The Evolution of Psyche and Society

(Part 4)
By Lloyd deMause


The socializing mode of childrearing that began in the eighteenth century and that continues to be the ideal of most nations today replaced the absolute obedience of the intrusive psychoclass with parental manipulation and psychological punishments, in order to make the child "fit into the world" as a replica of the parent.241 Individuation was still limited, since the needs and goals of the parent superceded those of the child as it attempted to separate, but empathy was now available to parents to ensure that basic care was provided. It was the socializing psychoclass that built the modern world, with its ideal of the competent self and the quest for a real self as a life-long existential quest.242 As Masterson puts it: "The psychoneurotic personality…has the capacity for whole self- and whole object-relations, and repression has replaced splitting. From the perspective of the personality disorder, to be psychoneurotic is an achievement."243

Rather than switching into full possession trances and demon alters, the neurotic psychoclass of modern times switches into their social alters, their social roles (see Chapter 4), as organized by the group-fantasies of nations rather than by religious groups. Sacrifice for the Mommy-Nation—dying for the Motherland—replaces dying for Christ: "We are to die so that the motherland may live; for while we live the motherland is dying…A nation can only regenerate itself in a bath of blood."244 It was the nation as a master group-fantasy that organized and contained both the new faith in progress and its sacrificial wars, acted out in periodic cycles of innovative, depressive, manic and war stages (see Chapter 5).

In each stage, nations follow a different psychoclass style. In the innovative stage, the neurotic psychoclass provides new social, political and economic progress; in the depressive stage, the depressive psychoclass is followed into economic depression; in the manic stage, narcissists take over with their grandiose projects; and in the war stage nations follow self-destructive masochists and paranoid schizoids into violence. Choosing earlier psychoclasses—psychological fossils—as leaders has become a constant practice in modern nations, only masked by the idealization of the public switched into their social alters. To realize that we willingly delegate to a handful of men sitting in a deep trance in the Oval Office the power to blow up much of the world depending upon whether they think they feel "humiliated"—as in the Cuban Missile Crisis—is to realize the bizarre extent of the dissociation between fantasy and reality that continues to pervade our modern psyches.

All the other aspects of modern industrial society are equally results of the new socializing psychoclass childrearing, causing a greater increase in material prosperity in the past two centuries than in all the rest of human history. The reason for this astonishing progress is that science, technology and economic development depend more on investments in parenting than investments in equipment, since they crucially require an "exploring self" constructed from childhood. A few economists realize that the wealth of nations lies in the development of psyches more than in the investment of capital.

Everett Hagan and Lawrence Harrison, for instance, have demonstrated that those nations furthest behind today in economic development suffer from a severe underinvestment in families and children, not in capital equipment.245 The historical record is clear: early pioneers in science and technology first had to overcome their alter projections before they could discover how the world worked. As Keith Thomas puts it: "It was the abandonment of magic which made possible the upsurge of technology, not the other way round."246 Newton had to stop seeing falling objects "longing to return to Mother Earth" before he could posit a force of gravity.

Chemists had to give up "alchemical visions of womb-battles between good and evil" inside their flasks before they could observe the real causes of chemical change.247 Farmers had to be able to empathize with their horses in order to invent the harness collar that moved the pressure down from their throats to their flanks so they wouldn’t be choked in order to increase the loads they could pull.248 Farmers also had to stop thinking of plowing as "tearing at the breast of Mother Earth" in order to invent the deep plow and change the face of European agriculture. Men had to begin to value their families in order to build wooden floors in their homes rather than leaving them clay as was the practice for millennia.249 Every invention had its origin in the evolution of the psyche; every exploration of nature was a dimension of the exploration of the self.

Economic life, too, only evolved as childrearing and the psyche evolved. Tribal societies both in the past and in the present could not trust, because parents were untrustworthy, so they could not allow much wealth or surplus out of which they could create economic progress. Ownership was felt to be dangerous selfishness, envy ran rampant and ambition was feared: "The anthropologist may see people behaving with generosity, but this is the result of fear."250 Those who acquired too much were expected to either engage in gift-exchange251 and other redistributive rituals252 or else to periodically destroy their surplus in cleansing sacrificial ceremonies.253 Even the invention of money came from the sacred objects used for sacrifice to deities.254 "Money is condensed wealth; condensed wealth is condensed guilt…money is filthy because it remains guilt."255

What held back economic development for so many millennia was that early civilizations were so abusively brought up that they spent most of their energies chasing "ghosts from the nursery"—religious, political and economic domination group-fantasies—rather than joining in together to solve the real tasks of life. The appalling poverty of most people throughout history has been simply an extension of the emotional poverty of the historical family, making real cooperation in society impossible. For instance, slavery was one of the most wasteful, uneconomical systems ever invented, since denying autonomy to one’s fellow workers simply wasted both the slaves’ and the owners’ productivity and inventiveness.

