Research repeatedly finds that typical highly-dissociated (“fragmented”) people were subjected to extreme neglect, abuse, abandonment, or other trauma as young children. Their nurturance deprivations were profound. The great majority of us don’t have anywhere close to this degree of personality splitting – and do have some.
Parent Alienation Syndrome occurs when individuals who have certain psychological characteristics manage internal conflict or pain by transforming psychological pain into interpersonal conflict. Divorcing parents often experience humiliation, loss of self-esteem, guilt, ambivalence, fear, abandonment anxiety, jealousy, or intense anger. These normal but very painful emotions must be managed. Usually people in crisis rely on characteristic relationship styles and pain management techniques. The Team has found alienating parents to have the following characteristics:
1. A narcissistic or paranoid orientation to interactions and relationships with others, usually as the result of a personality disorder.(2) Both narcissistic and paranoid relationships are maintained by identification, rather than mutual appreciation and enjoyment of differences as well as similarities. Perfectionism and intolerance of personal flaws in self or others have deleterious effects on relationships. When others disagree, narcissistic and paranoid people feel abandoned, betrayed, and often rageful.
2. Reliance on defenses against psychological pain that result in externalizing unwanted or unacceptable feelings, ideas, attitudes, and responsibility for misfortunes so that more painful internal conflict is transformed into less painful interpersonal conflict. Examples of such defenses are phobias, projection, “splitting,” or obsessive preoccupation with the shortcomings of others in order to obscure from self and others the individual’s own shortcomings. “Splitting” results when feelings, judgments, or characteristics are polarized into opposite, exhaustive, and mutually exclusive categories (such as all good or all bad, right or wrong, love or hate, victim or perpetrator), then are assigned or directed separately to self and other. (I am good, you are bad.) The need for such defenses arises because alienating parents have little or no tolerance for internal conflict or even normal ambivalence. The interpersonal result of such defenses is intense interpersonal conflict.(3)
3. Evidence of an abnormal grieving process such that there is a preponderance of anger and an absence of sadness in reaction to the loss of the marital partner
4. A family history in which there is an absence of awareness of normal ambivalence and conflict about parents, enmeshment, or failure to differentiate and emancipate from parents; or a family culture in which “splitting” or externalizing is a prominent feature. Some alienating parents were raised in families in which there is unresolved or unacknowledged grief as the result of traumatic losses or of severe but unacknowledged emotional deprivation, usually in the form of absence of empathy. More frequently, alienating parents were favorite children or were overly indulged or idealized as children.
Low serotonin levels are also linked to a host of psychiatric afflictions other than impulsive aggression. Some of these include migraines, pathological shyness, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, gambling, and depression, besides several addictions (food, sex, and drugs).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are among the most widely prescribed drugs, being consumed by millions upon millions, most commonly for depression, but also many of these other disorders. Unless the data is deeply misleading, the alternative explanation is that serotonin shortage is linked to a plethora of behavioral-emotional problems, and not merely aggression.
This is plausible, given that serotonin-producing neuron in the brainstem network with many different parts of the brain, including a broad range of functions.
Therefore, rather than linking serotonin to aggression specifically, it is wiser to assume that this neurotransmitter underlies many psychiatric conditions and neurobiological processes.
And even more important, it shows that neurobiology cannot explain the steep rise in violent and aggressive behavior in the US, for instance, but this can be imputed with far more justice to social, cultural and economic causes that promote violent behavior.
Perhaps serotonin levels may be one of the genetic causes that predispose to the adoption of aggressive behavior, but nothing more. Continue reading “Serotonin and Aggression”
Are You the Object of Hate?
If you’ve ever been the target of hatred, you know how upsetting, frightening and emotional it can be. Actually, since the overall effects of hatred are so physically harmful and emotionally devastating, perhaps we should think of hatred as another type of “H-Bomb.”As you may recall, real H-bombs (hydrogen bombs) generate most of the energy they produce from something called nuclear fission. In addition to producing energy, nuclear fission is also what ignites the initial explosion of a nuclear weapon.In a similar way, hatred produces energy for destructive power. And the fission – what actually ignites the explosion – is driven by the intense hostility, fear, anger or sense of injury one feels.When you’re confronted by this kind of extreme dislike, you basically have two choices regarding your response: You can either sink to the hater’s level and toss a few H-Bombs of your own, or you can recognize this behavior as a character flaw and not respond in kind. Continue reading “Are You the Object of Hate?”
