why people need extra-power – to fight ontological confusion. The transformation of the human soul into chimera is a reaction on an excessive, inhuman pressure of the socio-psychological environment on human beings.


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*The analysis of Victor Brauner’s painting is based on an interpretative “move” that his Chimera personifies a (traumatized) human soul.