How Do They Think They Can Get Away With It?

Much of our public conversation about the Anthony Weiners, the Rod Blagojoviches, and all the other big fish who swim in big ponds and wind up drowning has centered on their grandiosity, sense of invulnerability, and   insatiable need for attention. "How did they ever think they could get away with it?," goes the refrain.  But the tie that binds all these fish together is that they managed to get themselves caught- often, at the top of their game.  Coincidence? Or is there something about success that makes a man shoot himself in the fins- I mean, foot.
This question has assumed particular importance for me  since July 1 of this year, when I became president of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society, our local branch of the American Psychoanalytic Association. For a moment I was filled with great pride, having earned my place among the brotherhood of leaders in my humble pond. But then I began to wonder when I would self destruct, like so many of my big brothers before me.
Psychoanalysts have long speculated  that there is some kind of mental agency lurking beneath the surface of our conscious minds that specializes in punishing us for the crimes that we want to commit or imagine we have committed. This unconscious aspect of ourselves-which Freud called the Superego-readily seizes on weapons of massive humiliation like a federal wiretap or Twitter to administer cruel justice. But what kind of imagined transgression could drive a successful man to punish himself by publically exposing himself as a criminal?
Perhaps  it's the crime of being a successful man. Such a line of reasoning is consistent with what I see when I take  deeper look at myself.  Following my moment of pride, the following thoughts crossed my mind:  "I wish my father could be here to see what I'be become. He'd be so proud."  Very moving.  But then, sneaking in right behind, " I wish I could have been as proud of him." And then, under moderately heavy camouflage:" I wish he'd had the slightest interest in the things I was most interested in. I did it my way, despite him." And deeper still " I defeated him..."  What kind of son defeats his own father? Guilty!Now admittedly, this is an explanation extrapolated from my own self reflection and shaped by ideas that are often dismissed even in contemporary psychoanalytic circles.  But it's hard to imagine better evidence for the power of unconscious guilt than that provided by the seemingly endless supply of powerful men who do stupid things that get them punished.  And so, in conclusion, I would say there's really no mystery at all why some men who have the whole world before them so often destroy themselves- it's precisely because they have the whole world before them!  And they've got father issues.  I rest my case.

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