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Mark Goulston, M.D. Headshot

Is Idiocity a Growing Problem?

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Idiocity: the state in which animal instincts overtake a human's potential to not give in to them and that person turns instead to getting away with giving in to them.

There is no such thing as human nature. There is only animal nature and the human potential to not give in to it. Lately however, some humans do seem more committed to giving in to their animal nature and then trying to get away with it.

What a pity that Freud was so castigated by the world regarding his theory of the Oedipus complex. Not that he didn't deserve to be so skewered, but as a result, his work on Ego Psychology was thrown out with the bathwater.

Simply stated:

  • Id: your baser, animal instincts to seek food and sex (and now add power) and act aggressively
  • Superego: your conscience and a counter force to your id
  • Ego: your sense of reality, of what is reasonable and realistic (not the "narcissistic" connotation it has come to be associated with)

Freud's dictum, "Where id is, let ego be," was basically an admonishment against acting upon your baser instincts, which could get you into trouble and also did not bode well for society in general.

Neurotic people often have a severe and even punitive superego, which is why they often have a guilty conscience, even when they haven't done anything wrong. One of the reasons that they so often feel anxiety is that like everybody else, they still have their animal instincts, but their superego is constantly on red alert against their acting on those instincts. It's as if their id and superego are locked in a "zero sum" game where their reality- and principle-based ego has been squeezed out of the equation.

People with personality disorders have holes, or lacunae, in their superegos/consciences, which results in their id being able to escape its control. The larger the holes in their conscience, the more their instincts control their behavior. Psychopaths have no superegos, which is what makes them so antisocial and all about gratifying their instincts.

Power and wealth often create holes in a person's superego and bring out a narcissism in people who are vulnerable to the commonly held observation that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

That may be why people like John Edwards and Bill Clinton have basically said that they did what they did because they could. They may have thought they were above the external rules that hold others back, and beyond the inhibitory influences of their consciences. That translated into the transgression being not in the doing but in being caught.

Once rich and powerful people have had a taste of the adrenaline rush of giving in to those instincts, it's very difficult to go back to life before they became rich and powerful "somebodies."

As one such person told me, "When you go from somebody back to being anybody, it's the same as being nobody." And many of these people cannot tolerate it.

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One of the best ways to counter Idiocity is to improve your listening skills. From now until 6/15, I am pleased to announce that Amazon/Kindle is offering my book, "Just Listen", for $2.99 as one of its Sunshine Deal.

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