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The Psychopathology of Power: Mood, Hubris, and Leadership Nassir Ghaemi MD Tufts University Harvard Medical School.

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Presentation on theme: "The Psychopathology of Power: Mood, Hubris, and Leadership Nassir Ghaemi MD Tufts University Harvard Medical School."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Psychopathology of Power: Mood, Hubris, and Leadership Nassir Ghaemi MD Tufts University Harvard Medical School

2 l Honest history l Positive aspects of mood illness –Depression: Realism, Empath –Mania: Creativity, Resilience –Limitations of mental health (Reverse stigma): Conformism Nassir Ghaemi, A First-Rate Madness, New York, Penguin Press, 2011 JF Galvez, SB Thommi, SN Ghaemi, J Affective Disorders, 2011,

3 New Psychohistory l Scientific not speculative –Not psychoanalytic – Freud/Erikson –Documentation: 50 year rule l Symptoms l Genetics (Family History) l Course l Treatment –Severity of symptoms –Effects

4 Depressive Realism l Contingency tests –25% green light after button press l ½ both groups recognized control –75% green light after button press l 6% of normal students recognized control vs 50% of depressive group –Add money $5 per green light – l normal students misinterpreted control as before –Lose $5 per green light l Normal students more realistic LB Alloy, LY Abramson, Journal Exp Psychology, 1979, 108:

5 Heads I win, Tails it’s chance l 90 Yale students, 30 coin tosses –called out beforehand, asked how accurate at guessing and whether could improve with practice l Descending outcomes group – told repeatedly early that they were correct l Ascending outcomes group –told early that they were incorrect and then more correct l Truth group: told the truth l Descending group was less realistic (Leston Havens) EJ Langer and J Roth, J Personality Social Psychology, 1975, 32:

6 Positive illusion l Breast cancer –“a mildly disturbing disregard for the truth” –Correlated with better clinician-judged psychological adjustment l Skew of happiness –0-100 scale (16 studies of life satisfaction) –Average score 75, range –90% above score of 50 – most everyone feels happier than average l (hence no such thing as average) SE Taylor, DA Armor, J Personality 1996, 64: ; RA Cummins, H Nistico, J Happiness Studies, 2002, 3:37-69

7 Empathy l Biology –Oxytocin –Mirror neurons l Insula – 10% of brain l Psychology –Cognitive, affective, sensory, motor (nonverbal) l Depression – depressed group vs normal controls, correlation with severity –Affective, not just cognitive JF Galvez, SB Thommi, SN Ghaemi, J Affective Disorders, 2011,

8 Mental Health l Roy Grinker: Homoclites –N=343, George Williams College, N=75 selected, 2 year examination –85% lacked even the mildest mental abnormality –“Upright young men” –Mediocrity? l Health: Norm + normal versus ideal RR Grinker et al, Arch Gen Psych, 1962, 6:

9 l Muscular Christianity –George Brush is my name, –America’s my nation –Ludington’s my dwelling place –And Heaven’s my destination

10 Being normal: Homoclites

11 Mental Health l George Vaillant –Well-adjusted personality (work and love) –ML King l David Owen –Hubris Syndrome GE Vaillant, Adaptation to Life, Little Brown 1977 D Owen, In sickness and in power, Praeger, 2008 D Owen, The hubris syndrome, Methuen, 2012

12 ML King l The popular clergyman preaches soothing sermons on "How to Be Happy" and "How to Relax." Some have been tempted to revise Jesus’ command to read, "Go ye into all the world, keep your blood pressure down, and, lo, I will make you a well- adjusted personality.”

13 Great ill leaders l Mania –William Sherman l Not George McClellan –Ted Turner l Depression –Winston Churchill l Not Neville Chamberlain –Abraham Lincoln –Mahatma Gandhi –Martin Luther King Jr

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16 Healthy poor leaders l Chamberlain l McClellan l Nuremberg Nazi trials l Modern leaders? –Richard Nixon? –George W. Bush –Tony Blair

17 George McClellan

18 Neville Chamberlain

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21 Nuremberg Nazi leaders

22 How to enhance realism? l Oppose the culture of self-esteem –“You are not special” l Teach self-doubt –The scientific attitude –Richard Feynman: Cargo cult science l Teach non-conformism –Emerson’s self-reliance

23 How to enhance empathy? l Spirituality – Eastern traditions, existential equality l Teaching nonviolent resistance –Not simple pacifism l Oppose conformism –social doubt, related to self-doubt –Karl Jaspers


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