Patients with antisocial personality disorder may express their disregard for others and for the law by destroying property, harassing others, or stealing. They may deceive, exploit, con, or manipulate people to get what they want (eg, money, power, sex). They may use an alias.
These patients are impulsive, not planning ahead and not considering the consequences for or the safety of self or others. As a result, they may suddenly change jobs, homes, or relationships.They may speed when driving and drive while intoxicated, sometimes leading to accidents.They may consume excessive amounts of alcohol or take illegal drugs that may have harmful effects.
Patients with antisocial personality disorder are socially and financially irresponsible. They may change jobs with no plan for getting another. They may not seek employment when opportunities are available. They may not pay their bills, default on loans, or not pay child support.
These patients are often easily provoked and physically aggressive; they may start fights or abuse their spouse or partner. In sexual relationships, they may be irresponsible and exploit their partner and be unable to remain monogamous.
Remorse for actions is lacking. Patients with antisocial personality disorder may rationalize their actions by blaming those they hurt (eg, they deserved it) or the way life is (eg, unfair). They are determined not to be pushed around and to do what they think is best for themselves at any cost.
These patients lack empathy for others and may be contemptuous of or indifferent to the feelings, rights, and suffering of others.
Patients with antisocial personality disorder tend to have a high opinion of themselves and may be very opinionated, self-assured, or arrogant. They may be charming, voluble, and verbally facile in their efforts to get what they want.
For a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, patients must have
This disregard is shown by the presence of ≥ 3 of the following:
Disregarding the law, indicated by repeatedly committing acts that are grounds for arrest
Being deceitful, indicated by lying repeatedly, using aliases, or conning others for personal gain or pleasure
Acting impulsively or not planning ahead
Being easily provoked or aggressive, indicated by constantly getting into physical fights or assaulting others
Recklessly disregarding their safety or the safety of others
Consistently acting irresponsibly, indicated by quitting a job with no plans for another one or not paying bills
Not feeling remorse, indicated by indifference to or rationalization of hurting or mistreating others
Also, patients must have evidence that a conduct disorder has been present before age 15 years. Antisocial personality disorder is diagnosed only in people ≥ 18 years.
Antisocial personality disorder should be distinguished from the following:
Substance use disorder: Determining whether impulsivity and irresponsibility result from substance use disorder or from antisocial personality disorder can be difficult but is possible based on a review of the patient’s history, including early history, to check for periods of sobriety. Sometimes antisocial personality disorder can be diagnosed more easily after a coexisting substance use disorder is treated, but antisocial personality disorders can be diagnosed even when substance use disorder is present.
Conduct disorder: Conduct disorder has a similar pervasive pattern of violating social norms and laws, but conduct disorder must be present before age 15.
Narcissistic personality disorder: Patients are similarly exploitative and lacking in empathy, but they tend not to be aggressive and deceitful as occurs in antisocial personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder: Patients are similarly manipulative but do so to be nurtured rather than to get what they want (eg, money, power) as occurs in antisocial personality disorder.
Both genetic and environmental factors (eg, abuse during childhood) contribute to the development of antisocial personality disorder. A possible mechanism is impulsive aggression, related to abnormal serotonin transporter functioning. Disregard for the pain of others during early childhood has been linked to antisocial behavior during late adolescence.
Antisocial personality disorder is more common among 1st-degree relatives of patients with the disorder than among the general population. Risk of developing this disorder is increased in both adopted and biologic children of parents with the disorder.
If conduct disorder accompanied by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder develops before age 10 years, risk of developing antisocial personality disorder during adulthood is increased. Risk of conduct disorder evolving into antisocial personality disorder may be increased when parents abuse or neglect the child or are inconsistent in discipline or in parenting style (eg, switching from warm and supportive to cold and critical).
