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Journalism

Warfare, Antisemitism & Totalitarian Narcissism

According to Adorno et al. (2019, p. xxiii), ‘the psyche of a fascist is “authoritarian” in the sense that it attaches itself to figures of strength and disdains those it deems weak. It tends toward conventionalism, rigidity, and stereotypical thinking; it insists on a stark contrast between in-group and out-group, and it jealousy patrols the boundaries between them’. This article will introduce the psychology behind Vladimir Putin’s actions against Ukraine during early 2022. It will also draw from Adorno et al. (1950) in order to teach about the intersection of psychology and politics. Topics such as narcissism, totalitarianism, and antisemitism will be covered with special attention to the current crisis Ukranian Jews are facing as a result of Russia’s declaration of war.

Introduction

Putin invaded Ukraine on the 24th February, 2022. The next day, on the 25th February, Putin threatened the world with potential nuclear warfare. He stated: ‘Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so, to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate. And it will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history’ (Gollom, 2022). Next, he  placed his nuclear deterrence team on high alert two days later blaming the UK for it (BBC News, 2022)’. Many other news flooded the Internet: 

The news (Singh, 2022; Newman, 2022) also highlighted who supported Russia and who Supported Ukraine: 

  • Venezuelan President Maduro supported Putin. 
  • Ex-president Trump called Putin ‘smart’. 
  • Belarus allowed Russia to attack Ukraine from their territory. 
  • Anonymous— the hacker group— declared cyberwarfare against Russia. 
  • China blamed the US for “escalating” tensions over Ukraine. 
  • Pakistani president Khan supported Putin. 
  • Syria pledged support to Russia. 
  • Myanmar supported Russia.
  • Cuba supported Russia.
  • North Korea supported Russia.
  • Eritrea supported Russia.
  • The European Union and the rest of the world stood with Ukraine. 

Antisemitism & Totalitarian Narcissism 

According to Shaw (2014, p. 55) ‘traumatizing narcissists (including those […] labeled “malignant narcissists”) create totalitarian systems in which their malignant envy and paranoid fears, defended against with delusional omnipotence and bolstered by self-righteous rage and hatred, merge to shape a contemptuous agenda to enslave, control, and annihilate others, if not literally then figuratively. They defend their projects as morally justified, for the greater good. The narcissist is convinced that his selfish, cruel agenda is in fact a generous, compassionate offer of enlightenment and liberation, conducted under his superior auspices for the benefit of the rest of the inferior world. With this kind of traumatizing narcissism, all is self-righteousness and sanctimony, but nothing is sacred, no boundaries are respected’.

It was not long ago that Parker (2018) made an attempt to defend Putin’s government as not antisemitic; however, now that we have seen Putin’s desperate attempt to restore the Soviet Union, and his hatred against the Jewish president of Ukraine, it has never been clearer that if Putin showed any love towards the jews in the past, it was merely a facade and a trick of impression management. ‘The Vladimir Putin government and regime could be reasonably expected to be officially and virulently anti-semitic. Both the major regimes that preceded it, the Soviet Union and the Romanov dynasty, were officially anti-semitic and actively persecuted Jews inside their territory, often singling them about above other minorities for special mistreatment […] In reality, however, the Putin government is not offcially anti-Semitic’ (Parker, 2018). Maybe it was not officially antisemitic in 2017 when Parker published this article, but the same cannot be stated for 2022 when Putin’s overt offensive tactics became transparent. It seems, not much has changed since ‘Cold War theorists of totalitarianism such as Hannah Arendt were promoting the view that Nazism and Soviet Communism were variants of the same ideological and political form’, (Adorno et al., 2019, p. xxxv). It is also clear from Parker’s paper that Putin has been accusing Ukraine of being antisemitic for a while now, an excuse he used to initiate what was to become a grim episode of European warfare.

Furthermore, the Russian news reported that the Russian Ministry of Defence wanted to punish Kyiv leaders for ‘humiliation and torture’ and that each of them would ‘be tracked down and inevitably and properly punished’ (TASS, 2022). According to them, this was done to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine. However, what really has been conducted is an attempt at de-jewfication, as Ukraine’s president is Jewish (his grandfather survived the holocaust; Veidlinger, 2022), and so are many people in Ukraine. For instance, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (2022) states that there is an enlarged population of 140,000 Jews in Ukraine, and that the largest population centres for the Jewish community are Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odessa, all cities that were targeted early in the invasion: 

Moreover, according to Marsden (2022), ‘against the backdrop of the rising tensions, Ukraine hosted the European Jewish Association’s (EJA) antisemitism conference that centered around the commemoration of Babi Yar in which 33,701 of Kyiv’s Jews were gunned down by the Nazis, the biggest single massacre of Jews during the Holocaust’. On the 1st March 2022, Russia announced ‘high precision strikes’ (Kingsley, 2022) and went on to attack the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre in Ukraine, an action which the Jerusalem Post (2022) described as villains ‘killing Holocaust victims for the second time’. 

It was also stated in the Marsden (2022) news article that Jews in Ukraine were warned in January to evacuate as a Russian invasion was suspected. Also, just as commemorations of the Holocaust were due on the 27th January, 2022; Russia’s threat was looming all over Ukraine, and for Ukranian Jews, this became ‘a mental note to stay vigilant, plan for the worst — and prepare to move fast out of harm’s way amid growing fears of an invasion by the hundreds of thousands of Russian troops that President Vladimir Putin has amassed in recent weeks along the border’ (Liphshiz, 2022). And indeed, the Russian aggression took place, displacing many Jews, as well as many other people and children. ‘Under totalitarian rule, anti-Semitism is no longer a matter of primary hostilities on the part of the people and of truly spontaneous actions. It is an administrative measure which uses existing prejudices and, to an even higher degree, psychological dispositions’ (Adorno et al., 2019, p. XLViii).

Based on all of the above information, it can be hypothesised that there is an antisemitic element in Russia’s attack against Ukraine, including the specific targeting of Jewish infrastructure in Babi Yar. Finally, Adorno et al. (1950, p. 3) state that: ‘(1) that anti-Semitism probably is not a specific or isolated phenomenon but a part of a broader ideological framework, and (2) that an individual’s susceptibility to this ideology depends primarily upon his psychological needs’.

References

Adorno, T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. and Sanford, R.N. (1950) The Authoritarian Personality, New York, Harper [Online]. Available at https://ia801608.us.archive.org/14/items/THEAUTHORITARIANPERSONALITY.Adorno/THE%20AUTHORITARIAN%20PERSONALITY.%20-Adorno.pdf (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Adorno, T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. and Sanford, R.N. (2019) The Authoritarian Personality, London, Verso [Online]. Available at https://www.versobooks.com/books/3016-the-authoritarian-personality (accessed 28 February 2022).

BBC News (2022) ‘Ukraine invasion: Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert’, 27 February [Online]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-60547473 (accessed 28 February 2022).  

Blair, A. (2022) ‘Putin unleashes “hunter”kill squad and prepares to use devastating “father of all bombs” to defeat Ukrainian resistance’, The Sun, 25 February [Online]. Available at https://www.the-sun.com/news/4775964/russia-ukraine-news-chechnya-kill-zelenskyy/ (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Collins, K., Mattingly, P., Liptak, K. and Judd, D. (2022) ‘SWIFT: White House and EU nations announce expulsion of “selected Russian banks” from SWIFT’, CNN Politics, 27 February [Online]. Available at https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/26/politics/biden-ukraine-russia-swift/index.html (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Daily Sabah (2022) ‘Russia captures Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, gains air supremacy’, 28 February [Online]. Available at https://www.dailysabah.com/world/europe/russia-captures-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-gains-air-supremacy (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Gollom, M. (2022) ‘Putin implies nuclear attack if West interferes in Ukraine. Why it’s not just an empty threat’, CBC News, 25 February [Online]. Available at https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/putin-ukraine-nato-nuclear-weapons-1.6362890 (accessed 18 February 2022). 

