A look at the label “histrionic”

When Paul Elam, in the first sentence of the first comment he’s ever made to me, referred to me as “histrionic” I had to go look it up. Not a label I’m familiar with. Looked to wikipedia initially, but tonight I have some time to delve into the label in a little more detail, out of curiosity.

Conducted a search on youtube and came up with a video from Davis M. J. Aurini (Feb. 2012) claiming to know a thing or two on the subject. Personally, I don’t take that guy as an expert on this or any other subject, but I realize plenty of others do, so I listened to his opinions on this:

Okay. My first impression is that “histrionic” or “hysterical” behavior as it is outlined here is so completely broad that it could be loosely applied to probably a quarter of the population or more. So I’ll just respond for myself on the claims he makes since this is such a hodge-podge of behaviors all smashed together to where I very much doubt but a very few people fit the description to a tee and those who do would also satisfy the label of “narcissist.”

Aurini described this kind of person as someone who’s empty inside and lacking an internal compass to where they find trolling other people the only thing worth doing to give excitement to their lives. Ookay. Well, that right there isn’t my ambition. He said it’d be someone who exaggerates what others tell them, but that made me wonder if perhaps that could be due to lackings when it comes to accurate comprehension or even a faulty memory versus stemming from malevolent intent in all cases.  *shrugs* He said it’s someone who talks about how screwed up everyone else around them is but who considers him/herself as better than the rest.  LOL  Quite the contrary, I’m critical about all of us. He said this is basically a bored woman who isn’t about shit who fucks with people for entertainment and deliberately sows seeds of discontent between others. Hmmm…  (Justicar flashed through my mind there.)  While I do agree that boredom can and often enough does foster trifling behavior in both females and males, that is clearly not my intention when interacting online if anyone were to take an overall look at the videos I “like” and add to playlists as well as those I respond on. Most of it is pretty fucking far from getting up involved in some he said/she said-type of interactions, and as for sex/gender relations, I’m one of those out here urging people not to go to extremes in hating on one another categorically.

See, and that’s what’s so goofy there: Paul Elam, a man whose identity revolves around leading a men’s rights organization, yet who spends more time complaining about female nature and encouraging men to be extremely cautious in their relations with women in general (not only feminists, mind you), who in various videos assigns an assortment of psychiatric labels to women in an effort to drum up fear of women in men (who apparently aren’t also in need of psychological evaluation by Paul Elam’s estimate, that is, unless they qualify as “manginas”), and who also receives donations for such important service to the community—that guy is calling me out as using emotionality in a manipulative manner? lol  For what? For saying I don’t recommend a man sign some stupid petition?  For critiquing what Dean Esmay was publicly advocating? For in the past stating I’m not a fan of Paul Elam and wouldn’t follow him anywhere? That was and remains my honest assessment of Paul Elam after reading and watching plenty of his output.

Is it somehow not okay to disagree with someone or to take issue with their political tactics and social messages? People say we should focus on the issues we have a problem with, and I did. Is that divisive behavior? Well, what about when we publicly take issue with bullshit a preacher or priest says or that a popular feminist organization states—could that be construed as any less divisive in nature in so far as we’re making an appeal to those who are following folks we personally see as misguided? In short, would he feel the need to call someone like me out as “histrionic” if my message had flowed in the other direction and against someone or something he considers an “enemy”? Somehow I doubt it.

Just so weird how people jump to labeling one another all willy-nilly. Do I have big ambitions for my life right now? No, not so much. But I go to work everyday and handle my business, so what’s it to anyone? Do I place myself on some higher pedestal than all others in my life? No. In fact, a big reason I’ve been spending so much time alone in my apartment, reflecting and also listening to others online, is precisely because I am working on myself, because I recognize I have all sorts of problems and conflicts and things needing to change. Welcome to human life — what’s so wrong with admitting it?

BUT, just because I’m doing my thing doesn’t mean I can’t pipe up to let it be known that I, for one, think it’s stupid to sign any document on a U.S. government website for any reason (most especially if the petition in question is retarded) that in any way links myself or the group(s) I’m affiliated with with “terrorism” (that being a big, bad word these days). Most folks don’t want to be associated with that dangerous label, so just from a marketing angle it seems like a very stupid strategy. But, like I said in the video, people will do what they want. Figure some might like to hear varied perspectives on such matters though, and if not, then just click off. No worries. Do what you want. Grown adults have to decide for themselves. Just good, IMO, for folks to hear opinions from those outside of their echo chambers every once in a while. And what’s the harm in that?

