Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing

The surprising claim of this book is that dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing. Instead, Jonathan Flatley argues, embracing melancholy can be a road back to contact with others and can lead people to productively remap their relationship to the world around them. Flatley demonstrates that a seemingly disparate set of modernist writers and thinkers showed how aesthetic activity can give us the means to comprehend and change our relation to loss.
The texts at the center of Flatley’s analysis—Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, and Andrei Platonov’s Chevengur—share with Freud an interest in understanding the depressing effects of difficult losses and with Walter Benjamin the hope that loss itself could become a means of connection and the basis for social transformation. For Du Bois, Platonov, and James, the focus on melancholy illuminates both the historical origins of subjective emotional life and a heretofore unarticulated community of melancholics. The affective maps they produce make possible the conversion of a depressive melancholia into a way to be interested in the world.

Helpful and Insightful, February 4, 2009 By  Edward J. Brunner (Carbondale, Illinois) - See all my reviews
A good deal has been written on melancholy, especially in recent years, but Flatley's book stands out as both a useful introductory text and an insightful application of psychoanalytic theory. At the center of his discussion is an astute reading of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. As fine as this is, however, it is equaled by the explanatory chapters that establish a theoretical background. An opening chapter that provides a glossary that distinguishes the nuanced meanings of "affect," "emotion," "mood" and "structure of feeling" is outstanding. Flatley goes on to develop his perspective not with any obvious follow-up but with unconventional turns: a chapter on Du Bois's Souls of Black Folk and a chapter on Soviet era writing by Andrei Platonov. This remarkably clear study always presses in serious new directions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When the child doesn't demonstrate ambivalence

India's Dilemma on Inter-Parental Child Removal Written by Anil Malhotra   
Inter-parental child abduction is a serious problemconsidering that it induces life-long psychological damage to the tendermind of the abducted child. […]
The world is a far smaller place now than it was a decade ago. Inter-country and inter- continental travel is easier and more affordable than it has ever been. The corollary to this is an increase in relationships between individuals of different nationalities and from different cultural backgrounds. Logistically, the world in which we and our children live has grown immensely complex. It is filled with opportunities and risks. International mobility, opening up of borders, cross-border migration and dismantling of inter-cultural taboos have many positive traits but are fraught with a new set of risks for children caught up in cross-border situations. Trapped in the cross fire of broken relationships with ensuing disputes over custody and relocation, the hazards of international abduction loom large over the chronic problems of maintaining access or contact internationally with the uphill struggle of securing cross frontier child support. […]
We now need a new synergy, a motivated effort and a commitment to the cause of the removed child to shape a law to prevent the unfortunate removal of children. The child should not suffer. A law must be put in place forthwith for the cause of the child.

Dr. Anita Nischal, MD, Womens Healthcare Pavillion and Former Professor, Wagner College, New York
Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) is a pattern of behaviour, manipulation, actions or decision-making of a parent that either directly or indirectly creates undue difficulties in the relationship of a child with the other parent; and/or promotes or maintains an unwarranted unfairness or inequality in the parenting arrangements between the child’s parents; and/or promotes ongoing and unnecessary conflict between parents which adversely affects the parenting, well-being and rearing of a child. HAP is most apparent in child-custody disputes and is used most often as a tool to align the child with one of the parents during litigation over custody or control of the child. 
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is an abnormal psychological condition in a child which adversely impacts the child’s relationship with a (target) parent in a number of clearly identifiable and dysfunctional ways and the causes of the disorder can be reasonably traced back to the actions, behaviours and decision-making of a person(s) who are interfering with the child’s relationship with the (target) parent. It is one of the most damaging outcomes affecting children as a result of exposure to HAP. The most common symptom of children affected by PAS is their severe opposition to contact with one parent and/or overt hatred toward such parent when there is little and often, no logical reason to explain the child’s behaviour. The effects of PAS can last well into adulthood and may last for a lifetime with tragic consequences. PAS is usually related to highly litigious court cases where there is a “destroy to win or the end justifies the means”mentality.Alienating parents are driven by the overriding need for power, influence, domination and control. They have no internal conflict, because they truly believe they are right. 
If a problem arises, it is always someone else’s fault. Alienating parents find it easy to misuse the law because some family courts do not use mental health experts to assess the psychological underpinnings. If psychological evaluations are conducted on the alienating parent, they often reveal the “borderline, narcissistic, or hysterical personality” disorder. Although they may know how to act the part, they do not have empathy, sympathy or compassion for others. Unlike rational people, they do not distinguish between telling the truth and lying. Alienating parents know that sanctions of fines, jail time, or community service are seldom applied to those held in contempt of visitation orders and hence cases are dragged for years. This jeopardizes the child’s relationship with the target parent, and allows the alienating parents the advantage to continue alienating. The emotional cost of PAS is excessive to the target parent. Legal intervention is a must to remove the alienated child from the custody of the alienating parent, set boundaries for the alienating parent, and have the alienated child deprogrammed by a child psychologist. Without legal intervention, alienated children lose their ability and free will to make rational choices over their lives, experience serious psychiatric disorders, have poor social relationships, and of course pass the problem on to their children.

