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Blizard, R.A. (2020). Double Binds, Dissociation, and Attachment to the Perpetrator in Families and Oppressive Groups. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 14(1):87-98.

(2020). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 14(1):87-98

Double Binds, Dissociation, and Attachment to the Perpetrator in Families and Oppressive Groups

Ruth A. Blizard, Ph.D.

Dependence on a traumatising, narcissistic leader creates double binds for members of oppressive religious and political groups much as it does for the children of a traumatising caregiver. These double binds result in disorganised attachment to the perpetrator. In order to survive, the dependent person must focus, with exquisite attention, on every word, action, thought, and desire of the narcissist. In the process, the dependent often loses all sense of self and agency. To cope with the competing demands of this double bind, two dissociated self-states are developed: 1) a subservient, idealising state to maintain attachment, and 2) a self-protective state that preserves power by identifying with the aggressor. A similar process may take place when members of oppressive groups become dependent on a traumatising leader. Members are kept in a state of fear, continuously activating their attachment systems, which motivates them to stay close and look to the leader for protection. They may be induced to accept the leader's unethical behaviour blindly and doubt their own perceptions of reality. Examples of attachment to the abuser in families and in two cult-like groups, the Nation of Islam, led by Malcolm X, and the Naropa Institute under Chögyam Trungpa, are discussed.

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