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Susan Anderson Can Help Us Understand Disillusionment Regarding President Obama (BOOK REVIEW)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) May 27, 2011: Can we as individuals be disappointed in our political love-life, as we obviously can be disappointed in our personal love-life?

Consider the case of Cornel West of Princeton University. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he actively campaigned for Senator Barack Obama, making 65 campaign appearances in Obama's behalf. Surely we can speak of Cornel West as offering his political love to Obama.

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However, after Obama won the election, Cornel West was not able to get tickets to attend Obama's inauguration. Doesn't this show how ungrateful Obama was toward him? Doesn't this show that Obama was in effect rejecting Cornel West's love for him (Obama)? It certainly strikes me that way. Cornel West generously offered Obama his political love. Obama appeared to accept and encourage Cornel West's love for him on the campaign trail, but then once elected, Obama spurned Cornel West.

Now, if we understand Cornel West's complaints about Obama as the complaints of a rejected lover, then we might turn to Susan Anderson's book THE JOURNEY FROM ABANDONMENT TO HEALING (2000) to understand the experience of the loss of love, including in this case the loss of one's political love.

But what about all the other people who fell in love with Senator Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign but then felt disappointed in President Obama's actual performance as president? Aren't there a lot of disappointed Obama lovers, not just Cornel West?

When we are seriously disappointed in our political love-lives, our disappointment probably registers on us as an experience of the loss of love, the kind of experience that Susan Anderson writes about in her book.

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As the title of her book indicates, the loss of love is usually experienced as abandonment and is usually accompanied by abandonment feelings, some of which can hearken back to our experience of leaving the comfort and connectedness of our mother's womb when we were born. In short, the newly born baby feels as though he or she has been abandoned. So abandonment feelings can run deep in our psyches.

Unfortunately for Cornel West and others who feel abandoned by President Obama, the loss of love is accompanied by the experience of grief. If we believe Susan Anderson, there are no shortcuts around the experience of grief. The only way to move beyond the experience of grief is to move through it, not around it. But she does not suggest that there is any time-table for moving through the experience of grief.

However, she does go so far as the suggest that there are five recognizable stages that we go through, some of which are agonizing to go through: (1) shattering, (2) withdrawal, (3) internalizing the rejection, (4) rage, and (5) lifting.

Even though the identification of five stages makes the process of grieving a loss of love seem straightforward, there is a catch-22. We can temporarily move forward, but then fall back to an earlier stage in the process. Because of this possibility, the listing and numbering of the five stages of the process makes them appear to be more linear than they may be in our actual experience of the process.

Along the way of explaining the five stages, Susan Anderson works in an abundance of fascinating information about our brains and about how specific parts of our brains work. As fascinating as all that information is, I am going to skip over it.

For my present purposes in this essay about the loss of political love, the most important part of her book is the preface where she defines and explains what abandonment is. So I am going to quote her.

"Abandonment is about loss of love itself, that crucial loss of connectedness" (page 1).

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"Sometimes it is lingering grief caused by old losses" (page 1). How many among us have no old losses?

"Abandonment is a psychobiological process" (page 2). As a result, there is no way around it. The only way is to go through the process. If we somehow managed not to go through the process, then our loss of love remains unresolved. To resolve our loss of love, we will have to go through the process of grief sooner or later.

" . . . the pain you are feeling is real" (page 2).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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