Business Logo for Psychological and Neuropsychological IssuesThe theatrics surrounding the George Zimmerman trial call to mind an oft used psychological term.  The term is called “projection.”  The Freudian notion of projection is that a person rids themselves of unwanted thoughts and emotions by attributing them to another person.  Their ego is unable to cope with the unwanted thoughts, and blames them on others, in an effort to maintain a consistent self-concept.  As with most aspects of Freudian theory, his concept of projection does not readily lend itself to experimental validation.  It has remained an interesting concept that awaits proof.  It should be noted that projection is often used by graduate students of clinical psychology, or rather it is hurled between said students of psychology.  Upon initial exposure to this concept, it becomes addictive to label fellow students as projecting; especially if one does not agree with their viewpoint.

Thankfully, there are scientific underpinnings to the psychological concept of projection.  The famous Rorschach Inkblot Test is based upon the concept of projection.  Perhaps difficult to believe, it is the only test on Earth that can differentiate a psychotic from a normal person.  People will project their inner experience more readily when the stimulus field is ambiguous.  This is a fancy way to state that when unsure, people tend to reveal what is actually on their mind.  People that are confident in their environment may lean on old thoughts to guide their lives.  When faced with situations that are ambiguous or completely novel, one cannot lean on old thoughts to explain the new situation.  A person must generate novel thoughts to explain the new or ambiguous situation.  This generation of novel thoughts to ambiguous stimuli is the  kernel of psychological projection.  These thoughts need not be unwanted or forced upon another, as Freud theorized.  It is a morally neutral cognitive process that helps any person organize their thoughts and master unusual situations.

In a related manner, the recent George Zimmerman trial has draped the public under a pervasive cloak of ambiguity.  The legal details do not, however, appear very ambiguous.  The conservative author of the law readily admitted it was not intended to defend provocation.  The “Stand Your Ground” law was intended to assist in the defense of random victimization.  It is precisely Mr. Zimmerman’s motivation in confronting Mr. Martin that is highly ambiguous.  His stoic appearance during the trial accentuated the ambiguity.  The lack of evidence supporting a personal racist history heightened the confusion over his possible motives.  Furthermore, consider the very day Mr. Martin was killed.  Mr. Zimmerman’s thoughts during his first glance at Mr. Martin are completely unknown, and will remain so.  His thoughts at the moment of killing Mr. Martin will also remain clouded in mystery.  There does not appear to be any evidence for or against a racist agenda in the targeting of Mr. Martin.  The racist motivations of Mr. Zimmerman are, hence, perfectly ambiguous.

Due to this ambiguity, Mr. Zimmerman may be considered a projective test of the populace.  Given the lack of evidence as to his racist motivations, people are free to project their thoughts and emotions onto Mr. Zimmerman.  People are free to project hatred as well as sympathy.  They are free to project anger and sorrow.  They are free to describe their inner experience through the ambiguity of George Zimmerman.  So do not be deceived by experts and pundits who claim to know the racial motivations of Mr. Zimmerman.  What they know is their own beliefs regarding racism, and that is exactly what they are espousing when talking about George Zimmerman.  Perhaps in addressing the law that created this nightmare, some good may be extracted from the bad.  Addressing the competence and motivation of zealous prosecutors may assist in separating the ripe from the rotten.  To address the racial motivations of Mr. Zimmerman is to reveal the racial beliefs of those who address him.  It is Zimmerjection.

Emotional Support

Business Logo for Psychological and Neuropsychological IssuesBuildings are supported, bridges are supported, governments are supported, and even people are supported.  It is relatively easy to spot sufficient support of the first three.  If the physical structure of the first two bear your weight and resist the urge to fall down, then the building or bridge is considered well supported.  Governments that receive sufficient financial support shoulder the desires of the populace and stand tall in adversity.  Similarly, people who receive adequate emotional support bear the weight of their world and remain standing throughout.  Perhaps physical support is not far removed from its emotional cousin.  Perhaps that is why the word “support” lends itself to both interpretations.

It may be less than flattering to compare oneself with a government, much less a building or bridge.  Americans do not readily accept support, and view the need for support as a sign of weakness.  Americans are great at providing support, especially physical support; perceiving the lending of support as virtuous and powerful.  Americans are much happier giving support than receiving the same.  Perhaps it is the vestiges of the pioneer spirit.  Perhaps it is a fear of appearing needy and weak.  It can’t be denied that the receiving of support automatically assumes a one down position.  How one chooses to perceive this one down position is the critical factor in the equation.

No matter the degree of intelligence and self-sufficiency, all people require support at some time in their lives.  Some people may never require further physical support after childhood, but they will require emotional support to thrive.  We are social animals, and the fact that ninety percent of us live in cities is sufficient proof of this allegation.  A particular subset of people called schizoid do not appear to need contact with other people; at least not much.  For the rest of us, depression ensues when there is a lack of emotional support in our social environment.  The experience of grief is largely the result of a sudden break in social support.  The recent surge in mass shootings almost always comes from those who, for one reason or another, lack emotional support.

The schizoid person, mentioned above, does not perceive a problem with little emotional support.  This is their preference, and they may be quite successful in other areas of their life.  Such people are rather rare, accounting for far less than one percent of the population.  People that experience grief over a sudden loss are typically bathed in attention from other people, as this is the standard response of most cultures.  A progressive loss of support from illness or job loss does not curry the sympathy engendered by the death of an intimate attachment.  It may be difficult for this subset of people to develop supportive relationships, at least until they feel better or obtain a new job.  Those who take up a gun are exacting revenge upon a society that they perceive as purposefully withholding support.  They experience the lack of emotional support as a personal affront.

Perhaps the alienation many Americans experience is really a loss of emotional support.  We Americans are loath to ask for physical or emotional support, such that the subsequent alienation may be more prevalent in this country than others.  Furthermore, the recent economic downtown has disrupted work relationships and created greater familial stress over finances.    It is a general rule that increased stress engenders decreased emotional availability.  It is difficult to think of others when preoccupied with ourselves.  Many are injured and yet they do not ask for help.  Perhaps it is time for the pioneer philosophy to end.  It would be great to retain its spirit of optimism and enterprise, but this philosophy appears to come at the cost of our emotional well-being.  Increasingly, it is placing our physical well-being at risk from an alienated few.  If only Adam Lanza had decided to pick up the telephone, before deciding to pick up the gun.

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