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Raw Concepts: The Suppression-Expression Paradox

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The suppression-expression paradox simply means that the more a person or group suppresses a natural human urge, the more intense their expression of that natural urge will be once/if they ever do decide to express it.

For example, modern progressive liberals, especially of the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert generation, choose to engage in politics with a certain type of hip, snarky, cynical detachment. There have been several studies alleging that The Daily Show has an effect of causing people to distrust the whole political process, because they end up viewing Democrats as inept, pandering, and bumbling, although well-intentioned, and Republicans as evil and ill-intentioned, and as a result end up becoming cynical and disengaged in politics in general. There is a natural human urge to want to believe in something bigger than ourselves, and to elevate certain people to a heroic status that we can believe in and look up to. Because of our modern era where we get to see how the sausage is made in every area of our lives, and where nothing is too sacred to mock anymore, a whole generation of people began to suppress this natural urge to want to elevate our political leaders to a heroic, exalted status. (I know some of the more pedantic readers may chime in for me to cite proof via peer-reviewed studies or statistics that there is a human tendency to want to elevate people to an exalted, superior heroic status. I can’t do that, or more accurately, I won’t do that because I think there are more than enough historical examples in our textbooks and anecdotal examples in our everyday lives that provide proof of this. But if you want to see a great case made for this, I suggest trying Ernest Becker’s Escape from Evil)

This suppression, I believe, is exactly what caused the level of crazed, uncritical cultlike adoration of Barack Obama that we saw among this same generation of Daily Show viewers in 2008, something the Onion mocked in this video clip:

 

They’re over-the-top cynicism and detachment regarding politics and religion suppressed their natural urge to believe in something bigger than themselves, to give themselves over to a cause and trust in heroic figures. Natural urges that get suppressed build up pressure and start demanding release, and oftentimes once you do release them even a little bit they explode out.

It also works in reverse. Many people who are overboard when it comes to acting out any of their natural urges, when they decide to start reining those urges in they often go to the opposite extreme and go overboard in suppressing them. People who started out adoring heroic figures in politics and religion, when they dial it back, often end up becoming incredibly cynical or become proseletysing atheists. Someone who was a hardcore hedonist, when he dials it back, instead of coming to a point of moderation when it comes to vices, instead becomes a hardcore religious person, reading scripture constantly, always trying to convert others, and bringing up God all the time.  That’s why I always believe that the more fervently a person converts to religion and ascetism later in life, the more of an unrepentant hedonist they were earlier in life.

Ponder for yourself how this relates to the superhuman/subhuman dynamic.

21 Responses to “Raw Concepts: The Suppression-Expression Paradox”


  1. Related to splitting and infatuation / denigration, I guess.


  2. Ricky, another great post! This is my first time commenting. I personally am one of the cynical people you mentioned except that my disillusionment with society is not so easily swayed by false heroes.

    Your note that people get sucked into atheism as their replacement for great the ‘great men’ of old is spot on. For me, this used to be the case. I was at 12, an ardent atheist, at 15 an environmentalist, at 18 an activist. But then I realized that each of these ideological/political efforts were misguided. I also realized that I was effectively an enabler of the very things that I sought to extinguish because I had misplaced the blame on individuals and small groups, when the entire structure of society needs to be reimagined for a meaningful difference to be made.

    Now I find that there is no particular movement larger than myself that is worth fighting for. You are precisely right, that most people are disillusioned, alienated, without direction. The majority end up placing hope in the false hero. But what of the people who see these occurrences and can’t somewhere to sublimate their frustration? That is the question that haunts me.


  3. Why do you need to chose political examples? You know that this will only raise controversy that is unrelated to the mentioned paradox.


  4. I can relate to this post having just ended a 36 hour fast by eating a (large) chinese meal followed by a sandwhich and then (horror of horros) TWO Mcdonalds Double Cheesuburgers. :-)


  5. Infatuation/denigration is a great alternative term for idealization/devaluation Yohami. Did you come up with that yourself? It’s good stuff.


  6. Steve: I not only spoke about politics but religion, which is also a touchy subject. The actual specifics of the political or religious beliefs doesn’t matter to me, and anyone who can’t see the forest for the trees and nitpicks about the specific politics rather than the grander point of the post isn’t the kind of reader I’m writing for anyway.