 Dr Roma Kumar, Clinical Psychologist, Sir Ganga RamHospital (Delhi)
“Nothing stirs up passions more than title controversy generated when parents are at war over the custody of a child.”
The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. It’s primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. Basically, this means that through verbal and non-verbal thoughts, actions and mannerisms, a child is emotionally abused (brainwashed) into thinking that the other parent is the enemy. PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:
(i) The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
(ii) The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
 (iii) The child is sure of him or herself and doesn't demonstrate ambivalence. i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
 (iv) The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The "independent-thinker" phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
 (v) The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
 (vi) The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
 (vii) The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
 (viii) Animosity is spread to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.
 The most common pattern of the mother is to show that ‘she is in control’. She will do that in a variety of ways ranging from ignoring the father to humiliating him. Paradoxically she is able to do it on the basis that the father loves his child so much he will put up with it. In most cases, the mothers do not take the children away with any clear cut strategy in mind, it is usually an extension of normal hostile reactions going through the sequence of:  (1) Arguing (2) Hostile silence (3) Restricted communication (4) No communication (5) Hostile action

Friday, November 12, 2010

Politics requires a lot of narcissism

What we call narcissism is a normal part of every human being. Without narcissism, we are unable to feel good about either ourselves or other people. In the healthy adult, the excessively grandiose side of the self is tamed and harnessed to an appropriate set of ideals and values and is capable of perceiving others as separate sources of action, thought, and feeling. A healthy self with appropriate levels of narcissism--or self love--has two fundamental and equally important parts: […]

Much of the evil that humans do to each other comes as a result of narcissistic rage and/or narcissistic idealism (and they are found often oscillating back and forth in the unhealthy narcissist). In the former case, we hear about or know individuals who manipulate, control, subjugate, hurt or kill others and they are able to do this because they do not consider other people as human or separate from their own self; or because they are so enraged and grandiose they are not capable of empathy. We see stories of this happening all the time on the news, frequently exclaiming, "How could someone do that?" The ex-boyfriend who cannot accept that the woman has dared to withdraw her love and so must kill her (and often himself); the serial killer who does not experience others as really human. The pedophile who abuses then murders his child victim. Every petty criminal who believes implicitly that his feelings and desires are paramount and justify his behavior.

A second type of evil is more subtle, and it comes from the unhealthy idealistic narcissist. This narcissist also does not see other people as individuals; and instead sees them only as fodder for the expression of an IDEAL or as pawns for an Omnipotent Object (e.g., a dictator). People with idealizing narcissism completely reject the needs of the individual and enslave him or her to their IDEAL. Eventually, the enslavement--whether religious or secular--snuffs out human ambition, confidence, energy and self-esteem. These "do-gooders" cause considerable human misery and their ideologies can lead to genocidal practices and unbelievable atrocities on a grand scale, all in the name of the IDEAL or GOD. Needless to say, both the development of normal self-esteem as well as the ability to have appropriate ideals and admiration for others are essential to psychological health. When one aspect develops at the expense of the other it has grave consequences--both for the individual and society.

One could say that the entire psychological process of maturation is one in which the child is able to form a cohesive sense of himself AND at the same time appreciate the separateness of Mother and Father --and by extension, all other people. When this process is achieved, true empathy and benevolence toward others is possible, as is a healthy and realistic appreciation for one's own worth and capabilities. In Wretchard's comparison of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin we see the essentials of how all this plays out in different political personalities. As I noted earlier, there are certain professions that require a lot of narcissism to be successful--and politics is foremost among them. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Managing with love is the way to build trust

Love in the workplace? Forbidden! In these days of mandated sexual harassment training, we are constantly warned to keep our even mildly lascivious thoughts and emails, not to mention our hands, to ourselves. But, human nature may trump the law. I make it a practice to hug everyone who works for me and most of those who work around me, both males and females. Read More […]
Managing with love is the way to build trust. It's a no-brainer. So why do so few companies do this? The autocratic "manage with fear" model is what business began with hundreds of years ago when managers whipped employees literally and figuratively to compel them to work. In modern businesses with skilled and empowered employees, the top-down approach is slowly starting to fade away. The open-door policy is replacing the executive suite. For example, my university built me a new lab last year and the builder wanted to know where my office would be. I said I didn't want one. I prefer to embed myself with my team because we work together on projects. Why would I want to separate myself from those I collaborate with?
There is a growing number of successful companies that manage with love. Southwest Airlines is an example: their corporate slogan is "How do we love you? Let us count the ways . ." In fact, their stock ticker symbol is LUV so this is a big part of their corporate identity. (Southwest's first flights came out of Dallas's Love Field so this may have given them the idea). If you have flown Southwest, you know that their employees love working for them. Southwest Airlines has never laid off an employee. Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly was paid $903,000 in 2009, and half of that was a one-time bonus. Compare that to former GM CEO Rick Wagoner who was paid more than 14 million dollars the year before GM went belly-up.
My research shows that the molecule of love, oxytocin, makes us trustworthy and motivates us to help others. Most managers would sacrifice a limb if their employees embodied these virtues at work.
All it takes is love.
Paul J. Zak is a neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA.  His book The Moral Molecule will be published in 2012. more... [12:17 PM]