People involved in mobs have an immediate sense of intimacy with one another derived from projecting their ego ideal onto the leader and their identification with the leader and fellow members. The projection eliminates moral constraints and the superego`s mediated function of self-criticism and responsibility. A sense of unity and belonging protects the mob members from losing their identity. A severe reduction in ego functioning, primitive unconscious needs take over, and the mob functions under the sway of the drive and affects (excitement and rage) the leader directs. A basic group assumption of dependency on the leader is perceived as omnipotent and themselves as inadequate, immature and incompetent. Each makes one forever greedy and forever unsatisfied.

When the leader fails to live up to the ideal, they are met with denial, rapid devaluation, and seeking a substitute. Hence, the leader directs a second assumption of a fight against vaguely defined enemies and protects the group from infighting. As members can’t tolerate opposing shared ideologies, they easily split into subgroups that fight each other. A group tends to control the leader or experience being controlled by the leader to create an illusion of closeness. This denies intergroup hostility and allows them to protect against aggression from the outer group/enemy.

The initial search for nurturing and dependency is quickly replaced with group suspicion, fighting and dread of annihilation.

The third assumption focuses on a couple within the group, representing positive attributes and expectations, stabilising the group. Without the idealised couple, inner tensions and conflicts threaten the group’s cohesion. Simplistic generalisations and ideologies permeate the group and may transform into a conviction of absolute truth. Aggression takes the form of pathological envy, the envy of thinking, rationality and individuality. They acquire fusion, fused with a fantastic conception of the group as a primitive ego ideal and the all-gratifying primary object (leader). Three shared illusions

  1. The group is composed of individuals; we are equal. Thus denying sexual differences and castration anxiety.
  2. The group is self-engendered – a powerful mother of itself
  3. The group can repair any narcissistic lesions because it becomes the idealised mother.

The leader is the merchant illusions, promoting an ideal, a unifying system of ideas, that frim narcissistic aspiration of fusing the group as a primitive ideal. The experience and identification with each other permit narcissistic gratification, greatness and power. A shared sense of omnipotence compensates for losing personal identity, cognitive discrimination and individuality within the group.

The repressed ego, the id and the primitive (pre-oedipal ) ego ideal of each individual are fused within the group illusion.

Rigid social structuring, rituals, bureaucracy, and well-organised task performances can control large group processes. These groups are conventional, ideological, simplistic, conformist and able to indulge themself without feeling guilt or gratitude. They lack a sense of personal responsibility and investment in others. Group morality veers towards the desexualisation of heterosexuality, suppression of erotic fantasies and sanctioning only permissible love relations. The eruption of crude and anally triggered sexuality reminiscences of a sexual group in the latency and adolescence phases of development.

The individual primary task is to satisfy the instinctual and object-oriented needs of their internal world employing interaction with the social environment. In the performance of the task, the individual attempts to creatively modify their interpersonal world in terms of intrapsychic needs, which elaborate in terms of external realities.

The idealised leader represents the oedipal hero who killed his father and formed an alliance of sons.

Hence, the father is rejected, and traditional values are brought about by mass production, immediate gratification, and the psychology of demand over personal responsibility. The group symbolises a pre-oedipal mother who provides love and sexual gratification without demands for either individual differentiation or commitment within couples. The destruction of authority, individualization, and exclusive forms of sexuality reflects a rejection of the oedipal couple and the regression to an earlier form of narcissism.

The family is no longer a primary source of mortality; parents avoid conflict by compromising and offering instinctual gratification, which corrodes the child’s development of a mature superego. Instead, the child must overindulge in impulse gratification and lack of superego approval, with a secondary overdependence on external sources for self-esteem and validation. A new weaker form of control is established, primarily based on power, manipulation and pseudo-interpersonal relationships within social organisations. The symbolic pre-oedipal mother is very different from the differentiated oedipal mother, who is separate from the child and in a private union with the oedipal father. The latter image is one regressed group that can’t tolerate or accept—a pre-oedipal ideology with pre-oedipal forms of sexuality manifests as polymorphous perverse infantile sexuality. A conventional morality directed against the private sexual fulfilment of the autonomous couple.

Ego Identity

An identity crisis occurs with the loss of correspondence between a subjective sense of ego identity. . for example; an adolescent feels estranged and alienated from the objective psychosocial environment. In contrast, the syndrome of identity diffusion, characterised by borderline personality disorder (BPD), consists of a lack of integration of self-concept and the concept of significant others. A loss in the continuity of the self-concept and inability to understand oneself and others in depth is embodied by a chronic feeling of emptiness and alienation. The normal or neurotic adolescent retains the capacity to see others in-depth, have a value system and care about people with delayed gratification of goals. They can feel and experience guilt and concern for themself and others. Able to tolerate ambivalence and have normal development of an ego ideal. However, adolescents tend to identify with peers, explaining the homogeneity in appearance, behaviour, and preferences in same-sex groups.

