The Psychology of Compassion
The conflict of active and passive urgency in the normal personality and the relationship of that conflict to root/branch intellectual type and past/future motivational orientation.
Let me start with what may seem to be a wild assertion. There is absolutely nothing clinically wrong with the mind of the psychopath; he is purely a statistical phenomenon. In the simplest and, perhaps, most accurate terms, he’s just a weak person, in the extreme. The psychopath is presently understood only in terms of a combination of various typical characteristics – lack of empathy, lack of remorse, manipulative behaviour etc.. In other words, he is effectively known to us and understood mainly by and in terms of his behaviour. This paper revisits some early psychodynamic concepts that, understood in the context of a cognitive-neurological model of the construct of urgency, indicate that the urgency stasis of the psychopath is unlike that of the normal personality, and that the fundamental and defining attribute of the psychopathic personality is the relative absence of a feature which I hope to show to be of the essence of the normal personality: urgency conflict. It is further postulated that this absence of urgency conflict is characteristic of the urgency stasis of the normal infant.
As a foreword, I have to say 1) that I’m expressing the concepts to the best of my ability, 2) but I also realize that maybe that’s just not good enough, in which case, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and give me a chance to try to put it another way.
Apologies, also, if I seem to conflate of the the terms motivation and urgency – urgency is, strictly speaking, a measure of motivation. It is the level of urgency which dictates 1) whether or not we initiate an action and 2) the physical energy we assign to the action. In ordinary usage, we might perhaps speak of undertaking an action with no urgency at all but this paper posits urgency as being both a data-stream and a threshold trigger mechanism. It posits a relationship between urgency and action which, with the obvious exception of autonomic reflex, requires that a degree of urgency be present in order to initiate action, that degree of urgency governing, also, the physical energy assigned to action. That we are not necessarily conscious of urgency does not assume that no degree of urgency is present. When we walk with apparently no urgency, it would be more accurate to say that we walk with little urgency; no urgency would mean no action at all, inertia. In consciousness, therefore, urgency/motivation is serving up a continual input. The existence of urgency as a governor of action, in any system, whether animal or mechanical, pre-supposes that some component in the system has the function of monitoring time. There are important questions, therefore, for neuroscience but I think it’s it is important to keep in mind that we are discussing a neurological process where, historically, earlier models have attempted to understand action solely either in a psychodynamic or in a spiritual framework.
A large section of those in the worlds of academic and practical psychology have absolutely no use for psychodynamic theory and yet it is probably precisely this group to which I must address this request for consideration of the case for preliminary research. The model is best expressed in psychodynamic terms but those psychologists who currently espouse psychodynamic theory are possibly least likely to have an interest in the cognitive-neurological research proposed here.
Although not understood in terms of an urgency conflict, the existence of “libido” conflict was first asserted by Freud who expressed his understanding in terms of the life and death instincts. The concept of a bi-directional “libido” was also introduced by Jung in his theory of extraversion and introversion. In spite of a period of collaboration, neither succeeded in coming to an understanding of the mechanism. They argued from thoroughly polarized positions on the subject but neither appear to have seriously considered the possibilty that they could both be correct and, incidentally, that Adler, who presented yet another contradictory “libido” theory, could also be following thoroughly sound reasoning. The conflict of active and passive urgency is, I hope to demonstrate, not only characteristic of the normal personality, it is the most fundamental dynamic mechanism of the psyche – the mechanics of strength and weakness. If the model is valid, compassion is not a mere attribute of personality, it is the essence of life itself.
Jung’s extraversion (an upward and outward flow) and introversion (a downward and inward flow), and Freud’s altogether different bi-directional “libido” (life instinct and death instinct) both relate to an imagined flow of what they called psychic energy. Even in that short sentence, however, it can be seen that the Freudian and Jungian theories of libido are utterly incompatible:
- The Jungian theory of libido leads us to the idea of two personality types, extravert and introvert – neither one any “better” than the other, just different: one tending to be more outgoing, the other more reserved.
- Freudian libido theory confronts us with a much more serious proposition: a positive and a negative flow of energy – life-instincts and death-instincts – one desirous of giving life and the other of taking it away, one building and the other destroying.
If the attributes of Jung’s extraversion/introversion libido are valid, clearly, one might think, those of Freud’s life/death instinct are wrong and vice versa. They might both be wrong but they cannot possibly both be right, or at least, so it seems. Paradoxically, however, both can be shown to be, in practice and in fact, valid theories, provided they are considered independently – both valid and yet their validity is mutually exclusive? This is a riddle that has been swept under the carpet almost since the dawn of Psychology and the key to the riddle is time. It is impossible for a mechanism to exist that has its output measured in urgency without there being some form of input relating to time.
Coincidentally, I came to this after an observation very similar to that which had led Jung into the same territory: I had realized, instinctively, in the midst of an argument, that the other fellow was (erroneously) forming the same opinion about my intellectual shortcomings as I was (possibly erroneously) about his. It was almost as if we were not speaking the same language – two diametrically opposed ways of understanding the same thing.
We were discussing the violence in Belfast at a time when it was at its worst – two ignorant Protestants putting the world to rights. Neither had any real understanding of the history, the context or realities of life in the North but that in no way deterred us from having a heated argument about which side was ultimately to blame. At one point, however, I caught a look which made me realize that he thought he was talking to a complete fool. The irony astonished me.
His argument centred on the imagined ambitions of the Catholic minority: given the opportunity, they would do everything in their power to disempower and drive out and the Protestant majority. For my part, I found it hard to get past the history and the injustice, the outdated laws disfavouring and disenfranchising the Catholic minority, the treatment of Catholics in the North as second-class citizens. Instinctively rejecting the colonialist mentality, I saw Catholic resistance as a natural consequence of the cruelty and injustice of British rule.
