Dynamics of Character: Self-Regulation in Psychopathology

Dynamics of Character: Self-Regulation in Psychopathology

Dynamics of Character: Self-Regulation in Psychopathology

Dynamics of Character: Self-Regulation in Psychopathology

Synopsis

Shapiro (psychology, New School for Social Research) deepens his classic studies of psychopathology with the conceptualization of a dynamics of the whole character: a self-regulatory system that encompasses personal attitudes, modes of activity, and relationship with the external world. He demonstrates that symptomatically and diagnostically diverse conditions are not as discrete as they seem. He shows the formal relations of obsessive compulsive to paranoid, hysterical to psychopathic, and psychopathic to hypomanic conditions, and examines the relation of neurotic conditions to schizophrenia.

Excerpt

For some time I have wanted to extend and also deepen my earlier studies of psychopathology, all the more now in light of the current challenge to psychological understanding from biological science. My earlier work on neurotic styles attempts to describe quite closely the formal qualities of various kinds of neurotic experience and behavior, such as the ways of thinking, the attitudes (particularly the unrecognized attitudes), and the modes of action that characterize the different neurotic conditions. I was interested in the description and analysis of the general forms of pathological experience and behavior because these forms or styles seemed to constitute what might be called the structure of the pathological character and, in turn, determined the form of characteristic symptoms.

The study of the ways the mind works, of what Wilhelm Reich called "ways of being," necessarily leads to a different perception of the dynamics of psychopathology from the traditional psychoanalytic one. It leads to a picture of a consciously purposeful individual whose activity and the attitudes that shape it are not mere products of the pathological dynamics but are central to those dynamics. It is a more inclusive dynamics, one that includes the defensive function of the individual style of cognition and action, the subjective forms of motivation, and the qualities of conscious experience in general. This dynamics of the whole character is, in my opinion, a view of the individual's self-regulation that is sounder theoretically and more useful therapeutically than the traditional dynamics of drive-defense conflicts. In particular, it opens the door to a better understanding of the subjective necessity of the forms that symptoms take.

One of the unexpected products of my earlier work was the suggestion of certain formal relations or kinships between kinds of psychopathology that were symptomatically quite disparate, such as between obsessional and paranoid conditions. Further formal analysis, I have thought, might permit . . .

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