In Search of a Rescuer: Where Erotic Transference and Politics Intersect

Most of us have hoped, early or late in life, for someone to “make it better.” Children want this when they fall. They need to believe instant magic is possible, and often it is. A smile, a hug, or a kiss can be enough. We are social creatures looking for connection, sensual and emotional.

When illness is serious, medical professionals are asked for their form of hocus pocus. Those people possess specialized knowledge. The name for it is “health care.” A proper physician communicates his expertise, but the care, as well.

Those with injuries to the soul seek a specific category of treatment: psychotherapy. You might be the perfect physical being, beautiful and whole except for the unseen pain of twisting emotion and turbulent thought. But, you ask, how much can another human do when no surgery or potion fixes what isn’t working?

Should the attempt to help succeed, admiration for the one who helped tends to follow. Sometimes before aid occurs.

The idea of a protector is potent and easily sexualized. “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the old Gershwin song goes. There are moments in life when we call out for such a knight or sorceress to summon the daylight.

The problem, though, is that life’s manufacture of dilemmas doesn’t stop. The factory assembly line can be unkind. Joys and sorrows are randomly generated. Nor does love offer a permanent cure-all.

The nourishment given by passionate and abiding affection helps with many problems, within limits. The lover (or potential partner) can offer only one hand when you find yourself in the soup of struggle. The other he needs to keep himself afloat. Lasting sorcery available 24/7 is in short supply.

If the therapy client searches for a deliverer or a romance in the counselor’s office, desire gets in the way of the best the therapist can provide: for the patient to rescue himself with expert and sensitive help.

The doctor’s assistance does not demand his becoming a brawny stretcher-bearer throughout the client’s life. Instead, the latter learns to take on present challenges and get past his past to make his way.

To do so, our wounded hero must allow (in small doses) uncomfortable emotions access to his heart. Similarly, he begins to permit uneasy topics and memories admittance to his thoughts. Taking responsibility for recovery requires behavioral changes, too; actions he hesitates to try. New and more workable ideas will disentangle the ones binding him if he recognizes their mirage of false security and unties them.

Some argue there is a benign supernatural healer in an afterlife, but I don’t know anyone who claims he now walks the earth. Some of us do, however, mistake mortal beings for more than they are. Thus, no matter the gifts of the therapist, he is not, by himself, the answer.

Current politics reflects this problem. Close to half of the United States thinks they’ve found their savior, a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Nothing short of a no-holds-barred holy terror will save them, they believe.

The other 50% hopes a nobler protector is yet to come. The latter group has been disappointed in people with names like Mueller and fears there is no other metaphorical wolf-slayer at hand.

Here, as well, many who wait and dream make the same error as some counseling clients. The hoped-for wizard in the office is like the fictional Wizard of Oz, just another man. The heavy lifting of well-being will require the muscle of those who lift themselves. The psychologist might suggest a path and a pace, display encouragement and understanding, but no more.

Neither a passive role in counseling nor remaining inactive until election day will accomplish a rescue, whether it be from personal despair or a case of national turmoil.

In 1867 John Stuart Mill put the governmental situation this way:

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

It is often quoted in these words:

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Whether the worthy man or woman is a therapy patient or a nervous citizen in a shaky republic, he is tasked with principled action to effect the change he wants.

Postcard and letter writing, marching and registering voters, phone calls and donations wait for us only for a while. Energy enacted creates its own source of energy, confidence, hope, and a sense of control: steps in the defeat of passivity, dependency, and worry.

Walt Kelly’s old Pogo comic strip told us “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

If the cartoonist were working today he might prefer this, a remedy of which each of us should remind ourselves:

I have met my rescuer and I am he.

8 thoughts on “In Search of a Rescuer: Where Erotic Transference and Politics Intersect

  1. gb fragmented gumdrops

    Another awesome post to ponder, Dr. S. I like how you connected politics with this notion of rescue. We, indeed, are social creatures. Recent research has shown the benefits of emotional support – both emotional and instrumental, as two broader subcategories comprising even more micro-categories. It comes as no surprise that we naturally seek rescuers to help us solve individual and societal problems. Professionals teach, provide services, provide resources, provide research toward innovation in all areas. Some professionals are more hands on than others, when it comes to human contact and the transference that may or may not occur within any given dyad. However, when it comes to political leadership – those who oversee policies, social order, practices, funding, homeland defense, public safety, and public health, among others – we often think in terms of dyadic relationships with such leaders, as opposed to understanding the complex nature for which they are responsible for the functions of many. Surely, we cannot defend our nation individually, nor can we teach ourselves things that require instruction and proper guidance (from birth on forward). So, I believe that the responsibility for rescue and relationship, including political relationships, involve both individual and collective efforts. Us humans have many complex problems, including the overarching need for individual/public health and individual/public safety. The varying ecological systems work together and are dependent on one another; when policies are poor, so are the direct and indirect outcomes of such policies that relate to health and safety (both individually and collectively).

