Jennifer Lawrence nails the histrionic personality in “American Hustle”

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Jennifer Lawrence made an interesting portrayal of borderline personality disorder (BPD) in the 2011 movie Silver Linings Playbook (actually, the whole movie is a bee hive of personality disorders). Her character, Tiffany, exhibits many of the textbook traits, such as lability, mood swings, splitting etc. The only flaw, in terms of BPD interpretation, is the uptone ending of the movie. Here, Tiffany ameliorates and ends up seemingly at peace and happy. This kind of personal development, though predictable from a viewpoint of cinematic drama, is, unfortunately, uncharacteristic for the disorder. BPD, at its core, is a state of chronic sadness and emptiness.

In American Hustle from 2013, Lawrence plays Rosalyn, the over-dramatic stay-at-home wife to the main protagonist. This is another fine cluster B impersonation by Lawrence, albeit with a histrionic flavor (HPD). Rosalyn employs sexuality, guilt, victimization and a range of other of strategies to get her will. “Passive-aggressive karate”, as her frustrated husband denotes it. Rosalyn can go from scolding to seducing him, literally seconds apart (and he can’t resist).

Rosalyn talks to her son and contradicts herself within the same sentence: “I don’t want to talk ill about your father, but he is an asshole”. This a an example of the fragmented self common for cluster B. Both statements are probably individually true for Roslyn, and the reason they don’t ring false put together is that they do not occupy the same cognitive space; they belong to separate fragments of Rosalyn’s personality that alternate as she speaks.

In one scene Rosalyn walks right up to a group of mobsters in a casino and brazenly starts flirting, right in front of her perplexed husband.

She is described as “the light of the party” by people around her, which is actually a common characterization of HPD in literature.

Later in the movie, Rosalyn deliberately leaks sensitive information to a mobster in order to get back at her husband. He subsequently gets kidnapped and almost killed, but escapes thanks to a last minute plan that fools the mobsters. After his return, Rosalyn now claims it’s him owing her gratitude, for making him come up with such a great plan. Voilà, a brand new narrative with her as the star.

Yet through all of this, Rosalyn is never portrayed as evil or even ill-intended. This is very skillful because while people suffering from HPD may and do cause pain and mayhem, they are nevertheless, in general, none of these things. Rosalyn is first and foremost a prisoner of her own anxiety and fears of being unloved and unseen. Like a permanent state of inner emergency. She is, much like a child, incapable of predicting or admitting bad outcomes of her actions, and even less so of taking responsibility for them. But these are issues of dysfunction, not malevolence.

Equally skillful, Rosalyn is never portrayed as someone who at he end of the day ultimately is all right and who can put her act together when it really matters. As if all that theatrics and oversexualization is something voluntary that can switched off at will. It cannot. As with BPD, the ailments of HPD are chronic and all-pervasive. In one of the final scenes, Rosalyn sits in her car next to the mobster-guy she flirted with and is now dating, complaining over a stiff neck she suffered when crashing into another car; seemingly experiencing some of the self-caused consequences she weren’t able to escape or re-narrate. As she drives away, her (now ex-) husband muses: “She will always be interesting”. He’s probably right.

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Narcissism and exploitation: how John Travolta was discarded when his movie flopped

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(Update) (Update II)

Former top Scientology executive Marty Rathbun testifies to some remarkable inside information about the makings of the 2000 mega-flop Battlefield Earth in this interview with Mark Bunker [below]. We knew the movie was based on a sci-fi novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and that it was a pet project by John Travolta – himself a long time Scientologist. We also knew the movie flopped in almost every category and is widely considered to be one of the worst movies of all time (though I’d still say it’s a decent B-movie). We didn’t know, however, about the close involvement of David Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology.

According to Rathbun, Miscavige micro-managed the entire production and provided day-to-day instructions to the production team. More interestingly, Miscavige was so ecstatic about the result after a pre-release screening that he called Travolta up right afterwards and praised him lavishly for making a great deed for Scientology, that “the old man” (Hubbard) would have been be proud etc.

Then within days of its release, the movie flopped. How did Miscavige react to this? By defending its greatness? By admitting to faults in his personal involvement? No, says Rathbun, as soon as the failure was a fact, Miscavige immediately distanced himself from it. As if he’d had nothing to do with it. Instead Miscavige invented a narrative where it was all Travolta’s fault; because what killed the movie was its “cheesy” special effects, and this was due to Travolta taking too much salary. Travolta fell completely out favor and was humiliated and derided behind his back by Miscavige.

Before commenting further on this, it should be noted that the source, Marty Rathbun, has a complex history in- and outside of the church. He himself used to be one of the top, most hardcore executives within Scientology, before defecting and co-founding the “independent” movement of former church members who still practice Scientology.

