Controversy and the Inspirer (Psychopathic) Character
This is the most controversial character. Both the concept, and the embodiment attracts strong interest from people with all the other character types. Many students of character analysis want to claim a pinch of psychopathy, just like a tasty dish benefits from a pinch of tabasco, but no one wants to be a 'pure psychopath.' In fact, in the midst of learning character analysis, there can be a tendency to label someone a psychopath when they oppose us, or do something we don't like, or gain more influence than us, but this is surely a misuse of the concept.
The psychopathic character is the only concept of character that has had much of a life outside of Lowenian character analysis. (The DSM-IV has a few categories of personality disorders that are faintly similar to the Lowen scheme, but they are based not on any consistent concept of character, but rather on types of problem transactions with health care providers. None of the DSM categories are helpfully mappable onto character analysis.) This 'mainstreaming' of the idea of psychopathic character comes from a compelling desire to understand, the type of person that leaves such confusion, division, and havoc behind.
The first modern treatment of the psychopathic character was done by Clecky in Mask of Sanity. Later Robert Hare developed a diagnostic check-list (which is extremely consistent with Cleckly' description). Clecky organized his ideas around the idea that the psychopathic character is self-sabotaging, while Hare leaned more toward the idea of short-sighted. Both men where trying to explain the contradiction of considerable talent, energy, and focus on the one-hand, and, on the other hand, near inevitable impulsive actions that throw the fruits away. If in fact they had examined the body and energy structure, as did Lowen, the contradiction would have been more explainable.
In character analysis, when a psychopathic structure is read, attention is always drawn to the upward displacement. But upward displacement is common to many characters. What really distinguishes the psychopathic character is outward displacement of strong if ungrounded energy. The inspirer is able to project power outward. This provides an ability to influence of which many intellectual (purely upwardly displaced) individuals are envious. The extreme example would be the magnetic personality.
Lowen also describes "image psychopathy." The body grows to conform to the idealized image. This is a necessarily unconscious process! Otherwise, it would conflict with a basic character analysis principle that conscious striving for greatness is ultimate limiting to the body and unsuccessful. Conscious or semi-conscious effort to achieve an image are never salutary to the body or the self, and are discussed extensively in Lowen's book Narcissism.
There is an overlap between the occurrence of narcissism and psychopathy, but they are not the same thing. Narcissism is putting the image above the self. Psychopathy is putting the image above feeling. Psychopathy depends on both having the energy to act out an image but a lack of feeling about the effects of these actions. An unfeeling state tends naturally to images of power and grandiosity. But the absence of feeling also tends toward deadness. In the psychopath, feeling is not absent, but denied in a perceptual sense while still available in a biological sense to drive aggression. Narcissism is a much more broadly distributed trait, it can 'fit' onto different energy structures although its expression is strongly colored by the underlying character. It is possible to have feeling and still be narcissistic, but the narcissism tends to be more 'collapsed' and 'closeted' the more that feeling is present. The less the feeling, the more narcissism can 'decloak' and 'flourish.' That is why the psychopathic character structure and narcissism meld together so well in the 'pathological narcissist,' who is grandiose, dominating, and unempathetic.
Characteristic Attitudes of the Inspirer (Psychopath)
In life, the Inspirer seeks power more than pleasure. The will is powerfully exerted to control others and to control feelings. Feelings are alive in the body, however, but denied recognition by the mind. Feelings, the body, and external senses are not trusted, Therefore only what’s in one’s head, only one’s own ideas in the moment, are treated as valid and real. One story is as good as another, or actually a story that elicits the desired response from others is superior--its relationship to what actually happened in the world is secondary at best. This accounts for the often-given impression that the inspirer believes his or her own lies.
The mind is the servant of the will in this structure, so reasoning can be dramatically inconsistent, though capable of brilliance. Arguing both sides of a situation or mixing lies with truth is common if it suits a manipulative purpose to gain power or be “right”.
There is also a tendency to poor judgment and an inability to learn from mistakes. The denial of feeling in this character leads to the denial of experience. This leads to an 'immunity' to learning from experience.
