Phil's Philosophy

Mind Meanderings of an Alchemist

The Two Faces of Desire, Competition versus Cooperation

  1. When desire is immersed in an atmosphere of fear — such as fear of losing status, or face, reputation etc., or just fear of losing as is — the object of desire is pursued in a spirit of competition.
    In a succinct schematic format:
    Fear + Desire -> Competition
  2. When desire is immersed in an atmosphere of camaraderie, in which fear is excluded, minimized or compensated by an atmosphere of sportsmanship, the object of desire is pursued in a spirit of cooperation.
    In a succinct schematic format:
    Love + Desire -> Cooperation

Ad 1. This situation automatically generates envy (unhappiness at other people’s happiness) and sadism (happiness at other people’s unhappiness). That is, becoming unhappy if and when a competitor wins and one loses. Consequently, conversely, a sadistic desire for retribution naturally emerges. That is, to gain satisfaction (happiness) when one wins at the expense of a losing competitor.

If a person wins and all the others therefore lose, by the character of (ruthless) competition, the winner may, rightfully or wrongfully, anticipate envy coming from the others. He may expect them to harbor wishes of opportunities to exact sadistic retribution, situations in which the winner ends up losing, at the gratification of the others, to get even.

Ad.2. Desire of the second kind, i.e. desire backed up by camaraderie, is likely to yield better results with respect to the psychological well-being of the people involved, because there is no need for winners to become paranoid of envious and vindictive losers.

Any field, sport, discipline or endeavor can be presumed to be a superposition of these two extremes, competition versus cooperation. Which one component is the more pronounced depends on probably a lot of factors, such as geographical region, type of culture, political system, type, age-bracket, gender, etc.

Addicted to Winning

Maybe this helps to explain why the victories of top-athletes can have rather short-lived euphoric durations, when achieved in fiercely competitive environments and the winners cannot really share their joy with anyone of their peers, who naturally tend to be envious and sadistic rivals. To win a trophy or medal or championship must be similar for a drug-addict to get a fix. The euphoria of winning may manage to push the enveloping atmosphere of ever-present fear and anxiety to the background, for a while. But when the high wears off, the craving for a new fix (win) is quick to resume.

Although he probably meant it in a different way, it looks as if old Rockefeller was right indeed when he said that:

“Competition is a sin.” ~ John D. Rockefeller

Maybe it’s time we work to shift the emphasis from competition to cooperation and as such increase happiness and save us from the anxiety, envy and paranoia that belongs to a redundant addictive and actually quite inhuman drive for success.

Narcissism of Eating Disorder Sufferers

People suffering from eating disorders, mostly young women, have in common that they all are dissatisfied with their bodily appearance; they feel themselves to be too fat and have a overriding desire to be “thin”. They are ashamed of themselves with the way they look and as a consequence feel inferior and suffer from low self-esteem. They transmute this sense of guilt and shame into an ultimately pathological motivation to lose weight, in a rather desperate and tragic attempt to gain approval and acceptance.

This motivation — rooted in a potent but self-destructive admixture of shame, inferiority and selfishness coupled with a craving for admiration — is what they have in common with that of the classic narcissist. Both the narcissist and the ED sufferer are bound together in an history of being shamed, either by parents or by peers or by others,  for either their unfortunate misdeeds, or their very existence itself. It should come as little surprise that…

…studies have also found that people with bulimia or anorexia are often highly narcissistic and tend to:

  • Have an inability to soothe oneself.
  • Have an inability to empathize with others.
  • Have a need for admiration.
  • Be hypersensitive to criticism or defeat. Source

But there is a difference between the two. While the narcissist seeks to identify himself with a self-salutary inflated self-image, the EDS on the other hand pursues a self-image that is extremely deflated and humble. Whereas the narcissist wishes to be praised for his boldness and grandiosity, the ED sufferer seems to like nothing better than to be as minimally obtrusive and intrusive as possible. Whereas the narcissist projects once suffered shame outwardly onto others, by casting scorn and encouraging awe and envy for his “supreme” self-image, the ED sufferer holds on to that festering shame by keeping on projecting it inwardly. In short, the mentality of the narcissist is that of the sadist and the ED sufferer that of the masochist.

Religion used as a Pacifier for the Poor

“The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.” ~ Cecil Frances Alexander

The above rhyme represents an attempt to whitewash the then current and allegedly divinely sanctioned social class composition. For one thing, to claim such class division is according to God’s will is a sure violation of the 3rd Commandment (you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain), and automatically signifies Alexander’s lack of obedience to Christian ethics. Secondly, it works to help prevent the poor from envying the rich — as God supposedly wants the poor to remain poor. It is therefore a strategy that very much benefits the rich. We thus find the likely culprit implied by the obvious answer to the cui bono – who benefits question.

Indeed, Napoleon and Marx basically addressed the very same issue:

“Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” ~ Karl Marx

When the name of God is abused as the poem insinuates, religion indeed very much acts as an effective pacifier for the poor. It works to relieve the anxieties and stresses of living under circumstances marked by poverty and grave inequality. Religion in this function indeed serves to soothe passions of revolt and quell ambitions for social upheaval; desires that are inspired by the discontentment that belongs to living under oppression and exploitation by the parasitic upper classes.

