Psychotherapy and the concepts of good and evil.
The author here considers the phenomena of Good, Evil and Virtue in
the context of psychological illness and psychotherapy. He starts with
Greek philosophers--stoics, also Aristotle and Plato--who related well,
evil and illness to virtue and who considered these qualities as a
condition of (psychological) good health. Good health is also an
expression of virtue. The author stresses that psychological illness
begets evil for the patient and, by, affecting his or her behaviour, for
others. The author points out that psychotherapy distances patients from
their behaviour by assuring them that they are not responsible for their
illness. Psychotherapy liberates patients from their illness and,
indirectly, from evil. At the same time, it does not free patients from
guilt, which is not its task. Guilt is expiated in the process of
regret, forgiveness and penance, as was recognized and elaborated by
Christianity in Europe. These acts are tasks the patient undertakes in
the process of therapy. The question the author poses is whether and, if
so, how, psychotherapy should address these problems. The method of
spreading evil by abusing power were well researched experimentally by
Zimbardo and artistically described by Orwell in his novel
"1984." In conclusion, the author returns to the founders of
psychotherapy and points out their treatment of "Good" and its
"institutionalization" in Western culture. He outlines the
task of psychotherapy and its limitations and reflects on
"Good" in the process of restoration of health and virtue. At
the same time, he warns against undue moralizing in the search for
"Good" and virtue because, as Nussbaum says, "they are
extremely fragile." But he also reminds that psychotherapy is
indebted to cultural and Christian, Jews and Ancient traditions from
which it sprang and on which it draws.
Good, evil, human virtue, health, psychotherapy
Philosophy of mind (Research)
Good and evil (Psychological aspects)
|Publication:||Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616|
|Issue:||Date: July, 2010 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 2|
|Topic:||Event Code: 310 Science & research|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: Czech Republic Geographic Code: 4EXCZ Czech Republic|
Good and evil are important concepts in the context of
psychotherapy, even though they are not directly related or explicitly
mentioned. Contemporary psychotherapy considers these concepts as moral
or philosophical and deems itself as morally neutral or morally
irrelevant, bypassing these terms, turning away from them or ignoring
them. But psychotherapeutic reality is different.
Greek philosophers--Socrates, Plato and Aristotle--considered human "Good" as EUDAIMONIA, or virtue. Socrates said it is impossible to harm a "good" human being. As long as virtue remains irrefutable, virtuous life will remain. Even though there were attempts to undermine this thesis--by pointing to the role of accidents or influences beyond the control of the individual--it was clear to the ancient Greeks that virtue opens, enables and assures a "good" life. They believed that uniting the "goodness" of life with virtuous character, which cannot be contained within itself but must externalize itself through activity, assures what the modern world calls spiritual health. External events, such as accidents and other influences beyond human control may be accepted by a person with dignity and honor, thereby keeping them in the realm of "Good".
The Stoics bring in another important category--emotions. They consider emotions as forms of discerning judgments. In that sense, emotions acquire even an ethical dimension. Pertinent here is Gadamer's notion (Gadamer, 1994) that basic judgment does not consist merely of recognizing that something is right or wrong, logical or not, but also but that it is anchored in the sphere of good and evil in which the human existence takes place. Plato and Aristotle distinguished between knowledge "techne" or "episteme", which always refers to external general truths or existence and knowledge of "Good", which is knowledge that is personal and includes the knowledge of one's self in the broader sense of the knowledge of the meaning of life and human existence.
It follows that "Good" cannot be derived from "episteme". The Stoics, and especially Seneca, see here a big pitfall, because such judgments may be erroneous and should be avoided (along with emotions as they are perceived today), because erroneous judgments may lead to deviation from "Good". Emotions are sometimes good and sometimes not. They are reliable only to the extent to which they have a cultural foundation from which they arise. The influence of culture and accepted norms determine the type of emotions. Hence we see that what we call social influences on human nature (which, because it has not been separated from human behavior, could not be axiomatically neutral) have always been considered as self-evident.
