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Messages - pobis

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There is this inherent insecurity about the consequences of your actions (related to the absurdity of the world), and to the fact that, in experiencing your freedom, you also realize that you will be fully responsible for these consequences; there is no thing in you (your genes, for instance) that acts and that you can "blame" if something goes wrong. Of course, most of us only have short and shallow encounters with this kind of dread, as not every choice is perceived as having dreadful possible consequences (and, it can be claimed, our lives would be unbearable if every choice facilitated dread), but that doesn't change the fact that freedom remains a condition of every action.

Sartre calls it "bad faith" when you deny the concept of free will by lying to yourself about your self and freedom. This can take many forms, from convincing yourself that some form of determinism is true, to a sort of "mimicry" where you act as "you should." How "one" should act is often determined by an image one has of how one such as oneself (say, a bank manager) acts. This image usually corresponds to some sort of social norm. This does not mean that all acting in accordance with social norms is bad faith: The main point is the attitude you takes to your own freedom, and the extent to which you act in accordance with this freedom. A sign of bad faith can be something like the denial of responsibility for something you have done on the grounds that you just did "as one does" or that your genes determined you to do as you did. Lying to yourself might appear impossible or contradictory. Sartre denies the subconscious the power to do this, and he claims that the person who is lying to himself has to be aware that he is lying - that he isn't determined, or this "thing" he makes himself out to be.

[...] Sartre indeed derides those who act out roles: bourgeoisie with their comfortable sense of 'duty', homosexuals who pretend to be heterosexuals, peeping Toms who get caught in the act of spying and, most famously of all, waiters who rush about. All of these, he says, are slaves to other people's perceptions - 'the Other'. They are exhibiting mauvaise foi -- 'bad faith'. He emphasizes what is not over what is, the latter being a rather humdrum sort of affair consisting of the kind of things that scientists examine, while the 'what is not' is really much more interesting. [...] And hence, we come back to our own natures, our own 'essences'. We exist, yes, but how do we 'define ourselves'? It is here that the waiter comes in:

His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with the recklessness of a tight-rope walker by putting it in a perpetually unstable, perpetually broken equilibrium which he perpetually re-establishes by a light movement of the hand and arm

This spotlight on 'consciousness' is what made Sartre's name. But, curiously enough [...] his lifelong intellectual confidante and companion Simone de Beauvoir, also describes various kinds of consciousness, in passages ranging from wandering through an empty theater (the stage, the walls, the chairs, unable to come alive until there is an audience) [...] As well as this one:

It's impossible to believe that other people are conscious beings, aware of their own inward feelings, as we ourselves are aware of our own," said Françoise. "To me, it's terrifying when we grasp that. We get the impression of no longer being anything but a fragment of someone else's mind."

[...] Now who's showing bad faith? Sartre or the waiter?

[...] Truly it is itself a philosophical tale. On the one hand there is the well-known plot of Sartre the womanizer who denies the dutiful Beauvoir the marriage in order to preserve his 'existential freedom'. On the other, and much less known, is the factual history recorded in their letters to one another. This records that, in 1930, Sartre proposed marriage to Beauvoir. She was aghast at this, both for the conventionality of the proposal, and for the conventionality of Sartre's assumptions, and it was she who insisted instead that if they were to spend their years together she wanted to be able to continue to have other relationships (with both male and female lovers).

[...] back to the waiter. Now I've observed waiters too. They often need to perform tasks quickly, for a practical reason, not an optional one related to their 'false consciousness'. The job is skilled -- demanding more than demeaning [...]

That's what happens when people sit all day long in a coffee shop - they would, of course, have nothing else to do but watch waiters come and go!

Current Law Students / Re: Legal Reasoning
« on: February 14, 2012, 12:49:26 PM »


The hypertrophied rationalism of American law is a product of trying too hard to be good: of failing to accept that law is always a somewhat crude and potentially destructive social steering mechanism, that works best when it remains a tacit presence in the social background. Instead Americans insist on subjecting themselves to a dictatorship of the bureaucratic: one in which the answer to every important social conflict inevitably involves more rules and procedures, more rights and obligations, more "reasons" and "principled justifications" given in the course of constructing ever-more complex analytic and rhetorical circles for choosing to do this rather than that -- in brief, more law.

Much of the baroque complexity of modern American law represents what is at best a wasteful multiplication of transaction costs, and at worst a symptom of a species of institutionalized mental illness. Much of the basic structure of American law is a pointless or even pathological outgrowth of various rationalist delusions.

