Immature leaders


We have the tendency to connect maturity with age and expect people of certain age and position to have a mature way of thinking and handling of situations. A brief look at the daily news though shows the real picture of the level of maturity people have especially those that govern the world.

I was a student in Boston back in 2001 when I heard the then president of the United States George Bush (Junior) announcing to the world after the attack at the World Trade Center, “You are either with us or against us.” Little did the world leader know at the time that over half a century before a psychoanalyst was describing his level of functioning, which, by the way, babies also have. Melanie Klein (1946) talked about the mechanism of splitting. Specifically, she said that the infant in the first months of life goes through intense feelings of anxiety from internal and external sources. The infant’s first experiences are divided between the good experiences with the good object (usually the first object is the mother) and the bad experiences with the bad object, while the infant struggles to incorporate the two primal drives of love and hate. In this stage the infant would hold on to the mechanism of splitting and would divide the object into good or bad according to his mental state and would keep the two parts far from each other. Keeping the good and bad divided is the infant’s defense to protect the good object. An important step in the infant’s mental development is the gradual fusion of these two parts. Slowly the infant would start to realise that the bad object (responsible for the negative feelings) and the good object (responsible for the positive feelings) are one.

George Bush’s statement regarding the splitting of the world into good (those who are with us) and bad (those who are against us) and nothing in between, shows the maturity level of the man who for ten years led the powerful USA. Another immature person who recently appeared in politics is Donald Trump. The publicity that Trump receives is worrisome. Just the thought of Donald Trump being president scares me. For Trump all problems begin from immigrants and anything that is not American. Another immature leader applying the mechanism of splitting. In this way Trump and his followers have somewhere to turn their aggression at. Something similar Hitler did when he turned a whole nation against the Jews.

The problems don’t stop here though. We all have more-or-less infantile mechanisms since we all have been infants once. Freud said that we all have residues left from our infantile mental stages that in states of anxiety we may regress to and behave like babies. The problems become dangerous when the baby behind the powerful politician has impulses that push for action. The guns of adults though differ from the guns of children, they can really kill.

In psychoanalysis the term acting out refers to the expression of a thought, feeling, or desire through action. Immaturity is revealed in people who in moments of tension, anger, or disappointment, act destructively towards others or even towards themselves. In psychoanalysis we also learn that the verbalization of such feelings is the only way towards maturity and mental health. The verbalization of all thoughts and feelings offsets the impulse for acting out.