Another important thesis is the duration or persistence of emotions as it relates to their origin and development. Contemporary thinking considers education and upbringing as the determining factors. The Stoics new well that what is rooted in "motivational structure of personality" is hard to change. Therefore, they paid particular attention to the educational influence of children. (Alexander the Great himself was educated by Aristotle.). They also knew that emotions must be brought under control and must be guarded well; otherwise they would threaten us or lead us astray. By attributing to emotions a cognitive character and not considering them as mere unsystematic impulses of libidinal or explosive nature, which could be controlled only by will and not by knowledge, they opened the possibility for their (self) control. In Stoics' opinion, because emotions, once aroused, can get out of control, they should be suppressed altogether. For example, hatred, envy or the urge to cause harm can best be controlled by suppression. To the Stoics, these emotions must be eradicated.
It is also important to recognize that ancient thinkers associate Good life with Virtue. By contrast, our notion of "good life" is narrowed down to happiness, health, wealth and general well-being. Virtue here is absent. (Plato's and Aristotle's notion of "Good" are considered in the context of being are of little or no professional interest to therapists.)
For the psychology of the twentieth century and of today, the blending of spiritual health and virtue is unthinkable. It is possible, however, and as we shall see later, probable, that this ethical neutrality, which aims to exclude judgment from psychotherapy, narrows the concept of spiritual illness considerably. Yet, paradoxically, from the point of view of psychotherapy, this neutrality is in a certain limited sense necessary. For psychotherapy became a healing method within the framework of medicine only by setting aside the ethical value judgment of behaviour, motives and inclinations. For the same reasons, medicine set aside as inappropriate moral judgment of, say, venereal diseases or AIDS and the entire pathology (although we see some ambivalence as it concerns addictions). Moral judgment is not part of somatological therapy since the days of Hippocrates. The reason is that medicine refused to play the double-role of judging the morality of illness from practical as well as moral reasons. It left this role up to other disciplines. Contemporary medicine, as a subject, is centered strictly on the biology of the individual, excluding axiological dimensions. Axiology is limited to evolutionary process of natural selection and, in that sense, is reduced to the symptom of adaptation.
Psychotherapeutic neutrality originates from the same notion of an illness as the rest of medicine. But whereas in somatological medicine the non-judgmental approach does not pose problems, in psychotherapy it poses a methodological problem. For psychology concerns it not only with illness, but also with human behaviour, and the rejection of the natural distinction between good and bad conduct and intent weakens the understanding of human behaviour and the human existence. The neutral approach restricts the understanding of motives and relations and circumstances in which psychological illnesses occur and in which they are to be found.
The Stoics were aware of the origins of emotions and took a generally ontogenetic approach to it. Their writings document their awareness of how the emotions of the adults had evolved from the emotions of small children and changed over time. They knew that adult emotions originate from strong early childhood emotions containing the elements of ambiguity from the very onset. At the same time, they were aware that, from the ethical point of view, emotions can be good or bad. They also knew that emotions are just as reliable as the cultural context in which they arise. According to the Stoics, the cultural context did not relatives good or bad conduct, but gave it a certain meaning. Good could not become bad under different circumstances and vice versa, but merely acquire different forms in different circumstances.
Although psychotherapy denies and ignores moral judgments, it has enough clinical evidence to show that psychological illnesses are linked to bad emotions and conduct. But there are several reasons why psychotherapists refuse to make a value judgment. First, they are aware that a moral upbringing of the patient, in its traditional educational sense, does not lead to a cure. Also, psychotherapy has also more or less established that patients are victims rather than perpetrators of evil. Evil acts of patients, which stem from specific psychological disturbances, are considered as side-effects of the illness.
