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A psychopath – also called a sociopath – is an individual with no regard for ethics who displays little or no emotional response in harming others or being harmed.
Psychopaths habitually lie, cheat, engage in antisocial and even criminal behavior; they manipulate, exploit, betray and break hearts but feel no shame, guilt or remorse in the process.
Psychopaths are cold, callous and often chillingly clever. They may, for instance, take a spouse and even have children just to look normal and get away with nefarious schemes.
Psychopaths can often sense another person’s feelings but, unlike the empath, use that ability to manipulate and exploit.
More recently, Declan Murphy and a team of psychiatric researchers in the UK suggest that neural activity in the emotional centers of the psychopath’s brain is minimal.
Many attribute violence in the media as a contributing factor that might push a borderline personality into full psychopathy. But psychopathy isn’t just about violent crimes. Participants in the Enron scandal, for instance, could be seen as psychopathic.
And while many associate psychopathy and hate, this isn’t necessarily the case. Psychopaths just don’t feel remorse, guilt nor shame. And it’s unclear whether this is caused by a deeply repressed hate that comes out in twisted forms or, on the other hand, some genetic characteristic that just makes the psychopath callous and uncaring.
According to http://www.abc.net.au, psychopath managers at the workplace are as frequent as 1 in 10.¹
We should remember, however, that the term psychopath is a concept, one not necessarily fully present in reality. Some individuals, for instance, may exhibit many of the characteristics of a textbook psychopath 99.9% of the time but exhibit genuine caring 0.1% of the time.
¹ “Corporate Psychopaths,” Catalyst, Reporter: Jonica Newby, Producer: Louise Heywood, Researcher: Jonica Newby, May 5, 2005.
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Compensation is a psychological term that was first introduced by Alfred Adler in Study of Organ Inferiority and Its Physical Compensation (1907).
Adler understood compensation in terms of underlying feelings of inferiority. In order to cope with the pain of feeling inferior, the psyche develops beliefs at the opposite end of the psychological spectrum. That is, it ‘compensates’ by feeling superior to other people. Hence the now familiar idea of the inferiority-superiority complex.
In 1907 Carl Gustav Jung notes the pathogenic complex posses a quantum of libido which grants it a degree of autonomy that is opposed to conscious will. Though this dynamic has a pathological cast, it conveys the essence of what Jung termed compensation; namely, the capacity of the unconscious to influence consciousness.¹
However, Jung wouldn’t name compensation as such until 1914.
In “The Importance of the Unconscious in Psychopathology” (1914), he introduced the idea, saying, “the principal function of the unconscious is to effect a compensation and to produce a balance. All extreme conscious tendencies are softened and toned down through a counter-impulse in the unconscious.”²
We can see that Jung’s view of compensation, as compared to Adler’s, is geared more toward the idea that the psyche strives to achieve balance and integration.
In fact, Jung believed the psyche has a natural tendency toward balance and integration. If a particular attitude becomes extreme, Jung believed that therapy and close attention to dreams could help to amplify repressed or underdeveloped psychological contents.
On several occasions Jung says that his own particular brand of therapy is essential to this process. And he believed that he had successfully analyzed himself in this regard. But, at the same time, Jung didn’t try to sell potential clients on his views. If an ardent churchgoer, for example, was satisfied with what Jung may have taken as a skewed perspective, Jung would let the person be. Apparently Jung only intervened when clients’ old systems and attitudes lead to neurosis (or psychosis) and help was requested.
This latter claim might, however, be a bit exaggerated, in keeping with the tendency of some Jungians to elevate Jung as some kind of new prophet for modern times. There are also accounts where Jung was quite brash and bold, surprising and even shocking his clients. Perhaps they had asked for his help. But whether or not he was, at times, playing the the ‘wise guru’ and on a bit of a power trip remains open to debate.³
³ Although married to Emma Jung, it seems Carl had sex with at least two of his clients, Sabina Spielrein and Toni Wolff, which certainly wouldn’t wash in psychiatry today. See » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung#Marriage
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a classic 1886 novella written by the Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The tale illustrates what later would be described by psychiatrists as sociopathy (or psychopathy).
In the novella the once honorable and philanthropic Dr. Jekyll becomes absorbed with the problem of good and evil. To gain esoteric knowledge he divides his nature by drinking a concoction. This transforms him into the purely evil Mr. Hyde, with moments of reverting to the sunnier side of Dr. Jekyll. He desperately tries an antidote but eventually the dark side overtakes his personality. He finally commits suicide in what he believes is his last humane act.