Rathbun’s interview (he also speaks about it here):

There are several aspects of narcissism going on here. Perhaps the most obvious one is Miscavige’s unscrupulous exploitation of John Travolta. As long as Travolta was seen as an asset – to Scientology and indirectly to Miscavige himself – Miscavige hailed him to the skies (idealization). But then as the movie flopped, Miscavige immediately discarded him (devaluation). Narcissists don’t see other poeple as human beings with real personalities and emotions, but as extensions of themselves – as sources of supply for their narcissism. The moment a person seizes to be an adequate source of narcissistic supply he by all practical means seizes to exist to the narcissist. He is discarded, forgotten and replaced with a new source.

Another aspect is the way Miscavige distances himself from the movie fiasco despite clearly being involved with it (“for months”, according to Rathbun). One would think that a backstop of cognitive dissonance would force most normal people to face internally at least some of the fallout from such a personal failure. But for a narcissist, blame is impossible because he is by design faultless. Narcissists operate through a split persona – a False Self – which is special, perfect and can do no wrong. Blame is therefore either unwarranted, or deflected away – to the accuser or to someone else (Travolta). This is called blameshifting.

Sam Vaknin theorizes that the narcissist’s unwillingness to accept blame goes even further: that whatever he’s blamed for was the making not really by him – but by his False Self. Because even though his False Self dominates him and subjugates his True Self, it is still an alien part of him. And since he is not in control of his own actions, he cannot be blamed and may detach from them at will.

Vaknin puts it this way (emphasis added):

The narcissist just does not know what he’s doing. Divorced from his true self and unable to emphasize and understand what it’s like to be someone else […] the narcissist is in a constant dream-like state. He experiences his life like a movie autonomously unfolding, guided by a sublime or even divine director. The narcissist is a mere spectator. Mildly interested, greatly entertained at times – but a spectator. He does not feel that he owns his life and his actions. The narcissist therefore emotionally cannot understand why he should be punished. And when he is, he feels grossly wronged.

***

There are numerous other instances where people, including high executives (even entire portions of Scientology’s upper management) within Scientology has fallen out of favor and simply disappeared from the public eye – seemingly discarded – at the hands of Miscavige. One destination for these “unpersons” is The Hole, which is a Gulag prison-like facility at a LA-based Scientology base. Here people are put away for years for harsh interrogations and correction under abominable conditions (“handling” in Orwellian Scientology jargon).

Even Miscavige’s own wife Shelly is one of those disappeared persons and hasn’t been seen in public since 2007. Her absence was actually at center in the recent defection by actress Leah Remini, who dared ask questions about her whereabouts. There’s even rumors that the church is about to “trot her out” to kill off speculations about her that started because of this. Just bizarre.

In a comment to yet another, recent story about the passing of a writer for one of Scientology’s propaganda magazines – Freedom Magazine – former church member and outspoken critic Jefferson Hawkins puts it in this dark but precise way:

A sad story. But don’t expect a glowing obituary in Freedom Magazine. Scientology uses and discards people, and when they die, they are ignored and erased. Veteran Sea Org Members, when they get old or ill, are simply shunted off to some low-rent fleabag senior center or offloaded to their families. Sea Org members who die are simply erased from history and forgotten. […]

Update: For a satirical angle on the subject I recommend this “Shelly Miscavige is NOT missing! “ campaign staged on (as it looks) Hollywood Blvd by two “Sea Org” members…

Update II: Mike Rinder (who worked closely with David Miscavige for years) has written a piece about how associates to Miscavige inevitably become cowed and/or ill. He also compiles an eerie list of top Scientology executive who’ve disappeared one way over the other over the years — basically the who’s who of Scientology management for the last 2+ decades:

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It should be noted also that even though “the Hole” mentioned earlier is a somewhat extreme manifestation (seemingly invented by Miscavige), punishment and abuse is very much a feature of Scientology that Hubbard himself put into place. For instance, there’s the RPFRehabilitation Project Force – a harsh program where underachieving or disobedient Sea Org members are put pseudo-voluntarily to “rehabilitate” through hard manual labor under social isolation. Ordinary practitioners, even celebrities, who question authority or speak critically are interrogated and forced to confessions through “security checking”, which can go on for months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s testimony that abuse were common from early on even under Hubbard’s direct supervision.

Overall there’s ample reason to believe that Hubbard were as malignantly narcissistic as Miscavige is. Put another way; Scientology seems to be designed for the likes of Miscavige to thrive and to be able to rise to power. He is a feature of the organization, not a bug. A feature that likely will lead to its collapse.

