Under certain conditions, however, these systems can impugn upon one another and give rise to a bionegative mode of operating in the world. The bionegative system exhibits two patterns—the pattern of noncommitment and the pattern of vicarious living. The pattern of noncommitment arises as a result of the individual having an inconsistent/difficult environment from which rational and successful adaptations are not easily formed. The individual does not trust the world because the world has not proven itself trustworthy in the individual’s experience. Such individuals focus on the existential issue of good and evil—because the world is threatening. Actions become ritualistic and thoughts become dogmatic—trying to maintain control in a world of chaos. The main neurosis associated with this pattern is obsessive compulsive disorder.
The pattern of vicarious living arises as a result of the individual feeling rejected and that its true self is unacceptable. The individual thus creates a false, social self that is acceptable but feels unfulfilled because no one really knows/loves the real self and it is not seeking its true joy in life. Such individuals focus on the existential issue of life and death—because they have killed their real selves. The main neurosis associated with this pattern is hysteria. We all have both—it is merely a matter of degree. We would only consider individuals with very high examples of one of these, to the point that it impairs functioning significantly, to have an antisocial or mental problem.
Angyal seems to think that the two systems are different and that the individual alternates between them—but it seems obvious to me that the latter bionegative system is explainable as a functioning, or misfunctioning, of the biopositive system. The pattern of noncommitment is the result of the trend towards autonomy being overemphasized and overpowering the trend towards homonomy—the individual is obsessed with protecting itself because it does not feel safe and thus remains guarded, constricted, and at times hostile. The pattern of vicarious living is the result of the trend towards homonomy being overemphasized and overpowering the trend towards autonomy—the individual is obsessed with being accepted by others because it does not feel loved and thus sacrifices its own internal integrity to please others. The problem with both patterns is that, while they are to some degree rational adaptations, they ultimately do not provide the individuals with true happiness or give them what they really want. The noncommitting individual does not achieve autonomy but instead stagnates and becomes weaker as a result of not being able to live in harmony with its environment, and the vicarious individual is never really loved or accepted for who it is as a result of hiding its true identity away—the exposure of which is a source of much dread.
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From this we can create a schemata that can then be used to assess any given worldview or paradigm by where it falls on an axis between homonomy vs. noncommitment and an axis between autonomy vs. vicarious living. The homonomy/noncommitment axis can be used to assess epistemology—whereas a biopositive epistemology is pragmatic (reason based) and develops principles to fit evidence, a bionegative epistemology is dogmatic (faith based) and organizes evidence to fit principles. The autonomy/vicarious living axis can be used to assess ethics—whereas a biopositive ethics is idealistic (romantic) and affirms life, self, sex, pleasure, the body, the world, the mind, the spirit, power, etc, a bionegative ethics is nihilistic (fatalistic) and masochistically renounces these things. In a sense, the bionegative system seems to set ideals through reality (superego) rather than phantasy (id) (thus confusing facticity for transcendence—facts for values—sensation for impulse—the significant/contextual for the fundamental/purposeful) and to interpret the world through phantasy (id) rather than reality (superego) (thus confusing transcendence for facticity—values for facts—impulse for sensation—the fundamental/purposeful for the significant/contextual).
I co-authored a paper on the use of Angyal's holistic model to create a typology of personality disorders:
ANGYAL, A. (1965) Neurosis and treatment. New York: Wiley.
LESTER, D. (1995) Theories of personality. Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.
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