The excesses of American rule of ideology are in large part enabled by our unwillingness to accept that reason, when properly employed, works to make its further employment superfluous. Reason, that is, works ironically toward its own effacement. [...] Outside a legal equilibrium zone law tends to be both an invisible and a powerful factor in the maintenance of social cohesion. By contrast within such a zone the inevitable contradictions in the legal rules such situations produce are clearly visible, and as a consequence the rules themselves are rendered relatively useless. Faced with such legal and social contradictions, we can not decide efficiently processed legal diputes on the basis of "reason". We merely decide.

The essential fallacy of legal rationalism is thus to think that what works well in moderation will work even better in large doses. So deep is this belief that when the more extreme manifestations of legal reason fail altogether we tend to manifest a willful blindness to this failure, or we undertake what soon become perverse efforts to perfect systems of rules that, by the nature of the problems they address, can't be perfected. When neither of these strategies work we do what courts often do and simply indulge in magical thinking, assuming, of course, e.g., that because a court ends its opinion with the phrase "it is so ordered," "it" is both going to happen, and to produce a series of predictable social effects.

[...] American law, that is, may well find itself betrayed by its own overweening pride in having succeeded in its quest to bring so much of American life under its sway. As a consequence of the legal system's increasing tendency to deny the true nature of its crucial but relatively modest role as a social coordination and dispute processing mechanism, our law is becoming so elaborate, so hypertrophied, so pointlessly complex, and hence so unnecessarily expensive that alternate modes of getting from here to there on the social map are already springing up all around us. [...] And of course various militant ideologies of the far right serve as diconcerting reminders of how considerably more radical forms of dissent against what is called the rule of law are already simmering.

Like the donkey of the fable who starves to death because he is exactly equidistant from two stacks of hay and therefore can't decide rationally to which stack he should go, we demand dispositive reasons for choosing where there are none. Less principled than the ass, we than "discover" -- at great fiscal and psychological expense -- some answer that must be arrived at more or less arbitrarily, while still insisting that this particular outcome was impelled by the law, or legal principles, or reason itself.

Here it is an interesting post on Americans in general - the way they think, behave and the like - very much in consonance with the prevailing ideology described in the above post. Couldn't be otherwise, after all, America's "philosophy" and idology was fashioned after of the French Revolution's Illuminism. 

4. Americans are not "stupider" than Europeans or Canadians or anyone else. Our technology proves it -- even if you grant the fact that much of Americas technology now was created by non-natives, but even more so our entreprenuership, much of which is native. So why does it appear to outsiders that Americans are stupid?

Second of all -- and this is the case because most Americans are still educated in public schools -- most Americans are either ignorant of or deliberately dumbed-down in the subjects that Americans must learn if they are to be bequeathed an empire, history and its sister, geography. This goes beyond the fact that geography bees tend to be won by home-schoolers. When less than 30% of public schooled students can't find Iraq on a map, and when so many fewer than that know that places like Iraq have never been totally conquered by imperialist powers, that can be put down to just how ignorant (not stupid) Americans are when it comes to history and geography.

In casual conversation (called "small talk"), Americans prefer to talk about the weather, sports, jobs, people they both know, or past experiences, especially ones they have in common.  As they grow up, most US citizens are warned not to discuss politics or religion, at least not with people they do not know rather well, because politics and religion are considered controversial topics. By contrast, people in some other cultures are taught to believe that politics and/or religion are good conversation topics, and they may have different ideas about what topics are too "personal" to discuss with others.


The ideal among Americans is to be somewhat verbally adept, speaking in moderate tones. They are generally taught to believe in the "scientific method" of understanding the world around them, as if there is some kind of "truth" about people and nature that can be discovered by means of "objective" inquiry. People from some other countries might pay more attention to the emotional content or the human feeling aspects of a message, without assuming the existence of an "objective truth."

The result is that Americans are likely to view a very articulate person with suspicion. This is because Americans are not intellectually capable of anything more than simple talk. The conclusion that Americans are intellectually inferior is logically reached when you also consider the fact that Americans do not regard argument as a favorite form of interaction. What US citizens regard favorably as "keeping cool" -- that is, not being drawn into an argument, not raising the voice, looking always for the "facts" is nothing else but coldness and lack of humanness.

