Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Doubling: The Faustian Bargain  
Generally speaking, doubling involves five characteristics. There is, first, a dialectic between two selves in terms of autonomy and connection. The individual Nazi doctor needed his Auschwitz self to function psychologically in an environment so antithetical to his previous ethical standards. At the same time, he needed his prior self in order to continue to see himself as humane physician, husband, father. The Auschwitz self had to be both autonomous and connected to the prior self that gave rise to it. Second, doubling follows a holistic principle. The Auschwitz self “succeeded” because it was inclusive and could connect with the entire Auschwitz environment: it rendered coherent, and gave form to, various themes and mechanisms, which I shall discuss shortly. Third, doubling has a life-death dimension: the Auschwitz self was perceived by the perpetrator as a form of psychological survival in a death-dominated environment; in other words, we have the paradox of a “killing self” being created on behalf of what one perceives as one’s own healing or survival. Fourth, a major function of doubling, as in Auschwitz, is likely to be the avoidance of guilt: the second self tends to be the one performing the “dirty work.” And, finally, doubling involves both an unconscious dimension — taking place, as stated, largely outside of awareness — and a significant change in moral consciousness. These five characteristics frame and pervade all else that goes on psychologically in doubling.

For instance, the holistic principle differentiates doubling from the traditional psychoanalytic concept of "splitting." This latter term has had several meanings but tends to suggest a sequestering off of a portion of the self so that the “split off” element ceases to respond to the environment (as in what I have been calling “psychic numbing”) or else is in some way at odds with the remainder of the self. Splitting in this sense resembles what Pierre Janet, Freud’s nineteenth-century contemporary, originally called “dissociation,” and Freud himself tended to equate the two terms. But in regard to sustained forms of adaptation, there has been confusion about how to explain the autonomy of that separated “piece” of the self-confusion over (as one thoughtful commentator has put it) “What splits in splitting?”¹*

“Splitting” or “dissociation” can thus denote something about Nazi
* This writer seemed to react against the idea of a separated-off piece of the self when he ended the article by asking, “Why should we invent a special intrapsychic act of splitting to account for those phenomena as if some internal chopper were at work to produce them?”² Janet meant by “dissociation” the hysteric’s tendency to “sacrifice” or “abandon” certain psychological functions, so that these become “dissociated” from the rest of the mind and give rise to “automatisms,” or segmented-off symptom complexes.³ Freud spoke, in his early work with Josef Breuer, of “splitting of consciousness,” “splitting of the mind,” and “splitting of personality” as important mechanisms in hysteria.4 Edward Glover referred to the psychic components of splitting or dissociation as “ego nuclei.”5 And, beginning with the work of Melanie Klein, splitting has been associated with polarization of “all good” and “all bad” imagery within the self, a process that can be consistent with normal development but, where exaggerated, can become associated with severe personality disorders now spoken of as “borderline states.”6   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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