Henley, J. (2022) ‘Russian rocket strikes kill ‘dozens’ in Kharkiv as Kyiv-Moscow talks begin’, The Guardian, 28 February [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/28/russian-rocket-strikes-kill-dozens-in-kharkiv-as-ukraine-russia-talks-begin (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Institute for Jewish Policy Research (2022) ‘Ukraine’ [Online]. Available at https://www.jpr.org.uk/country?id=344 (accessed 1 March 2022). 

Jerusalem Post (2022) ‘Russians attack Babyn Yar Holocaust massacre site in Kyiv’, 1 March [Online]. Available at https://www.jpost.com/international/article-699034 (accessed 1 March 2022). 

Kingsley, T. (2022) ‘Russia tells Kyiv residents to leave their homes as military warns of strikes against Ukraine capital’, Independent, 1 March [Online]. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/kyiv-ukraine-war-russia-putin-b2025838.html (accessed 1 March 2022). 

Liphshiz, C. (2022) ‘Ukraine’s Jews prepare to commemorate the Holocaust as Russia’s war drums thunder’, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 24 January [Online]. Available at https://www.jta.org/2022/01/24/global/ukraines-jews-prepare-to-commemorate-the-holocaust-as-russias-war-drums-thunder (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Marsden, (2022) ‘Ukraine’s Jews warned to be ready for evacuation if Russia invades’, Jerusalem Post, 26 January [Online]. Available at https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/article-694629 (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Martin-Pavitt, R. (2022) ‘Explosion seen in Ukrainian city of Dnipro as Russia launches “full-scale invasion”’, Independent, 24 February [Online]. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/ukraine-dnipro-russia-invasion-putin-b2022468.html (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Newman, J. (2022) ‘Who stands against – or WITH – Putin? Map shows which nations – such as North Korea and Syria – have voiced support for Ukraine invasion, those against… and those trying to avoid taking sides’, Daily Mail, 2 March [Online]. Available at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10568563/Who-stands-against-Putin-Map-shows-nations-support-Ukraine-invasion.html (accessed 2 March 2022).

Parker, B. (2018) ‘Putin’s Chosen People: Theories of Russian Jewish Policy, 2000-2017’, The University of Pennsylvania Journal of Philosophy, Politics & Economics, vol 13:1, article 5 [Online]. Available at  https://repository.upenn.edu/spice/vol13/iss1/5/ (accessed 27 February 2022). 

Pleasance, C., Howard, H., Nicol, M. and Craven, N. (2022) ‘President Zelensky accuses Russia of WAR CRIMES over brutal shelling of Kharkiv which saw 11 civilians killed and schools destroyed as Ukraine’s ambassador to the US claims Putin dropped deadly thermobaric VACUUM BOMB during invasion’, Daily Mail, 28 February [Online]. Available at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10561485/Huge-explosions-rock-Kyiv-hours-dozens-killed-Russian-CLUSTER-BOMBS-attack.html (accessed 1 March 2022). 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (2022) ‘Kyiv Mayor Says 31 Dead In Capital From Russian Attacks, As Two Sides Agree To Hold Talks’, 27 February [Online]. Available at https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-invasion-kharkiv-kyiv-fighting-zelenskiy/31725938.html (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Reuters (2022a) ‘Chernobyl power plant captured by Russian forces — Ukranian official’, 25 February [Online]. Available at https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/chernobyl-power-plant-captured-by-russian-forces-ukrainian-official-2022-02-24/ (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Reuters (2022b) ‘18 people killed in Ukraine’s Odessa in missile attack – regional authorities’, 24 February [Online]. Available at https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/18-people-killed-ukraines-odessa-missile-attack-regional-authorities-2022-02-24/ (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Rowlands, R. and Press Association Staff (2022) ‘Boy, 6, dies as children’s cancer hospital in Kyiv hit by heavy gunfire, doctor says’, Coventry Live, 27 February [Online]. Available at https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/uk-world-news/boy-6-dies-childrens-cancer-23231121 (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Shaw, D. (2014), Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, New York, Routledge [Online]. Available at https://www.routledge.com/Traumatic-Narcissism-Relational-Systems-of-Subjugation/Shaw/p/book/9780415510257# (accessed 16 December, 2021).

Singh, D. (2022) ‘Russia invasion of Ukraine: who is supporting Putin?’, India Today, 24 February [Online]. Available at https://www.indiatoday.in/world/russia-ukraine-war/story/russia-attack-ukraine-invasion-war-who-supports-putin-1917366-2022-02-24 (accessed 28 February 2022). 

TASS (2022) ‘Kiev regime’s leaders to be inevitably punished – Russian Defense Ministry’, 27 February [Online]. Available at https://tass.com/defense/1412703 (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Tingle, R. (2022) ‘Putin’s “thugs for hire” militia with orders to kill Zelensky: Shadowy Wagner mercenaries who have been flown in from Africa with 23-strong hit list including Ukraine’s president and the Klitschko brothers’, Daily Mail, 28 February [Online]. Available at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10559811/Putins-militia-orders-kill-Zelensky-Blood-thirsty-mercenaries-Wagner-Group-revealed.html (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Tirone (2022) ‘Ukrainian Nuclear Waste Site Hit by Missiles During Russian Assault on Kyiv’, TIME, 28 February [Online]. Available at https://time.com/6152144/ukrainian-nuclear-waste-sites-damaged/ (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Veidlinger, J. (2022) ‘Putin’s claim to rid Ukraine of Nazis is especially absurd given its history’, The Conversation, 26 February [Online]. Available at https://theconversation.com/putins-claim-to-rid-ukraine-of-nazis-is-especially-absurd-given-its-history-177959 (accessed 28 February 2022). 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The Controversial History of Autism

According to Lincoln College (2022), autism as a word was first used to describe those who suffered from schizophrenia and who were also ‘withdrawn and self-absorbed’. In 1943, the word was first used to describe a condition of its own and individuals seemed perplexing to clinicians and were scrutinised heavily (Kanner, 1943); followed by the creation of Asperger’s disease in 1944. Later in the 1950s, it was believed that autism was a result of developmental trauma, and mothers of autistic children were heavily criticised as ‘refrigerator mothers’, indicating that they had no emotional warmth. 

Eventually, during the 60s and 70s there were changes initiated by parents coming together (and forming the National Autistic Society), and by scientists recognising the disease as biological. This recognition led to segregation schools being implemented for autistic children before a genetic link was discovered in 1974. Yet, it was not until 1979 that a psychological model called ‘the triad of impairments’ was proposed which highlighted difficulties in social interaction, communication, and imagination skills. Then, in 1980 the DSM first recognised Autism Spectrum Disorder,  and in 1989 the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers was created before being recognised in 1994. From there on there were national scientific and governmental initiatives to improve practice on understanding and working with autism. Finally, since 2009 World Autism Day has been celebrated. 

Currently, there are still people who think that autism happens only to children, or that it is not a disability. Furthermore, only a minority of people understand that autism has no cure. This shows that even though there have been a lot of developments in the history of autism, many misconceptions still persist. 

Theories

Initially, it was believed that autism was a form of schizophrenia. Furthermore, the way clinicians used to relate to autistic individuals was very derogatory and subjugating throughout history. Individuals with autism were labelled as ‘mentally retarded’, ‘idiotic’, ‘feeble-minded’, ‘slow or backwards’, or ‘autistic schizoid’ (Lincoln College, 2022). Now individuals are known to have a neurodevelopmental condition which they live with, and which has unique individual needs and no cure. Moreover, autism was considered to be a matter of moral degeneration until the genetic link was discovered and its biological construct was explored. 

Kanner (1943) cited in Lincoln College (2022) was the first to propose that autism was a condition of itself and that it was not schizophrenia. This was a major breakthrough. Later on, Aspergers (1944) cited in Lincoln College (2022) proposed that ‘autistic psychopathy’ was the cluster of symptoms now known as ‘Asperger’s syndrome’. He believed that these individuals could not change because autism had no cure. He identified symptoms such as ‘lack of empathy’, and poor ability to make friends, among others. This was another breakthrough. However, autism is not the same as psychopathy, and this should be emphasised. 