At this point, I have to invite you to think out of the box. I’m listening to this bigot adduce fact after fact to prove the anti-Protestant intent of the Catholic minority and then I catch a look which tells me that he thinks he’s talking to an idiot. He thinks not simply that I am wrong, ill-informed, that my opinions are worthless but that I don’t have what it takes to follow his argument. The argument itself was a waste of time but it took on new life with this.
What, at essence, we were discussing was the motivation behind recent terrorist attacks. My argument in favour of the IRA’s armed struggle had no emotional basis. I had no sentimental ties to either side. My loyalty to the UK as a UK citizen, however, had not obliterated my intelligence. It had not diminished my facility to understand the motivation of people who opposed British dominion in their country just as violently as we, the British, would surely oppose their dominion here.
Perhaps I had been misinformed but my understanding was that the British had as a matter of policy deliberately seeded the population of the North with pro-British, anti-Catholic settlers and that the consequences of that level of social macro-engineering and exploitation of the human capacity for bigotry had wholly-predictable consequences.
What was fascinating, however, and insisting upon the more urgent right to my adrenilin was not the argument itself but the consistency with which I had presented a past-related explanation for the behaviour of the IRA and the consistency with which the other guy would present a future-related explanation of their motivation: what they wanted to achieve, their aim to disempower. And that was what, in his mind, I was failing to understand. Each time that he put forward his reasonable argument regarding the aims and ambitions of the Catholic minority, I had failed to address it in the terms in which it was presented. He mistakenly believed I wasn’t understanding what he had to say. I, however, had been doing exactly the same thing, presenting historical fact and context as if that alone was the only relevant rationale. In my mind, of course, it is exactly that. The suffering inflicted upon the Irish by the British goes back for centuries but we only needed to look back a few years, a few months, or a few weeks and we could find just cause for armed resistance. Look back! Look at the context, look at the history. For me and, I believe, for the majority of people, the explanation for all motivation lies in the past and we make the mistake of naturally assuming that everyone thinks in the same way.
This was not merely an argument from polarised positions on the armed struggle, this was an argument between two completely different types of intellect. What it came down to was this: every event, every action and, more importantly, every motivation is, for me, explicable in terms of its origin, its cause. Why do I behave as I do? Because, (I think) to a great extent, my upbringing, my past dictates my behaviour. This cause-oriented view, that the past explains all, is always valid for me but it makes absolutely no sense to someone – let’s say 10% of the population – for whom the aim or goal of every event and every action is what is plain to see, and is all that really matters.
It was many years later that I discovered that Jung, as a third party, had been witness to exactly the same communication phenomenon: Freud who saw only the cause and Adler who saw only the goal. In the introduction to only one of the editions of “Psychological Types” does Jung come clean and explain that the origin of his theory of extraversion and introversion was his observation of that communication problem between Adler and Freud and his recognition, in the first instance, of the possible existence of an intellectual typology in terms simply of past or future intellectual orientation.
This was Jung’s starting point and it was also mine, and as you can probably work out from the context, my own efforts to understand this began decades ago. Instinctively, I knew I had an important key in my hands but – I’ve never been able to sense when to just let a metaphor go! – I had a long way to travel before finding the door that it would open. Jung was soon to abandon his initial idea of an intellectual typology – (I’ll come back to this) – and, in its place, he postulated his well-known libido typology.
So, there you have it: Jimmy Powdrell Campbell, an ageing, ineffectual, third-rate, Glaswegian web developer, maintains that Carl Gustav Jung got it wrong!
Intellectual Orientation: Root Intellect and Branch Intellect
The premised past-oriented intellect (evidenced by let’s say 90% of the population) is typified by the tendency and aptitude to get to the root of the issue. Especially where the generalities of personality and behaviour are under discussion, he or she will always focus upon cause. Where there is a need to understand, it is in terms of the radical. It has been suggested that this is a difficult concept to establish experimentally but, in truth, it is as simple as that. The intellectual orientation can be established by testing for this alone: does the mind tend to the radical; does it focus upon the root of the issue; is the aptitude root and cause related? If it is, then it is a past-oriented intellect – a root intellect. It follows also that, for the root intellect, a high score for root/cause aptitude should be accompanied by a negative score for branch/goal aptitude.
I am relying upon memory here but I believe, as an example, I can best cite the actual discussion which caught Jung’s attention. Freud (root intellect) and Adler (branch intellect) were discussing a particular case, a married woman whose hysteria, according to Freud, could be attributed only to an event or events in her past. Find the repressed memory and her hysteria could be cured. There was, Freud insisted, no other way of looking at the case. Adler conceded that her childhood may hold some secrets but he was equally adamant that, regardless of her past, she was in control of herself to a much greater degree than Freud seemed prepared to accept and that her behaviour was her way of gaining power over her husband. Her behaviour was not explained by something in her past but by understanding her aim, her goal – what she wished to achieve in the future. Both Freud and Adler were imposing their own intellectual type upon the woman. Freudian (root intellect) and Adlerian (branch intellect) psychologists are doing the same thing to this day. I make this observation not as a criticism but as a matter of plain fact to be kept in mind. I say “intellectual type” as opposed to “psychological type” with, I believe, good reason. This is the very foundation of Jung’s theory of extraversion and introversion and, in spite of the empirical evidence of its validity, I believe his hypothesis addresses only a part of the mechanism (as does Freud’s and as does Adler’s). As I have said, Jung’s observations led him to postulate the existence, in the first instance, of an past/future intellectual typology. But there is, and was, no need and no justification for taking the next step of assuming that this intellectual typology has its foundation in the “libido” when the reverse was at least equally likely, i.e. that the so-called libido is the output of an intellectual process.
The less common future-oriented intellect is typified by the tendency and aptitude to extrapolate and to deal with the goals, aims, consequences, and ramifications of the issue. These, therefore, are the two “types” upon which this model is founded. Literal extraversion and introversion does finally come into the whole picture but it is the existence of root/branch intellectual type (as opposed to Jung’s libido typology) which is the first premise that requires to be tested.
Our concern, here, is with the neurological mechanism which addresses action and the urgency of that action. The suggestion is not being made that the intellectual typology necessarily extends beyond that motivational context, therefore, while the corresponding past/future-oriented aptitudes may be observed universally, investigation of the persistence of the past/future-oriented paradigm should be constrained to testing for intellectual type in a motivational context.
I think it can be seen that the Freudian psychologists provide the most obvious ready-made pool of past-oriented intellect and, likewise, the future-orientation of the Adlerians pervades all their work. Since the past or future-fixated view of motivation, in both cases, is generally derived – if you will permit the assumption – from their imposing of their own intellectual type, responses elicited from within these two groups should facilitate refinement of testing for intellectual type in a more diverse population. (I believe, also, that there are some parallels to be found in Guilford and Hoepfner’s work on Convergent and Divergent intelligence – “The Analysis of Intelligence,” New York, McGraw-Hill, 1971). Again, this is a work which documents the phenomena but fails to get to the core issue: past/future orientation. The parallels between the root intellect and the “convergent” intellect are obvious but the significance of their research is lost because the intellectual type giving rise to the observed convergence, never having been offered, cannot be investigated.
|root intellect||source, cause, origin||to reduce to the fundamentals|
|future||branch Intellect||goals, aims, consequences||to extrapolate, to see ramifications|
The intellectual orientation or type is, I believe, immutable. Whatever the origins of this differentiation might be, rightly or wrongly, I am assuming that it has a biological basis, that if you are born with a branch-intellect mind, you will enjoy the aptitudes of a branch-intellect mind for the rest of your life. Consider, now, the concept of motivation. The idea that we are not necessarily conscious of our reasons for doing what we do does not appeal to some but there can be no serious dispute as to its validity; and motivation can be seen to have anything but a fixed orientation.
On the subject of motivation, I had, at one time, in the back of my mind, some nebulous but useful thoughts about the association of dualities and opposites and, in particular, the idea of positive & negative psychic energy (I was about twenty years old and had been reading about Zen). I became focused upon the concept of positive & negative motivation. (By negative motivation I meant generally destructive motivation). The unconscious associations I had in mind were such as day & night; awake & asleep; creation & destruction; giving & taking; life & death etc. Accepting that association is a fundamental mechanism of the intellect, all of these seemed to me to have a bearing upon and to be in some form of perpetual relationship to motivation.
In this model, the concept of positive and negative motivation is, therefore, dependent upon the validity of at least some of these associations and upon the validity of certain moral value judgements. If, for example, an individual were to avail himself of the opportunity to profit by the sale of heroine to some school children, I would consider him to have been negatively motivated. Psychology has created a generation of victims; the heroine dealer is, according to some, a victim of his upbringing, his deprived social background or whatever, but, to the “man in the street,” this drug dealer is nothing more or less than a “selfish, evil bastard.” If this model is valid, the man in the street has been right, all along. His value judgements may not always be justified but, in this case, he is correct in recognizing that this drug dealer is “different” in some fundamental way; that his selfishness has gone beyond the bounds not only of acceptable behaviour in the neighbourhood but beyond the bounds of some sort of universal morality.
The whole area of morality is, of course, a minefield. There are so many layers of conflicting morality within every society, it might seem impossible that there can be any absolutes. Survival, however, is the key to understanding all morality. Survival of any community depends upon certain codes of behaviour, unique to that community and completely alien to some others. It is survival of the nation which dictates the unique moral code which applies during wartime. (The morality of war itself, in the 21st century, is another issue entirely).
There is, of course, honour and dishonour in the animal kingdom and the relative simplicity of some relationships sometimes facilitates an understanding of moral issues which may have some parallels in our own jungle. The leopard, for example, often uses the signal of raising its tail to convey to its potential prey that they are, for the moment, in no danger. The herd will carry on grazing as the leopard passes within striking distance because they instinctively recognize the signal and can be confident that, having raised its tail, the leopard intends, for the moment, to pass by. The need for the predator to go about her business – to tend to her young without chasing off tomorrow’s dinner – has evolved a relationship based upon trust and honour. Survival depends upon adherence to the code.
Morality is always clearest when the link to survival is most obvious. The drug dealer, unchecked, threatens the survival of a few schoolchildren. We, however, prize the survival of all children – at least those within the compass of our individual realities – and the immorality of the heroine dealer is, therefore, put beyond question. The laws of morality are far from being universal but, given a defined community, it is possible to identify certain codes of behaviour upon which the survival of that community will depend and to anticipate, therefore, that which will be generally acceptable as being right or wrong, positive or negative.
It is simply, and importantly, a matter of degree. There is the extreme negative motivation of the sociopath and there is the much-more-common marginal negative motivation which is something which we, all of us, give free reign to every day but who cares?
