ISIL's outward expression of internal conflict.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has a similar agenda to those earlier crusaders with regard to imposing Divine Law. Many of its terrorists, under examination, could prove mentally well-adjusted but, like wolves in a pack, are capable of the most brutal acts when under the influence and pressure of the group. What began as a small group of individuals with a relatively common extremist ideology has grown to become one of the largest and most barbaric terrorist organizations in the world, obtaining massive funding and weaponry from willing international donors, while successfully recruiting a new breed of Western foreign fighter through social media networks and daily news coverage.
This new breed of terrorist has an individual psychology, pledging allegiance to ISIL in order to make use of their life experience, qualifications, and skill sets to implement the Divine Law. They wish to help the organization fulfill its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate which truly is rid of infidels once and for all. ISIL does not specifically set out, as other terrorist groups do, to encourage the disillusioned, vulnerable, or easily led individuals who cannot even pass a basic test in the Koran. In fact, those who comprise ISIL do not want this kind of person at all, as this type of character tends to back out--at the last minute--of traveling abroad to fight. They want the more ambitious, settled, educated, and well-seasoned foreign fighters to approach them, ready to join the ranks and contribute to the Islamic State. They now are perceived on social media as a group with a role and purpose for everyone, from builder to doctor, locksmith to engineer. The individual finds ISIL through contact with affiliate members. Many homegrown, handpicked recruits already come from families with existing ISIL members, or may know friends who have joined the fight. These contacts initiate the radicalized recruits into ISIL when they are rehearsed in the ideology, skills, and barbaric ways to implement Divine Law.
When a newly recruited Western foreign fighter broadcasts the group's ideology online, stating the Islamic State has a place for anyone seeking redemption and freedom, this sends a very powerful message from the Western world and, not as typically, from the Middle East. Through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, a message from ISIL may become global within a matter of moments, more collective in its reach than merely targeting the disillusioned pathology of certain impressionable individuals.
Those who follow the organization's movements via social media often look and click on any new links to footage as they appear, generating clicks from their phone, laptop, or device, but those who do not follow ISIL also tend look at the negative, promotional footage, simply out of curiosity, fear, and interest. There is a danger here. Those who watch these videos, whether fans or not, help ISIL recruit new members by generating millions of clicks, boosting the technological and psychological exposure of the extremist group to the masses. Watching a radicalized Western American fighter or British scholar talk about why he has joined ISIL encourages new foreign fighters to emerge from the shadows. Now they can see firsthand how it has changed the life of a person with whom they can relate to, someone who is just like they are.
Barbaric actions on videotape are a significant part of the recruitment process. They bring the viewer tension and anxiety on an unimaginable psycho-physiological scale, provoking the watcher into a state of fear that eventually forces that individual to take on the fight. The psychology behind shock and awe tactics is nothing new. The Bush Administration--father and son--used it in both Iraqi wars to obliterate and stun the country into submission. Through the power of the image, ISIL now employs the same tactics to stun the world into retaliation. They know the world eventually will want to eliminate the threat of its existence once and for all. It is a lure and a challenge to fight them--exactly what they want.
ISIL's propaganda social media campaign should be targeted directly by promoting the bravery and sacrifice of the Kurdish resistance fighters, who, in my opinion, are the only worthy fighting factions currently on the ground. Videos and footage of victories over ISIL enables a positive shift in focus to begin, from fear and domination to freedom and liberation. Those with the courage to take on ISIL should get more airplay, thus encouraging those who watch their valiant acts to support them and join the fight against extremism. The morale of the Kurdish fighters is boosted by international support, which up until now has been waning. We must let their willingness to face fear be a shining example to the rest of the world.
