Thursday, March 1, 2018

Iago: Shakespeare's Psychopath

By Heidi Hiatt

Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?

While reading a legal newsletter I subscribe to this week, I came across an article about Iago, the villain in Shakespeare’s Othello. Dallas lawyer Michael Maslanka asked “What Can Lawyers Learn From ‘Othello’?”
Maslanka makes two fantastic points in this piece about being on guard against manipulation and rationalization. In Othello, Iago manipulates everyone around him to achieve his goals of revenge and self-promotion. He does so as if he’s everyone’s friend and is genuinely concerned about their well-being. He plays all sides against each other.
“One of the ways he’s so successful at controlling others is by leveraging their positive qualities to serve his own ends,” Maslanka says. He also points out Iago’s ability to disguise himself as something he is not: “Always remember, as Iago warns us:When devils will the blackest sins put on, They do suggest at first with heavenly shows, As I do now.’
When Iago’s mind-bending, seductive influence finally drives Othello to kill his wife, Othello rationalizes the murder as an honor killing. Noting Othello’s attempt to justify this atrocious act, Maslanka reminds his audience that people often believe what they want to believe. For that reason, people’s ability to “impose narratives on events”, he says that attorneys should “be skeptical… rigorously examine their narratives, and probe for the story beneath the story.”
Why didn’t I think of this? Iago is the perfect example of the type of sociopath/narcissist I wrote about in my Hypnotic Milfoil blog entry earlier this week. He has been referred to as the greatest of villains and loathed for his cunning destruction of others’ lives for over 400 years.
When I began to think about just how perfectly Iago represents the self-serving, scurrilous vampires I write about, I was floored. As a longtime believer in the validity of Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R), I reviewed that list of common characteristics of psychopaths to find that Iago fit the bill:

  • -glib and superficial charm
  • -grandiose estimation of self
  • -need for stimulation
  • -pathological lying
  • -cunning and manipulativeness
  • -lack of remorse or guilt
  • -shallow affect (superficial emotional responses)
  • -callousness and lack of empathy
  • -parasitic lifestyle
  • -poor behavioral controls
  • -impulsivity
  • -irresponsibility
  • -failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • -criminal versatility
There were only six characteristics on the list that I did not see in Iago, sexual promiscuity, early behavior problems, lack of realistic long-term goals, many short-term marital relationships, juvenile delinquency, and revocation of conditional release.
Perhaps if we knew Iago’s backstory, or more about his private life, we would see those traits as well. It is interesting to note that Iago and his wife Emilia were not close, and it is Emilia who exposes him for what he is.
Iago also meets many of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) criteria for narcissism:

