Bob Schwartz

Category: Psychology

Wrestling with Yourself, Part 2

The previous post about the biblical episode of Jacob wrestling with a man or an angel or God is entitled Wrestling with Yourself. Why so?

In the family saga, Jacob comes from a long line of people on an important mission, which mission they use as a rationalization for some sharp practices and lying. Abraham lies about his wife, saying she is his sister. Isaac lies about his wife, saying she is his sister. Jacob lies to his father Isaac, with a plan devised by his mother, saying he is his brother and stealing his brother’s blessing. After the wrestling episode, Jacob’s sons will lie to him, saying their brother is dead, while in fact they have left him to be taken into slavery.

We wonder just what sort of entity Jacob is wrestling with. The Hebrew word ish makes it sound as if it is a man, but the details of the story say otherwise. One enlightening view says that Jacob was actually wrestling with himself. Given his history and the history of the family, such psychological conflict is understandable.

The wrestling match ends in a tie, that is, Jacob refuses to give up, even though he is injured. This is exactly what happens if you wrestle with yourself. You can’t win, but if you don’t give up, you can’t lose either. At best, you come out of the match transformed. Hurt and pained, perhaps, but different enough to merit a new name.

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Veterans Month and Mental Health

It is appropriate to talk about this Veterans Day 2018—Sunday, November 11—when talking about veterans and mental health.

Veterans Day was originally celebrated as Armistice Day, the day that World War I ended. This Veterans Day marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Modern awareness of the widespread psychological effects of warfare began early in World War I, with the phenomenon of “shell shock.” In looking back at the war, there is still a question of how many cases were, in terms then used, “commotional” (due to explosions at close range) and how many cases were “emotional” (due to the psychological experience of war). In either case, numbers of warriors came home different and troubled—troubles which might last for the rest of their lives, and even serve to shorten those lives.

In the wars since, different theories and treatments have been developed, different labels have been attached. Today, those of us on the outside of this experience know it as PTSD. Those on the inside know it as the hell of war and its aftermath.

This will be another month—since a day is absolutely not enough—of honoring veterans. Judging by the still inadequate attention and support, they are more honored in the breach than in the observance. Among the failures too long to list is insufficiently acknowledging and taking responsibility for the mental health of those who we send to serve.

If you don’t want war—blessed are the peacemakers—then work for that. If you want war, or reluctantly think that war is necessary, treat those you send to fight for you as your own family, your own siblings, your own children. Because they are somebody’s.

Key

Key

When you leave take the key
even for a few steps out the front door
out the back.
What if the door locks behind you?
Even if there’s someone inside
to hear you knocking pounding
ringing calling.
What if she locks it
not knowing where you are?
What if she needs help
and you are locked out helpless?
What if she knows and decides
that this trip to the trash
should be your last?
Only a few possibilities
there are more
prevented by that key in pocket.
One man’s prudence
built on irrefutable logic
is an observer’s key to personality.
What of it?
Analysis is theory
being locked out an inconvenient fact.
Take the key.

Dean Chamberlain: Light Paintings of Elder Psychedelic Pioneers

Timothy Leary © Dean Chamberlain

Dean Chamberlain is an extraordinary photographic artist. He works in a technique known as light painting, using hand-held lights to illuminate and color a scene photographed in long exposure. While versions of the technique have been known and used since the early days of photography, Dean was the first artist to work exclusively in the medium.

From Light Painting Photography:

Dean Chamberlain is the father of light painting photography and has been capturing photographs since 1967. It was his passion for photography that led him to the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1974 to pursue a fine art degree. During Dean’s time at Rochester in 1977 he discovered light painting photography. Dean was the first person to coin the term “Light Painting” for his open shutter long exposure photographic technique. He has worked with his unique art form ever since in his various works. Dean has created stunning portraits of well-known individuals such as David Bowie and Paul McCartney. He has also directed numerous music videos. Chamberlain’s work has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. He has received an MTV breakthrough award for directing music videos for Arcadia (Missing), Paul McCartney (This One) and Duran Duran (All She Wants Is).

