Sacred Disorder | Cliff Bostock's blog – 'Finally, I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind' (Rimbaud)

Authentic torture

I’m sure you’ve read about “positive psychology.” You may have even read books by Martin Seligman, its principal theorist and advocate. Among them are Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness.

Now it turns out that Mr. Smiley has been cited in a new book for a most unhappy line of work. This is from psychoanalyst Stephen Soldz’s blog:

Among the blockbuster revelations in Jane Mayer’s new book, The Dark Side, is that world famous psychologist and former American Psychological Association (APA) President Martin Seligman actively aided the development of the CIA’s torture techniques, based as they were upon Seligman’s “learned helplessness” theory. Apparently Seligman aided CIA consultant torture psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, in the development of these techniques.

Mayer’s book is due out Tuesday. But Scott Horton has read it and produced a summary, which is now posted on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Here is the relevant section:

“She traces the development of the torture techniques to the work of two contractors, Mitchell and Jessen, and disclosed the specific techniques they developed. She notes that the techniques rely heavily on a theory called “Learned Helplessness” developed by a Penn psychologist Martin Seligman, who assisted them in the process. All of this was done under the thin pretext of being a part of the SERE program. Seligman is a former president of the American Psychological Association. This helps explain why the APA alone among professional healthcare provider organizations failed to unequivocally condemn torture and mandate that its members not associate themselves with the Bush Administration techniques.”

Read Soldz’s entire commentary here.

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