Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from Borderline Personality disorder? / No kidding, this article actually exists!

Are you just as excited for the upcoming first part of the new Star Wars Trilogy starting in December? Well, then this is fun for you: In 2011, Eric Bui, an Italian psychiatrist from the Toulouse University Clinic, published a letter to the editor in a serious psychiatric journal, in which he applied diagnostic criteria for mental disorders on none other than Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader. Bui stated that Skywalker fulfiled various criteria sufficiently in order to get a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The symptoms Ani fulfilled included

  • impulsivity
  • anger issues (Patience you must learn, young padawan…)
  • sudden changes between idealisation and degradation in relationships with close persons (could be applied on his relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi, his Jedi Master),
  • an incomplete sense of identity, an incapacity of feeling his inner self (indicated by sudden changes of personality – the changing of his name might count as an indicator)
  • an excruciating fear of losing his partner (talking of Natalie Portman Padme Amidala here)
  • experiencing dissociative episodes due to stressful events (dissociative episodes refer to a condition in which patients can’t feel their body or experience their surroundings as not feeling “real”. The article e.g. interpretes the moment when Anakin kills a whole tribe after discovering the death of his mother as an dissociative episode.).

As a conclusion (and justification for it, if you ask me), the essay lists three reasons why this investigation might be helpful in real life: 1.) It might explain the appeal of Star Wars to adolescents, as (sane) adolsecents are known to show a lot of these symptoms due to their normal development. 2.) It aims at reducing social stigmatization of people suffering from BPD. 3.) It might be useful in order to illustrate the main features of the illness and to train future psychiatrists and psychologists.

Even though I am very fond of the whole Star Wars universe, and enthusiastically enjoy to apply psychological knowledge to popcultural phenomena and characters, I still see the danger of hurting the feelings of people actually suffering from this horrible and excruciating disease. It might be received as offensive, either because it apparently makes fun of symptoms that severly impede their everyday lives or by apparently declaring them as morally flawed by comparing them to one of the worst villans of all movie history. But this is just one side of the story.

If you read the article closely, you’ll realize that there’s not one sentence in it that makes fun of people with BPD, but that it is driven by the desire to understand what the subjective reality of this people has to look like. It also states possible traumas in the autobiography of Anakin Skywalker, as shown in the movies, that are known to be vulnerability factors to BPD (lack of a father, early seperation from the mother, not to mention growing up in poor and dangerous surroundings, and having been sold as a slave). Furthermore, I feel like, if anything, the whole point of the Prequel Trilogy is for the audience to identify with Anakin, even though he does all these terrible things – in order to allow the audience to relate to him. Why does he do this? It’s probably not right – but you still can relate to it. And, in my opinion, this is exactly the attitude sane people need in order to be able to understand subjective realites and perceptions of people with mental disorders, even though they don’t experience the same feelings as these people.

Obviously, various pop cultural magazines picked up on the article. There even is a professional reply to the investigation in the same journal that questions the diagnosis, stating that other Cluster B personality disorders as narcissistic or antisocial personality disorders might have a better overall fit to Skywalker. The article I liked the most (from Wired) concluded with a statement by Carolyn Kaufman, a clinical psychologist from Columbus, Ohio, who said, probably with a winking eye:

As for the 30-year-old Star Wars series, “We’re probably lucky nobody has started analyzing the lightsabers as phallic symbols,” said clinical psychologist Kaufman. “Come to think of it, someone probably has.”

Sources

Dolor fantasma – De llevar luto

(Este texto ya está mas o menos viejo, lo escribí hace seis años. Ni siquiera, aun me gusta, y por eso lo desempolvé y edité un poco para volver a publicarlo).

Estoy seguro que probablemente hay tantas formas de llevar luto como existen personas en el mundo. Siguen algunas formas que me gustan por sus caracteristicas simbólicas.

