The Development of Reality Testing
[I apologize for the length of this post. This is a very complicated topic and the processes I describe are highly relevant to the ways in which PC damages rationality. The rest of the series can still be appreciated without reading this entire post, however.]
In order to fully understand how the ideology of political correctness traumatically interferes with the ability to adequately assess and describe reality, it is necessary to have some understanding of how it is that we learn to interpret the information pouring into our senses and create an understandable and predictable picture of reality.
When an infant is born, he has already been subject to some impingement from the external environment, though the violence of sensation has been mitigated by the mother's body and the womb cushioning him from the world. The intrauterine state of being of the unborn child becomes a template for the ubiquitous fantasy of living blissfully in union with an all powerful, all gratifying mother. At birth, the infant is violently expelled from the womb and assaulted by the world. However, his neonatal nervous system is incapable of comprehending the flood of sensory input. Infants can spend up to 20 hours a day in REM sleep, a state often thought of as being devoted to mental housecleaning, ie the brain is making connections (neural networks), discarding memory traces that do not fit with pre-existing data, and incorporating new inputs that have special (affective) relevance. During the earliest days to months, when the child is overwhelmed by sensations (internal and external) he turns to the mother, who picks him up and nurtures him, recreating a version of the protected, gratifying womb, at her breast.
Later on, during the process of separation-individuation, the child comes to recognize his separateness from the primitive, all encompassing, all gratifying mother. [I have described the process in some more detail here; scroll about half way down for my discussion of the work of Margaret Mahler.]
Once a child has achieved enough independence to recognize the existence of an external, frustrating reality, he must come to terms with the loss of his position as the (fantasied) center of the mother's universe.
He learns that he is not even the most important person in his mother's life. She prefers his father who protects and cares for the family and mediates the entire family's interaction with the environment, ie reality. It is the relationship with the father, with whom the child identifies, that forms the basis of the relationship with reality. The father is the child's rival for the affections of the mother as well as an object of love and nurturing for the child. (There are different schools of thought about what determines the eventual renunciation of the mother as the primary object of affection; this will be important in understanding the genesis of Political Correctness and I will expand on it in a future post.)
How can this developmental process, from experiencing the self/world as a blissfully, undifferentiated mass to the ability to recognize and manipulate external reality, be derailed? Since a large part of our character derives from identifications with our parents, if a parent has a defect in their sense of reality, it is easy to see how this could be transmitted to the child. For instance, if the parent is paranoid and never trusts anyone, the child is likely to grow up with a distinct inability to trust that other people can be predictably positive or even neutral. Every new person will be seen as a potential enemy rather than a potential friend. (Of course, either expectation can create problems; the healthier person greets a stranger with care and does not prejudge to either extreme.)
Even worse for the child's development is when the parent is overtly neglectful or abusive. In these cases, the child develops severe defects in their character, referred to as "vertical splits in the ego" by Leonard Shengold, MD, who has written extensively about the developmental problems seen in survivors of child abuse (see Soul Murder and Soul Murder Revisited : Thoughts about Therapy, Hate, Love, and Memory). In a person whose ego has been damaged by abuse they retain aspects, split off parts, of the ego which are developmentally delayed. This person can work, function as if they are an adult in most or many spheres of life, but in their closest relationships are unable to adequately perceive and evaluate the reality of another person's basic character, especially their flaws.
In the typical case of parental child abuse, the abuse is traumatic in and of itself, but is given a spacial resonance by virtue of the perpetrator being one of the people the child most loves, trusts, and depends on. For an abused child, they are handed an impossible developmental task: The person they need so much has caused them terrible pain and distress. In the case of overt sexual abuse, it is even worse because of the violation of the child's bodily integrity. (It is common to see in survivors of childhood sexual abuse, ongoing fantasies of horrible internal objects/introjects, which are constantly threatening to emerge and attack them and people they love; sometimes this is "normalized" into fear of illness, genetic disorders, cancer lurking within.) Further, the abuser is often contrite (and often was intoxicated at the time of the transgression); the abuser will bind the child to maintaining their "special" secret, tell the child it was all the child's fault or the outgrowth of the abuser's great love for the child, or act as if the abuse never happened. In all these situations, the child can not, no matter how intelligent and how hard he struggles, make sense out of a reality which calls love hate and hate love. The only way to understand how the loved one could hurt them so much is to imagine that they did something wrong (often a minor transgression or an imagined transgression) and deserve or provoked the punishment or abuse. The adult who survives such abuse will tend to have difficulties in recognizing danger signs in new relationships. Many abused adult women will minimize their abuse by saying that their boyfriend or husband hit them because they love them so much. Furthermore, during the inter-abuse interval, the abuse is excused and/or seen as an aberration, most often caused by some mistake that the victim has done. "He really loves me but when he drinks he gets angry." or "He really loves me and works hard and I should have had dinner on the table the way he likes." Notice how the structure of these reactions is parallel to the child who can only explain the abuse by imagining he provoked it or "daddy didn't really mean it."
The abused child grows up to be an adult who in specific circumstances has a defect in their sense of reality. They are literally unable to see that the person they are becoming involved with has serious flaws which threaten to repeat the abuse they lived through as a child. They may know on an intellectual basis that a man with a bad temper who yells at them during the early stages of their courtship is a poor choice for a mate, but emotionally, they are blind to the danger they face and use defenses such as rationalization and denial to avoid knowing. This is not done consciously but has the effect of preventing them from protecting themselves from an abuser.
I purposely used the example of child abuse to explain the concept of splits in the ego because it is an extreme example and shows how the sense of reality can be impaired without a neuro-psychiatric substrate (ie, without the person suffering from a psychotic illness.)
In the next part of this series, I will describe the genesis of the intellectual abuse known as Political Correctness and begin to relate this to the splitting seen in adults who have been abused in their childhood.
Continue with PC & Defects in Reality Testing: Part II