In the years of my observation and research on Indian hobbyists, whether personally or professionally, there are significant similarities between many of the most extreme in Germany, including their age group. Most often those born 1940-1970 or so, but can include others. As any social scientist can attest, those terrible events of Nazi Germany and WWII also had an effect on German society.
One was a need for escapism, conscious or unconscious, to a lesser or greater degree, and the avid interest and appropriation of other cultures, while still “being German” in their methods and mentalities. This is neither good nor bad, in and of itself. It is simply an after effect, but it does contribute to the sub-culture of Indian hobbyism and non-native “native” spiritualists.
Healthier personality types who more often came from homes with little or no abusive behaviors parentally or environmentally and who had positive reinforcement, may also have natural interest in other cultures but without attempting to “lose themselves” within them. Comparatively, those who grew up receiving frequent personal criticisms, for example, especially with added other stresses or abuses can develop a variety of psychological issues, one of which is borderline personality disorder.
Though having a name and description of the mental issue, behavioral traits aren’t always recognized, so the disorder (like others) can go undiagnosed or be “hidden” by the individual as long as their desires are satisified. When their desires and expectations are not? Behavior can quickly become emotive, extreme and shocking even to those closest to them. It is also frequently directed at those closest to them or those they feel closest to, whether or not having a relationship and/or connection to them (i.e. someone they perceive as a threat to their happiness, such as someone via Internet). In the particular case of hobbyists, native enthusiasts or “pseudo-Indians”, it is when the desire for validation, recognition or acceptance as their chosen culture is thwarted or challenged.
Those with borderline personality disorder, diagnosed or undiagnosed, often have a need to be physically, cerebrally or spiritually “perfect” (Schreiber, 2016), or in the case of native “play” to have the best “costume”, the most “authentic”, and also to be the most knowledgeable. This “knowledge” is gained by Germans mostly by reading books written by non-natives writing from European perspectives about natives. Fabrications about native history created and taught by the US government, and the stereotypes subsequently generated. While many such sources may be detailed, they almost always leave out (because they don’t have it) true knowledge of native personalities, inherent beliefs, ideals, and needs. At best, only a kind of respect and reverence is passed along because it leaves out native insight.
This is hard for Germans to ascertain because few, even enthusiasts, have ever been around natives in a personal, extended way, which is the only way such knowledge can be gained. Also problematic is incorporation of egoistic privilege and/or dominant group mentality that has allowed and excused the taking of whatever they want from others without censure. Proficiency and aptitude when “copying” other cultures often receives appreciation by peers and mentors, without comprehension of how objectification affects the cultures they are appropriating. Denial also plays a factor.
BPD person are often very vigorous, tenacious persons too, who crave positive attention, often seeking for insight and truth. Something admirable in anyone, of course, but because of their problematic pasts, often in childhood, issues arise. “At the very heart of borderline acting-out is core shame–the leftover if you will, from a childhood fraught with neglect, confusing messages and abuse, which left them doubting their lovability and true worth” (Schreiber, 2016).
BPD persons can be very charming, engaging, helpful and outgoing at their best, and in the case of native enthusiasts, their attention to detail in their costuming, their creation of “native” settings or adaptive storytelling can also draw admiration, followers and like minded persons. To some enthusiasts, it is just a past-time, weekend or annual entertainment, but for others it becomes an obsession. Still having the self-centeredness a part of child development, they react in a combination of adult aggressiveness and immature persistence and methodology if rightfully criticized or caution is suggested. Add in dominant privileged attitudes that “self-expression is more important than others feelings, and the freedom of choice taken away from natives from centuries to even present or depend themselves? (Johnson, 2015) The rising native cultural appropriation of Europe.
Actions which are characteristic of those with BPD, from Pliers’ article on the subject:
- Besides being the eternal victim, many BPDs will strive to be seen as heroes, defenders of the truth and the weak. This involves declaring that “bad” people deserve to be punished and then singling them out for months or years of accusations and abuse. Because rage and abusiveness proves they are good.
- Projective Identification – playing the victim by constantly trying to provoke others into being angry. This not only fills the emotional needs of the BPD, it can nearly make it impossible for observers to determine which person is ill and abusive.
- Borderline personality disorder- Although their accusations are often incoherent and contradictory, they make up for that with the tremendous number of lies they tell and the theatrical emotionality of their stories.
- Accompanying disorders also present in this situation: Histrionic Personality Disorder-Generally need others to witness their emotional displays in order to gain validation or attention. (Multiple posts across social platforms, creation of aliases to prove their claims often replying to “themselves”, etc.).
In the end, “The various antisocial personality disorders can’t stand to have someone actually understand them. Nobody can be permitted to identify their antisocial actions and the complete separation of the glowing self image versus their destructive and sadistic actions. Of course, the BPD would want that discussion to be a confrontation where they can play the victim. But even if this is done with empathy, the antisocial personality type is likely to respond to empathy as if it were attempted rape. Having empathy for a BPD is probably the best way to eject them from your life” (Pliers, 2013).
So, have empathy. As a counselor, but also has a human, I try to understand and see things from “their” perspective, too, while I do continue to remain knowledgeable about what’s at stake for native peoples in particular, but also for intercultural understanding. Not always easy to do in “the heat of the moment”, but it’s possible when you take a breath, step back and refocus on the mission of imparting accurate, reponsible information. Some will always reject, however, and remain resistant to reeducation.
Johnson, M. (2015). 6 Ways You’re Taught to Appropriate (Not Appreciate) Other Cultures. Retrieved from http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/ways-taught-to-appropriate/.
Pliers, B. (2013). Borderline Personality Disorder: Heroic Martyr or Emotional Vampire? Retrieved from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/29/1251025/-Borderline-Personality-Disorder-Heroic-Martyr-or-Emotional-Vampire.
Schreiber, S. (2016). Borderline Perfect: Splitting, Splicing and Projection in BPD Personalities. Retrieved from http://gettinbetter.com/perfect.html.