Running the world like a prison, with one half occupied with guarding the other half, has always been extremely unproductive. That unfree labor is always unproductive labor has long been acknowledged by economists.256 Slaves were kept "as expressions of their owners’ status and prestige"257 even when they could barely manage to pick grapes because of their shackles. Owning slaves may have been very dangerous to you and to your family, and they may have often run away. But everyone still wanted to have them so they could be used to restage the tortures of one’s childhood: "Galen remarked how common it was for slaves to be punched with the fists, to be kicked, to have their eyes put out, and how his own mother had had the habit of biting her maidservants."258

Equipment for torturing slaves was widespread, including special whips and racks for beatings, special knives for facial mutilation and castration and metal plates and flaming torches for burnings. "There was even a torture and execution service operated by a company of undertakers…Flogging and crucifixion were standard options at a flat rate to the user…"259

With a third or more of ancient societies being slaves, an unending supply of bodies to flog was assured, even though this meant remaining mired in low-productivity economies.260 Throughout the Roman classical period, Finley says, improvements in economic techniques were "marginal [because] patterns of land use and methods of tillage remained unchanged."261

It was more important to restage early trumatic beatings and domination fantasies than to improve the abysmal squalor in which nearly everyone lived. Even with the disappearance of slavery during the Middle Ages—which Marc Bloch called "one of the most profound transformations mankind has known"262 —the serfdom and other kinds of bondage that replaced it kept Europe for centuries in a rate of per capita product of only a tiny fraction of a percent per year.263

It was only by the early modern period when the need to restage family slavery began to decline that trust began to replace domination and the "take-off" phase in economics could begin. "The ultimate explanation of economic development lies not in purely economic factors, such as land, labor and capital…these will [occur] when people learn that it is good business to be just and considerate toward one’s neighbors; to solve quarrels peacefully; [and] to be held accountable for the efficient use of resources." Purely economic theories that cannot concieve of psychogenic causes are reduced to statements such as: "No one planned Progress as a whole. It simply erupted."265

In addition to a take-off in economic progress, the modern psychoneurotic personality began to achieve levels of intimacy between men and women that were simply unknown to previous psychoclasses. When mothers were incestuous, it was not surprising that women were feared as sexually insatiable by men, and pederasty and rape were preferred to intimate, married love. All women were in danger of turning into dominating mothers and therefore had to be beaten; Homer’s word for ‘wife,’ damar, means "broken into submission." In addition, that women throughout so much of history were accused of being unable to restrain their sexual appetites was not just a patriarchal myth—it was more the result of the widespread rape of young girls being restaged later in life, just as so many raped girls today grow up to repeat their sexual assaults later on in prostitution or adultery. That human sexuality through antiquity was conflated with violence and domination and that Christianity was the most anti-sexual religion known to mankind are only understandable as normal reactions to severe childhood seductions, not as inexplicable religious teachings.

That "conjugal love between husband and wife was considered ridiculous and impossible"266 in antiquity is better understood as a consequence of the narcissistic personality’s need to have perfection in their partner, fearing to risk attaching themselves to someone who was imperfect and whom they might lose like they lost their mothers and fathers earlier. Only through effective polygamy—either formal or through having concubines and slaves as alternatives to wives—could depending upon one woman be avoided. Indeed, the jealous mothers of the gynarchies of the past would often step in between their sons and their wives in order to keep them tied to themselves—as, for instance, Augustine’s mother did when she made him dismiss his concubine, who had lived faithfully with him for years.

