Friday, January 11, 2013

The art of the reparative gesture

From a reader:


As a long-term reader in psychology I thought you might be interested in Donald W. Winnicott’s material (from 1950s) on the subject of empathy. Have you read it? His articles are pivotal to understanding why some people develop a sense of concern, and others don’t- it’s a developmental acquisition of the first 2 yrs of life and he elaborates in precise detail how that happens.

It’s a cogent, convincing and rarely researched facet of psychopathy today but an alternative to genetic explanations.

Two chapters from the book The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment:

- Chapter 1. Psycho-analysis and the sense of guilt
- Chapter 6. The Development of the Capacity for Concern

He has numerous other material on this topic but these two will provide an intro if its of interest.

The basic idea is that a sense of guilt/concern is built in developmentally from about 6 months of age to about 18 months. It works like this:

Baby/todler shows aggression daily- eg. biting, screaming, kicking legs, squirming, non-complying, etc. Mother gets pissed off, shows it, and walks out of the room. Baby/toddler begin to get a sense, on each occasion, that they hurt the object that brings them food and cares for them. Kid then -maybe after half an hour, makes a "reparative gesture" when he sees mother again, such as smiling at her, laughing, offering her his rattle to hold or whatever. Mother accepts reparative gesture, and this happens thousands of times in a year of child's life. Through all this the child gets built-in a sense that concern about his ruthlessness and his agressiveness, and of the impact of it on the world around him. In later life the 'reparative gesture' becomes the common 'contributing into society' in a thousand altruistic ways- but underneath that 'contributing in' is the desire to appease over and over again the feeling that one is atoning for recently past wrongs  or perhaps for future wrongs..... all of this is unconscious and built in since infancy.

Now, with psychopathy the child basically doesnt get to play out the cycle of aggression-guilt- reparative gesture. His mother might have died at the beginning of this developmental period, or she may be clinically depressed or otherwise self-involved to the degree that she can't participate in the cycle. Or another option is that the mother for personal reasons cannot accept the child's reparative gesture and so the kid doesnt build-in the sense of concern. He grows up with no sense of concern. 

Its like learning language, is age specific developmentally speaking. If you miss it, you miss it. BTW, the developmental period during which all this takes place is called 'the depressive position' 

Winnicott seems to think a sense of concern may be discovered later in life, but I find it doubtful.

It's interesting because my mother was both very self-interested and clinically depressed while I was growing up. But I also feel like I have come to understand (perhaps through intuiting the principles of multi-stage game theory, in which there are few long-term gains for blatantly ruthless strategies) and apply reparative gestures, at least with those closest and most important to me. Is that what he means by discovering a sense of concern later in life, do you think?



32 comments:

  1. Yaaaahoooeeee! Foist!

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  2. :) Good Morning Sociopathworld!!!!!

    Happy Friday!!!!!!!

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  3. It's an interesting idea, but without reading the source material I imagine there's little more than rationale to back it up. To test the idea you'd need a large number of human infants in controlled conditions for nearly two years, some allowed to participate in this cycle, and others ignored.

    Certainly the early stages of development are periods of astoundingly rapid growth, and parental negligence can have a profound dampening effect. However, to attribute the effects of negligence to a specific cycle of action and reaction undermines the complexity of neonatal development.

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  4. Is it a kind of learned helplessness, so that the child gives up of ever having his needs met and goes into a sort of black hole? Is it s lack of "mirroring". I really believe in the theory of mirroring, as being crucial for a child's developing a solid sense of identity. Paradoxically, the sociopath mirrors like no one else, due to his flexible identity. The people who were not mirrored fall so badly for the mirroring because it is as powerful as water to a person dying of thirst. Maybe, the sociopath who was not mirrored can give it to others, while he cannot retain it, himself.

    For me, now, if God doesn't mirror me, I am screwed because I am too wise to fall for another sociopath( I think ~)

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  5. I think this makes sense. If you don't get conditioned like most people, your emotional responses are different that most people.

    For decades, I thought the fact that I'm cold, rational, callous, Machiavellian, ruthless and sadistic- to a degree that sets me apart from at least 95% of humanity) was me choosing to be "smart" given the nature of the universe.

    Lately I've realized that it has to do with me not having the typical emotional responses of normal people. I didn't choose anything; I just feel differently about various things than most people.

    I wondered why that was. My guess is that besides any genetic or epigenetic explanations, being physically abused (and terrified) by my step-mother, and forced to watch her do the same to her own kids, led me to have the following reactions:

    * a general emotional deadness inside.

    * a cold-heart

    * an enjoyment - a sexual sort of rush - when watching someone terrify and hurt a helpless victim.

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    Replies
    1. Are there certain scenarios that excite you more than others, or just in general?