As a youth, one of my most frequent errors, arising out of post-adolescent lack of self-esteem, was to attempt, in conversation, to improve the other party’s opinion of me- not so much to brag as to impress subtly. In this case, to become conscious of what had been unconscious was a fairly simple matter of being honest with myself in answer to the question, “why am I telling this person this story” etc. The story would have had a purpose – a goal – (N.B. future-oriented, in my case) arising out of my desire to be thought on (passive) as being, in some way, worthy of respect. This, however trivial it may seem, is an example of what I termed negative motivation. (At the time, I only came to realize it was pathetic behaviour – I think I still do it sometimes)! My main concern, at that moment, was how the world is treating me – what the world thinks of me. Unfortunately, such is our capacity for self-deception, that some erudite professionals will argue that there was nothing negative in my attempts to impress. Can’t be helped. I only mean to stress the importance of the varying degrees of negative motivation. Everything we do has its motivation and no-one is permanently positively motivated.
|Active and Passive Motivation|
The concept of positive and negative motivation has a pivotal relationship to that of root/branch intellectual orientation but there is still a component missing from the machine: the twofold nature of action. Is my motivation, at this moment, active… or could it possibly be passive? Do I, at this moment, really just want nice things to happen to me?
“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Each of us gives expression to our immaturity in different ways but there is one single underlying factor. As a child, our relationship to the world is almost exclusively passive. The infant is concerned not with what it is doing in the world but with what the world is doing to or for it. When it cries, it gets the attention it needs but even where it is (foolishly) allowed to manipulate the adults around it, its relationship with those adults is still passive. It is completely and exclusively preoccupied with its own desires and that selfishness is the essence of its immaturity. It is perfectly healthy and natural for the child to exist at the centre of its world because its survival is dependent upon those around it but, thirty years later, that same degree of selfishness would be judged very unhealthy (possibly using the Hare checklist for psychopathic tendencies).
The most fundamental element of growing up is, I submit, not the acquisition of power or knowledge but the transition from that passive relationship with the world, the community and the family, to the active relationship which is natural to the (healthy) adult.
There coexists, in the normal personality, a bit of both the active and the passive but they are not just attributes or qualities which merely contribute something to the overall personality. Urgency could, theoretically, be 100% active or 100% passive but, in the real world, we – ALL of us – sustain a percentage of passive urgency. What’s going to happen to me? – what will I get out of this? Active and passive urgency is therefore in perpetual conflict, an enfeebling (mathematical) vector conflict in which one vector will generally secure a marginal prevalence, ensuring that, for the normal personality, the immense motivational potential of the individual is never remotely reached.
The conflict of active and passive urgency in the normal personality and the relationship of that conflict to root/branch intellectual type and past/future motivational orientation.
While this arises, in fact, from an attempt to address the question of principal motivational conflict in the normal personality, it can be arrived at, also, from a re-examination of the original observations which led Jung to develop his typology.
As I have said, Jung recounts that he became aware of an apparent fundamental intellectual difference between Freud and Adler: Freud’s analysis, interpretation and understanding being persistently in terms of cause and origin and Adler’s, equally persistently, being in terms of aims and results (Psychological Types, Vol. VI in the Collected Works – edition forgotten but, curiously, this crucial clarification of his foundation for the entire theory of Psychological Types was omitted in the last edition I borrowed so if anyone can help there, please get in touch).
Jung went on to hypothesize “object fixation” as an explanation for Freud’s apparent preoccupation with causes and origins. Assuming a direct relationship between the motivational orientation and the intellectual orientation, he dismissed the possibility of Freud’s evident intellectual past-orientation being, in itself, fundamental. By proceeding to question what lay behind the phenomenon, and then identifying the individual’s “placing of emphasis” upon either subject or object, he moved, I believe, from the principle to the derivative.
What I am suggesting, firstly, is that, in this instance, experiment should proceed from Jung’s observations, not his conclusions. Freud’s intellect (and intellectual aptitude) was, I premise, fundamentally past-oriented (which I have termed root-intellect) while Adler was, equally unmistakably, future-oriented (branch-intellect).
Before proceeding, I think, on a basic point of logic, it’s worth noting that Jung’s “subject/object” concept of introvert and extravert differentiation related to perception rather than to action, i.e. in Jung’s model, the subject is aware of the object and attributes a certain relative value or importance to it. But the concept of extraversion is, of course, meaningless without reference to the libido, and the concept of the libido assumes that the relationship between subject and object is not inert. If the libido is object-directed, it is not a matter of mere awareness. Perception, in this context, is, I believe, relevant to the psyche only in as much as it is prerequisite to action. It is the urgency of action that is the business of the libido, the (Freudian) “root-intellect” mind requiring, at the most fundamental level, to conceptualize action in terms of cause, the (Adlerian) “branch-intellect” mind, in terms of its result or goal. The apparent importance which these two types attach to either subject or object is, if that is the case, a consequence of the two interpretations of that which is the principal concern of the psyche: the potential actions and events which either actively or passively relate subject and object. That is to say, Jung’s observed fundamental intellectual orientation is, in fact, the reason for the extravert/introvert differentiation which was subsequently hypothesized to explain it.
If the premise is accepted, the “personality type” is properly determined not by establishing the subject’s social tendencies but by first examining the subject’s intellectual aptitudes: the less-common Adlerian branch-intellect mind should tend, always, to the consequences and the ramifications (the branches of possibility), whereas the mind which tends to delve to the roots, enquiring after cause, or attempting to resolve each issue to a radical understanding must be, regardless of any indications of apparent introversion (which I will come to later), that of the root-intellect type.
Incidentally, one of the most famous branch intellects of the 20th century was British Premier, Margaret Thatcher. Her outstanding aptitude for extrapolation was well-known in Government circles. She was also strongly past-motivated: equally well-recognized for her sense of British identity, her sense of her own identity and her sense of her roots in the spirit of wartime England. In short, she was a strongly-past-motivated branch-intellect personality and, as such, her place in history was virtually guaranteed. For many, her lack of compassion was almost her trade mark. Amongst other widely-lamented monumental achievements, she was instrumental in shifting the culture of the UK (and, I would argue, the USA) further towards a general ethos of greed and self-interest from which we have yet to recover.
