Obama’s yearning to heal his own splits enabled him to become a community organizer, driving him from what could have been a lucrative practice of law to the streets of Chicago. As President he clearly favors bipartisan action, so much so that he often compromises with himself before negotiating with the opposition. Part of this profound push for healing splits was to evade his own psychic reality — an internal fear of being damaged or destroyed. The irony is that facing and testing out inner fears of aggression may lead to greater healing by developing the capacity to contain opposite feelings and therefore manage intense internal conflicts. Facing internal psychological facts — that his parents were destructive and not simply loving — helps him recognize external facts as well, that his attempts to reason with opponents about the appointment of Cordray were also a defense against his fear of facing the destructiveness of Republicans like Mitch McConnell. With that realization, Obama can express his aggression more directly at people he actually knows — beyond Osama bin Laden and other terrorists. He first said, “We were pretty patient. I mean, we kept on saying to Mitch McConnell and the other folks, let’s go ahead and confirm him.” Later on, he followed with, “We know what would happen if Republicans in Congress were allowed to keep holding Richard’s nomination hostage. More of our loved ones would be tricked into making bad financial decisions … We cannot allow people to be taken advantage of.”

Dilemmas like making recess appointments in the face of hatred are always risky, let alone scary: just look at the belligerent reactions of many Republicans and the US Chamber of Commerce. But Obama is learning that confrontation with destructive forces need not destroy his drive to be bipartisan; it strengthens it.