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The Psychology of an Eliot Spitzer. Help Me Figure This One Out.

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Mike03 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:20 PM
Original message
The Psychology of an Eliot Spitzer. Help Me Figure This One Out.
Edited on Sat Mar-15-08 06:23 PM by Mike03
I was talking to my mom about this topic this morning. For some reason I can't let go of this news story, even though most people have moved on.
What I told my mother is that I felt he wanted to be caught because the tension within him was growing to a level that he could no longer tolerate. But that was just an armchair psychoanalysis.

I really admired this guy, and I've watched his career for quite a few years now.

The news on Monday stunned me. It still stuns me. One day, I had hoped that Spitzer might run for President of the United States.

Ordinarily, I would not hold a human being to very high standards, but for some reason I honestly trusted Spitzer. My question is, just from a psychiatric perspective, how could a human being sculpt his entire essence around the concept of propriety, yet violate the very principles he specializes in upholding, and live with himself?

I'm as flawed as any human being could ever be, but there are some things I would not do because I could not stand to look at myself in the mirror. How does a person overcome the most basic hurdles of conscience?

I don't hate Spitzer; I just want to understand how this works.

Did he know he was being hypocritical?
Was it some sort of denial, negotiation with reality, or rationalization?

I understand that most of us (at least me) have hypocritical moments, but this thing with Spitzer just blows my mind. Maybe I shouldn't feel bad for him, but I do. And I feel bad for his family, for certain.

Any insight into how Spitzer could justify this conduct in light of his successful and obsessive prosecutions would be appreciated.
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polichick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:23 PM
Response to Original message
1. This is from author, Debbie Ford (interesting, I think):
On the day my new book came out, we saw another dramatic, seemingly stupid act of self-destruction. As we all project on the soon-to-be-former governor of New York and look at pictures of his prostitute, we ask "How could this happen?", "Why would he throw it all away?", "Why would he risk it all for a few nights of feeling good?". We must ask ourselves the same thing. Why do we risk what is most important to us? Why do we overlook the areas of our life that could truly bring us fulfillment? Why do we make choices that are opposite of our goals?

In the wake of the Eliot Spitzer scandal, allow me to shed some light on the dark side -- the dark side that exists not just within our elected officials but within every human being. Everything that we see in the outer world that disgusts us, enrages us, or horrifies us is a projection of our own shadow.

On the surface, Eliot Spitzer looked like a man on a mission to stomp out immoral behavior and clean up the streets from seedy influences like prostitution. In his private life, he is found to have engaged in the very behaviors that he publicly condemns.

Newt Gingrich stood before reporters and millions of Americans and vehemently attacked Bill Clinton for his "impeachable offense," only to later admit to cheating on his own wife.

Larry Craig, whose political career was marked by a consistently anti-gay stance, gets caught soliciting sex with a man in a public bathroom.

Incidents like these and countless others are not coincidence, and they don't come from "out of the blue." Acts of self-sabotage are predictable. They arise from the repression of what I call our dark side, the aspects of ourselves and our lives that we find too embarrassing to admit, to inconvenient to accept.

Our suppressed emotions and repressed urges gather strength like lava beneath the surface of the earth. If there are no steam vents at the earth's surface to release the pressure of the powerful force that is building beneath it, the only outlet comes in the form of an eruption. Likewise, within our psyches our dark urges and impulses build up, and unless we find safe, healthy ways to release them, they express themselves in inappropriate and potentially dangerous ways. When our dark side is repressed out of shame, and denied out of fear, it has no choice but to erupt. This is how the shadow works. This is how every human being is designed.

By adopting the role of public crusader, Eliot Spitzer was literally chasing his own shadow, hoping that by ridding the world of corruption, he could rid himself of his own dark urges. If he and others like him understood that the real war that he was waging was not against the prostitution in our city streets but against the dark urges that exist within himself, he could have taken appropriate action. But instead of looking within to the source of our disgust, we try to control it in the world around us.

By acknowledging, accepting, and embracing our dark thoughts, we create natural steam vents within ourselves. (This is what you'll find in my new book.) When we accept rather than repress our dark impulses, we no longer have to worry about being caught in the wake of our own self-sabotage. Free at last!

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Mike03 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:51 PM
Response to Reply #1
12. Awesome reply! That really harmonizes with some of the
Buddhist teachings I've been reading about befriending our dark sides. I don't yet grasp how this is done.
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polichick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:03 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. I haven't read her new book, "Why Good People Do Bad Things," but...
...I really enjoyed her earlier bestseller, "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers."

You're right ~ it does harmonize with Buddhist thinking.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:40 PM
Response to Reply #1
17. This is one reason why I enthusiastically support the existence of
BDSM clubs (legal role-playing),the complete de-stigmafying of homosexuality, and the legalization of prostitution and drugs.