Current Law Students / Re: Non-Verbal Leakage
« on: February 14, 2012, 12:19:31 PM »

Law professors won't do much overtly, they engage in subtle violence. Often, when we think of violence, we think of the very overt, loud, obvious kind — primarily physical violence, but also in the form of "over the top," very loud, confrontational (and frightening) yelling, screaming or threatening.

But there is also a more subtle and insidious form of "word violence," and this occurs much more frequently because it "goes under the radar" and masks itself as "normal." While it can be easily dismissed or overlooked because of its quieter presentation, it can do serious damage none-the-less, by

1) creating stress
2) fostering oppression
3) deflating motivation
4) curtailing creativity
5) eventually leading the way to more overt forms of violence.

In individual interactions, one who uses the power of words in subtly violent ways may be doing so consciously, in a purposeful effort to manipulate, or unconsciously, out of his or her "unexamined Shadow." Examples of subtle "word violence" can show up as malicious gossip, passive-aggression, purposeful withholding, inconsistency, incivility, and bullying, to name a few.


Withholding draws its power from the imprinting of an authoritarian system, in which people have been trained by more overt communications — including body language — so that ultimately the overt words or facial/body expression are no longer needed in order for the person in the perceived position of authority to manipulate the situation to his or her advantage. [...]

Some parts of the body can be controlled more than others. The easy parts to discipline are those parts whose actions we are most aware of in everyday signaling. [...] The legs and feet are of particular interest because this is the part of the body where people are least aware of what they are doing. [...] Legs and feet are a vital give-away area.

Here it is a very interesting post on "body language" lying kind of thing!

Current Law Students / Re: Psychopath attorneys
« on: February 13, 2012, 04:16:13 PM »

[...] Crucial to understand how a person comes to think and feel like a racist or a virulent nationalist or a member of a street gang or a religious or psychoanalytic sect. The mechanisms are the same and that the process of taking in the values as 'a given', adapting one's own primitive anxieties to that group's particular version of splitting, projection, stereotyping and scapegoating, leads to the same kind of impoverishment that nurses experience -- of the ability to think and feel with moderation and to deal with reality and anxiety.

It is projected into the structure or the Other and given back -- not detoxified, but -- as an injunction to behave inhumanely toward patients, Lacanians, Jews, Armenians, 'the Evil Empire' or whomsoever. It is by this means that we became certain, without thinking about it or meeting many, if any, of the people involved, that Germans are sadistic, Japanese cunning, Italians sexist, Mexicans lazy, French romantic, English decent, Scots dour, Canadians boring, Swiss efficient, Dutch tidy, Scandinavians cold, Spaniards romantic, Russians passionate, Turks depraved, Arabs fanatical, Jews avaricious, Hawaiians friendly, Australians gauche, Chinese inscrutable, Africans rhythmic, White South Africans racist and authoritarian. We have been sure of all these things all our conscious lives, but we do not recall learning any of them.

We are dealing with a whole new level of grip. It's done with superglue -- cemented or bonded with the most primitive level of feeling that we have. [...] Members do it with projective identification.' Members of families, couples, groups, institutions, tribes, cultures and so on. [...] What is true of worms served up as food for birds is also true of people with respect to prejudices and other deeply held beliefs. They become so deeply implanted or sedimented that they are 'second nature'. [...] First we project our destructiveness into others; then we wish to annihilate them without guilt because they contain all the evil and destructiveness. When we read accounts of the genocide of the Conquistadors, the Stalinists, the Germans, the Kampucheans, the Americans or the Iraqis, we must ask what has been projected into these people from the most primitive parts of their tormentors. [...]

[...] What is being a fan of a movie star or a groupie of a rock star other than romantic, idealizing projective identification? Where positive aspects of the self are forcefully projected similar degrees of depersonalization occur, with feelings of personal worthlessness and with dependent worship of the other's contrasting strengths, powers, uncanny sensitivity, marvellous gifts, thoughts, knowledge, undying goodness etc. This is the world of the devotee, cults and hero-promotion.

It is also a world in which people will do anything a Bagwan or a Rev. James Jones tells them to do -- from sexual license to mass suicide. The same suspension of one's own sense of right and wrong is at work in the followers L. Ron Hubbard in the Church of Scientology as in the minds of the devotees of Charles Manson, killing rich Californians, and in the convictions of bombers and perpetrators of sectarian murders in Northern Ireland or terrorists from Lybia, though the ideologies of the respective group leaders may have utterly different apparent of real justifications.