For good measure, let’s take a gander at Wikipedia’s entry on “Histrionic Personality Disorder“:

[…] defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotions and attention-seeking, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval, usually beginning in early adulthood. People affected by HPD are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. HPD affects four times as many women as men.[1] It has a prevalence of 2–3% in the general population and 10–15% in inpatient and outpatient mental health institutions.[2]

HPD lies in the dramatic cluster of personality disorders.[3] People with HPD have a high need for attention, make loud and inappropriate appearances, exaggerate their behaviors and emotions, and crave stimulation.[3] They may exhibit sexually provocative behavior, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and can be easily influenced by others. Associated features include egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.

Further down the page it lists these common characteristics:

  • Exhibitionist behavior
  • Constant seeking of reassurance or approval
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval
  • Pride of own personality and unwillingness to change, viewing any change as a threat
  • Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior of a sexual nature
  • Using somatic symptoms (of physical illness) to garner attention
  • A need to be the center of attention
  • Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification
  • Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear superficial or exaggerated to others
  • Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are
  • Making rash decisions[4]
  • Blaming personal failures or disappointments on others
  • Being easily influenced by others, especially those who treat them approvingly
  • Being overly dramatic and emotional[6]

When have I shown myself as a seductive exhibitionist through all of my time on youtube?

Lots of people are sensitive to criticism, the extent depending on the source, but I don’t believe my behaviors online have demonstrated my willingness to submit to others who simply show approval toward me. Rather, I’m more often generally described as a contrarian who can quibble over details on all sides in any debate.

A need to be the center of attention?  Ha!  If that were the case I’d work a lot harder at making attention-grabbing video content, show some cleavage, and get my face and hair all dolled up for the camera. Not as if I don’t own a shit-ton of makeup and hair-styling accessories.

I stay low-level frustrated much of the time, so yeah, my tolerance is tested routinely. Whatever meltdowns I do experience are the result of real-life events and thus are handled in my offline real life. Might blog about my thoughts and feelings from time to time and share stories (keeping offline individuals anonymous), some of which I later make private since the words are mostly for myself, and also sometimes I later realize my venting was being a bit unfair or one-sided. But I am able to admit that, so what’s the problem? Probably plenty of folks out there whom I’ve known in the past include me in their bitching sessions as well. Pretty common behavior among people. (Why does Stefan Molyneux immediately spring to mind when considering this point?)

Blaming personal failures or disappointments on others… hmmm. Some of our disappointments do directly relate to others. But I blame plenty on myself. Not a saint, wouldn’t ever pretend to be one. I’ve hurt people too. Such is life. No human is an island, and we are social creatures who can’t help but depend on and impact one another, plus we are living in crazy times, so…   It is what it is. We live and learn through honest introspection and reflection.

Unwillingness to change…  That one is particularly inaccurate since I change all the time in light of compelling information and ideas. Changed quite a lot over the last decade and don’t regret doing so at all. Was and is totally necessary. Just as I expect to change a great deal over the next decade. Comes with trying to keep an open mind to what’s out there in the world, including other people’s perspectives. Not all perspectives are created equal though, as we know.

Tendency to believe relationships are more intimate than they are…  No clue how that one relates to me. Pretty big on sticking with my closest people where long-term bonds are already established. Don’t feel intimately connected with anyone known to me only online.

Haven’t pretended to be physically unwell to garner attention.

Who doesn’t make rash decisions? I can be impulsive in some situations.

Overly dramatic and emotional…  Who determines what is excessive there? A bunch of stuffed suits with vested financial interest sitting around voting on the matter?  Gimme a break. I am a sensitive, emotional person, and that’s just the way it goes. Nothing necessarily wrong or unnatural about that, though it can make life a bit harder since we humans can be so damned calloused to one another. Depression happens. All too common these days. Makes people want to reach out and interact from the comfort and convenience of our own homes where communications can be exchanged from a physical and emotional distance.

Okay, so that’s the basic rundown. Looks like a piss-poor attempt at playing armchair psychoanalyst, from where I sit, but ah well. Some folks can’t handle criticism, so it’s been said.

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18 Responses to A look at the label “histrionic”

  1. Paul Elam says:

    Gosh, all this from a single word used to dissent from one of your posts?

    Nah, nothing histrionic here. 🙂

    • Byenia says:

      A person has a reasonable desire to defend themselves from inaccurate labeling. I don’t take lightly this popular trend of bandying about psychiatric labels and applying them to people just because we happen to disagree. These sorts of tactics show yourself as a disingenuous man.

      • Suz says:

        The concept “histrionic” is a few centuries older than the psychiatric profession.