Splitting mechanisms, denial and projective identification permit adolescents to rationalise aggression while attributing its causes to a hostile environment. These same primitive defences facilitate the expression of sexual urges in temporary experiences that bypass profound emotional challenges in being part of a couple. BPD and NPD typically show severe disturbances and a growing subjective sense of alienation. Adapting to a peer group enables a normal adolescent to control the experience of alienation; towards the end of adolescence, groups are gradually replaced by a loosely associated network of couples.

Self Alienation

Individuals who experience a lack of contact between their conscious self and productive potential form alienation when the activation of large group processes confronts the normal personality. Where ordinary role functions are suspended and are expressed as severe pathology, which is a normal response to the threat of individual identity posed by regressive effects of large group processes, control is achieved by the idealisation of the ideology and the leader. Those who resist the pressure must face alienation and powerlessness within the mob to maintain a sense of identity. An ideology is a system of representations (images, myths, ideas ) that possess a historical existence or function within a given society. Internalised as a part of the consolidation of the oedipal superego. The incapacity to commit oneself to any value system beyond self-serving needs usually indicates a severe narcissistic pathology. Identification with mature differentiation, open-ended, non-totalistic ideologies that respect individual discrimination, autonomy, privacy, and tolerance of sexuality while rejecting collusion with the expression of primitive aggression are characteristics of a mature ego ideal.

In late adolescence, the BPD can’t tolerate the loss of the protection of the group as normal and neurotic peers form into couples. Left with severe feelings of alienation as a schizoid withdrawal, a lonely rebellion stance, severe neurosis with chronic impulsive acting out and self. The resulting interpersonal conflicts force them to withdraw socially, experience severe alienation or reorganise into a smaller unsociable group or cult— reinforcing destructive behaviour. Cult rationalisation traits

  1. Divide the world into good and bad, splitting interpersonal relationships into good and bad objects.
  2. Their belief system will solve all the world’s problems
  3. Promise a golden future while demanding complete submission to group rules and regulations
  4. Obedience to group leader or representatives

Group members typically confuse the personal lives of members with their political and ideological endeavours. Need to eliminate individual boundaries, discourage private thinking, and the acquisition of knowledge that might threaten the belief system. They must dehumanise people in the outer group to legitimise aggression and hostility towards them. Street gangs work the group ideology effectively, affirming the indiscriminate expression of sexuality and aggression combined with antisocial behaviour. Identity diffusion in Bpd and Npd leads to a wish to submerge the self in large groups’ illusion of power. The incapacity to achieve a stable sexual union and maintain firm boundaries complements the alienation of the member.

Mass Psychology

A crowd is a large collection of people with no formal organisation. A horde/mob is a crowd with a visible organisation of direction, purpose and motivation charged with emotional intensity. Mutual identification brings about a sense of unity and belonging ( protects one from losing a sense of identity) and a severe reduction in ego functioning. Primitive unconscious needs take over and are swayed and directed by the leader’s emotions. The horde wishes to be dominated by a personality with unlimited power, to bend and submit masochistically to the leader’s will, who is feared and admired.

Typically large groups possess a benign narcissistic leader or a leader who fosters narcissistic dependency and moderates moral ideologies. The individual regresses to the latency period with an infantile superego, a simple black-and-white morality and thinking convention. Oedipal prohibition is put in place, and the corresponding disassociation of affective engagement from genital eroticism. The ego ideal protects the individual and group from archaic aggression toward the leader. The leader needs to be free from needing members’ love, able to love themselves and thus crystallise their narcissistic self-love. The leader must be confident, independent, self-assured, dominant and narcissistic. They must be able to instil fear and convey unlimited power and control over the group.

Work tensions may result in sudden exertion of the leader’s authority. The influence of group processes and demands that trigger and amplify such reactions in a leader can’t be understated. The inordinate expectations of a dependent group bring hatred towards the taskmaster, who frustrates the group who need complete gratification and fulfilment of their longing for unlimited dependency. A meaningful decision always causes somebody pain. The offended person blames the person on top, and they must be able to tolerate the alienation and frustration to stay part of the group.

Kernberg, O. (1998) Ideology, Conflict, and Leadership in Groups and Organisations,  Yale University Press; First Edition