Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Disappearing Act"

"Disappearing Act"

A number of years ago there was an excellent profile done on a news magazine about a man that would simply disappear from people’s lives.  I missed the first part of it but I recall enough to tell what is important enough for my purposes in this piece. He had suddenly left a family in Maryland. He was to our surprise not a low profile figure. He was well known at least in a midlevel professional circle. If I remember right it was in administration. I believe in community college circles. He had moved to Arizona and was not active. He had run into someone who invited him to the local campus and one thing lead to another and he landed a job. He ended up with a small circle of friends and remarried. A few years passed. Let us say five. My accuracy is not essential here as the point is the type of incident happens all the time the reader can fill in the details. That is the point. The point of psychology is to go from the particular to the general, to extract and find unifying motivating principles.

So what happens next? All is well with the world. This seems to be the problem and one of the problems with many people, when things are going too well, watch out.

One day his wife comes home and he does not. He never does. There is no sign of him. Nothing is missing. No signs of foul play. Finally the airport is checked and his car is there with the keys in it. The reporting was excellent as there was follow-up. Connie Chung made the effort to locate the man. He did not do an on camera interview but did talk to her and what was remarkable was he told us exactly why he did what he did. He said it was the excitement of it. And remember this was not the first time he had done it.

So we are motivated and “pushed” to do things by powerful forces. Some call this the unconscious. But when looked at in turns of powerful emotions/feeling or what some of us call “affect” it can take on a very clear and “pure” kind of meaning.  It can be also frightening because what does it then mean to simply be driven and overwhelmed by “excitement” which we feel is “interest” taken to the  extreme. In this case taken so far that it will destroy everything around you?

But so it is. And so we think it is for many emotive forces. The flip side of interest is shame. Shame we feel comes when our interest is not achieved. Shame motivates use to curl up and hide or to kill. But we also do not realize it can reignite excitement in the way this man experiences it. We have to understand that he first “withdrew” from his community did he not? Then he had to replace it with something and that something was “excitement.” The excitement of the new chase?  But eventually we get burnt out.

So it is with so many scenarios in life.  This can be played out in relationships over and over the person that constantly conquers the pursued only then to leave them for the next conquest; the businessman or broker who seduces with good intentions only to feel deflated once the “mark” is made and then moves on. They themselves always wondering what went wrong never realizing the interplay between the healthy interest the ensuing shame and the toxic excitement.

 The question is what is always getting in the way? Why can’t the “good scene” continue. Why can’t the relationship continue, the deal be completed the job be sustained. Why do “I” end it before others do.

And that is the  subconscious trick and the answer? “I” end it because I “know”, “I know” that it is going to end so why not end it myself and at least get it over with and at least I can go and have some excitement trying to do it again. We don’t have a clue. Wish we did. Do we now?
Brian Lynch
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A GENERIC LETTER

A GENERIC LETTER
[Peter],
Since seeing you I have wanted to write something on the basis of what you said about your long-term friend. You talked about him hurting you by not telling you of the death of another friend. You talked about how you have come to be unable to tolerate his behavior in the world such as notpaying rent and staying until evicted. You feel hurt by his actions and by the waste of such talent.

These thoughts, much like those concerning many of my relationships,made me sad. At the same time it amazes me how much clarity I feel I have about such actions as you described.

As I have already sent you a lot of material, I hope that you have spent some time with it, as you say you have. That said, I seem to keep seeing the nub of human interaction in simpler and simpler terms.

I guess, rock bottom, I am saying we should always keep it simple and understand psychic pain as no different than physical pain, and indeed psychic pain is indeed in the tissues of the brain. The cause, too, is in the brain, in the form of memory.

Interest is an emotion and is physical. We can’t help but be interested in the world from the time we pop out into the world.

Interest is always, however, being interrupted. That interruption is minor and we change our focus and hardly notice, or it can be very large, in which case we might feel very very bad.