Imagine a world where people didn't have to hate themselves for enjoying these things, and have to work overtime hiding their proclivities. JUST IMAGINE.
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JohnnyLib2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 08:03 PM
Response to Reply #1
19. Makes sense to me, plus he is rich, horny and travels.

Others would have to go cheaper.

Gotta read her book.
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Hissyspit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:23 PM
Response to Original message
2. Well, I know I'm GROSSLY oversimplifying this, but you really should factor in two truisms:
1.) Power Corrupts

2.) Men Like To Have Sex With Beautiful Women

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joeybee12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:25 PM
Response to Original message
3. "The rich are different from you and I"--F Scott Fitzgerald
He came from money and when you come from money you feel that you deserve certain things...I can't help thinking this figures in somehow.
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Mike03 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:53 PM
Response to Reply #3
13. You are right that Spitzer came from money.
That was news to me, but I did hear this week that his parents are billionaires.
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madaboutharry Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:26 PM
Response to Original message
4. Maybe a psychiatrist could explain it, but
Edited on Sat Mar-15-08 06:28 PM by madaboutharry
frankly explanations only serve to give someone like Spitzer a pass. And he doesn't deserve one. The level of betrayal is too deep.

His wife and daughters deserve our empathy for the humiliation he has brought upon them.

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girl gone mad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:27 PM
Response to Original message
5. I'm no psychiatrist..
but Spitzer comes across as an overcompensating narcissist to me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_d...

In other words, his idealized public persona was a facade which he created to make up for the true self, of which he is deeply ashamed.
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Clear Blue Sky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:32 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Power
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord Acton.
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Hydra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:33 PM
Response to Original message
7. He got caught with his hands in the cookie jar
Most people indulge their vices. Personally, I like what another DUer said:

"At least he was having sex with a majority-aged woman in a hotel room."
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bean fidhleir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:33 PM
Response to Original message
8. These sum it up


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Eric J in MN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:37 PM
Response to Original message
9. I don't know his life story, but...
...one possibility is that he's been going to prostitutes for years, including before he became NYS Attorney General (and there was less hypocrisy involved), and he couldn't stop subequently because it was like an addiction.
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boobooday Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:41 PM
Response to Original message
10. Steely Dan: Can't buy a thrill
When the only thrill left is to risk all you've achieved.
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The Straight Story Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:42 PM
Response to Original message
11. My Take on it all:
We hold people who make and/or enforce laws we have to obey to a higher standard.

Pretty much like holder a preacher to a higher standard, etc.

Spitzer told us something was not only wrong but illegal, all the while he was doing the same thing himself. People may well have had their own lives ruined by his actions on these matters while he himself was engaging in them.

Outside of that, I can see a lot of things and have compassion for a person that cheats/etc. I can see why people stay with someone who cheats (and have posted on that).

He punished others for the very thing he was doing, and that is the problem. How he and his wife handle that is different than how we handle that - because theirs is a relationship based on love and history, and our relationship with him is based on the fact that he was employed by us.
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Boojatta Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:20 PM
Response to Original message
15. He was burned out and wanted to pursue hobbies.
However, he knew that people would try to pressure him to go back into politics if he simply quit. So he paid a prostitute to play Monopoly with him. Now he is free to pursue his hobbies. His plan worked.
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Stuart G Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:31 PM
Response to Original message
16. Simple......Sex Addict..........n.t.
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marions ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:58 PM
Response to Original message
18. All of the Above...pieces of the puzzle...
but I have to second the poster who mentioned NPD.

If you don't know what it is, it might be wise to check it out because most of us will be affected by someone with NPD in our lifetimes as it's not uncommon. The feeling that you express, "I just can't understand how he could live with himself" --is a classic reaction to behavior that fits the criteria for NPD. It's like having an extra bad, extra blind case of denial. There are no feelings of empathy for those hurt, no fear of discovery, no pangs of conscience like others experience. None. These normal emotions have been neutralized, and it is theorized that it happens at a young age when a pattern is set. Anyway, try it on and see if it fits for you. It certainly does for me since I have encountered Spitzers in my life about 6 times, by my count. They usually cause a lot of damage to others especially if they wield a lot of power.

Here are the criteria:

DSM Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:<1>

1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance
2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brillance, beauty, or ideal love
3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique
4. requires excessive admiration
5. has a sense of entitlement
6. is interpersonally exploitative
7. lacks empathy
8. is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 09:34 PM
Response to Reply #18
24. People with NPD are usually not functional enough to hold down a job
let alone, a high pressure job in politics and for years.
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marions ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-17-08 10:59 AM
Response to Reply #24
25. with all due respect
sfexpat, since I know you know what you are talking about when it comes to mental health, but I think this is an area that is only just now being explored in psychology. In other words I think the incidence of NPD among various types of people/jobs is debatable. From my experience, NPD can occur in people with very demanding jobs who function quite well in certain arenas, especially where they can exploit and control.