Moreover, Lincoln College (2022) also states that Wing’s and Gould’s (1979) theory was the first one to mention Aspergers syndrome in a research paper challenging Kanner’s theory and they introduced the model of the ‘triad of impairments’  (social interaction, communication, and imagination). Furthermore, Baron-Cohen et al. (1980) proposed the theory of mind (ToM) theory indicating that individuals with autism struggled to understand the mental states of others. It was stated that this impairment affected most or all aspects of the individual’s life. 

Another theory was the ‘extreme male brain theory’  which states that autistic individuals have been exposed to higher levels of testosterone than the average population. This might explain why most autistic individuals are male. Furthermore, Baron-Cohen also proposed the ‘empathising-systemising theory’ which states that autistic individuals can only be empathic by imitating the behaviours of others without really understanding the subjective states of mind of others. This is because autistic individuals are more systematic than empathetic and adapt based on organisational, structural, normative, and routine schemas. This might explain why these individuals have interpersonal difficulties. Finally, the ‘autism spectrum  condition’ theory states that individuals with autism have a life-long condition which can vary based on where they are in the spectrum which can range from interpersonal difficulties to verbal communication difficulties (Lincoln College, 2022). 

Treatments & Interventions

Electroshock therapy was often used to treat autism in the past and treatments heavily relied on the use of medication. Autistic individuals were placed in asylums and separated from their families during treatment even though a cure does not exist. Nowadays, treatment takes place in the community most of the time, medication is only used where necessary,  and psychotherapy is offered in order to help build coping and distress tolerance skills. Furthermore, in the past autistic individuals were segregated from society and placed in special schools. This is now known to have detrimental effects. Hence why nowadays autistic individuals are integrated into mainstream schools with extra support for their needs.  Finally, in the past autistic individuals had little or no autonomy and were passive receivers of interventions; whereas now person-centred approaches are the norm, and individuals are encouraged to be autonomous and to live meaningful lives (Lincoln College, 2022) even though the mental health industry still has a lot to improve when it comes to co-production of care plans in general. 

Furthermore, Lincoln College (2022) states that in the past autism was treated with medication on a trial and error basis, sometimes having dangerous and now-illicit substances administered such as LSD. Of course, this was harmful. Moreover, aversion therapy was used to operationally condition unwanted responses using punishment as the reinforcing method. Individuals were slapped on the wrist, splashed with cold water, and given electric shocks every time they displayed unwanted behaviours. This was done with the intention of extinguishing such behaviours, and was inhumane. Nowadays, this would be classed as unethical and degrading. 

Needless to say, in the past individuals were excessively put through electro-convulsive therapies which consisted of electrocuting the individual’s head in order to forcefully and drastically alter the biological make-up of the brain. This practice is known to induce seizures,  memory loss, and other effects. Sadly, this type of torture is still used as treatment in many countries, including the UK. There are several human rights movements such as the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (n.d.) which have made documentaries advocating against this form of therapy due to its many harmful effects. However, among the positive services offered to autistic individuals nowadays are community care (i.e. ensuring individuals are not hospitalised), speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, family therapy, behavioural therapy, medication, parent education, psychosocial treatments, and counselling (Lincoln College, 2022). 

References

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (n.d.) ‘Therapy or Torture? The Truth About Electroshock [Online]. Available at https://www.cchr.org/ban-ect/watch/therapy-or-torture-the-truth-about-electroshock.html (accessed 22 February 2022). 

Kanner, L. (1943) ‘Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact’, Pathology [Online]. Available at https://neurodiversity.com/library_kanner_1943.pdf (accessed 22 February 2022). 

Lincoln College (2022) ‘The historical context of autism’, TQUK Level 3 Certificate in Understanding Autism [Online]. Available at https://lincolncollege.equal-online.com/courseplayer/autisml3/?ls=8663048&s=23416 (accessed 22 February 2022). 

Categories
Journalism

Understanding Domestic Abuse in England

Every person’s perception of what constitutes abuse is different. Some victims stay and accept their predilection, whilst others fight and/or leave. Some victims succeed in leaving, whilst others are killed in the process. Domestic abuse has statutory definitions that give an objective scope which applies to everyone in the jurisdiction, whether they have insight into their realities or not. According to the Crown Prosecution Service (n.d.), domestic abuse can be defined as ‘any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality’. This short definition has it within its scope that domestic abuse is something that happens in everyday life. 

Domestic abuse does not always entail physical violence. Psychological abuse has been hypernormalised in our societies, and every day forms of sadism are quite common and ingrained in policies and procedures. Furthermore, domestic abuse is relevant to the police, and thinking that it should stay behind closed doors is another misconception. Domestic abuse happens all the time, everywhere, and thinking that it is rare is another misconception. Domestic abuse is not always a crime of passion, and sometimes it is slow, prolonged and premeditated. Thinking that domestic abuse is always a loss of control is a misconception. Disagreements are not equivalent to abuse. Whilst disagreements are normal, abuse is not normal. Moreover, thinking that domestic abuse is only perpetuated by strangers is another major misconception. Finally, domestic abuse happens to all groups and classes of society. Assuming that it only happens to poor people is another misconception. 

Globally, the United Nations (n.d) defined domestic abuse as ‘a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. It can occur within a range of relationships including couples who are married, living together or dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels’. Based on this definition, it can be said that domestic abuse is a form of sadism, as the latter is all about the subjugation of the victim. 

Locally, the Devon & Cornwall Police (2020) define domestic abuse as ‘the misuse of power and control by one person over another. This controlling behaviour may be exerted in various ways, such as through physical violence, emotional and/or psychological manipulation, forcing sexual acts or taking over your finances. It can begin at any time, can be obvious or subtle and can happen suddenly or gradually. It can happen to anyone regardless of class, age, race, religion, culture, disability, sexual orientation or lifestyle’. Based on this definition, it can be said that those who engage in domestic abuse are also engaging in sadistic behaviour

There are some misconceptions about victims of domestic abuse, such as believing that the victim wants to be abused because they are not able to leave the relationship, that the victim should leave the relationship if they want help from statutory services, that the victim is at fault for the criminogenic behaviours of their abuser, that only women are victims of domestic abuse, that women lie about their abuse, that some people/women are attracted to abusive people/men, and that some people like the violence in their relationship (e.g. rough sex defence). For instance, the Home Office (2022) published a policy paper explicitly stating that ‘consent to serious harm for sexual gratification’ is not a defence. Justice Minister Alex Chalk is cited saying ‘No death or other serious injury – whatever the circumstances – should be defended as ‘rough sex gone wrong’ which is why we are making it absolutely clear that this is never acceptable. Perpetrators of these crimes should be under no illusions – their actions will never be justifiable in any way, and they will be pursued rigorously through the courts to seek justice for victims and their families’. This means that even if a person consents to rough sex, if their partner abuses them to the point actual bodily harm (ABH), then this is by law a crime. This will give women more clarity on what constitutes appropriate touch, sex, and when to identify abuse and report abuse. Furthemrore, Keir Starmer (2013) published an article on The Guardian stating that false allegations of rape and domestic violence were rare. This shows the importance of taking all allegations seriously. 

What’s more, there are also misconceptions about the perpetrator such as believing that alcohol and drugs excuse such behaviours, that their abusive childhoods justify their behaviours, that mental health problems excuse domestic abuse, that they only attack because they are stressed out, that it is only a loss of temper on the abuser’s part, that just because they engage in domestic abuse does not mean they are bad parents (such as a father who abuses a mother and a child witnesses it), and that all abusers are men. 

The National Office for Statistics (ONS; 2021a) reported in November that domestic abuse as recorded by the police in England and Wales rose by 6%. There were 845, 734 events. There were 33 arrests per 100 cases. Yet, even though these rates increased, referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decreased by 3%. Furthermore, convictions decreased by 70%. This shocking evidence proves that even though the problem is increasing, the UK state apparatus is dealing less and less with the problem. The ONS (2021b) reports that 37.7% of offences were of violence against the person, and 18.8% of offences were of sexual nature. 72.3% of victims of violence were female whilst 27.7% were male, and 93.4% of victims of sexual offences were female, whilst only 6.6% were male. This shows that the issue of violence against women in England and Wales is far from being resolved. 