In the inspirer pain is numbed, and genuine strong feelings are denied, but dramatic emotionality and false feelings can be acted out to achieve some purpose, like intimidation or seduction. Fear of being wrong or of submitting to the will of others is extreme and is powerfully denied. The fear of being controlled or humiliated underlies an extreme need to be in control of feelings, in control of others, and in control situations. Maintaining control whether it is real or illusory, fends off fears of losing power, being defeated or helpless, and collapsing into desperate neediness. There is seemingly no middle ground, either the inspirer is in control or he or she believes others are in control.
The intuitive capacities of the Inspirer are formidable, with very strong abilities to read what is going on inside of other people, although the understanding of the meaning of what is going on is often very distorted. The inspirer is not hampered by the self-absorption of most other pre-oedipal characters, and therefore is able to better pay attention to others in real time. This can contribute to the seductiveness that is often noted.
Inspirers are very adept at the workings of power. They are often admired for this, even if unconsciously, and bestowed a certain credibility and even immunity for it. That is, in parts of society in which power is admired (entertainment, politics, corporate business, academia, etc), they can disturb many things, but are often not held to the same account as someone else might be, because they are seen as special or as above routine consequences.
Aggression is used as a defense against surrender to feelings, which are equated with weakness, or to the will of others. Because aggression is readily available, inspirers may easily lead or dominate groups. Inspirers are frequently leading corporations, large religious congregations, non-profit organizations, and political entities. Aggression tends toward competitiveness in any person. In the Inspirer, the addition of denial of feeling can increase the tendency to violate the rights of others.
This character is named for his or her ability to inspire groups, either as leader, or simply as inspirational speaker. This arises mainly from the manner and energy of delivery, rather than any intrinsic message. Inspirers tend not to have any durable, coherent body of belief, but rather use an accumulation of truisms and good, but unrelated insights to impress and lead others. Clarifying or challenging questions about this inspirational content tend to be answered with more interesting anecdote or insight, not actual examination of the material questioned. This is why it is not possible for others to master these 'systems', they are being made up 'on the go.' In this way, inspirers are always needed and always special. The effect on others of bringing a feeling of readiness to act is undeniable, however.
Their is a powerful investment in and identification with idealized and powerful images and self-images. There is a need to be special, as with most pre-oedipal characters, but in this case, the inspirer lives out the need by actually believing and convincing others this has already occurred instead of being just on the verge.
Commonly noted with the inspirer over time is a lack of empathy or compassion and a lack of conscious feelings of remorse or guilt. Others that are hurt are seen to be 'casualties of war' that is in the wrong place at the right time. Also commonly noted is a craving for intensity and excessive stimulation to counteract numbness. Often there is poor impulse control and an intolerance of boundaries and structure. One mnemonic to remember the most disruptive traits of this character is the Five I's: irritable, indifferent, insincere, impulsive, and irresponsible. The five i's of course refer to traits that produce conflict with others, and ignore the inspirational and path-finding abilities of this character.
It would not be legitimate to discuss the inspirer character in this context without discussing some personal traits of Wilhelm Reich. Reich did not describe a 'psychopathic' character in his writings. However, a review of his biographies, letters, and journals, suggests that Reich's character is best described as an Inspirer. Many write unhesitatingly about his magnetic personality, strength to push forward and ability to inspire. His ex-wife also writes, hesitatingly, about a 'shadow' side of jealousy and controllingness. As the name inspirer suggests, this character affects other people the most strongly. This along with the tendency to challenge limits provides at time a springboard to 'jump the rails' of the beaten path. Reich clearly did this, and he seems to have had a self-reflective process that kept him from exploiting people for the most part.
Predominant negative core beliefs: "I must never surrender.” “Everything is a lie, including love, including me.” “Whatever I believe in the moment is the truth.” “I must never be wrong.” “If I am wrong, I will be humiliated.” “I must get others to need me, so I can control them, in order to get what I need.” - “If I acknowledge my feelings, I will be weak and get abused.” “The world is an abusive place.”
