SPLITTING AND THE PARANOID SHIFT

It is clear from anthropological studies that human beings
can be “sold a bill of goods” during growth and
development. Stories propagated from childhood are
accepted as truth, even though objective observers often
marvel at the preposterous nature of some of the “learned”
scenarios [14-16]. Should the storyline portray the members
of a society as victims of another group, then the stage is set
for the full expression of the psychological defense
mechanism of splitting [5]. As described by Burdman,
splitting has its roots in the buried emotions of childhood
trauma. Moreover, splitting is a process “whereby
antagonistic feelings toward the parent and toward the
individual himself continue as a damned up source of
predominately subconscious anger” [5]. Later, this anger is
discharged by projection outward onto a socially endorsed
target.

In a concept similar to splitting, Gaylin has described the
paranoid shift as an important mechanism for hatred
development [3]. The process starts with anger that evolves
into “an enduring organization of aggressive impulses
toward a person or toward a class of persons” [17]. This
hatred is “composed of a habitual bitter feeling and
accusatory thought. … The hater is sure that the fault lies in
the object of his/her hatred” [17]. This is what has classically
been termed projection. However, the term paranoid shift
emphasizes the centrality of the false belief component of
the process. Apparently, “so long as he believes this, he will
not feel guilty for his uncharitable state of mind” [17]. This
lack of guilt allows the hater to act out aggression against the
targeted person or group without emotional pain.

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