Moreover, moving more locally, the ONS (2021b) reports that there were 20,905 crimes of domestic abuse reported to the Devon & Cornwall police in the year ending 2021. This accounted for a 23.1% of total recorded crime. This saw a significant longitudinal increase in domestic abuse related crime from previous years. It went from 13.8% in the year ending in 2016 to 23.1% in 2021, increasing by over 9% in the past 5 years. There were 16, 464 offences of violence against the person, accounting for 41.1% of domestic abuse related crimes. This also saw a significant increase in the past few years. 

There are four aspects that influence perceptions of domestic abuse: (1) the media, which often distorts information by not always identifying incidents of domestic abuse, sensationalising the reality of more subtle abuse and only focusing on more violent crime. Furthermore, the media also downplays the role of the perpetrator and sometimes attributes responsibility to the victim suggesting that the perpetrator was triggered. Moreover, because we live in a patriarchal world, the media sometimes covers more stories of violence against men, even though violence against women is most common. Finally, the media also sensationalises class, making it look like domestic abuse only happens in poor families; (2) religion, which has sets of dysfunctional beliefs which reinforce abusive practice such as the idea that honour-based abuse or forced marriage is acceptable, that women are inferior and should be submissive to men, that men as family heads should take disciplinary action at home against the rest of the family, that divorce is wrong, and that homosexuality is a sin; (3) culture, which has social norms that directly impact on perceptions of domestic abuse such as the ideas that men should assert power over women because they are ‘superior’, that the restriction of women’s movements/activities is acceptable, that women should accept physical violence as a method for conflict resolution, that women are responsible for the marriage working, that domestic abuse should never be spoken about (i.e. making it a taboo topic), that anyone who wants divorce should be ashamed of themselves, that brides should be bought and exchanged as if they were cattle (e.g. Iraq), that honour is dependent on female sexual behaviour, and that traditions such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation are normal; and (4) personal experience which influences perceptions of relationships, especially when people have lived experience in domestic abuse. Depending on their level of insight, some may fully reject abusive behaviour whilst others might accept it as a normal part of life.

Did you know…

The Matrimonial Causes Act (1978) made it possible for women to be legally separated from their abusive husbands, and the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1976) enabled women to apply for court orders against their abusive husbands. In 1985, there were laws against female genital mutilation. In 1994 rape became illegal within a marriage, and in 2004 common assault became an arrestable offence. Police stations created dedicated Domestic Violence Units with specialist staff in the late 80s and early 90s. Moreover, the Protection from Harassment Act (1997) implemented measures against stalking and threats of violence, and the Domestic Violence, Crime, and Victims Act (2004) made stricter sentences so couples of the same sex could also apply for injunctions. In 2002, children were allowed to be removed from the home if they were witnesses of domestic abuse. In 2014, Clare’s law (named after Clare Wood) allowed the police to give details to potential victims of their partner’s abusive history in order to prevent abuse. In 2015 coercive control and revenge porn became illegal, and finally, the Domestic Abuse Act (2021) created a statutory definition of domestic abuse.  

References

Crown Prosecution Service (n.d.) ‘Foreword From Kate Brown, CPS Lead for Domestic Abuse’, Domestic Abuse [Online]. Available at https://www.cps.gov.uk/crime-info/domestic-abuse (accessed 7th February 2022). 

Devon & Cornwall Police (2020) ‘What is domestic abuse?’, 2nd October [Online]. Available at https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/threat-assault-abuse/domestic-abuse/what-is-domestic-abuse/ (accessed 7th February 2022). 

Home Office (2022) ‘Consent to serious harm for sexual gratification not a defence’, GOV.UK, 31 January [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-bill-2020-factsheets/consent-to-serious-harm-for-sexual-gratification-not-a-defence (accessed 12 February 2022). 

Office for National Statistics (2021a) ‘Domestic abuse in England and Wales Overview: November 2021’, 24 November [Online]. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2021 (accessed 12th February 2022). 

Office for National Statistics (2021b) ‘Domestic abuse prevalence and victim characteristics’, 24 November [Online]. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/domesticabuseprevalenceandvictimcharacteristicsappendixtables (accessed 12 February 2022). 

Starmer (2013) ‘False allegations of rape and domestic violence are few and far between’, The Guardian, 13 March [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/13/false-allegations-rape-domestic-violence-rare (accessed 12 Feberuary 2022). 

United Nations (n.d.) ‘What is Domestic Abuse’ [Online]. Available at https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/what-is-domestic-abuse (accessed 7th February 2022). 

Categories
Opinion

The Contexts of Everyday Sadism

Sadism can be described as the psychological need to inflict harm on another human being, and it often manifests in the form of cruel actions. It is a subclinical form of malignant narcissism (Buckels et al., 2013). Many people have sadistic thoughts, and indeed, anger can at times elicit such thoughts; yet, sadists are not satisfied with having fantasies or thoughts where they indulge in the idea of harming others, they actually take actions where they consciously inflict such harm on other human beings. There are telltale signatures that can help you spot a sadistic offender. According to Reale et al.  (2017, p. 4) ‘the most important indicators of sadism are (a) that the offender is sexually aroused by sadistic acts, (b) the offender exercises power/control/domination over the victim, (c) the offender humiliates and/or degrades the victim, (d) the offender tortures the victim or engages in acts of cruelty, and (e) the offender mutilates sexual parts of the victim’s body’. Nevertheless, more subtle forms of sadism occur in everyday life and these do not always involve physical violence. Pfattheicher et al. (2017, p. 338) state that ‘the very essence of sadism is that sadists are motivated to dominate and to control other individuals by harming them because they experience pleasure through their cruelty […], for instance when killing bugs or harming an innocent person’. 

Some researchers believe that the tenet of sadism is disempowering and controlling the victim, rather than the infliction of pain per se. Either way, sadism is harmful and those who engage in it tend to get a boost out of the harm and helplessness they are causing. For instance, Debardeleben in Hazelwood and Michaud (2001, p. 88) cited and quoted in Luyn  (2007, p. 21) state: the wish to inflict pain on others is not the essence of sadism. The central impulse is to have complete mastery over another person, to make him or her a helpless object of our will. . . . And the most radical aim is to make her suffer. Since there is no greater power over another person than that of inflicting pain on her. To force her to undergo suffering without her being able to defend herself. The pleasure in the complete domination over another person is the very essence of the sadistic drive’. Sadism can happen in multidisciplinary settings, from politics to healthcare, and education; as well as in personal life. Sadism can happen through actions, policies, decisions, and narratives; and it can be pervasive, problematic and persistent. Sadism can be internalised by the superego (Freud, 1923) quo when it is culturally hypernormalised and exhibited by authority figures.  Now, one might wonder, is sadism de facto or is it de jure? That is, does sadism encompass actions which violate the law of a jurisdiction (de facto), or does it also involve actions that are perfectly legal (de jure)? The answer is: both. Do people in general struggle to understand sadism because of the same reasons they struggle to understand the definition of what constitutes torture? Nowadays, someone can correctly feel like they are being tortured, but de facto sadists will argue “Oh, it is not torture!”. Well, if it involves the infliction of mental, emotional, psychological, or physical harm on another human being; then yes, it is legally correct to say that it is torture. Moreover, psychologically speaking, it is also correct to say that if someone consciously and deliberately inflicts harm on another human being, then indeed it is sadistic cruelty. Whether consciously or unconsciously, intentional or unintentional, everyday sadism can harm anyone, so it is important to have awareness about how to protect yourself in these unprecedented times. 

But how can we clarify intent? Well, de jure sadism occurs when the state creates regulations which are harmful to people and does not fulfil its substantive and procedural obligations to prevent harm. For instance, people who suffer from pituitary brain tumours often develop a very low stress tolerance (i.e. a high propensity for adrenal fatigue). If the jurisdiction creates and designs institutional mechanisms which are based on the induction of stress contingencies, then it can be said that the jurisdiction has indeed created a sadistic environment that induces medico-legal injury on these people. This happens with many different types of minority groups. The point that is most concerning about all this is that in the institutional bias of ‘some people need to be stressed out in order to develop X or Y ability’ or ‘stress can be positive and productive’ is ultimately where the sadistic factor is really found. I always think: ‘Do women need rape?’ The answer of course, quickly becomes: ‘No, women do not need rape!’; so the next question is: ‘Do people need obstacles, adrenal fatigue, degradation, and all other forms of inhumane treatment in order to learn?’, the answer should equally be: ‘No, because that is a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is sadistically cruel’. But, why is it so difficult for de jure decision-makers to understand this basic principle? De jure sadism also occurs when de facto sadism is not investigated adequately, nor processed through the legal system, or when there are no substantive and procedural mechanisms for its prevention.