We’ve probably all encountered a person or two (male or female) who reminds us a bit of Dr. Jekyll. They can seem quite intelligent by forwarding clever (if morally twisted and self-serving) rationalizations of their harmful behavior.¹ Or they may use fancy, pretentious language to try to cover up their abuses and to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. But once one gets wise to their upsetting combination of half-truths, outright lies and betrayal, one might never want to deal with such a person again.
¹ God fearing people do not call that “intelligence” but evil, which at bottom is just stupid.
- Dr. Jekyll/ Mr Hyde (wherelionsroam.wordpress.com)
- MP3: Ezra Furman “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” (donewaiting.com)
- dr. jekyll & ms. hyde are overwhelmed (not the transgendered movie version, lol)) (phylor.wordpress.com)
- My Father Dr Jekylle and Mr Hyde (figsngrapes.wordpress.com)
- The Invisible Man and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (thebookstop.wordpress.com)
- Greatest Sci-Fi Novels That Were Written Before The 20th Century (dangerouslee.biz)
- Victorian Gothic: double vision (womenlove2read.wordpress.com)
- Powerful Vocals Dominate Doma Theatre Company’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ (laist.com)
- A dinner table at night (daydreamertoo.com)
Darth Vader is a character and a personification of evil in the Star Wars films.
Darth Vader originally was Annakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s absent father. Annakin was also a Jedi knight, which made him a righteous freedom fighter with mystical powers called the force.
But Annakin always had a chip on his shoulder which contributed to his choosing the dark side of the force. Afterward, he became a kingpin for the evil Emperor Palpatine, spreading interstellar death and destruction.
In essence, Vader is devoured by his own choice to follow the evil Emperor. A machine – a full-body suit – keeps him alive in a state of psychopathic evil.
The ending of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi finds the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker, in a very bad situation. After mercilessly trying to kill Luke for some time, Vader sees that Luke is about to be killed by the Emporer’s lightning bolts. If not for Vader’s sudden change of heart and helpful intervention, Luke would have been killed.¹ As summed up at Wikipedia,
Palpatine attacks him [Luke] with Force lightning. Moved by the sight of his son’s suffering, Vader turns on his master and redeems himself by throwing the evil Emperor into the Death Star’s reactor shaft, killing him.²
Vader then dies but his benevolent action in finally choosing good over evil redeems him and he earns a place in Jedi heaven (we later see him smiling at Luke as an afterlife apparition).
The hopeful message is that even the most hardened sinner still possesses free will and the potential for compassion, good deeds and redemption.
¹ Readers following this blog for a few years may have noticed that the original version of this entry incorrectly stated that Darth Vader, and not Palpatine, was about to kill Luke before Vader had a change of heart. I was never a die hard Star Wars fan and wrote the original entry from memory after seeing the film many years ago. Since then, I’ve watched the films again and corrected the error. No excuse really… just an explanation! Here’s a good summary of Vader’s death: http://www.moviedeaths.com/star_wars_episode_vi:_return_of_the_jedi/darth_vader/
- Luke, I Am Your Father, Now Pick Up Your Toys (npr.org)
- ‘Mini Darth Vader’ Undergoing Open Heart Surgery (newser.com)
- Darth Vader Lightsaber Lamp (neatorama.com)
- Mini Darth Vader of Volkswagen Fame, Max Page, Faces Heart Surgery (celebs.gather.com)
- ‘Little Darth Vader,’ 7, to undergo open-heart surgery (today.msnbc.msn.com)
- If Darth Vader were a good father… (holykaw.alltop.com)
- What Darth Vader Would Look Like If He Was a Good Dad [Humor] (gizmodo.com)
An empath is a person who apparently recognizes, understands and possibly feels the emotions of another person or possibly living beings and organisms, such as animals and plants. Different schools of thought variously try to explain the phenomenon of empathy.
Psychologists say that the empath physiologically copies another person’s emotions based on observable cues. Religious perspectives believe the empath feels another’s emotions due to a mystical connection among all people (some mystical schools would extend this to all living beings, organisms and even inorganic material like rocks, gems, and stones).
In contrast to the psychological explanation for empathy, some mystics claim to know another’s thoughts and/or feel their emotions – called the reading of hearts in Catholicism – near or at a distance with no observable cues.
Reading of Hearts. The knowledge of the secret thoughts of others or of their internal state without communication is known as reading of hearts. The certain knowledge of the secret thoughts of others is truly super-natural, since the devil has no access to the spiritual faculties of men and no human being can know the mind of another unless it is in some way communicated. But knowledge of the secrets of another’s heart may be conjectured by the devil and transmitted to a person, or they may be surmised by a deluded individual who takes his conjectures to be supernatural illuminations.¹
Estimating the prevalence of the gift of empathy is difficult for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being that many people wouldn’t want to talk about their empathetic abilities for fear of ridicule. Not surprising then that the psychiatrist Carl Jung said that most individuals are unwilling to talk about their experience of the paranormal because of potential repercussions.
