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The Tragic & Dangerous Arrested Development of Barack Obama

I recently came across an interesting article with some bold theorizing by Robert J. Burrowes entitled “The Destruction of Obama.” Burrowes uses Obama’s autobiography “Dreams From My Father” to analyze probable childhood conditioning for what he determines is Obama’s lack of psychological integration today.

I have not read the book, but I found many of Burrowes’ psychological conclusions compelling.

Burrowes sees Obama as having serious and endangering “issues” and lists a few principle ones:

His war-making,

his use of illegal drone strikes,

his failure to close Guantanamo,

his failure to genuinely help those ordinary Americans who voted him into office,

... his pursuit of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden

Burrowes insists:

“It takes someone with a particular psychological profile to kill and exploit people.”

Burrowes provides a link to an article written by himself called “Why Violence?”, an essay on dysfunctional parenting with a long and poignant list of damaging parental behaviors. Some examples

do not listen to child’s thoughts and feelings (child will learn to not listen to itSelf thus destroying its internal communication system)

do not listen to and accept child’s explanations of its behaviours (child will develop dysfunctional behaviours such as lying and/or wriggling out of acceptance of responsibility)

pretend to listen to child, perhaps in a ‘knowing’ way, while waiting for the earliest opportunity to interrupt it to get attention for yourself (child will feel enormous fear, pain and anger, of which it will need to suppress its awareness, as it is denied the opportunity to talk about something important to it and is required to give its attention to you at the same time)

dogmatically refuse to listen to child (child will develop authoritarian - intense fear of being out of control - or fundamentalist - intense fear of being wrong - ‘personality’)

do not allow child to listen to (that is, pay attention to) itSelf by chronically interfering with its natural inclination and capacity to do so, for example, by comforting or distracting a child that is crying, reassuring a child that is scared, frightening a child out of being angry (child’s natural capacity to become Self-aware will be destroyed)

interfere with child’s natural (e.g. exploratory) behaviours (child will become fearful of acting out its natural Self-will)

do not communicate (truthfully) with child (child will not have accurate information as one of the bases for its actions and will become increasingly dysfunctionalised)

do not let child communicate with you, especially about your violent and damaging behaviours (child will have no avenue for meaningfully resolving conflict and will become increasingly dysfunctionalised)

terrorise child out of telling the truth about, and resisting, parental violence (child will suppress its awareness of the truth and be powerless to respond to this violence and the violence of others)

do not respond to child’s requests or its feedback about your dysfunctional behaviours (child will be reduced to powerlessly whingeing and complaining)

interfere with child’s communication (child will develop communication dysfunctionalities, which usually obscure its actual needs, such as compulsive talking, stuttering, lying, hinting and signalling)

routinely interrupt child (child will become fearful of both expressing itSelf and of listening, and will learn to interrupt others)

persistently thwart child’s initiatives to do things for itSelf (child will eventually learn to quit easily and might even develop a chronic unconscious tendency to thwart and punish itself as a manifestation of its self-hatred for failing to get what it wanted)

keep interfering with child (by frightening it in any number of ways), despite all of its defences, until its submits to parental will and then deny child the time and space to feel its fear, pain, anger and sadness about this interference and its consequent submission (child will be terrorised into surrendering its own Self-will)

Burrowes in the present article asserts:

Most of us cannot kill: we respond to our conscience or feelings such as empathy, sympathy, compassion or even the fear of our guilt or shame if we know our actions will cause harm to others. What happened to Barack Obama that makes him so violent? ....

Burrowes suggests that Obama reveals evidence for his capacity for the atrocities in the aforementioned list in his autobiography. He calls the book a “delusional account of his early life.”

Burrowes points out that Obama makes reference to a violent maternal grandfather and to key behavioral descriptions of himself in contexts that reveal his emotional states. Burrowes believes that Obama reveals with this book a will “to leave his past behind without dealing with the effects of the violence he suffered.”

So what happens with Barack Obama not dealing with the effects of the childhood violence he suffered?

The entire globe is now suffering from those unprocessed childhood to adulthood feelings!

Burrowes declares that Obama’s unexpressed fury at his father for abandoning him left young Barack with “a gaping hole in his sense of self-worth.” It also gave him a “deep sense of powerlessness and a large measure of self-hatred, too.”

Burrowes concludes:

“.... given the extraordinary unpleasantness of these feelings and without support and preferably encouragement to feel them, he unconsciously suppressed his awareness of these as well. But they live in him still.”

Burrowes continues on with how Obama reveals it was his mother who was mainly responsible for teaching him to suppress his awareness of his feelings. Burrowes surmises that listening to child Barack’s feelings frightened his mother, maybe stirring up her fear of her own repressed feelings. She pressed Barack into not feeling his legitimate feelings of hurt and anger, in particular, regarding the abandonment of him by his father by contradicting his perceptions of his father and “offering justifications for his father’s behavior.”