The problem is also in that illness is defined as something that takes place only within an objectively defined "psychology" and ends on the subjectively defined individual. Therefore, psychotherapy derived from the subjective-objective methodology cannot comprehend illness as it relates to Good and Evil or Virtue and Vice. This is all "external reality" or an internal state of the mind that are in and of themselves only a psychological reality. It seems, therefore, that psychotherapy does not have the solid, basic and unchanging holistic concept of psychological illness which has Virtue and Vice as its integral part. Virtue and Vice are in part due to Good and Evil conditions and influences and in part personal weaknesses, succumbing to difficult conditions or yielding to temptations, weaknesses, shortsighted impulses or human imperfection. These elements which cause illnesses influence those patients who bad or unfavorable conditions create and maintain as well as to those who, with the traits present at the outset or during their illness, help to create or maintain. Our everyday experience convinced us that psychical illness and good and evil does not exit only in human brain but manifests itself in everyday activity in the outer world.
Psychotherapy is capable of conceptualizing its findings only in part, but is capable of using them quite effectively. Some justifiably believe that, thank to this methodological shortcoming, i.e. "forgetting" the axiological dimensions of mental disease, psychology and psychopathology enables the therapist to employ new therapeutic concepts and models of the mental side of human life.
Moral judgment of patient's behaviour was put into the brackets as the program. Isolation of behaviour from all ethical approaches exculpates the patients from all foul habits which paradoxically brought to patients and their doctors a great relief. But on the other hand it brought axiological resignation and strengthens moral relativism. This confusion was not until now overcame
Hence, psychotherapy does not call a patient who succumbs to fear a coward or a weakling, but rather as manic-obsessive or a victim of a phobia. It does not call obsessive compulsive patient an unbearable stickler, a manipulator suffering from delusions, superstition or hunger for power. It calls an individual who is shamelessly parasitic and exploitive of other peoples' compassion and generosity as someone with "passively dependent orientation with symptoms of depression." It calls an utterly inconsiderate, selfish individual a "narcissistic personality", an insecure hypocrite looking for faults in others as someone with a "personality disorder with paranoid traits," or an unrealistically demanding individual who gets offended whenever there are demands placed on him a "borderline personality."
That is not to mention the category of additions (to opiates, games, danger, etc.) in which the acts of the addict, which are an integral part of the disease, include robberies, and other violent criminal acts, embezzlement or theft. The acts or the intentions of the patient defined as "reactions" or the "behaviour of the victim of the disease" are thereby morally exonerated. The removal of moral blame in these cases may seem troubling, but it brought the tremendous benefit which exceeds the limits of therapy itself. It enables us to enter the hitherto closed network of dependencies and interdependent contexts of (mental, but also psychosomatic) illnesses and weaknesses and helps find methods ways to confront them.
The abandonment of the moral aspect by psychotherapy is not absolute, but is sufficient to enable the patient to feel safe from criminal indictment and isolated from the perception of guilt and, in a therapeutic sense, to stand on his own feet. Psychotherapy reduced the tangle of moral judgments to "illness," which it then considers as innocent.
There are several reasons for putting it into brackets and they proved particularly felicitous at the early development of psychotherapy. We have known with certainty since Sigmund Freud that Vices related to mental disease cannot be considered either as freely chosen elements of human existence or the result of mistaken and morally blameworthy rejection or denial of "Good." A mentally ill person is thrust into his or her condition and locked there. The individual and the disease meet somewhere along the way and it is not a desired or happy reunion. The condition of the patient is determined by external influences--such as living conditions he/she did not choose, create or even influence--into which he/she is born and in which he/she grew up. Critical are also children's relations to with people belonging to their most intimate and personal environment, including the parents, siblings and others who lived with them at home. Also critical in the development of a mental illness are inappropriate love, lack of understanding or domestic discord. A child does not choose its genetic code, nor its parents, makes no decisions about its home, cannot influence or change it. Because of this cognitively innocent onset of a mental disease, the Vices derived from it are for the therapist irrelevant even though they influence the patient's decision making. The human is a being of free choice. The choice, however, ceases to be free when based on unconscious and biological, i.e. independent, causes.
