Saturday, 9 August 2014

What is "Personality Disorder"?

Find intelligent and insightful accounts of "personality disorder" in "Identity Crisis: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and the Self" by Stephen Frosh (Palgrave 1991), and at www.hannapickard.com (the website of psychotherapist and analytical philosopher Hanna Pickard).

Such terms as "Borderline Personality Disorder" or "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" are used as a shorthand by people concerned with mental health to stand for sorts of more-or-less stable patterns of inter-personal and intra-psychic (that is self-reflecting) relating, which in one way or another are extremely distressing and damaging to lives.


In my view, it is sensible to think of such disorders not as "things" that people "have" but what comprises that person's experience (and indeed others' experience of them) in the broad sense of states of feeling and perception, understanding and expression. In my view what might be identified as "narcissistic personality disorder" or "borderline personality disorder" are people who are trying - in ways that survived infancy - still to achieve self, in which effort their early family environment could not give support. In that respect then "self" can be lacking, and I think it makes sense to link this lack with envy, and the composition of self is to do with range and depth of feeling.

In this sense self can be lacking:
"[A feature disqualifying him as a philosopher] was the incompleteness of his [Bentham’s] own mind as a representative of universal human nature. In many of the most natural and strongest feelings of human nature he had no sympathy; from many of its graver experiences he was altogether cut off; and the faculty by which one mind understands a mind different from itself, and throws itself into the feelings of that other mind, was denied him by his deficiency of Imagination." 

Here I read "mind" as something like "self" or "person".
The quote is from John Stuart Mill's essay "Bentham" (1838).

Recently I found this passage from Mill's essay quoted in a paper by two clinical psychologists on Asperger's syndrome.

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