  • -a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • -is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • -requires excessive admiration
  • -has a sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his expectations
  • -is interpersonally exploitive, takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
  • -lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • -is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
  • -shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
There is an ongoing debate in academia about the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths, both being people without conscience that use and abuse others for their own ends. Some argue that psychopaths are born and sociopaths are made, although that may be too simplistic of an explanation.
Modern science has shown that there are physical differences in the brains of people with issues like psychopathy and borderline personality disorder. But some scientists have shown that you can have such a brain and never indulge its negative potential; it is external factors combined with personal choices that usually turn the mental disconnects on.
Iago was an opportunist who probably wasn’t new to his game of manipulating people, and ultimately, he admits his crimes but refuses to speak about them. For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll refer to him as a sociopath, one notch down on the “people lacking empathy” scale from a psychopath, which is considered the most extreme form of this condition. His deviancy may have been formed as he went through life and found chances to exploit others instead of being inherent.
Now that we know what Iago is, we can put this in perspective. Othello begins in Venice with Iago and his friend Roderigo discussing their dissatisfaction over two major events. Roderigo has just learned from Iago that the woman he wanted to marry, Desdemona, has eloped with Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian Army. Iago is complaining to Roderigo that Othello has made a younger man, Cassio, his lieutenant instead of him.
Iago, already Othello’s ensign, believes that he is far more deserving of the rank of lieutenant because of his firsthand experience with battle. Cassio is well-educated and qualified for the position, but does not yet have real world experience with war. We have no reason to question Othello’s judgment in promoting Cassio to lieutenant or in marrying Desdemona; he obviously recognized qualities in both of them that made them most worthy of their titles.
Because Othello and Desdemona were married in secret, Iago incites Roderigo to tell her father, a senator, before the happy couple can. They wake the senator in the middle of the night and inform him of the marriage in an inflammatory and discriminatory way. Iago then goes to Othello and tells him the senator is coming for him.
Othello successfully defends himself to her father and others, then leaves for Cyprus to quell a Turkish invasion. When Othello, his wife, and their staff arrive there, they find that the Turks’ ships were destroyed in a storm, and they host a celebration. Iago seizes this opportunity to get Cassio drunk, and uses Roderigo to start a fight with him. Cassio gets blamed for the altercation, and Othello demotes him, allowing Iago to move in closer.
Othello and Iago had a history, but Othello should have maintained a strictly business relationship with him. Instead, Iago becomes the demon whispering in his ear, dropping lies into his brain like poison into a glass of wine. When Iago, feigning unwavering loyalty and deep devotion, convinces Othello that his wife is having an affair with Cassio, Othello makes him lieutenant.
Cassio, in the meantime, has asked Desdemona to intercede on his behalf since he has been falsely accused. Othello misinterprets her advocacy for Cassio as further proof of her infidelity, and Iago is able to plant evidence to further Othello’s suspicions.
Believing that Iago’s great “love” for him is real, Othello proceeds to abuse and humiliate his wife. His hatred of her becomes so strong that he publicly attacks her, strikes her in front of her family, and falsely accuses her. Desdemona, completely innocent and genuinely in love, cannot understand why this is happening to her. She knows she has does nothing wrong and is horrified at her husband’s behavior.
Othello subsequently loses his post and Cassio rises to take his place. Iago convinces Roderigo to murder Cassio, and while Roderigo is attacking him in the street, Iago, in disguise, sneaks up behind Cassio to join in. Cassio does not die but is seriously wounded, and Iago comes back to the scene to coordinate the rescue effort. Iago kills Roderigo to hide their plot and accuses Cassio’s love interest of the crime.
Desdemona, reeling from her husband’s abuse, tells her maidservant, Emilia—who is also Iago’s wife– that she cannot comprehend that any woman could be capable of committing adultery. She is completely committed to Othello and would never do such a thing to him.
Even so, Othello calls his wife a litany of degrading, insulting names, and after she begs for one more night to live, then one more half hour, then just one more prayer, Othello kills her. By this time he is so ensnared by Iago’s web of lies that he tries to convince himself this was necessary.
Emilia arrives soon after the murder and realizes that her husband, Iago, is responsible for everything. She exposes his deception and manipulation based on hard evidence, and here Iago’s true nature explodes into vivid Technicolor for all to see. He can no longer hide the self that has been seething below the surface, moving other human beings around like pawns on a chess board.
“Villainous whore!” he shouts at his wife. “Filth!” Out of loyalty to Desdemona, Emilia refuses to be quiet or go home as Iago is screaming at her to do, and enraged, he stabs her to death. Like the coward he is, he runs away as reality begins to melt Othello’s hypnotic obedience to him.
