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Damaged Psyches

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At the risk of inviting yet more angst filled stories, I was touched by Trab's statement in another thread, when he wrote;

"How anyone could take offense at being liked speaks of a very damaged psyche."

(Refer to News and Views topic of the school boy shooting)

Because I want to separate the subject of that thread from this discussion I have opened this thread devoted to the interests of literature rather than the tragic events of the above thread.

The literary theme of "being liked" is one of great interest and was first put into a modern context in the 1949 play by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman.

Many critics have not fully understood the significance of the play's "hero" Willy Loman's line "I just wanted to be liked."

It is the heart of the play, it is the heart of the salesman who dies when he feels his life has not produced someone who likes him.

This is a very modern idea, this idea of wanting to be liked, a recent insight into the human condition of our times. Our times have produced a need to feel liked as well as wanted. Feeling needed is a universal condition of course, but this too has its variants. Arthur Miller's play expresses this concept with a clarity that only a critic could misinterpret. :hehe:

Currently we see another hard hearted attitude rising up, particularly, in management circles who are training young managers to "not be here to be liked."

Trab's statement is inspiring because it raises the idea, in a broader sense than he might have meant, of a story about someone who doesn't want to be liked. Someone who rejects or fabricates their own feelings and the feeling others have for them.

So I bring these thoughts to mind in case one of our illustrious writers might like to investigate some aspects of, "wanting to be liked," contrasted to the damaged psyche's reaction to being liked.

This is no small subject, and has many possibilities, but I hope I have explained enough to show the ideas here, should prove formidable tools for building characters in a story if not a story in itself.

Just some thoughts to ponder.


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At the risk of inviting yet more angst filled stories, I was touched by Trab's statement in another thread, when he wrote;

"How anyone could take offense at being liked speaks of a very damaged psyche."

(Refer to News and Views topic of the school boy shooting)

I very well may plagiarise this statement for the next thing I write (eta 2009 so calm down).

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There are two basic ways to look at this, the sociological and psychological. It is better to combine both of these, as it is a function of both society and the individual.

From a sociologist point of view: one could argue that the 'need to be liked' ties back to the world's constant and inevitable change from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity. (refer to any study of 'social interaction' or 'symbolic interaction' to learn more)

Mechanical solidarity occurs in traditional societies, where much of the interaction between individuals is face-to-face, and where-due to a lack of task specialization- there is a general absence of task hierarchy. In most urban societies, most interaction occurs either on paper, or through second persons. This is due to the high specialization of tasks (task division of labor) and therefore a hierarchy of employment.

This is where the psychologist in me kicks in: while socialization of the individual at early ages can be explained through basic sociology, this is better tackled by the psychological perspective. I will summarize (realize that this is HIGHLY simplified, and that psychology is equally as important as the society's influence in this case) for you: various events in most people's lives cause them to develop interdependence.

Now back to sociology: when social ties are no longer perceived by the individual, and when most interaction is minimized in the workplace (i.e. manager vs. underling) anomie develops. Anomie is basically a sense of purposelessness.

Now back to psychology: the individual then tries to replace social ties by constant reassurance (i.e. 'i need to be liked).


Trab's statement: 'How anyone could take offense at being liked speaks of a very damaged psyche'

Sociology and Psychology explain this with one word: rebellion.

Psychology sees this as reverse conformism (seeking to achieve common goals through new means), whereas sociology sees it as pure rebellion (creating new means towards new goals).

Had I still in my possession that wonderful sociology book I would cite, but alas, this is from memory.

Maddy (:

Edit: I just read the topic and this has nothing to do with it LOL. But anyway, this is an answer to Des's comments. I shall come back tomorrow and elaborate :P.

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Okay, let me elaborate on little Brandon's situation.

Deviance, as defined by sociologists and psychologists alike, is behavior which is in many cases (but not always) punished by law (though sometimes deviance is only punished through social stigma). Idiosyncrasies that are looked down upon by certain societies are also deviant and in various instances punishable by law(i.e. homosexuality in Uganda, sodomy in most Islamic nations, polygamy in America). Deviance is defined by the members of a society, by factors such as norms, beliefs, and the culture from which these arise.

A look at Merton's strain theory (a theory that focuses on widely-accepted means towards widely-held goals, but somewhat fails to explain deviance in such cases as mental illness and homosexuality) helps us understand the concept of deviance (though it is a very 'basic' model, and should not be used for strictly-controlled analysis).

here is an image that illustrates this theory (notice 'rebellion' on the far corner).

Let's face it... we don't know what was going through the kid's head when he killed King. Brandon could fit into any of those categories, but the fact that he could fit into 'any' of them marks him closer to being a rebel than anything else (fsince his motives and means are relative to the individual analyzing them, and the only thing we care about here are the things he 'rejects').

Let's focus on the means.

This is where we may analyze Brandon's situation through a symbolic-interactionism perspective.

Why did Brandon use a gun?

Many of you think that this has to do with the bill of rights. Everybody has the right to bear arms, and so children are naturally being socialized to lose their fear of these man-made contraptions. If we're going to tie to that, we might as well include all other factors into the equation. Let's say Brandon liked violent video games, enjoyed rough wrestling, and played 'cowboys and indians' with daddy when he was only an infant. This tells us that Brandon learned that violent behavior (deviant, in this case) was the way to solve conflict.

Now, let's focus on the goals. We have already established that he used a gun to kill him, and we know that part of his goal rose from the idea of vengeance. We won't focus on the motives, just on the goals. Let's use the idea of social-conflict to do this. We're going to emphasize diversity.

King had recently outed himself at school, and apparently had declared to Brandon that 'he liked him'. He had also had an argument with King about homosexuality. We can conclude that this is a hate crime, of course, but we have to determine whether this was a sporadic act, or if it was driven by vengeance. We cannot know this, but we must assume that Brandon had not liked being put on the spot and having his heterosexual role toyed with (an instance of role conflict).

You can't 'diagnose' something when you don't have enough information. This is just a guess, but one that is based on what members of particular societies act upon. Looking at the evidence and the assumptions we are able to make, we can't really conclude that Brandon was led to commit the crime because of these circumstances... however, we ARE able to conclude that (were a person to show these characteristics and be in such circurmstances) they would be prone to committing such acts of deviance.

Maddy (:

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