Along with light painting rock stars, landscapes and other subjects, Dean created a unique series called Elder Psychedelic Pioneers. This includes Timothy Leary, Albert Hofmann, Alexander Shulgin, and others—many of whom have now passed on.

Albert Hofmann © Dean Chamberlain

 

Alexander and Ann Shulgin © Dean Chamberlain

 

Laura Huxley © Dean Chamberlain

DSM-5: Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)

Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others.

These individuals may also be irresponsible and exploitative in their sexual relationships. They may have a history of many sexual partners and may never have sustained a monogamous relationship.

This post about Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) is a sequel to one of my most popular posts, published more than a year ago: DSM-5: Antagonism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the “bible” of the mental health profession—“a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders.” It is worth repeating here that mental health diagnosis should ultimately be left to trained clinicians. Nevertheless, intelligent non-professionals may gain important insights by reviewing the literature about significant personality disorders.


Antisocial Personality Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria

A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

  1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors, as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
  2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
  3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
  5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
  6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
  7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Diagnostic Features

The essential feature of antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This pattern has also been referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dyssocial personality disorder. Because deceit and manipulation are central features of antisocial personality disorder, it may be especially helpful to integrate information acquired from systematic clinical assessment with information collected from collateral sources.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior. They may repeatedly perform acts that are grounds for arrest (whether they are arrested or not), such as destroying property, harassing others, stealing, or pursuing illegal occupations. Persons with this disorder disregard the wishes, rights, or feelings of others. They are frequently deceitful and manipulative in order to gain personal profit or pleasure (e.g., to obtain money, sex, or power). They may repeatedly lie, use an alias, con others, or malinger. A pattern of impulsivity may be manifested by a failure to plan ahead. Decisions are made on the spur of the moment, without forethought and without consideration for the consequences to self or others; this may lead to sudden changes of jobs, residences, or relationships.

Financial irresponsibility is indicated by acts such as defaulting on debts, failing to provide child support, or failing to support other dependents on a regular basis. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder show little remorse for the consequences of their acts. They may be indifferent to, or provide a superficial rationalization for, having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from someone (e.g., ‘Tife’s unfair,” “losers deserve to lose”). These individuals may blame the victims for being foolish, helpless, or deserving their fate (e.g., “he had it coming anyway”); they may minimize the harmful consequences of their actions; or they may simply indicate complete indifference. They generally fail to compensate or make amends for their behavior. They may believe that everyone is out to “help number one” and that one should stop at nothing to avoid being pushed around.

Associated Features Supporting Diagnosis

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others. They may have an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal (e.g., feel that ordinary work is beneath them or lack a realistic concern about their current problems or their future) and may be excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky. They may display a glib, superficial charm and can be quite voluble and verbally facile (e.g., using technical terms or jargon that might impress someone who is unfamiliar with the topic).

These individuals may also be irresponsible and exploitative in their sexual relationships. They may have a history of many sexual partners and may never have sustained a monogamous relationship.

The I Ching on Hardship

The ancient sages experienced the hardship of climbing a mountain as well as crossing a river. They also experienced all kinds of hardship in their life journey. Some hardships were avoidable, but others were unavoidable. If one has the right attitude, no matter what kind of hardships there are, they can be overcome….If it is not the right time to overcome hardship, one should keep still. Keeping still does not mean giving up. It is just yielding to the situation and waiting for a more auspicious time.
Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching, Hexagram 39

There are so many sincere, good-hearted and helpful messages being generated at this sad moment of some very public suicides. There is no need for me to add my own thoughts.

But I did wonder if the I Ching, that trusted well of wisdom, might have something to say. It never fails; it didn’t this time.

In answer to the question of suicide, the answer was Hexagram 39—Jian/Hardship.


39
Jian/Hardship

NAME AND STRUCTURE

Originally, Jian meant lame or a lame person. From lame, its meaning extends to encompass difficulty in walking or hardship. Wilhelm translates Jian as obstruction; Blofeld translates it as Trouble. In this book I use Hardship.

Sequence of the Gua: If there is misunderstanding and diversity in a household, surely hardship will result. Thus, after Diversity, Hardship follows.