Othello berates himself loudly and mourns his wife, realizing that he was manipulated into homicidal rage by the scheming Iago. Iago is brought back to the scene by Cassio and others, and Othello plunges a sword into him, only to wound him, not kill him. Othello wants him to live with the consequences of his actions.
Othello apologizes to Cassio, at which point he asks him about Iago, “Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil/Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?” Then, after admitting that by killing Desdemona he threw away a priceless treasure, he acknowledges the extreme pressure that reduced him from being a renowned general to a game piece. Before he can be taken into custody, he kills himself.
It is critical to understand one truth about this story: no one was having any problems until Iago came along. Had he never come into the story, Othello and Desdemona, and everyone else, could have had a wonderful marriage and happy lives, barring any future problems. Iago and his sociopathic influence over others started the chain of events that led to their demise.
Through the centuries, people have analyzed Iago as if he were some exceedingly complex creature that is difficult to understand. This is not an original thought, but there is nothing complex or gifted about Iago. By his nature, not even by virtue of his intelligence, he instinctively exploited others’ areas of weakness and attacked what was dearest to them.
This is typical sociopathic behavior that such people can exhibit without consciously trying. This is a base, average human being with its conscience and empathy stripped away. There is a fundamental part of them that is suppressed or missing. Sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, and others like them are possessed by their condition. It’s not a part-time job. It’s who they are.
Nothing—no conquest, no rank, no triumph, no accomplishment—would have been enough to satisfy the bottomless pit inside this cowardly sociopath who got everyone else to do his dirty work. His insatiable hunger cost Othello, Desdemona, Roderigo, and Emilia everything.
The promotion he gained when he robbed Cassio of his position only served to fuel his ego. He was not satisfied with convincing Othello that Desdemona was having an affair, he had to take it farther and destroy Othello for not giving him that coveted promotion in the first place. Iago wrongly believed that what Cassio had was rightfully his.
Because of his nature, Iago was incapable of ever really being loyal to anyone but himself. That is what we as individuals and a society need to realize about what author Sandra Brown calls the “Low Empathy/Conscience Spectrum Disorders”—sociopathy, psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline/borderpath personality disorder, and combinations thereof.
People with many of these disorders are their own god; in some cases, nothing truly matters more than themselves. These are not disorders that anyone else can fix for them—there is no amount of love or punishment that can cause permanent change. Many such people stay this way for life, and without the invited intervention of God’s grace combined with repentance and long-term commitment to suitable therapy, there is unlikely to ever be change.
Please be mindful that sociopaths and psychopaths are particularly adept at using their presence in church, in counseling, in support groups, and in the social realm as “proof” that they have changed. This can be especially true when there is a repeated pattern of them utilizing these means to convince others that they are reformed. Christianity is an often-cited cover for those lacking a real conscience. They know exactly what terminology to use and actions to showcase to convince others of their “sincerity.”
Sociopaths and psychopaths are largely beyond conventional help, meaning that counseling and other means of self-improvement may have no genuine effect on them. Even more disturbing, they may be using their self-help quest to learn to become better at their deception. They can also use therapy to shift the blame for their issues onto others, acting as if their family or partner has shared responsibility for the hole in their soul.
If we are to protect the genuine and the innocent among us, we must acknowledge that there are truly wicked, soul-sucking, pathological people out there—Iagos– who will never change. They may mellow with age, they may improve at hiding their true nature, but they are driven by forces of darkness that rejoice in the destruction of others, use others without remorse, and rationalize deception. They may be so used to their condition that they are not even consciously trying to be this way.
Othello, the great leader, the exceptional man who earned a position of prestige in a prejudiced society, the distinguished husband whose stories of trials and tribulations had won the heart of an adoring, faithful woman, was reduced to being Iago’s pitbull. By allowing his insecurities and fears to be probed and his ego to be stroked, he lowered his standards and became someone quite different from his authentic self to “satisfy” a sociopath.
Here in the 21st century, the same tragedies and consequences of sociopathic behavior are playing out all over our nation. Because of power-hungry devils like Iago, healthy relationships are broken up, loving marriages are stopped in their tracks, and children who would have otherwise existed will never be born as a result.
Innocent children repeatedly have their hearts broken by such self-absorbed behavior, and are conditioned to experience personality disorders, dysfunction in their own relationships, substance abuse, and domestic violence through it. Innocent men and women are increasingly finding their lives and livelihoods blown apart by it. Entire family trees and family legacies are being obliterated by the Iagos of our time.
Let us pray that the Iagos in our lives are exposed for what they are before they escalate and do even worse damage than they already have