        • Byenia says:

          Yep, “histrionic” is an updated conception of good old-fashioned “hysteria.”

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            Maybe people use it that way, but the two words come from very different roots.

            “Histrionic” comes from the Latin meaning “pertaining to acting” from the base word meaning “actor.” “Hysteria” (also from the Latin) has the root meaning, “suffering in the womb” and from the base word for “womb.”

            Used properly, “hysteria” refers to out-of-control emotions, including panic and fear, whereas “histrionic” refers to more controlled emotions that may not be seen as suitable for the situation.

            Captain Kirk was infamously histrionic, but not hysterical.

            • Byenia says:

              That’s interesting. Because even on wikipedia it’s said that Freud basically “split” the concept of hysteria into two parts: “One concept labeled as hysterical neurosis (also known as conversion disorder) and the other concept labeled as hysterical character (currently known as histrionic personality disorder).” Yet the entry goes on to say: “These two concepts must not be confused with each other, as they are two separate and different ideas.” Hmmm…


              I’m now looking in my 101-level Psychology textbook (Psychology by David G. Myers, 5th ed.) and the one small portion pertaining to histrionic disorder in the entire book is on page 481 and simply states: “A person with a histrionic personality disorder displays shallow, attention-getting emotions. Histrionic individuals go to great lengths to gain others’ praise and reassurance.” That’s all it had to say on the matter.

              A book mentioned before by Dr. Thomas Szasz titled The Manufacture of Madness (1970) goes into the history of what was referred to as hysteria, but his writings predate the inclusion (er, name change) of histrionic personality disorder in the DSM in the 1980s, so that’s not of much direct help here. So my transcribing from that one won’t shed much light for these purposes, unfortunately. I’ll keep looking around to see what I can find on the subject since now I’m curious what this term is intended to mean and how it came into being.

  2. Dean Esmay says:

    I often refer to someone as acting in a histrionic fashion without meaning to suggest they have a personality disorder or even to suggest that they’re female. C’mon dude.

    • Byenia says:

      Like I said, didn’t know much about it, so I looked into it a little. Some of the same sort of people who follow AVFM likely also keep tabs on Aurini, and then there’s always wikipedia.

      Paul is fond of making fun of women as crazy and “mental,” but that particular label just doesn’t fit for me. If someone is merely behaving more emotionally than someone else would prefer, then why not just state that? Seems more accurately descriptive than dragging in all else associated with “hysteria.” That’s all I’m basically getting at here. It’s an unfortunate trend online these days that so many people call into question one another’s mental health over mere differences in opinions, and yes, it is intended to be dismissive and to let others know you’re a person not worth taking seriously. I don’t appreciate that sort of thing, do you?

  3. Wyrd Smythe says:

    Well, on the one hand, calling someone histrionic is ad hominem, and in a debate, that’s a false argument, a distraction from the point being made. It’s a way to deflect having to deal with the content of what someone said. Attack their presentation when you can’t respond to their ideas.

    On the other hand, appeal to emotion is also a false argument, so it’s reasonable to point out when someone is using emotion, so long as you still deal with what they actually said. (I haven’t followed any links, so I have no idea who said what or how it was said. I’m speaking, in general, about how we go about discussing issues.)

    That said, we live in over-the-top histrionic times where emotion runs rampant and rational discussion is nearly non-existent. Social media has taught people to think in icons and bumper stickers without really thinking about what lies behind those icons and pithy quotes. Highly polarized, highly compartmentalized thinking rules the day: I’m 100% right, you’re 100% wrong, nah, nah, nah, NAH, nah.

    Even the idea of “shades of gray” seems to have been co-opted by some modern weirdness. Words, increasingly, have no real meaning anymore.

    • Byenia says:

      Very true, Wyrd. Seems like most interaction anymore is divided according to what “team” we’re on and then working toward silencing or ridiculing the perceived opposition. It’s gotten pretty dumb and is a hallmark of the current state of the U.S. (and Canada). I don’t pretend to understand it.

      Don’t always communicate my ideas terribly clearly, and I do tend to speak emphatically, especially when confronting what seems to me a troubling idea or hyperbolic denouncement. Some people do get my goat, I know that, hence why I prefer to write when trying to get my points across when I wish to avoid oh-so-popular accusations of being nothing more than an overly emotional female incapable of rational thought and interaction. But there we collide with the problem of many folks today detesting reading and preferring entertaining soundbites instead. Can’t win for losing…

      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        Agreed. These days tend to be “no-win” in terms of debate.

        If a reasoned argument is the goal, I’ve found (being hot-blooded myself) that it’s helpful to step away from the argument until the blood cools. That even works in face-time situations.