The people identified in my experience are a professor, an architect, a lawyer, a psychologist, a writer, and three wives/homemakers who, while thy don't have high-powered careers, are certainly what you'd consider functional and productive. I have had colleague confirmation on my armchair diagnoses--it's not just my own theories. What distinguishes all of these people is the degree to which they can delude themselves about their own importance and their total lack of empathy for others, especially those whom they exploit for self-aggrandizement or for profit. In fact, I would say that I see a pattern in which NPD helps those in high-powered arenas at least while they're in the rising stage of their careers. Having no conscience really helps justify all kinds of predatory (excuse me, "necessary") behavior. But when the falls come, they fall hard because they never imagined any limits to their modus operandi. I think NPD is more common than people realize.

The distinction I'd make is that NPD IS more likely a type of disorder associated with the seemingly "functional" whereas the predatory nature of the sociopath exhibits more noticeable anti-social behavior and likely physical violence. They are both equally cold-blooded however. The sociopath usually acts alone while the NPD person may be quite social and attracts others of their kind. We have the example of Bushco and the neocons to illustrate how this works IMO, but I think anytime you see someone like Spitzer, so reckless and delusional about his own behavior, you have to ask the question about NPD--especially when you have a "huh?--I don't get it" response like the OP did. You have to see it as somewhat outside the realm of healthy rational behavior (generally speaking). The various personality disorders can be found in all sorts of functional people IMO...they get by, at least for a time.

Hope that explains where I'm coming from anyway. :)
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 08:28 PM
Response to Original message
20. what's to figure out? you're way overthinking this
one of the drives that spur men to great achievement is the desire to achieve greater access to more women -- it's biology, not psychology -- it's an inherent part of normal male human nature

there is no psychiatric perspective here, it is perfectly normal for rich, powerful men to get it on with as many young, beautiful women as they can afford/get away with it -- if we pretend that this is an illness, then who are we kidding other than ourselves?

did he know that he was being a hypocrite? beyond a doubt -- but ask anyone with an orientation or a fetish or a sex drive that they would rather keep hidden how well it works when they try to repress their desire -- i'm told that testosterone is a hell of a drug and i've never had any reason to doubt it

you're just making more out of this than there is, primates are not monogamous and when it comes to sex, virtually everybody does what they need to and damn "i could not stand looking into the mirror" afterward -- you are the unusual person here, not spitzer

didn't mozart say "they all do it?" (cosi fan tutte) :-)



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Muttocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:19 PM
Response to Original message
21. David Brooks rank-link imbalance theory
I don't know much about this - guess it means better at dealing with above/below relationships than peers and intimacy. Don't know that I agree, and mostly I think it was just a lack of self-control and out of control ego, but some interesting points.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/14/opinion/14brooks.html

parts:

"Every society produces its own distinct brand of social misfits, I suppose, but our social structure seems to produce significant numbers of people with rank-link imbalances. That is to say, they have all of the social skills required to improve their social rank, but none of the social skills that lead to genuine bonding. They are good at vertical relationships with mentors and bosses, but bad at horizontal relationships with friends and lovers.

Perhaps they grow up in homes with an intense success ethos and get fed into the Achievatron, the complex social machine that takes young children and molds them into Ivy League valedictorians. "

...

" But then, gradually, some cruel cosmic joke gets played on them. They realize in middle age that their grandeur is not enough and that they are lonely. The ordinariness of their intimate lives is made more painful by the exhilaration of their public success. If they were used to limits in public life, maybe it would be easier to accept the everydayness of middle-aged passion. But, of course, they are not.

And so the crisis comes. Perhaps alpha male gorillas dont wake up in the middle of the night feeling sorry for themselves because nobody knows the real me. But those of us in the business of covering the great and the powerful know that human leaders have an almost limitless capacity for self-pity.

They seek to heal the hurt. Maybe they frequent prostitutes because transactional relationships are something they understand. But in other cases, they just act like complete idiots. "


(and I am not some David Brooks fan, despite the fact that I have a couple quotes in my sig line that happen to be nice to my favorite candidate!)
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marions ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 08:36 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. thanks for that article
n/t
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robcon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 09:26 PM
Response to Original message
23. Newsweek calls him narcissistic and trying to please his parents,
Edited on Sun Mar-16-08 09:27 PM by robcon
and live up to their expectations...

"The question is whether Spitzer can change. All his life, he has sought to matchor exceedthe expectations set for him. In psychological terms, his narcissistic disorder has finally caught up with him; his grandiosity has been deflated. Put more simply, this would be a good time to start thinking about how he could do something he really wants to do that is less grand but honorable and serves the public. A high school might not want to hire an ex-governor who consorted with prostitutes as a teacher, but his life experience would be a cautionary tale for all those young meritocrats who are desperately trying to please their parents."
http://www.newsweek.com/id/123581/page/3

I don't know him, but it seems to me that egotistical and overbearing seem to be apt descriptions.
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