People with antisocial personality disorder commit unlawful, deceitful, exploitative, reckless acts for personal profit or pleasure and without remorse; they may do the following:
For antisocial personality disorder, estimated 12-month prevalence rates in the US (based on older Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM] criteria) range from about 0.2 to 3.3%. Antisocial personality disorder is more common among men than among women (6:1), and there is a strong heritable component. Prevalence decreases with age, suggesting that patients can learn over time to change their maladaptive behavior and try to build a life.
Comorbidities are common. Most patients also have a substance use disorder (and about half of those with a substance use disorder meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder). Patients with antisocial personality disorder often also have an impulse control disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or borderline personality disorder.
What anger, feelings of revenge, and hate have in common is that they typically involve negative situations and lead to behaviors that can be disadvantageous to others. The review by Fischer, Halperin, Canetti, and Jasini (2018) takes a functional perspective on hate, in which this and other important similarities and differences between hate and closely related emotions are discussed. However, although their review compares anger with hate, and recently anger has been compared to feelings of revenge (Elshout, Nelissen, & van Beest, 2015), a comparison of hate and feelings of revenge has not yet received much attention in empirical and literature studies. In this comment, I would therefore like to extend Fischer et al.’s discussion by more specifically reflecting on differences concerning anger and feelings of revenge in relation to hate.
In what follows, I suggest that anger, feelings of revenge, and hate are characterized by a different focus. For example, the goal of anger is to restore or change the (unjust) situation. This can be achieved through coercion aimed at the anger-eliciting perpetrator, though not necessarily. Experiencing anger in third-party situations, where there is both a perpetrator and a victim, also motivates more prosocial behaviors focused on the victim (for a review, see van Doorn, Zeelenberg, & Breugelmans, 2014). The review of available studies on hate, as described in Fischer et al. (2018), clearly demonstrates that hate goes beyond this restoration goal. Instead, the goal of hate is to hurt and eliminate the hated target. Compared to anger, feelings of hate often involve deep and repeated violations of one’s (sense of) justice, which might explain a shift in focus: instead of observing an unjust situation caused by the other (anger), one observes an example of the other’s unjust nature (hate; Ortony, Clore, & Collins, 1988).
Although research on revenge is even scarcer than research on hate, the few studies that do exist seem to indicate that the experience of feelings of revenge (Elshout et al., 2015) is closely related to the experience of hate. Both hate and feelings of revenge are elicited by humiliation, seem to last longer than other emotions, and have the goal to apply suffering (Elshout et al., 2015; Fischer et al., 2018). One might question whether “feelings of revenge” should be regarded as a separate emotion or whether this is actually an experience one would call hate. After all, it has been argued that revenge is an act of hate (Bar-Elli & Heyd, 1986). Unfortunately, recent studies measuring feelings of revenge did not include a measure of hate or compare characteristics of feelings of revenge and hatred (Elshout et al., 2015). Furthermore, studies measuring hate did not measure potential feelings of revenge.
Nonetheless, there are some indications that hate and feelings of revenge are not one and the same emotion. Elshout et al. (2015) suggest that feelings of revenge induce a focus on the self. That is, vengeful responses often result from offences that induce a self-threat, eliciting negative self-conscious emotions, such as shame and humiliation (Elison & Harter, 2007). Experiences of humiliation or ridicule can be regarded as an appraisal shared both by hate and feelings of revenge. However, it seems that hate is less likely to induce such a self-focus as compared to feelings of revenge. As mentioned previously, hate is an emotion with a focus on the innate nature of the other. It could therefore be argued that feelings of revenge involve an intrapersonal focus (Frijda, 1994), whereas hate involves an interpersonal focus. This might explain why revenge is typically an act that is performed by the person him/herself: in order to restore the self, one cannot let someone else do “the dirty work” (Bar-Elli & Heyd, 1986). When it comes to hate, it seems that others can perform “on behalf of” the person him/herself. For example, in cases of intergroup hatred directed at a particular outgroup, one member of the ingroup can perform a negative act towards the outgroup on behalf of the whole ingroup. In that sense, one could argue that feelings of revenge contain a more explicit personal aspect than hate (Bar-Elli & Heyd, 1986).