No wonder there is a lot of de facto sadism. If a human being’s conscience is in a way partially constructed by the social and legislative norms of the world around them, and if such a status quo has sadistic protocols; then it can be expected that people in general will also develop attitudes, and show manifestations of such sadistic tendencies which are of course internalised and culturally inherited. Now, the worst type of experienced sadism is when someone has both, de jure and de facto sadists around them and against them. This happens to minority groups of all types, not just to people with pituitary adenomas. The Hostile Environment Policies 2014-2016 were a great example of state-led cultural and attitudinal sadism. Webber (2019, p. 77) states: In the UK, these policies are collectively known as the “hostile environment”, policies which have the avowed aim of making life impossible for migrants and refugees who do not have permission to live in the UK, and which remove such migrants from the rights to housing, health, livelihood and a decent standard of living, liberty, freedom of assembly and association, family and private life, physical and moral integrity, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, and in the final analysis the right to human dignity and to life’. Indeed, the UK revealed at that point in time that it was culturally acceptable to hate immigrants; and in the legal industry you and I both know that justice is about what is correct or incorrect according to the principles which guide morals, behaviours, and so on. So it is clear that the UK does not want all those immigrants walking in the streets. It is clear that the world is filled with inequalities which create all types of problems forcing people to escape their homes and visit their international neighbours asking for first aid. So what can be done in order to balance all this? Abusing, torturing, and humiliating the disadvantaged is not the answer though. Furthermore, having our prime minister incorrectly call the legal human right of claiming asylum ‘illegal’ (Grierson and Sabbagh, 2020) is an attack against truth, and an offence against the international community. There is no such a thing as an illegal asylum seeker. I suppose the UK might have to create an asylum office in every country so people can apply for asylum without having to risk their lives crossing the channels. That would be a procedural solution to the concern of the contingencies of asylum travel. An asylum embassy, consulate, or something of the sort. Does it exist? No, because visas—  like democracy—  are business.  Asylum, however,  is the state of the global human condition; so what, Elon Musk can’t invade Mars fast enough?

References

Buckels, E. E., Jones, D. N. and Paulhus, D. L. (2013) ‘Behavioral Confirmation of Everyday Sadism’, Psychological Science, Los Angeles, SAGE Publications, 24(11), pp. 2201–2209 [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/13ueeno/TN_cdi_crossref_primary_10_1177_0956797613490749 (Accessed 11 August 2020).

Freud, S. (1923) ‘The Ego and the Id’ [Online]. Available at https://www.sigmundfreud.net/the-ego-and-the-id-pdf-ebook.jsp (accessed 14 November 2021). 

Grierson, J. and Sabbagh, D. (2020) ‘Boris Johnson accused of scapegoating migrants over Channel comments’, The Guardian, 10 August [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/10/boris-johnson-hints-at-law-change-to-deport-migrants-who-cross-channel (Accessed 11 August 2020). 

Luyn, J. B., Akhtar, S. and Livesley, W. J. (2007) Severe personality disorders, Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/h21g24/44OPN_ALMA_DS5189773850002316 (Accessed 28 July 2019). 

Pfattheicher, S., Keller, J. and Knezevic, G. (2017) ‘Sadism, the Intuitive System, and Antisocial Punishment in the Public Goods Game’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 43(3), pp. 337–346 [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/gvehrt/TN_sage_s10_1177_0146167216684134 (Accessed 26 July 2019). 


Reale, K., Beauregard, E. and Martineau, M. (2017) ‘Is Investigative Awareness a Distinctive Feature of Sexual Sadism?’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, pp. 1-18 [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/gvehrt/TN_medline29294688 (Accessed 26 July 2019).

Categories
Journalism Science

Women Who Are Mad

De facto and de jure social injustices are an expression of the id quo. These impulses have a detrimental effect on women’s daily lives, making it a lot more difficult for them to enjoy their human rights. This document has shared data particles of knowledge about current injustices occurring to ‘mad’ and ‘intersectional’ women in the UK, the psychological impact of these injustices (e.g. Borderline Personality Disorder), and the legal framework of international law, which the UK is subject to. De jure and de facto injustices exacerbate mental health problems, and lead to the introjection of maladaptive behaviours, and can corrupt the individual superego. Furthermore, UN Women (2016) recommends that  all countries take on board the Istanbul Convention, and the UK is a country member of the UN Security Council. The UK’s Domestic Abuse Act 2021 does not fully cover all the criteria necessary for the prevention and protection of women’s rights, as well as the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women. Similarly, the Equality Act 2010 only protects some of the many characteristics that elicit discrimination against human beings, and the word ‘dignity’ does not appear once in the Human Rights Act 1998. This seemingly innocuous semantic exception is a malpraxis. All these technical legislative failures lead to very costly consequences for the least advantaged in the status quo. The facts and figures have shown that women in the mental health sector are the most affected group, out of which patients with BPD tend to struggle the most with daily attitudinal obstacles, intersectional discrimination, and de facto impediments.

Film Review: We Are Monster (2014)

This film directed by Antony Petrou is rich in forensic psychological detail. It really shows the dark side of the criminal justice system (CJS). Based on a true story, We are Monster tells the story of the murder of Zahid Mubarek by Robert Stewart.

Psychoanalytic film theory: It is clear that many of the attitudes Stewart displayed were inherited from his father’s personality. In other words, the film captures the phenomenon of introjection, a defence mechanism which consists of internalising and adopting personality traits and/or behaviour of other people, especially authority figures. The film shows Stewart recalling a memory of his father arguing with his mother about her having been sexually involved with a person of a darker skin. From this scene it is clear that his father had an extremist and antisocial attitude towards people of different skin colours, and he is heard using racial slur. Consequently, Stewart came to associate a darker skin with ‘filth’ and ‘evil’, having internalised his father’s attitudes. The film constantly shows him having a conversation with a hallucination of himself similar to the way his father used to speak in general. In psychoanalytical terms, it could be said that the film shows Stewart’s ID talking to him all the time. The ego or self is shown to negotiate with this hallucination, and to be led and manipulated towards specific behaviours. It is difficult to say whether the introjection was accompanied by reaction formation, because it is difficult to differentiate Stewart’s criminogenic attitudes and/or actions from those of his father. The film portrays his childhood as self-less, cold, and full of trauma. Therefore, it is unclear whether these behaviours constitute an exploration of his father’s ego through a primary regression to a narcissistic state in which the superego is formed based on values learned from the world; or whether it is his self that has become established as a personality (i.e. whether this would be his behaviour if he was not experiencing a psychotic break). The film captures his schizophrenic crisis quite well. It allows the viewer to enter the criminal mind from thought to action. Petrou manages to illustrate the criminal insanity perspective by placing emphasis on the hallucination as the drive towards criminogenic activity.

Political anchors: This case was a huge scandal in the year 2000 and many inquiries were launched at Feltham Young Offender Institution in order to investigate the steps the government of the UK could have taken in order to prevent this tragedy, and what steps could be taken to prevent it from ever happening again. It was concluded that legally, there was much more the system could have done to prevent this re-offending, and the death of Zahid Mubarek. This case was a scandal when it occurred, and it is perceived as a double-edged cumulative failure.

Categories
Journalism

Book Review: Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work

This is a book I had been reading for a while, and which I have been sharing quotes about. Hare and Babiak’s (2006) Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work attempts to draw the similarities between clinical psychopathy, corporate psychopathy, and the general dark side of business. It also delves on topics such as personal relationships, and every day business contexts. It speaks to both, those who see themselves as psychopathic, and those who do not. It also speaks to victims of narcissistic relationships who have been played by callous and unemotional people, and brings the context back to the faculty of social sciences:

‘Indeed, this diffusion of responsibility is big business; witness the large number of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counsellors ready and eager to explain or exculpate criminal behaviour. This is good for criminals in general and for psychopaths in particular’.