  7. Iconoclasm, great questions and I wish I had the answers for them.


  8. Yeah, infatuation clicks better for me


  9. Good post T.

    A similar concept highlighted here by this man:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJvgbkDhng


  10. iconoclasm:

    I know that feeling all too well. I started out as a Democrat when I was younger; basically buying into the “Democrats are for the common man, and the Republicans are rich fat cats” over-simplistic dichotomy my parents spoon fed me.

    Then I swung violently to the far Right when I noticed holes in Leftist beliefs, and the Right seemed to have answers my lost self was looking for.

    Finally, upon further maturity and critical thinking, I saw the far Right for what it really was and left it behind as well.

    I don’t have any good answers either. All I know is that right now I’ve completely given up on trying to force fit my brain into a preconceived paradigm and just live by my own convictions. In fact, in retrospect, it was probably trying so hard to force myself to fit into something that screwed me over in the first place.

    To be honest though, one thing does bring me great concern: good or bad, traditional religions like Christianity and the like have served as societal glue on a larger scale for a long time in the West and elsewhere; and it is almost certain that these institutions will either collapse or at least be laughably insignificant, in terms of power and influence, in the near future of the 1st world. It makes me wonder if the vacuum left behind is going to be people becoming more independent thinking individuals, or will a new, possibly worse and base, hive-mind philosophy step in to fill the void.


  11. yap, most of the people think in this way… that’s pure polarity: black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, hero or villain… what a bunch of mindless drone assholes.


  12. Yeah – “born again Christian” = ex alcoholic.


  13. T-
    Me too :/

    RX-78 Alex-
    You make a good point that things going away from the previous organized religious conceptions of society towards secularism can lead to similar hive-minds, but I am not sure they are “worse” per se. I think they just form different stigmas towards those who disagree with their ideologies.

    The identity politics of old was, ‘If you’re not a Christian, you deserve to suffer.’ The identity politics of today is, ‘if you’re not politically-correct advocate of self-professed victimization then you deserve re-education and/or suppression. Discrimination can be perfectly fine, so long as it’s justified. We choose our mates discriminately, and our friends and social circles. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s easy to say which is worse, arguing for unjust discrimination in the name of god, or arguing for it in the name of ‘social justice’.


  14. “I don’t have any good answers either. All I know is that right now I’ve completely given up on trying to force fit my brain into a preconceived paradigm and just live by my own convictions. In fact, in retrospect, it was probably trying so hard to force myself to fit into something that screwed me over in the first place.

    To be honest though, one thing does bring me great concern: good or bad, traditional religions like Christianity and the like have served as societal glue on a larger scale for a long time in the West and elsewhere; and it is almost certain that these institutions will either collapse or at least be laughably insignificant, in terms of power and influence, in the near future of the 1st world. It makes me wonder if the vacuum left behind is going to be people becoming more independent thinking individuals, or will a new, possibly worse and base, hive-mind philosophy step in to fill the void.”

    I think it’s so interesting how your comment follows what Ricky wrote almost **exactly** -

    Many people who are overboard when it comes to acting out any of their natural urges, when they decide to start reining those urges in they often go to the opposite extreme and go overboard in suppressing them. People who started out adoring heroic figures in politics and religion, when they dial it back, often end up becoming incredibly cynical or become proseletysing atheists. Someone who was a hardcore hedonist, when he dials it back, instead of coming to a point of moderation when it comes to vices, instead becomes a hardcore religious person, reading scripture constantly, always trying to convert others, and bringing up God all the time.


  15. “For example, modern progressive liberals, especially of the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert generation, choose to engage in politics with a certain type of hip, snarky, cynical detachment. There have been several studies alleging that The Daily Show has an effect of causing people to distrust the whole political process, because they end up viewing Democrats as inept, pandering, and bumbling, although well-intentioned, and Republicans as evil and ill-intentioned, and as a result end up becoming cynical and disengaged in politics in general.”

    I’m just going to leave one semi-political comment – there’s no practical difference between that and right-wing shows like The O’Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh.

