Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Significant Moments: Addiction and Leadership?

At my psychotherapy consult on January 30, 2012 I discussed with my psychiatrist the issue of addiction. I posed the question to my psychiatrist: What intrapsychic qualities do addicts have in common? I pointed out that one psychoanalyst (Jeffrey Masson) contends that addiction is related to the childhood experience of severe emotional loss or rejection. Further, I reported that asceticism can be seen as a form of addiction with psychological determinants similar to those found in alcohol and drug addiction.

I referred specifically to a paper "The Psychology of the Ascetic," published in the Journal of Asian Studies, that I quoted in my book Significant Moments:

I believe that the concern voiced ubiquitously by the ascetic in Indian literature—
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
‘seeing the world and the human self in one great all including vision, . . . ’
Jon Westlesen, Body Awareness as a Gateway to Eternity: A Note on the Mysticism of Spinoza and Its Affinity to Buddhist Meditation.
. . . in sum, . . .
Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders.
. . . the search for mystical experiences; as if only the ecstatic stillness of trance-states could fill the void of a happiness never experienced . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson and Terri C. Masson, Buried Memories on the Acropolis: Freud’s Response to Mysticism and Anti-Semitism.
—is an oblique reference to . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . a sad past. The apparent reliving of a lost past in terms of grasping at the illusion of ecstasy can only represent a falsification of memory for the purpose of defence. And the dry, brittle memories of an emotionally arid childhood are as fearsome as those of more openly violent abuse.
J. Moussaieff Masson and Terri C. Masson, Buried Memories on the Acropolis: Freud’s Response to Mysticism and Anti-Semitism.
Gradually it has become clear to me . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . that all ascetics must have suffered from harsh and unloving parents in their childhood . . . . I should add, however, that most analysts would disagree, and would qualify this by saying that often the harsh treatment was only imagined—often as retaliation for imagined evil in the little child himself, for his own destructive fantasies vis-a-vis his parents and siblings.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
It seems to me that . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . all ascetics suffered massive traumas in their childhood in one of three ways: they were sexually seduced, or they were the object of overt or covert aggression, or they lost those closest to them early in their lives. Their lives were pervaded with sadness; their rituals, their obsessive gestures of every kind, are an attempt to recapture the lost childhood they never had. It is not surprising to find that all addicts have suffered such loss.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
At a later date I would gradually be persuaded that devastating loss in childhood figured as a probable genesis of my own disorder . . .
William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.
Psychoanalytic studies of addiction have enabled us to see "addictive" features in many areas seemingly unrelated to pure drug or alcohol addiction. Compulsive sexuality can serve as an addiction, as can the practices of asceticism.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.

Be that as it may.

When I got home from my psychotherapy session I researched the Wikipedia article on the subject of addiction. I was startled to find that some experts believe that there is a relationship between the addictive personality and the possession of leadership qualities.

The article states:

"When people are seeking a leader they look for qualities like honesty, intelligence, creativity, and charisma, but a leader also needs to be driven and be willing to challenge certain ideas and practices.  The fact is that the psychological profile of a great leader is a compulsive risk-taker. It has been realized, that what we seek in leaders is often the same kind of personality found in addicts, whether they are addicted to alcohol, drugs, or sex.  The reason that this connection exists is because pleasure is a motivator that is central to learning. Dopamine can be artificially created by substances that carry a risk for addiction, like cocaine, heroin, nicotine or alcohol. People with risk-taking and obsessive personality traits, that are often found in addicts, can be useful in becoming a leader.  For many leaders, it is not the case that they are able to do well in spite of their addiction rather, the same brain wiring and chemistry that make them addicts serve them well in becoming a good leader."

I find it interesting that my book Significant Moments features the themes of leaders (Sigmund Freud, Richard Wagner, the President of the United States) and social movements, such as, Freud's psychoanalytic movement, Wagner's movement to promote his music festival, Herzl's Zionist movement directed at the creation of a Jewish State.

What could that ever mean about me?  Maybe I'm a wannabe leader.

It seems there might be some relationship between the so-called Nobel Prize Complex and the addictive personality.  Interestingly, Jeffrey Masson cites Helen Tartakoff's paper on The Nobel Prize Complex in his paper "The Psychology of the Ascetic."

Masson writes about the fantasies of Indian ascetics: "These sexual fantasies of immense prowess are of course only the other side of the coin from constant fears of sexual depletion. Such concerns, universal and timeless, are particularly well documented in the case of the Indian villager. It is not surprising, then, to find fantasied compensations in other than sexual areas as well, so that we can always expect the ascetic in an Indian text to be endowed with some form of magic power (siddhi). Such omnipotence fantasies, common in childhood, persist into adult life in the form of daydreams of sudden glory, winning the Nobel prize, or finding a cure for cancer. In the case of the ascetic, however, they often reach more alarming proportions, and it seems that many of these magic capacities were actually believed in; in this case they became delusions, and we suspect that we are dealing not with neurosis, but with various shades of psychosis. The belief in magic of all kinds is nothing but the persistence into adulthood of infantile fantasies. We all have more of them than we ever care to admit. What I am discussing here is not, however, hypocrisy; while that may enter into it, it by no means explains the vast majority of cases where the dynamics are much deeper, both in origin and in time.


Gary Freedman said...

This post sheds a whole new light on President Obama's cigarette addiction, doesn't it?

Gary Freedman said...

If you're wondering about the phrase:

"Be that as it may."

It's my silent homage to the psychoanalyst K.R. Eissler. He repeats the phrase over and over in his book Talent and Genius.

Be that as it may.

Gary Freedman said...

The trifecta!!

Get elected president, win a Nobel Prize, and be addicted to cigarettes.