Characteristic Illusion: "I'll get love if I have power over you and control my needs"
Primary “falling” fear: falling down
Primary holding pattern: holding up
Primary longing: to have integrity
Primary Struggle: the right to trust
Illusion of Contraction: I can do anything myself if I so will it"
Illusion of Release: “I will be used, manipulated, humiliated, and helpless.”
The Inspirer Character in Relationship
The need to have “followers” is felt as an essential reason to engage with others. It is through the “needing to be needed” that the person with this character structure maintains his or her feeling of power, while denying dependency at the same time. Creators always have at least one follower, which will usually be a relationship partner. Inspirers will often engage in side relationships, to prove potency and to 'prove' he or she is not controlled by their partner.
Inspirers primarily relate to others as objects, as sources of “narcissistic supply” to support images of power and specialness. Since others are objectified, anything can be said or done to get what is wanted from another without concern for the other’s feelings or well-being.
A “divide and conquer” approach is often taken to gain control of others, individually and in groups, pitting people against each other, then sometimes taking the role of mediator or peacemaker. Eccentric, radical, dramatic, unpredictable or extreme behavior and appearance are often used to gain attention and/or to keep others off balance
Sex is seen as a means to an end, or a contest, often used to gain power, not pleasure, or to express revenge feelings; sex is related to as a conquest of the other person and as further proof of one’s prowess
In men, maintaining an erection is more important than having an orgasm, and extreme pride is taken in the penis; in women, likewise, being seen as sexually powerful and technically skilled is more important than sensual or orgasmic pleasure; feelings in the genitals are greatly diminished, so performances of great endurance are possible, but genuine surrender to sexual feelings and orgasm is experienced as humiliating or terrifying.
Physical Characteristics of the Inspirer Character
The body may be “designed” to serve the purposes of dominating or seducing, and can take almost any form, following whatever main image the person is primarily attached to -- for example athletic and powerful, youthful and innocent, sexual and alluring. This is the 'image' psychopathy described by Lowen and alluded to above. Generally, however, there are two types of body formations typical of this character structure
1) The “overpowering type” which is inflated on top, “blown-up” looking, with a barrel chest, broad shoulders, and large head, while rigid and small in the pelvis, with small buttocks and thin legs, particularly the calves; or 2) The “seductive type” which is inflated in the pelvis (but numb to feelings there), with broad hips and hyperflexibility in the back, while deflated and immature in the chest area
The "V"-shape of classic bodybuilders (before anabolic steroids) depicts well one common psychopathic structure. Armoring is particularly marked in the chest, diaphragm, legs and shoulders. Eyes are highly charged, often large, and frequently gleaming or sparkling. In the dominating type, the eyes are penetrating and compelling. In the seductive type, they are soft and intriguing, cunning, dreamy or sleepy looking. Often, there is a pronounced split between the head and the body (mature body, with a small child-like face and head, or visa versa); this split is facilitated by severe tension at the base of the skull and in the shoulder girdle, which holds the head tightly in place. Arms tend to be immobilized and away from the body (due to the inflated chest and severe shoulder girdle tensions).
This character often manages anxiety by movement, and confinement is usually very distressing. Inspirers do very well in sports requiring episodic, spontaneous, unique, explosive or wily movement of individuals, like basketball or football. Inspirers often have less interest in sports where a limited range of movement is practiced over and over, such as tennis or golf.
Feet tend to be “pulled off the ground” and may be small; calves and thighs may be short and thin, even when the torso is heavy. Physical illnesses are often not felt or manifested until late in life due to extreme willfulness and numbness (later life problems may be in the hips, prostate, pelvis in general, or the heart). Spine may be twisted or fused and immobile. Chronic areas of tension: base of the skull, shoulder girdle, chest and rib cage, including the diaphragm, waist and abdominal muscles (which are often hard and clenched to pull sexual energy away from genitals), pelvic area in general, genitals specifically.