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

I grew up with the highs and lows of the 60’s and 70’s. One thing I am truly grateful for during that era is the amazing music and the artists of its times. Aretha “Rockin’, Rollin’” Franklin, Mick Jagger, The Temptations, and the amazing and talented Tina Turner. Only to name a few. But for this piece, I’d like to look more closely at one of Ms. Turner’s biggest hits, among many. “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

As Ms. Turner’s life unfolded before us with the release of the biographical film by the same name in 1993, it became apparent why and how Turner could write the below lyrics:

In her chorus Tina sings:

“What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a second-hand emotion
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken”

In her verses she recites:

"You must understand how the touch of your hand, makes my pulse react
That it's only the thrill of boy meeting girl, opposites attract

It's physical, only logical
You must try to ignore that it means more than that

It may seem to you that I’m acting confused, when you're close to me
If I tend to look dazed I've read it someplace, I've got cause to be
There's a name for it; there's a phrase that fits
But whatever the reason you do it for me

I've been taking on a new direction, but I have to say
I've been thinking about my own protection, it scares me to feel this way”

Clearly in her lyrics, Ms. Turner is speaking about a physical attraction. And love, real love, is clearly denounced or, at least, not worth being sought. She speaks of opposites attracting and we clearly know today, via Quantum Physics, like attracts like.

This emotion she’s read about has led to broken-heartedness. And, if you know her story a few broken bones, as well. This may have been your experience. So, from this, let’s explore love from a different perspective, for just a few minutes, please.

Let’s look at love from a personal, purely selfish view point. That is looking at love within ourselves first, not narcissistically but from self-preservation. We will see that love, agape, is all beautiful, perfect, and divine. So now we must look at what is this agape?

Agape is an ancient Greek-Christian term referring to love. It is the highest form of love and charity. Agape is the love of God for man and of man for God. The word should not be confused with philia, brotherly love, as it embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance.

As a family-violence specialist, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many women in domestic/family violence situations. This is what brought Susan Murphy Milano, Delilah and I together. And, what have I found common in every situation? The absence of universal, unconditional love for oneself. I have uncovered guilt, shame, and even self-loathing.

I have had countless agencies; hence individuals, tell me a woman must cycle in and out of a shelter at least seven times or until she, her children, and/or extended family experience some drastic situation or behavior from the abuser. This is usually the threat of death to herself, children or family members.

I still stand on this truth. If one: male or female; heterosexual or homosexual; transgender; and of any ethnicity will accept they are made in the image and likeness of Almighty God; and can begin to experience the unconditional love of God for themselves, the violent and abusive cycle will cease. It must.

With this unconditional love and acceptance of self, several things begin to happen almost instantly.
  1. One’s self esteem and self-worth is magnified; 
  2. The offender is no longer able to bully the victim because they, the victim, realize they are only a victim to their own limiting beliefs and mindset. The victim’s self-power is instantly increased. 
  3. The energy level of the victim shifts, and they then only attract those in their like energy. Opposites do not attract. We attract exactly what we are. Thereby, individuals with low self-esteem will not be drawn to those with higher vibrational levels believing in a higher love. Resonating in love for themselves, first! 
(Abusers are attracted to those with low self-esteem so they might appear bigger and more powerful to their victims. AKA: bully boogers.)

  • When one takes on the consciousness of Christ and realizes there is no greater love, anything that attempts to approach not of the same consciousness, feels uncomfortable. They, or the situation, is rejected right away or soon following. 
And, how do we experience this love? Through:
  • prayer; 
  • meditation. (That is being silent and allowing God’s love to flow into you and through you. Bring both hands to your heart, as a suggestion of embracing, and feel the Source of love); 
  • keeping company with loved-filled individuals; (Learning to say no thank you, without explanation, to anyone who brings otherwise—in your own mind’s eye.); 
  • listening to uplifting and positive music; (Reject music that refers to you as anything less than your Divine self); 
  • abstaining from main-stream media; 
  • reading inspirational, faith and love-filled works to include Scripture and literature to raise your consciousness. 
  • repeating loved-filled affirmations or declarations. A good place to start is “I AM that I AM.” Interpreted as “I AM all that God is.” 
  • Find yourself a good adviser, support group, or assistant. 

These are only a few things you can begin to do to raise yourself from the doldrums of victimhood. You may not find yourself walking into freedom or understanding any of the above overnight. But remain diligent; tenacious; and focused, desiring the life that Source; God; Mother Nature; (whatever name making you comfortable) has planned for you from the beginning of time. Their plan is to prosper you and to bring you hope. You will one day, very soon, begin to live your best life, as Ms. Winfrey would put it

What’s love got to do with it! Everything! All the time! And Everywhere! And it’s starting right here! Right now! With you!

