“Trump brought out the worst aspects in me — that’s not what I want to be remembered for,” Spencer said. “I recognised the toxicity of rightwing populism and didn’t want America to go further down that road.”
Saying that somebody brought out the worst in you is not escaping personal responsibility. There are people, places, and contexts that encourage the best or the worst in us. Noting the volatility of one’s own responses exposes a painful vulnerability. I don’t think Richard Spencer is proud of his instability. He knows that a solid person does not get triggered like he has been.
One way you can tell whether or not you have dealt with something is your ability to talk about it without your voice cracking. If you can discuss painful things without distorting or strangling your voice, you’ve processed it and it no longer has power over you. On the other hand, if you repeatedly tell a certain defensive story, your voice will take on a tired quality to match your tired thinking. Your voice gives away your state. Use what language and timber you will, you can never say anything but what you are.
Much of my life, I was so thirsty for attention that this led me to being very different around different people. I’d go to synagogue in the morning to pray and I would act like a good Orthodox Jew and then I would go to a porn set in the afternoon and act like a porn reporter and then I’d go to an LA Press Club party in the evening and act like an Aussie larrikin. Adaptability is beautiful, but when one part of your life is at war with others parts of your life, you’ve stretched too far. An integrated life means you are not saying and doing things in the morning that destroy everything you tried to build the night before. A psychiatrist in Brisbane, Australia, gave my family (with my permission) the following diagnosis in 2000:
Luke is very dependent upon other people for his identity as a person.
He has poor identity integration and poor self esteem. Accordingly, Luke is always looking for mirroring – it’s called “narcissistic supply.” That is to say that Luke is always looking for external validation of himself as a person (i.e., he needs other people to tell him who he is). However, because it is not possible for people to mirror him all the time, he gets disappointed and this can turn to envy. Luke may not be conscious of the fact that he is very envious of his family as they seem to have things he would like to have but does not have. This leads to him fluctuating between, on the one hand, devaluing people such as the family (putting them down) and on the other, idealisation of people – such as Dennis Prager.
Luke tends to make unreasonable demands of people who are eventually driven to setting limits on him. Luke takes this very badly.
Luke needs five to ten years of insight orientation psychotherapy. It was the falling out with Dennis Prager which caused him to go to therapy. While Luke has a lot of therapy ‘speak’, he may not really understand the concepts involved. Luke’s therapist did well to keep him in therapy for 15 months – that is unusual for someone with Luke’s condition as such people often leave off therapy when it becomes too confronting. Luke will not continue therapy that is confrontational, particularly in the early stages.
Luke will continue to do what he is doing to satisfy his needs until such times as the rewards (reinforcement) are outweighed by the negative effects of same (punishment). Then he may do something about getting his life on track and getting therapy or going back to finish his degree (which would give him some self-esteem).
The negative effects of his current behavior are that no one will have a long term relationship with him as no matter how sane they are, people cannot live without getting something back – and Luke is always taking in without giving anything back. Second, any decent woman who looked at his website would be immediately repulsed.
Luke has a complicated personality. He has mood instability – perhaps mild cyclothymia. His personality type is prone to this.
Luke become very focused on one thing then, when he is not getting the desired rewards, he drops it and moves on.
Luke may have had some post viral illness but then the illness took on a life of its own. It is common for people to retreat into the sick role because it is a way of failing in a face-saving way. Luke was failing because of the lack of significant relationships in his life.
Through 12 step work and therapy, I think I’ve largely overcome the above tendencies. For example, I’ve done thousands of hours of Youtube livestreams and never once had to take something down because I was ashamed of what I said. Even under the stress of argument and confrontation, I did not lose my self.
Richard Spencer is sometimes honest to a fault, even if it makes him or his movement look bad. When Antifa was beating up on the Alt Right and ending his college speaking tour, he publicly admitted that Antifa won.
Every political and religious orientation comes with potential downsides. The potential downsides to right-wing populism for unstable people include:
* Conspiracy thinking such as Stop the Steal, QAnon, the elites hate us and want us dead, etc…
* A disregard for the humanity and expertise of the elites.
* A narrowing of the information you will take in, for example, many populists think that any news that comes from the New York Times or CNN is going to be bogus. A healthy person welcomes truth from any source.
* The development of a victimhood complex which then frees one from moral responsibility.
* Trolling as a way of life and other downsides of the e-personality. You might start saying things online that rewire your brain making you less effective and more offensive offline.
* A disregard for work. Godward Podcast tweeted Jan. 16: “It’s only legal to have a job in America if you’re a complete idiot or a phony. And being a phony takes a serious psychological toll.” Without an overdose of dissident right thought, nobody would ever say such a thing. Honest work is about the healthiest thing a person can do.
* Delusions of becoming a thought leader so that one neglects one’s real responsibilities.
* Lack of regard for the consequences of your words and behavior on others. I remember in August of 1988, I hung out on a concrete outcrop at UCLA to try to watch for free this tennis tournament going on below. When campus police came up to remove us, one officer almost tripped and fell off the ledge. Some of the people I was with started verbally abusing the enforcers. I quickly realized I was in a bad place, that my behavior could have contributed to somebody suffering a significant injury, that my presence was giving others encouragement to speak badly, and so I removed myself after telling everyone around me that we should leave, and I never forgot the lesson. Cheating to see something for free can rapidly go bad for those around me and it is not a good development for my own character.
If there is an emptiness in your life that love or hate of Donald Trump fills, or some politics or religion fills, it will likely distort your personality. Some people become worse when they get religion because they are trying to use religion to fill a hole that religion cannot fill (such as addiction).
Spencer’s comments remind me of an insight from Dennis Prager: We all exude a force field. For example, when I walk into a room, people often feel more free to share inappropriate jokes. When Dennis Prager walks into a room, people tend to behave better and to speak more politely. We can’t escape our responsibility for affecting others. Even if we don’t want to be a hero, we usually are a hero to someone at some time. The way people habitually respond to us gives us a mirror to our soul. Some people see me and instinctively smile. Others see me and instinctively get riled up. I get annoyed with one bloke I know because, even though we’re about the same age, he usually treats me like I’m a child. His response to me is not totally random. He is reacting to those aspects of my life and personality that are childish.
I am sure that Donald Trump’s behavior has inspired some people to become better and some people to become worse. We can’t control others, we don’t turn them into zombies with our podcasts and blog posts, but we can incentivize their behavior.
Everybody has a track record. As my shrink said, “Luke become very focused on one thing then, when he is not getting the desired rewards, he drops it and moves on.” Richard Spencer has a track record too. Everything he touches tends to go to hell. Donald Trump also has a track record. It seems like a disproportionate number of people who’ve followed him have come acropper. Trump, for example, demands his employees are loyal to him but he seems to have little loyalty to them.
I have a lot of people in my life who I keep at a remove. When they get too close, I get wounded and unhappy. When I introduce them to friends, their disagreeable tendencies make me regret it. But at a certain distance, I can just enjoy them. One Jewish intellectual noted, “The people I pray with, I can’t talk to, and the people I talk to, I can’t pray with.”
I love the idea of situating people in their correct genre. The great accountant is not likely to be a good shock jock. The talk radio host is not going to be a scholar. The funny receptionist is not likely to be precise with numbers. The fiery courtroom lawyer off the clock may want to argue way too much for my comfort.