Shrink Rap (Psychology Books) discussion

All about psychology > Labeling Odd Behaviors

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Rosemary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Rosemary I'm opening this topic as a novelist in search of insights (not as a professtional in the field of psychology) and would be interested in reading members thoughts on the way odd behaviors have been labeled and treated at different times in history. In my own research, I've been struck by how definitions of normal and acceptable behaviors may change--and who's doing the labeling makes a great difference to those labeled odd.

The 19th c. protagonist of my novel-in-progress would probably be labeled ADD today. I'm curious about members thoughts/diagnoses of eccentrics of the past.
Thank you!

message 2: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Carl | 5 comments Sounds like an interesting topic, though one I'm clueless about-- though I imagine it would be an interesting thing to investigate in my own field. I know work has been done on the portrayal of physical disabilities in Old Norse lit, but I imagine there could be some work done on the portrayal of "eccentric" behavior.
As for the ADD thing, I've two family members who probably had it, one diagnosed as a child, and one who likely had it but was never diagnosed-- the one who wasn't compensated by becoming extremely focused and hardworking, both work with their hands. I get the impression that what we think of as ADD now would not have a specific name in the past-- what we might label they would interpret as an individual's personality, as part of who they are, which may make them eccentric, but not eccentric in a compartmentalized way. I know I'm speculating here, so I hope everyone else forgives me for going on about something I don't know much about. Any of you professionals who know a thing or two about ADD want to comment? I know there is a lot of critical theory on the issue of deviance, what is deviant, the problematic nature of the "normal vs deviant" distinction, etc, but I'm afraid I'm not up on the literature at the moment-- just have a minor dose of skepticism when it comes to the question of what is normal.
To return to Old Norse lit (there's not much else I can turn to), there are certainly characters in the sagas whom we might be tempted to explain according to current labels (I'm sure dozens of books could be written about Egil Skallagrimsson-- in fact, I'm about to go to a guest lecture about him called "Of Psychopaths and Scribes"), but in the sagas they are not labeled (except maybe as a berserk or shapechanger, but it's not the same sort of label), but rather described biographically as a unique, outstanding, if eccentric and dangerous, person. But now I'm pretty curious and want to look up what words or phrases might be connected to this issue. I suspect I'll just find descriptions of temperament, rather than categories. I don't know anything about the 19th century though-- sorry!

message 3: by Rosemary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new)

Rosemary Carl, I appreciate (and enjoyed) your comments. I'm familar with the shapechanger in various mythologies but hadn't realized berserk was a name for type of odd person (having just heard it used in the phrase "go berserk").

More speculations--I wonder if eccentric behaviors were/are more tolerated in places where the population is not too crowded together (such as rural settings). Forcing social conformity is certainly a kind of crowd control in schools and other institutions.

I've read through some of the ADD books about the "hunter gene" and the "Edison trait", which point out the survival advantage for a group in having some individuals we might today label ADD.
Anyway, the more I get into the mind of my fictional ADD character, the more odd and fascinating connections I find in the story and the world around me--so, this imaginary person has heightened my awareness.

As an aside, I was interested to learn of the evolution of terms used for what's now called post-traumatic stress disorder, earlier called shell-shock, and earlier still (post-Civil War America) called nostalgia.

message 4: by Pandora (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Pandora | 2 comments Rosemary,
My brother had ADHD and my son has ADD. Having more personal experience with my son (who is ten), I can describe the problems he has. He is very bright, but one main problem he has is with writing things down. He may immediately know the answer to a math problem, for example, but it may take him an hour to actually be able to focus well enough to write that answer down! I can be sitting down beside him telling him "Now write the answer down" after he has told me what the answer is, and he still has trouble stopping his brain long enough to focus on writing it down. I will say it over and over. He may surprisingly finish an assignment on time at school, but then immediately forget to hand it in. It will be found weeks later, still in his desk. I can tell him to put his shoes on so we can go somewhere, and an hour later as I'm ready to go out the door, the shoes are still not on despite repeated reminders. I had a friend not too long ago, unaware that my son had ADD, say that he did not believe in ADD and it was just an excuse for lack of discipline. I think he changed his mind when I described my son's problems. He is a good boy and he WANTS to do his schoolwork, he wants to get things done, and it is very frustrating for him not to be able to do it. It is not from a lack of desire or from laziness, but something wrong within his brain that truly inhibits his ability to do certain things.

Maybe that old absent minded professor stereotype really had ADD!

message 5: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:01PM) (new)

Carl | 5 comments I'm still only a PhD candidate, but have definitely been accused of being an absent-minded professor! But I'm not sure I can really say I have ADD-- I read too much (everyone I know who is diagnosed with ADD doesn't read non-fiction very much).
As for the berserk thing, the name comes from bear (ber-) shirt (-serk) and seems to have been associated with shape-changing in fiction and totemic animals in reality-- but that's all guesses. The idea is that by wearing the skin of a bear or a wolf you gain the power-- but all the sources we have describing berserks are late and fictional, and I don't believe they actually mention wearing animal skins-- usually it's just a character who is violent and goes into a frenzy when fighting and has some kind of magic spell on himself that prevents steel from harming him, so obviously there is a lot of folklore built up around the figure of the berserk. Probably also associated with a cult of Odin, whose name could possibly be etymologically related to a word for frenzy/inspiration (fitting for a god who is also the god of poetry).
Sorry, that was way too much info.

message 6: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:02PM) (new)

Melissa | 1 comments If you have not already read it,"Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, by Michel Foucault might be of interest to you.

message 7: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:02PM) (new)

Carl | 5 comments That's exactly what I was thinking of-- it's a shame I haven't read it yet.

back to top