The ideograph of the gua shows its original meaning—a lame person having difficulty walking. At the top of the ideograph is the roof of a house with a chimney. Below it there is an ideograph of a person, ren. Between the roof and the person, there are two bundles of grass, representing bedding. These images form the upper part of the ideograph: a picture of a person under the roof of a house covered with two pieces of thick bedding to resist the cold. At the bottom, there is an ideograph of a foot. On each side of the foot and underneath the person a pair of crutches is drawn. One can visualize the crutches under the armpits of the person with a lame leg. The blood circulation of a lame leg is poor, thus the image of a cold foot was used to demonstrate a lame person’s difficulty with walking.

The structure of the gua is Water above, Mountain below. It represents a situation of hardship following hardship. Climbing a mountain and crossing a river are arduous undertakings. The attribute of Water is darkness and of Mountain is keeping still. If it is not the right time to overcome hardship, one should keep still. Keeping still does not mean giving up. It is just yielding to the situation and waiting for a more auspicious time. If the proper time comes, it is favorable to seek union or to consult a noble person for constructive advice. Any premature advance will entail risk. Overcoming hardship depends on the correct time, situation, and companions—in Chinese terms Heaven, earth, and human beings, the three primary elements….

Decision

Hardship.
Favorable to the southwest.
Unfavorable to the northeast.
Favorable to see a great person. Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.

Commentary on the Decision

Jian is Hardship.
Danger in front.
Seeing the danger and knowing to stand still,
Being conscious and wise.

Hardship.
Favorable in the southwest.
Going forward obtains the central place.
Unfavorable in the northeast.
There is no way out.

Favorable to see a great person;
Going forward, there is achievement.

Proper position,
Being steadfast and upright,
Good fortune,
Rectifying the country.
Great indeed is the function and time of hardship!

Commentary on the Symbol

Water on the Mountain.
An image of Hardship.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person is introspective to cultivate his virtue.

SIGNIFICANCE

Water above Mountain is an image of hardship following hardship. There is no way to totally avoid hardship in one’s life. Hardship should be overcome; calamity can be prevented. One should not always let things take their own course and resign oneself to one’s fate. This gua tells us how to deal with hardship. The ancient sages experienced the hardship of climbing a mountain as well as crossing a river. They also experienced all kinds of hardship in their life journey. Some hardships were avoidable, but others were unavoidable. If one has the right attitude, no matter what kind of hardships there are, they can be overcome.

Trump’s Ties: The Tragic Comic Idiosyncrasies of Dictators

“The general contemporary rule of thumb is that your tie should fall right at the top of your belt buckle, regardless of tie length, style of the tie, or how tall you are.”

Sometimes, as the Freudian cliche goes, a cigar is just a cigar. And a tie is just a tie.

In the case of Trump’s ludicrously long ties, which point at his crotch, it’s obvious something else is going on.

Dictators are often known for their idiosyncrasies. Sometimes there is a psychological basis. Sometimes it is a signature, part of a brand. Sometimes it is just a personal preference. Fidel Castro, for example, was associated with his cigar, which he obviously liked, which is Cuba’s best-known product, and which, well, is more than a cigar.

Trump is the first president to regularly refer to the size of his “hands”, his “button”, and once in a while, almost directly, his “penis”. The only evidence we have so far about this is from Stormy Daniels, who has only said that Trump is “average.” God willing, that is the only detail we ever have to deal with. But absent evidence, we only have Trump’s word for it. We all know what that’s worth. So most people don’t believe him. Or his ties.

Proof of Dreams

Proof of Dreams

The dreams of last night’s sleep
Are as real and present
As this morning’s coffee.
Otherwise how could they
Poke and tug and shake
As we move on and say
They are over.

©

The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire

I cannot fully explain James Hillman in this space, not briefly, not at all. If there is a badge, it might say psychologist, or Jungian psychologist, but that would be misleading, limiting and wrong. Thomas Moore, in his Prologue to The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire, begins with this:

James Hillman is an artist of psychology. If it sounds odd to call a psychologist an artist, then you, the reader, know your task as you take up this anthology. You will be challenged all along the way to rethink, to re-vision, and to reimagine. The difficulty in reading Hillman is not to learn a new bag of techniques or a new conceptual system. Hillman demands nothing short of a new way of thinking. He takes psychoanalysis out of the context of medicine and health, not only in the obvious ways, rejecting the medical model, but in subtle ways: asking us to give up fantasies of cure, repair, growth, self-improvement, understanding, and well-being as primary motives for psychological work. He is more a painter than a physician, more a musician than a social scientist, and more an alchemist than a traditional philosopher.