    They use somewhat different tactics, but it’s the same theme of idealization and that your opponent is generally an idiot.


  16. I’m just going to leave one semi-political comment – there’s no practical difference between that and right-wing shows like The O’Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh.

    They use somewhat different tactics, but it’s the same theme of idealization and that your opponent is generally an idiot.

    Actually there is are a few differences. O’Reilly, Beck, and Limbaugh, while biased, tend to clearly and unambiguously champion one side over the other. They will pick heroes to play up and encourage people to support and pick villains to villify. They will make an attempt to appear to intellectually engage the topics, even if the end result is somewhat intellectually dishonest and clearly agenda-driven.

    The Daily Show and Colbert mindset just stigmatizes the opposition just for having a conservative viewpoint in the first and mocks the WHOLE political process. That’s a big difference. They don’t really pretend to intellectually engage the points or statistics of conservatives rather than just dismissively snark on conservatives just for daring to even have those opinions. What Stewart does is mock, then when an opponent tries to engage him on issues and really debate him, he then goes into his whole “Oh, I’m just a comedian” shtick. It’s what people call his “Clown nose ON, Clown nose OFF” act. The Hannitys, the Rushes, the Becks, even though I think they’re ridiculous too, at least will pick the serious pundit character and stick to it in the fact of any intellectual challenge.

    But the fact that Stewart and Colbert mock the whole process is very important. The Fox News crowd clearly and unambiguous champions the political process and the traditional way of doing things. That’s theoretically what conservatism is about: conserving traditions. They’re unashamed about championing religion. They’re more comfortable with faith and spiritual belief. They’re more comfortable with believing in politicians specifically and the political process in general. The Daily Show however is dismissive of the whole thing. They are harsher on Republicans, for sure, but the Democrats are treated as well-intentioned, but incompetent, pandering, clueless buffoons most of the time. So even though a viewer is still being persuaded to vote Democratic, it’s being presented as a choice between evil (Republicans) or well-intentioned but spineless and stupid (Democrats).

    That’s the major difference to me between the two, and why I used the Daily Show and Colbert as an example. Conservatives in general don’t care so much about being too cool for school. They are comfortable being square, sincere true believers in institutions, religions, and in people. Modern progressives are used to training a cynical, jaded eye to everything, even the causes and people they support. They’re more likely than Republicans to suppress this “true believer” instinct to raise people and institutions up to irreproachable and heroic proportions, and shows like the Daily Show and Colbert both encourage and cater to this cynical mindset.


  17. Partially testing to see if I still get the same WordPress error when posting in a different thread, but also partially posting this because a thought just popped into my head that is tangentially related to this thread and earlier ones:

    Would it be safe to say, that on a group psychology scale, that people on both the extreme left and the extreme right both have complimentary mental disorders? I.e. as an over-compensatory narcissist and a co-dependent narcissist complement each other, so does the far left and far right?

    For example:

    The Far Right: Proclivities towards snobby aristocratic elitism and class-ism, extreme genetic determinism, distrust and/or outright hatred of other races and cultures and delusions of grandeur involving their vision of an ideal orderly society imply toxically shamed over-compensatory narcissists.

    The Far Left: Tendencies towards victim/entitlement mentality, bigger government intrusion and security, and always having a pet cause involving oppressed victims who need to be saved imply co-dependents looking to simultaneously be taken care of, and to have token victims to save for the sake of their own validation.

    Does this theory have any legitimate traction?


  18. “Actually there is are a few differences. O’Reilly, Beck, and Limbaugh, while biased, tend to clearly and unambiguously champion one side over the other. They will pick heroes to play up and encourage people to support and pick villains to villify. They will make an attempt to appear to intellectually engage the topics, even if the end result is somewhat intellectually dishonest and clearly agenda-driven.”

    I agree that’s what they do, but I disagree that they do it any more clearly and unambiguously than the daily show does it – O’Reilly calls it the “no spin zone” and fox news’s tagline is “fair and balanced” while they’re…well, while they’re being even more one sided and agenda driven than the liberal version. It’s like they basically took what the liberals were doing (which admittedly, wasn’t exactly balanced either) and did it even **moreso**.

