Neurosis and Neurotic Transfer

By Sheppard, Simon G. | Mankind Quarterly, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Neurosis and Neurotic Transfer


Sheppard, Simon G., Mankind Quarterly


A new approach, Procedural Analysis, describes human behavior according to a male-female dichotomy. In this model, men and women play a 'game of opposites,' employing antipodal strategies. These strategies ultimately derive from the scarce resource of the egg and the considerable investment required for its gestation on the one hand, and the abundance of sperm and the ability of the male to simply walk away on the other (Trivers, 1972). Only when progeny are to be produced in the near future, or are actually being reared, do the sexes approach symbiosis. The rest of the time males and females are opponents in a game of conflicting interests.

For example, the optimal gene-proliferation policy for the male is to impregnate as many reproductive females as possible - polygyny. Conversely the female prefers the sole attention of a male of superior fitness for long-term support, particularly through the critical period of gestation and child infancy - monogamy. These trends appear to be consistent across many cultures (Schmitt, 2003).

Accordingly males seek to lower the cost of sex, females seek to raise it; males take risk, females avoid it; males innovate and females imitate; males compete and females conspire (act together), and so on. A decade after the author postulated this model the first in this list was explored as 'Sexual economics' (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004). We deal here with evolutionary strategies, not individuals, and of course in real life there is much overlap between the sexes.

Rather than attempt to summarize PA in its entirety, this treatise will concentrate on a feature of the Occidental character, the capacity for neurosis. Neurosis (as here defined) is not unique to Western males, but to him it is both a virtue, motivating progress, and a vulnerability, employed by his competitors to exploit him. If this is not evident, it is certainly feasible, given the rich variety of genetic expression in the brain. Concerning this, Trivers' recent summary cannot be improved: "The brain is unique both in the total number of genes expressed and in the number of genes expressed there and nowhere else. By some estimates, more than half of all genes express themselves in the brain: that is, more than ten thousand genes. This means that genetic variation for mental and behavioral traits should be especially extensive and fine-grained in our species - contra decades of social science dogma" (Trivers, 2011, p. 123). The wide variation in behavioral traits is reflected in the ongoing debate about independent and interdependent cultures (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Support for this view can be drawn from various perspectives (Heine & Lehman, 1997; Iyengar & Lepper, 1999; Risch et al., 2002; Kanazawa, 2006; Taylor et al., 2007; Heine, 2010).

Procedural Analysis is presented as a theoretical model, and no claim of scientific rigor is made save that the author lived for several years in Amsterdam, where behavior was less reserved and many psychological mechanisms were evident, often at their extremes. It was in this environment that PA was developed. The approach has the important advantages of being internally consistent, testable and capable of general comprehension. While workers in various psychological disciplines garner valuable knowledge, much of it is of only marginal utility to ordinary people, who struggle to understand the events and problems of their everyday lives.

Here an attempt is made to analyze at the most fundamental level, the basic psychological mechanisms. This, after all, is the true object of scientific endeavor, to identify the essential variables and simplify.

Neurosis

Nowadays the term neurosis has come to mean a generalized state of anxiety, "a mild mental illness, not attributable to organic disease, characterized by symptoms of stress" (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2002). The hope is to reclaim the term for a specific psychological reaction: the mental condition which arises when one stimulus evokes two or more responses. …

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