Hitler, Saddam & Grace Kelly
Anti-Semites, Misfits & the Urge for Power
As seen from a psychological perspective
What is the common denominator here? When we look at a number of celebrities and well known strong personalities they all desperately craved attention. Their insatiable urges began in early childhood and the groundwork was laid before they were born, including the status or lack of status they had in their respective families.
Adolf Hitler came from a very poor background; he was born in Austria of a brutal father who expected absolute discipline and expected obedience from all of his children, especially Adolf. When the boy was seven years of age, his brother Alois ran away from home to escape his brutal father. Thus Adolf, being next in line, had to bear his father’s outbursts, beatings, beratings and brutalities (As we know, children learn a great deal of behavior from their parents and although they may hate what they experience they frequently emulate the parental patterns and practice them later in life). Hitler became the psychological image of his father, only more so. His overwhelming hatred and scapegoating culminated in the destruction of six million of our Jewish people and additionally killed many others. Basically he had no friends and could not wholly attach to anyone. He seized power and received his gratification by deception, killings, arousing hatred in the German nation and promising a great future. He made the people believe that he could wipe out poverty, provide jobs for everyone and annihilated those he believed were his enemies, non-followers and non believers. He surrounded himself with a group of criminals and hoodlums who followed him with gusto. Power was his goal and his narcissism was the fiber of his character. Prior to his becoming dictator he was rejected from art school, which was a blow to his already fragile ego. Looking at the Freudian or analytical school of thought, we see a child who was not nurtured. In his oral stage of development he did not get the gratification that all children seek by being fed adequately, both physically and psychologically, by a loving, giving mother. His mother, being severely upset and fearful of her children’s father as well as overburdened, could not give to infant Adolf. In the anal stage he was raised with severe discipline, in the oedipal stage he could not compete with his father and fall in love with his mother, nor could he later identify in a healthy way with his dad. Instead he was confronted with identifying with a brutally sadistic man. Because of his upbringing, he wanted to have power, seized it, and beat upon humanity. He even destroyed those who allegedly were closest to him, ultimately annihilating his “friends”. He really had no friends since he could not give of himself and trusted no one.
Saddam Hussein is known as one of the most ruthless, brutal excuses for a human being as one can imagine. Until he was found underground in a hole from which he was pulled by our American servicemen, he murdered, enslaved and terrified his people, making himself the dictator of his nation. He was raised alone by his mother until she took a second spouse, Ibrahim Hassan. This stepfather was a brutal thief, a shepherd by occupation, and enlisted the boy Saddam in his ventures. Saddam was abused by this man and was taught to steal. He learned to steal chickens and sheep to be sold for a profit. At age ten he was moved with his mother’s brother Tulfah to Baghdad. There he began to learn more than reading and writing. The uncle Tulfah (last name) was bitter toward British and other imperialism and transferred his beliefs and feelings unto Saddam. Ultimately the boy, at age sixteen, attempted to gain admission to the prestigious Baghdad Military Academy. Unfortunately, his poor grades prevented him from being admitted and he became bitter. He entered political life. In 1956 Saddam participated in an unsuccessful coup against the monarchy of King Faisal II. Following this, he joined the Baath party, a radical nationalist movement. He was involved in an unsuccessful assassination attack against a general Quassim. Through his efforts, Saddam evolved into a leader in the Baathist movement. He fled to Syria and from there went to Cairo, Egypt where he spent four years. With aid from Egypt he finished high school at the advanced age of twenty four and from there he continued in his search for power, pursuing his political ambitions. He was arrested on two occasions for threatening fellow students. In 1961 he entered Cairo University Law School but did not complete his studies there. Saddam returned to Iraq when he learned that Quassim had been tortured and assassinated. He became involved as an interrogator and torturer, “working”at times out of the basement of the former palace of King Faisal. As a torturer who carried out his evil deeds with efficiency, he succeeded in rising through the ranks. Because a cousin helped him and due to his ability to frighten and intimidate his underlings, he, at age thirty-one, captured the number two spot in the Baathist party. He became more and more powerful until he was fully in control of Iraq. Saddam was responsible for inciting “his men” to spray his enemies and non-followers with poison gas, as well as assassinating them in the most brutal fashion.
Over the years Hussein became paranoid. He was afraid of being poisoned, could not sleep, and spent time under his palaces.
Looking at Erikson’s theory with Saddam in mind, it seems that he did not have autonomy as a child and had to follow brutal directives. His mother did not protect him from the lawlessness that he was coerced to carry out. He turned against himself and his urges of fury and hatred were overwhelming and destructive to humanity without discrimination. His urges were boundless and his ruthlessness had no end, especially since his conscience / superego were missing. His mother did not want him and came close to committing suicide upon his arrival into the world. He was shunted off as a child to an uncle who continued to force his warped behaviors upon the boy. Hussein never developed trust and mistrusted all of his life since the quality of his maternal relationship was more than poor. Since no autonomy was fostered in the child, he lacked a normal stage of development. He had no sense of justice. He became not only a brute but a very paranoid individual who could not trust. He could never develop intimacy even with his closest kin and went as far as having his sons-in-law murdered!
The next celebrity who was neither an anti-Semite (to our knowledge) nor a dictator did however have the need to be someone and turned against herself by her actions and behaviors. We can relate here to the “Attachment” Theory and the lack of attachment in the life of Princess Stephanie of Monaco. Stephanie is the child of the late screen goddess Princess Grace and the late Prince of Monaco. She had to weather the loss of her mother, struggled to find her career niche and was dogged by failed relationships. The girl was born in 1965 and spent her early years in a palace. She dreamed of being great, of studying fashion design, and of becoming world famous.. In 1982 her mother was killed as she and her Mom traveled on a winding mountain road. She was terrified and traumatized. She became a rebel, got herself tattooed and became a walking contradiction. She dated a string of men, had children by some and because of her unspeakably un-royal behavior alienated her father. She is a person who has no strong attachments; she was never able to compete with her famous mother, who was very ladylike, a well known movie actress who was known as a personality. Looking at Stephanie’s mom closely, her attachments seem questionable as well. She married the Prince mostly for his wealth and status, left the country of her birth and lived where she really did not know the customs. Prestige and power seemed to be her motivation for her relationship and from what we know of her maternal “instincts”/ behaviors, there was little room left for warmth and deep feelings of caring for her offspring. Apparently we can see why Stephanie rebelled and was unable to have a real attachment to the multiple men with whom she had superficial relationships and could not meet her sexual / affectional needs for any length of time. She had inconsistent relationships and throughout her teens and later years has rebelled like a young child and problematic teen who wants to spite her upbringers.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Youth Culture and the Generation Gap.