Pamela Chapman is a certified life-wellness/life transition coach and family-violence specialist through the State of California. She is the owner of Yucatan Wellness Corporation and the previous owner of Iascend Programs, Inc which was dedicated, specifically, to helping abused women.

Today, Chapman works with others motivating, inspiring and teaching all who are willing to do the easy life work so they may walk into their well-being while transitioning through one of life’s challenges.

Pamela and team incorporate mind, body, and soul betterment using both ancient and cutting-edge healing techniques helping you to create your perfect self. To find out more visit:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Why You Only Remember The Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship

By Sandra L. Brown
Over and over again women are puzzled by their own process in trying to recover from a pathological relationship. What is puzzling is that despite the treatment they received by him, despite the absolute mind-screwing he did to her emotions, not only is the attraction still VERY INTENSE but also the POSITIVE memories still remain strong.

Women say the same thing--that when it comes to remaining strong in not contacting him (what we call 'Starving the Vampire') she struggles to pull up (and maintain the pulled up) negative memories of him and his behavior that could help her keep strong and detached.

But why? Why are the positive memories floating around in her head freely and strongly and yet the bad memories are stuffed in a 'mind closet' full of fuzzy cobwebs that prevent her from actively reacting to those memories?

There are a couple of reasons and we'll discuss today the first one. Let's think of your mind like a computer. Memories are 'stored' much like they are stored on a computer. Pain and traumautic memories are stored differently than positive memories.

Pulling up the negative memories from your hard drive is different than pulling up a memory that is on your desk top as an icon emblem. Traumatic memories get fragmented on their way to being stored on the hard drive. They get divided up into more than one file. In one file is the emotional feelings, another file is the sights, another file the sounds, another file the physical sensations.

But a WHOLE and complete memory is made up of ALL those files TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME such as what you emotionally felt, saw, heard, and physically experienced. Just one piece of it doesn't make it a complete memory such as just the positive memory.

A memory is good + bad =complete.

But when things are traumatic, (or stressful) the mind seperates the whole experience into smaller bits and pieces and then stores them seperately in the mind because it's less painful that way.

When women try to 'remind themselves' why they shouldn't be with him, they might get flashes of the bad memory but strangely, the emotional feelings are NOT attached to it. They wonder 'where did the feelings go?' They can see the bad event but they don't feel much about what they remember.

If you are playing a movie without the sound, how do you know what the actors are passionately feeling? It's the same thing with this traumatic recall of memories. You might see the video but not hear the pain in the voices. The negative or traumatic memory is divided up into several files and you are only accessing one of the files---a place where you have stored the positive aspects of the relationship.

To complicate things further, positive memories are not stored like negative memories. They are not divided up into other files. They don't need to be---they aren't traumatic.

So when you remember a time when the relationship was good or cuddly or the early parts of the relationships which are notoriously honeymoon-ish, the whole memory comes up--the emotional feelings, the
visual, the auditory, the sensations. You have a WHOLE and STRONG memory with that. Of course that is WAY MORE appealing to have--a memory that is not only GOOD but one in which you feel all the powerful
aspects of it as well.

Now, close your eyes and pull up a negative memory...can you feel the difference? You might see it but not feel it. Or hear it and not see much of it. Or feel a physical sensation of it but not the emotional piece that SHOULD go with the physical sensation. No matter what your experience is of the negative emotion, it is probably fragmented in some way.

Negative and traumatic memories are often incomplete memories--they are memory fragments floating all over your computer/mind. They are small files holding tiny bits of info that have fragmented your sense of the whole complete memory. These distorted and broken memory fragments are easily lost in your mind. 

If you have grown up in an abusive or alcoholic home, you were already subconsciously trained how to seperate out memories like this. If your abuse was severe enough early on, your mind just automatically does this anyway--if you get scared, or someone raises their voice, or you feel fear in anyway---your brain starts breaking down the painful experience so it's easier for you to cope with.

Next time we will talk about one other way your mind handles positive and negative memories and why you are flooded with positive recall and blocked from remembering and feeling those negative things he's done to you.
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