Some people have been surprised or disappointed by certain decisions of President Barack Obama. His war-making, his use of illegal drone strikes, his failure to close Guantanamo, his failure to genuinely help those ordinary Americans who voted him into office, and even his pursuit of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have all raised concerns among those with the audacity to hope that he would be different.
But there is no reason for surprise. Obama told us all about himself in his autobiography ‘Dreams From My Father’. Most of us just chose not to listen and to then analyse the significance of what he told us.
It takes someone with a particular psychological profile to kill and exploit people. See ‘Why Violence?’ Most of us cannot kill: we respond to our conscience or feelings such as empathy, sympathy, compassion or even the fear of our guilt or shame if we know our actions will cause harm to others. What happened to Barack Obama that makes him so violent? Let us analyse what he told us now.
In his book Obama describes his childhood. This includes, for example, explicit reference to his violent maternal grandfather as well as key behavioural descriptions of himself in contexts that reveal his emotional state, even if this was, and still is, suppressed below his own conscious awareness. In essence, the book contains a largely delusional account of his early life, reflecting his effort to leave his past behind without dealing with the effects of the violence he suffered.
One incident he describes clearly reveals his justified but unexpressed fury at his father for abandoning him. Because this fury was suppressed, it left young Barack with a gaping hole in his sense of self-worth: he wasn’t worthy of his father’s time, attention and love. Moreover, because he was unable either to prevent his abandonment by his father (because his love, as a baby, for his father was insufficient to bond his father to him) or to express his feelings (which would usually include fear, pain and sadness in addition to his obvious anger) about this abandonment, he acquired a deep sense of powerlessness and a large measure of self-hatred too. However, given the extraordinary unpleasantness of these feelings and without support and preferably encouragement to feel them, he unconsciously suppressed his awareness of these as well. But they live in him still.
His book makes it clear that it was his mother who was primarily responsible for ‘teaching’ young Barack to suppress his awareness of his feelings. She didn’t comprehend her child’s need to feel the fear raised by his father’s abandonment, to cry about it and to get angry about it (perhaps by having a series of ‘tantrums’) because listening to his feelings frightened her: listening might trigger equivalent feelings in herself (and, as a child, she had been scared into suppressing her awareness of her feelings too). So she scared the young Barack into not having these feelings by, for example, contradicting his perceptions of his father and offering justifications for his father’s behaviour.