09 Jul 2011

Essay Topic: Psychology in the Real World

Jared Lee Loughner’s recent shooting rampage at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ January 8, 2011 outdoor community meeting (Simon, 2011) touched on several different aspects of psychology.  On that day, 22-year-old Loughner showed up at Congresswoman Giffords’ event and opened fire on Giffords and the crowd (Simon, 2011). The gunman took the lives of 6 and injured 14 (Simon, 2011). The tragic event scarred the victims and immediate witnesses and community and brought fear to Americans and government officials nationwide.  All at once, several news outlets and commentators struggled to find answers, blame, and solutions.  Arguments that got the most attention were the assignment of blame: Was it loose gun laws? Poor parenting? Campaigning tactics of politicians? Sarah Palin?  Many news outlets scrambled to find gossip on Loughner and came up with an abundance of evidence pointing to his apparent mental health struggles (Simon, 2011).  Unfortunately, past the shock, awe, confusion of the content of Loughner’s internet ramblings and what has theorized to possibly be Psychosis (Simon, 2011), the lesson of psychological well-being was lost.  The key to preventing future similar acts of domestic terrorism from occurring again is an examination of individual psychological experience and mental health conditions such as Psychosis.

The technical term for Psychosis is “Brief Psychotic Disorder” and is code 298.8 in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual- IV (DSM-IV) which is the standard diagnostic manual for Psychiatry (Heffner, 2003).  Psychosis may also clinically fall under Schizophrenia, a more long-term diagnosis (Dilks, Tasker, & Wren, 2010). Both Brief Psychotic Disorder and Schizophrenia involve at least one of the following: severe delusions, paranoia hallucinations, disordered thought, disordered speech (Heffner, 2003 and Dilks, et al, 2010). Although there has been no official psychiatric/medical record of Loughner’s that has been made public, it can be derived by Loughner’s writings that he may have suffered from a paranoid/delusional type of Psychosis; his writings included assumptions that time, currency, and language as meaningless illusions used by government to facilitate mind control.  In an ever-advancing technological society, a tendency to fall victim to stress-diathesis if not solely environmental psychological factors by subscribing to disordered and paranoid thoughts such as Loughner did is not necessarily rare. Although conspiracy theory alone is not dangerous, it may become dangerous if an individual feels threatened by what they perceive to be a malicious “big brother” government. Though Psychosis can be devastating, researchers have found that the condition is manageable.

In a research study on the management of Psychosis published by the British Psychological Society in 2010, researchers asked what was most effective in the treatment of Psychotic patients (Dilks et al., 2010). Researchers compiled 19 therapy session tapes, 23 Psychologist-client interviews, and 31 published accounts of psychotic experiences in order to build a qualitative study on the success and failure of different treatment methods of the disorder (Dilks et al, 2010).  It was found that individuals diagnosed with Psychosis could regain social functionality in their everyday lives with active, ongoing, and consistent individualized therapy (Dilks et al., 2010).  This research is important to the issue of paranoia/delusion-fueled violence because it provides hope in solutions for severe mental health issues.  In American culture, mental health is often stigmatized and symptoms are more often seen as markers of being asocial or “weird” instead of being recognized as the characteristics of a serious disease that people may not be able to detect in themselves let alone understand that they need and will fare better with proper treatment.  Although Psychosis does not always manifest as violence, encouragement of mental health research may promote efforts to take effective measures to increase public awareness of the importance of mental and emotional well-being and the treatment of disorders that could otherwise lead to tragedy if left unchecked.


Dilks, S., Tasker, F., & Wren, B. (2010). Managing the impact of psychosis: A grounded theory exploration of recovery processes in psychosis. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49(1), 87-107. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Heffner, D. (2003). Psychiatric disorders. AllPsych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom.

Retrieved from: http://allpsych.com/disorders/psychotic/briefpsychotic.html.

Simon, Mallory. (2011 January 13). Jared Loughner’s background reveals series of warning signs. CNN. Retrieved from: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/jared-loughners- background-reveals-series-of-warning-signs

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08 Feb 2010

Sample Essay: Professional Identity Paper

Professional identity is an imperative psychological resource that assists counselors to develop and sustain the motivation to attain maximum productivity and produce meaningful results even in the presence of untoward changes that occur in the domain of the work place. The essence of understanding or developing professional identity is supported by the fact that there exist enormous changes that bring along with them uncertainties, uncharted pressures and challenges on the professionals consequently eroding their capability to promote public good.   Additionally a strong sense of such identity is a vehicle that enables counselors to constantly reflect about their work lives, the works of the people that they supervise and their personal achievements.  It is thus without saying essential for a counselors to construct their own professional identity if they are to achieve self actualization.