It seems that our daily task might be to simply say that if the ratio of positive interest to negative memory, crap or whatever comes at us from the world. If it is weighted to the negative we will often have learned, from  childhood, to “script” our response to that negative in four characteristic ways. A psychiatrist, Donald Nathanson, contributed to our knowledge of ourselves by neatly packaging those negative scripts in the “Compass Of Shame.”

I am interested    --><---   Something gets in my way  then ------->>>>>
 I feel: hurt, confused, “bad,” “shamed”
I then :

1. Withdraw and/or
2. Blame myself and/or
3. Avoid: sex, drugs and rock and roll, TV, etc and/or
4. Attack Others.

So withdrawal can be breaking off a friendship, getting a divorce or not asking someone on a date that you are interested in.
Blame or Attack Self: “it’s my fault,” “I am an idiot,” “I deserve to go to hell.”

Avoid: Surfing the net, drinking, anything that can take us away from the
pain.
Attack other: yelling at someone, being “passive-aggressive,” and
shooting someone.
Now the deal is: what is causing the pain is often hidden and often it is not. Most of the people that I talk to, if I have time, know exactly why they do what they do, but it is also “too difficult to talk about, or it hurts too
much.” Whether it is hidden or not may have little meaning. The point is that it is causing pain that I want to treat in whatever way I can. People say exactly what they mean if you just let them talk and listen closely. I do it because… I was hurt… I do it because I hurt… I do not know what to do… I feel guilty about it… I do it because I feel guilty…. I did it again.

What we do may be using heroin or watching TV. We all have scripts that take us away from pain.

Someone I work with, identified that shame, hurt, and confusion as thesources of her pain and understands at one level that she simply DOES NOT KNOW any other way to deal with it, i.e. we have to learn how to  deal with it, parents have to teach us how to deal with it other than the hurtful way she is dealing with it knowing it is harmful, or we have to work very hard and think very hard about ourselves and how we got in the mess we are in. Most importantly, though, we cannot and should not blameourselves, or for that matter we should not blame anyone.

Who knows what your friend was hurt by early on? I guarantee that he has been hurt and feels much pain. Although highly intelligent, he has withdrawn from life, many do. It just gets worse as time goes by and others are seen, “in the world,” as he might see you in your now “high” position, he feels more shame, the more he withdraws.

It is such a simple concept that we all know is true but we are always trying to come up with more “sophisticated” or “adult” explanations. You in turn are hurt by his withdrawal. So Withdrawal can be just as hurtful as an attack. Why should they feel different? As what has engendered both is the same thing: psychic pain in the withdrawing or attacking other.

There is nothing you can do but be infinitely patient, take care of yourself, thereby being a model and wait. Our inclination, however, often is to attack back. Why? Because we feel shame.
Well that’s the way I see it anyway, and it is a start, I hope.

b
Brian Lynch
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Humiliation"


 "Humiliation"

Humiliation is a very big issue and could be a theme in most all I write, it should be incorporated more.  It is nevertheless, more and more, appreciated in horrible and subtle and sophisticated ways  in literature, television and the movies. It needs to be spoken about, lived in the moment in the sense of being brought to consciousness. We have to stop avoiding the moment of humiliation and learn that I am in the act of humiliating and need to stop and learn another way or that I am being humiliated and must do what I can to save myself in nonviolent ways from this violence.

In what is called “Affect Psychology” we think of “humiliation” as part and parcel of the shame dynamic. Shame we say is a feeling that is at first something that truly catches off guard. It is akin to being surprised but really not nearly as abrupt. Being surprised will make you forget everything that was just happening and focus you on the here and now. What is it that I should be paying attention to now? Shame is, so to speak, under the radar of surprise it is when we are interrupted in our pleasant activities yet can still pay attention to what was so interesting or enjoyable just a moment ago. Shame is this horrendous gap between what I had within my grasp and what I now  find much  out of my reach.

So what of “humiliation”? I think we usual think of this as a more public act or spectacle. I often recount now that for many years I spoke only of “shame” and then about three years ago it hit me that it might be better, especially when introducing these ideas to start with the word “humiliation” as almost everyone can envision a time when they were humiliated in public. A surprising number of these incidences of humiliation were in school, early school, but there can certainly be private humiliations, how many times have we felt “humiliated” by not being able to remove a bottle cap with not a sole was in sight?