Merciless beheadings and indiscriminate violence sinks deep into the psyche of the average person, especially those who fear the same fate for themselves. As compassionate humans, we do not like the things we fear, but tend to invest in our fears with great focus and energy. This keeps brutal images afresh in the mind. These images lift us out of our chair, compelling us to act against encroaching fear with great force. They compel us to "get them before they get us." ISIL knows this all too well and predicted the inevitable knee-jerk reactions of the West to the recent videos of innocent people cruelly being beheaded, for its aim is to draw the world into battle with them. This creates collateral damage and there is no greater recruitment tool for gaining sympathy and new ISIL members than increasing civilian casualties on the ground resulting from outside intervention, such as the airstrikes we see now. These airstrikes may slow ISIL down a little in its rapid advancement through vast swathes of territory but, while ISIL's momentum may decrease at the front with targeted airstrikes, new energetic sympathizers constantly are being born at the back to replace the fallen, some seeking revenge for what may have been the accidental death of a loved one through a coalition airstrike.
Throughout mankind's murderous history, whenever nations just seemed to be enjoying civilization and making real progress, countries somehow would manage to find a way of being dragged into yet more bloody wars. Aristotle's voice of reason and Wolfgang Mozart's magnificent music were lost each time on the battlefield as savage acts committed in the name of God and country became the order of the day. People of the highest moral standards and culture did shameful things they never would have conceived in normal, peaceful times. Because in happier times people only could dream of murdering an enemy, but through civilized conditioning and a sense of guilt, this idea naturally was repressed, deemed too unsuitable for conscious thought
In times of war, though, these repressed ideas and animalistic tendencies reemerge in us with the psychical force to break down ethical codes and resistances we normally abide by. Our primitive impulses and drives become more instinctively cruel in order to help us survive better--and so, the animal rises to the fore to, ironically, defend humanity. When such honorable men find pleasure in the pain of others, there is little distinction between the deeds of the enemy and the actions of the liberator. Beheadings are indiscriminately violent, but airstrikes victimize innocent people, too. When the civilized confronts the animal, both are savage in the act of eliminating each other. Killing comes naturally and easily to a murderous animal.
The gratification of ancient primitive needs lies at the heart of human character. Love turns to hate in the blink of an eye, where kindness becomes cruelty with a few minor tweaks to our fragile conditioning. Witness the child pulling a leg off a spider--in early youth, impulses express themselves freely and without conscious restraint, as we act out minor scenes of terror through experimentations, dissections, and random acts of torture. We are told by our parents that we should not think, say, nor do certain things because they are morally wrong. A "sense of guilt" thus formulates in the developing mind, as we grow and learn to repress successfully these primitive impulses each time they arise to seek fulfillment.
Over the years, the subjective moral codes governing consciousness are fortified and morally strengthened, as we abide by the rules and become more rationally well-adjusted, but the earliest and more archaic primitive impulses do not undergo any type of transformation or adjustment to our changing environment, forever remaining primitive and unchanging throughout life, festering as unresolved primal wishes.
As adults, we gain better authority over such strong feelings of love, hate, anger, pity etc., but command over the impulses is not one of our strong points and often breaks down completely when, for example, in times of war, we go from drinking tea by the fire at home to defending ourselves on the battlefield. War brings the primal to the fore and ISIL may be compared to the dark, primal side of human thought.
The repressions we suppress daily are repressed successfully only to a point. They eventually press upwards for realization in conscious activity. So, now the world must act like the therapist treating a client for repression and find ways to unearth the catalyst driving ISIL's behaviors. We must look for the unconscious motivations behind its actions and not just deal with the effect of its actions, which too simply is defined as terrorism.
ISIL is war hungry and in a permanent state of war. Heinous acts carried out by the group may cause other terrorist groups to denounce their activities, but these extreme acts of violence are second nature to them, empowered by impunity and sanctioned by God. Even the most civilized of humans are capable of monstrous acts but, when war has induced a state of mind that no longer represses the desire to kill, it is then that the bloodthirsty hound emerges. These acts of violence draw the civilized world into a cave, from light to darkness, from reasonable human to murderous animal.
