Happy new year! Time flys when … you are busy 🙂
I am longing to write about Partnership dynamics. However, I recently came an article on psychopathy and power hierarchies and am reminded of another topic — the pathology of dominator dynamics. Reviewing the various pathologies of psychopathy, sociopathy, narcisism and codependence, one can (I suggest) readily see how these psychological conditions are correlated with dominator dynamics and culture. This blog entry quickly touches on psychopathy and sociopathy. Future posts will touch on narcisim and codependence. Once we begin to see how these psychological disorders have left their imprint on organizational members and organizations, we might experience a renewed resolve to imagine and enact healthier organizations.
To briefly review cultural historian Riane Eisler’s cultural transformation model, which outlines the concepts of Partnership vs. dominator cultural dynamics, below is an very good summary by Ron Miller, a thinker and activist in the area of holistic education (who is potentially an excellent resource for the study of Partnership approaches to learning organizations). Miller writes:
“[Eisler] … has argued that societies make choices about how they distribute power, that there is nothing natural or inevitable about oppressive hierarchies. She has looked at how values and beliefs are shared across social institutions, from intimate relationships to the state, and found a clear difference between what she calls “dominator” cultural patterns (societies marked by violence, authoritarianism, and gender inequity) and “partnership” orientations (societies that value cooperation, nurturing, and equality). A dominator culture seizes hold of human differences in order to rank people into more or less valued social positions; a partnership culture aims to link people into diverse communities where each contributes his or her strengths and finds aid and support as needed. In any dominator-oriented society, Eisler says, one finds “hierarchies of domination” that limit individual expression and crush resistance, while a partnership orientation supports “hierarchies of actualization”-ways of organizing institutions that maximize “the collective power to accomplish things together.” (Retrieved from: http://www.pathsoflearning.net/articles_Toward_Participatory_Democracy.php, 1/10/10)
The term “pathological” is defined as, “caused by or evidencing a psychologically disturbed condition… “psychoneurotic” … “neurotic,” and also as “caused by … or manifesting disease,” “not exhibiting good health in body or mind.” (Retrieved from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pathological, 1/10/10).
Recently I came across an article by Clinton Callahan on psychopathy and hierarchies of power. Psychopathy is a personality disorder that is characterized by an absence of empathy. Quoting Wikipedia for expediency:
“Psychopathy (pronounced /sa??k?p??i/) is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Researcher Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence to control others and to satisfy their own needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”. “What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”
“Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion; some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments. There is neither a cure nor any effective treatment for psychopathy; there are no medications or other techniques which can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy only become more adept at manipulating others. The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth. It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths. ”
Related to the disorder of psychopathy is the disorder of sociopathy. Again quoting the same article: “David T. Lykken proposes psychopathy and sociopathy are two distinct kinds of antisocial personality disorder. He believes psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms. On the other hand, he claims sociopaths have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and extremely low or extremely high intelligence. Both personality disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, but psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.” Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy, 1/10/10)
In his online article, “Beware the Psychopath, My Son” (http://blogs.healthfreedomalliance.org/blog/2009/12/23/beware-the-psychopath-my-son/) Clinton Callahan draws on sources such as, Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, to propose that because psychopaths (and by definition, sociopaths) are not constrained by human empathy yet mimic normal emotions well, that they often rise to the top of (dominator) hierarchies. He points to bloody history and to the amoral posture of many organizations to suggest that organizations are somewhat (if not more substantially) influenced by sociopathic norms. The article is thought provoking and worth reading.
What do you think? Have you ever worked with a sociopathic personality? How did it affect the dynamics of the organization? (Please don’t post any names or organizations).