Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Freud, the "Borrowed Sense of Guilt," and the D.C. Circuit

An earlier blog post discussed Freud's concept of "the borrowed sense of guilt" first elaborated in a footnote in Freud's The Ego and the Id.  The footnote has attracted considerable attention from psychoanalytical commentators.

In footnote 10 of Miller v. United States, 320 F.2d 767 (1963), an appeal of a robbery conviction under District of Columbia law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit discusses Freud's concept of "the borrowed sense of guilt":

"10. Freud, Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of Truth in Courts of Law (1906), in Collected Papers (1959), Vol. 2, p. 13. Freud subsequently observed that a "sense of guilt" may derive from "criminal intentions" rather than from an actual past misdeed, and in so-called "normal" as well as neurotic individuals. See, e.g., Freud, Criminality From a Sense of Guilt (1915), in Collected Papers (1959), Vol. 4, p. 342; Freud, The Ego and the Id (1923), in Complete Psychological Works (1961), Vol. XIX, p. 48 ff. Also see, e.g., Zilboorg, The Psychology of the Criminal Act and Punishment (Harcourt Brace 1954): "A severe sense of guilt can exist in the absence of one single overt act of hostility. A sense of guilt means a self-reproaching attitude, a self-accusatory one, a self-attacking one * * *. This is a universal phenomenon common to all of us." Id. at 50.

Freud was, of course, not the first to notice this phenomenon. See, e.g., Dostoevski, Brothers Karamazov (Mod.Lib. 1950) 757-70, wherein the author describes how Ivan — the brother who had desired the death of the father but had not perpetrated the act — manifests all the traditional symptoms of guilt described by Wigmore, whereas the actual murderer reacts in a cool dispassionate way, consistent — according to Wigmore — with innocence. For a similar, more recent and more detailed treatment of this problem, see Reik, The Compulsion to Confess (1959) 32, 39, 41, 149, 266."

The reader will note that the crime of robbery -- the stealing of property from a person by using or threatening to use force -- has a remote psychological relationship to the psychiatrist Michael Friedman's conception of anorexia nervosa, in which the patient suffers from an unconscious sense of guilt centering on his view that the act of eating constitutes the wrongful taking (or "robbery") of food from other family members.  See Friedman, M. "Survivor Guilt in the Pathogenesis of Anorexia Nervosa."  Psychiatry, 48: 25-39 (February 1985) (Stanley R. Palombo, M.D., editor).

(In Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables the villain-benefactor Jean Valjean is convicted of the crime of stealing a loaf of bread.)


Gary Freedman said...

So instead of exploring these issues, all Dr. Pitts had to offer was Haldol!!

Jeffrey Akman, what do you have to say for yourself?

Gary Freedman said...

Seinfeld episode "The Fire" --

FIREMAN: How do you live with yourself?

GEORGE: It's not easy.

Gary Freedman said...

Martin Ceaser, M.D., a psychiatrist whose office has been located in my building (3801 Connecticut Avenue) since the 1980s, is a specialist in anorexia nervosa.

Dr. Ceaser is also a psychoanalyst.

Dr. Ceaser's office is a few doors down from that of the late Laurence C. Sack, M.D., who I saw for 3 professional consults in 1991.

In about 2001 Dr. Ceaser resided in my building on the 9th floor.

Dr. Ceaser currently resides at 3701 Connecticut Avenue.

Dr. Ceaser's Office:
3801 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 362-6697

Dr. Ceaser is a graduate of Case Western, as is Dennis M. Race, Esq.

Gary Freedman said...

In a paper published in a 2001 issue of the journal Psychiatry, the nationally-prominent Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen proposes a personality profile of high-functioning persons with anorexia nervosa.

TABLE 1. SWAP-200a Items That Best Described Eating Disorder
Patients in the High-Functioning/Perfectionistic Personality

Is articulate; can express self well in words. 3.09

Tends to be conscientious and responsible. 3.05

Tends to be self-critical; sets unrealistically high standards
for self and is intolerant of own human defects. 2.61

Expects self to be “perfect” (e.g., in appearance,
achievements, performance, etc.). 2.53

Tends to elicit liking in others. 2.35

Tends to be preoccupied with food, diet, or eating. 2.32

Is empathic; is sensitive and responsive to other peoples’
needs and feelings. 2.29

Is able to use his/her talents, abilities, and energy
effectively and productively. 2.28

Has moral and ethical standards and strives to live up to
them. 2.13

Appreciates and responds to humor. 2.10

Enjoys challenges; takes pleasure in accomplishing things. 1.98

Tends to feel guilty. 1.98

Is psychologically insightful; is able to understand self and
others in subtle and sophisticated ways. 1.96

Has the capacity to recognize alternative viewpoints, even
in matters that stir up strong feelings. 1.87

Is capable of hearing information that is emotionally
threatening (i.e., that challenges cherished beliefs,
perceptions, and self-perceptions) and can use and
benefit from it. 1.86

Is creative; is able to see things or approach problems in
novel ways. 1.76

Tends to be energetic and outgoing. 1.69

Finds meaning in belonging and contributing to a larger
community (e.g., organization, church, neighborhood). 1.56

Tends to express affect appropriate in quality and intensity
to the situation at hand. 1.55

Tends to be competitive with others (whether consciously
or unconsciously). 1.54

Is able to assert him/herself effectively and appropriately
when necessary. 1.52

Tends to be anxious. 1.48

is able to find meaning and fulfillment in guiding,
mentoring, or nurturing others. 1.46

Is capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship
characterized by genuine intimacy and caring. 1.44

Gary Freedman said...

"is able to find meaning and fulfillment in guiding,
mentoring, or nurturing others. 1.46" -- see comment above.

According to my former employer I inspired my coworkers while I was in a supervisory role.

Gary Freedman said...

Judge Bazelon, who wrote the Court's opinion in Miller v. U.S., was Jewish.

See Intellectualization, Psychoanalysis and The Jews: