I had a relationship with a woman a long time ago that sticks in my mind, as a determinant for a lot of my thinking about things. She picked quarrels with me out of thin air, on the flimsiest pretexts. She never trusted me, and I suggested several times that we break up. Each time I said it, she hit the roof with indignation, No matter what I did, she found fault with me—damned if I did, damned if I didn't!

I knew I had to leave, and, disappointed and dispirited, I started crying. She looked at me with mild derision, waiting for me to stop and act like a grown-up. But when I actually did leave, she turned despondent and creeped-out. I never had a handle on what went wrong, or even what sort of person she really was; so I went to a therapist, who likewise contributed a lot to my present thoughts about things. She suggested that my girlfriend lacked adequate personality-formation, which deprived her of ego-strength and a stable point-of-view. She had to think and act in real-time. The deficits left her timid and resentful, as a base mood.

In a conversation with her parents, they admitted they had sent her to psychiatrists since she was a teenager. Her mother described her as inert, and said she would only come to life when she found someone to mobilize her. When I read John le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl, a novel about Arab terrorists recruiting girls from Germany and Holland to help them, I wondered if my ex-girlfriend's timidity and resentment would make her a potential recruit. Would those qualities be strong enough to lead her to do something extreme?

Eric Hoffer deals with selfhood issues in True Believer. A "true believer", Hoffer writes, turns to a mass-movement to make up for a lack of a sustaining selfhood. He even says that selfhood detracts from the strength of a mass-movement. His Axiom 92 begins, "The total surrender of a distinct self is a prerequisite for the attainment of both unity and self-sacrifice."

But "total surrender" comes at a cost, Hoffer adds. In Axiom 78, he writes, "The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others." In Axiom 77, he adds that, "The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness." Hoffer explains, "The de-individualization which is a prerequisite for . . . selfless dedication is also . . . a process of dehumanization."

The solution, however, is not simply to outlaw or limit political organizing, prevent the creation of  pressure groups, or scrutinize their agendas. Hoffer writes that people want and need such groups. In Axiom 93, he writes,

   People whose lives are barren and insecure show a greater willingness to obey than people
   who are self-sufficient and self-confident. (For them), freedom from responsibility is more
   attractive than freedom from restraint. . . . They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives
   to those who want to plan, command, and shoulder all responsibility. Moreover, submission
   by all to a supreme leader is aqn approach to their ideal of equality.