Yet “humiliation” carries with it the sense of some forceful action from without. The eyes of others are truly on me.  “I am weak.” “I am not worthy.”

Evelyn Linder makes a great contribution to the study of shame and humiliation when she points out that it was not until 1759 that the means of “humility” and “humiliation” were parsed. That is up until that time the terms were basically interchangeable.  In short it was unthinkable for one lower in class to humiliate one of a higher station.  All were “humble” before their masters and all were humbled and humiliated before God. It was not until the mid 18th century that the two words start to have their more modern meaning. This, it is argued, helps give rise to the individual rights movement as it levels the playing field. Now everyone can humiliate anyone! And are we not suffering the consequences of that negative quirk now!? And humility is a rarer and rarer commodity.  The solution is not backsliding but discovering the opposite sides of this great discovery and that is the emotive force of “interest” and healthy pride.  Oddly enough it seems we have to wade through the negative to get to the positive.
Brian Lynch
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

“How About Dinner?”

“How About Dinner?”

I have been watching a television series that I have found intriguing and recently came across a few episodes the exemplified a few themes that  I stress in these pieces.

The scenes involve a cop that is divorced, early forties, has only his work and kids but mostly his work to sustain him. He drinks and has little or no insight about his drinking and cheated extensively on his wife. The scenes I refer to are his encounter with a political consultant of some weight; they are attracted to each other. They sleep together. She is driven and seems to “know” the rules and so avoids at all costs any “real” involvement calling him late at night for a rendezvous, at least for awhile. He reverses the usual sexual roles and wants more and asks for a date, they meet for dinner at an upper class restaurant and he compliments her on the place. He is not an oaf but it is obvious that he rarely has eaten at such a place. The conversation turns towards  what exactly they do and she says she does pretty high profile political consultations. She asks about his politics and voting. I don’t remember if he said if he voted or not in the last election  but it became awkward very quickly he said something like “Oh Bush and that other guy what’s his name,” and she said you mean “Kerry” and he said “ As far as I am concerned they haven’t a clue as to what I am doing.”   “I don’t know, that is the way I see it,”  his voice trailing off somewhat embarrassed.  The scene cuts to him standing lonely up against his car.

Then there is a conversation with his female partner in the car on a stake out with her asking him how is it going with his new girlfriend. He says “she looked right through me.”  He was not embarrassed as if he doubted himself. No he, knew himself and  the work he did and he knew it was real and important. He was simply humiliated.

There is so much that   can be extracted from this, the most obvious, from my world, is the humiliation the detective feels.

This is the world of “script” and “ideology.”  Silvan Tomkins speaks of Ideology. I cannot cover script and ideology  in fifty words but in short it says protest as we will it says that human beings must have a unifying principle to organize their lives. For my purposes I want to point out that this almost universally will result in the root of prejudice or severe isolation. Yes, psychology uproots some very unpleasant things. That is we each need an organizing principal in our lives. Therefore in the absence of a verifiable truth we have cultural relations,  we have political parties we have religion or we try and “stand above it all” in an attempt to intellectualize everything. I emphasize this later because I think intellectuals much too much get on their high horses just as everyone else does.

But back to our cop, he is certainly sympathetic in his alienation. He tells her his story of going to Loyola of Baltimore and having to drop out due to being married and having a child. His date gives no signs that she is “getting it.” He goes on to say he joins the force and how he is a very good cop and how he thinks there are only a handful of “police” that can do what he does.   Again her demeanor continues to be the same, this, the daily humiliation that wears us down; to be looked through.