El primer ejemplo es Dr. Izzie Stevens, la cirujana en practica de Grey’s Anatomy, que, después de la muerte de su novio (que sufrió de un corazon defecto), se negó de desvestirse de su vestido de boda y simplemente se acostó en el suelo del baño para llevar luto. Cada persona que quisó intentar de hablar con ella para saber como estaba tenía que acostarse también en el suelo del baño para estar capaz de hablar con ella y ver su cara.
Por las otras historias en la telenovela no se puede verificar con seguriudad, cuanto tiempo de veras pasa allá élla. Pero ya solo preguntar esta pregunta de “cuanto tiempo” toma el punto de vista de personas afuera del proceso, con una actitud de continuar, pensar en el futuro, vivir/ SEGUIR adelante. Por el contrario, la posición de ella esencialmente consiste del hecho de que, para ella, los relojes, los horarios – el tiempo! – han parados en el momento en que él murió. El momento en el cual ha empezado el proceso de ella de poco a poco, paso a paso darse cuenta de lo que ha pasado, en toda su grandeza, importancia, gravedad y en sus consecuencias.

2015-08-19 eluunEn un proceso similar se encuentra Thomas Schell en el libro fantástico Tan fuerte, tan cerca del escritor estadounidense Jonathan Safran Foer, después de perder el amor de su vida bajo circunstancias desconocidas. En su vida cotidiana después se da cuenta que en su comunicación con otras personas, poco a poco pierde más y más palabras, cuales, solo así, ya no está capaz de usar, por su pesa emocional y por los acuerdos conectados. Asi al final se le deja tatuar solo si y no en los lados adentros de sus manos y luego solo se comunica por si y no o por frases escritos en un libro blanco que siempre le acompaña. En algún momento se le acaban las hojas y el se queda en silencio. La pérdida de su querida mujer le dejó literalmente sin palabras.
Unos años después, su hijo, llevando luto por la muerte trágica de su padre en el ataque de las torres gemelas de 9/11, se imagina como sería si cada persona tendría un micrófono para reoporducir el sonido de su de su corazón pulsando. Y además, más al rato también juega con la idea de una piscina para colectar el agua de todas las lágrimas en New York City.
También en éstas ideas para invenciones se manifesta su solicitud de establecer el luto en la vida cotidiana, de construir un lugar fijo en la realidad para expresar las emociones y la tristeza en voz alta, de vivirlas en lugar de nada más seguir como antes, funcionar o distraerse, por saber que eso no es una opción de que el se siente capaz.

2015-08-19 leichtigkeitseinTeresa en La insoportable levedad del ser de Milan Kundera quiere terminar con la pesa del cinísmo de su madre de ver a las personas como iguales, insignificantes y vulgares, por ponerse enfrente de un espejo para encontrar su alma en su propia reflección. Su idea de la conexión de cuerpo y alma es la de un barco, y en momentos importantes depende del equipo del barco, si se presenta en el puente del barco o no. Así que en esos momentos Teresa pide desesperadamente, que o el equipo se presente o que se esconda, dependiente de la situación individuál.

En Garden State, una comedia estadounidense, el protagonista se enfrente con su juventud, su relación dificil con sus padres y su historia clínica de tener depressión y tratamiento por sentirse culpable por la muerte de su mama, que, de hecho, fue un accidente. (La película está famosa entre Indie-Nerds, porque el cáracter de la excellente Natalie Portman le invita al protagonista a escuchar a su música por sus audífonos con las palabras: DEBES escuchar a eso – son los Shins ! 2015-08-19 gardenstateÉsta canción cambiará tu vida !…, y si uno pertenece al grupo de personas, que opinan que no se puede sobreestimar el efecto de cierta musica a la vida, a uno le encanta esta película ya solamente por incluír ésta línea.) La película termina con una escena clásica del aeropuerto, en la cual el protagonista se decide salir del avión en que apenas entró, para quedar con su amor, y no dejarla. Pero gracias a Dios! la película no termina tan clichee, cursi y calculable con el Happy End, sino que con la pareja enfrente uno del otro, muy confuso y con la línea: “Y ahora? Que hacemos? Que deberíamos hacer ?!”