Empaths are differentiated from psychopaths. Apparently psychopaths often can sense another person’s feelings but try to use that ability to manipulate and exploit. Empaths, on the other hand, try to use their perceptions for the common good.
The idea of empathy has been thoroughly explored in science fiction and fantasy. At top right of this entry we see a scene from the 1968 Star Trek episode called The Empath.²
¹ AUMANN, J. “Mystical Phenomena.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 105-109. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.
² Fair dealing / fair use rationale of this low-res copyright image.
- theory of mind… (mymorninglatte.wordpress.com)
- Empathizers Anonymous (dreambles.com)
- Empathic Repatterning (nicoleciccarelli.com)
- Empathic People? (inesmedem.wordpress.com)
- Why Republicans and Democrats Can’t Feel Each Other’s Pain (psychologicalscience.org)
- Empathy, a Blessing and a Curse. (ralphiesportal.me)
- Empathy (ask.metafilter.com)
- Call for Participation: Empathy Conference (empathyinthecontextofphilosophy.com)
- Empathy with Artificial Intelligence (antiresume.wordpress.com)
- Building a Muscular Empathy (psychologytoday.com)
- The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People (romankrznaric.com)
- What is Empathy? (brucemayhew.wordpress.com)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Jew of Austrian parentage and the founder of psychoanalysis. He studied medicine in Vienna and then neurology and psychopathology. He was marginalized by the medical community for his interest in the idea of infant sexuality. Today he, perhaps ironically, is often frowned on as a reductionist.
Freud remains one of the great innovators of the modern age. He attempted to scientifically outline the idea of the unconscious which formerly had been represented in literature, philosophy and nineteenth-century occultism.
His psychoanalytic techniques of free association and abreaction were influenced by several other contemporaneous “doctors of the mind,” most notably Jean-Martin Charcot, but Freud made them uniquely his own.
His works were almost entirely destroyed by the occupying Nazis. In 1938 he reluctantly withdrew from Vienna to London, leaving behind several sisters, all of whom died in concentration camps.
A habitual cigar-smoker, his relationship with his daughter Anna became extremely close; she acted as secretary, friend and confidant. Freud eventually contracted jaw cancer but refused pain-killers because they dulled his mind and interfered with his work.
After Freud’s death Anna further elaborated on the idea of defense mechanisms, distinguishing herself as an important thinker in her own right.
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- Mortensen tackles loquacious Sigmund Freud (upi.com)
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- A DANGEROUS METHOD Blu-ray Review (collider.com)
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Frankenstein (Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus) is Mary Shelley‘s novel of 1818 in which a Baron Frankenstein creates a horrible monster by reassembling and electrifying body parts from exhumed cadavers. The monster is never called ‘Frankenstein’ in the book but the idea stuck.
Apparently Mary Shelley, the wife of the poet Percy Shelley, awoke one morning after dreaming of the unwritten novel. She quickly wrote the plot and opening pages. The story has been set to several films, the most notable starring Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931).
Ultimately Frankenstein is a tragedy as the monster eventually destroys its creator. Symbolically, the Frankenstein monster represents anyone who, for all intents and purposes, seems ‘dead,’ callous and uncaring.
Like all archetypal images, however, we’d do well to remember that, in most cases, they represent aspects of real people. As such most people are far more complicated, valuable, and redeemable than a mere caricature. They may seem to be totally evil, but in some instances they can still behave ethically. In a few instances of psychopathology (and evil), however, some individuals appear to become totally engulfed by archetypal forces (or demons).
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- Bridging the Bride of Frankenstein (mrmovietimes.com)
- Mary Shelley – review (guardian.co.uk)
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Id [das Es (German) translated to the id (Latin); the "it" (English)]
In Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalysis, the id is a supposedly instinctual reservoir of disordered unconscious drives – a “cauldron full of seething excitations” – that’s present at birth.
Freud believed that people are driven by two conflicting central desires: the life drive (libido or Eros) (survival, propagation, hunger, thirst, and sex) and the death drive. The death drive was also termed “Thanatos”, although Freud did not use that term; “Thanatos” was introduced in this context by Paul Federn.¹
Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, p. 66.