Such a transformation occurs because humans are not psychologically trained to handle their emotions and control aggressive impulses. Civilization depends on its violent instincts for survival, but does not yet know how to manage guilt, shame, self-punishment, aggression, rage, love, and hate constructively. Terrorists often are conditioned from an early age to hate the infidel, feeding genocidal impulses within the psyche and creating paranoiac delusions of grandeur. Many mass murderers throughout history were taunted as children by their parents. Taunting alone eventually can generate enough repressed anger in a child to create an adult suicide bomber.
Consciously and spiritually, ISIL fighters may wish to serve God in martyrdom, but unconsciously they may wish to cure themselves of the trauma they experienced as a child. Terrorists may think they understand the motives behind their actions, but humans do not have the mental capacity truly to understand themselves, in the unconscious sense. Some terrorists truly hate themselves and the life they have lived up to joining the ranks of ISIL, which gives them a platform to externalize this hatred of life onto others by encouraging self-sacrifice, suicide, and death.
Members of ISIL may say that they hate the West, but many terrorists are just envious of how Westerners tend to love life more than death. Unconsciously, they may desire more freedoms but, because they never can have them, they seek to destroy other people's freedoms. Extremists want others to suffer as they did, or still do. Their conduct is egotistical because they do not have the greater good of mankind as their end goal. Even if they were to achieve their goal of worldwide domination, where everyone is living under the black flag of harsh moral law and theocratic rule, they no doubt would get bored in peaceful times and find a reason to start fighting again. Meaninglessness and a lack of personal identity lead people to find their identity in ISIL. The only thing that they truly can identify with is the glorious image of their own death, or of others'.
Because it is difficult to talk to an ISIL member about the motives and behaviors behind his or her actions, our knowledge and understanding of the ISIL fighter is limited and flawed with guesswork, based only on what we think is an ISIL terrorist. In witnessing the terrorist action, we respond with force, neglecting to investigate the lures, impetus, passive associations, and nonviolent activities in the lead-up to the extremist act.
Many terrorist organizations have a political agenda based on social and religious ideologies, such as, for instance, the destabilizing of a regime to gain greater autonomy, but ISIL carries influence differently--not through a struggle for freedom from their oppressors, but by way of implementing God's law upon everyone. They have left the politicking behind and are not focused on regime change, but rather on regime destruction, which clears the way for strict Sharia Law to be implemented.
However, this does not mean its individual members started out their campaign of terror with the same ideology. This is where fractures appear in a collective ideology between true blood hardliners and those not yet ready to slit the throats of innocent children simply because they are Christian. There is no such thing as a collective psychology. There only is individual, subjective thought. Positive intervention from moderate Sunnis who can use their influence to persuade their people not to join ISIL is an important step in helping passive sympathizers to remain purposeful individuals who do not follow the sheep to the slaughter. Shia and Sunni must come together in order to change the mindset of their people. This directly opposes the divisions that the Iraqi government, its army, and ISIL have created.
If you replace a Sunni-led government with a Shia-led government, how can equal rights for all be achieved? If the Iraqi army has more Shia soldiers than Sunni, how do we expect to turn a failed state into a modern democracy with religious rights and ethnic freedoms for everyone, without deep sectarian divides? These divides ultimately create insurgency. By tackling the root causes of insurgencies, you help remove the threat of terrorism. This sometimes may involve finding new ways to talk to the terrorist.
Governments do not like negotiating with extremists and vice versa, but attempting to crush ISIL by force alone is futile. No one wants to give ISIL greater legitimacy through negotiations, but a view from within always is better than guesswork from without. Dialogue can root out extremism from certain parts of the proposed caliphate. It enables moderate Sunni tribes and even passive supporters of ISIL to reemerge from hiding and begin living again the way they lived before, in peace, both Sunni and Shia, alongside their other Iraqi brothers of ethnic and religious varieties. Iraqi must not turn against Iraqi. Division along sectarian lines is all the previous Iraqi administration achieved. This is what ISIL wants.
The international community must not give in to the demands of ISIL. It wants us to be shocked and horrified to the point of fight or flight, which is an age-old reaction to threats in the immediate environment. We, as civilized human beings, must confront our fears with rational thinking and learn ways to integrate the primal back into the civilized without the brutal force we are so accustomed to using. The animal has awoken and only we have the power to tame it.