A question arises, which a psychotherapist must ask, what to do with mental diseases which are genetic or have some other biological causes ... Who is to blame for those? God? Nature? Whom should we curse, at whom should we point the finger? Who or what is to be condemned and held morally accountable?
Does the existentialist's creed that a human is the product of a free choice make sense? Or did it lose its meaning with the introduction of genetic theories and theories of biological determinism? Good and Evil have been undermined by "suprahuman powers", pre-psychological motives, and declared as self-serving ideological rationalizations. The concern behind this question is based on the assumption that theories provide a real explanation of human existence and, with it, the problems of Good, Evil and Freedom. But that is not so. Theories explain only the laws applicable in the biological realm of lower species. They do not explain human culture or the nature of human soul. All that it asserts is based on the hypothetical deductive extrapolation based on biological premises, which it expands, but does not prove. They are deliberative and speculative constructs that ignore the close and personal experiences of our existence. Among them is sense of freedom, as well as Good and Evil. The answers to the questions both the therapist and the patient must ask can be found in our immediate and irreducible experiences found in the real world. That world opens up in what confronts us directly, not in the artificial realm of speculation.
Psychotherapy, this new approach to an individual, sidelined axiological judgments as irrelevant. The lack of virtue is not deemed as Vice, but rather as a psychologically defined, and hence neutral, feature of human behavior. The meaning of the lack of Virtue is shifted to the inner sphere of motivation or to external happenstance. Illness does not appear as Evil in and of itself but only in its consequence. Thereby, the patient is stripped of responsibility for acts he carried out during his illness.
Three main religions--Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism--deem that, while vices belong to the private sphere of an individual, they do not begin or end at the boundary of our "Self." They come from the outside but grow in our soul and spill out to the outside world. Thus they have a holistic "world" dimension.
Evaluating judgment in psychotherapy harks back to the time when the patient was afflicted by suffering, people who played a key role in the development of the disease and events which gave rise to it. That is where it ends. Forgetting has consequences, so recollection is necessary to understand fully the meaning of presence.
Psychotherapy, by expanding into the sphere of the unspoken, points to another reality. Although it is not, and does not want to be, reduced to education, psychotherapy has educational effects. It's most important finding is that Virtues cannot be acquired by punishment, which serves only to delimit the space of loving care. Education which is not based on caring love causes harm and moral decay. Psychotherapy brings into education a new aspect and new inspiration. It promises that humans are beings that, most of all, need to be loved, who, from their birth must be understood, and who need to be treated with dignity and respect and who for their failings, should be pitied, rather than censored. A human cannot live happily without a home, and needs to live in the belief and hope in the values that form the basis for his or her relationship with others. Humans need standards on which they can rely and which they themselves can, with love and understanding, apply to others.
Humans cannot delegate this approach to others. They must behave to themselves and to others by themselves. That is evident without new theories or concepts. Here, psychotherapy can, and is capable of, drawing on millennia of historical experiences, which our Greek, Judaist or Christian, traditions created. It can find inspiration in valuable experiences and ideas of other cultures which are more accessible nowadays than ever before.
Axiology faces a whole range of problems in today's world. As long as moral judgments are one-sided, incomplete or premature and emotions (and the related conduct) are judged in and of themselves, i.e. without genetic associations and out of context, and are viewed not only as vices, but also as "moral incapacity," it is impossible to consider Virtues or Vices in general. When these qualities are viewed out of context, general moral values and methods cannot be concretely established.
An individual can rid himself of mental illness by constituting new, adequate human conditions. Mental illness has, in the real world, an ethical dimension, which needs to be considered. Psychotherapy encompasses the acceptance of responsibility and blame or the meaning of forgiveness. But these terms are too closely tied to the "self" and do not correlate equally in social context in which they arise. Psychotherapy does not know how to handle atonement and does not have reliable forms in which to secure forgiveness and harmony.
