Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Psychology of Evil and the Spirit of Victory

Psychologists have always pondered on the psychology of evil and the corruptibility of humans. For instance, the Stanford Prison Experiments and studies conducted by Philip Zimbardo[1] show that certain psychological mechanisms that are part of certain cultural or political systems (e.g. racialism, Nazism, casteism, etc) can act as justifying frameworks of inhumane behavior. Zimbardo himself observes that at one point during the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which volunteers had been arrested in a realistic show style and put into prison cells where they were subjected to dehumanization and deindividuation, he arrived at a point where he had confused reality with this false world created for just an experiment. He writes:

I was sitting there all alone, waiting anxiously for the intruders to break in, when who should happen along but a colleague and former Yale graduate student roommate, Gordon Bower. Gordon had heard we were doing an experiment, and he came to see what was going on. I briefly described what we were up to, and Gordon asked me a very simple question: "Say, what's the independent variable in this study?"

To my surprise, I got really angry at him. Here I had a prison break on my hands. The security of my men and the stability of my prison was at stake, and now, I had to deal with this bleeding-heart, liberal, academic, effete dingdong who was concerned about the independent variable! It wasn't until much later that I realized how far into my prison role I was at that point -- that I was thinking like a prison superintendent rather than a research psychologist.[2]

That is not impossible. Players immersed in a soccer game can get so caught up in it that they, for a moment, forget that the game (with all its rules) is only something put together by man and is not all of reality. The game that we play (the system that we accept) usually defines the persons that we become. Usually, people are either born into (e.g. a culture) or drawn into a game (e.g. a political revolution). They still have the freedom to cast it away or resist it; or continue in it or accept it.

The founder of Logotherapy, Viktor E. Frankl, was an existentialist psychologist who didn’t accept the deterministic and mechanical interpretation of man. To him, human existence was spiritual. Words like “meaning,” “purpose”, “hope”, “reason for living” play important role in his view about man. However, the answer, the reason (the logos) is not abstract; it is so concrete that it becomes the motivation for living. According to logotherapy, says, Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1959)[3], “we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”

The Bible says that a living dog is better than a dead lion. This is because there is hope for anyone who is living (Ecclesiastes 9:4). Scripture is filled with several examples of people who didn’t allow evil to overcome them. They stood like a rock and prevailed against the onset of evil. Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel are great examples of those who didn’t allow circumstances to mold them and humiliate them. The greatest example of victory over evil, however, is none else than our Lord Jesus Christ. In the hour of temptation, He said that the flesh is weak but the spirit is willing. He asked His disciples to watch and pray that they fall not into temptation. There is no other solution that Jesus provides. Only those who watch and pray and are living and walking in the Spirit will be saved from the virtual world of carnal fantasy. Those who live according to the flesh will fall, but those who walk according to the Spirit will overcome.


[1] http://www.prisonexp.org/. http://lucifereffect.com/
[2] “A Visit”, http://www.prisonexp.org/psychology/27. Accessed on December 7, 2012
[3] IVth Edition, 1992.

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