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"Man is the only creature who actually enjoys the infliction of pain upon members of his own species," stated Dr. Anthony Storr, British psychiatrist and author, as he initiated the Thursday Afternoon Lecture Series to a capacity audience in Emerson 105.
To account for this biological anamoly in Homo sapiens, Storr proposed that the majority of humans posses a latently paranoid character, accepting absurd delusions about enemies and consequently projecting hostility. The origin of this paranoid state is an unconscious "memory of early infantile helplessness.
Storr defined the paranoid state as "attributing to others feelings or thoughts which belong to the self, through the mechanism of projection." The paranoid state is accompanied by persistent delusion, generally of a persecutory nature. The popularization archetypal examples are true: the paranoid does feel himself in the midst of a plot or enmeshed within a powerful conspiracy. He is a distrustful person, balancing himself upon a tight walk environment.
The paranoid's narcisstic beliefs of self-importance are an infantile trait, according to Storr. He is regressing to a childlike level by applying all his love to himself. This is a compensatory move," for he feels himself incapable of receiving love from outside himself, and can only project hostility and aggression.
"Pursuit of enemies and human cruelty are intimately associated with paranoid projections," proposed Storr. Large number of people are willing to accept the most absurd fantasies about "enemies," delusion beliefs about Jews, negroes, and witches. Most countries have a special "out-group" that receives paranoid projections, such as the "untouchables" of India.
Storr buttressed his argument that latent cruelty exists in most normal individuals by referring to experiments which have shown that normal American college students will apply lethal doses of electric shock to human subjects if they are told to do so by their instructors. He also added that 80 per cent of the pornographic material enjoyed by the general public is sado-masochistic in nature.
While justifying the term "paranoid" for collective social actions (such as war) Storr dropped a statistic of heavy import. Notably, that within the period 1920-1945, 59 million beings have been killed in violent acts performed by other more or less "normal" human beings.
Storr admitted that war might be a "regulating device for reducing population," but he rejected the "utopian hope" that cruelty can be eliminated by remodeling society and resolving the population problem, since his explanation of man's innate paranoid tendiencies traces back to infantile tendencies traces back to infantile development.
Apart his cruelty, man is also unique among the primates for his slow rate of development, which keeps him relatively helpless for almost a quarter of his life. According to Storr, the human infant cannot respond adequately to its environment, resulting in impotent rage and fear. Analysts refer to this earliest stage of emotional childhood as the paranoid-schizoid position.
This stage is strongly imprinted in the infant's memory, and acts as the unconscious base for paranoid projections in later adult life.
Storr summed up by stating that there is a critical transition between the "vegetative life of the fetus and the independent life of the infant, and consistent mothering is required to pass it unscarred."
Dr. Storr, in an interview, said he developed an interest in an innate paranoid state simply because he was curious "as to why human beings treated each other so cruelly." Although he was trained as a psychoanalyst in the school of Carl Jung, he suscribes to theories of Melanie Klein, i.e. that paranoid tendency arises early in infantile development.
Dr. Storr has participated frequently in British television and radio programs, and does journalistic work for the literary magazine "Book World." He has written three books: The Integrity of the Personality, Sexual Deviation, and Human Aggression. Now visiting American for the first time, Dr. Storr is currently teaching a course entitled "Human Aggression" at Harvard University.
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