Terms such as responsibility and blame were well known to the Greeks and were deeply explored by Jews (in the Old Testament) and by the Christians (in the New Testament) in the process of confession. A Vice, considered as a sin and the betrayal of God's commandments, however, does not contain an individual genetic aspect that could be considered individually and from the perspective on personal history. Until the arrival of psychotherapy, Christian Europe did not have a method for a personal moral reckoning that could apply to an individual in its entirety. St. Paul in his epistles points out that to free one's self from the power of Evil and reach Virtue takes the blessing of forgiveness, which comes not only from above but also from outside, because only those who have been harmed (or their representatives) can forgive. Christians and Jews before them knew that Vice insults God and that sin is committed not only against God, but also against people.
An individual can be rid of Vice only by the forgiveness of those who have been harmed. The admission of guilt and atonement provide solace, but not a cure. They don't eliminate the causes that trouble the soul. Psychotherapy found a way to find and neutralize them. But it does not have the means to rid the patient of guilt altogether. Its means are limited and only partial. A mere awareness of causes and a change in behavior do not suffice, for the past is present not only in the ontogenesis, but in the acts, which constituted it.
The liberation from Vice has three prongs. The old one leads through unconditional atonement, the subsequent one takes place in the individually-centred and contextually conditioned understanding of one's moral failing. The last one uncovers the influence and the meaning of external causes and reveals the individual as a victim, not a cause, of Evil. This, "incipient" by nature, but conclusive in its realization, approaches psychotherapy. Each addresses a part of the problem and suggests a solution.
It seems, however, that even here the situation differs according to the type of therapy which is carried out in the context of family, the society and cultural setting. That is true especially in family therapy, group therapy or a combination of the two. Still, we see that psychotherapy alone cannot be the solution that an individual needs and that attains the roots of Good and Evil where the individual has no control and where he/she can fail or succeed. These roots are addressed and reached by the end psychotherapy where culminates and the individual is free of the illness and strong enough to own it.
That does not mean that Evil has been conquered and Good established unless there is a firm and stable protection of Virtues. Who can provide that? The Church is not equipped to handle new problems with old methods. Psychotherapy knows how to treat diseases and patients, but does not know how to handle good health and Virtues.
The scope of the problem is considerable. As was said before, psychotherapy is able to deal with problems, which contain Vices, but does not deal with the consequences the patient caused and does not free him/her from guilt or let him/her forget. Hence a patient may be cured, but, through the consequences of his/her conduct, remains in the past. Psychotherapy cures, but lacks the awareness of Vice within the illness or the meaning of atonement, which lead to forgiveness and hence to the "remedy" in a broader sense than that contained in the definition of the illness. It also knows that penance contained in a confession, or some other form of self-cleansing rids the patient of guilt, but not of the illness. It does not concern itself with a significant part of reality, such as the development of Vices into a mental illness and it is unaware of the concept of mercy, which enables the patient to forget.
Ancient Greeks saw the roots of Vices not only in emotions, but also in the conduct of individuals who gave up and fled from personal responsibility toward themselves, others and the world as a whole. Where the person and personal responsibility have been decoupled, they believed, the person loses the moral force of Virtue. Christian teachings added that once we stop seeing an individual as a "brother," we become morally weak and apt to succumb to Evil. American psychologist Philip Zimbardo has written extensively about this phenomenon. He experimentally established the causes and conditions under which an ordinary human can commit inhuman acts and is capable of behaving toward others with inconceivable cruelty. But he does not address the internal dispositions and does not seek the origins of evil acts in the ontogenesis. He merely addresses the external conditions and circumstances under which evil acts occur in which Virtue vanished and Evil took its place.