Robert D. Hare & Paul Babiak (2006, p. 277)

Indeed, forensic psychology is a science that begins its investigative journey with the question: ‘what is a psychopath?’, and this is why books such as The Mask of Sanity, Without Conscience, and Snakes in Suits are relevant to wrapping up a general view about the label; and it is precisely because the label ‘psychopath’ is so controversial and so sensationalised that real experts on the topic, or students of the discipline feel like forensic psychology can be quite the depressing career. I mean, what to do with all this understanding about how psychopathy works when mainstream society finds researching the topic an insult itself? In regards to this, Hare and Babiak (2006, p. 278) state:

‘Perhaps this is why so many of those in the helping professions find themselves in big trouble by trying to help a psychopath’.

Robert D. Hare & Paul Babiak (2006, p. 278)

There are many troubles that can arise from trying to understand psychopathy. First of all, generally speaking, people perceive research which is focused on attempting to comprehend callous or unemotional behaviour as a dark behaviour itself. Second, many people think that when forensic psychologists speak of psychopathy as a scale, the majority of people are exempt from it. Third, most people associate the label ‘psychopathy‘ with criminal behaviour. However, this is not always the case. Hare and Babiak (2006) truly manage to capture this idea that psychopathy can happen in everyday contexts. Moreover, the book provides- so to say- a behavioural anatomy of traits associated with the label, and these traits (according to the authors) are very commonly found in business and organisational settings; as well as corporations. The title of the book (in my opinion) challenges the criminal stereotype often associated with the label, and although the authors do include such a behaviour too; it becomes clear that what is deemed as psychopathic can also appear dressed in a suit with a tie; an allusion to how seemingly ‘normal’ people can be psychopathic or have psychopathic traits.

Critical Note

I think Hare and Babiak (2006) risk sensationalising and stigmatising what is considered helping, validating, or empathic behaviour. Some parts of the book also paint a picture of a therapist’s approach as threatening:

‘The psychopath will try to convince you that he or she accepts you as you are’.

Robert D. Hare & Paul Babiak (2006, p. 275)

Yet, the book also states:

‘Some avoid talking to psychologists because they fear they will learn something uncomfortable about themselves. Psychopaths are well aware of these concerns and capitalize on them.

Robert D. Hare & Paul Babiak (2006, p. 271)

Considering that validating behaviour is constructed as potentially psychopathic, it is no wonder that some avoid therapy! The demonisation of helping behaviour is precisely what leads people to become paranoid when someone takes a collectivist approach to social interaction. In reverse, it can also lead to people not helping in order to avoid risking impression management. This can be problematic.

Categories
Opinion

Authoritarianism in Mental Health Settings

When I began this journey in Forensic Psychology, I did not expect to learn as much as I have. The main tenet of this career consists in understanding psychopathy, and psychopathology.

It does make me question authoritarianism and the ways in which it can manifest. For instance, Milgram and Adorno et al. studied the psychology of obedience under pressure, and how following orders led to the holocaust. An aspect that has been questioned little is how scarcity or the fear of scarcity has led to similar phenomena due to how people have been conditioned to see money as an enabler of everyday behaviour. For instance, when Milgram conducted his obedience experiments during the 60s, he monetarily rewarded his participants for taking part in the studies. Modern psychologists have attempted to re-examine the dynamics at Yale’s laboratory and what might have led the participants to show that they were capable of being sadistic under such conditions. An example is Gibson’s (2013) work which meticulously examines the prods given by the experimenter. In a way, Gibson seeked to understand how the orders and requests given by the authority figure contributed to the decision-making processes of the participants. However, I have not come across much research highlighting the role of the monetary incentive in everyday behaviour; or how being given a monetary incentive places a subconscious obligation on individuals to comply with requests, even if such requests at times make them feel uncomfortable.

The c/s/x movement, also known as ‘the psychiatric survivors movement‘ (Wikipedia, n.d.) explores how a large number of individuals report feeling or having felt dehumanised by the mental health system. For the unstigmatised person, it is often more common to assume that all these people expressing dissatisfaction with the system are crazy, than to understand the nature of what it means to respect a person’s dignity and human rights. It is quite a complex situation, because it is unclear what reinforces and keeps some mental health settings from actively listening to their patients’ concerns.

According to Turner (2015), signal detection theory (SDT) “describes processes whereby information that is important to the perceiver (known as the ‘signal’) is distinguished from other information that is unimportant and potentially distracting (known as the ‘noise’)”. It is my hypothesis that some of the inherently dehumanising behaviours occurring in the mental health system happen as a result of the hyper-normalisation of object-relations with patients. As I mentioned on my post Investigating the neuropsychopathology of prejudice‘, people can at times perceive those with stereotyped and stigmatised characteristics as non-human objects. This would of course increase the chance of mental health settings staff processing signals coming from clients as background noise, rather than as worth-listening-to human signals. Such established conscious and unconscious behaviours leading to the dehumanisation of many clients are reinforced through monetary incentives, and through an intragroup, mob-like co-validation of such unconscious biases. Like Eichmann, many live their lives constantly affirming to themselves that they were just following procedures and orders, or just doing their job; and therefore they believe it is not their responsibility to reflect on how clients are impacted by this. But the signals coming from mental health patients often stand in stark contrast to the common belief that these dehumanising, and at times non-empathic methods are appropriate, or even de facto acceptable.

I do think everyone deserves to be paid for their labour, and that having access to a basic form of income is an important foundation in any society; and I also think that mental health settings need to be encouraged or trained appropriately to detect clients’ signals as more than just background noise (i.e. as more than non-human objects signals) in order to reduce risk outcomes. The situation is problematic, persistent, and pervasive with these manifestations of authoritarianism in mental health settings. It would indeed be arrogant to assume that all the patients/clients expressing dissatisfaction with the service are wrong, or to culturally pathologise reasonable dissent. It would also be irresponsible and de jure unacceptable to fail to take steps towards alleviating feelings of ‘being dehumanised’ in civil society, especially if such feelings of dehumanisation have the potential to lead to never events, such as suicide.

References

Gibson, S. (2013) ‘Milgram’s obedience experiments: A rhetorical analysis’, British Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 52, York, The British Psychological Society/York University, pp. 290-309 [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/gvehrt/TN_cdi_gale_infotracacademiconefile_A332152211 (accessed 11 October 2020).

Turner, J. (2015) ‘Making sense of the world’, in Turner, J. and Barker, M. J. (eds) Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 7-45.

Wikipedia (n.d.) ‘Psychiatric survivors movement’ [Online]. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychiatric_survivors_movement (accessed 11 October 2020).

Categories
Opinion Tips

Blogging as a Method for Democratic Therapy

Blogs are a great way to express your voice. Even if your experiences have made you feel silent, oppressed, and unfairly treated at an intergroup relational context; you can still assert your thoughts, feelings and opinions in the online community. This way, blogging can be a method for cognitive-emotional democratic healing at both individual and collective levels.

Why is expressing your voice important?

Actions and reactions happen at inter and intra group levels for many reasons. Sometimes communicating our perspective helps elucidate a particular situation. So for instance, if you feel that some members of your social milieu have displayed hostility towards you as a result of the hostility that they themselves have been subjected to, you might be correct in assuming that such a hostility might have become hypernormalised at the group’s cultural level, and that such members are experiencing reactive-formative symptoms of trauma. For the minority individual, the experience of being let down, or rejected by a group, culture, system, or apparatus can be debilitating (i.e. it can feel like mob behaviour), and when this happens for a prolonged period of time; it can create feelings of marginalised frustration. Blogging is a good way to use your freedom of speech in a way that directly addresses the public audience, whilst simultaneously being an interpersonal method for expression.

The risk is to stay silent.

Setting up a blog

There are different ways in which you can begin your blog. The most common problem I hear when I speak with people about blogging is ‘I do not not what to say. I would not know where to start’. My answer is that such is precisely the way to start a blog. You do not need to know what to write about in order to express that you do not know what to write about. Sometimes it could be sharing your professional work. Other times it could just be about sharing an experience you went through. I tend to shift between these modes. Most of the time, I share some of my thoughts, feelings, and add something interesting that I have been researching about. Regardless of what your needs for expression are, blogging is an effective method for online communication and an interdisciplinary style for socialisation. But, what blog to use?

