Tony Abbott ... meet Sigmund Freud

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Psychologist Lyn Bender analyses the increasingly erratic behaviour of Prime Minister Tony Abbott from a Freudian perspective.

TONY ABBOTT is like the man who has stepped in what a dog left behind, yet is mystified by the rank odour of everything he approaches.

The Prime Minister of Freudian slips is in full denial. He refuses to accept that he is massively and irreversibly on the nose with both his party and the electorate.

As his supporters desert him in droves, he rages against the dying of the light, refusing to comprehend his own folly. It has the makings of a Greek tragedy except that Abbott obdurately refuses to face the truth regarding his own psychopathic folly. But then, truth never was Tony's forte.

How might psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have viewed Abbott and the attempted coup?

Probably as evidence of denial, and the spilling out of repressed and suppressed impulses and ideas.

In other words, Tony Abbott is in massively out of touch, and “Team Australia” just couldn’t hold it in any more.

For those who think that politics is the art of pretence and suppression, it's all sorted now. Tony Abbott and his minders would have us believe that it was just a little blip on the smooth sea of their faux unity. 

We are not like our opponents – that socialist ALP rabble – torn by internal conflict. We are not a soap opera. We are mature grownups.

William Shakespeare – the poet, playwright and sixteenth century expert on the human mind – may have said about Abbott:

“The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.”

In other words, if you have to keep insisting on something it's probably denial.

And the Abbott Government is full to the brim with denial. I have survived, says Tony, and so let’s have no more talk of spills.

Freudian slips are the mistakes that reveal the (often not so well) hidden truth. They are the gaffes that betray real and unconscious intent and thoughts.

“In the same way that psycho-analysis makes use of dream interpretation, it also profits by the study of the numerous little slips and mistakes which people make — symptomatic actions, as they are called [...] I have pointed out that these phenomena are not accidental, that they require more than physiological explanations, that they have a meaning and can be interpreted, and that one is justified in inferring from them the presence of restrained or repressed impulses and intentions”. [Freud, An Autobiographical Study (1925)]

Critics might say that a slip is just a slip, but Freud would see this as a surface or shallow explanation.

Some research now supports his views of the unconscious.

Freud wrote:

"Excitement, absent-mindedness and disturbances of attention will clearly help us very little toward an explanation. They are only empty phrases, screens behind which we must not let ourselves be prevented from having a look.''

Abbott is now massively and, arguably, insanely in denial. Staring uncomprehendingly at the burgeoning dislike he is inciting, he fights on. Like Monty Python’s Black Knight, Abbott denies defeat even as he is dismembered.

His popularity keeps descending and, at last count, Labor leader Bill Shorten had a 48 to 30 per cent advantage over Abbott as preferred prime minister.

Yet with 40 per cent of his own party voting for anyone but Abbott in the spill, he boasted afterwards:

"I am a fighter. I know how to beat Labor Party leaders. I beat Kevin Rudd, I beat Julia Gillard, I can beat Bill Shorten as well."

Some telling Abbott gaffes include:

1. The suppository of wisdom

"No one – however smart, however well-educated, however experienced – is the suppository of all wisdom."  

 Sigmund says: I am totally fixated at the anal stage.

2. Good government starts today

"All of us are determined to lift our game and the fundamental point I make is that the solution to all of these things is good Government, and good Government starts today."

 Sigmund saysMy Government has been total crap until now.

3.“We are not the Labor Party”

"I want to make this very simple point: we are not the Labor Party, we are not the Labor Party and we are not going to repeat the chaos and the instability of the Labor years."

 Sigmund saysWe don’t have a clue who we are, but we are not them and anything bad is all their fault.

4.Tony Abbott's "knightmare"

Tony Abbott awards a knighthood to Prince Phillip on Australia Day.

 Sigmund says: Australia is a British colony and I am a proud Englishman; I prefer the last century – or, better still, the one before – and want to go back there.

5. The Minister for Women and the carbon tax

"... as many of us know,women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550-a-year benefit for the average family."

 Sigmund saysWomen's place is in the home – shopping, cooking and ironing their man's shirts – while men go out and run the world. And stuff the environment.

6. Prime minister for Aboriginal Affairs

"It is my hope that I could be, not just a prime minister, but a prime minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The first I imagine that we have ever had."

On the morning of the spill, Abbott ignored the "Freedom Summit" of Indigenous people camped outside Parliament – as did the media – as he strode off to fight the spill. He paid no attention to the Aboriginal grandmothers protesting increasing rates of child removal.

 Sigmund says: I said what I said to become prime minister —  I'd sell my arse to be PM! The fate of Indigenous people means nothing to me in comparison to remaining in power. Their problems are not my problem.

7. No guilt about children in detention

Responding angrily to a damning Human Rights Commission report on the damage done by Australia to children in detention, Abbott declared:

"I reckon that the Human Rights Commission ought to be sending a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison saying 'Well done mate because your actions have been very good for the human rights and the human flourishing of thousands of people'." 

When asked if he felt any guilt over the horrifying findings in the AHRC report, including the heartbreaking pictures of young children in locked confinement, Abbott replied: "None whatsoever."

In fact, said Abbott, it was the Human Rights Commission that should be "ashamed of itself".

 Sigmund saysThus spake the narcissist, in deep denial, projecting his feelings of guilt and shame.

Repressed denied impulses can break out, in spite of attempts to suppress them. That is why Tony Abbott keeps accidentally showing his true colours despite all his protestations. 

The Liberal Party can now barely contain its rebellion, even as it protests its unity. The Party doesn't need a facelift — it needs a heart transplant, writes columnist Waleed Aly.

Tony Abbott has revealed himself to be self-centred, cruel, mean, petty and concerned only with his own survival.

But he now claims to have changed, overnight. He has declared that the spill motion experience has been a chastening experience and that he has learned and is listening.

But his subsequent actions – such as blaming the Opposition for a jobs “holocaust” and using parliamentary privilege to politicise and prejudice an alleged terror attack investigation – show this up for the lie that, of course, it was always going to be:

Is it any surprise at all he has been blasted as the most ‘incompetent politician of any industrialised democracy’ by an influential U.S. think tank?

The prognosis?

Given past and present form, and without years of intensive therapy, the likelihood of, or capacity for, significant change or improvement in Abbott is close to zero.

However, in his state, the damage he could cause before he leaves office is almost incalculable. He needs to be firmly and carefully removed from office before it is too late.

You can follow Lyn Bender on Twitter @lynestel.

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