Negative emotions accumulate inside them, producing bitterness, anger, despair, and, finally, rage. Their rage, even when hidden from others, produces a third-rate sense of power that covers up their emotional entanglement in hopelessness and passivity. They crave power because they feel so powerless, yet in their dark negativity they can express only negative, destructive power. They seek death because they feel so powerfully overwhelmed by life.
Because their weak self-regulation compels them to continually recycle negative emotions, they hold on to grudges. These grudges and grievances accumulate in them, giving them a feeling of substance, a place of being to which they cling in the chaos of their inner conflict.
In a later, even more incisive analysis, The Double Barrels of Gun Mania, Michaelson says that guns "provide two psychological defenses--the double barrels of self-defeat--that make their ownership so desirable. One barrel discharges the illusion of safety and the other the illusion of power. Why do so many gun owners grasp at these illusions or inner defenses?" He goes on
Some Americans have a passion for handguns and assault weapons because these firearms compensate for inner fear. We generate this fear from within our psyche, based on unresolved inner conflicts. A lot of fear is produced, for instance, through our unconscious defensiveness vis-a-vis our inner critic. A lot of irrational fear is also left over from childhood. But people tend to believe their fear is reality-based, meaning that, in their minds, menace and genuine dangers do indeed lurk outside their door. They take the uncertainty of life and translate it emotionally into a parade of red flags.
Such gun enthusiasts are unconsciously determined to validate their inner fears. Rather than resolve the inner conflict that produces their fears, they make them seem legitimate by emphasizing emotionally the dangers and menace that might exist in their towns, neighborhoods, and workplaces...
Guns don't represent true power. If America were taken over by an immoral force--a financial elite, for instance, that bought off and corrupted our politicians--gun enthusiasts would be standing around casually, blithely ignorant of non-violent dangers, fondling their weapons only for the defense of their self-image.
Hold onto that image of gun lovers fondling their guns. Michaelson concludes:
On bad ass name-calling
This nation's preoccupation with guns is not so much fear-based as passivity-based. We don't connect well enough with our better self and the higher values of integrity, courage, wisdom, and compassion. On an inner level, many people allow their inner critic to be the master of their personality and to pass judgment on their worthiness. Inwardly, they're emotionally weak and defensive, familiar with feeling helpless and overwhelmed, yet desperate to exhibit some pretense of assurance and power.
This is neurosis, not mental illness. A neurotic person is prone to being negative, defensive, fearful, anxious, and reactionary. Too many gun advocates are seeing the world through their neurosis. In many families, it's often the most dysfunctional or neurotic individuals who set the tone for the family and hold sway over it. Only determined intervention by healthier members of the family can save the situation. The American family needs our intervention in many areas of national life, beginning with the enactment and enforcement of wise gun regulation.
In general, I think we progressives emasculate ourselves and fail to take advantage when we have a leg-up on a situation. We're inappropriately passive, in view of the aggressiveness and viciousness of our political enemies.
Consider how effectively right wingers eviscerated liberals like Mike Dukakis and Jimmy Carter, and how they Swift-Boated John Kerry. And consider how Rush Limbaugh successfully denigrated the word "liberal" to the point that we now call ourselves "progressives."
And it was all based on lies and distortions. We're correct about these gun nuts, and yet we're still are hesitant to call a spade a spade -- or a nut a nut.
Why is it that conservatives' criticisms, slanders, and insults stick, while when we go on the attack -- which we rarely do -- our words bounce off or revert back onto us? Their arrows hit the mark. Ours bounce off. They win, we lose.
Consider how much damage our ideological opponents did to the nation and the world.
In 2008, when Bush and the Republicans were at the nadir of their popularity, it seemed possible that the Republican Party and their crazy, destructive ideologies would be out of favor for years to come. Instead, Obama's bipartisanship helped revive them, and the Tea Party went on to win the 2010 midterm elections. What a disaster!
We progressives need to get some balls! We need to stand up for ourselves, not in a paranoid way, but in a self-assertive realistic way.