Zimbardo in his experiments showed how good people become evil under specific conditions, which he arranged according to principles modelled on Milgram. The first and basic element in this process is self-deception, which enables the individual to justify the means by the end. Once the means are so established, the path to Evil is open. Rationalization will then easily complete the "ideological" foundation on which individuals can develop the process of converting from good people to evil ones who, in extreme cases, are capable of unspeakable cruelty and who, as Zimbardo pointed out, are even proud of their acts. The ideological deception forms the basis for justification of evil acts by good intentions or purposes. Milgram points out that inhuman behaviour must be based on some form of obligation or promise. As an example, he uses not only Nazi Germany and the totalitarian Communist regime, but also some religious sects.
The next step in the formation of Evil is the assumption of a role by the individual, which has previously been established as positive and the establishment of rules intended not so much to enable the process but the demand obedience. The same applies to the interpretation of existing rules differently or in a different context.
Next is the manipulation of the context. For example, Zimbardo in his experiment changed the wording of the instructions to enable the subject to treat its victims in the name of helping them to learn through punishment. He then gradually increased the severity of the punishment.
The weakening of personal responsibility is also possible by blaming others and shifting responsibility to others, in some cases, the victims themselves. The path to Evil, Zimbardo maintains, begins with small, but significant steps. In his experiments at Stanford University, he exposed his students to a small electric charge (of about 15 volts), which was then increased to a point where it actually endangered the subject's life. He defined the increase in the electrical charge as amounting to only 3 percent of the original amount, which added to the previous increase, adds up considerably (as opposed to adding 3 percentage points, which would increase the voltage by three percent of one, rather than three percent of one hundred). Zimbardo eventually had to simulate the increase in the electrical charge because actual increases would be lethal.
The effect of standard human behaviour also changes by a change in the authority and its function. The functioning of a society requires the existence of superiors and elementary obedience of the subordinates. But the same activities lose their meaning and impact when the leadership changes. The new superiors can gradually issue commands that, in effect, limit the subordinates' choices (freedoms) until few or none remain.
One of the most effective ways of maintaining societal evil is to make it impossible for people to engage in activities which have a negative impact on others. The superior verbally disagrees with certain negative activities or their impact, but insists on continuing those activities and generates in the subordinates the impression that they are not being Evil and merely obey what they are being told.
What facilitates and maintains societal Evil are not biological predispositions nor subconscious tendencies, but rather, as Gustave Le Bon points out in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, anonymity and the adoption of a mob mentality by the individual. Experiment with anonymity involving children strongly established the force of imitation, as well as the tendency to disregard the consequences of one's behaviour and overlook the seriousness or dangers that reality poses. Children (and under some circumstances adults as well) have the general tendency to consider many situations as a game, not a reality, if they are encouraged to do so. Hazing in the military or fraternal organizations is a good example of this tendency.
It also appears that, once an individual is labeled as "us," and another as "them," the label "them" carries a negative meaning and those belonging to "them" became an easy target of assault regardless of the actual reality. "Them" are different, do not belong and, therefore, must be rejected and expelled.
Bandura created a model of moral laxity and dehumanization in experiments in which the presence of dehumanizing labels, such as "students are jackasses" or "one of ours," led to a vastly different behaviour between this group and a group without labels. People felt free to abuse those who carried a demeaning label, but not those labelled as "ours" or "good guys".
When the Greeks speak about the cognitive role of emotions, they mean that emotions can be separated from their external expression. But they don't consider this as normal or permanent. Mutual separation creates the opportunity--one could call it a vacuum--in which emotions can acquire a different meaning or even type. The result is a change in relations, a new approach to a given situation and new attitudes or value judgments. Simultaneously, there arises the potential for a new interpretation of relations, their reprogramming and manipulation. Psychology and psychotherapy is aware of this reality, it does not examine it or elucidate it with sufficient precision.
As Zimbardo points out, Evil prospers best in an environment in which it is ill defined and remains anonymous. Once its crosses from a defined to an anonymous environment, the condition for Evil has been created. We only need to remind ourselves the devastation of the border areas of the Czech Republic following the expulsion of Germans after World War II when names, addresses and nationalities of millions of individuals disappeared and the "reign of anonymity" set in and opened space for utterly selfish conduct. Experiments have also shown that the number of violent acts among teenagers coming from correctional facilities dropped considerably once they were transferred from the anonymity of their existence to a well-defined environment.
