Feeling, Relating, Existing

On emotion and the human dimension

Don't Expect a Miracle, Second Edition

Messianic longings must be disappointed.

(The first edition of this blog post was published on the Huffington Post soon after President Obama took office. I am reposting it because of its relevance to the current presidential campaigns, in that it foreshadowed the venomous attacks now being leveled at President Obama by Republicans seeking to exploit disappointed messianic longings and expectations.)

When a society has been subjected to collective trauma, as Americans have been by the attack of 9/11 and the current economic crisis, its members tend to fall under the spell of one or another form of what I call "resurrective ideology"--shared beliefs that seek to restore illusions shattered by trauma. One form such reactive ideology may take is the attribution of messianic powers to an admired leader, an attribution that, when it is disappointed as it inevitably must be, brings further traumatization.

In the context of the economic crisis, President Obama has been wisely discouraging such messianic attributions, letting us know that we need to keep our expectations of him and his administration within the limiting bounds of human possibility and fallibility. Although he has repeatedly demonstrated, as he did at the G-20 meetings, that he is a calming presence with an acute grasp of the complexities of our collective situation, he has also consistently emphasized that the road to economic recovery will be a long, difficult, and painful one, requiring perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, patience, and self-discipline.

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Obama can no more miraculously save us from the cumulative consequences of many years of economic foolishness than Bush's holy war against the "forces of evil" could resurrect our lost illusions of grandiose invincibility.

Copyright Robert Stolorow

Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D. is one of the original members of the International Council for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, which stems from the work of Heinz Kohut.

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