Saturday, June 26, 2010


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Disclaimer: It is possible for a psychologist to analyze someone only by working with him personally as a patient. For this reason, my comments about public or historical figures will be intended only as illustrations of general psychological principles that apply to the human condition and an expression of how a psychologist may view the world.

Sigmund Freud is reputed to have said to a group of industrialists, "Show me the agitator in your factory, and I will show you a man who is in rebellion against his father." I am not at all sure if this is a correct quotation of Dr. Freud, who, incidentally, was right about many things and wrong about many things. However, the quotation provides good material to illustrate how a psychologist views human behavior.

For example it does make sense, psychologically, to speculate that an "agitator" in a factory may be driven, unconsciously, in his behavior by memories of having been unfairly treated by his father. Such experiences could indeed generate feelings of anger and rebelliousness against all paternal authority figures, including his employer. However, this does not mean that the rebellion of the "agitator" in the factory has no justifiable basis for his complaint. It may indeed be true that there are real health or safety issues, or unfairness in how the factory is run.

To speculate about the inner personal psychodynamics of human behavior does not in any way undermine the validity of the external circumstances addressed.

Psychologists talk about "multiple determination" of behavior. The human mind is extremely complex; it is not like a light switch, or the basic component of a computer, both of which have only an "on" and "off" position. Therefore we might say that a person who is psychologically "in rebellion against his father" may indeed be more highly motivated to rebel against some real unfairness in his adult world. In this case, we might say that two of the "multiple determinants" of the agitator's behavior are the actual unfairness in the factory, and the unconscious rebellion against his father.

Be sure to view my next Blog, "President Obama and General McChrystal" from the Blog Archive in column on right.
Next Blog Coming: "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"


  1. Just finished the last book in the trilogy, "Girl with..," and am eager to se your view

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  3. I was afraid to read the book "Girl with..." I am also interested to see your view. I don't even know what it's about. A friend of mine read it and said it was very disturbing. She said "read at your own risk." So with that comment, I decided not to risk my impressionable mind. :)