En la anatomía clínica se habla del fenónemo de dolor fantoma cuando un paciente que perdió una de sus extremidades (un brazo, una pierna…) en un accidente o por una amputación, aún siente dolor de la extremidad (que no puede ser, porque la extremidad ya está amputada…). Supuestamente la parte correspondiente del córtex motor del cerebro aún tiene una actividad electrica para la extremidad que ya no está parte del cuerpo, y por esa actividad electrica se explica las sensaciones del dolor fantoma. Aún duele lo que ya no está.

Todos sabemos muy bien y estamos muy conscientes del hecho de que al final del día, en algún momento todo eso terminará con dejarlo ir.

Let go. Loslassen.

Pues, pero aún no.

there’s beauty in the breakdown (Frou Frou – Let Go)

porque somos tambien lo que hemos perdido (Amores Perros)

Tl; dnr: Llevar luto es un proceso que necesita su tiempo sin saber cuanto durará. En ese tiempo vulnerable e intenso existe la oportunidad de conocernos más a nosotros mismos, aunque doliera mucho.

Fuentes (imagenes):

  • Jonathan Safran Foer – Extrem laut und unglaublich nah. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2007.
  • Milan Kundera – Die unerträgliche Leichtigkeit des Seins. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1992.

On Amy, the Development of Eating Disorders and the Influence of Societal Ideals of Beauty

In response to the recent press cycle around the promotion of the current movie biopic / documentary Amy about Amy Winehouse, both acclaimed and notorious music magazine Pitchfork and feminist-theory orientated film critics blog Btchflcks recently have published pieces on Winehouses life, her mental problems and the influence of the society on this. While especially the article on Pitchfork is pretty well researched concerning the general facts on eating disorders and while I really support its general criticism and questioning of societal beauty ideals, I still feel that it still stays a bit superficial on a.) what the problem is in eating disorders and b.) where they come from. Of course the rationale of saying that Amy Winehouse died of exhaustion means that she died from drug overuse and reduced calory intake means that she died from an eating disorder is true. But it doesn’t help to really understand the dynamic of a mental disorder and its roots.

Symptoms are not the roots of an illness (even if the standard definitions of disorders by symptoms, as practiced by the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the APAs Diagnostic-Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), might suggest this idea). Symptoms represent a coping style for resolving an inner conflict, and usually they are the best possible way of coping that was availiable to the individual in the moment of crisis. That doesn’t mean that this is the best (or sanest, or most functional) way of coping. Just the best possible way availiable to the individual in the moment it needed a solution.

It’s like rain pouring down on a soil. The stress, the internal object relations, the negative ideas about other people and the self – all this is the rain. The most exciting question is: in which direction is the rain going to pave its way through the soil when it hits the ground? How is the structure of the soil – how will it give way to the rain forming a stream? In other words – in which external form will these internal conflicts find an expression, an outlet on the outside of the individual?

This evokes the question: How does it appear to a person (rationally or emotionally) to be a valid and helpful solution to stop eating? And how do societal ideals and values influence this idea? Why not become depressed? Why not an anxiety disorder? Why not other ways of expression?

As always, the possible answers to this questions are numerous again. Some ideas:

  • a genetical, epigenetic or neurophysiological disposition.
  • the significance of eating and food in the family (e.g. in conflicts of autonomy: „i won’t it what you serve me, because if I eat that, I’ll have to take in all the other stuff you’re giving me, too! And I’m not doing that any more!“).
  • the symbolic idea of wishing to disappear (shame!) and therefore reducing your physical appearance („I don’t want to be here any more!“).
  • the magical idea that not eating will serve you feeling a sense of autonomy, success, self-efficacy in a way you can’t feel these things in other contexts (which it actually does – but only in the short run).
  • AND – last but not least – societal ideals.

Societal ideals implicitly suggest and explicitly propose, that
being thin means being happy.
being thin means being disciplined, attractive, having a high social status, having a partner, receiving attention, being successful.
Sounds like a perfect remedy, doesn’t it?ED-3

There are a lot of routes in which societal norms and believes influence us: Via our upbringing and the beliefs of our parents (Route a), via social learning and feedback on our behaviour (Route d), etc. I want to especially highlight two other routes that might have an effect on developing an eating disorder. Route b.) directly influences the development of a low self image by comparison to others – do i fulfil the demands of the ideal? Am i good enough, is my body good enough? Is it my fault, if my body is good enough? Is this the reason why I am not happy?– and therefore constitutes a risk factor.

