Writings and Philosophies of

Wanda M. Woodward, Ph.D.

Understanding The Psychology of War

By Wanda M. Woodward, Ph.D.

All wars, bar none, are, at their root, psychological. At the manifest level, war appears to be a horizontal war meaning that it appears that one group is engaged in conflict with another group diametrically opposed to them such as Americans against Germans or Christians against non-Christians. This is merely an illusion that hides the vertical or hierarchical aspect of the psychology behind a war for all wars, essentially, are the result of the psychological undertow between beliefs in the superiority of one group versus the inferiority of the other. It is about who is more and less deserving than the other. It is about entitlement, omnipotence, and grandiosity leading to the desire of one person or party to have control and power over "other," in other words, to dominate. This type of cognitive schema is best represented within the pathologically masculine spectrum of narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy and, its severest form, psychopathy.

Pathological masculinity can exist in men or women. It is a psychological construct, thus, it is not restricted to males. It is masculine because it is about domination and control over other. Masculine is external focused; feminine is internal focused. Masculine is extraverted; feminine is introverted. Masculine is objective; feminine is subjective. These are ubiquitous polar opposites. A plethora of masculine and feminine polar opposites exist in the natural world, in biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, and every other science. Masculine pathology is the maladaptive, unhealthy, and toxic psychological domain of the individual whose psyche is focused on control, power, and domination of the external world. The fact is that, throughout history and in contemporary society, the biological reality is parallel with the psychological reality. In other words, males have, for the most part exhibited masculine pathology. Some research exists that indicates there have been matriarchal societies that exhibited high levels of masculine pathology, but for the most part it is males who possess and demonstrate the obsession to control and dominate others.

There are two types of control and domination: 1. control and domination over other's minds, and 2. control and domination over physical matter such as natural and mineral resources, people's personal property, etc. Wars are fought to have control over people's minds and over material resources. Wars may initiate because of manifest religious, political, social or cultural differences. But we must acknowledge that wars are, first and foremost, about the latent state of the human psyche and the conflicts within the psyche. As such, war is, from a mental health standpoint, a struggle for or against, domination, control and power over another.

The Christian Holy Crusades during the Middle Ages when the patriarchy of the Catholic Church waged a war to force non-Christians to adopt the beliefs and values of Christians is an example of the desire to control the mind. Hitler's holocaust was an attempt to control both minds and matter as he was obsessed with exterminating Jewish values and beliefs by killing the entire population, murdering those who were outside of his eugenic Aryan paradise of superiority (namely, the mentally and physically disabled, and gypsies), and confiscating countries to establish dominance. More recently, the "Holy Wars" of the Muslims have been waged to defend their beliefs against immoral Western values as well as to stop corrupt, avaricious Western power brokers. At the risk of sounding trite and trivial, these types of war are attempts by one party to change the mind of another party. To illustrate the difficulty of this approach, Edwin Schrodinger, the brilliant physicist once said: "It is easier to split an atom than to change a belief."

Examples of attempts to control matter are the Gulf War of 1991 which was a war to secure oil reserves in the Middle East. The genesis of the American Civil War was the need to eradicate the belief in slavery as an ideology so as to allow for the imminence of the Industrial Revolution, thus, it was fought to have control over both mind and matter. All but the most rabidly ignorant now understand that the Iraq War was fought to gain possession of oil in Iraq which has some of the largest oil reserves in the world as well as to benefit Israel in having another pro-Western country as an ally and to benefit the corporations who are making millions of dollars in private contracting work in Iraq. In all of these wars, it is the same core story repeated: the war benefits the privileged elite.

The party who actually initiates the aggression can be either the person who is being oppressed and is resisting the oppression or it could be the person who wants to begin oppressing the other party, thus, is it very important to note that just because a party initiates a war does not necessarily mean this person is the root cause of that war. A master who beats his slave on the back with a whip and pours salt on his wounds, nearly starves and barely clothes the slave and his family, rapes the slave's wife and female children, denies the slave the ability to learn to read or write, denies virtually all form of oral expression of thoughts and ideas, and who threatens to kill the slave if he rejects his master's rules can hardly be considered an innocent victim when the slave finally revolts and wages a war against the master. As Churchill once said, history is always written by the victors, therefore, the victors have the sole privilege of writing their version of the story which becomes the canon of what later generations read. Even if the war is tactically won by the slave, who has the writing skills to tell the story and what is the belief system of the audience who reads it? History is not only told by victors, it is also decided by those left reading it. We cannot safely predict with high certainty how much of history is truth, partial truth, biased truth or fallacy.

