The Trauma of Enmeshed Families

A serious illness, natural disaster, or sudden loss may cause a family to become unusually close in an attempt to protect themselves. When this pattern persists well beyond the initial traumaenmeshment loses its protective value and can undermine each family member’s personal autonomy.

Focusing on what comes after trauma and not the trauma itself

This is in line with the philosophy of Viktor Frankl, who believed that it was best to focus on what is left rather than what is lost whenever possible. Of course, this is easier said than done. Dr. Panter-Brick, your comments are also related to optimism or the belief that things will work out.

Viktor Frankl,

Biderman’s Chart of Coercion

A tool designed to demonstrate and explain the coercive methods of stress manipulation
used to torture prisoners of war. It has been applied to explain the coercive techniques used by perpetrators of domestic abuse.

The Controller

The Most Powerful Way to Save People…From Themselves

But there are some things that are extremely difficult to save people from: misleading beliefs, addictions, suicidal ideation, mental illness, etc. These situations are sticky because much of what these sufferers need saving from is…well, themselves.

But no one likes to relinquish a familiar and comfortable part of themselves, even if that part happens to be poisoning them from the inside out.

That’s why it’s infernally difficult to save some people.

Still, even in these complex cases, people can be and are saved. People can be changed. Hence the existence of therapists, suicide hotlines, books, researchers, and more —

Sometimes these things help. Sometimes they don’t. Continue reading “The Most Powerful Way to Save People…From Themselves”

Elliot Aronson

Elliot Aronson’s primary research is in the area of social influence. Throughout his career he has sought to do experiments that would integrate his passion about basic science with his desire to apply those research findings toward improving the human condition (e.g., to reduce prejudice, deter bullying, and convince people to conserve energy and other natural resources).

Elliot Aronson’s classic introductory textbook, The Social Animal, first published in 1972, is now out in its 12th edition (2018), in collaboration with Elliot’s son, NYU professor Joshua Aronson. Elliot is the only psychologist to have won APA’s highest awards in all three major academic categories: For distinguished writing (1973), for distinguished teaching (1980), and for distinguished research (1999). In 2002, he was listed among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th Century (APA Monitor, July/August, 2002). In 2007, he received the William James Award for Distinguished Research from the Association for Psychological Science.

In 2015, Elliot and his coauthor Carol Tavris published an updated edition of “Mistakes were made (but not by ME): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts,” a book for general audiences that brings cognitive dissonance theory and the workings of self-justification to bear on many aspects of life, from the political to the personal.

Elliot has taught at Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Stanford University. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, with Vera, his wife of more than 60 years.

For further information, please see his Wikipedia page, publications list, and these links:

APA Science Award:

New York Times Interview with Aronson:


Things to do in lockdown-Covid 19

Research your family History

50 Free Genealogy Sites

1. FamilySearch: largest collection of free genealogical records in the world

2. WikiTree: enormous collaborative family tree

3. Fulton History: historical newspapers from the US and Canada


4. Find a Grave: locate your ancestors in cemeteries across the globe

5. Google News Archive: millions of archived newspaper pages

6. US National Archives: official US National Archives site, many free genealogy databases and resources

7. Automated Genealogy: indexes of the Canadian census

8. FreeBMD: civil registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales

9. USGenWeb Project: massive free genealogy resource directory by US state and county

10. WorldGenWeb Project: genealogy resources by country and region, not to miss

11. Cyndi’s List: highly respected directory of free genealogy resources and databases online

12. Library and Archives Canada: official archives of Canada, census records and more

13. Ellis Island: immigration records, free indexes and original records, fee to download copies

14. FreeReg: baptism, marriage, and burial records from parish registers of the UK

15. POWVETS: WWII POW search for prisoners of war held in German camps.

16. RootsWeb: world’s largest genealogy community, huge amount of free information

17. Castle Garden: immigration records, pre Ellis Island

18. Chronicling America: giant database of archived US newspapers from the Library of Congress

19. Dead Fred: genealogy photo archive

20. African Heritage Project: records on former slaves, freedpersons and their descendants

21. Immigrant Ancestors Project: emigration registers for locating birthplaces of immigrants in their native countries

22. Daughters of the American Revolution: military service records and more

23. JewishGen: Jewish ancestry research

24. FreeCEN: transcribed census records from the UK

25. Access Genealogy: vast family history directories and more, good Native American resources

26. British Library, India Office: records on British and European people in India pre 1950

27. Guild of One-Name Studies: extensive surname research site

28. Genealogy Trails: transcribed genealogical records from across the U.S.

29. NativeWeb Genealogy: list of Native American genealogy resources and searchable databases

30. Viximus: member submitted biographical information

31. WieWasWie: for researching ancestors from the Netherlands

32. UK National Archives: official National Archives of the UK

33. The National Archives of Ireland: official National Archives of Ireland

34. GENUKI: reference library of genealogical resources for the UK and Ireland

35. German Genealogy Server: German ancestry research (many sections in German)

36. Preserve the Pensions: War of 1812 pension records access

37. Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System: Civil War records from the National Park Service

