The Gratification of Slaying an Enemy

“In his correspondence with Einstein, Freud argued that each of us derives a very basic and profound gratification from slaying an enemy, however imaginary the act, and from viewing him prostrate at our feet. In movies, in Western literary fiction, we are the gunfighter and we ritually slay our adversaries again and again. We are our projected selves who destroy, with an imagined bullet, our frustrations, our obstacles, our guilt, and we slay them with anger, hostility, and relief. The scenario is a simple one, one against one. We can confront the enemy, can meet him face-to-face, and can destroy him in front of us. No long-range shots are necessary. The enemy is slain in front of our eyes, we see the bullet entering his body (or imagine we do) we see the body suddenly and violently hurled backward with the impact of the bullet’s blow, and then we see it crumple to the ground before us. When our frustrations are thus eliminated, we are relieved, our anxieties alleviated, however temporarily.

One of the most appealing parts of this murder is that it is painlessly and simply done. It is a victimless killing. There is no blood and no pain, and yet we derive that great satisfaction of experiencing the obliteration of feelings in ourselves that call for destruction. The experience is cathartic, renewing.”