        • Byenia says:

          Good advice, but this one already had time to cool. Helps not to mistake my natural excitability when it comes to expressiveness for being horribly riled. Probably impossible to detect through writing though, so let me explain. More than anything these sorts of things fuel my curiosity. Just the way I am, I guess. No worries. I interact with and respond to these folks because I’ve been driven to learn more about them. *shrugs*

  4. vklaatu says:

    I’d say it’s more a matter of convenience for Paul to use psychiatric terminology considering he worked as a counselor for many years… too convenient, perhaps. At least the petition seems to have been a tempest in a teapot, like so many things related to AVfM. Aside from some of the more ham-fisted rhetoric I’ve read over there, I’m not fond of the very open support for what Kevin Carson calls “vulgar libertarianism” i.e., the stridently right wing property rights obsessed branch of anti-statism. And yet they try to pretend that they’re apolitical. Sure, guys, tell me another bed time story.

    • Byenia says:

      Vklaatu: How can AVFM control for all who identify with its message? People who care about reining in control of our government might also care about how off the hook Feminism has become. There’s obviously reason for overlap.

      But I think what I’d personally call out as “vulgar libertarianism” is actual Corporatism. They truly do suck. Full-on fascists, IMO. The government would be completely converted into something corporatists essentially control as a puppet to usher in a new era of power-gone-wild (like we’re getting now, just more of). Corporatists are nihilistic sellouts willing to sell us ALL out. For money. Or they place so much faith in the “free market” idea that they’re apparently blinded to corporatist ambitions? Where is the power of the people in this corporate-dominated utopia they envision? I don’t see it. That’s no way I’d want to live. Which they don’t care about since they’re confident in their own ability and eagerness to compete within that corporate-dominated paradigm. Basically their message to the rest of us is fuck us. There are wolves and there are us sheep. Guess it boils down to how one defines “success.”

      But in terms of the AVFM, yeah, glad that stupid petition blew over without incident. From what I can tell most folks out in society who consider themselves “upstanding” aren’t interested in affiliating with a group labeled as terrorist in any way, but most certainly not one whose own members purportedly signed some such document on a U.S. government site page agreeing with that assessment. Struck me as a justified quibble on my part for that and because no one needs to potentially draw unnecessary attention to themselves from the U.S. government right about now. Think about it and weigh the risks to see if it seems truly worth it. Appropriate action is one thing, stupid action is another. That’s what I was ever getting at.

      • vklaatu says:

        That petition was idiotic posturing, and a waste of time. It made them look like more morons than terrorists.

        Presenting the MRM as a social movement based strictly on civil and legal rights that even the feminists can’t deny, with actual science to back up any and all claims, is the only way to go about this. The staff at AVfM knows this. That’s why AVfM tries to maintain this facade of non-partisanship, although their politics are obvious no matter what they say. I myself and numerous other people are sick and tired tired of having to call them out on this.

        This is why supporting the work of folks like Warren Farrel and Murray Strauss is so important. We have to throw down the mythology of feminine innocence and all the justifications for men being disposable. My problem with the bulk of the MRM and MGTOW is the same problem I have with feminists: they lack class consciousness. You can demonstrate and predict the effects of social class empirically. And they aren’t gendered. Most of the ideological platforms for both sides are mostly subjective or only superficially true.

        Whenever men get tired of being treated like pack mules, which they’ve never deserved in the first place, or in the case of artists and scientists freaks, step outside societies norms, and revolt, they get shit on. That’s kind of hard to deny. I know Paul and Dean despise corporatism as much as the morons who promote bogus family values, but they also push private property rights too often without knowing the consequences or cost. I’m tired the bullshit that goes on in defense of defending private property rights, even for smaller organizations.

        And Bernard Chapin is a waste of my time. He’s a shill for the Republican party.

        • Byenia says:

          “That petition was idiotic posturing, and a waste of time. It made them look like more morons than terrorists.”

          That’s true.

          “… they lack class consciousness.”


          “Most of the ideological platforms for both sides are mostly subjective or only superficially true.”

          Yes, more often than not that appears to be the case.

          Property rights remains an area that continues to trip me up. I don’t yet have a solid idea regarding the best way to handle that going forward. But I grasp how that is the hook of corporatists considering how much land and resources are already claimed by major corporations. And so long as they maintain that, nothing much can or will change. But I’m not sure how to get around it in a way that’s fairer to people. My own attitude there is that corporations deserve to be regulated in a whole new way that clearly delineates them from the people within them and the the rest of humans out in societies. They do not deserve the rights and protections of persons, and allowing that to be so is where we first majorly screwed up. But now that they have a global playground to operate within, it seems the laws of any one nation might not be enough to harness them, not so long as nations see themselves in competition for employment opportunities.