We can conclude, therefore, that Evil acts in an intimately known environment have their roots or occur for other reasons than in the anonymous environment of, for example, city slums or ghettos where streets may have names, but everything belongs to nobody. Here, imitation becomes important. People have the tendency to imitate others, which raises the role of leaders. Those who are recognized as leaders are imitated and what they to others tend to copy.
George Orwell, in his novel 1984 showed that even Good people can be induced to perpetrate Evil acts. Instrumental in this are established and institutionalized forms of upbringing supported or tacitly encouraged by parents and teachers. There are huge examples of this today all over the world. Denying this would be irresponsible.
Among Adolf Hitler's first policies after he took power in 1933 was to re-educate the population. While proclaiming the sanctity of the family, he destroyed the intimacy of family life by subjecting it to ideological dictates and state control. Ironically, many of those people who suffered emotional collapse--as in any other stress situation--were able to escape the blind following of the authorities and were freed from the dependence on the ideological and social authority that tormented them. Many more studies, however, need to be carried out to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.
Indifference and inactivity are part of societal Evil. It appears that in an environment which is idle and in which nothing is created does not defend its values and, de facto, supports the inception of evil acts and evil behavior. It transforms virtuous, industrious citizens into those they wouldn't have even dreamed about before. But besides those who act evilly coexist those who know what is happening, do not act and do not challenge the evil doer. By doing nothing they, in effect, support Evil. Both European totalitarian regimes--Fascism and Communism--are good examples of an unchoreographed, natural experiment that proved these theses beyond any doubt. Those who accepted Evil by doing nothing against it formed a vast "gray zone", apart from active resistance.
Zimbardo also points out that executioners and torturers do not have to be Sadists, who are rare. Rather, they are ordinary, decent human beings who succumbed to evil. We can understand these people only if we can identify the set of ever changing circumstances that contributed to the formation of murders, torturers or tyrants.
As Zimbardo points out, Orwell's novel 1984 reflects the technology of Evil and illustrates that the corruption of positive human features can be accomplished as follows: By teaching people to obey instead of value freedom. Creating social isolation and mob mentality instead of guaranteeing the freedom of association and, with it, the freedom of choice and mutual trust. Monitoring and exposing intimate relations, which will result in the demise of intimacy and, with it, the structure of "self" Replacing individual expression with politically correct "newspeak" and, instead of acting based on reality, acting on the system of denial of reality.
In Orwell's 1984 we surmise that tyrants have to destroy human dignity and pride in order to govern. Human dignity is eroded by demeaning acts which bring shame on the individual and "softens" him/her to make them more susceptible to taking the blame. Any kind of love, spiritual or carnal, caring or pitying, is systematically devalued and eliminated. The language, an important component of tyranny, is fabricated and moulded to vague and stereotypical slogans. The eradication of intimacy is one of the key factors in the process of controlling humans, depriving them of liberty and turning them into an instrument of Evil.
In this context, we should recall Nussbaum's concepts of "fragile Good". Building on ancient thinkers, she demonstrates that Greek philosophers were well aware that Good and Virtue are delicate and can easily be damaged. As "Good" creates the most delicate and beautiful paintings, statues, vases or forms the most sterling character, Evil can destroy them with ease.
As vulnerability is part of weakness, psychotherapy is the treatment of spiritual injuries, wounded hearts and devastated souls. These injuries, many of which become mental diseases, originate in Evil, which is neither instinctive nor Sadistic. Evil, which is formed by means of neglectful education, indifference and narrow-mindedness, by ideological prejudice or culturally conditioned failures in the upbringing of children. In general, where enlightened, open system of care for the individual does not exist, the foundations of Evil have been laid.