The second route (Route c.) is at the very point of trying to solve the internal conflicts. As the subconscious is looking for a form of expression, an outlet, as the dealing with the actual conflict appears overwhelming, it is influenced by all the factors mentioned above: genetical heritage, strengths and weaknesses, symbols in the family, but it also is influenced by the suggestion that society makes:
Maybe I can’t control certain interpersonal dynamics and fights and discussions in my family.
Maybe I can’t control symptoms of depression.
Certainly I can’t control what society thinks about the ideal female body.
But what I can control is – my body!

As a conclusion: Can societal norms be the reason for the development of an eating disorder? I would say no.
Can societal norms influence and contribute to the development, perpetuation and deterioration of an eating disorder? Absolutely, yes. Should these norms therefore not only be questioned, but criticised? Absolutely, yes.

I’m not trying to minimize or whitewash the influence there is – I still am convinced that as a man I can’t even fully grasp the excruciating effect the images of women, the concepts of beauty and the daily comparison to these societal rules and ideals have on girls an women. I am sure that this effect is very powerful and very dangerous and influences people on a daily basis. I’m just saying that in the context of Eating Disorders, it’s even more complicated. The problems people with depression, a low self-esteem, bad experiences in growing up or bonding have, are probably as old as humanity. The forms of expression of these conflicts are an appalling and alarming sign of our modern times.

2015-08-14 amy btbReturning to the case of Amy Winehouse, one can not only find the routes of influences of a society found above. The fact of her being a person of public interest, a star, in some ways depending in her job on the attention of the press make her (apart from her personal conditions) even more vulnerable to influences from society and/or press or public opinion. The Btchflck article points out very clearly in how far the greedy press (and public!) interest in the deterioration of Amy Winehouses condition had a devastating effect: Mainstream media loves to watch when a famous woman–Courtney Love, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan–breaks down in public. Btchflcks, who always have been mindblowing at identifying and analyzing cultural stereotypes and tropes (e.g. the Manic Pixie Dream Girl) also mention the myth of the depressed and mentally destroyed artist who actually needs the suffering in order to make great art, and if he/she succeeds in that, it’s even therapeutic. What kind of lesson does this idea teach to a young, confused, uprising musician, with an already conflicted background?

If one really wants to get to the root of societal influence on the development of mental disorders and the role of the media, one has to ask oneself, in how far the public interest in Amy Winehouse was responding to individual needs and desires. Society is not an isolated object. In how far did we create, maintain and reconstruct these societal ideas?

It’s not the press. The media. The society. It’s us! Who bought the records of Amy Winehouse? How did it happen that a song like Rehab, that celebrates the resistance of seeking professional treatment, became something like an anthem of independence? Who reads, even still now, the articles on the documentary, or comments on them in blog posts? How did we, the audience, and still do, repeat and corroborate the medial attention, the desire for information on an individual tragically suffering and dying from it? Aren’t Eating Disorders always associated with a certain sense of innocence, of innocent suffering, of the victim under the pressure of the society, images we all want to identify with?

We probably want to see people suffer, because we either identify with their suffering or we’re glad that even though we feel our inadequacies so strongly in our daily life, there are still people who are worse off than us – so hey! As Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) once put it in his song Road to Joy (sic!): Well I could have been a famous singer // If I had someone else’s voice // But failure’s always sounded better // Lets fuck it up boys, make some noise! And it raises the pretty awful question: Would we really would have been as interested in seeing a clean, mentally stable, self-empowered Amy Winehouse? And what does that say about ourselves?

Pitchfork: We Need to Talk About Amy Winehouse’s Eating Disorder and Its Role In Her Death

Btchflcks: ‘Amy’: Our Love Didn’t Do Her Any Favors

Tl, dnr: The post aims at distinguishing various ways in which societal beauty norms influence the development, perpetuation and deterioration of Eating Disoders. Pathways include model learning from parents, subtle suggestions from society about the effects of being thin and adapting to an ideal of beauty and social feedback on trying to stay thin.