[...] A further group presence in the unconscious is in the notion of 'pathological organizations' in borderline psychotic states, the subject of a burgeoning literature. In discussing this, Herbert Rosenfeld explicitly describes the individual as in projective identification with a 'gang in the mind': "The destructive narcissism of these patients appears often highly organized, as if one were dealing with a powerful gang dominated by a leader, who control all the members of the gang to see that they support one another in making the criminal destructive work more efficient and powerful.

However, the narcissistic organization not only increases the strength of the destructive narcissism, but it has a defensive purpose to keep itself in power and so maintain the status quo. The main aim seems to be to prevent the weakening of the organization and to control the members of the gang so that they will not desert the destructive organization and join the positive parts of the self or betray the secrets of the gang to the police.

Current Law Students / Re: Psychopath attorneys
« on: February 13, 2012, 04:04:10 PM »

[...] We could think of two or three things which might rescue us from experiencing Freud's reductionism as hopelessly ignorant of the importance of social causation. The first is to look deeper and investigative how certain public values and structures get into the unconscious before they get projected and rationalized as the public interest. [...] Bion takes us further into the lowest depths -- the most primitive and most refractory defences of all. He put the point clearly in the conclusion to his essay, "Group Dynamics -- A Review," which was more explicit about the Kleinian inspiration of his ideas than his better-known collection of essays, "Experiences in Groups" Bion says, "Freud's view of the dynamics of the group seems to me to require supplementing rather than correction" [...]


Following on from Bion's experiences in groups, Elliott Jaques and Isabel Menzies Lyth conducted research in various organizations and found the same mechanisms at work, with the defences embodied in the mores and structures of the institutions. I believe that this model is at work in innumerable situations -- neighborhood gang, school, workplace, country club, religion, racial, political and international conflict. When one comes into contact with the group, subculture or institution, the psychic price of admission is to enter into that group's splits and projective identifications.

In her classical paper on "The Function of Social Systems as a Defence Against Anxiety," Menzies Lyth describes the link as it applies to student nurses: "[...] I have used the term "social defence system" as a construct to describe certain features of the nursing service as a continuing social institution, I wish to make it clear that I do not imply that the nursing service as an institution operates the defences. Defences are, and can be, operated only by individuals. Their behavior is the link between their psychic defences and the institution'. There is a complex and subtle interaction, resulting in a matching between the individual's defences and the institution's. The processes 'depend heavily on repeated projection of the psychic defence system into the social defence system and repeated introjection of the social defence system into the psychic defence system. This allows continuous testing of the match and fit as the individual experiences his own and other people's reactions.

'The social defence system of the nursing service has been described as a historical development through collusive interaction between individuals to project and reify relevant elements of their psychic defence systems. However, from the viewpoint of the new entrant to the nursing service, the social defence system at the time of entry is a datum, an aspect of external reality to which she must react and adapt. Fenichel [...] states that social institutions arise through the efforts of human beings to satisfy their needs, but that social institutions then become external realities comparatively independent of individuals which affect the structure of the individual. The student nurse has to adapt her defences to those of the institution.

The latter are relatively immutable, so she shapes hers until they are congruent with the institution's. [...] Thus, the individual cannot bring the content of the phantasy anxiety situations into effective contact with reality. Unrealistic or pathological anxiety cannot be differentiated from realistic anxiety arising from real dangers.

Therefore, anxiety tends to remain permanently at a level determined more by the phantasies than by the reality. The forced introjection of the hospital defence system, therefore, perpetuates in the individual a considerable degree of pathological anxiety.

Current Law Students / Re: PI
« on: February 13, 2012, 04:03:27 PM »

[...] People have no rights and he, the psychopath, has no obligations that derive from the "social contract." The psychopath holds himself to be above conventional morality and the law. The psychopath cannot delay gratification. He wants everything and wants it now. His whims, urges, catering to his needs, and the satisfaction of his drives take precedence over the needs, preferences, and emotions of even his nearest and dearest.

Consequently, psychopaths feel no remorse when they hurt or defraud others. They don't possess even the most rudimentary conscience. They rationalize their (often criminal) behavior and intellectualize it. Psychopaths fall prey to their own primitive defense mechanisms (such as narcissism, splitting, and projection). [...] The psychopath projects his own vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and shortcomings unto others and force them to behave the way he expects them to (this defense mechanism is known as "projective identification") [...]