Psychotherapy needs to look at itself, undergo its own analysis. The liberation of patients from mental illnesses is not only ridding them of suffering, but also freeing them from the clutches of Vice. Psychotherapy implicitly supports the cultivation of Virtues, but this has not become its explicit program built on free human existence, mutual openness, respect for the self and others, trust and hope that this will lead to "Good" which has to be nourished.
Psychotherapy is well aware how easily it could become the tool of moralists, who would first trod on their brittle "Good" and then hijack their methods.
Still, psychotherapy, with its neutrality and unwillingness to make value judgments, contains within itself forgotten human motivations and the attitude of their creators. Their attitudes are anything but expressions of disinterest in human Virtue. They perceive Virtues as examples.
Breuer and his treatment of Anne O., as well as Freud's own problems with the same patient, show they did not approach her treatment with objective, scientifically neutral attitudes, that would allow them to isolate the ethical side of her symptoms, but rather with understanding, compassion, kindness, patience and the desire to help her. Tolerance, understanding and the desire to help were among their decisive motives which determined their therapy. Both therapists took enormous risks in conducting Anne O's psychoanalysis. She was scheming and skillfully used her good looks to erotically manipulate the therapists. That Breuer and Freud, after a great deal of personal effort, were able to take a neutral, impersonal approach to Anne O's treatment was the result of an internal struggle they fought for years. Their neutrality, their refusal to make axiological judgment was their personal approach, which they then publicly proclaimed as the professional approach. It was an approach that enabled psychoanalysis, and later psychotherapy, to become standard methods of healing, which repudiated value judgment.
The institutionalization of this approach had one invaluable advantage and one drawback. Psychotherapists and their patients "depersonalized" the rendition of treatment and its reception. Both sides have lost the sense of obligation. Therapy is not rendered as part of personal kindness, but rather as general humanity. Is it possible, however, to render kindness impersonally or "institutionally"? Doesn't the original Good transform into the Orwellian indifference, which then becomes the leading force of Evil?
It is necessary to remember that institutionalized benevolence has become commonplace, while personal kindness is ignored or forgotten. In medicine, personal kindness appears only in psychotherapy, and only in a limited, fragmented form. There is also a paradox in the Western general consciousness. As if we have completely forgotten that the institutionalization of benevolence, compassion, self-sacrifice, kindness, patience, tolerance and respect of an individual, as well as the conception of love as the carrier of the meaning of relations and the new meaning of divine love are the fruits of centuries of Christian culture and its tenets incorporated into the society and its institutions. Due to the fact that our civilization was capable--despite the struggle, failings and catastrophes of incorporating this Good and Virtue into the every-day life it, paradoxically, became commonplace and normal. What is missing is gratitude to our ancestors as well as non-ideological awareness of the present. Is psychology taking any notice of these Goods?
Psychotherapy is the reservoir of Goods which our civilization offers and Virtues which it needs to function properly. These Goods have to be tended constantly because psychotherapy cannot afford to remain detached from reality, no matter how forgotten or hidden it may be Among the problems that have arisen in recent times are reductionism, "technologization" of psychotherapy, insensitivity to cultural and historic themes, the absence of spirituality, the gradual growth of witchcraft and the disregard of philosophical reflexes.
The care for human soul does not belong to one profession or one science. Nor can it be consigned only to professionals. Only the finding and examination of relations and an open debate will help people to see what we all want to see--the Good, which, as Nussbaum so tenderly points out, is so fragile.
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Jiri Ruzicka is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. His first training is psychoanalytical, Dynamic Community-Group psychotherapy, Rogerian, Jungian, Psychedelic training, Balint and International training of Supervisors. He is head of Psychotherapeutic and Psychosomatic Clinique ESET in Prague and rector of Prague college of Psycho-Social studies.
Address: Prague College for Psycho-social studies, Hekrova 805, 149 00, Prague, Czech Republic. www.viap.cz Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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