His mother didn't understand the enormous healing power of crying when you feel sad, of consciously feeling scared when something frightening happens to you and of expressing one's legitimate anger when one has been 'done over'. Barack had been abandoned! How would you feel? She didn't understand that evolution intended us to have feelings partly to guide us and partly as a 'safety release valve' so that we can move on from trauma to lead a productive and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, by suppressing his awareness of his feelings (even though the feelings themselves cannot be suppressed out of existence) throughout his childhood and in adult life, they became deeply embedded in his unconscious and play the major role in generating his now-warped behaviours without him even knowing it.


Burrowes goes on:

... the young Barack had already learned to suppress his justified fear of, and anger at, the abuse of people who were supposed to love him (particularly his father and mother) and of whom he was (unconsciously) terrified (such as his maternal grandfather), he learned to project his own terror, self-hatred and anger onto other people and groups of whom he is not actually afraid ('terrorists' in foreign countries, prisoners at Guantanamo, US citizens), and to use violence to control their behaviour instead. This enables him to regain his desired, but delusionary, sense of 'having control'.

Burrowes explains that Obama had recounted an episode where he had had a rock thrown at him as a boy and he felt frustrated over his powerlessness. He appealed to his stepfather for help. Burrowes reports that instead of listening to his feelings and discussing how young Barack could deal with such an incident non-violently, his stepfather taught him to use violence by giving him boxing lessons in 'self-defense'.


As a result of this and other experiences, Obama has a delusional belief in the effectiveness and morality of violence (perceived as 'self-defense') whenever it is used by the United States while believing hypocritically that it 'wasn't fair' when used by 'terrorists': he has no capacity to perceive the dysfunctional and immoral outcomes of using violence in any context.

Burrowes also proposes this analysis:

.. because the young Barack's suppressed anger was also warped by the fear and pain he experienced as a result of the violence he suffered as a child, he now acts vindictively towards people who have the courage to tell the truth, such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Because he lacks the courage to act on the truth himself, and people such as Manning and Snowden expose the contradiction between how he wants to be perceived (both by himself and others), and how he actually is, he now inflicts unnecessary and/or excessive violence on those who have the courage to do what his own fear prevents him from doing. For Obama, the truth of Manning and Snowden is, literally, terrifying and he will go to great lengths to silence it.

Burrowes brings up yet another aspect of Obama’s autobiography:

... during his life in Indonesia, Obama mentions his mother's generosity in giving money to beggars: a generosity which the young Barack copied despite 'the few coins' in his possession. However, his stepfather regarded this behaviour as 'endearing but silly': he encouraged the boy to ignore beggars and 'make sure you don't end up on the street yourself'. Given Obama's later work as a community organiser, in which he apparently displayed concern for those who were 'less fortunate', his subsequent behaviour as president, in which he has overseen the continuing impoverishment of working and middle class Americans, appears inconsistent. How can we account for this?

The adult Obama lacks integrity: his mind is not integrated in such a way that memories, thoughts, feelings and conscience function seamlessly to drive his behaviour in a consistent direction. And this is why he is such a useful tool of those corporate elites who selected him to govern the United States. Like most people who (unconsciously) feel unloved (an outcome of the fact that loving his father didn't gain him love in return), he now has the unconscious desire to please and to gain approval. And Obama wants this approval from his corporate masters (not merely American voters); it's not love but it's better than nothing. In turn, he has the pleasant face and oratory which they can use to both mask and 'sell' their ruthless exploitation of the people of America and elsewhere around the world, including when he must lie outright to do so (as he did when he denied that the NSA spies on US citizens).

Burrowes maintains that Obama’s mother tried to teach him “values” with lectures and admonishments. Burrowes explains that socially positive values are “deeply anchored in certain emotions and that these emotions and the values they generate can only emerge as a result of childhood experience." Burrowes writes:

The reason that the adult Obama has no conscience and feels little or no love, compassion, empathy and/or sympathy for the victims of his government's violence is simply the logical outcome of his own childhood which was largely devoid of genuine love, compassion, empathy and sympathy.

This is another reason why the adult Obama is so violent, both internationally and even domestically. As Obama oversees the increasing militarization of US society and the systematic dismantling of the social contract - the removal of centuries-old constitutional protections and the ongoing encroachments on human rights and civil liberties (including those which protected American citizens from arbitrary detention or execution by their own government), the dramatic expansion of poverty and homelessness, the spying on fellow Americans, the ongoing consolidation of predatory corporate governance - we are simply witnessing the logical outcome of the violence he suffered as a child.

Burrowes stresses the importance of citizens as well as Obama appreciating that “like all perpetrators of violence, he was terrorised and brutalised as a child“.