Choosing a blogging platform

Different people will prefer different types of blogs for their journalism depending on how much time or effort they wish to invest in the endeavour. Here are a few options:

  • Blogger: A very simple and generic user experience design for expressing thoughts. It has an archive of dates which store your thoughts across time. The interface is easy to learn, and it is free of charge. It is ideal for those only getting started in cybercultural activities.
  • Google Sites: This platform truly is flexible in terms of allowing the user to experience freedom in how to structure their pages. It is useful for creative projects and for getting started with digital design. It lacks an automatic blogging archive, so if what you are looking for is a place to log your thoughts, Blogger is a better option. All you need is a Google account.
  • WordPress: This blog (as you can see at the bottom of the page) is powered by WordPress. The reason why I personally prefer this platform is because it gives me a wide margin of flexibility when it comes to design, as well as simultaneously having an archive for blog posts which permits organization.
  • Medium: For those who do not wish to either hassle neither with the design nor with the other technicalities, Medium allows people to register and write. It is a community project, meaning that people from all walks of life contribute to the discussion.
Categories
Journalism Videos

Introducing the Youtube series: All racists are narcissists

Hello everyone!

Lately I have been focusing my time towards doing some research and I will be publishing the findings on my Youtube channel. In these series of episodes I will be describing the key terminology related to matter, and then I will touch on psychological theory, and neuropsychological research about racism and narcissism. So if you are interested in understanding the psychology of these phenomena, please tune in!

And thank you for subscribing.

Betshy P. Sanchez Marrugo
Categories
Opinion

Critical Review: Dear Sword and Zimbardo, my University Made me Write this

Most available self-help for post-traumatic stress (PTS), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is based on a general assumption that the problem is cognitive or perceptual, instead of situational or circumstantial (known as a fundamental attribution error). Sadly, prolonged exposure therapy (PE) is sometimes used to treat such symptoms. This document will start by defining some key terms, and then it will proceed to critically evaluate some of Sword and Zimbardo’s (2018) statements about self help and therapy for PTS as cited in The Open University (2019). Finally, it will touch on the topic of suicide in the UK, and how the rates suggest that sometimes a change in the system, rather than in the patient is needed. 

According to Ghafoori (2018, p. 124), PE involves ‘sufficient processing of the traumatic event by revisiting, repeating, recounting, and actively engaging with the trauma memory’. In other words, clients are deliberately exposed to the threatening stimuli that trigger their worst fears. This is similar to the definition posited by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2018), which describes torture as happening ‘when someone deliberately causes very serious and cruel suffering (physical or mental) to another person. This might be to punish someone, or to intimidate or obtain information from them’. Such form of therapy can be described as the most barbaric way to treat someone with PTSD. Some might be tempted to counter-argue that PE is not done to intimidate or punish, but rather to help. Nevertheless, the evidence in neuropsychology shows that the mere perception of pain or internal discomfort can damage the nociceptor neurons (those which process pain signals); and can therefore induce, for example, hyperalgesia (an abnormal hypersensitivity to pain, or the perception of pain; Medical News Today, n.d.; Miguez et al., 2014), which is the opposite of analgesia (a reduced sensitivity to pain).  It is triggered by associative cues which produce assimilative signals that trigger psychosomatic hypervigilance, and an aversion to such cues therefore. This is why those who suffer from PTS can at times feel as though ‘they were being tortured’, and actively seek to escape or avoid such stressful stimuli. This will be explored further in the following paragraphs, especially when talking about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a severe mental health illness manifesting in those who have experienced prolonged and extreme forms of trauma since childhood (NHS.UK, 2019). 

Sword and Zimbardo’s (2018) excerpt describes PTS correctly when they say that it is trauma which is carried on after an event happens, and which manifests as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and sleep disturbance. Moreover, they also ratify the set of symptoms as categorised by the American Psychiatric Association (2013): ‘depression, anxiety, flashbacks, avoidance, isolation, difficulty falling and/or staying asleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability, an exaggerated startle response and hypervigilance’. However, as a caveat it must be stated that ‘avoidant’ behaviour should at times be categorised as a survival skill, rather than a symptom. For instance, hyperalgesia can be induced by overwhelming the nociceptors in the brain with painful contextual cues which a person already perceives to be unpleasant, as explained by Miguez et al. (2014). This means that avoidance of painful stimuli can at times save someone from an increased sensitivity to painful situations. Moreover, Rotter’s (1966) theory of the locus of control as cited in Cherry and Barker (2015:235) would indicate that avoidance of a destructive stimulus would be in the individual’s locus of control, and this would also be supported by Rogers’ (1975) protection motivation theory as cited in Boer and Seydel (1996) which posits that fear-inducing stimuli are emotionally unpleasant, and it can therefore be expected that people will seek to avoid such stimuli. In addition, another problematic statement made by Sword and Zimbardo (2018) is that people with trauma see the world through a ‘darker lens’. Cherry and Barker’s (2015) work posited how self-help psychology at times fails to understand that it is not always the individual’s cognition that is faulty, but rather the reality around such individual (i.e. scientists can sometimes make fundamental attribution errors). A good example mentioned by Cherry and Barker (2015:244) is that of poverty, which effects on the human psyche include a lack of self-worth, a disruption of normal functioning, and feelings of marginalisation. As this is a circumstantial situation, trying to change a person’s perceptions of such real hardships might only contribute further to their symptoms. This is why it can be said that those who are seeking to profit from their work are avoiding poverty, which again is a protection-motivated behaviour, and not a symptom; therefore, challenging assumptions that avoidance is a mental health problem is crucial to improving mental health systems. Furthermore, Sword and Zimbardo (2018) also describe resentment as being a phenomenon experienced by those with PTS; however, the cluster symptomatology they list- ‘going to work, preparing meals, being interested in what they did that day—become chores’- is more consistent with the construct of anhedonia (losing pleasure in doing things that once brought a sense of comfort and satisfaction; Ritsner, 2014) than that of resentment, and this distinction is very important when trying to understand PTS; because depression-induced, affect-reactive behaviour is often mistaken with and stigmatised as narcissistic rage, or a toxic personality.  

Furthermore, not only can PE induce hyperalgesia, but it can also create more repressed forms of trauma, and people can end up getting worse. Since pain-avoidant behaviour is not irrational when thinking about the way in which human neurons’ function and how these react to overwhelming amounts of discomfort, why is such inhumane treatment so often justified? Indeed, exposure to stressor cues which produce psychological discomfort can physically damage nociceptors, and this might explain why BPD with comorbid PTS patients, for example, are seen as ‘difficult to work with’ (Harvard, 2006) due to their exhibited hypersensitivity and hypervigilance (Palmer and Unruh, 2018). This type of systemic prejudice is based on a presumption of cognitive and behavioural guilt; especially if such expectations and attitudes are perceived as torturous by the client.  No wonder many BPD clients develop an aversion to health-care, and no wonder Cherry and Barker’s (2015) chapter on self-help highlighted some of the paradoxical reactions that can happen when people are given the wrong type of help, or the wrong set of coping techniques. For example, some expectations when it comes to treating traumatised individuals are unrealistic and can make some individuals feel worse. Some of these errors include expecting someone to only think optimistically, or to ignore the circumstantial stressors they experience.  Furthermore, Eysenck (1998) posited that when the nervous system is overwhelmed by external stressors, this causes an increase of the release of corticosteroids (stress hormones) and when too many corticosteroids are released, the immune, endocrine, and circulatory systems can malfunction. So the awareness of the potential repercussions of prolonged psychological torture, or PE is not new, and many of those who engage in such activities know that what they are doing is perceived as harmful by others (actus reus) and if they continue doing it nevertheless, then there might also be a guilty intent behind such decisions (mens rea; Palmer, 2018). 