Blog Shit People Say To Women Directors

femI just stumbled upon a blog called “Shit People Say To Women Directors”, where women working in the film industry are sharing their experiences regarding misogynist and anti-women statements received from co-workers. Here are some examples:

I was at the screening of my feature length documentary. The event organizers set up a little bar and table for the reception. A man (who knew I had directed the film) asked me, “will you be behind the bar serving the drinks?

Every time I walk onto a set, some knucklehead approaches me and asks if I am in the make up department.

I was producing a commercial and was pulled out of my office and asked to turn on a washing machine because I “would know more” about putting the wash on than any of the guys there.
I pressed the “start” button.

Usually carelessly hidden / packaged up in what is intended to be a joke, the degree of degradation and humiliation of these statements that these women have to listen to in their everyday life, for the simple fact of being a woman, is apalling and repellent. I really hope this blog contributes its share to raise awareness.

Check it out here: Shit People Say to Women Directors (Tumblr)

GoodKill (Movie-Review) – On Survivor Guilt & ‘Proportionate Strikes’ via Joysticks

The movie GoodKill follows a military pilot fighter (Ethan Hawke) returning from combat zone to his home near Las Vegas, Nevada. While experiencing an emerging survivor guilt, his military unit at home begins to operate unmanned drones in Afghanistan in order to eliminate possible terrorists. By following the protagonist reflecting on the moral justification of his doings, the movie shines light on the subjective experiences of the people who work as soldiers in order to protect their country.

There’s a certain group of people who go to the military because it seems to be the most promising option for their future. If there aren’t enough resources at their home – neither in their families, their social class or their homeland –, enterying the military appears advantageous. It does not only free their families from a burden – the military offers them money, an education, and job perspectives – but at the same time, it also provides them a huge moral incentive and purpose for their lives, an increase of reputation: to serve their homeland. The whole concept of entering the military is deeply morally charged for them on various levels.

In the case of GoodKills protagonist, the viewer doesn‘t exactly know the previous history of Major Thomas Egan. What we do know is, that he’s having troubles because he feels that this moral justification is questioned by the change of type of the missions he is participating in. Having been a fighter pilot in combat zones, the fact that he was risking his own life fighting, and maybe (purely speculative) thinking that his enemies had fairer chances in the conflict of killing or being killed, gave him a moral justification to do what he was ordered to do.

In this new scenario, where he is sitting with his military unit in an airconditined container somewhere in the surroundings of Las Vegas, Nevada, this moral justification is taken away from him. There are various sarcastic comments about shooting people, finishing at business hours and getting home to the wife and kids to have barbecues, or various allusions to joysticks, or first person shooter video games. What for the other combatants is a joke, in Thomas Egans eyes, these comments only enforce his scepticism and amplify his survivor guilt.

Additionally to this change of the location of the operations, there is a change of command in the unit of Egan. His superior describes it with the words: They [the CIA] progressed from what they like to call a personality strike, where we know for sure that our target is a fucking bad guy. Now they’ve come up with something that they call a signature strike. What that fucking means is, that it is a hit based not on a suspicion of guilt, but on a pattern of behavior. So you may be called upon to fire at any dumb in Warziristan who is carrying an AK 47. Even though we all know that everyone and their mother in Waziristan carries an AK 47.

goodkill1The most striking term in this quote is a pattern of behavior, an allusion to psychological research and statistical analyses. One of the most basic forms of statistical analyses of behavior (and one of the most used) is linear regression. By using mathematical means in order to make the best possible prediction about the connection of two variables with each other, it is tried to find the best mathematical method of connecting them via a line. In other words: How can we find out certain aspects or behaviors of persons, that, in the past, were linked with other persons who commited terrorist acts, in order to identify future terrorists? Which statistical variables (carrying a gun, visiting a certain house, to be of a certain age, gender, political opinion) have the best predictive value in order to predict whether a specific person will commit a terrorist act? I’m pretty sure that the CIA will have advanced methods of data analysis then the pretty simple linear regression analyses. But still: These statistical analyses only can indicate relationships (based on past data), not causalities. Statistical analyses implicate relationships based on numbers and figures, not on aspects of the content of the variable.

