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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Reducing Crime By Battling The Unconscious

After recent horrendous murders (the Massachusetts mother who killed her three children; the killing and multiple injuries by a psychotic van driver in New York City; several mass shootings) one would hope there would be wider belief in the power of the unconscious but this is not so. Instead, legislators restrict the power of judges to jail dangerous offenders, allowing them to prey until they kill when their danger is finally taken seriously.
I long thought that the best way to increase public safety would be to increase the prevailing psychological knowledge by providing indisputable facts which psychologists have long known. These include that the development of the ego capacities enabling control of thinking and behavior, control of mood, and development of a sense of who one is (one's "sense of self"), occurs in the first three years of life, dependent on a child having experienced a "good-enough" parenting. And that substance abuse nearly always begins in a teenager who fails at mastering the critical adolescent tasks of development (separation from parents; making realistic education and career decisions; dating) and tries to feel better by self-medicating their distress with alcohol or drugs.
Would wider knowledge of these facts really reduce crime? Ultimately, if healthier childhood experiences prevail, and better evaluation was used to distinguish those criminal offenders who must be incarcerated to protect society from those who are needlessly jailed.

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The Exhibitionist Surgeon and the Popular Concept of Normality

A talented psychoanalyst once wrote of his treatment of a San Francisco surgeon who persistently exhibited his genitals in public. During his treatment the doctor realized that his powerfully motivated behavior reflected the persistence of an early childhood desire to show his mother how powerful he was. An act which is not unusual for very young children and properly discouraged by their mother,
This doctor's behavior evidenced a generally ignored truth: that the unconscious is powerful and cannot be ignored. Though most people prefer to believe that consciousness governs our behavior--until they are forced to believe otherwise.
All humans are a product of their upbringing from which infantile misconceptions and fears may erupt at any time, which must be understood and controlled. Being "normal" means functioning in line with developmental expectations whether as youth or adult. Not that one is totally free of the apparently inexplicable thoughts and feelings that can lead to unwise behavior.

When one responds to a situation with greater emotion than warranted the behavior is motivated by an unconscious element, often deriving from an early-life event. Consider the unfortunately common "road rage" if you will.

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