38. LitvakSIG: Lithuanian-Jewish genealogy databases and resources

39. Italian Genealogical Group: Italian American genealogy resources and databases

40. Internet Archive: a large amount of information useful to genealogists, but you’ll need to do some digging

41. Billion Graves: headstone records

42. Open Library: good place to find family history books, search for surnames or locations

43. GenDisasters: for researching disasters and other events your ancestors might have been involved in

44. RomanyGenes: Romanichal ancestry research

45. Patriot and Grave Index: revolutionary war graves registry and patriot index from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution

46. Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection: vast number of archived US newspapers

47. Seventh-day Adventist Obituary Database: hundreds of thousands of obituary entries

48. Släktdata: genealogy records for Sweden (in Swedish)

49. Hispanic Genealogy: wonderful list of resources for researching Hispanic ancestry

50: Free Genealogy Search Engine: search hundreds of free genealogy resources at one time on Family History Daily

Leon Festinger – Cognitive dissonance Effort justification Social comparison theory

Festinger and his co-authors concluded that the following conditions lead to increased conviction in beliefs following disconfirmation:

1. The belief must be held with deep conviction and be relevant to the believer’s actions or behavior.
2. The belief must have produced actions that are arguably difficult to undo.
3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and concerned with the real world such that it can be clearly disconfirmed.
4. The disconfirmatory evidence must be recognized by the believer.
5. The believer must have social support from other believers.[53]

Festinger also later described the increased conviction and proselytizing by cult members after disconfirmation as a specific instantiation of cognitive dissonance (i.e., increased proselytizing reduced dissonance by producing the knowledge that others also accepted their beliefs) and its application to understanding complex, mass phenomena.[54]

The observations reported in When Prophecy Fails were the first experimental evidence for belief perseverance.


