The Psychology of Fascism
There have been attempts to understand and explain the psychology of fascism, starting with the early work of Wilhelm Reich in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. So what is the psychology of individuals who are fascists?
Let me briefly identify the psychological profile of fascists and the specific violence (‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’) that generates a person with this psychology. For a thorough explanation and elaboration of this profile, and explanations of the terms ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
First, fascists are terrified and they are particularly terrified of those individuals who perpetrated violence against them when they were a child although this terror remains unconscious to them. Second, this terror is so extreme that fascists are too terrified to consciously identify to themselves their own perpetrator (one or both parents and/or other significant adults who were supposed to love them) and to say that it is this individual or individuals who are violent and wrong.
Third, because they are terrified, they are unable to defend themselves against the original perpetrator(s) but also, as a result, they are unable to defend themselves against other perpetrators who attack them later in life. This lack of capacity to defend themselves leads to the fourth and fifth attributes – a deep sense of powerlessness and a deep sense of self-hatred. However, it is too terrifying and painful for the individual to be consciously aware of any of these feelings/attributes.
Sixth, because they are terrified of identifying that they are the victim of the violence of their own parents (and/or other significant adults from their childhood) and that this violence terrified them, fascists unconsciously delude themselves about the identity of their own perpetrator. They will unconsciously identify their ‘perpetrator’ as one or more individuals of whom they are not actually afraid from an existing ‘legitimized victim’ group such as children or people from a different gender, race, religion or class. This is also because their unconscious terror and self-hatred compels them to project onto people who are ‘controllable’ (because their original perpetrators never were). For this reason, their victims are (unconsciously) carefully chosen and are always relatively powerless by comparison.
This is easy to do because, seventh, children who become fascists have been terrorized into accepting a very narrow-minded and dogmatic belief set that excludes consideration of those in other social (including gender, racial, religious or class) groups. The idea that they might open-mindedly consider other beliefs, or the rights of those not in the ‘in-group’, is (unconsciously) terrifying to them. Moreover, because they have been terrorized into adopting their rigid belief set, fascists develop an intense fear of the truth; hence, fascists are both bigoted and self-righteous. In addition, the belief set of fascists includes a powerful and violently reinforced ‘lesson’: ‘good’ means obedient; it does not mean intrinsically good, loving and caring.
Eighth, and as a result of all of the above, fascists learn to unconsciously project their self-hatred, one outcome of their own victimhood, as hatred for those in the ‘out-groups’. This ‘justifies’ their (violent) behavior and obscures their unconscious motivation: to remain unaware of their own suppressed terror and self-hatred.
Ninth, fascists have a compulsion to be violent; that is, they are addicted to it. Why? Because the act of violence allows them to explosively release the suppressed feelings (usually some combination of fear, terror, pain, anger and powerlessness) so that they experience a brief sensation of delusional ‘relief’. Because the ‘relief’ is both brief and delusional, they are condemned to repeat their violence endlessly.
But the compulsion to be violent is reinforced by another element in their belief set, the tenth characteristic: fascists have a delusional belief in the effectiveness and morality of violence; they have no capacity to perceive its dysfunctionality and immorality.
And eleventh, the extreme social terrorization experience to which fascists have been subjected means that the feelings of love, compassion, empathy and sympathy, as well as the mental function of conscience, are prevented from developing. Devoid of conscience and these feelings, fascists can inflict violence on others, including their own children, without experiencing the feedback that conscience and these feelings would provide.
via Information clearing house The Psychology of Fascism