    When I consider those who are struggling with a number of lifetime traumas, the evolutionary explanation for traumatic sequelae is this need to survive, broadly speaking; this need to survive is both unconscious and conscious, and dependent on policies, resources, social capital (including social support), and individual effort to solving the etiologies of complex problems, such as trauma. Thus, it comes as no surprise when some patients seek the need of others to help them to not only deal with their post-traumatic symptoms, but also to help prevent trauma from reoccurring in their lives. Some may find their answers through therapists, others may find their answers through social networks (i.e., social support, such as filial support, romantic support, educational support, financial support, etc.). Given any problem, including mental illness, individual effort depends on the availability of external resources as well (e.g., money to pay the co-pays, research funding that provides the data for practitioners to do their work effectively, educators who provide a platform for professionals to learn how to solve problems related to mental illness, criminologists who identify the etiologies of criminal-based traumas so as to prevent them from reoccuring and/or reduce [deter] trauma-based crimes, victimologists who help victims by understanding their need for support and justice – not just individual responsibility that tends to blame the victim, etc.). Much of the traumatic experiences that clients in therapy have experienced are related to criminal victimization, and for many, they seek continued reassurances through external means for public safety, public health, individual safety, individual health, achieving justice (conventionally, legally, or otherwise individually when society and its policies have failed them repeatedly), and social support. Isolated and desolate, many trauma survivors lose faith and trust in systems and the world, thus leading to faith and trust in themselves; they wonder, quite often, why they are to hold the brunt of responsibility for their victimization when, as a whole, society offers confusing messages about social justice and individual effort to self-preserve.

    On a political level, I believe that it is human nature for people to seek leaders and social supports that help us maintain public health, public safety, individual health, and individual safety. I believe that both individual and societal efforts need to exist in order for both individual effors and societal efforts to survive and even improve. I also believe that there is a direct relationship between individual efforts and societal efforts, such that problems with societal efforts (including political leadership) will increase problems with individual efforts, and vice versa. Data on the interactions between ecological systems support this view, as do data on the need for social support, data on the detrimental outcomes of the various types of loneliness, and many others.

    Overall, I believe that we need a fine balance between self-rescue and other-rescue, and I also believe that other-rescue is equally as important as self-rescue. How can one rescue themselves when the entire world is actually against them? They cannot; they will die; they won’t survive. But if they had external resources, they might be able to survive, they might learn how to combine both individual and external efforts toward their survival. They might feel appreciated and needed in society, and society might appreciate them back, as an integral part of society – and as a human. –These are my thoughts in response to your post. I hope it doesn’t offend. I do believe that it is important to self-rescue, but I also believe that it is equally important to other-rescue – in whatever ways we can indiviudally and collectively afford. Politics play a huge role in other-rescue, but they also comprise individual efforts to self-rescue as well. Our political leaders have also experienced their own job-related traumas, and so it is also important to understand the human side of our leaders who could use some reciprocal rescue themselves.

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  2. No offense, glb. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. I shall say, though, that taking responsibility for oneself doesn’t mean eschewing all assistance. It is, in my meaning, to approach therapy in what Jean-Paul Sartre might call “good faith.” Psychotherapy requires more initiative from the patient than does submitting to inoculation for a disease, just as being a good citizen requires more than voting. Once we know that we have, say, depression, or that our rights (or the rights of others) are being harmed by government policies, we have an obligation to be active in the process of change. You are correct that we might not be able to achieve change alone. That is why we go to a therapist or become engaged with those who are (for example) trying to register voters or writing postcards to potential voters in support of a political candidate. Yes, there might be reasons why a person suffering from PTSD could not easily take such action, just as it might be impossible for someone without proper medical insurance to obtain counseling.

    Similarly, an individual working multiple jobs to support herself and her family might find anything more in the way of initiative to be virtually impossible. For most of us, however, such excuses don’t apply. Most of us fall into the group described as the good men and women who “do nothing” if we wait and hope and sit and fail to act to better ourselves and our country while rationalizing our inaction.

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    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      What you said makes sense! I agree, inaction does not help. We all need to do our individual part as citizens, and as clients in therapy. I wonder now why different people perceive different rescuers.

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      • If you are asking why people wait to be rescued, I suspect there are many reasons. The world can feel like it is simply too much. They might believe they will fail (once more). They might say it is someone else’s responsibility or persuade themselves things are not so bad, after all. They might find there are some benefits, some opportunities for themselves within a corrupt political system. Too many reasons to list. If you care to witness a fictional political example, watch the magnificent German language film, “Mephisto.” Yes, there are English subtitles.

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      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thanks, Dr. S. I was also wondering why people vote differently for certain “rescuers,” such as voting for different presidents as rescuers.

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  3. Try “Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Hochschild as a start.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The “I Love Lucy” clip is hilarious! I always appreciate a good laugh 🙂
    Indeed: “I have met my rescuer and I am he.” Change, whether it be in my personal life or as a member of the body politic, must begin with me.

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  5. Glad you enjoyed the classic “Lucy” clip. She was an enormous presence in early TV, which was coincident with the early years of my generation. I am pleased we are both on the same page with respect to our responsibilities for our personal happiness and our civic responsibilities.

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