Manic defenses

Triumph, control, contempt.

If you, or someone you know displays one or the other of these sensations, it’s a good bet that beneath lies some grave fear or sadness.

We toss around the word “mania” and its cognates, but we often misuse it. The common usage of mania – to mean “frenzied, energetic activity” – misses the core essential aspect of mania, that it is a defense against some undesired affective state.

Addiction is a classic example of a manic defense. God knows mine is/was/has been/will be. I took an underlying feeling – badness, shame, undesirability, worthlessness – and converted it into a triumphant situation of manifest control: I would use money (contempt) to conjure a woman at my command (control) and cause her to minister to me in a highly particularized way, culminating in orgasm (control). And, to top it off, I control my orgasm pretty completely, itself, a sort of masterful defense against whatever it would mean were a woman able to cause me to come without my compliance, without my willing it to be so.

Just a morning thought, triggered by interactions with a good, hot, faraway friend.

And, for a classic example of manic defenses run haywire, watch/listen – if you can bear it – to Charlie Sheen on Alex Jones’s show in 2011. This interview ultimately led to Sheen’s downfall. If you listen with even the slightest sympathetic ear, you can’t miss the shame, fear, loneliness, and doubt that were torturing Sheen.

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