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On psychology and education

In 2009, seven years before the elections of 2016, Niall Bradley wrote about psychopaths in “From Truth to Power: Souless Psychopaths Rule Our World”:

“While psychopaths promote vigorously certain ideologies, they are blatant liars and feel no attachment to the words they utter. Instead, they calculate appropriate emotional responses for each situation, enabling them to manipulate one against another, each ‘side’ in any given conflict providing cover for their hidden strategy. Thus, shielded by a ‘mask of sanity,’ the vast majority of them are successful and their true nature isn’t realized until it’s too late.”

Bradley quotes Dr. Robert Hare, a renowned authority on psychopathology. He labeled this different type of human as “almost human” and an “intra-species preditor.” Hare describes the “psychopath as glib and superficially charming, thrill seeking, callous, without empathy, unable to form real emotional bonds. They have huge egos, short tempers, shallow emotions, a lack of conscience, remorse or guilt, a pathological desire to win, and the inclination to hurt people.”

Hare states that “psychopaths find and use vulnerable people, then abandon them. They’re impulsive, irresponsible, promiscuous, cunning, manipulative and pathological liars. And they control big business, central banks and governments.”

Bradley concludes: “The great majority of psychopaths are not violent criminals and never will be. Hundreds of thousands of psychopaths live and work and prey among us. Your boss, your boyfriend, your mother could be what Hare calls a ‘subliminal’ psychopath, someone who leaves a path of destruction and pain without a single pang of conscience. Even more worrisome is the fact that, at this stage, no one — not even Bob Hare — is quite sure what to do about it.”

Perhaps another renowned psychiatrist, Lawrence Kubie, MD, who relates abnormal behavior to the processes of education, can shed some light on the subject: “(E)ducation and therapy are complementary and inseparable” — a thought quite foreign to most educators.

For those who think therapy is some kind of mysterious process that can only be understood by psychiatrists or psychologists, here in essence is what it is. Therapy is a process of helping individuals develop self-knowledge and self-understanding; it attempts to account for all the experiences of life revealed through analysis that may have influenced what one has become. This is an educational process of the most fundamental kind, essential for a healthy, effective life and living.

“It has long been known that in early years children have an extraordinarily inventive imagination, transposing experience freely among the various sensory modalities, using delightful and original figures of speech and allegory.

“What happens to this poetic gift under the stultifying impact of that which we call our educational system?

“What happens to the free play of pre-conscious functions in the course of conventional education?

“My unhappy conviction is that much of the learning which has traditionally been looked upon as an essential attribute of the educated man (or woman) has no necessary relevance either to creativity or to maturity, and that instead many ingredients in the process by which men become learned tend actively to obstruct them both.

“… education will continue to perpetuate a fraud on culture until it accepts the full implications of the fact that the free creative velocity of our thinking apparatus is continually being braked and driven off course by the play of unconscious forces. (Those forces involve the residue from past experiences that are distilled into attitudes, values and personal orientations.)

“Educational procedures which fail to recognize this end up by increasing the interference from latent and unrecognized neurotic (rigid) forces.

“Our knowledge of the external world and our ability to represent the world as it is or as we would like it to be has grown enormously, but our ability to meet wisely the challenge of how to be human beings has not developed equally.

“… education without self-knowledge can never mean wisdom or maturity; … self-knowledge in depth is a process which like education itself is never complete. It is a point on a continuous and never-ending journey. Without self-knowledge we can have no adults, but only aging children who are armed with words, and paint and clay and atomic weapons, none of which they (can fully) understand.

“Self-knowledge is not all there is to wisdom and maturity; but it is an essential ingredient which makes maturity at least possible. Yet it is the one ingredient which is almost totally neglected.

“This lack is both an index and a cause of the immaturity of our culture.

“The failure of education to make it possible for Man (and Woman) to change is due to a specific component in human nature: to wit, that psychological rigidity which is the most basic and most universal expression of the neurotic process …

“The great cultural processes of human society, including art and literature, science, education in general, the humanities and religion, have three essential missions — namely; to enable human nature itself to change; to enable each generation to transmit to the next whatever wisdom it has gained about living; to free the enormous untapped creative potential which is latent in varying degrees in the preconscious processes of everyone. It is my belief that in all three respects all of our great cultural efforts have failed.”

Robert L. Arnold lives in Willsboro and is a professor emeritus of education at SUNY Plattsburgh.

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