Burrowes asserts we MUST as citizens non-violently resist Obama's "killing and exploitation!”

[cross-posted on open salon]

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goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Obama is typical for his gender and academic pedigree. Why does he behave the way he does? Because he can. He is privileged. We worship his Harvard sheepskin and he's a guy. He can do pretty much whatever the fuck he wants.
Penis years and Harvard law: perfect together.
Now, if you want to know if his childhood had something to do with it, yeah, probably. I think he was brought up pretty well, never had to worry about material wants and expected that he would ascend the professional ladder easily.
He did.
Let's stop trying to get into his head and draw obvious conclusions from the observations we can make about his present behavior. If we want him to stop acting like a corporate ladder climber without a conscience, maybe someone hold him accountable.

Submitted by lambert on

That said, there's something here: The last three President's we've elected have had serious father issues:

  1. Clinton: Father an alchoholic
  2. Bush: "Mano a mano"
  3. Obama: Dreams of....

We might ask ourselves why the political class seems to be selected for this sort of candidate.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Lincoln's dad left him and his teenaged sister alone in a log cabin for months while he went off and found another wife to replace his dead mother. When his stepmother saw him for the first time, she thought he was feral. If ever there was a president with potential father issues, it would have had to be Lincoln.
EVERYBODY has issues with their parents. Our parents are flawed human beings. I don't think his father issues are the cause of why he behaves the way he does. He behaves this way because his social class of the smartest guys in the room act this way and can get away with it. Remember Enron? Those guys could have been Obama's fraternity buddies.
As for Clinton, he might have had some father issues but he seems to be a good father himself so I think we have to credit his grandfather for some of his training. His sexual peccadilloes are just that- peccadilloes. He's not the first president who couldn't keep his pants zipped. But we aren't hearing about JFK's father issues, are we? Clinton was a much better president than we give him credit for and as the last guy who actually raised taxes on the rich and appointed the last true blue liberal to the SC, I think he doesn't get enough credit for that, especially given the way he was hounded while in office. Obama hasn't had even one special investigation. What's his excuse? He hasn't got one except that the people who hired him are just like him. They're privileged guys with expensive academic pedigrees. That automatically commands respect and signals authority to even the most die hard so-called "progressives".
You know that saying, "The rich aren't like you and me"? Yeah, well neither are the bonus class Harvard and Princeton educated schmoozers. I can't for the life of me figure out how Krugman turned out to be so decent.
Bush was just a rich white Texan.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

practically everyone has "suppressed" feeling of rage, anger and/or hurt." (i.e., imperfect parents)

So, that's not much of an excuse for warmongering, etc.

Out of fairness, the President's college educational background is very similar to that of former President Clinton's. (Although from what I've read, he definitely had some socioeconomic advantages over President Clinton.)

[President BO--Columbia University, Harvard University VERSUS former President BC--University of Georgetown, University of Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), and Yale University.]

I believe that the main reason that the President doesn't "catch any slack" from today's Republicans is primarily because there is so little difference between the Republican and Democratic Party Establishment lawmakers on fiscal matters, anymore, that Republicans don't have any need to try to impeach a Democratic president.

BTW, as soon as I finish this comment, I'll be posting an updated picture of the 80 plus "Problem Solvers." (the majority of them are Dems)

They lawmakers are trying mightily to push through a Grand Bargain during the next "debt crisis" coming up in a couple of so months.

PLEASE everyone--call you Senators and Reps to stop this effort!

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

My own thoughts….A friend and I both recognized Obama as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (a condition my friend and I both had deep familiarity with due to life experiences) in early 2007, and subsequent events have simply confirmed that conclusion. Both environment and genetics can contribute to development of narcissistic personality disorder, and the genetic contribution is surprisingly high – research examining the condition among relatives shows a heritability of approximately 0.7 (heritability of traits runs from 0 to 1). Though it’s important to note that, with disorders of this sort, genetics need not be absolutely determinative (given sufficient countervailing environmental circumstances).

With respect to genetics, I’ll note that Obama’s father also appeared to manifest classic symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (a few descriptions of his behavior here: 1, 2, 3). It’s also worth noting that various people who knew both Barack Obama Jr and Barack Obama Sr have commented on certain similarities in demeanor. E.g. Auma Obama: "Barack was a lot like my father - his hand movements, his gestures, how he talks, how he sits. He's got a certain quietness about him and he sits and he concentrates like my father. He can be in a room full of people and he withdraws on his own." Moreover, Obama’s maternal grandfather also displayed indications of narcissism (and it was said he could "charm the legs off a table") – growing up with such a father might even have contributed to Ann Dunham’s attraction to Barack Obama Sr. (since in choice of romantic partners, people often recapitulate aspects of their family of origin).