As a mental health counselor the key to outstanding work results would be to not only have an understanding of the profession and its requirements but to moreover have insights about how professional identity is achievable. The tasks of  a mental health counselor are enormous since it is generally not that easy to constantly be in a position to counsel families, groups, individuals, and couples in a quest to helping them attain optimal mental well being and  health.  As a mental health counselor it is my responsibility to help persons to deal with various issues that include stress management, addictions, marital problems, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, self esteem problems, parenting problems among other family or personal tribulations. At the end of the counseling sessions it is expected that the client would have been helped to rectify or prevent the problems or conflicts. The insights and information given during the sessions must enable the clients to make positive choices and changes that would be crucial in assisting them to realize their future goals. In such an environment where infinite problems are presented and solutions developed then there is no doubt that I would have to face countless ethical dilemmas and a long list of other challenges. To be able to comfortably deal with the problems, changes and at the same time realize self actualization and maximum productivity I must develop a strong professional identity sense.  This paper gives detailed descriptions of how I plan to create my professional identity as a mental health counselor. In line with that this document shall give explanations of how the five ethical principles that are the backbone of the ACA code of ethics will be operationalized.    Furthermore it would be necessary to have mentors or work closely with other professionals that would help me sharpen my identity. To facilitate this cause then affiliations to renowned   organizations in the profession would be essential. The paper thus intends to let the reader understand how these organizations’ missions and visions are aligned with my personal professional values and therefore how they would contribute in my growth in the field.   In addition the paper will indicate how social change would be operationalized together with a comparison of my attitudes about mental health counseling with those of another professional in the field.

As earlier mentioned mental health counselors are confronted with infinite ethical dilemmas in their daily practice.  In fact Aiken (2004) notes that the nature of situations that a mental health counselor handles make it hard for them to avoid encountering conflicting issues. Nonetheless, even when confronted with such situations the counselor must always acknowledge that their primary responsibility is to enhance the well being of the client and thus provide solutions that align with this objective. Sometimes however in a quest to promote the objective the client’s life or that of persons close to him may be endangered.  Such a case would include for instance where the client requests for non disclosure of their HIV status to their spouses or when the patient’s family members request for non disclosure regarding his terminal prognosis.  In similar conflicting situations the five ethical principles provide nonnegotiable ethical standards that would be of assistance in getting better understanding of the issues and thus making rational decisions. The moral principles include justice, autonomy, fidelity, beneficence and nonmaleficence.

Autonomy describes the freedom to make binding and discretionary decisions which are consistent with the scope of practice.  A clear understanding of the principle would be imperative in helping me to comprehend the freedom that I posses to choice and action.  With the principle in mind then it becomes easier to distinguish and discern the choices that are wrong and those that are right for the client. The concepts of the principles clearly showcase the responsibility that I have as a counselor to appropriately encourage the patient to act upon their own convictions or values or make their own decisions.  The concept gives me as the leader reason to explain to the patient the essence of being autonomous but at the same time issue explanations of how their decisions may impinge on other people rights or how they may not be in line with societal values.

Nonetheless this principle would also give me as the professional the right to make decisions that override client’s choices especially when they are not of sound mind and thus have little chance of making rational decisions.  Therefore in a scenario where the client is not capable of coming up with competent decisions may be since she or he is handicapped mentally or is underage and yet she or he insists on having their decisions followed the principle would allow me stop them from acting on those decisions that would definitely harm them or others.

Furthermore with the principle in mind I would be able to allow the client to have a right to self rule but at the same time protect him from unwanted intrusions (Lewis and Sterling, 2006). In scenarios where I have several reasons to believe that disclosure for instance would result to incapacitation of a client who is severely depressed then in protecting the client the principle would require me to pursue non disclosure.

In addition operationalizing this principle would require that I do not necessarily turn to others for me to know the requisite information that I need to give to the client. Essentially no one apart from me needs to give me the approval to take action or to make decisions based on my assessments. Comprehension of the principle including the education that I have attained from classroom training is enough to allow me to independently interpret the patient’s symptoms, initiate, develop and enact therapeutic solutions or care plans. In practice I would be aware that if I consistently support non binding and nondiscretionary decisions then I  would not be supporting autonomy and therefore I would have no sense of professional identity and thus may not have the chance to attain  self actualization or  significantly contribute to practice.  Proper understanding of the concept moreover would be imperative in allowing me to comprehend that working collaboratively with other mental health counselors does not preclude me from acting or functioning autonomously. In fact collaboration with others will merely allow me to be better informed to autonomously counsel newly diagnosed clients.

The principle of beneficence reminds me of the moral obligation that I have to purposely act for the benefit of other people, act with kindness, promote goodness and charity. Beneficence simply reflects the responsibility to significantly contribute to the client’s welfare when possible.

Nonmaleficence on the other hand implies the ability to abstain or refrain from injuring other persons and furthering their well being by eliminating threats or removing those elements that would result to harm. Inflicting intentional harm or encouraging patients to take up actions that would risk harming other people is thus unethical.  It may seem that it is always natural to promote or further good every time but that is not always the case and thus an understanding of these moral principles becomes imperative.