  • Allyn, J., & Festinger, L. (1961). Effectiveness of Unanticipated Persuasive Communications. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62(1), 35–40.
  • Back, K., Festinger, L., Hymovitch, B., Kelley, H., Schachter, S., & Thibaut, J. (1950). The methodology of studying rumor transmission. Human Relations, 3(3), 307–312.
  • Brehm, J., & Festinger, L. (1957). Pressures toward uniformity of performance in groups. Human Relations, 10(1), 85–91.
  • Cartwright, D., & Festinger, L. (1943). A quantitative theory of decision. Psychological Review, 50, 595–621.
  • Coren, S., & Festinger, L. (1967). Alternative view of the “Gibson normalization effect”. Perception & Psychophysics, 2(12), 621–626.
  • Festinger, L. (1942a). A theoretical interpretation of shifts in level of aspiration. Psychological Review, 49, 235–250.
  • Festinger, L. (1942b). Wish, expectation, and group standards as factors influencing level of aspiration. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 37, 184–200.
  • Festinger, L. (1943a). Development of differential appetite in the rat. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32(3), 226–234.
  • Festinger, L. (1943b). An exact test of significance for means of samples drawn from populations with an exponential frequency distribution. Psychometrika, 8, 153–160.
  • Festinger, L. (1943c). A statistical test for means of samples from skew populations. Psychometrika, 8, 205–210.
  • Festinger, L. (1943d). Studies in decision: I. Decision-time, relative frequency of judgment and subjective confidence as related to physical stimulus difference. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32(4), 291–306.
  • Festinger, L. (1943e). Studies in decision: II. An empirical test of a quantitative theory of decision. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32(5), 411–423.
  • Festinger, L. (1946). The significance of difference between means without reference to the frequency distribution function. Psychometrika, 11(2), 97–105.
  • Festinger, L. (1947a). The role of group belongingness in a voting situation. Human Relations, 1(2), 154–180.
  • Festinger, L. (1947b). The treatment of qualitative data by scale analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 44(2), 149–161.
  • Festinger, L. (1949). The analysis of sociograms using matrix algebra. Human Relations, 2(2), 153–158.
  • Festinger, L. (1950). Informal social communication. Psychological Review, 57(5), 271–282.
  • Festinger, L. (1950b). Psychological Statistics. Psychometrika, 15(2), 209–213.
  • Festinger, L. (1951). Architecture and group membership. Journal of Social Issues, 7(1–2), 152–163.
  • Festinger, L. (1952). Some consequences of de-individuation in a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 47(2), 382–389.
  • Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140.
  • Festinger, L. (1955a). Handbook of social psychology, vol 1, Theory and method, vol 2, Special fields and applications. Journal of Applied Psychology, 39(5), 384–385.
  • Festinger, L. (1955b). Social psychology and group processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 6, 187–216.
  • Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Festinger, L. (1959a). Sampling and related problems in research methodology. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 64(2), 358–369.
  • Festinger, L. (1959b). Some attitudinal consequences of forced decisions. Acta Psychologica, 15, 389–390.
  • Festinger, L. (1961). The psychological effects of insufficient rewards. American Psychologist, 16(1), 1–11.
  • Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive dissonance. Scientific American, 207(4), 93–107.
  • Festinger, L. (1964). Behavioral support for opinion change. Public Opinion Quarterly, 28(3), 404–417.
  • Festinger, L. (Ed.). (1980). Retrospections on Social Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Festinger, L. (1983). The Human Legacy. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Festinger, L. (1981). Human nature and human competence. Social Research, 48(2), 306–321.
  • Festinger, L., & Canon, L. K. (1965). Information about spatial location based on knowledge about efference. Psychological Review, 72(5), 373–384.
  • Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58(2), 203–210.
  • Festinger, L., Cartwright, D., Barber, K., Fleischl, J., Gottsdanker, J., Keysen, A., & Leavitt, G. (1948). A study of rumor transition: Its origin and spread. Human Relations, 1(4), 464–486.
  • Festinger, L., Gerard, H., Hymovitch, B., Kelley, H. H., & Raven, B. (1952). The influence process in the presence of extreme deviates. Human Relations, 5(4), 327–346.
  • Festinger, L., & Holtzman, J. D. (1978). Retinal image smear as a source of information about magnitude of eye-movement. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Human Perception and Performance, 4(4), 573–585.
  • Festinger, L., & Hutte, H. A. (1954). An experimental investigation of the effect of unstable interpersonal relations in a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49(4), 513–522.
  • Festinger, L., & Katz, D. (Eds.). (1953). Research methods in the behavioral sciences. New York, NY: Dryden.
  • Festinger, L., & Maccoby, N. (1964). On resistance to persuasive communications. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 68(4), 359–366.
  • Festinger, L., Riecken, H. W., & Schachter, S. (1956). When Prophecy Fails. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (1950). Social Pressures in Informal Groups: A Study of Human Factors in Housing. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Festinger, L., Sedgwick, H. A., & Holtzman, J. D. (1976). Visual-perception during smooth pursuit eye-movements. Vision Research, 16(12), 1377–1386.
  • Festinger, L., & Thibaut, J. (1951). Interpersonal communication in small groups. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46(1), 92–99.
  • Festinger, L., Torrey, J., & Willerman, B. (1954). Self-evaluation as a function of attraction to the group. Human Relations, 7(2), 161–174.
  • Hertzman, M., & Festinger, L. (1940). Shifts in explicit goals in a level of aspiration experiment. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 27(4), 439–452.
  • Hochberg, J., & Festinger, L. (1979). Is there curvature adaptation not attributable to purely intravisual phenomena. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2(1), 71–71.
  • Hoffman, P. J., Festinger, L., & Lawrence, D. H. (1954). Tendencies toward group comparability in competitive bargaining. Human Relations, 7(2), 141–159.
  • Holtzman, J. D., Sedgwick, H. A., & Festinger, L. (1978). Interaction of perceptually monitored and unmonitored efferent commands for smooth pursuit eye movements. Vision Research, 18(11), 1545–1555.
  • Komoda, M. K., Festinger, L., & Sherry, J. (1977). The accuracy of two-dimensional saccades in the absence of continuing retinal stimulation. Vision Research, 17(10), 1231–1232.
  • Miller, J., & Festinger, L. (1977). Impact of oculomotor retraining on visual-perception of curvature. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Human Perception and Performance, 3(2), 187–200.
  • Schachter, S., Festinger, L., Willerman, B., & Hyman, R. (1961). Emotional disruption and industrial productivity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 45(4), 201–213.