With the passage of time, particularly large amounts of time as is the case in the Middle East, memory is oftentimes lost to progeny of who the original aggressor was and the causal factors of that initial act of aggression. Since many victors are inebriated with the elixir of an inflated ego and since hubris breeds bellicose exaggeration, it is uncertain how much of history is fact and how much is bias, if not outright lies. Additionally, with time, additional factors and reasons surface which aggravate and exacerbate the original conflict.

When comparing genders, males, by an overwhelming majority, have historically proven to be the aggressive gender. We in the mental health field are painfully aware of the statistics. Males are, by far, the perpetrators of murder, rape, domestic violence, pedophilia, and voyeurism. While females are included in these statistics, their number is so statistically negligible as to render it laughable to mention it. Men are the aggressors. Placing statistically negligible contrary data aside, if we are reflective and candid with ourselves, we must accept this fact. Only a narcissist, with his chronic defense mechanisms of denial and externalization of blame, would dare refute this truth and, of course, we would expect a narcissist to refute this because, by his refuting it, he simply confirms his innate pathology. Most of the males who are the root cause of wars, if studied through a psychological lens, are pathological. Bonaparte Napolean had narcissistic personality disorder in its most severe form. George Patton, hero status aside, was also pathologically sociopathic with his obsession with control and power and his disdain to follow rules other than his own. Hitler, who would have qualified as pathologically psychopathic due to his obsession with control, power, and domination, was the most reviled of men because he caused and reveled in the suffering and death of others. What is perhaps most important to note is that pathological masculinity can reside on either side of the battle line, regardless of whose cause is perceived as "morally sanctioned."

The real wars that are being waged on this planet today are no longer solely or primarily a horizontal war between Caucasians and non-Caucasians or between Lefts and Rights or between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These are being trumped in importance by three vertical wars which are psychological in nature. Paradoxically, as this is occurring and as Friedman points out, the world is getting flatter. As the world gets flatter, those at the top of the hierarchical chain become threatened. Their power is at risk, so they panic and implement increasingly more totalitarian measure in order to quell social unrest so as to maintain power and control.

Those in power are now confronting a vertical war that is analogous to the French and American Revolutions except it is now on a global scale. It is a conflict between masculine pathology (which stays in power due to a largely uninformed and obedient population) versus a more evolved transcendent consciousness. As it pertains to the evolution of the human species and of human consciousness, this psychological panorama is the largest global psychological conflict, breadth and scope, ever experienced. It demands that we pay attention.

1. The first vertical war is between the rich and the middle/poor classes. The war between the 1% of the wealthiest on this planet that have control over the 97% which constitute the middle and poor classes. This is not to say that every person who is in the top 1% income bracket is pathological. It is to put forth the hypothesis, however, that the most evil power brokers that currently rule the world do reside within this 1% economic bracket. The level of fear amongst the wealthy elite is rising in direct proportion to the level of anger, frustration, and resentment of the increasingly dissatisfied and disgruntled masses juxtaposed against them. This is due, in large part, because people in the lower and middle socio-economic classes have unprecedented and unparalleled access to knowledge about what is really going on in virtually any corner of the world. Gone are the days when people only had access to one or two news sources such as a friend in a nearby tribe or several prominent newspapers. Today, people have access to the internet where access to factual data can be gleaned. Since all the mainstream media sources are owned by the power elite, these sources are unreliable in terms of finding facts which reflect unfavorably on the power brokers. So more people are turning to the internet to find those truths. The internet acts as the hub of virtually all knowledge. No longer are people limited to the propaganda that a certain tribe, village, city or nation distributes in order to control what that population thinks or believes. The elitist, aristocratic propaganda of the people in power is now subject to severe competition with the whole truth instead of the partial truths that are printed by mainstream media. This portends well for the masses, but bodes quite poorly, pardon the pun, for the wealthy elite.

2. The second vertical war is between the uninformed and the informed. These are those who fail to understand (nor have any desire to understand) the common sense reality of our planetary dilemma: the world is headed toward total planetary extinction and, if we are to avert this, we must stop giving our power to the power brokers. This requires reading the truths that are not found, as mentioned previously, on mainstream media sources like ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox News.

