“Matters of Conscience” Comments, Page 1

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9 Comments (One Discussion Thread) on “Matters of Conscience”

  1. Hi George, That’s funny I thought I was a caring active person! Oh gosh I am a neurotic! Though lifting the world of my shoulders has helped alot….but sometimes I like it there? Go figure…

  2. Thanks for your comment, Diane. I had to chuckle a bit myself. You see, I’m am also quite the neurotic! On a more pensive note, I think neurosis has taken a bad rap through the years. Freud used to say that civilization is the cause of neurosis. By that he meant that society’s “don’ts” and diapproving messages cause us to become troubled because of the conflict between them and our more natural, primitive, instincts, thus making us “neurotic.” But it’s my assertion that truly pathological levels of neurosis have all but disappeared in advanced industrialized societies. MOST neurosis these days is functional, enabling society to work. So contrary to Freud’s thinking, my axiom is that neurosis is the reason for civilization. I say that because it is most extremely rare that someone subjugates their baser instincts for the greater good not out of any pangs of conscience for doing otherwise, but rather for purely altruistic free choice. For most of us, it’s our conscience and our capacity for guilt and shame that keeps us in line. As for me, I’m proud to be a neurotic! (hmmmmmmm sounds like a Lee Greenwood song……….)

  3. and if we are all neurotic – could we not just drop the label and call ourselves normal? ;-)

    just kidding. I actually think that people can ‘subjugate their baser instincts’not only because of guilt and shame playing a constructive role, and not out of ‘pure altruistic free choice’ but because it does, actually, often feel great to do the right thing. You can experience how we are all connected and hurting others is hurting yourself somewhere along the line. It’s not actually disinterested behaviour, it can actually feel good :-)

  4. Hi, my name is Richard Mallett, I’m 17 years old, and I believe what your’e saying is correct, even though I am a teen, I do know for a fact I have no conscience, now does that make me a kind of person that’s said in your post, I guess so. I’m just wondering if there is any real way I can find out for sure if I am truly without one?

    If there is anything you can refer me to please do so.

    1. Hi, Richard. Most teens have consciences that have not matured. Some have consciences that are already impaired. But few individuals have no consciences at all. The fact that you have even asked the question you have asked and that you are seeking a referral tells me that it is not likely that you are totally without conscience. It might be a good idea to seek a counselor and discuss your concerns, whatever they are.

  5. I haven’t seen reference to the current fMRI imaging of the ventromedial prefrontal lobe with respect to the brain location of moral/ethical cognition. It is possible that lack of conscience and empathy may be physiological deficits. The lcorresponding connection to normal amygdala functions is also mentioned in this context. There has been stigma attached to conscience-impaired (CI) behaviors–the designation of sociopath is akin to being labeled a criminal. My current interest is in seeing this impairment as a handicap, “moral blindness,” and thinking about ways that an impaired person could compensate for the deficit. Among these thoughts are: (1) Establishing a connection for the CI with a “moral seeing-eye person,” who could be the therapist who would contract to oversee major decisions, questions of responsibility, etc. (2) using a cognitive behavioral checklist of moral/ethical decision-making. (3) developing an awareness of the problem in the mental health and wider communities of the problem and its care. (4) look for conscience impaired individuals whose behavior may cause harm, where possible.
    Imagine occupations where CI individuals could cause great harm: government leadership, military leadership, parenting, etc.

    It is estimated the CI individuals may occur as frequently as 1 in 24, or somewhere between 4 and 5% of the population. The CI individual’s needs might naturally cause them to seek positions of power, control, manipulation. It is thought that the CI person is motivated largely by the pursuit of pleasure. CI people might be considered to have a Darwinian edge over unimpaired people, where they would find lack of conscience a survival advantage. The possibility that the CI brain deficit could be inherited might even suggest that the percentage might grow, a cautionary possibility.

    Is there a wholistic research community where these concerns are being addressed? Who is writing about this phenomenon? I would appreciate references to the science leadership in this subject. Thanks!

  6. Dear Dr. Simon,

    I have to write to you to say how pleasantly shocked I am to see an American psychologist stressing the importance of shame and guilt in mental health and development; and the distinctions between neurotics, capable of development precisely because of their active conscience, and character disordered individuals, who are not.

    It is such a rarity.

    I wonder if you are familiar with the theory of positive disintegration — if not, I suspect you may find it interesting.

  7. Dear Dr. Simon,
    I have just discovered your work after the most recent round with some family members that have Character Disorder. I have received counseling in the past and found that RET helped a lot. But that only helped me be less bothered by what others do. It didn’t explain to me why they did what they do. I thought that if someone acted like a “moral” person with a conscience that to some extent they were and therefore I was hurt that they would act in ways that were so hurtful to me. But being a “neurotic” I always took some blame for being over sensitive, maybe even paranoid. Its like blinders have been taken off. I can see now that some of these people are not moral at all, that they have no real shame for the things they do, and to varying degrees they know exactly what they are doing. While that is a sort of relief it is also very upsetting. It upends my view of the world.
    I spent a good part of my life looking for true altruism, for that was what I aspired to. All I ever found was reciprocal altruism. I came to accept that when I did good things I expected some good return in the form of, if nothing more. having a good reputation or a positive self image. I realized that in fact we are programmed for that by our genes and at least on an intellectual basis accepted that there is nothing wrong with that. I have “forgiven” myself for not having pure altruism. But you go further and say, as I understand it, that this reciprocal altruism (that covers not doing harm as well as doing good) is normal and necessary for humans to work together. Forget being good for goodness sake, be good so that good comes back to you.
    Science talks about reciprocal altruism cheaters – this I think is another way to describe those with Disordered Characters and perhaps another way to describe neurotics and those who do not have good altruism cheater detectors.
    I also realized over time that the best way for me to deal with people who want to use me is a total separation. But one can’t separate from all the world’s users (I suspect it is more than 5% of the population!). Thank you for writing on this. I intend to get your books and get a firm handle on how to deal with such people in the future.

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