Brexiteers need Remainers, Capitalism needed Communism—and vice versaby Anna Blundy / January 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
“I am going to have to sack him, but I know everyone will hate me,” the patient told me at the end of quite a manic Skype session in which she detailed her handyman’s failings which, she feels, endanger herself and her family. This man has been working for foreigners in this particular block of flats in Oman for more than 20 years and the whole community is fond of him. Lately he has been working only for my patient and her family.
She is generally very anxious and has felt unsafe all her life. She is hypervigilant and always ready for the worst eventuality. She grew up in a very strict household, constantly worried that punishment was about to ensue for some oversight in her many duties or some misdemeanour she’d inadvertently committed.
This atmosphere of fear has pursued her relentlessly and is now mainly embodied in a controlling and angry husband to whom she is utterly obedient, down to how clothes must be folded. Usually keen to describe fantasies of leaving him, this week she told me how they had a really good talk and are united in their decision to get rid of the handyman.
Here are a few of the things she said about him: “He is in the house all the time making me feel unsafe”; “I don’t think he realises how the things he does impact on me and the boys”; “He criticised how I am with the boys and that’s just not on”; “It’s uncomfortable having him around.”
I said she could easily be talking about her husband. She laughed at first and then said; “You’re saying I’m getting rid of the wrong guy?”
Actually, this was exactly what I was thinking. It seemed to me to be classic “in group” vs “out group” behaviour, a projection of everything negative in the family’s life onto the handyman so that, in getting rid of him, the family could be happy and well again, the marriage saved. Most people do this to some degree or another—everything bad in the world is to be found in Tories, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Communists, next door neighbours, and so on forever.
The idea is that if only “X” didn’t exist, everything would be perfect. The trouble with this thinking (among other more obvious things) is that “X” has to exist in order for us to compare ourselves favourably to it and then banish it, theoretically taking all our problems with it.
Men (and probably women, but more often men) do this with affairs. They have the affair, feel guilty and then believe the toxicity of their marriage, or of themselves, to reside in the woman with whom they had the affair. Often husband and wife reunite in the crisis, casting out the demon intruder, in their new imagined bliss. The irony is, of course, that the intruder was invited in precisely in order to play this role. The betrayed wife becomes virtuous and self-sacrificial simply by virtue of having been betrayed. The whore is essential in the creation of the Madonna.
These are big, life-changing examples, but the handyman scenario is much more common. Couples become happily united in their loathing of their relationship counsellor, or they get on much better, say, when the service in a restaurant is rubbish. Phew—the bad is outside of us! NB. It isn’t. If an “out group” person needs to exist in order to preserve the union then there is already trouble in the union—if there wasn’t, there would be nothing to project outwards.
Brexiteers need Remainers, Capitalism needed Communism (look at us scrabbling for an enemy now) and vice versa—we can’t be right unless someone else is wrong.