3. The third vertical war is between the unevolved and the evolved. Every person deserves an equal opportunity to live a life unfettered by oppression, sickness, poverty, prejudice and discrimination. The evolved have transcended the ignorance and elitism of the 10,000 year old belief that optimal solutions to our planetary dilemmas are aggression and war. War and aggression are always predicated on a psychology of hate, anger, prejudice, discrimination, and religious/cultural ideology of the anachronistic "I am superior and you are inferior" mantra. A more evolved, transcendent mindset has gracefully come to understand that, if the human species fails to evolve and overcome this Neanderthal thinking, the entire planet will be annihilated by avaricious and self-serving agendas. Embracing the wisdom of the knowledge of the interdependency of the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms, the evolved person welcomes the collaboration of all people with good hearts, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, education or socio-economic status. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated: We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

4. The third vertical war is between the avaricious and non-avaricious. Greed is a by-product of ignorance and is not limited to any one class or group of people. Avarice flows in the veins of all three classes: the wealthy, the middle class, and the lower class. However, because the top 1% of the wealthiest people control 97% of the world's resources, this makes the avarice amongst the wealthy particularly deleterious for the vulnerable remainder of the world's population. Add to this scenario that the middle class is becoming increasingly poorer such that we can begin to call them "the working, educated poor" and the picture becomes even dimmer. This process began several decades ago when mass layoffs became standard corporate fare for millions of employees and then when increasing numbers of jobs were eliminated so that corporations could hire overseas employees at substantially less labor costs. The "working, educated poor" are those who have been laid off and forced to accept wages anywhere from 20% to 60% less than their former wages. This is why it is absolutely critical for Americans to care about the Haitian who is making 11 cents an hour---because that Haitian is taking away a higher paying American job. In America, it is not uncommon for a person with a graduate degree in engineering with a former annual income of $80,000 to now be working at Home Depot for $25,000. As my mother used to say, half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf. Meanwhile, the corporation that laid off this engineer has cut labor costs substantially, but the cost of their goods being sold has remained the same or increased. That means that the $80,000 engineer who is now making $25,000 is forced to work two jobs to cover the same expenses. Corporations, and the senior executives who run them, are making larger profits; however, people all over the world are spending more money for the same amount of goods. Even when a corporation experiences a downtown in their profits, the senior executive is rewarded by being given several hundreds of millions of dollars in golden parachute money. He makes off with gold while the lower levels employees who are laid off make off with pink slips.

Insofar as people's discretionary spending income is dwindling, if not disappearing, and their standard of living is such that having only a sufficient amount of money to pay for the essentials (shelter, food, water, electricity, transportation) is becoming a way of life, the current announcement by government of a "booming economy" is best understood as "booming for the wealthy while thudding for everyone else." This alarming rate of expansion of the "working poor" and the literal poor is creating a festering psychological cess pool of resentment and anger which is paralleling the French and American Revolution. As more and more people become informed about the looming extinction of life on the planet due to the confluence of overpopulation, capitalism, and consumerism, this anger will become explosive, resulting in civil unrest and disobedience. But the power elite already have thought ahead and have been building detention camps, eroding the U.S. Constitution, taking away habeas corpus, attempting to pass laws requiring that people wear IDs, enhancing surveillance methods such as spying on their phone calls and placing cameras everywhere as a way to quell dissent and maintain social and economic control. The ultimate goal is complete economic slavery and servitude as well as the elimination of large amounts of people so as to decrease population levels.

So we have three vertical wars going on simultaneously on this planet and they trump the horizontal wars that we are accustomed to in modern history.

The world is now in a battle between the top 1% of the wealthy, affluent, and influential versus the other 97% of us. Because those who are born into poverty and stay in poverty are substantially more likely to develop radical, extremist and fundamentalist religious ideologies of hate and vengeance, these numbers are increasing as can be best evidenced in Africa and the Middle East.

The evolved, non-greedy on this planet is slowly growing in number, however, they are substantially outnumbered by the avaricious wealthy/unevolved and the middle/poor class/unevolved. The only way the human species will be able to survive and sustain itself ecologically, economically, socially and culturally to any degree or modicum of peaceful co-existence is becoming increasingly obvious and apparent, although many still lack the willingness to evolve their consciousness to the point where they can accept this truth. This truth is the realization that humankind now has every resource available to eliminate poverty and only needs a sufficient number of people who are willing to share resources, share knowledge, scientific and technological advances, and inspire creativity, goodwill, collaboration, compassion and justice in the equitable and just distribution amongst all people.

Narcissism, in its essence, is the obsession for control and power over "other". Greed, narcissism and the unevolved, ignorant belief that "I am superior and deserve more than you who are inferior and undeserving" are growing global malignancies that will ensure the annihilation of our species and our planet. In order to illustrate this dangerous dilemma, I am reminded of the useful image of cancer growing in the human body. Malignant cells always destroy good cells. The irony, however, is that, once that body dies, so does the malignancy. So it is with avarice and ignorance.

We must evolve as a species. Eliminating poverty is a global crisis that must be resolved through effective and compassionate strategies. Otherwise, based on sheer numbers alone, our planet will dissolve into anarchy and there will no longer be anyone left on this planet to sit with a silver spoon in his narcissistic mouth.