    Now that’s kind of what you said – but I see them engadging in even more “oh no, we’re being fair and balanced” while clearly not being fair and balanced double talk.

    “The Daily Show and Colbert mindset just stigmatizes the opposition just for having a conservative viewpoint in the first”

    Lol – I…man, I don’t want to be all political, but have you actually **watched** fox news? They absolutely engage in the same tactics of trying to make “liberal” into a dirty word, just like the liberals did before them with “conservative”. There’s a definite argument saying they’re just doing to liberals what the liberals were doing to them – but that’s not saying they’re doing something better.

    “and mocks the WHOLE political process.”

    Conservatives take this a step further in distrust of the political process by flat out saying that you cannot trust the government. Lol..one literally cannot go further in expressing distrust of the political process than saying that you absolutely cannot trust the result.

    Honestly, if one doesn’t distrust the political process at least a little, one isn’t paying attention to history. From wars to corruption to personal agenda’s – history shows us that the political process is never, ever completely ideal and trustworthy.

    “That’s a big difference. They don’t really pretend to intellectually engage the points or statistics of conservatives rather than just dismissively snark on conservatives just for daring to even have those opinions. What Stewart does is mock, then when an opponent tries to engage him on issues and really debate him, he then goes into his whole “Oh, I’m just a comedian” shtick. It’s what people call his “Clown nose ON, Clown nose OFF” act.

    It looks to me like the conservative talk show hosts take snarking on liberals just for daring to have their opinion just like liberals would, but taking it to an even higher level.

    However – I agree 100% that John Stewarts “I’m just a comedian” act is a rediculous cop out. I can see his point sometimes that other shows act like they’re super serious and intellectual while they’re really just entertainment, but his show only takes itself **slightly** less serious than they do. By like a hair – that’s it. He tries to claim he’s on after muppets making prank calls, so he doesn’t deserve scrutiny, but it’s a huge copout when so many people only get their news from his show.

    “The Hannitys, the Rushes, the Becks, even though I think they’re ridiculous too, at least will pick the serious pundit character and stick to it in the fact of any intellectual challenge.”

    I don’t see that as any sort of plus – they stick to their character that acts like they’re a knowledgable all knowing guide even when it becomes obvious they’re wrong? Again, it just seems like they copied how liberal shows would do that sometimes, and took it to a whole new level of absurdity.

    “But the fact that Stewart and Colbert mock the whole process is very important. The Fox News crowd clearly and unambiguous champions the political process”

    As I mentioned up a bit, by repeatedly telling you that you cannot trust government, which is the result of the political process? It seems to me one of their core and hallmark values is that you cannot trust the political process.

    “and the traditional way of doing things. That’s theoretically what conservatism is about: conserving traditions.”

    Agree that’s what conservatism is about, not sure I agree about Fox News but no specific arguments come to mind to me at the moment.

    “They’re unashamed about championing religion. They’re more comfortable with faith and spiritual belief.”

    And they’re also far more comfortable using religion for political ends and engadging in revisionist history (of course, the same is true on the liberal side, in politics both sides do it). Jesus went out of his way to talk about how being rich was evil and how one should serve the poor – a section of the bible which somehow almost never talked about. The bible is filled with stories of men having multiple wives, but that’s not exactly championed either (not that it should be). But they have no problem piecing together disparate and somewhat ambiguous sections of the bible to claim religious authority promoting political topics.

    Now certainly, this is part of politics that the left engadges in as well, just usually in a different style. Feminism is the most obvious example – always promoting stories to further their own agenda, where the story always depicts a woman who makes bad decisions as a victim and a man who does the same thing as some sort of evil predator, then acting offending and saying it’s “offensive to women” to ever describe stories where the reverse is true. Or stories of someone following their religious convictions *always* turn out to be in the wrong, deliberately painting a picture that those convictions are not reliable.

    “They’re more comfortable with believing in politicians specifically and the political process in general. Daily Show however is dismissive of the whole thing. They are harsher on Republicans, for sure, but the Democrats are treated as well-intentioned, but incompetent, pandering, clueless buffoons most of the time. So even though a viewer is still being persuaded to vote Democratic, it’s being presented as a choice between evil (Republicans) or well-intentioned but spineless and stupid (Democrats).”