Thatcher was commonly described as a strong leader but it was her great weakness which defined her personality – weakness mistaken for strength – namely that she was stubborn, self-willed and headstrong. Her ability to push through ideological reforms was widely attributed to strength of character but, in reality, it was her motivational immaturity which differentiated her; it was her ruthless ambition and her lack of adult compassion which brought her the great respect of the men around her, men who were ambitious, perhaps, self-serving, perhaps, but not quite as ruthlessly ambitious as Thatcher herself.
Communication, as Jung observed, between root-intellect and branch-intellect types is frequently a frustrating business, neither being aware of the need to express themselves in terms which, from the other’s perspective, appear central or pertinent to the issue.
I think this is probably too obvious to deserve mentioning but, for more sophisticated animals, “action” need not involve an observable physical event. When a web developer sits, relatively motionless, in front of a computer, it is an urgency stasis which maintains the concentration and intellectual stamina required, firstly, to go over the logic and then to maintain the logic tree in memory while coding the application (and then to fix what should have worked first time around)! A “sense” of urgency only arises when the urgency level is raised from the stasis, as in the code failing second time around!
In developing this hypothesis of the urgency dynamics of the normal personality, it is helpful, firstly, to consider that of certain individuals – Maslow’s self-actualising personalities – whose level of motivation would place them at the far reaches of the normal distribution. (Forgive, for the moment, the apparently dogmatic assertions).
Because his intellect is past-oriented (origins, causes), the Freudian root-intellect type, in its healthiest (or most extreme) form, instinctively derives motivation from the past, shaping his actions according to a cause or principle and almost totally without reference to consequence. Nothing is more empowering to the root-intellect personality than the vow, – “Ich Dien”- the oath of service. Honour persists as a principle motivation in the root-intellect type’s (dynamic) motivational hierarchy and the (extremely rare) completely positive (which I will come to later) root-intellect type will obey its dictates even with the understanding that the outcome may yield several possibilities for disaster for himself. The apparent disregard for consequence which seems to accompany extraversion is not, I submit, a derivative but the very essence of the rare phenomenon of healthy extraversion.
Consequence is, for the extremely positive (root-intellect) extravert, merely an intellectual consideration and not a factor in the motivational mechanism. The healthy root-intellect’s self-perception is that of the originator of action and the urgency is, therefore, outwardly directed toward the object, extraverted. His unusually high level of urgency stasis is referencing the needs of others. His well-defined self-image includes his own system of values, convictions and principles and he brings his sense of identity to every situation. At the core of this identity lies not a passive sense of belonging but an unqualified commitment to serve. His urgency is highly extraverted because he is intellectually past-oriented and almost exclusively (positively) past-motivated.
Where the healthy root-intellect has a sense of identity, the healthy branch-intellect, as Adler fully understood, has a sense of purpose. His personality is thus less obvious, less defined. His identity is inferred from his aims and purposes. His reputation of appearing to be more secretive or reserved is, to an extent, deserved but principally because his sense of purpose rather than identity is central to his existence. With the motivational hierarchy pertaining often to justice, the mind of the branch-intellect type, in its healthiest (or most extreme) form, has a clear aim in view. It looks to the future and understands action in terms of the intended result. As regards aptitude, there is frequently a marked tendency to be observant, to absorb, without effort, a proliferation of detail but there is, invariably, a distinct ability and tendency to extrapolate, to consider the purpose or consequences of an event – the ramifications. In this way, above all else, the branch-intellect can and, for reasons which I hope will become clear, should be identified. It is an intellect that, “by design,” is future-oriented and, out-of-the-box, it has the facility and the functionality to address the business of action in terms of consequence. The urgency of the healthy branch-intellect is highly-introverted, having its origins in the future, being derived from its purposes.
This intellectual basis for the typology which, (I apologize for repeating myself … again), was the original basis for Jung’s enquiry, exposes a presumption which, I believe, has undermined a clear understanding of the mechanism of the psyche: the presumption being that the individual who scores high on extraversion is necessarily an extravert-type or, to put it another way, that the urgency of every root-intellect type is necessarily extraverted.
Jung recognized that “every individual possesses both mechanisms – extraversion as well as introversion,” but the presumption that the highly-extraverted libido is always indicative of the extravert-type destroyed entirely the potential of his original typology to place the relationship between morality, strength and maturity on a scientific footing.
Jung’s understanding was that “only the relative predominance of extraversion or introversion determines the type.” Introversion/extraversion, however, is not a trait; it is, of course, a manifestation of a cognitive-neurological mechanism with the synthesis of urgency as its core function. However unavoidable it may seem, it is not, I submit, appropriate to talk simply in terms of degrees of extraversion. The abnormal (super-healthy) extraversion and introversion scores of the previous examples do not represent the two extremes of a single scale. It is commitment, on the one hand, to a cause (the past-orientation of the healthy root-intellect), or, on the other, to a goal (the future-orientation of the healthy branch-intellect) which results in abnormally highly-extraverted or highly-introverted urgency. It may sound like a statement of the obvious but it is the degree of personal commitment to the cause or goal which is the determinant of the degree of extraversion/introversion, the outcome, in each case of complete personal commitment, being a single, unchallenged principle motivation: virtually unchallenged positive (active) urgency.
That degree of commitment is sufficiently rare as to lie outside of the experience of most psychologists (Maslow being the obvious exception) but it is only by understanding the mechanics of the completely-committed personality, be it the saintly figure, the business magnate or the freedom fighter, that we can understand the enfeebling conflicting nature of the urgency of the normal personality. At the other end of the scale, it might be said that the psychopathic personality is completely committed to his own interests.