It is dangerously equivocal on one hand to call avoidance of suffering a problem, and on the other hand wonder why people are self-harming. For example, Wager (2015) explained that only 1 in 800 cases of child sexual abuse make it to child protection services, which means that most of the victims of such henious acts grow with the trauma they experienced, and recreating their sexual abuse not only would be illegal, but it would only make things worse for them. This is why PE can have disastrous consequences for those who are severely traumatised. Moreover, expecting someone who has endured sexual abuse to stop avoiding their worst fears would be irrational; and such confusion could potentially lead the individual into further traumatic circumstances and relationships, or to suicide, which is not that uncommon in the UK nowadays. For instance, according to Samaritans (2019) there were 6,859 suicides in the UK in 2018. This was a ‘significant’, and tragic increase in rates from previous years. The cruel nature of everyday mental health misconceptions might have contributed towards such results (Kinderman, 2015). The ambiguous messages sent by certain frameworks can leave people feeling hopeless, confused and neglected, a prerequisite for suicidal ideation. Compassion, however, could save lives (Kinderman, 2015:291). So in the case of BPD with comorbid PTS, a treatment going wrong is often blamed on the patient rather than on the health system. It is a paradox because the mere action of the patient complaining is categorised as a symptom, rather than as a rational response to a painful, unfair, and/or stressful trigger.  This is why taking into account socio-environmental stressors should not be an exclusively academic matter, but rather a general rule for the prevention of inhumane and degrading treatment. Nevertheless, it is good that Sword and Zimbardo (2018) display a well-intentioned contribution to the development of more effective mental health apps, a topic that is beyond the scope and capacity of this document. 

To summarise, Sword and Zimbardo’s (2018) work as cited in the Open University (2019) mentions PE as one of the traditional forms of therapy used to treat PTS; nevertheless, they seem to attribute most problems to human cognition, rather than to situational factors. Furthermore, they seem to be deleteriously equivocal when they use the criteria for anhedonia to describe resentment, without providing satisfactory evidence to support their claims. Finally, they describe avoidant responses as a symptom, rather than as an everyday behaviour. However, research has shown that avoiding certain situations is rational, and mental health frameworks should take this into consideration when treating severely traumatised individuals, instead of speculating and risking someone’s physical integrity to death. 

References

American Psychiatric Association (2013a) ‘Posttraumatic stress disorder, in Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed, Arlington, pp. 271-280.

Boer, H. and Seydel, E. R. (1996) ‘Protection motivation theory’, Conner, M. and Norman, P. (eds), Predicting Health Behaviour, Buckingham, Open University Press, pp. 95-120. 

Cherry, S. and Barker, M. J. (2015) ‘Self-help: changing people’s understandings to change their experience’, in Turner, J. and Barker, M. J. (eds), Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 227-259. 

Equality and Human Rights Commission (2018) ‘Article 3: Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment’, 15 November [Online]. Available at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-3-freedom-torture-and-inhuman-or-degrading-treatment (Accessed 26 April 2020).  

Eysenck, M. (1998) ‘Biological bases of behaviour’, in Eysenck, M. (ed), Psychology: an integrated approach, Essex, Addison Wesley Longman Limited, pp. 23-67. 

Ghafoori, B. (2018) ‘Prolonged exposure therapy for experiential avoidance: a case-series study’, SAGE, pp. 122-135 [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/gvehrt/TN_sage_s10_1177_1534650118766660  (Accessed 26 April 2020). 

Harvard (2006) ‘Borderline personality disorder: treatment’, in Harvard Mental Health Letter, 1 July [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/gvehrt/TN_medline16862705 (Accessed 26 April 2020). 

Kinderman, P. (2015) ‘Beyond disorder: a psychological model of mental health’, in Crighton D. A. and Towl, G. J. (eds), Forensic Psychology, 2nd edn, West Sussex, John Wiley and Sons, The British Psychological Society, pp. 291-300.

Medical News Today (n.d.) ‘Hyperalgesia: What you need to know’ [Online]. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318791 (Accessed 26 April 2020). 

Miguez, G., Laborda, M. A. and Miller, R. R. (2014) ‘Classical conditioning and pain: conditioned analgesia and hyperalgesia’, Acta Psychologica, Elsevier, pp. 10-20. 

NHS.UK (2019) ‘Borderline personality disorder’, 17 July [Online]. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/ (Accessed 1 May, 2020). 

Palmer, B. and Unruh, B. (2018) Borderline Personality Disorder : A Case-Based Approach, 1st ed, Belmont, Harvard Medical School [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/h21g24/44OPN_ALMA_DS51130622870002316 (Accessed 27 April 2020). 

Palmer, E. J. (2018) ‘Psychological approaches to understanding crime’, in Davies, G. M. and Beech, A. R. (eds), Forensic Psychology: Crime, Justice, Law, Interventions, 3rd ed, West Sussex, The British Psychological Society/John Wiley & Sons, pp. 27-47.

Ritsner, M. S. (2014) Anhedonia: A Comprehensive Handbook Volume I : Conceptual Issues And Neurobiological Advances, 1st ed, London, Springer [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/13ueeno/44OPN_ALMA_DS5176564010002316 (Accessed 27 April 2020).  

Samaritans (2019) ‘Suicide Statistics Report’, December [Online]. Available at https://media.samaritans.org/documents/SamaritansSuicideStatsReport_2019_Full_report.pdf (Accessed 26 April 2020). 

The Open University (2019) ‘Excerpt 2’, DD210-19J Study Guide: Week 27: TMA 05 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1467741&section=1.2 (Accessed 26 April 2020). 

Wager, N. M. (2015) ‘The psychology of extreme circumstances’, in Turner, J. and Barker, M. J. (eds), Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 139-178. 

Zimbardo (1973) Took Ecological Validity Far Too Seriously

Psychology as a science employs the experimental scientific method when trying to determine the cause and effect of everyday phenomena. It is believed that validity (when a study actually measures what it aims to measure) and reliability (when an experiment can be replicated, and the results corroborated therefore) are essential components of theoretical foundations. Ecological validity is a term used to describe the extent to which laboratory experiments can mimic natural conditions (Turner, 2019).

For instance, if a psychologist is trying to determine the effects of crime on mental health, an experiment would have to be conducted in order to test these  variables; nevertheless, some aspects of crime scene and court settings are impossible to test due to the fatal, or extremely damaging nature of such situations. Consequently, many experimental forensic psychological hypotheses cannot be taken outside the laboratory, nor can these be tested in natural conditions; and this is why mock-studies are conducted in order to understand the processes involved in case law, but these are considered to have very low ecological validity. A good example of a mock forensic psychology experiment gone wrong is Zimbardo’s (1973) Stanford Prison Experiment as cited in Eysenck (2000), which was extremely traumatic for the participants, as severe psychological damage was imposed on them.

Half of the participants took the role of prisoners, and the other half took the job of prison guards. The reason why mock studies are conducted is to make sure that no harm is done to participants; yet, this experiment went beyond the scope of mock studies and some of those playing the prisoners could no longer differentiate whether the experiment was real or not. Nowadays this type of experiment would not be allowed by an ethics committee due to its high level of ecological validity. The way in which guards abused the power and authority given to them was atrocious, and the overall experiment was detrimental to every single participant in each category.

Eysenck (2000, p. 568-569) stated: “Violence and rebellion broke out within two days […] One of the prisoners showed such severe symptoms of emotional disturbance (disorganised thinking, uncontrollable crying, and screaming) that he had to be released after only one day”. Furthermore, Zimbardo was harshly criticised for having failed to protect the physical and mental health of all parties involved. What makes a experiment a mock-study is the fact that prisoners usually know the reason why they are imprisoned; whereas Zimbardo’s study added an extra-factor by misleading them into thinking they were imprisoned for real.

Overall, Zimbardo’s (1973) experiment was very much ecologically valid and consistent with miscarriages of justice, such as when a person is innocent and yet is sent to prison, what can be imagined to be a nightmare of confusion, uncertainty, fear, and injustice. 

References

Eysenck, M. W. (2000) Psychology: A Student’s Handbook, East Sussex, Psychology Press Ltd, pp. 568-569, 789. 

Turner, J. (2019) ‘5 Focus on methods: ecological validity’, DD210-19J Week 18: Making sense of the world, The Open University [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1467730&section=5 (Accessed 17 March 2020).