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TE Lawrence (psychology)

Updated: Jan 29

I once read a book by an American psychoanalyst at Harvard that tried to explain TE Lawrence—he failed completely. He also produced another book that tried to explain people who said they had been abducted by aliens—he failed completely.

To understand Lawrence you must grasp:

[a] he’s the son of an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, but the aristocrat had a second family, of which Lawrence was a member, with a lower-class woman (with the governess for his first family, in fact)—so there’s this whole dynamic of “I look plain and ordinary, but I’m secretly a prince”.

It’s actually a fairytale and a common fantasy among children “I’m really adopted, secretly I’m the son of a king—and one day my real parents will reclaim me.” That’s pretty close to Lawrence’s situation—he looked like an “ordinary kid”, but really he was the son of an aristocrat.

This is why he blended in with the Arabs—it’s about being “looks Arab but is secretly English”. At the time, England was the most powerful country in the world and the Arabs were nothing (didn’t even have oil). So to blend in with the Arabs relived his childhood situation—“looks ordinary [Arab], is really the son of an aristocrat [English]”.

He assumes a name with the Arabs, but his own name “Lawrence” was an assumed name anyway (it’s his mother’s name)—so why not assume another name? [that’s who I am, in our family we’re people who are special who pretend we’re ordinary—we’re experts at pretending to be what we’re not and working under pseudonyms].

There’s even an aspect that his mother “infiltrated” this noble house and stole the aristocrat, whose children she was meant to be looking after—so both parents are “secret agents” (she operates abroad, in Ireland).

This also explains why Lawrence re-enlisted in the services after the war but under a pseudonym (Shaw—from his friend George Bernard Shaw). He could have had any senior rank, being a hero—but he tried to be a private in the Tank Corps and then he became Aircraftman Shaw in the RAF.

This again relived his childhood—“I’m super-special, but I look ordinary”. For Lawrence, the pseudonym was just normal—it was normal to be under a pseudonym (to hide his light under a bushel); and the more he proved himself to be “super-special”, the more he wanted to retreat behind the anonymous pseudonym—because the family dynamic was “we’re special, we’re aristocrats, but we pretend we’re the sons of a governess—nothing special”.

He also modelled himself on his father: “He pretends to be ‘Mr. Lawrence’ when he’s with us, but he’s really Sir Thomas Chapman—and I’m just like that, just like dad.”

There’s also a Borderline aspect, because although his father didn’t abandon him he was only there occasionally (under a pseudonym)—there was always a chance he wouldn’t come back. So there’s that Borderline element in Lawrence’s wild self-destructive behaviour (Borderlines carry out extreme self-destructive acts to deal with the pain of abandonment or potential abandonment).

Lawrence died riding a motorcycle too fast, and that is Borderline behaviour (I feel so much pain, because I’m afraid I’ll be abandoned, I’ll ride my bike so fast to forget it, and the consequences don’t matter)—it’s to do with the fact he’s afraid people will abandon him, which is why he didn’t let anyone get close to him (except young Arab servant boys—who are dependent, and, therefore, don’t leave and are safely under his command; although even they die in the desert war—so even they leave him).

His interest in the Crusades and Crusader Castles which took him to the Middle East before WWI and provided his expertise to operate in the war reflected an attempt to find his true lineage—i.e. he’s an aristocrat, his father didn’t have any male children with his legitimate wife, so Lawrence is actually the true heir to “the castle” (the “true son”); and the castle is abroad, in Ireland—but he could never visit, being the “secret son”. When he was interested in the Crusaders he was interested in his own lineage as the son of an aristocrat—an aristocrat who had a castle abroad (Killua Castle, Crusader castles).


[b] he’s homosexual—people ask “why did he pay a guy to savagely beat him, under the pretext that he was a wayward orphan nephew who had stolen money from his uncle?”. Male sex is more extreme than female sex because men are more extreme in everything they do—and so homosexual sex can be very sado-masochistic and very extreme. And people find it hard to accept that—in some respects, Lawrence’s behaviour is just normal for a homosexual.

Secondarily, the storyline he used to have these beatings carried out is all about being a “wayward orphan” who stole money (you couldn’t just straightforwardly pay someone to beat you for sexual purpsoes in those days, you had to have a story)—so really he’s being punished for being “the bastard son” of the aristocrat, because his mother and her family constitute “the dirty secret” = “we’re bad, we need to be punished” (but nobody is punishing us, we’re “stealing” money <from dad’s estate, from his wife, from his family>, but we’re getting away with it).

There’s also an aspect that he was savagely beaten by the Turks in the war and sodomised by them—so there’s an idea that he’s reliving the trauma in a safe way. But he’s also homosexual, probably didn’t act on those instincts being very Christian, and so probably didn’t dislike it—there would have ambiguity about it (I like it but I’m not meant to like it).

His interest in assumed identities later turned into a fascination with machines—aircraft, speedboats, and motorcycle. So he went from ancient to modern, from Crusades and Bedouin to aircraft and motorcycles, but it’s not such a contrast if you think about it.

When he waged guerrilla war on camels that was about speed, the camel was “the ship of the desert” that could “go anywhere, anytime” and that isn’t so different to an aircraft (can go anywhere, fastest thing there is). So there was continuity in his interests, even if it didn’t look like it in superficial terms.

Lawrence also liked machines because he could identify with the machines and protect himself from emotional pain “I’m a machine, I’m a facade, you can’t hurt a machine-man”—it’s another pseudonym, in a way.

Further, homosexual men are often hyper-masculine, which can mean autistic or autist-like, and that means mechanical machine-like performance (unfeeling); they also have a concomitant tendency to be risk-takers because they don’t perceive danger, not being emotionally sensitive. This could also explain the way Lawrence liked machines and speed—his other behaviour is high risk, as well.

Overall, the dynamic is that Lawrence is the secret son of an aristocrat and he has this ambivalent “I’m ordinary, I’m special” internal narrative that is unresolved and becomes heightened to an extreme when he becomes a war hero and celebrity (everything his father did was to avoid publicity and scandal).

This resulted in his post-war behaviour, which seemed “odd” to most people—i.e. ducking out of high rank and the limelight to become an anonymous aircraftman. His fame created maximum ambivalence in his psyche—and that led to ambivalent behaviour (internal command: we must absolutely not draw attention to ourselves—help, I’m famous!).

Further, the elite, to which he belongs and isn’t that big, “knows” he has a secret, but it’s an open secret; and this makes his behaviour ambivalent—“I’m the dirty secret, but I’m exceptionally good—everybody’s talking about me because I’m a hero, but I’m totally ordinary; to be ordinary is to be safe—I will make myself ordinary now”.


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