7.29.2013

What's the Matter with Bob Filner and Where's Waldo?




What’s the Matter with Bob Filner?  

It’s become this week’s national Where’s Waldo.


I haven’t personally assessed Bob Filner, however, from my desk, and in the diagnostic world, Filner would probably fall in the Axis II category, somewhere along the Personality Disorder continuum.


Maybe he’s a Narcissist. Those gents (not always men) cannot imagine that their wily ways are not supremely wonderful. Bill Clinton was often lay-diagnosed as a Narcissist. Narcissists aren’t always bad, and in fact, their chi pushes the world forward. Only humongous egos would think, “I’m going to do something that no other human being has ever done before…invent a hand held computer,” or, bring back Irish dancing for one billion people to enjoy!

Women can be Narcissists too, but they are less professionally and culturally tolerated. Somehow, really large confidence  is seen more jocular in ambitious men. Of importance related to Filner, Narcissists will not see the error of their ways. The guy on his 11th DUI still blaming “the law” (true story) is colossal denial. Narcissism is more than denial – it’s more than an individual with an external locus of control (blaming outside forces for one's station in life).


The other Personality Disorders that may stick for Filner would be something like Borderline Personality Disorder, or Antisocial Personality Disorder, formerly known as Sociopathy. There are dramatic differences in those clinical diagnoses but what matters here is the treatment of choice for a Personality Disorder. 


The Psychiatric community knows full-well that these Axes do not respond positively to traditional psychotropic medication, leaving a treatment choice that falls along the same path that we use to treat men who beat their wives (sociopaths)…”You cannot beat your wife because you’ll go to jail” (an external consequence). The wife-beater often doesn’t grasp that hitting his beautiful wife is disrespectful, unkind, and ultimately damages the very foundation of intimacy and trust. 

No, this man psycho-educationally learns, like a mantra, that “hitting wife leads to jail and I don’t wanna go there.” This is a first order change and doesn’t require a deep psychic shift in perception.


Much like the way we teach teenagers to drive, “Don’t speed or you’ll get a ticket.” The more mature driver naturally learns, over time, with a developing brain and experience that speeding increases the chances of harm to myself or others, the risk outweighs the benefit, and may incur great cost to my person (a second order change).


In Filner’s case, it’s reasonable to imagine that he can be taught, actually learn, as one tediously learns how to say, fly a plane, the intrinsic consequences of sexually advancing towards women. The mechanics of empathy can be taught, but that isn’t the real goal. The real goal is behavioral, "You cannot be in a room alone with a woman." And with further psycho-education and rehabilitation, "No touching a woman without her verbal approval, after I ask."

Prisons are not concerned with teaching the mechanics of empathy to inmates, and that seems to be a model that we culturally embrace, so, one could say that the first order changes are sufficient to keep a safe and civilized existence for our society. And, along those lines, the single most common characterological flaw amongst the incarcerated is lack of impulse control.  “I want it. I’m taking it.” One can only assume that Filner's grossly unacceptable behavior was enabled by his co-horts  (friends, family, colleagues). 

As public allegations seem to read, Filner harassed and violated highly educated, well-resourced women. Has there ever been so many well-appointed yet frightfully quiet victims to one deviant?

Are there others like him, male or female? Of course there are. 


Sexual aggression is about power and control. It is not about physical gratification - that’s easy to come by. Power and control are about using others as objects, with no concern for reciprocity or mutual pleasure. If this sounds like a retarded stage of development, reminiscent of toddlerhood, it precisely is. Toddlers learn through repetitive socialization, the curbing of Id, “Let’s ask her if we can share the shovel today? Oh, she says no. That’s ok, let’s move on to the bucket and play over here. Maybe we can come back later.” 

Like the bull elephant running rough shod over the herd, until he's sent away at age 14; a growing teenager overpowering his tired mum, or the wolf mommy knocking back her pup as he attempts to steal her fresh meal - healthy ego formation is either going checked or unchecked - one million auto corrects. 

Ideally, one begins to tolerate not getting what one wants.