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So I received this press release about a recently released book by psychologist Kirk J. Schneider, Ph.D:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS CONTACT

Lorna Garano

510-280-5397

lornagarano@gmail.com

A Psychologist Diagnoses the Tea Party-and other extremists threatening our world. In “The Polarized Mind: Why It’s Killing Us and What We Can Do about It,” Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D., calls for a new and deeper psychological understanding of our greatest political and social conflicts and those who drive them.

It’s easy for liberals to snicker at the misspelled signs and misplaced anger of the Tea Party, but psychologist Kirk J. Schneider says that we dismiss or diminish groups like this at our own peril. Schneider, the author of THE POLARIZED MIND: WHY IT’S KILLING US AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT (University Professor Press, 2013, paperback), has done an exhaustive study of extremist movements throughout history and he says it’s time for us to look more seriously at what he calls “the polarized mind.” In “The Polarized Mind: Why It’s Killing Us and What We Can Do about It,” Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D., calls for a new and deeper psychological understanding of our greatest political and social conflicts and those who drive them.

“You can see gradations of the ‘polarized mind’ at work in virtually all destructive political movements from Nazi Germany to Maoist China to our very own Tea Party. In fact, it is the pervasive malady of the 20 and 21st Centuries,” says Schneider.

How does the Tea Party fit in? Many among its ranks have seen their lives profoundly upended by economic, social, and political trends beyond their control. They tend to be middle class people who are mired in debt and have seen a sharp decline in their living standard due to the shift to a service-industry economy. They often face stiff competition for low-wage jobs and when they land them they may be confined to dull, meaningless work day after day. They resent any government help for people who are even less fortunate and train their anger on those who are the least responsible for their plight. And it’s not just an empty wallet that drives them. It’s also a sense of social dislocation. “I think many in this movement are embittered over the increasing complexity of contemporary life. They look at the 9/11 attack-which once would have seemed unthinkable-the decrease in church attendance in many places, the loss of two-parent households, gender equality, the lack of simple ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ presentations of the U.S. vs. the rest of the world, and they feel profound existential anxiety-as if the ground beneath them is giving way,” says Schneider.

Although you won’t find “polarized mind” in any official diagnostic manual, for Schneider it’s crucial that the psychological community and the world at large rethink our ideas about mental illness if we are to understand the forces at play in the world. “When we think of mental illness, we think of a discrete and politically powerless group of people who have received a diagnosis, but if you look at the key criteria for diagnoses it’s abundantly clear that they describe vast swaths of the population, not a marginalized group,” says Schneider. Look, for example, at some of the traits of narcissistic personality disorder or psychopathy: A callous disregard for the feelings of others, the reckless disregard for the safety of others, a sense of entitlement, arrogance, a grandiose sense of self-importance. These traits are readily seen in the Tea Party and other extremist groups.

“No one can or should deny the historical forces that have shaped movements like the Tea Party, but to overlook or dismiss the psychological factors that are linked to them is to have less than a full understanding of what makes extremism tick-and how we can defuse it,” says Schneider. Recognizing the polarized mind when we see it is the first step.

Here is the reply I sent back to Lorna Garano:

How DARE YOU send me this trash associating law abiding American citizens with Nazi Germany and Maoist China. I am a psychologist who has sympathy for my fellow Americans who are so “extremist” that they believe in lower taxes and the Second Amendment. Horrors!

What is “killing us” are polarized minds like Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D who is so narrow-minded that he thinks those who have different political beliefs than himself are the enemy and seeks to assign them with a “diagnosis.” What is truly extremist and scary to those of a more conservative or libertarian persuasion is that so many psychologists such as the one below are such political hacks for the Democratic Party. Please take me off your list of hate.

Helen Smith, PhD

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog – visit for additional comments and discussion