It is this function of religion — a political rather than a spiritual one, of seeking subversion rather than liberation of the people, the worship of power rather than God — that deserves condemnation.

Psychiatry – How the Mentally ill Treat the Mentally ill

“If you’ve never picked up DSM-IV™, we strongly recommend that you do so. You’ll find yourself in it. You’ll find your friends and associates in it. You’ll find your family members in it. Indeed, you’ll find everyone in it. In other words, from the point of view of psychiatry, everyone has a “mental disorder.” For psychiatry, there is no such thing as mental health, only degrees of pathology!”
C.S.Hyatt – psychologist and author of The Psychopath’s Bible

“The ostensible validity of the DSM is reinforced by psychiatry’s claim that mental illnesses are brain diseases—a claim supposedly based on recent discoveries in neuroscience, made possible by imaging techniques for diagnosis and pharmacological agents for treatment. This is not true. There are no objective diagnostic tests to confirm or disconfirm the diagnosis of depression; the diagnosis can and must be made solely on the basis of the patient’s appearance and behavior and the reports of others about his behavior.”
Thomas Szasz, social critic and a psychiatrist critical of psychiatry

With the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, growing ever more voluminous with every new edition, the probability that any arbitrary person can be diagnosed as having one or more psychiatric disorders, is growing ever larger. Indeed, assuming Hyatt ‘s quote mentioned up above is about right, if it were up to the army of shrinks at large, it is unlikely that any person qualifies to be considered perfectly free from mental illness, disorder and deviation. It is exceptionally unlikely in fact, to be able to satisfy the ever narrowing psychiatric norm that constitutes soundness of mind, i.e. their idea of it of course. Any diagnosed deviants are at once to be brought into the sanctum of psychiatric normalcy through medication and therapy — of whatever form, morally acceptable or not (e.g. barbaric electroshock treatments). To the psychiatrist, it is highly verboten to be a “deviant of mind”.

In a narcissistic context, psychiatry only “loves” those mental health states which mirror its own specific mental health ideal or norm, its own progressively narrow definition of soundness of mind. This inherent narcissistic attitude is of course highly ironic as psychiatry should precisely be preoccupied with the combat of general psychopathology, including narcissism, rather than fall prey to its sway itself. Nonetheless it is exceedingly hard to deny that the current obsession of psychiatry with twisting and turning collective mental health to make it conform to its own proverbial mirror image is anything else but narcissistic.

But it doesn’t end with narcissism. Psychiatry is mentally ill in yet another way, albeit one closely related to narcissism. This other type of psychopathology is revealed when one realizes that psychiatry basically is a lucrative business enterprise. And like any other ambitious type of business, psychiatry too is highly driven by the profit motive. In fact, profit is not only far more important than helping the patient, it is business-wise patently unethical to go ahead and actually cure a patient, as a cured patient translates into a lost customer. As such, psychiatry is mainly interested in the “expedient” practice of combating or mitigating symptoms rather than offer real cures. In addition, it has succumbed to adopt the commercially obvious strategy of market expansion through expansion of the spectrum of possible mental disorders; this of course is reflected by the DSM getting more corpulent as the next edition replaces the previous one.

And so, by putting profit way ahead of the welfare of the patient combined with its commercially dictated tenacity to retain patients (read: customers), the second type of psychopathology that psychiatry is troubled by, unveils itself: psychopathy.

The psychiatric clinic is therefore a place of doubtful morals and efficacy where deemed psychiatric deviants are to be treated via a mental health profession that paradoxically itself is plagued by at least two, albeit strongly related, forms of rather serious psychiatric deviancy.

In so many sobering words, psychiatry itself is seriously and alarmingly mentally ill.

Small wonder then, that I am not the first to observe its crooked morals:

“What do you do when you don’t know what to do? No wonder there are more suicides among psychiatrists than in any other profession.”
Psychiatrist R. D. Laing, Wisdom, Madness, and Folly, p. 126

“Much of today’s psychiatric science is based on wish, myth, and politics…”
Loren Mosher, M.D., Former Chief of the Center for Studies of Schizophrenia, The National Institute of Mental Health

“A psychiatrist is a man who has studied medicine, which he does not practice, but practices psychology, which he has not studied.”
Dr. Harriet Babcock, former Chief Psychologist, Bellevue Hospital

“The field of mental health is highly subjective, capricious, and dominated by whims, mythologies, and public relations. In many ways it is a pop culture with endless fads but with no real substance.”
Dr. Walter Fisher, Assistant Superintendent, Elgin State Hospital

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that psychiatry as a whole is incapable of helping people, nor am I denying the existence of psychiatrists whose integrity can be said to not be spoiled by the selfish profit motive. If I did, I would perpetrate an unwarranted act of over-generalization, if for no other reason than that I simply do not know all the living psychiatrists on a personal well-enough basis to bolster said claim. The intent of this entry was merely to point out the hypocritical and injurious absurdity that has become definitional to the practice of psychiatry and that therefore extra caution needs to be taken before resorted to for help.

This post may be regarded as a follow-up to an earlier entry I did on the nefarious character of psychiatry.