Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Culposcopy: Assessing Guilt

Originally posted on May 18, 2011

I was emailing with a friend and mentioned culposcopy—meaning colposcopy—I misspelled it. (It’s a gynecological procedure.) But my pal, Dr. James M. Sacks, who is both playful and wise, had the following take on it and I thought it was witty enough to post (with his permission):

Dear Adam, Some of your best serious ideas come when you imagine yourself to be frivolous —and why not? After all you never had the idea that imagination and free flights of fancy exist in a separate realm of the psyche. You may have stumbled on a radical cure for a type of chronic unhappiness. Take, for example your culposcope, to measure, no doubt, degrees of culpability, especially as judged by oneself—i.e. guilt. You must realize that feelings are not measured in photons. Guilt feelings are subjective, not material even if they are ultimately found to have neurological material correlates but, as J.L. Moreno demonstrated with sociometry in the early 20th century, you can measure even what you cannot see. What you have suggests rather a whole field of culpometry—and its yet-to-be-designed “instrument, the “culpometer.” Not necessary a fancy gadget, culpometry can be explored via a paper and pencil test.

Better, it can be enacted on a psychodrama stage!:. First, a group of experts work out a number of scenes deigned to make the subjects feel as guilty as possible. Then you have the subjects discuss the situations just enacted. Finally, you get a rating on the degree of guilt to be allocated to the supposed guilty party. This rating is done not by the protagonist, the “guilty” one, by others in the group. (Self-rating at this point would distorted by defenses.) From their impressions and ratings you construct culpogram which you subject to the most rigorous scientific statistical tests of all possible hypotheses even those that seem the most unlikely. Then, from all these data you have a scientifically proven culpometer, valid and reliable.

Adam again (laughing). Actually, though playful, there’s a germ of wisdom in getting the group together to highlight the sub-conscious processes by which people beat themselves up for whatever, instead of getting on with self-forgiveness. On the other hand, there may also be people who aren’t guilty enough and they should be more so—they really haven’t developed their “superego” and are slightly (or more than slightly) sociopathic. In some group settings this may reach the protagonist better than simple hostile judgment by others—something such people are good at warding off.

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