The rapping of shrinks and the shrink-wrapped life

While doing a Google search I ran into an abstract of a 2007 scholarly article by three French psychiatrists whose English title is “New society, new families: a new basic personality? From the neurotic to the narcissistic-hedonistic personality.”

The basic thought is that changes in education, family structure, social attitudes, and so on have led to a new dominant personality type with specific pathologies that require a reorientation of psychiatric care:

This basic personality, which could be termed as “narcissistic-hedonistic”, is characterized by few internalizations, a poorly efficient Superego, nearly no guilt feeling, a weakly socialized Ideal Self suggesting more the Ideal Self of the early childhood, and finally a difficulty in experiencing or testing oneself as a free subject. The resulting narcissistic fragility leads the subject to be more dependent on external objects, to be allergic to frustration, to find delay in the achievement of instinctive aims hard to take, to develop an exaggerated pursuit of perception and sensations. The relation to time is also affected through a privileged investment in the present and the shading off of historical time. These changes must lead to a different subjectivity stemming from a new basic personality. Disorders may stem from three axis of this new basic personality: dependency with attachment disorders, narcissistic fragility, and a high risk of depression; guilt-free “narcissistic perversion” with people, who use other people for their own and exclusive interest, without real empathy; “light” psychopathy, with people capable of social integration for shorts periods of time, with a lot of breaking off in love, friendship, and professional ties.

The account is jargony but the substance sounds familiar. The basic idea is that people aren’t really getting socialized, so character and connections to other people disappear. Instead there’s just impulse, self-indulgence, and flip-flopping between grandiosity and depression, tyranny and subservience, and no doubt other mindless polarities. Life becomes a matter of pure immediacy and groundless assertion of self, combined with insecurity and avoidance of issues.

Psychological changes like that aren’t private in their effects. They mean that people experience the world differently, and that means political change. The obvious social result of the tendencies described, given man’s need for self-validation, is something like hipster liberalism: hedonism, self-involvement, rejection of settled distinctions, irony as a way to avoid impossible problems and turn contradiction to account, pretense based (like everything else) on nothing, equality that’s not meant—wearing a John Deere cap and drinking PBR or whatever—as proof of superiority.

Hipster liberalism isn’t particularly satisfactory, but where’s something better going to come from? People fall into it because it’s not clear where else to go in the present fragmented situation. It’s not as if there’s a well-formed mainstream grownup culture to glom onto or even a noticeable movement of opposition with something definite to offer. Where, as they say, are the heroes? How can you do better than accept the accepted view, since that’s what there is, and then try to mitigate it through irony?

We have to start where we are, so for a lot of people the first step is to turn against the New York Times and the kindergarten teachers who provide our official theory of the good life by adopting a youth culture that’s heretical and seems powerful because it’s assertive and appeals to pieces of reality now officially nonexistent. They become pagans, Randians, white nationalists, or whatever.

When orthodoxy is stupid and inhuman then heresy is at least alive. It’s good to know that particularities matter, masculinity has its points, “we” and “they” have functions, and not everyone is the same or equally deserving. The problem, of course, is that such recognitions aren’t enough. America and the West need more than this recognition or that to restore a scheme of life that makes sense. For that we don’t need bits and pieces of reality, we need the Whole Thing.

Taking what we have now and adding HBD or Nietzsche’s superman or the masculine warrior image isn’t going to do it for us. All of us are charter members of the reality-based community. So what we need is a grip on the reality of things in all its dimensions. That grip on reality is the basis of any civilization worthy of the name. It follows that for us what is needed is a radical turn toward the basic understandings that made the West, in a form capable of sustaining themselves as a tradition. It is to the recovery of that tradition—to radical traditionalism—that any serious movement that wants to call itself conservative should aspire.

6 thoughts on “The rapping of shrinks and the shrink-wrapped life”

  1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    I don’t know if you’re familiar with the film *Blade Runner*. But in the novel it’s based upon, there’s a striking scene in which the protagonist discovers that the psychological test he uses to distinguish bioengineered replicants from genuine human beings has failed. Thus the protagonist has misidentified a human being as a “replicant”.

    When investigating the reason for the glitch, the protagonist realizes that the psych test is designed to test for empathy—and he realizes that the human being whom he misidentified as a replicant is in fact a pathological egoist. Human, yes, and superficially normal—but also a total psycho.

    The protagonist is horrified, further realizing that as society degenerates more and more human beings will lack the necessary character to pass the test, which distinguishes them from artificial beings hatched in laboratories. The implications are obvious.

    • Human and humane
      Yeah. One of the arguments you actually hear for current trends is that people may be getting more self-centered and trivial but at least that makes them harmless. It’s not obvious though that taking away from their humanity will make life more humane in the long run.

  2. Wrong concept of personality
    I found this piece to be Freudianism, hence rubbish (from a scientific perspective). The categories used are subjective and the causal assumptions are pure speculation. The basic underlying Freudian explanatory model is arbitrary and incoherent.

    The main influence on personality when personality is understood in terms of traits such as Conscientiousness or Extraversion is heredity – see the Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. ie children on average tend to resemble their parents in terms of personality – just as they do in intelligence.

    And of course personality and intelligence differ significantly between individuals and groups – although the selective reasons may differ:

    That children differ in intelligence and personality for hereditary reasons and that they inherit much (but not all ) of their intelligence and personality traits from their parents is of course common sense, known throughout recorded history (as well as being consistent with evolutionary theory); but it has been, and still is, widely denied in mainstream academic and media circles.

    • Nature and nurture
      Why wouldn’t upbringing and culture affect personality as well? That’s the common sense view. The lower class types Theodore Dalrymple describes seem quite different from those George Orwell described. For that matter, Dalrymple’s oldsters seem quite different from his youngsters. The genes should be quite similar though.

      • Culture probably affects the
        Culture probably affects the average ‘personality’ of whole cultures – but not differences between individuals. i.e. a culture that encourages conscientiousness will probably lead to a higher level of C among people in that culture – while the most conscientious people in culture A will be the most conscientious ones in culture B, regardless of culture. But nobody has come up with a culture-independent measure of personality to measure the magnitude of this effect – so it remains speculative; especially since the culture will be influenced by the average personality of its members, which will change over time genetically due to differences in reproduction among its population (including losses due to war etc) and due to immigraion and migration.

        For example, if culture is affected by a relatively small proportion of geniuses (maybe 0.01 percent of the population) of very high intelligence and unusual personality – then very small shifts in personality or intelligence genetics, or in culture, could obliterate genius or render genius so rare as to be ineffective in shaping culture. Maybe this has happened in the UK – for instance due to the World Wars?

        • From the abstract I
          From the abstract I understood the article to refer to the tendency of the culture as a whole. Understandings of man and the world have changed, so people orient themselves differently. They don’t see their situation the same way, so different sorts of behavior make sense. The different understandings are of course made concrete in different practices with regard to education, raising children, etc.


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