Friday, June 18, 2010

Upping the ante ...

... Psychobabble and the Real Perps. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The psychology of the real me is surprisingly similar to belief in possession by evil spirits.

It also has a good deal in common with Rousseau's "noble savage."


  1. It also is itself psychobabble. Dalrymple may be a physician, and a good writer, but his knowledge of psychology is amateur at best.

    A great deal more is known now about multiple personality disorder, disassociative states of mind, borderline personality disorder, and so forth, than was known by Hitchcock's times. "Psycho" is a great suspense movie, but building ideas about psychology from a movie is like building ideas about God from a plastic dashboard Jesus statue.

    I've known several people with diagnosed personality disorders, who had a lot of trouble, but none of whom were psychopaths and none of whom killed people. I started reading this article thinking it might be interesting, but by the end found myself feeling annoyed and offended. So much for building wisdom out of pop culture and ignorance.

  2. Hi Art:
    More precisely, he's a psychiatrist who worked in an English prison. So he has plenty of experience with sociopaths. I don't think he was suggesting that there are no genuine cases of multiple-personality disorder, only that there are people who do not suffer from that disorder who would like to be regarded -- and apparently regard themselves -- as suffering from it, merely because they have this notion that "their better selves" would never do the terrible things they have been charged (note the fellow who had thrown acid at someone not once, but twice).
    I do, however, agree that Psycho is an unstable foundation for theorizing.

  3. Thanks for the extra info regarding Dalrymple. Good to know.

    I guess my objection is partly that Jung, or even Laing, would have something to add about true and false personae. The lies about our inner nature that we hide behind. That repressing one's own Shadow makes it pop up inappropriately elsewhere, in bad behavior. (I wonder if the author's viewpoint is skewed because he worked with criminals rather than normative individuals as patients.) In other words, that everybody has a dark side but those who acknowledge it and wok with it don't have the need to act it out violently.

    One of the best books I've ever read on this topic was Arnold Mindell's "City Shadows." Mindell worked with both normative and psychopathic clients, and the book points out that the difference between the two is not much. There are people who live out their lives in the fringes of normal social behavior, not all of whom are violent, who are acting out for the group, not just for themselves. The social order tends to suppress its own Shadow, too; so some of Mindell's patients are acting out the chaos that normative Puritanical society represses; in some ways we were healthier when we could cut loose in Dionysian revels in the past, than we are now with our ideas that only Apollo is to be sacrificed to.

    I guess my point here is that the whole thing is far more complex and nuanced than presented. Mindell is a far more convincing writer on this topic, whether or not we even talk about "Psycho." Actually, Mindell would have said that "Psycho" is perhaps another eruption of the unconscious into the ordinary, an enactment of shadow-forces in us all—and that's precisely why it remains so creepy and compelling. Hitchcock was really good at that sort of thing.