More “normal” individuals (and this is central to the concept) are, I submit, accustomed to or, rather, unconscious of a state of conflicting urgency (which was recognized by Freud in his life/death instincts theory of the libido), each branch-intellect type sustaining, continually, a proportion of the total urgency as negative urgency(semi-extraversion) and the reverse being the case for each root-intellect type. We see, in the normal personality, only the remainder of the sum of the conflict, a level of urgency stasis which is so low as to be, if not negligible, at least easily overlooked.
I therefore dispute the validity of the widely-accepted extravert/introvert continuum and would propose the creation of a separate scale for measurement of apparent “extraversion tendencies” for each intellect type, in much the same manner as e.g. that of sexuality for each sex, my prediction (the reasons for which, I am about to set out) being a correlation of negative (passive) urgency with weakness and immaturity.
The model anticipates the extreme difficulty of properly investigating the motivation of the normal personality in a Western culture since the predicted near-equal conflict of active and passive urgency renders the urgency stasis – the effective level of motivation – weak, indistinct and obscure. I imagine the simplicity of this model also lends it a fanciful-seeming quality but the foundation of the model is the simplicity of the active/passive relationship between parent and child and, again, the simplicity of root/branch intellect differentiation.
For the healthy root intellect, urgency has its origins in the past. The radicalized root-intellect freedom fighter has no goal in mind; he is motivated by those experiences in his past which aroused his compassion and his contempt for the criminal regime whose actions aroused that compassion. (Recent research tends to refute theories of indoctrination being a predominant factor in the radicalisation process). The radicalized branch-intellect freedom fighter may be able to recount similar formative experiences. He is motivated, however, by a vision of his country governed not with brutality and corruption but with justice and compassion.
Future-related motivation can only be in conflict with the root-intellect’s natural past-rooted and identity-based extraverted motivation. Motivation which relates to e.g. an aim, hope, goal or consequence is, for the past-oriented (root-intellect) extravert-type, always negative. In spite of all appearances to the individual, it is, in Freudian terms, a death wish. In the absence of any commitment to a cause, (perhaps having watched the 22-day Gaza massacre on TV or having become a parent – both are life-changing causes in my experience) it is vital for the root-intellect type to learn consciously to avoid goal-seeking and to cultivate the ability to live in and to “achieve” in the present.
This is immediately obvious from my own (root-intellect) motivation-fixated point of view but, to put it another way, in the case of the future-motivated root-intellect, the energic relationship between subject and object is reversed. It’s passive in potential, rather than active. He or she is no longer the originator of action, but a potential recipient of what the future will bring. (The flow of time is unconsciously perceived by him to be downward and inward). The intention or rather the unconscious wish of the motivationally future-oriented root-intellect personality is that the object act upon the subject. The self, instead of being the giver, the originator, is passive, in anticipation of future pleasures or, on the other hand, imagined miseries but, in both cases, the subject’s desire is that the object (the world) be at least kind to him.
The predominantly passive relationship with the object, the condition of the common negatively-oriented personality, is something with which we are all familiar – “a man who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package”. He tends to think the world revolves around him. He may tend to self-consciousness, seeking approval and popularity. Preoccupied with his own desires and fears, his primary concern is how the world treats him. He may score high on neuroticism but, more importantly, this unhealthy root-intellect type will consistently score high on introversion.
Thus, two personalities which are effectively opposite in the most important respects have customarily been classed together as belonging to one type: both the healthy branch-intellect and the unhealthy root-intellect being identified as introverts. The distinction is obviously crucial. The introverted urgency of the unhealthy root-intellect personality is passive in potential; the introverted urgency of the healthy branch-intellect personality is active in potential.
Altruistic motivation – an area almost completely neglected by modern psychology – is, I submit, a commonplace dynamic determinant of adult behaviour, marginally influenced by but effectively independent of basic needs and gratification drives.
Active and Passive Urgency for each Intellectual Type
|Intellectual Type||Active (Positive/Adult) Urgency||Passive (Negative/Infant) Urgency|
|Root Intellect (past intellectual orientation)||Extraversion (past-related motivation)||Introversion (future-related motivation)|
|Branch Intellect (future intellectual orientation)||Introversion (future-related motivation)||Extraversion (past-related motivation)|
I am, therefore, proposing a model in which the conflict of urgency can be best understood as a form of cancellation (more akin in its effect to the principle, in physics, of reversed-polarity wave cancellation). The non-violent, mathematical nature of the conflict is, I think, not an unreasonable inference, given the lack of testimony as to its very existence. Broadly speaking, for any individual, in any given situation, the sum of conflicting urgency can be considered to be an urgency stasis, analogous to an energy level: on the positive side, the higher the level, the stronger the character (and drive) of the individual (i.e. the ability, in the case of the extravert, to act consistently in accordance with his principles etc. rather than in response to his passive motivation… related to e.g. fear, desire etc.), the greater the awareness, the clearer the judgement. Beyond the lowest levels (i.e. beyond the area of enfeebling maximum conflict), and in to the negative area where passive outweighs active urgency, the subject may be prey to his own fears and desires. His subjective interpretation of experience will mean that reality may be distorted and censored and, regardless of the level of intelligence, the judgement may be clouded and flawed.
the motivation of an infant in the body of an adult
The measurement of the degree of effective extraversion for each intellectual type must range, in theory at least, from complete introversion to complete extraverson. Should the passive component substantially outweigh the active, the resultant high passive-urgency stasis can easily be mistaken for strength. Certain motivationally-immature but powerful and charismatic individuals in history and in the worlds of business and politics readily spring to mind – sometimes referred to as the industrial psychopath. Any degree of morality, from the point of view of the near-psychopathic personality, is weakness. His “strength” derives from his commitment to his own interests, his lack of conscience, his lack of empathy, his lack of conflicting motivation. What he doesn’t understand is that his “strength” amounts to no more than a gross immaturity. The psychopath can be defined as an individual who possesses the almost exclusively passive motivation of an infant. Regardless of any apparent emotional and intellectual maturity, we’re talking about a baby. The most fundamental and sovereign mechanism of the psyche, that which determines action, is still working in reverse; it’s still approaching 100% passive, 100% selfish. Devoid of empathy, devoid of responsibility, devoid of conscience, resorting to manipulation to get what it wants, it moves among normal people causing untold damage and suffering, but nothing matters except that it gets what it wants. We were all born as psychopaths but we, most of us, grew out of it while we were still too small to do any damage.