Anna Odells fejkade psykos

Det har nu gått drygt ett halvår sedan Anna Odell fejkade en psykos på Liljeholmsbron i Stockholm och blev tvångsomhändertagen. Efter att ha reagerat starkt negativt inledningsvis bestämde jag mig för att bita mig i läppen och vänta ut vad historien som helhet skulle förtälja.
Min egen, arbetsrelaterade relation till psykiatrin är kluven och jag inser att det är en fördold, esoterisk institution som hade mått bra av mer insikt och debatt. Även till priset av en iscensättning likt den av AO. Nu har jag inte sett utställningen som sådan och reserverar mig därefter — men mycket av efterspelet hittills, inklusive Odells egna kommentarer, tyder på att så ännu inte blivit fallet.

En första spontan invändning är att hela händelseförloppet känns alltför förutsägbart. Från det “förvirrade” beteendet på Liljeholmsbron då AO slänger sina kläder över räcket, vilket får förbipasserande att reagera och ringa polisen, till att hon gör fysiskt motstånd och blir lagd i s k bältessäng. Detta påminner om ett typiskt rutinförfarande faktiskt. Tycka vad man vill — någon mörk hemlighet är det i alla fall inte. Det framgår inte heller vilka invändningar AO själv har eller hur hon anser att ett omhändertagande av (i hennes egna ord) “skrämda ensamma människor” borde se ut. Händelsen tycks helt enkelt inte initiera några nya diskussioner.

Min nästa och kanske största invändning är en tveksamhet inför AOs motiv och då särskilt hennes neutralitet. Detta är en känsla jag haft sedan länge och som bekräftats efterhand. För dom som inte vet så var AO med om en liknande, “skarp” händelse 1995, då hon omhändertogs under former som hon nu kritiserar. I sin senaste artikel, angående planerna att iscensätta det hela på nytt, skriver hon:

Jag kunde inte säkert veta att jag skulle vara med om samma händelseförlopp den här gången men jag hade en stark magkänsla av att det nog skulle bli så, vilket också visade sig stämma.

Hm, är detta verkligen en lämplig inställning? Att i ett dynamiskt socialt experiment, där ens egen inblandning spelar en helt avgörande roll, ha en förväntan om utfallet redan klar för sig? Hur vet vi att denna förväntan inte blev till en självuppfyllande profetia? Dessa frågor gör att handlingen — “verket” — anknyter till Odell själv som person och därför hindras från att leverera ett självständigt budskap. Det i sin tur gör det svårt att som åskådare tolka vad det egentligen är man ser.

Motiven blir än mer suddiga när hon skriver:

“[Vi intervjuade] en polis, som kallade paranoida personer för lögnare […] Det triggade mig att genomföra min iscensättning. Det jag skulle göra var det han tyckte att de paranoida gjorde. Ljuga.”

Ett klumpigt uttalande av polismannen som hon blev provocerad av — ok, men att detta fick henne att själv vilja genomföra precis det han hade hävt ur sig — som hon själv tyckte var förkastligt — låter mest som en trotsreaktion. Jag ser bara inte logiken i det tankesättet. Visst, det lär inte ha varit det enda skälet till att iscensättandet blev av, men det får en att undra om det varit konstnärlig nyfikenhet eller personlig vendetta som legat bakom beslutet.

Det känns sammantaget som att AO som kreatör haft en otillräcklig distans mellan sitt verk och sina personliga kall, vilket förtagit en del fokus och budskap från det. Man kan även ifrågasätta vad detta budskap nu ändå skulle vara — och att överhuvudtaget behöva förklara vad det är man gjort, t ex genom att gå ut i media ett halvår senare med en artikel titulerad “Anledningen till att jag spelade psykiskt sjuk”, får väl ses som bevis nog för det. Men visst, det sista ordet är inte sagt.

Jag kan även bli något irriterad över ett påstående som “Mitt val att gå ut på Liljeholmsbron och agera psykotisk har aldrig handlat om att jag vill peka ut eller sätta dit enskilda poliser eller vårdpersonal.”. Kanske det AO, å andra sidan hade allting du gjorde den där kvällen och natten med enskilda personer att göra. En del var civilpersoner, andra utövade sitt yrke. Ingen tillfrågades om de ville delta. Försök inte rättfärdiga dig genom att reducera medmänniskor till ansiktslösa myndigheter och myndighetsutövare, det skulle sänka dig till samma moraliska nivå som gatstenskastaren som kastar sten “på kapitalismen”.

Med det sagt (lite kritik tror jag AO både tål och väntat sig) så delar jag alltså mycket av premisserna. Alla system behöver granskas och omvärderas, och priset för det kan ofta vara högre än vad man kanske inledningsvis är beredd att betala. Jag delar därför inte argumentet att AO per automatik gjorde fel eftersom hon förbrukade en viss mängd samhällsresurser; det är något som de samlade (eventuellt svårmätbara) konsekvenserna får avgöra. Odell själv säger:

Tanken med iscensättningen var också att försöka öppna upp den slutna värld som jag anser att den psykiatriska tvångsvården är.

Och jag hoppas hon lyckas.