Hillman has written many books and articles, but A Blue Fire, made up of short passages from many works, is what to read to get the essence. Choosing a representative excerpt is impossible, since it is bound to miss most other points Hillman makes. But the excerpt below, covering the nature of illiteracy, silence and imagination, is close to my heart, and to some of our life in 2018: “An education that in any way neglects imagination is an education into psychopathy. It is an education that results in a sociopathic society of manipulations. We learn how to deal with others and become a society of dealers.”


Why have we as a nation become more and more illiterate? We blame television and the computer, but they are not causes. They are results of a prior condition that invited them in. They arrived to fill a gap. When imaginative ability declines, other ways to communicate appear. These ways work even though they too are dyslexic in structure: simultaneity of bits, odd juxtapositions, messages that do not move linearly from left to right. Yet television and personal computers communicate.

Evidently, reading does not depend solely on the ordering of words or the ordering of letters in the words. Indeed, poets use dyslexic structures deliberately. Reading depends on the psyche’s capacity to enter imagination. Reading is more like dreaming, which, too, goes on in silence. Our illiteracy reflects our educative process away from the silent grounds of reading: silent study halls and quiet periods, solitary homework, learning by heart, listening through a whole class without interruptions, writing an essay exam in longhand, drawing from nature instead of lab experiments. This long neglect of imaginational conditions that foster reading—Sputnik and the new math; social problems and social relatedness; mecentered motivation; the confusion of information with knowledge, of opinion with judgment, and trivia with sources; communications as messages by telephone calls and answering machines rather than as letter writing in silence; learning to speak up without first having something learned to say; multiple choice and scoring as a test of comprehension—has produced illiteracy.

The human person as a data bank does not need to read more than functionally. A data bank deciding yes or no on the basis of feedback (i.e., reinforcement) need not imagine beyond getting, storing, and spending. Just get the instructions right; never mind the content. Learn the how rather than the what with its qualities, values, and subtleties. Then the human agent becomes an incarnated credit card performing the religious rituals of consumerism. You need only be able to sign your name in the space marked Xy like an immigrant, like a slave, or a …

Or a psychopath. Descriptions of psychopathy, or sociopathic personalities, speak of their inability to imagine the other. Psychopaths are well able to size up situations and charm people. They perceive, assess, and relate, making use of any opportunity. Hence their successful manipulations of others. But the psychopath is far less able to imagine the other beyond a fantasy of usefulness, the other as a true interiority with his or her own needs, intentions, and feelings. An education that in any way neglects imagination is an education into psychopathy. It is an education that results in a sociopathic society of manipulations. We learn how to deal with others and become a society of dealers.

James Hillman
“Right to Remain Silent”
Journal of Humanistic Education and Development (1988)

Crazy Like a Fox and Friends: After the Laughter It Is Not At All Funny

Discomfort and despair has led to dark laughter as we listen to Trump’s half-hour unraveling/meltdown in his call-in monologue on Fox and Friends yesterday. Of course it is not actually funny.

Except for willfully oblivious Republicans, Trump’s instability is obvious to everyone. There is wide agreement not only that the thirty minutes of nearly uninterrupted chatter was often nonsensical and non-sequitur, but that if the Fox and Friends hosts—who were clearly aghast—had not intervened (“you have a million things to do, Mr. President”), Trump might have gone on blathering for hours.

Why Republicans ignore, excuse and put up with just about anything Trump dishes out, including rants that beg for a psychological evaluation, is best told by an old and wise joke:

Guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office. “Doc,” he says, “my brother thinks he’s a chicken.” Doctor says, “Bring him in and I’m sure I can help him.” Guy says, “I would Doc, but we need the eggs.”