The structure is highly charged, with energy displaced and pulled upwards into the top half of the body and away from the pelvis. The eyes are often strongly charged, used to penetrate, intimidate and/or seduce. Energy is directed outwardly to influence, lead, and control others, and directed inwardly to deny feelings in the self by contracting all feeling centers. Energy is not allowed to flow downwards, cut off by severe tensions in the pelvis, waist, diaphragm, shoulders and base of skull.
Origins of the Inspirer Character
(Developmental Period – Birth to 4 Years)
While the validity of the adult inspirer or psychopathic character seems well established by everyday observation and plentiful sources outside the Reich and Lowen tradition, the childhood origins of the character have not been explained as well as other pre-oedipal characters. One possibility could be that this character in part represents biological resilience. That is, the same detrimental experiences that produces an oral character in one person, if they happen to a child that has a strong genotype toward upper body strength, may result in the same weak grounding, but spare or even exaggerate upper body development and lead to more of an inspirer character. That could also explain why there seems to be a disproportionate number of male to females in this character. In any case, the following situations have also been posited to play a role in the development of the inspirer character.
- One or both parents manipulated, seduced, sexualized, or otherwise used the child (covertly or directly) for their own narcissistic purposes; parents instilled in the child an image of how they wanted the child to be in order for the adults to feel good about themselves
- The parents used the child as a buffer or weapon against each other. The child was overly involved in the marital relationship or parent of the same sex was significantly absent from child’s early life (due to work, illness, death or divorce, etc.).
- There was a role reversal in which the child was maneuvered, often with sexual overtones and promises of love that were never delivered, into being the pseudo-spouse or pseudo-parent to a parent (frequently of the opposite sex); the child was expected to be more than he or she was to that parent (“Mommy’s little man”; “Daddy’s little princess”). One or both parents invested child with feelings of specialness and importance and then rejected or ignored child, or otherwise became unavailable (frequently the parent of the opposite sex). One or both parents competed with the child, feeling threatened by the child’s real or imagined accomplishments, and sadistically exploited the child’s weaknesses to humiliate, control and diminish the child’s self-confidence
- Possibly, the child experienced horror from witnessing events that could not be understood or integrated, such as verbal or physical abuse (either of a violent or sexual nature); a major trauma occurred in the child’s life, usually after the second year, that could not be understood intellectually by the child and was experienced as a betrayal; (i.e. – hospitalization and surgery, exposure to sex acts by adults, witnessing extreme violence, etc., while being told that all was well by the adults, or blaming the child for the trauma)
- The childhood history may include: restlessness and hyperactivity, dangerous behavior (i.e. fire-setting), severe tantrums, spectacular achievements (in school, sports or the arts) coupled with spectacular self-sabotage or delinquency, cruelty to animals or other children, premature sexual behavior, “troublemaker” persona, inappropriate lack of fear and a lack of crying when hurt.
A Note About Therapy with the Inspirer
With this character, since problems are externalized, only external solutions will make sense. This is more than saying that the responsibility for the problem is externalized, the entirety of the problem is externalized. Should the therapist land in the position of suggesting there are problems, the therapist and the therapy can easily come to be experienced by the client as the problem. All characters will bring a characteristic resistance maneuver into the relationship with the therapist, but since the inspirer's maneuver is to dominate the therapist, it can be particularly difficult to establish a working alliance. Although body work will be initially appealing, it will difficult for this character to take ongoing feedback from the therapist, since he will attempt to deny any serious problems exist.
Possible Difficulties for the Inspirer Character
- Intense fears of being defeated, humiliated, controlled, or used
- Feelings of falseness, insincerity, and a lack of integrity
- Feelings of emptiness and boredom, counteracted by episodes of recklessness, risk-taking and thrill-seeking behavior, addiction to intensity
- Conflicts with authority (including employers, institutions and the legal system)
- Impulsive sexual acting out, promiscuity, many shallow relationships, but no real intimacy or trusting friendships
- Criminal, sociopathic behavior; domestic violence