Even Christian marriages were supposed to be passionless between the spouses. God stood in for the grandmother and demanded that all love and passion be reserved for Himself. It was not really until the depressive psychoclass began to face their abandonment depression in the sixteenth century that Erasmus could startle his readers with the view that marriage was superior to virginity and Puritan wives could be able to write passionate love poems to their husbands.267 And it was only by the eighteenth century’s socializing psychoclass that "husbands and wives who cherished each other were begun to be held in the greatest esteem [as] conjugal love attracted not sarcasm, but the most fervent admiration, thus giving rise to a sort of contest to see who could love his or her beloved spouse the most, who could best prove to the world the unshakable fidelity felt toward one’s life partner."268


It is difficult to describe what kind of world might be made by individuated personalities, as the first helping mode parents—where both mother and father unconditionally love their children and help them achieve their own goals and own real selves from birth—have only been around for a few decades in the most advanced societies. As I watch my own children and some of their helping psychoclass friends grow up and establish their productive lives, I see them as very different from my own socializing psychoclass peers. They are far more empathic and therefore more concerned about others than we ever were, and this has made them far more activist in their lives in trying to make a difference and change the world for the better, mostly involving themselves in local activities rather than global political changes.

They lack all need for nationalism, wars and other grandiose projects, and in the organizations they start are genuinely non-authoritarian. There is no question that if the world could treat children with helping mode parenting, wars and all the other self-destructive social conditions we still suffer from in the twenty-first century will be cured, simply because the world will be filled with individuated personalities who are empathic toward others and who are not self-destructive. A world that loves and trusts its children and encourages them to develop their unique selves will be a world of very different institutions, a world without wars, jails and other domination group-fantasies.

The main problem is that the evolution of childrearing has so far been a slow, uneven historical process, depending greatly upon increasing the support given innovative mothers and their hopeful daughters. Unfortunately, in a world where our destructive technology has far outrun our childrearing progress—where a single submarine can now carry a sufficient number nuclear warheads to destroy most of the world with the push of a button—we do not have the luxury of just waiting for childrearing to evolve. If we do, we will certainly blow ourselves up long before child abuse disappears enough to make us want to disarm. What we need now is some way for the more advanced psychoclasses to teach childrearing to the less evolved parents, a way to end child abuse and neglect quickly enough to avoid the global holocaust that is awaiting us.


Ever since the earliest psychohistorical studies were published linking child abuse to war and social violence, one physician-psychohistorian, Robert McFarland, concluded that it must be possible to end child abuse in his community by starting a new institution, Community Parenting Centers, and with every means possible teach good parenting to every new baby born in his city, Boulder, Colorado. It seemed ridiculous to McFarland that the entire world depends upon good parenting, while parenting was the only subject never taught in schools or anywhere else in the world. For the past two decades, therefore, McFarland has run The Parenting Place in several counties of Boulder, reaching out to visit every baby born in the areas and giving substantial support to all mothers and fathers—holding parenting discussion groups, baby massage courses, single mothers assistance, showing them how to bring up children without hitting them, how to foster their independence, etc.

The wide range of activities of The Parenting Place can be seen in two articles in The Journal of Psychohistory.269 Over half the families choose to be visited weekly in their homes for parenting instructions. Since no new mother or father wants to reject and abuse their babies, what McFarland found was that providing this help and hope for parents allowed their underlying affection to replace the abuse and neglect that comes from fear and despair—so that his statistics from local police and hospital records now show a real decrease in child abuse reports.

What is most astonishing is that McFarland found that Parenting Centers costs are far lower than what is saved in the later costs of abuse to the community. That the small budget for the Centers is offset many times over by the costs to the communities of later social services and criminal behavior is a not unexpected finding, given that sociologists have calculated that "the costs to society of career criminal behavior, drug use, and high-school dropouts for a single youth is $1.7 to $2.3 million."270 With the world spending trillions of dollars a year preparing for war and additional trillions for jails, establishing Parenting Centers in every community on earth for just a small part of this cost would soon provide an enormous saving to mankind—an immediate saving, even before the actual savings from the huge destructiveness of wars is realized. McFarland calculates that every community on earth (he is even starting a Parenting Center in Tajikistan in a sister city to Boulder) can be supported by a small "children’s tax" of one-tenth of one percent increase in the sales tax.

Only by starting now on a vast world-wide program to end child neglect and abuse and raise all of our precious children with respect can we avoid the likely coming global holocaust. Only by reducing dissociation to a minimum through empathic parenting can we avoid inflicting the self-destructive power we now have available to us. This is the single most important finding of the new science of psychohistory. Free universal training centers for parents may be a radical new notion, but so once was the idea of free universal schools for children. Our task is clear and our resources sufficient to make our world safe for the first time in our long, violent history. All it takes now is the will to begin.


Article Citations

This article is Part IV of Chapter 9 of deMause's new book The Emotional Life of Nations (New York: OtherPress, 2002). For more by deMause, see his website,

Read Dr. James C. Duffy's article about why deMause's findings are believable and why resistance persists despite the overwhelming evidence he presents.

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