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Manual of Articles Sections 12 - 17
Randy, a 22-year-old journalism student, missed his highway turnoff one day on the way to school. The mistake was not a costly one since the next turnoff, an alternative route to his destination, was only a mile down the road, and he was under no time pressure. On recognizing his mistake, however, he had what he later described as a fit in which he screamed a long stream of obscenities at himself. So extreme was his self-directed anger that he shook his steering wheel violently and pounded his fist repeatedly on his dashboard.
Jack, a tax accountant, despised his job but felt trapped in it because he could see no alternative means by which he could maintain his excellent standard of living. All external indications such as annual evaluations, raises, and promotions indicated that, despite his disaffection, he did high-quality, conscientious work. In the context of an empty-chair exercise during one session, Jack was asked to adopt a critic stance and verbalize his evaluations of himself. In the role of critic, he angrily and contemptuously offered the following appraisal of himself as a worker: He has no ambition, never puts in the extra effort. He never studies or reads a damned thing to improve himself. He doesnt concentrate at work. Theres nothing hes really good at. His work is never any good. Hes not worth the effort to waste my contempt on. Hes lazy, like a welfare client after a free handout. I have no interest in helping him until he shows me something."
Originated by Ossorio (1976) (see also Driscoll, 1981, 1989), the image of the "hanging judge is that of the old western frontier judge who, for any offense regardless of how minor, would sentence the defendant to death by hanging. It is the image of someone bent not on seeking justice and seeing to it that the punishment fits the crime but on accomplishing the angry and vindictive destruction of the accused. Let us examine each of the the characteristics that, taken collectively, comprise the hanging judge syndrome: self-hatred, injustice, and lack of compassion for oneself.
of Compassion for Self
who engage heavily in this hanging judge pattern of self-criticism usually encounter two primary consequences. The first of these is depression. In the wake
of their angry, abusive attacks upon themselves, such individuals characteristically
report being seriously depressed and, in extreme cases, suicidal (Stone &
Stone, 1993). Such consequences are consistent with the classical psychoanalytic
contention that depression is caused by anger directed against ones own
person (Fenichel, 1945; Freud, 1917/1958; Rado, 1929; Rubin, 1975). The second
consequence is a notable absence of corrective action. Again, as in the case of
private self-degradation, there is no corrective element (and, as noted above,
no corrective motivation) in this self-critical scenario. Typical self-critical
attacks, as exemplified by those of Randy and Jack, contain no useful problem
diagnoses or prescriptions for how to remedy what has gone wrong. Overall, then,
in the aftermath of a critic attack, the individual is left feeling quite depressed,
personally savaged, and possessed of few ideas or motivations pertaining to the
remediation of his or her alleged mistakes and failings.
Reflection Exercise #1
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
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