Saturday, 11 October 2008


The following extracts are by different writers

Fantasy role-playing

I was going to call this 'The Devil's Web' which is the title of a book written in 1990 by Pat Pulling and Kathy Cawthon about children who get involved in role-playing games or virtual realities. It is a long time since I read it, during which time some people have been critical of it, I believe along the lines of its exaggerating any risk involved.

Since then people are more aware of some of the issues around violent films that children watch, or sadistic games played on computers. There is general and governmental concern about increasing crime and violence among young people, and about spree killings occurring in colleges particularly in the United States.

What does seem to warrant attention, apart from anything else, is that fantasy enactments in violent role-playing games are along the lines that adults are trained in for combat - to desensitise them and reduce any qualms they may have about actually pulling the trigger on a gun with the aim, desire or compulsion to kill people.

I do not know the number of instances in the UK where there could be cause for concern, but recently read that the man responsible for the Hungerford murders had just prior to them been involved in a violent role-playing game and had seemed to be 'still in it'.

There is a concept - dare I term it 'received wisdom' - that people are only likely to be adversely affected by violent films or games if there is something a bit wrong with them already, with the oft repeated phrase about how many people are not affected and go on to 'live normal lives'.

Those affected through no fault of their own, because they cannot overcome the conditioning or grooming process towards violence, or because they or a family member are a victim of such violence, do not go on to 'live normal lives'.

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Profiling by the company we keep ?

From 'Out-of-Character Behaviour' at

Although there does seem validity in personality profiling or evaluation for some people, some actions, some situations, or just sometimes - sociological or environmental factors may overtake the individual approach or need consideration as playing a potentially significant part.

That's a sweeping statement which I'll draw in a little by mentioning a book 'Profiling the Criminal Mind: Behavioral Science & Criminal Investigative Analysis' by Dr Robert J Girod Sr. It is an introductory book outlining main themes and theories about profiling and investigation of crime from the author's experience, also mentioning the work of many others with wide-ranging views, experience and expertise.

Several chapters mention the kind of situation that people are in, such as groups they belong to where the 'group cause' could be a motivating factor in criminal or other activity. Some of the subtitles from the CONTENTS list are:

Gang motivated murder
Criminal competition homicide
Group cause homicide:
Cult murder
Extremist murder
Group excitement murder
Peer/group pressure
Group retaliation
Child/adolescent pornography
Historical child/adolescent sex rings
Multidimensional sex rings
Group cause sexual assault

The Nature of Cults:
What are Cults

Another useful book is 'Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool' by Ronald M. Holmes & Stephen T. Holmes. There are many more, some quite expensive and some intended more for academics or for those working in the field.

I am inclined to think that sadistic, violent or extreme behaviours are probably things that most people are capable of, especially when under extreme stress or in extreme circumstances. That includes the company we keep, or are somehow inveigled into keeping.

I suggest almost a continuum of behaviour, the extremity of which is shocking but where other factors can sometimes render the shock factor insufficient to prevent our involvement, willing or unwilling, witting or unwitting. Those extreme behaviours could therefore be like an extension of 'normal people's normal behaviour'.

Then I came across John Sweeney's book 'Purple Homicide: Fear and loathing on Knutsford Heath' where in the Epilogue he outlines some theories of cult behaviour and extremes such as suicide by members of a group or cult:

Page 260: "Ashley Grossman is Professor of Neuro-endocrinology at Bart's Hospital in London. He saw a comparison between those who build and reinforce a system of lies and mass suicide cults. 'All of us from time to time tell lies. If the lie is outside the structure, then we can handle that. But if we construct a house around that lie, with eaves and guttering and drainpipes, then we are in trouble. There is a psychological theory that is called cognitive dissonance, which implies that everything must be reasonably congruent. So there comes a certain stage where you start living in that house because there isn't too much else outside. Then even the most reasonably balanced person will find it quite difficult to distinguish between truth and non-truth. They do literally live that lie and it becomes part of their self-structure. It will be hard then to say that someone is deliberately lying because, by that stage, the lie becomes self-reinforcing. The power of the lie is enhanced if there is a folie a deux, if two people are in on the lie together. At its most extreme, the lie can lead to a mass suicide, like the Heaven's Gate suicides..... Within the structure it was congruent, it made sense, they understood it, everybody said the same thing. It was the rest of the world that was living the lie.' "

In 'More Scams from the Great Beyond: How to make even more money off of creationism, evolution, environmentalism, fringe politics, weird science, the occult and other strange beliefs' Peter Huston comments on various hoaxers. He comes up with some interesting ideas about dynamics such as the rather earnest campaigners there can be in any field really. Maybe a lot of us are basically rebels seeking a cause or something 'meaningful' to work on with other people.

