The Psychology of Torture - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
There is one place in which one's privacy, intimacy, integrity and inviolability are guaranteed – one's body, a unique temple and a familiar territory of sensa and personal history. The torturer invades, defiles and desecrates this shrine. He does so publicly, deliberately, repeatedly and, often, sadistically and sexually, with undisguised pleasure. Hence all-pervasive, long-lasting, and, frequently, irreversible effects and outcomes of torture.
In a way, torture victim's own body is rendered his worse enemy. It is corporeal agony that compels sufferer to mutate, his identity to fragment, his ideals and principles to crumble. The body becomes an accomplice of tormentor, an uninterruptible channel of communication, a treasonous, poisoned territory.
It fosters a humiliating dependency of abused on perpetrator. Bodily needs denied – sleep, toilet, food, water – are wrongly perceived by victim as direct causes of his degradation and dehumanization. As he sees it, he is rendered bestial not by sadistic bullies around him but by his own flesh.
The concept of "body" can easily be extended to "family", or "home". Torture is often applied to kin and kith, compatriots, or colleagues. This intends to disrupt continuity of "surroundings, habits, appearance, relations with others", as CIA put it in one of its manuals. A sense of cohesive self-identity depends crucially on familiar and continuous. By attacking both one's biological body and one's "social body", victim's psyche is strained to point of dissociation.
Beatrice Patsalides describes this transmogrification thus in "Ethics of Unspeakable: Torture Survivors in Psychoanalytic Treatment":
"As gap between 'I' and 'me' deepens, dissociation and alienation increase. The subject that, under torture, was forced into position of pure object has lost his or her sense of interiority, intimacy, and privacy. Time is experienced now, in present only, and perspective – that which allows for a sense of relativity – is foreclosed. Thoughts and dreams attack mind and invade body as if protective skin that normally contains our thoughts, gives us space to breathe in between thought and thing being thought about, and separates between inside and outside, past and present, me and you, was lost."
Torture robs victim of most basic modes of relating to reality and, thus, is equivalent of cognitive death. Space and time are warped by sleep deprivation. The self ("I") is shattered. The tortured have nothing familiar to hold on to: family, home, personal belongings, loved ones, language, name. Gradually, they lose their mental resilience and sense of freedom. They feel alien – unable to communicate, relate, attach, or empathize with others.
Torture splinters early childhood grandiose narcissistic fantasies of uniqueness, omnipotence, invulnerability, and impenetrability. But it enhances fantasy of merger with an idealized and omnipotent (though not benign) other – inflicter of agony. The twin processes of individuation and separation are reversed.
Sex or Gender - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
Alan Pease, author of a book titled "Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps", believes that women are spatially-challenged compared to men. The British firm, Admiral Insurance, conducted a study of half a million claims. They found that "women were almost twice as likely as men to have a collision in a car park, 23 percent more likely to hit a stationary car, and 15 percent more likely to reverse into another vehicle" (Reuters).
Yet gender "differences" are often outcomes of bad scholarship. Consider Admiral insurance's data. As Britain's Automobile Association (AA) correctly pointed out - women drivers tend to make more short journeys around towns and shopping centers and these involve frequent parking. Hence their ubiquity in certain kinds of claims. Regarding women's alleged spatial deficiency, in Britain, girls have been outperforming boys in scholastic aptitude tests - including geometry and maths - since 1988.
On other wing of divide, Anthony Clare, a British psychiatrist and author of "On Men" wrote:
"At beginning of 21st century it is difficult to avoid conclusion that men are in serious trouble. Throughout world, developed and developing, antisocial behavior is essentially male. Violence, sexual abuse of children, illicit drug use, alcohol misuse, gambling, all are overwhelmingly male activities. The courts and prisons bulge with men. When it comes to aggression, delinquent behavior, risk taking and social mayhem, men win gold."
Men also mature later, die earlier, are more susceptible to infections and most types of cancer, are more likely to be dyslexic, to suffer from a host of mental health disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and to commit suicide.
In her book, "Stiffed: The Betrayal of American Man", Susan Faludi describes a crisis of masculinity following breakdown of manhood models and work and family structures in last five decades. In film "Boys don't Cry", a teenage girl binds her breasts and acts male in a caricatural relish of stereotypes of virility. Being a man is merely a state of mind, movie implies.
But what does it really mean to be a "male" or a "female"? Are gender identity and sexual preferences genetically determined? Can they be reduced to one's sex? Or are they amalgams of biological, social, and psychological factors in constant interaction? Are they immutable lifelong features or dynamically evolving frames of self-reference?
Certain traits attributed to one's sex are surely better accounted for by cultural factors, process of socialization, gender roles, and what George Devereux called "ethnopsychiatry" in "Basic Problems of Ethnopsychiatry" (University of Chicago Press, 1980). He suggested to divide unconscious into id (the part that was always instinctual and unconscious) and "ethnic unconscious" (repressed material that was once conscious). The latter is mostly molded by prevailing cultural mores and includes all our defense mechanisms and most of superego.
So, how can we tell whether our sexual role is mostly in our blood or in our brains?
The scrutiny of borderline cases of human sexuality - notably transgendered or intersexed - can yield clues as to distribution and relative weights of biological, social, and psychological determinants of gender identity formation.
The results of a study conducted by Uwe Hartmann, Hinnerk Becker, and Claudia Rueffer-Hesse in 1997 and titled "Self and Gender: Narcissistic Pathology and Personality Factors in Gender Dysphoric Patients", published in "International Journal of Transgenderism", "indicate significant psychopathological aspects and narcissistic dysregulation in a substantial proportion of patients." Are these "psychopathological aspects" merely reactions to underlying physiological realities and changes? Could social ostracism and labeling have induced them in "patients"?
The authors conclude:
"The cumulative evidence of our study ... is consistent with view that gender dysphoria is a disorder of sense of self as has been proposed by Beitel (1985) or Pfäfflin (1993). The central problem in our patients is about identity and self in general and transsexual wish seems to be an attempt at reassuring and stabilizing self-coherence which in turn can lead to a further destabilization if self is already too fragile. In this view body is instrumentalized to create a sense of identity and splitting symbolized in hiatus between rejected body-self and other parts of self is more between good and bad objects than between masculine and feminine."