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Selected Replies to "A Society of Victims"

Selected reader responses will be posted here.
All names and some identifying details will be withheld.
The visitors' prose and grammar is in all cases uncorrected.

Portions Copyright © 2008, Paul LutusMessage Page

Scientific or Not? | My Professors are Unhappy | Prospects for Escape

(double-click any word to see its definition)

Note: Because my psychology correspondence has gradually evolved toward offering people advice, I want to say I am not a psychologist and any advice I offer is based only on common sense and life experience. I think most educated readers will accept this.

Scientific or Not?
Hello, I am a student at [ ... ] University. I found your page while looking for information on whether psychology was actually as scientific as it said it was. I found the general idea of it interesting, however have been somewhat disappointed after beginning certain pyschology courses. It really struck a nerve that a child psychology course I enrolled into did not seem to be as strictly scientific as I hoped. I've read your article and some of the responses, and your arguments seem valid. Am I right to understand that you feel all of psychology is essentially useless pseudoscience, or is there some measure of it that has worth? Your article would seem to suggest the former, and that is something I have been fearing. What also worries me is that none of the proclaimed psychology Ph. Ds have had very coherent or even logical arguments, and as you claim often retreat to arguments from authority, when in fact authority doesn't actually matter in the sciences.

So then my main question is, is there any branch of psychology or group of pyschologists who are actually scientific (in your view) in method? This is a major concern for me as I was heavily considering persuing psychology and I absolutely could not with a clear conscience ally myself with pseudoscience, it being something I have attempted to counter at all points possible. I will continue to look into this, but await your response, as it seems to be somewhat more based upon rationality and logic (than your opponents), which I praise highly.
We need to define our terms. Psychology using pigeons as subjects can be reasonably scientific, because pigeons don't have rights. Psychology using humans (and/or about humans) cannot be very scientific because you cannot perform rigorous experiments on humans. An example of such an experiment would be one in which neither the experimenter nor the subjects know whether they are part of the experimental or control group (the "double-blind" design). This is simultaneously impossible and unethical.

Suppose the "experiment" is meant to determine whether a particular kind of counseling is efficacious in preventing suicide in adolescents. If it is, then the control group will have more suicides than the experimental group. But this experiment would never be carried out for obvious ethical reasons, therefore such a therapeutic method (and any other therapeutic methods, for the same reasons) can never be rigorously tested.

This is why human psychology accepts claims such as "subject X received therapy Y and later reported that she felt better, so therapy Y must be efficacious." In other words, the most trivial issues, such as confusing correlation with causation, are ignored.

Most of my critics sidestep the question of whether psychology is scientific and instead emphasize that psychology helps people. But they cannot prove it. They cannot prove it because of what they sidestepped at the outset.

There are any number of absolute horror stories in the field of psychology, some of which are recounted in my paper "A Society of Victims", but for obvious reasons, many psychologists criticize this sort of writing as throwing out the baby with the bathwater. My point is psychology has a difficult time justifying the bath, and as to doing it scientifically, they really don't know where to start.
My Professors are Unhappy
Paul, thank you for writing such clear and insightful articles. I am a [ ... ] student at [ ... ] University, [ ... ]. I stumbled onto your site a few years ago, and it has helped me further my education in many ways, especially in terms of self-study.

It is absolutely true that college university education is more concerned with the rules of authority rather than reciprocal discourse.

I have shown a couple of samples of your writing to some of my professors (namely psych. doctorates) and have been disappointed by their reactions. They reject some of your statements while agreeing with your larger ideas. One professor contradicted himself so much that I began to worry that he might project some of his frustration with your thesis on to me as a student. He refused to even visit your site and read the article completely (though I believe he will in secret). I have learned to be very aware of a teacher's subverted authority complex, which always lurks beneath the surface of otherwise thoughtful and intelligent personas.
I am astonished by how many psychologists feel justified in rejecting an argument on emotional grounds, and I find that many cannot evaluate ideas in isolation from how they feel about those ideas.

As far as I am concerned, if a person can recount imaginary "memories" under the care of a psychologist, cause the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of her relatives, then later recant those same memories and switch to prosecuting the therapist, with none of these events ringing alarm bells among theoretical psychologists, then there is no meaningful connection between psychology and science.

If I make a statement about gravity, it will be either correct or incorrect, and if the statement could have an effect on society, someone will come forward and vet the remark based on science. By contrast, if I make a remark about psychology, even if my remark might cause someone to lose his freedom, no one will come forward. The only way I can undo the damage is to recant.

The last time someone tried to make a scientist recant was during the notorious prosecution of Galileo by the Church in the 17th century. Since then, people have come to realize that evidence and evidence collection are much more productive activities than arguing and making things up (except, of course, for religion and psychology).
I am not quite able to clearly articulate what I observe of their responses, but I recognize the weakness of their rebutal arguments when I hear them. Paul, I realize now more than ever that I have to become more self-reliant when it comes to educating myself. If I have learned anything from your material, it is that.Then my time was well-spent.You have helped me, as well as countless others, better distinguish between good and bad sources of information through your use of strong syntax and rhetoric. Thanks again for your generosity.You are most welcome. I am happy that my articles are having some effect in academia.
Prospects for Escape
I just wanted to thank you for all your articles on Victims and Narcissism. I am currently going through a very difficult time due to a family situation [ ... ]. I'm being totally outcast for failing to agree with a deceptive process. I feel sad that this is happening but I'm also experiencing, for the first time, true 'freedom' of mind and I am happy for them to believe what ever it is they wish to believe. Unfortunately, my brother continues to send abusive emails trying to suggest that I am nothing in this world and that I have a mental illness in the form of Paranoid Personality Disorder and now Narcissistic personality disorder, he is clearly doing this for reasons best known to himself (self serving?). My reply to him is consistent...."I'm comfortable for you to 'feel' however it is you wish to 'feel'.

I have looked at these disorders and recognise certain personality traits that are consistent with my own. I have been working hard for the past two years to overcome my negative self image (victimhood) and to find a 'realistic' and healthy view of myself in the world. As a result, I'm feeling much better, happier, and I'm achieving many wonderful things. Unfortunately, my family sees this as an immense and threatening change (because they are potential all narcissistic? ), they claim to no longer know me as I become more connected with my own essence and the truth of the natural world.

Thank you once again for your thoughts and research as presented in your articles. If you have any tips on how to deal with someone who is trying to convince your enitire family that you have a mental illness (potential projection), when your whole family (they all have narcissistic/victim traits) is prepared to accept his word without question in a 'postmodernist' kind of way, please let me know? I think I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I just have to completely walk away from my family in the knowledge that for the moment, society wont enable them to take matters any further.....but I'm not so confident about the future.
First, as you probably know I am not a psychologist, and any advice I offer is just personal opinion. That happens to be true for psychologists also, if the truth be known.

A normal person is satisfied to control himself, but a narcissist must control others and is willing to be controlled by others. A normal person can engage in constructive self-criticism, but a narcissist cannot do this. A normal person is satisfied to craft a unique personal life plan, but a narcissist's life plan must necessarily include others.

When choosing a life strategy, a normal person recognizes there is no higher authority than himself. A narcissist believes there is one correct plan for everyone, and it is a simple matter of locating the right authority to find out what that plan is.

Nature, and individuals, are organized bottom-up. Narcissists are organized top-down. All truly creative, successful people guide themselves based on individual personal judgments, informed by education and direct life experience (bottom-up). Narcissists expect to be guided by authorities like religious and political leaders, sages, experts (top-down).

An individual is creative and original, while a narcissist is obedient and expects you to be obedient also. An individual figures out what nature has in mind for him, while a narcissist finds out what the rules are and conforms to them — and, if possible, makes you conform too.

Because of the complexity of the human genome, there has never been, and there will never again be, a person just like you. You are nature's experiment, and in order to succeed, you have to be willing to fail. Narcissists won't risk failure, so they give up any prospect for success.

Evolution is set up as it is for a reason — to maximize the number of genotypes, which in turn maximizes the number of solutions to the equation of life. And because the environment changes across both time and space, there is no single valid solution to life's equation, but millions.

If we all adopt a single behavior, an externally imposed pattern for everyone, we disparage nature's most important gift to us, deny our individuality, and in essence slap nature across the face.

Individuals are not members or joiners except in the most superficial sense. My primary responsibility is to myself, and if I fail in that responsibility, I won't be a person but an automaton, a drone, and any other responsibilities I accept won't really be fulfilled by me, but by an empty shell.

What the world needs more than anything are original ideas. What the world needs less than anything are drones, people who think the point of life is to follow all the rules.

If the narcissist world view were correct, there would be no evolution, which by definition subverts any long-term order, and there would be no creativity, because there would be no need for new ideas.

At a more mundane level and with respect to your personal situation, it's clear that until now you have been your family's "designated sick person," and the pressure to stay engaged comes from someone who will have to select a new "designated sick person" if you make yourself unavailable. That is why your brother is trying to assign pop-psychology labels to you, while simultaneously insisting that you stay engaged.

There is an obvious paradox at work here. If you were really the sick person he is describing, why on earth would he want you to stay? Either (1) you are really the sick person he claims you are, in which case he shouldn't be asking you to stay, or (2) you are not the sick person he describes, but he wants you to stay and pretend to be someone you are not.

Being a family's "designated sick person" is a corrosive role for all involved. It suspends the personal development of other family members by allowing them to focus their attention on you and your personal drama rather than on themselves. It provides a simple and classic structure for narcissism, the variety that allows everyone to look on you as a defective organism, but paradoxically one they cannot do without.

I was the designated sick person in my own family (therefore this could all be a projection), and I played the part very well. After I made my first million and won public recognition for my work, I was suddenly no longer suitable for that role and the rest of the family felt betrayed and cheated. There was enormous bitterness when an obviously defective person, a born loser, became more successful than any other family member. We never reconciled. Was that too high a price to pay? Not on your life.

An individual can be described as someone living a particular life, while a narcissist lives a generic life. An individual may choose to engage with other people, with a realistic expectation of mutual benefit, while a narcissist has no choice about his associations.

A narcissist searches for followers, acolytes, while an individual searches for himself.

Nature is a cacophony of voices, singing in harmony but not in unison. Narcissism is a single voice that tries to speak for everyone.

I wish you the best.

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