In this context, the military language in this movie is also remarkable. Targets, proportionate strikes – these terms seem (and intend) to express that the decisions that are made – which are human, evaluations of impending danger, subjective interpretations based on statistical data – rather appear as objective, even scientific statements, in order to reduce or distribute the individual subjective responsibility for the actions. It is implied that these decisions stem from a scientific certainty. But this certainty does not exist. And Major Thomas Egan begins to get a notion of this.

goodkill2It is so easy to judge on the basis of a Hollywood movie. I’m not saying that the movie is a realistic depiction of what is going on – I’m not in an informed position to judge (and yet I’m supposed to be an informed voter on similar topics in my country). Especially the characteristics of modern warfare- without announcements, no confrontation of two identifiable professional armys, but paramilitary groups acting in spontaneous and desorganized ways, not distinguishing between military and civil population –  have to be taken into consideration. One might just as well dismiss the whole movie as an anti-war hippie leftist intellectual feelgood movie, or an populist conciliation movie for the guilt-feeling audience to have something to be upset about (and then go on with their everyday life, reliefed for the feeling that – at least – they reflected critically on the topic). And I wouldn’t exclude myself from that.

But what this movie illustrates imho is not only the question of war, the question of whether there is a concept like a „just war“, or „proportionate actions“. To me, on the one hand it’s about how authority, the use of de-subjectivication, the pretense, that science is absolutely objective, are used in the movie in order to manipulate people. On the other hand, it’s about the deeply subjective perception of an individual standing in the middle of so much noise, so much information, and so little certainty. Trying to make sense of it, and trying to find a position of his own.

To find more information about the actual practise of drone strikes in the USA, check out the New York Times article from earlier this year.

Another detailed review of GoodKill can be found here.

tl; dnr
GoodKill offers reflections on the use of scientific findings in the context of war, on the way military language tries to reason subjective decisions with allegedly objective scientific certainties, and how the wish to identify with his job on a moral level affects an individual soldier.

Sources images: imdb.com

The Salt Of The Earth (Sebastião Salgado)

„I learned one thing. Having a photographer in front of my camera, it is very different from shooting everyone else. Not standing still, doing himself. No. For professional bias, react and respond, using his weapon, his camera – he shoots back. In this case, it was not just me, fotographing. Two of us had a target.“

(Wim Wenders on filming with Sebastião Salgado)

A few weeks ago I went to an Open Air Screening of The Salt Of The Earth, an excellent documentary on the life and work of Brasilian photographer and photojournalist Sebastião Salgado.

The-Salt-of-the-Earth.aspxThe movie depicts various phases of his career that he dedicated to various social, political and human topics (famine, migration, war). After having shot war photography for various decades, he found himself in a state of desperation and resignation. It was not until he began to concentrate on nature photography and capturing untouched, intact natural landscapes all over the world, that he found a new sense of purpose for his work. Since then, his most recent work intends to appeal to the world to protect these places (one example for this is his recent exhibition Genesis in c/o Berlin.

As if that wasn’t already enough of intensity, the movie was co-directed by German director Wim Wenders and Salgados son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, who was present at the movie screening I attended. Even though it was never explicitly stated neither in his personal and candid introduction nor in the movie, I got the sense that this project was not only to pay tribute to his father. It seemed to be the project of a son in search of his father, the man that he (not least for his fathers job) never really knew. As Juliano Salgado says: “For me, there is Dad and there is Sebastião; the photographer and the guy at home,” (…) “I had a grudge and a problem with the guy at home, but I always admired the photographer.” (Source: http://okgazette.com/2015/05/06/famed-photographer-is-focus-of-sons-documentary/)

tl;dnr:
Wim Wenders documentary The Salt Of The Earth does not only depict Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgados life and his career change from social war photography to environmental activism, but also hints at the consequences his job had concerning the relationship to his son and co-director Juliano.

(Source Poster: © Sebastião SALGADO / Amazonas images // http://www.mongrelmedia.com/film/the-salt-of-the-earth.aspx)