Continue reading “Leon Festinger – Cognitive dissonance Effort justification Social comparison theory”

Untruthfulness and insincerity

The psychopath shows a remarkable disregard for truth and is to be trusted no
more in his accounts of the past than in his promises for the future or his statement of
present intentions. He gives the impression that he is incapable of ever attaining
realistic comprehension of an attitude in other people which causes them to value truth and cherish truthfulness in themselves.
Typically he is at ease and unpretentious in making a serious promise or in
(falsely) exculpating himself from accusations, whether grave or trivial. His simplest
statement in such matters carries special powers of conviction. Overemphasis, obvious
glibness, and other traditional signs of the clever liar do not usually show in his words or in his manner. Whether there is reasonable chance for him to get away with the fraud or whether certain and easily foreseen detection is at hand, he is apparently unperturbed and does the same impressive job. Candor and trustworthiness seem implicit in him at such times. During the most solemn perjuries he has no difficulty at all in looking anyone tranquilly in the eyes. Although he will lie about any matter, under any circumstances, and often for no good reason, he may, on the contrary, sometimes own up to his errors (usually when detection is certain) and appear to be facing the consequences with singular honesty, fortitude, and manliness.
It is indeed difficult to express how thoroughly straightforward some typical
psychopaths can appear. They are disarming not only to those unfamiliar with such
patients but often to people who know well from experience their convincing outer
aspect of honesty. A saying current among psychiatric residents, secretaries, medical
associates, and others familiar with what goes on in my office may illustrate this point.
The saying is in substance that excellent evidence for the diagnosis of psychopathic
personality can be found in my own response to newcomers who seek to borrow money or cash checks. It is rather generally believed that only psychopaths are successful and that in typical scams success is inevitable. Although I argue that some exaggeration has perhaps colored this story and overemphasized the infallibility of my reaction as a test, I must admit there is much truth in the matter. Even after so many years of special interest in the subject, I am forced to confess that fairly often observers have had the opportunity to make a snap diagnosis from my response to this sort of appeal and see it gain full confirmation in subsequent events. I might add that no such loan has ever been repaid and that all such checks have bounced.

After being caught in shameful and gross falsehoods, after repeatedly violating his
most earnest pledges, he finds it easy, when another occasion arises, to speak of his
word of honor, his honor as a gentleman, and he shows surprise and vexation when
commitments on such a basis do not immediately settle the issue.

The conception of living up to his word seems, in fact, to be regarded as little
more than a phrase sometimes useful to avoid unpleasantness or to gain other ends.
How inadequate such ends may be to account for the psychopath’s neglect of truth can be shown in a brief example:

In a letter to his wife, at last seeking divorce and in another city, one patient set
down dignified, fair appraisals of the situation and referred to sensible plans he had
outlined for her security. He then added that specified insurance policies and annuities providing for the three children (including their tuition at college) had been mailed under separate cover and would, if she had not already received them, soon be in her hands. He had not taken even the first step to obtain insurance or to make any other provision, and, once he had made these statements in his letter, he apparently gave the matter no further thought. Continue reading “Untruthfulness and insincerity”


Anyone concerned at all with psychiatry is likely to find in Jenny Hagar Poster
Evered of The Strange Woman (Ben Ames Williams) 295 detail and concreteness familiar in the direct study of patients but hard to put into medical histories. In that she does not respect the rights of others and particularly in that she reacts in anything but a normal way in the deepest personal relations, Jenny might be proclaimed a psychopath whose deviation is extraordinarily complete. Sharply distinguishing points emerge when we consider the persistent purposiveness, the strong and sustained malice with which this woman works to destroy all happiness for children, husbands, and paramours. A conscious brutality prevails. Destructive impulses are directed consistently by open hate.

Jenny shows a rather accurate awareness of how it is going to hurt as she skillfully, and in response to consistent impulse, pursues her plans. All this is very typical of severe paranoid reactions seen clinically.

We shall list the characteristic points that have emerged and then discuss them in
1. Superficial charm and good “intelligence”
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
3. Absence of “nervousness” or psychoneurotic manifestations
4. Unreliability
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity
6. Lack of remorse or shame
7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
8. Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
9. Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
10. General poverty in major affective reactions
11. Specific loss of insight

  1. Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  2. Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink and sometimes without
  3. Suicide rarely carried out
  4. Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  5. Failure to follow any life plan Continue reading “THE MASK OF SANITY”