A brief psychological explanation for pro-punishment sentiment
Excerpt from "The Need to Punish: Political Consequences of Identifying with the Aggressor," by Arno Gruen. This article, which appeared in The Journal of Psychohistory, Vol 27, No. 2, Fall 1999, is based on Der Fremde In Uns (The Stranger Within) by Arno Gruen, to be published in Spring of 2000 by Clett-Kotta, Stuttgart.

Prof. Dr. Phil. Arno Gruen, Rütisrasse 4, Ch-8032 Zürich, Switzerland, is a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist.

...Children who hate their own nature can respect themselves only if they can direct their hatred outward. If they disown their individuality as something foreign, they are compelled to find enemies in order to preserve the personality structure thus created. The consequences are disastrous: not only are such people unable to recognize the causes of their own victimization; they also deny that they are victims. By making other people their victims, they are perpetuating the process. But they must deny their own victimization because otherwise the earlier experiences of the terror accompanying it would re-emerge. No child, including the threatened one within us, can stand up to this terror.

As children we were helpless and at the mercy of our parents. Our survival depended on our complying with them. The inner terror accompanying victimization is therefore profoundly existential. That is why fear of losing our job, our social position, or our role in society can shake the foundations of our being. If our self-esteem is based primarily on success, status, and material gain, then the potential loss of these external achievements must be experienced as existentially threatening because the old feeling of terror--at being helpless, at the mercy of others, and ashamed-- is reawakened...



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