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    2. Some are more exciting than others.

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    3. This is TNP's story, abused by stepmother.

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  6. * an enjoyment - a sexual sort of rush - when watching someone terrify and hurt a helpless victim.




    This is what my mother did to me.

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    Replies
    1. No, she didn't. Your mother has been respectful and sweet to you and you are lying.

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    2. Funny how some sociopath see the sociopathy in every other person, yes?

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    3. I'm so sorry to hear that Monica. I hope you can heal.

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    4. I hope you burn, you whore.

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    5. something tells me you're the anon who called me an idiot two posts ago. what's with the eeyore attitude? what does it do for you?

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  7. She dove into the water, years before. It clung to her like octopus arms with tentacles that suctioned and held on. She was held as princess of the underworld. No one came to claim her, so she stayed. One day something stirred in her. It must have been love because love is what stirs things. Love reached down in some or other funky form, which was the shape of a human. The problem was how to loosen the tentacles which had enclosed her, like a museum piece, under glass. After several decades, she surfaced like an astronaut in those funky vehicles that fall in the ocean from space.

    It was a new world. The other had gotten old and died. This one was harsher, but easier to navigate because it came with rules. Rules make things easier. That is why we have them. She had to stand on top of the table and shout, but the bad people went away and the kind ones, remained, so she had a new rule, one she made herself, not one she was made to swallow like bubblegum flavored castor oil. They told you it was good for you, but you knew they were just trying to mess with your head.

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    Replies
    1. Standing on the table, you are dictator( or king). You made it to this precipice, your own corner of the world, moving the chess pieces. You won the game, just because you are playing. If you understand that, say Amen.

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    2. I SaID AMEN GODDaMITTTtt!!!

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    3. LOL Good, Bro ^^

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  8. Sounds like self-awareness and a cognitive knowledge of appropriate behavior... but not actually finding a sense of concern later in life.

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    Replies
    1. Right. That's how I see it too.

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    2. What do you mean?

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    3. Really Sofa? The difference between knowing what is appropriate for a situation and utilizing learned behavior to act in a socially acceptable wasy... vs... having an internalized sense of caring and concern which guides your actions to act in a socially accepted way.

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  9. I think that this article is very interesting....... But what happens with the psychopathic people who did those gestures and still developed into full blown psychopathy?

    I think the parents who didnt take the reparitive gestures because they werent there, out of mental illness, neglect, or abandonment probably have higher degrees of children pith personality disorders or Reactive attachment Disorder (RAD).

    I also think there were probably parents who didnt know about/ ignored these "reparitive gestures" what happens to a child like that???

    I think it is very interesting but I would like to see some more work/studies done on it.

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    Replies
    1. Those people were clearly biologically different and not the influence of the environmental nature. There isn't just one explanation for all. There are many explanations for one.

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    2. Oh okay, thank you Haven. It makes more sense to me that there are biological differences rather than just the whole "reparitive gestures" explanation.

      Either way I think it is very interesting, although it does sound a bit "Freudian" to me.

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  10. ew disgusting monica. how come every topic on here has to be about your sick fantasies of your fucking mother fingerbanging you. enough already go see a head doctor you muppet.

    day in day out for over a year now youve been stuck in a loop. you are worse than a troll because you really are that fucked in the head. a sick little twisted worthless muppet nutter. you are a real head banger.

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  11. It is funny you say that UKan because I was just coming on to tell Alterego I missed her and to tell her to ignore you like I do :D

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  12. She wanted to plunge a knife into her flesh. It could be anywhere. She would scream, "Die, die." After she cut it out, the tumor, I mean, she would throw it in the river. Fish would feed on it or crows, ravens or vultures. Who knows?

    She would cover the hole with a nice dress, maybe a cardigan sweater or a twin set. Those look refined, like the person never did anything wrong in her whole life. Then, I think she could be social, laughing at a party, a wine glass in her hand, no worries, just like the girls in the sorority, who came from good homes.

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    1. Maybe, the tumor would haunt her, from the river. "You're MINE", it would scream, while she was on her porch, sipping ice tea. It could not find a new person, so easily. It was not in it's heyday. It was old and nasty, truth be told. It could not sweet talk it's way into someone's affections, that fast. Fuck it, she thought and threw a piece of bread on the water for the gulls to catch, as they dove with their graceful bearing. They don't have a trouble in the world because they don't know they are going to die, like we do.

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  13. She had her bus ticket, destination stamped on the front. What the heck was she going to wear: a double breasted, navy blue blazer with navy blue pumps or a zebra print skirt, which was too short and too tight, with heels made for sitting. She couldn't take up to much room, naturally. The ride was assured. The outfit was variable.

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