The Sins of the Father ...
A father, who is naturally focused on obedience, humiliation, subservience, and purification creates in his child the same focused character. Images of a punitive, wrathful God have significant associations with the types of authoritarian personality you find in maturing terrorists, such as a lack of love and empathy, low self-esteem, a strict moral stance, suspicion, paranoia, and an inability to love life over death. Images of a punitive parent, such as a religiously strict father who reprimands all actions against him, steadily give rise to the appeal of cleansing the world of evil through similar punishing acts of violence. Unconsciously, the ISIL fighter may wish to cleanse his mind and soul of the paternal father, but this wish is not fully conscious, as it brings with it too many feelings of guilt and shame.
The developing child loves his or her mother and all of the kindness that she gives, and naturally is inclined to think of her as the center of the universe. In the earliest years, the introduction of the paternal father tends to be viewed by the infant as an obstruction to satisfaction and the ability to love and own mother entirely. These intense feelings are quite natural in babies and young children. Some of the first infantile unconscious wishes present themselves in the form of a death wish, or a strong desire to kill the father, or at least have him out of the way so that mother can be conquered. Due to this dependency on mother, strong impulses to kill often are accompanied by feelings of admiration for father, even when he is cruel. For children to maintain affection for a strict father, they will take on what it is they fear or dislike about him and hold themselves responsible for any badness they may witness in his actions.
Guilt and remorse, which religion depends upon, are born out of repressing this affection for the father in order to kill and overcome him, in the unconscious sense. The death wish is followed by feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, and self-punishment. Only then are impulses to kill the father and conquer the mother successfully repressed as the child learns to share mother with father, albeit reluctantly. The image of the parents, to a child, is perceived as only good and never bad. Children naturally carry the burden of self-punishment in order to maintain an idealized view of their parents. Later on in adult life, the earlier burden of taking on the badness of the father then resurfaces and is realized consciously through the reenactment of the father's cruelty.
In the developing psychic life of children, the image of God is formed in the likeness of the paternal father. It is the parent father who develops in their child a "longing" for God the father. The only way that a child can avoid the reprimand of the father is by obeying him through a willful subservience that lasts into adulthood. As a result, the punitive image of God is absorbed mentally and exacerbated by the reality of having a strict fattier, who, at his will, delivers God's punishment This creates in the child a lack of self-control and feelings of hate, guilt, shame, and self-loathing.
Later on in life, the authoritarian personality type then may seek to deliver the same punishment onto the world that was thrust upon his or her at the most impressionable stages of physical, psychical, and spiritual development. The wrath of the paternal father, and of God the Father, leaves children feeling helpless. This helplessness matures into defenselessness, where feelings of rage against the paternal father only are quelled in the acting out of the punitive will of God the Father, who now has replaced fully the paternal father.
By pushing a child to submit to a God who humiliates and persecutes, natural desires and needs are repressed, resulting in a person who no longer is connected emphatically to human beings and their collective aspirations. The terrorist connects to God alone and severs the connection to the earth, which now must be cleansed of its impurities and sacrificed in war. Only in battle is freedom from unrealized unconscious desires truly won. Shame and guilt are forgotten in the heat of action. So, too, is the strict father and loving mother. Terrorists regain control of desire in battle because they are in the sanctuary of the brotherly group. Here they fight alongside one another with a common goal that is not connected to mankind's earthly dreams. If happiness is the fulfillment of childhood wishes, then, unconsciously speaking, terrorism is the destruction of childhood wishes when they no longer can be realized in the normal sense. The terrorist seeks to kill the very people who threaten his father's view of how things should be. It is the father's tongue he speaks with and the father's sword he kills with.
Cathal O'Briain, honorary secretary of Ireland's Hypnotherapy Association, is the author of Powerful Mind Through Self-Hypnosis: A Practical Guide to Complete Self-Mastery.
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|Title Annotation:||Worldview; Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Publication:||USA Today (Magazine)|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
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