The self-focus that characterizes feelings of revenge is also important in explaining the enduring nature of both hate and feelings of revenge. On the one hand, hate generally lasts longer than other emotions because it is not so much a reaction to a specific event, but one that is based on the appraisals of the fundamental nature of the hated person (Fischer et al., 2018). On the other hand, feelings of revenge are generally a reaction to a specific event and last longer because they may involve more planning and there is not always an opportunity to act upon them. Research indeed seems to indicate that the opportunity for revenge is a key variable in differentiating whether feelings of revenge turn into behavior (Elshout, Nelissen, van Beest, Elshout, & van Dijk, 2017).
A synthesis of the literature described here makes clear why anger, feelings of revenge, and hate are judged as being closely related, but also suggests that what makes hate, anger, and feelings of revenge different is their focus. Anger focuses on changing/restoring the unjust situation caused by another person (e.g., van Doorn et al., 2014), feelings of revenge focus on restoring the self (e.g., Frijda, 1994), and hatred focuses on eliminating the hated person/group (e.g., Fischer et al., 2018). Though grounded in existing literature, future research is needed to empirically confirm the unique characteristics of these three emotions. Continue reading “Anger, Feelings of Revenge, and Hate”
People who enjoy hurting others and seeing them in pain are more likely to seek revenge against those who have wronged them, according to a new study led by a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor.
The study, “Personality Correlates of Revenge-Seeking: Multidimensional Links to Physical Aggression, Impulsivity, and Aggressive Pleasure,” found that sadism is the dominant personality trait that explains why certain people are more likely than others to seek vengeance.
“We wanted to paint a picture of the personality of the type of person who seeks revenge. We’re all slighted in our daily lives, but some of us seek revenge and some of us do not. So what kind of person is the person who seeks vengeance?” said David Chester, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU. “The core of what we found is that the person who seeks revenge is a person who tends to enjoy it.”
The study, which will appear in a forthcoming edition of the journal Aggressive Behavior, was conducted by Chester and C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.
The researchers conducted three studies involving 673 students at the University of Kentucky in which participants filled out questionnaires that have been validated to predict a person’s real-life behavior. They were asked to say whether they agree or disagree to a variety of statements, such as “Anyone who provokes me deserves the punishment that I give” and “If I’m wronged, I can’t live with myself until I revenge.”
“A lot of people don’t want to admit to having certain traits or tendencies that aren’t really savory or socially acceptable, so you have to ask questions in a very specific way,” Chester said. “You’re not asking outright, ‘Are you a vengeful person?’ No one would say that they are. But instead you can use a little bit of subterfuge and get some insight.”
By gaining a deeper understanding of what drives certain people to seek revenge, researchers will be able to create profiles that could be used to identify those who are most likely to commit violence in the future and intervene.
“Not everyone when they’re wronged goes out and shoots up a school. Not everyone when they’re wronged starts a bar fight. But some people do. So identifying who is most at risk for seeking revenge is really important to do in order to intervene before they engage in harmful acts and start to hurt other people in retaliation,” Chester said.
“This type of information [revealed in the study] can be used to build a profile of the type of person to look out for,” he said. “If you know which individuals are most at risk of seeking vengeance against others, maybe you could intervene beforehand and prevent the acts of violence from ever happening in the first place.”
Chester, a leading scholar in the field of aggression research, runs the Social Psychology and Neuroscience Lab in VCU’s Department of Psychology, which aims to further our understanding of violent behavior, exploring the role of the brain and human psychology behind topics such as revenge, domestic abuse, psychopaths and related topics.
“Our real world goal is to reduce violence and to reduce aggressive behavior. The most common form of that is revenge,” Chester said. “When you ask murderers and terrorists and others who commit violence why they did what they did, the answer is frequently that they were seeking retribution for something that someone had done to them.”
“So if we’re trying to reduce aggression, we should start by trying to reduce revenge,” he said. “And one of the best ways to reduce revenge is to figure out who is most likely to do it.”