As to the mechanism you mention - I have read about a similar concept in social psychology - that of self-fulfilling prophecy, a process in which we find confirmation and proof for our stereotypes by creating stereotypical behavior in out-group members through our treatment of them. Word, Zanna & Cooper in 1974 conducted a set of experiments that shows such. In the first study, they asked white students to interview job applicants who were either white or black. The students tended to display discomfort when interviewing the blacks; for instance, they sat further away, stammered, and ended the interview earlier. In a second study, the researchers varied the behavior of the student interviewers so that the latter acted towards a job applicant either the way that the interviewers had acted towards whites or the way they had acted towards blacks in the first study. They found that those applicants who had been interviewed in the way that blacks had been interviewed were judged to be more nervous and less effective than the others.

No kidding, Violet Bear - PI appears to be "the man" - here it is a related post on how groups rely on the phenomenon to function

Fight/Flight mentality and the choice of a leader in the Fight/Flight group

As to the choice of a leader for a fight/flight group, Bion says:

"It is usually a man or woman with marked paranoid trends; perhaps, if the presence of an enemy is not immediately obvious to the group, the next best thing is for the group to choose a leader to whom it is."

This statement is important for several reasons. First, it makes it obvious that, according to Bion, it is not the leader who chooses his group -- neither according to his own needs or his perception of the group's needs -- but much more the basic assumption group which seeks and chooses its appropriate leader according to its (unconscious) needs. And second, the group's need to find an enemy, against whom they can either fight or from which they can flee, exists even before that enemy has been found, discovered or, indeed, invented. In other words, one might say, that if the Jews hadn't been there already for the Nazis to identify as the enemy, responsible for their miserable plight, the Nazis would have had to invent them! And as for the leadership role in this fight/flight dynamic, the German people were highly successful in picking a personality from among their ranks (who was, of course not even a German, but an Austrian!), and whose capacities as a leader of the fight/flight basic assumption have remained virtually unparalleled in history, Adolph Hitler. According to Bion, leadership is a product of the group mentality, not its origin. He writes:

The leader, on the basic assumption level, does not create the group by virtue of his fanatical adherence to an idea, but is rather an individual whose personality renders him peculiarly susceptible to the obliteration of individuality by the basic group's leadership requirements.

And here Bion links this phenomenon with the Kleinian theory of projective identification:

To me the leader is as much the creature of the basic assumption as any other member of the group, and this, I think, is to be expected if we envisage identification of the individual with the leader as depending not on introjection alone but on a simultaneous process of projective identification.

This "loss of individual distinctiveness" applies to the leader as much as to anyone else.

Thus the leader in the fight/flight group, for example, appears to have a distinctive personality because his personality is of a kind that lends itself to exploitation by the group demand for a leader who requires of it only a capacity for fighting or for flight; the leader has no greater freedom to be himself than any other member of the group. Bion compares this leader with

"an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his own will. He is leader by virtue of his capacity for instantaneous, involuntary combination with every other member of his group and only differs from them in that, whatever his function in the work group, he is the incarnation of the basic assumption group leader.

Bion points out that it is incapable of tolerating frustration in the long run, because in the sphere of basic assumption phenomena, time itself is not a relevant, not even an existent dimension of reality. Flight offers an immediately available opportunity for expression of the emotion in the fight/flight group and therefore meets the demand for instantaneous satisfaction -- therefore the group will take flight. Alternatively, attack offers a similarly immediate outlet -- then the group will fight. The fight/flight group will follow any leader who will give such orders as license instantaneous flight or instantaneous attack.


Containment as a leadership style -- where does it come from?

How containing the style of the leader and how given to blaming others when things go wrong (paranoid/schizoid position) versus acknowledging one's or one's institution's contribution towards the trouble one is in (depressive position), depends to a very large degree on the individual's capacity to maintain a relatively mature stance as opposed to falling into a defensive/paranoid one, and this capacity is based on early experiences and their later reworking as the life-cycle progresses. The assumption underlying this aspect of psychoanalytic theory suggests that the conditions necessary in order for a proper Container-Contained relationship in the Bionic sense to come into being are:

a) when an individual has him/herself had sufficient experience of containment in the course of his or her personal development, and
b) when s/he has thereby developed a capacity to identify both with the container as well as with "being contained" and then, through the process of introjective identification, has been able to include this as a significant and stable aspect of his or her own internal life.

This developmental process thus enables one to increase one's capacity to contain, and to employ containment of anxiety as a psychic tool, which can then be utilised as necessary in the authoritative execution of leadership roles.

Very interesting, the-Q-card, but there's another post, an even more interesting, post on this whole thing -

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