          The biggest problem I have with Bernard Chapin is that he is indeed a Republican, not a true “old-school” (by my standards) conservative or a libertarian. And because of this he toes that line, even when it contradicts his other stated beliefs. For example, his take on the abortion issue is completely closed-minded and inflexible, despite forcing a woman to carry a fetus to full-term being an encroachment on her rights to do with her body as she deems fit. His complete dismissal of all that could even be loosely referred to as “leftist” or “liberal” also chaffs me since there are plenty of good ideas that have stemmed from that side of the political divide as well.

          Rocking Mr. E discontinued interacting with me many months ago just because I mentioned being a big fan of the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, who also happened to belong to the Frankfurt School. RME hadn’t read the man’s work for himself, but immediately dismissed both Fromm and me due to what he assumed to be an ideological difference, despite me using Fromm’s explanations in a way that actually bolstered the argument RME was trying to make at the time. But nevermind that — he saw us automatically as the enemy and would hear nothing else and asked that I not speak anymore to him, which I obliged.

          Very frustrating dealing with people filled with so much contempt toward whoever and whatever they’ve deemed “the enemy,” nevermind the ideas and arguments standing on their own merit. The prevalence of that form of anti-intellectualism gets pretty sickening the more time I spend online. But I try to seek what I can agree with out of each person’s arguments and claims, despite all the ways we may differ. As for Chapin, I don’t expect him to interact with me much going forward, just on the basis that my pro-choice conflicts with his ideals. That’s enough to get entirely written off by some folks, much to my chagrin.

          • vklaatu says:

            Pro life people baffle me. It’s as if they think homo sapiens is some how exempt from the need to stabilize its own population at a sustainable level. My second ex and I agreed on one and only one child, for who I am grateful. Even though she’s back with first husband, he couldn’t provide her with a child and I did. I get along better with him than I do her now. Go figure. So I passed on some of my genetic legacy. I felt obligated to do so; there are many people with very robust health, intelligence, and even perfect pitch. But people in my family hit the genetic jack pot. Too many other people aren’t so fortunate.

            I read and wrote about a case study of Cisco Systems for an organizational theory course I had to take to fulfill a business elective slot, and I was impressed with their organizational culture even if they’re still a corporation. They are very self organized and getting more and more democratic as time goes by. They provide critical hardware for the internet at large and they aren’t predators or parasites so far as I can tell. This is where tech is heading, towards cooperatives and self management.

            Which brings me to Mandrogon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation
            Don’t let the name throw you, if really a federation of coops making serious stuff, like refrigerators! They’re stuck in the capitalist system and have to generate a margin to get by, but at least they’re worker owned. That’s my solution to private property, and its shown to work. Let the people who make the stuff and provide own the organization and its assets, it gets people to care very much about the success of the organization.

            The mutualist solution strikes me as the sanest I’ve ever seen. Worker ownership and management of industry, direct democracy to make rules, public manage of the commons, the commons with personal property, i.e. your home, your tools, your vehicle, etc, being left alone. I just don’t see total privatization as any kind of solution and I’m not keen on absolute collectivist solutions, either. But private property needs to go away as an intermediary between personal possession and the public domain, aka the commons. Mind you, this is one of the oldest common recognized forms of anarchism, but I usually try to avoid using the “A” word because there’s some really heavy stigma attached to it.

            Oh, I hear right wing libertarians bemoan “the tragedy of the commons” but its a myth that needs to die. Look at this: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/angus250808.html

            Economic reality is a big part of what the MRM and MGTOW are rightly incensed over, considering many of them are genuinely sick of being treated like machines by women and their bosses, but they don’t seem to understand the nature of the beast around them. Which is depressing… I’m tired of watching people suffer for no good reason, and so are lots of other people.

            • Byenia says:

              Just finished reading Ian Angus’ piece on the myth of the tragedy of the commons. Thanks for sending that along.

              And Mondragon sounds interesting, though I see that one of their main subsidiaries (Fagor Group) filed bankruptcy in 2013. Hmmm… I can understand Noam Chomsky’s lamentation that such a business co-op must exist within a capitalist system. That does skew the whole picture quite a bit, though it’s an interesting model to take into consideration.

              Gets me thinking of the New Lanark community set up by Robert Owen in the early 1800s. There surely are all sorts of possibilities if we weren’t shackled by demands to compete in a corporate-dominated market scheme.

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