Myers-Briggs personlighetstest

Personlighetstest kan vara hur kul som helst förutsatt att testet känns någorlunda genomtänkt och seriöst. Problemet är att de flesta test som finns online är banala skämt. De består av formulär med ett fåtal frågor där man utan större problem kan genomskåda hur varje svar kommer att tolkas, och där den resulterande profilen består av tveksamma slutsatser fulla av superlativ och smicker. Inte mycket mer givande än ett horoskop egentligen.

Men det finns ett test som skiljer sig från mängden och som kan vara väl värt besväret, nämligen detta: Jung Typology Test (ca 70 flervalsfrågor). Testet bygger på en modell som kallas Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (som i sin tur bygger på Jungs teorier), där ens personlighet klassificeras längs fyra olika skalor (källa):

Introvert (I) <—-> Extrovert (E)
Intuition (N) <—-> Sensing (S)
Thinking (T) <—-> Feeling (F)
Judging (J) <—-> Percieving (P)

Efter fullgjort test får man reda på den fyrbokstavskombination som bäst passar in på en (en bokstav från varje skala), och det finns alltså sammanlagt 16 (24) olika typer. Till varje typ finns sedan mängder av information runt om på nätet som beskriver just den typen, och det är här man verkligen kan avgöra om det stämmer in på en eller ej.

Jag gjorde testet för runt ett halvår sedan och sedan igen alldeles nyligen, och blev båda gångerna typen INTJ (100% vikt på introvert, mellan 33-38% på de övriga). Det som fick mig att fastna för just det här testet var att beskrivningarna för denna typ (några utdrag nedan) passade rätt bra in på mig. Och kanske ännu viktigare, det fanns mycket hos de övriga typerna som jag inte passade in på (inte bara generiska “passar alla”-attribut alltså).

Jag var, och är, för all del fortsatt skeptisk till att låta mig placeras i fack på så pass trubbig basis…men även denna inställning av skepcism finns faktiskt beskriven för INTJ-typen. Yikes!

Några utdrag om INTJ (emfas tillagd där det ringer en extra klocka). Känner du igen dig? Kanske du också är INTJ eller någon besläktad typ du med. Gör testet och kolla!

Wikipedia:

INTJs are very analytical individuals. Like INTPs, they are more comfortable working alone than with other people, and are not usually as sociable as others. Nevertheless, they are prepared to take the lead if nobody else seems up to the task, or if they see a major weakness in the current leadership. They tend to be pragmatic and logical individuals, often with an individualistic bent and a low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism. They are also commonly not susceptible to catchphrases and commonly do not recognize authority based on tradition, rank or title.

Hallmark features of the INTJ personality type include independence of thought, strong individualism, creativity, and a desire for efficiency. People with this personality type work best given large amounts of autonomy and creative freedom. They harbor an innate desire to express themselves, that is, to be creative by conceptualizing their own intellectual designs. Among their greatest strengths are analyzing and formulating complex theories. INTJs are generally well-suited for occupations within academia, research, management, engineering, and law.

Myers & Briggs Foundation:

[INTJs] have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

Keirsey-modellen ger ytterligare beskrivningar av varje typ, och namnger dem dessutom. INTJ går under namnet Mastermind:

Masterminds are rare, comprising no more than, say, one percent of the population, and they are rarely encountered outside their office, factory, school, or laboratory. Masterminds do not feel bound by established rules and procedures, and traditional authority does not impress them, nor do slogans or catchwords. Only ideas that make sense to them are adopted; those that don’t, aren’t, no matter who thought of them. Remember, their aim is always maximum efficiency.

Problem-solving is highly stimulating to Masterminds, who love responding to tangled systems that require careful sorting out.

Masterminds are highly theoretical, but they insist on looking at all available data before they embrace an idea, and they are suspicious of any statement that is based on shoddy research, or that is not checked against reality.

Typelogic.com

INTJs are perfectionists, with a seemingly endless capacity for improving upon anything that takes their interest. What prevents them from becoming chronically bogged down in this pursuit of perfection is the pragmatism so characteristic of the type: INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion “Does it work?” to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms. This in turn produces an unusual independence of mind, freeing the INTJ from the constraints of authority, convention, or sentiment for its own sake.

The Personality Page:

As an INTJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in primarily via your intuition. Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

INTJs live in the world of ideas and strategic planning. They value intelligence, knowledge, and competence, and typically have high standards in these regards, which they continuously strive to fulfill. To a somewhat lesser extent, they have similar expectations of others.

The INTJ’s interest in dealing with the world is to make decisions, express judgments, and put everything that they encounter into an understandable and rational system.

INTJs need to remember to express themselves sufficiently, so as to avoid difficulties with people misunderstandings. In the absence of properly developing their communication abilities, they may become abrupt and short with people, and isolationists.