- Jung, Carl Gustav (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- “Religious doctrines are all illusions” or the very best bits from Sigmund Freud (beinghuman.blogs.fi)
- What is the specialized of sigmund freud (wiki.answers.com)
- Possible Thesis Angles (thesiswhereyoudontpanic.wordpress.com)
- Freud against Freud on sexuality and abnormality (aaronasphar.wordpress.com)
- Great essay by Richard Shapiro “The Psychoanalysis of Philosophy: Towards the Eroticization of Logos” (aaronasphar.wordpress.com)
- What are the example of conscious by sigmund freud (wiki.answers.com)
- Psychology vs.. Sociolgy (socyberty.com)
- 3 Facts You Might Not Know about Freud and His Biggest Addiction (psychcentral.com)
- Sigmund Freud by Pamela Thurschwell (thesiswhereyoudontpanic.wordpress.com)
The issue of normalcy is arguably a complicated one. Does the idea of normal change over time or is there something constant that mankind can always refer back to?
A compelling argument against the idea of a transhistorical normalcy is found in poststructural thought. Postructuralists point out that different cultures regard normalcy differently, both now and throughout history.
For example, in Biblical times and the Middle Ages abnormality was often associated with demonic influence or possession. Not a few individuals were literally burnt at the stake when defined as abnormal heretics.
Today, however, it seems both abnormal and cruel that anyone would burn another living person, for any apparent reason whatsoever.
In contemporary society, we see a shift away from religious to medical explanations for abnormality. Violent criminals, for instance, are often said to be mentally ill instead of ‘possessed by Satan.’
Another difficulty in ascertaining the normal as a moral good is the issue of hypocrisy. In sociology, power and labeling theorists suggest that individuals and groups possessing social power often label other powerless individuals and groups as deviant for engaging in practices that members of the high-powered groups profit from.
Although today’s social scene shouldn’t be reduced to such a simple formulation, we should point out that in medieval times there was a high degree of reliability among witch hunters when classifying targeted individuals as witches. And in contemporary society there’s a high degree of reliability among psychiatrists in defining so-called mental illnesses.
However, one could argue that, in both instances, a high degree of reliability in assessment does not necessarily relate to a high degree of validity for that assessment.
In other words, just because a powerful social group says something is so, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it actually is so. This is a basic philosophy 101 point certainly overlooked by witch hunters and sometimes by contemporary psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, along with anyone who unconditionally accepts a particular worldview that happens to be hegemonic or perhaps just in vogue.
Canadian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn expressed his own views on normality in the song, “The Trouble With Normal” (1981; released 1983):
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.
Search Think Free » Corruption, Death and Resurrection, Defense Mechanism, Deviance, Ego, Icebox Effect, Introjection, Neurosis, Nominalism, Paranormal, Prime Directive, Psychopath, Psychosis, Stages of Psychosexual Development, Suffering, Turning Against the Self, Evelyn Underhil, X-Men
- What Is Normal? (psychologytoday.com)
- Has The Green-eyed Monster Gone Too Far? (socyberty.com)
- Elizabeth Carr and Conceiving “Normally” (stirrup-queens.com)
- Keep throwing feces at each other, gays — Focus on the Family has yet to give us ‘normalcy’ pass (pinkbananaworld.com)
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- Abnormal Psychology: Understanding Cruelty and Absurdity (socyberty.com)
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In the Psychopathology of Everyday Life Sigmund Freud says parapraxes are unintentional acts resulting from an unconscious wish, desire, attitude or thought (London: Penguin, 2002 ).
This could entail forgetting names and sequences of words. But classic examples of parapraxes are slips of the pen or tongue.
Imagine someone at a cocktail party accidentally saying “I love your horse” instead of “I love your house.”
For Freud the hidden meaning always points to the person making the slip. In the above example she or he could be an avid equestrian or possibly an intensely sexual person, the horse being a well-known symbol of virility. Along these lines, Freud attributed tremendous significance to the libido.
An irruption of shadow contents into daytime activities could stem from an unresolved personal complex, the larger forces of the collective unconscious or some combination of the two.
Unlike Freud, Jung believed that unintended slips don’t always have to refer to the person making them. They can point to an entire situation among several or many people.
Charles Brenner, M.D. believes that parapraxes have profound implications. Although many dismiss accidents and mistakes as mere flukes brought on by stress, distraction, sleep deprivation or malnutrition, Brenner says
In the mind, as in physical nature around us, nothing happens by chance, or in a random way (Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis, New York: Anchor Books, 1957, p.2).
Perhaps one way of differentiating healthy from unhealthy attitudes toward parapraxes is to see if one learns something of value from their occurrence.
- Parapraxes, Accidents and Necessary Mistakes – Article that expands on this entry