But it begs some questions. We need not answer all questions. One is what creates her disconnect? She is behind a “liberal” candidate in a ravaged Eastern seaboard city, he a cop trying to improve his city, why the disconnect?  I want the reader to think about what is going on here.  The answers are not easily come by. She is “withdrawn" in some part of her being a prisoner of her “tony” upbringing, be it Georgetown or Harvard Yard or maybe Kansas City to Harvard never to look back, somewhere in there  an inability to empathize with those below her. For both we only have what the writers give us about their past, well after all this is fiction so we don’t know his biography. What abandonment must he have suffered? What shame or self-disgust leads to so much drinking or why he succeeds in alienating everyone around despite his intelligence and personality?

The series is “The Wire” and the episode are near the end of season 3.
Brian Lynch
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

"The Chicago Scam"

"The Chicago Scam"

I had just admitted two addicts in their sixties in the same room. They were buddies and this was not their first visit to the rehab and as I walked by the room one of them called to me, “Hey Doc, come here I want to tell you something.” What followed was a fascinating half hour of  how not to get scammed. He said, “Now doc I am telling you this so you won’t get hurt.” He proceeds to explain the intricacies of a version of a “Pigeon Drop” scam.  This is where you convince someone to put up collateral for a bigger payoff in the near future, of course, the bigger payoff never comes.  I was seated in a chair at the foot of his bed against the wall as he regally held court. He explained in detail how he entered the bank with a women and she withdrew 10,000 dollars and gave it to him. He sincerely cautioned me not to fall for any such manipulation. I thanked him and I got back to business. Later he once again summoned me and this time with an anguished gaze he asked, in a pleading voice, “Doc you don’t think I am a bad person do you?”   I don’t remember exactly what transpired but I do believe I did say “no” but he persisted and went on and on for a while explaining how he had done nothing wrong, nothing at all wrong that, “That the lady had gone into that bank of her own free will and taken out the money.” He had not laid a hand on her.

Switch to “The House of Cards” a movie that captures as well as any what I experienced above. I don’t really know if a city can have its signature on a scam but this one is set in Chicago although it is shot in Seattle. It has its weakness such as the plot being centered on a psychiatrist getting caught up in investigating the lives of griffters to the point of participating in the life. Yet, in doing so it touches greatly on the emotion of interest-excitement. She is bored with her life and a patient leads her to investigating this other world.  She is ultimately hurt as she is “played” by the leader of the group, made love to in the making of a scam and then left. But my main and really sole purpose of bringing the movie up is to parallel it with my experience in the hospital in this way: One of the deals goes bad and there is violence. There is an older partner who is terribly upset about this and, if I remember correctly “resigns.” He throws a major fit and goes on and on about how honorable they were because nothing they ever did involved violence or hurting anybody. He had a “code.” After all he had his “ethics” to uphold.

Of course all this is to say that human beings can justify anything. It is not in anyway to “condemn” these people or to say they are “evil.” It is to start to appreciate what Silvan Tomkins calls “script theory.” It is to get away for simplistic terms such as to “excuse” actions and behaviors. It is to deeply understand it. Many will want to say about my patient, “Oh, he really knew that he was doing wrong.” “Oh, Dr. Lynch your so na├»ve. He was playing you!”  Well, if he was to what end? What was he getting out of it? Laughs?   One never knows. 

It seems to me that we don’t want to hurt people but we are hurt and taking care of that hurt is pretty important. That puts us in a pretty tough bind, a shame bind. Damned if I do and if I don’t so I make all kinds of compromises and secondary rules and before I know it I live in my own castle, my own world.  And yes I am saying that while I am in that castle I cannot make any other “choice.” My patient really does not believe he is doing anything wrong at any given moment.  But then you ask why does he have to ask if I think him a bad person? Good question. That is the problem with making it “right” and “wrong” black and white, “good” and “evil.” The situation is as they say “what it is.” And what is it? As someone said we are indeed “many selves” at once. Shame and “shame binds" help us understand all of our conflicting interests and how we can live with all kinds of what we call “cognitive dissonant” behaviors at once. So does he or doesn’t he know he is doing “wrong” and will punishing him or arguing with him do any good. It seems to me that all of the above are pretty much non starters. He is pushed and pulled by fears and demons that only he understands and the only antidote is a sense of safety and security however impossible that may seem.

Brian Lynch
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090