Projection is primitive psychological mechanism used when someone feels a feeling or has a thought that is incongruent with how they want to see themselves. When the dissonant unattractive feeling or thought surfaces, they must assign it to someone.
Kavanaugh’s tears were real. He was devastated that his good boy, church-going, sports and beer loving, devoted son, persona was being brought down. It is part of his true self. A part of himself he is very proud of.
But he has another true self. Kavanaugh’s alter ego is a belligerent, entitled, rage-filled, misogynist man, that many of the people in his life knew, like his beer-drinking buddies, and from whom many are protected, like his family and many of his fellow male and female students. He even protects himself from this shadow self, only letting him out with the inebriation of alcohol.
We have seen this multiple times in the news the last couple years, when white people have been video recorded, or prosecuted for racist rants and activities, who then loaded declare “that is not me”, “I am not like that”. In the face of evidence that in fact that they are exactly like that.
We have also seen this when our country began arresting and caging children whose parents were attempting to bring them to this country. Many of us, me included, said “this is not who we are”, “this is not America”. This is despite evidence that it is America now, and has been America many times in our history.
This is a common psychological mechanism that we all use routinely in everyday life. It is hardy uncommon to hear someone discussing their own view of themselves while we try not to laugh. “I am the most humble person I know”, or “I am the kind of person who…”. People declare all kinds of things about themselves that are filled with truth, but the truth may be who they want to be, who they are sometimes, not who they are.
Kavanaugh however, had an entirely split off self, and alter ego that he refuses to accept as him. The extremes of depravity of that shadow self is matched by the extremes of his golden-boy identity. This is the same split we see in spiritual leaders who molest children, politician who adamantly fight against pornography or prostitution only to be found as a regular consumer of pornography or sex work, or fight to strip rights from gay and lesbian, or trans communities, only to be found participating in secret gay activities.
See, the thing is none of us can be that good. It is hard to be good. It is hard to be ethical and kind and generous and all the things we like to see as good people. Anyone attempting to declare themselves as almost exclusively good is at risk for dis-identifying the parts of themselves that don’t fit in with that narrative.
His part-self, the church-going good ol’ boy, was squashed, and he showed us his shadow twin. He behaved in the entitled, bullying, arrogant, belligerent, abusive ways that that his accusers have described. If there was doubt, which there should have been given the failure of the FBI to be allowed to gather corroborating evidence, his rage-filled, unhinged, deeming self-presentation should have easily cleared that doubt.
Smith is an analytically oriented psychotherapist with 25 years in practice. She is additionally the Founder/Director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which specializes in matching clients with seasoned clinicians in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
If you are interested in therapy and live in Philadelphia or the Greater Philadelphia Area, please let Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice match you with a skilled, experienced psychotherapist based on your needs and issues as well as your and own therapists' personalities and styles. All of our therapists are available for telehealth conferencing by phone or video in response to our current need for social distancing.
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