The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

, Volume 78, Issue 4, pp 445–462 | Cite as

The lonely passion of the “people”*

  • Robert M. PrinceEmail author


This paper explores the psychological sources of support for a leader, and unwavering belief in the illusions he promotes, which persists despite confrontation with reality. Lonely passion is an oxymoron. It is passion because of the intensity of the supporters’ longing which is partially shaped by fear and loss. Their passion is lonely because they appear to be left empty with their love unrequited, having given their selves up and only having an illusion in return. It explores the effects of socio-economic disruption in creating or contributing to the development of a “social character” and threatening the integrity of the self. It explores the characteristics of the leader, including methods of manipulation, in eliciting passionate devotion. It uses Ferenczi’s Confusion of Tongues situation as a model for understanding the relationship between leader and follower. The idealization of the leader as a power to be feared and a savior from the imagined threats he has created, and the dynamics of identification, masochism and victimization are invoked. The only remedy for the toxicity of the situation is empathy, which is understood in a historical as well as psychological context.


authoritarianism followers of Trump facticity confusion of tongues identification empathy 


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Copyright information

© Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ABPPGreat NeckUSA

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