On p.86 under a title of 'Canvassing' he writes:
'Choose one particular issue and declare it your cause of the day... Next get a group of well-meaning, idealistic people together... one way is to run a newspaper classified ad... 'Save the Environment' etc... The key elements are an appeal to idealism, greed, and people with lack of experience. Collect these well-meaning, idealistic people. Keep them in one place together for a period of time. This serves several psychological purposes. First they will enjoy one another's company and form a group of some sort. Second they will reinforce each other's willingness to do the humiliating and morally questionable work that comes later.'

Dr William Sargant wrote on the phenomenon of conversion to religion or way of thought, and suggested it occurred a lot easier if there was high excitation of an area in the brain. In a TV interview some years ago he joked that he would not wish to attend a particular ritual or event as he 'did not want to get converted'.

Does this have relevance for large crowds, rallies, congregations, pop concerts, or even some individual or small-group practices like meditation or ritual? Can we change our own psychological reality? Can reality really get changed, or does how we perceive things change? Can someone else change us against our inclination? How would they benefit? Would we!

Will there always be some split in belief or perception which divides us humans into camps, as if somehow we have to seek differentiation? Maybe this is where the 'hissing and splitting' comes in, mentioned in Speakofthedevil's Blog.

If someone goes in for meditation, or has a feverish illness and senses things differently, do they actually become different? If tragedy knocks harshly on your door, are you necessarily the same person afterwards? I feel we can get changed by things, sometimes so that there is no 'going back' completely.

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Possession, Dissociation or DID

From 'Unseen Aspects of Behaviour' at

Adam Crabtree’s book 'Multiple Man: Explorations in Possession and Multiple Personality' was published in paperback in 1988 by Grafton Book.

Whether one feels there is any validity to the concept of possession, or of multiple personality (which now gets called DID indicating dissociation) the author makes an interesting point about his experiences taking groups through a technique called Psychodrama where people act out different roles in a scene. He found that, not only did people with little acting ability or inclination often do well at it, but they managed with little information on the personality and role they were asked to play.

He says (p.337)
'There seems to be within people a natural ability to take on a personality other than their own and to act from within that assumed personality. They appear to actually become that personality and to some extent, leave their own personality behind. The English word which most closely expresses this phenomenon is 'personation'. My experience with psychodrama shows me that human beings may be said to have the innate capacity to 'personate', to take on full-blown personalities and act from within them.'

He goes on to describe personality as a tool (p.339) concluding:
'I think there is reason to believe that the whole of man's emotional life is centred around the invention and utilization of those tools that we call 'personalities'.

Psychosynthesis and various broadly similar approaches use working with parts of the personality, or subpersonalities, perhaps giving each one a name and looking at how useful or otherwise they are for our overall functioning.

Another theme which could have relevance is the concept of the 'shadow', or darker side of ourselves which we may be disinclined to acknowledge - but which others can sometimes see perhaps because of their own acknowledged or unacknowledged parts.

I think it's fair to say though that most of us, much of the time, have some idea what happened in our lives this week, last week, this year, last year, going further back with some chain of connection. For people who tend to dissociate to a significant degree as part of their psychological make-up, it doesn't happen that way, and they may literally be unaware of things which happened while they were in quite a different state of mind.

I've known people who are naturally like that anyway, but it can happen too if they have been through bad experiences that they need to keep mostly shut away, or if someone encouraged or forced them to be like that. It can make it hard to plan things properly if they don't remember a bad outcome to something and take steps to avoid it again.

