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The Dark Underbelly Beneath the Façade

The news reportage continues to grapple with shocks like the Boston Marathon bombings and the men who wreaked havoc on innocent people. How can it be that someone, particularly the younger of the two bombers, who appeared socially adept, friendly and an “average student Joe” could have a fanatical, dark underbelly and commit atrocious, murderous deeds?

Although a complicated question, we can look to Reich’s diagram of the psyche for possible explanation. He describes an outer layer referred to as the façade; an inner secondary layer characterized by a mix of dense, inhibited core impulses and defensive maneuvers; and a layer of healthy, core feelings. The social façade can be a finely honed presentation that smartly matches expectations of one’s social group or status. The secondary layer houses our darker feelings: a cross-current of jealousy, envy, conflict, anger, hatred, catastrophic fears, contempt and self-loathing. Reich defines the core as the center encompassing our natural feelings of love, healthy aggression and normal anxiety. These core feelings and impulses should form our essential instincts that can serve us well if allowed full expression. The secondary layer, when not sorted out, can break through and manifest in destructive and irrational behaviors, and contaminate relationships, families, and work environments – as well as society at large.

Because most of us have blocking in the ocular segment, we live too often in a state of contactlessness and cannot see reality clearly. The ocular segment means our functioning eyes, our vision, our ability to assess our inner as well as outer realities with clarity and lucidity. When we have armoring in that segment, we experience an inability to perceive our situation or the situation of others, or see clearly the big picture. Our vision is skewed with confusion leading to paranoid ideas and feelings: a mixture of fear with anger. Assumptions, distortions and biased beliefs rule and connect with the secondary layer to drive the emotions and actions. The social façade no longer works and the core instincts are damaged. Without appropriate, learned ethics and self regulation, the secondary layer’s massive, destructive underbelly can breakthrough. Of course, the complexity of family background and other influences, such as political, religious, racial, and ethnic issues play into the jagged emotional layers creating a template for acts of revenge.

I was struck by the fact that in so many news reports of gun tragedies and bombings, the profile of the individual is confusing because the social façade presents so differently from the darker realities at play.

Tell us what you think. Your opinions, comments and questions are invited.

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