    There’s the “modern conservativism explicitly distrusts the goverment” thing again, but also this is partly exactly because the liberal side is more willing to call out their own side. The right, instead, takes the approach that you can’t trust government – but that their candidate is a hero. Well – if the government was that full of heros, we wouldn’t have to distrust the government so much now would we?

    “That’s the major difference to me between the two, and why I used the Daily Show and Colbert as an example. Conservatives in general don’t care so much about being too cool for school.”

    It seems to me like whoever’s in power uses the “to cool for school” image (see the “silent majority” concept when the Republicans were in power), and whoever’s not in power goes with the “I’m angry because I’m being attacked by these idiots in the other party!” approach.

    I see them as different, but I don’t see how they’re anything but opposite sides of the same coin.

    “They are comfortable being square, sincere true believers in institutions, religions, and in people. Modern progressives are used to training a cynical, jaded eye to everything, even the causes and people they support. They’re more likely than Republicans to suppress this “true believer” instinct to raise people and institutions up to irreproachable and heroic proportions, and shows like the Daily Show and Colbert both encourage and cater to this cynical mindset.”

    I don’t quite follow what you’re trying to say here – didn’t several of your recent articles say that the “true believer” approach of raising people or institutions up to “irreproachable and heroic proportions” as a **bad** thing?


  19. Interesting blog. Wouldn’t a better example be how pubescent girls suppress their biological desire for sex (having been set up to faceplant into shame upon reaching puberty)?

    Elder women purge their competition from the field, aware they cannot compete with honest girls who would give away what whores have been selling for 5000 years; the non-existent commodity that is [doing what they biologically want to do 10x more than men].

    As something of a rolling purge intended to neutralise competition, women perpetuate this ludicrous lie about how Real Women are supposed to feel biological desire. Prepubescent girls buy into the putrid lie long before they reach puberty where they each discover they’re the abnormal pervert Society despises and hates (and routinely kills).

    Terrified and aware they need to control their perverted desire to jump every guy they meet, pubescent girls clamp their legs shut and start slut-shaming each other to prove how normal and pure they are. And in the suppression of what is nothing more than natural biological desire, girls become the sex-obsessed pervert of their fears.

    Cue lives spent obsessed with sex / appeal.
    _________________________


  20. Are you certain the phenomenon you describe isn’t actually generic imprinting? Human minds broken-in by the tyranny of mothers (who Know Best how their children should love them and suffer to please them rather than please themselves) will be predictably binary; everything gets farcically oversimplified. Black or White. Me or You. For or Against. No middle ground. Humans are classified as Good or Bad with no potential for malice in the former or possibility of decency in the latter.

    With Self eroded by shame, fear, love and lies (to manufacture dependence), human children tamed into slaves (who crave their mother’s worthless emotional validation; Is she pleased? Is she proud? She’s not? I must cut myself now) spend their entire lives looking to imprint onto strong personalities or leaders they identify with.

    This is what cult leaders seek to exploit (I grew up in the CoG/TFI). They target misfits to bond with by initially simply validating their demented, frustrated opinions; “You’re completely right, we feel the same.” They just tell them what they already believe / want to hear. It’s so sick.

    Once the cult leader has been classified as the real deal in the binary mind of the misfit, he can tell them to do literally anything and they’ll do it no matter how far removed it is from their initial value system. They embrace dependency, made to be invested having fallen for the old “Prove yourself first” Confidence trick. When the inevitable whoa! is demanded of them, cognitive dissonance ensures truth is rejected and they just entrench themselves by framing everything as Us v Them. Any criticism of the cult leader only serves to strengthen the bond.

    All identity politics (and leadership of any kind, really) seeks to exploit broken humans with severely eroded or corrupted sense of Self. I feel you’re over-analyzing this phenomenon. Humans want to surrender to a higher power when they’ve lost their sense of Self.

    “It feels good to hear someone say ‘Take Care’ but it feels so much better to hear someone say ‘I Will Take Care of You’.”


  21. State one instance in the past where cult of personality was a positive influence enriching the lives of “worshippers”.

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