It would be inappropriate of me not to say that I have doubts about some of the therapeutic approaches used with people who have been severely traumatised. No-one can know all the answers for each situation, and care needs to be taken so that a process which is aimed at helping someone does not cause unnecessary problems - for them, for you, for others close to the situation. If we take on board Adam Crabtree's work mentioned above on Psychodrama, and work undertaken on 'confabulation' we need to be careful that expectations or some other factors don't come into play as being factual, which doesn't mean people are deliberate liars either!

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Other or better models for personality?

I wonder whether there are other factors or explanations not necessarily exclusive to some of the views or theories, but could they complement them somehow if we let them?

In some quarters, Freudian theories have been completely thrown out or drastically questioned. Some detractors claim that nothing from anyone with a psychoanalytic approach has validity. The inference can get drawn by writers - or readers - that what people feel happened to them regarding abuse is simply the mind telling them what to think.

Richard Webster makes some interesting points on his website. I also read around the subject of 'anti-therapy' and so on, and admit to a sneaky feeling that some therapy spiel plays into a need that people feel for something to 'make sense' in their hour of need. I do believe we can work on a societal approach that marginalises less people, a type of society that does not make people think themselves inadequate because of what is put forward that suggests they are.

Looking for something specific about MPD or DID, I came across mention of a book by Ralph Allison and his model for dissociation of different parts of the personality occurring more in some people or circumstances than the rest of the population.

That led to the subject of memes and schemas, which I do not know a great deal about, only what I've read previously and now. One can search around the concepts and the term 'SocioPsychology' would clue the search engine in also. I wish I had the time to look into this more.

It all seems to take in concepts relating to social environment and even genes, along with ideas/memes having a life of their own, with a basic need to survive and propagate themselves independently of their human hosts - us or our brains.

There is a concept of 'selfplexes', a hypothetical grid of the various ways people can behave. Theoretically one could place a person's behaviour or tendencies into an area or areas, a bit like repertory grid theory for plotting attitudes or behaviour.

Although that may seem in direct contrast to some ideas about MPD or DID, and some people might take it that way, it could tie in. Someone mentioned Psychodrama with people showing a natural capacity to draw more things out of a scene or situation than they actually know of.

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Prompted into looking at someone's work by other people's scepticism, I went along to his talk, discovering it just before it took place. My experience with emailing speakers after a talk is that generally nothing happens. I waited till everyone asked questions, then mentioned my interest.

He hypothesised that in some scenarios, MPD or DID can involve archetypes which lie at the root of concepts or behaviours, which I think he was saying can become 'stuck'. My interpretation in simple terms would be a model that someone emulates, and then getting 'stuck in role'

I do not know if I am interpreting his words correctly or rather putting things in a way I can handle, that I feel there could be some validity to this approach, having considered some other theories as working hypotheses. It does not matter that I did not interpret it the way he meant because it meant something to me at the time.

If we are influenced sometimes or in some ways by myths, fairy tales, or whatever belief or theme attracts us for a while, this could reflect in our behaviour. It could be a one-off event or situation, or it could run through our lives as a recurring pattern.

Some people form groups with a particular ideology and call it Satanism or something else. It may or may not involve Satanism and it may or may not involve cruelty and sadism. My working hypothesis is that 'It', 'Things', 'Anything' may happen totally in a physical sense, being enacted in a reality structure that is there for people to see, photograph, gain evidence from.

Alternatively, could it be that sometimes it is not 100 per cent physical, that some is a scenario played out as a mental or emotional strategy? The aim would be to scare people, keep them under control, and confuse them and other people in the process.

Check out Cilla's Blog which touches on Shamanism, the Unseen, Symbols, Realities, Urban Legend & Ritual Abuse, and Social Dynamics of Ritual Abuse. I do think we need to look at things differently or we won't get anywhere that could be helpful. Not everything will fit every situation, or person, or experience.

Some people - scientists even - think we live in a universe where we affect 'reality', how things actually are, and how they might become. That is out of my field, and you can find plenty of information on it in books and on the Internet.

Regarding archetypes and myths, a lot of work has been done by psychotherapists, anthropologists, and people from other disciplines. Perhaps one of the problems is that we are different, each in our own ways. Someone like Jung can lay his theories out for us, and if they are not meaningful for us, then they are not. But other people may interpret them in some way that strikes a chord.

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