In both the very weak and the very strong, the relative absence of urgency conflict indicates the existence of a single, more or less unchallenged principle motivation: either commitment, on the one hand, to a cause/goal or, on the other hand, a complete surrender of the individual to his own desires to the exclusion or detriment of all other interests and considerations. “Do what thou wilt be the whole of the law.”
It follows, therefore, that this model provides, also, an altered perspective on morality as being not only a learned code of behaviour but an integral parameter of the most fundamental dynamic mechanism of the psyche. As I have said, the key to understanding morality is survival. Survival of the family and of the community places certain obligations upon its members. The healthy adult is aware that the needs of the family must take precedence over the desires of the individual. Weakness, however, breeds weakness. The unhealthy parent tends to impede motivational development in their offspring by placing insufficient emphasis upon encouraging empathy and upon the correction of selfish/inconsiderate behaviour both by instruction and by example. The selfishness of the individual in one situation emerges as an equivalent weakness or inadequacy in another. The child which is exposed to the extreme selfishness of its parents can generally be expected to follow in their footsteps and treat us, perhaps, to the joys of his narcissistic personality disorder. Depending on the depth of his pain, he may achieve some local notoriety as a sociopath. As long as we fail to recognize the simplicity – the direct relationship between our own selfishness and our own immaturity – we lack sufficient understanding to break the cycle.
Our instinctive recognition of what we perceive as “strength” in others can be attributed equally to either side of the scale. When we speak of a “strong” leader, we make no distinction between active and passive motivation; we instinctively recognize only that the individual has more drive, more focus, more motivation: a higher level of urgency stasis than more “normal” people.
At the extremes of negative urgency, we may, on occasion, identify the psychopathic personality but between mere selfishness/weakness and the absolute ruthlessness of the psychopath, lie some of the most dangerous personalities in existence. They can be found both in business and in politics. If an example helps, as I write, the name Rupert Murdoch springs to mind as a prime candidate. They have sometimes been termed the industrial psychopath. They owe their success not to their strength of character but, it might be said, to the strength of their weaknesses and to their defining failure to curb these weaknesses as might a more “normal” individual. They can generally rationalize their lack of compassion by reasoned argument – “someone has to be strong enough to take the hard decisions” – but it is their great weakness, their motivational immaturity, their negative strength, be it plain greed or ego-driven ambition, that facilitates their rise in the corporate or in the political world.
The banking crisis has exposed to the public consciousness the flawed beliefs which brought it about. In particular, it was widely held that in order to attract “quality” people, it is essential to pay the highest salaries. This hypothesis, if valid, suggests quite the reverse. High-level drive and focus is to be found on both sides of the spectrum. “Quality” people with immense drive and power of intellect are to be found in every profession in this country. When I was young, our family GP in Glasgow’s west end, was William Blair, an absolutely outstanding and gifted individual whose dedication to medicine was absolute and not unconnected to a belief, shared, I imagine, by all at that practice, that the National Health Service was a thing of immeasurable worth. He grasped the opportunity to serve the community with his intellect and his continually-expanding knowledge of medicine. It would be absurd to suggest that a productivity bonus might have induced a man of that exceptional calibre to work harder or to apply his considerable intellect more assiduously to the task of saving life and alleviating suffering (although I don’t imagine he would have turned it down)! It is only the motivationally-immature personality that is attracted and motivated by the high salary and the goal of the high bonus. The consequences of the influx of the self-serving, risk-taking, motivationally-immature personality into the banking industry are being felt across the planet. There is nothing healthy about selfishness in any degree, nothing healthy about a grown man with the motivational maturity of a child and when that is the norm, there is nothing healthy about the culture that has created that norm. Capitalism has often been criticised because it tends to produce great inequity and injustice. That is the least of its consequences.
If the model is valid, the psychopath represents nothing more than the extreme of the normal distribution but the destruction that he leaves in his wake does not begin to compare with the catalogue of death and destruction that can, in some cases, be attributed to the near-psychopathic personality whose ability to integrate successfully into society, together with his psychopath-like qualities, may have placed him in poll position for a highly-successful career in politics (or, perhaps, in a media empire which exerts a dangerous and corrupting influence upon politics). Unlike the mere psychopath, he can acquire power and influence; he can use his glibness and his skills as a dissembler to advance his position. His manipulative skills, his ruthlessness and his lack of remorse are qualities that are rewarded with continued success, and his confidence that these attributes only indicate his innate superiority to ordinary human beings lends a charisma to his personality which fools “enough of the people, enough of the time.”
Psychopathy is, necessarily, a moral construct and, understood within the framework of the urgency-conflict model, plain selfishness and “evil” are effectively quantifiable, occupying merely different positions on the same finite scale of passive/negative urgency.
The moral implications are, I think, far reaching. Above all, however, this is intended to propose an avenue of research that reaches towards a clearer insight into the neurological mechanism of motivation. The implicit assertion is that the normal adult is much diminished by his motivational-immaturity and that that immaturity may be quantifiable. For any population, “normal” need no longer be the benchmark. And, from that, there follows an inescapable statistical inference: the occurrence of the phenomenon of the psychopath can be expected to increase exponentially as the centre of the normal distribution moves to the passive side. The more selfish the culture, the more psychopaths it can be expected to generate.
I have often asked myself, given research and validation of this hypothesis, what good it would do even if it were to become common knowledge that selfishness and immaturity are one in the same. The answer lies in the normal distribution. The ideology that came to the fore during the Reagan/Thatcher era was successful in moving the culture of the UK and the USA towards selfishness and greed i.e. the normal distribution curve moved further to the passive side. It did not take an immense change in attitudes to achieve that translation from a not-particularly-healthy culture to an even more unhealthy culture and yet it brought the near-psychopathic personality to prominence in all fields of business and commerce while drastically diminishing the incidence of the healthy altruistic adult personality. Those who do not understand the power of statistics and probability will perhaps find that proposition difficult to accept but if we were to completely disregard everything that this hypothesis tells us, that fact would remain. The normal distribution places the sovereign power and responsibility in the hands of the ordinary people. If we become even slightly less pleasure-and-greed-oriented, even slightly more compassionate and caring about the welfare of other people, we shall inevitably move the curve towards altruism, and the incidence of the psychopathic and near-psychopathic personality will diminish drastically while the incidence of the strong, healthy altruistic adult personality will inevitably increase. If our ideology, the prevailing orthodoxy, even marginally incorporates the idea that selfishness and immaturity are one in the same, that is what will inexorably follow, and in that statement, I think, lies the urgency of this research.
The culture which, failing to recognize the relationship between selfishness and immaturity, encourages and promotes self-oriented motivation (i.e. any capitalist culture) can be expected to be led by individuals who are closer to the psychopathic end of the scale, the normal distribution guaranteeing the high incidence of the near-psychopathic personality while diminishing the incidence of the mature altruistic personality. From that, it can be inferred that the universally-assumed inherent good of democracy obtains only in a healthy, broadly unselfish culture.
I entitled this paper, “The Psychology of Compassion,” but it could equally have been entitled, “The Essence of Evil.” The relationship between the parent and the infant is pivotal to the psyche of each. There is absolutely no evil in the child’s passive relationship with the parent. Evil is the word we use when the infant’s deeply-self-oriented motivational state persists into adulthood.
My conclusions, in no particular order:
- there is an essential moral dimension to personality which is fundamental to the mechanism of motivation
- the transition from motivationally-passive infant to motivationally-active adult is not an automatic process; it is a journey that only a very few ever complete
- at the extremes, the psychopath can be described as an adult who has the motivational maturity of an infant. He is completely devoid of the prime attributes of the healthy parent, namely compassion and responsibility. Like a healthy infant, he feels a sense of entitlement, an instinctive expectation that the world should provide for him, see to his needs. Like an infant, he is virtually 100% self-oriented, completely passively-motivated, requiring to manipulate others to address his needs.
- there is a continuum, on a scale of strength and weakness, ranging from the extremes of great weakness – the unchallenged infantile motivation of the psychopath – to the equally-rare unchallenged adult motivation of the competely-committed altruistic personality
- selfishness and motivational immaturity are one and the same
- a culture that promotes or encourages passive motivation whether in the form of a greed/consumer/market-driven economy or in the form of endemic racism can be expected to produce a greater proportion of psychopaths and near-psychopathic personalities, the centre of the normal distribution having been translated toward the psychopathic end of the scale. Likewise, a lower proportion of “strong” altruistic individuals can be predicted.
- the American Dream, a culture that promotes self-interest, measuring success in terms of status and wealth is an expression of immaturity. Altruism and generally taking cogniscence of the welfare of others is indicative of the mature personality. To qualify that, it has to be observed that many instances of what might be termed “Christian charity” are (passively) motivated by the self-interest of perfectly normal individuals whose selfishness takes the form of acting in such a way as they imagine might cause their God to look favourably upon them (no criticism intended – just a necessary qualification). Charity is not an act; it is a state of being.
- Experiment will demonstrate, firstly, the existence of urgency stasis as a cognitive-neurological mechanism which, by maintaining the relationship between perception, time and action, initiates and moderates action, by both continual data-stream and threshold trigger mechanisms.
- Secondly, experiment will demonstrate the existence of the root/branch intellect typology. (I have, as yet, been unable to find any research which has been undertaken in this area although, as I mentioned earlier, there are important parallels in Guilford and Hoepfner’s work on Convergent and Divergent intelligence – “The Analysis of Intelligence”  New York: McGraw-Hill).
- I would predict, finally, for each intellect type, a substantial correlation between the degree of identifiable non-pathological character weakness (ranging from the psychopath to the neurotic) and the level of passive-urgency stasis. I already mentioned that we have a ready-made pool of root-intellect minds in the Freudian School together with an equally clear pool of branch-intellects with the Adlerian School. Additionally, initial testing of sociopaths for intellect type might help refine testing methods for a more diverse population.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who might care to comment, and particularly so in the context of any proposed or pre-existing research touching on this.
Copyright © Jimmy Powdrell Campbell 1996, 2012.
Written by jimmypowdrellcampbell
November 30, 2008 at 3:00 pm
Tagged with adler, altruism, antisocial behaviour, Antisocial Personality Disorder, axiology, basal ganglia, ethics, evolution of morality, evolutionary ethics, freud, hedonism, jung, libido, libido theory, meta-ethics, moral philosophy, moral psychology, moral universalism, morality, morals, motivation, narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, neuroscience, personality types, philanthropy, philosophy, philosophy of mind, psychodynamic theory, Psychology, psychopath, psychopath definition, psychopathic personality disorder, psychopathy, sociopath, strength, time perception, universal morality, urgency, value theory, weakness
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