If we join the analytic eyes of social and clinical psychologists, then maybe we can start asking the right questions. Why did the efforts to bring down dictatorships sometimes yield, against all expectations and bloodshed, to the succession of worse dictatorships? What internal dynamics make some people find safety in electing power-hungry leaders? What object relations are activated when we think we are more important and entitled than others, or the opposite, unworthy of love, rights, or respect than others, preserving the eternal tension between freedom and oppression? What kind of people do we need to be in order to participate in full democracy?
I do not claim to have answers to my own questions. However, if I landed on one consistent realization, it is that mental health and self-awareness can no longer be treated as a privilege for the intellectuals or a reflective moment during summer vacations, but as a social responsibility. We owe it ourselves and to the world to delve into ourselves, know who we are, and make a decision about the kind of people we want to be on this Earth. It has been consistently established in the literature and across different theories that the way we think of and relate to ourselves plays a major role in the way we relate to others and to the world. At the same time, the way we relate to ourselves is shaped by our earliest interactions and direct environments, through which we develop as humans. Most of our adult emotions, thoughts, and decisions are influenced by unconscious knowledge, defense mechanisms, and a complex constellation of emotions. Yes, nothing is as simple as it seems. While we are not always directly aware of these forces, every campaign that identifies us as their target population is very much aware of them. For example, it is no longer a secret that election and political campaigns target our fear and anger and project them on a dissimilar other, highlight our differences rather than our similarities, and talk about “the other” in “groups” rather than individuals, only then to introduce the candidate as the rescuer in this fantasy, or wars and weapons as the only refuge. Marketing campaigns target our deepest insecurities, appealing to the layers of shame and inadequacies inside us, only then to promise to restore us through their products, to make us smarter through a triumph purchase during sales, and to grant us instant happiness with a faster delivery. Now, imagine the ripple effects of every time each one of us makes a decision without recognizing those psychological blind spots.