Biography of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Part 10 Psychoanalysis

About the United States President Woodrow Wilson, biography and a psychoanalysis of his life.


28th President



As a boy, "Tommy" Wilson felt ugly, weak, and stupid, especially in comparison with his brilliant and much-admired father, the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson. The boy developed serious difficulties in school-he did not master reading until he was 11-and became desperately afraid that he might disgrace his parents. Wilson convinced himself that the only way out of his dilemma was constant work-that pushing himself to the point of exhaustion was the road to success. This idea seemed to incorporate the young man's psychic need for self-punishment-punishment "deserved" since he saw himself as imperfect and unworthy when judged against the high standards set by his idealized parents and his grim Calvinist theology. Another result of this low self-esteem was Wilson's need to dominate his immediate environment completely. No one could disagree with him and still remain his friend, and any direct criticism was out of the question. As president, he dropped one by one all of his most trusted advisers and felt comfortable only in the company of sycophants or admiring women. Anyone who dared challenge Wilson or his ideas was considered hopelessly misguided or utterly base. For him compromise was impossible. Sigmund Freud suggested that Wilson unconsciously identified himself as the second member of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, while his father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, assumed the role of God the Father. In a speech during the treaty negotiations in 1919, Wilson asked his audience: "Why has Jesus Christ so far not succeeded in inducing the world to follow His teachings? It is because He taught the ideal without devising any practical means of attaining it. That is why I proposing a practical scheme to carry out His aims." With such a messianic view of his own role, is it any wonder that Wilson seemed to seek ultimate martyrdom?

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