Essentially understanding the concepts would encourage me to undertake only those actions or develop only those care plans that would be imperative to prevent the client from harm or generally be of help in improving his situation (Edwin, 2009). I would refrain from initiating actions that I am aware would cause the patient needless suffering.  For example, if I perceive that disclosure of terminal prognosis would harm the patient’s mental well being then non disclosure would be a rational and ethical alternative. Beneficence and nonmaleficence concepts encourage me to consistently weigh the possible risks of care plans or problem solutions against their possible benefits before settling for one plan of action.  The selected courses of actions must never at anytime have more or greater risks than the perceived benefits.

Justice simply describes universal fairness and demands the respect of individuals’ rights.  In practice the principle necessitate that I will have to observe fairness and provide the different clients with equal opportunity for quality service and outcomes.  In observance of justice I would under no circumstances discriminate or exploit my clients for reasons of their social class, religion, gender, race or age. Nonetheless I am also aware that the application of the principle may in crisis require that the rights of a patient be curtailed for the common good of the public. This is for instance in a scenario that requires health measures be developed to ensure that the client is quarantined due to his mental condition and violent acts  in order to prevent him from causing harm to the public. The action undertaken in such a set-up would favor distributive rather than retributive justice. The principle thus enables me to understand the situations where I would need to further redistributive or distributive interests.  As a professional with knowledge of the principle I am would be in a better position to understand where social controls for example that are imposed on individuals with diseases such as AIDS are inappropriate and thus offer the ideal remedies. The balance between redistributive or distributive justice interests is slim and thus it would be imperative that I do not loose sight of the essence of any.

Additionally in pursuance of the same principal and the development of my identity, I would have to ensure fair distribution and access to the health resources that I offer by all persons in the community. That means that I will find a way of time to time I becoming of service to both the rich and the poor including those that are in deprived areas even if it implies having to travel now and then and personally going to their communities in order to reach them.

Fidelity encompasses the notions of faithfulness, honoring commitments and loyalty. In furthering its requirements I must generally promote the goals of moral autonomy and patient advocacy values that include care and accountability to the client instead of the profession itself, the hospital or myself. The principle refers to the obligation that I have to honor the contracts created with the client, keep the promises therein and truth tell in all the appropriate situations in an attempt to provide the best care solutions. Fidelity requires that the client needs come before my personal interests. The service offered therefore becomes client centered and the solutions developed are customized to the specific needs of the patient (Cherry and Jacob, 2005). On the same note I would take care to as much as possible leave no obligations unfulfilled or act in a manner that would threaten the existing therapeutic relationship.

Practicing fidelity would ensure that clients trust me the counselor, and thus have faith in and apply the therapeutic solutions that have been offered. This way it would be possible to achieve optimal outcomes with each and every client that I encounter, implying that my practice as a professional would be marked with a lot of success cases thus enhancing the growth of my professional identity and professional reputation.

Working together collaboratively with other mental health counselors is imperative in helping me to grow as a professional and obtain an outstanding professional identity sense. Apart from my local hospital setting the other professionals can be found at the various associations that are available for mental health counselors. The insinuation is thus that I intend to become a member of organizations such as AMHCA in order to be within an environment that would be of help in the development of my professional identity.

AMHCA is an organization with approximately six thousand mental health counselors who work together to ensure the growth of the profession and impact the lives of Americans in general. The association has been existent for a period of twenty five years and has assisted mental health counselors to network with their fellow professional peers, expand their knowledge professionally and be of better service to clients.

The mission of the organization is to enhance the mental health counseling profession through advocacy, licensing, professional development and education (AMHCA, 2002).  The goals of AMHCA include helping professionals to serve the community, promoting the worth and the dignity of their clients through best practice, freedom of inquiry, competence and objectivity.  Their goals and mission have a lot in common with my professional values and thus will solely serve to promote them. For instance just like them I believe in optimally carrying out professional responsibilities, competence, confidentiality and protecting the client’s welfare.  I furthermore also support the provision of quality and unmatched mental health counseling that is also consistent with professional values and ethics. In my practice it would also be imperative to constantly upgrade or advance my professional knowledge.  AMHCA provides professionals with the opportunities and education programs to further this cause.  Moreover I believe in working collaboratively with other professionals, an objective AMHCA’s mission and goals support since they endeavor to create an active forum that will foster cooperation among providers for comparable professional standards in order to improve care and services to clients.

Another association that I plan to be affiliated to is the NDCA. The association allows any individual that has interest in human development or health counseling to apply for membership. Its mission is to enhance the health counseling profession through advocacy, professional development and education. Their goals include the promotion of public trust and confidence in professional counseling and uniting under one organization people that are engaged in the various phases of professional counseling.  They furthermore seek to improve the standards of professional counseling, encourage the development or initiation of creative activities and programs in the counseling profession and the dissemination of information that would further human development and the professional counseling (NDCA, 2007). All this is however promoted in line with practice that aligns with stipulated professional ethical standards.

The mission and goals of NDCA are compatible with the my professional values additionally since they do not support the misuse of the clients but seek the provision of quality service with  keenness to uphold professional integrity and application of rational when confronted with various  ethical dilemmas. They also promote cooperation and networking of their professionals in order to allow exchange of knowledge, experiences and discovery of new facts through combined research efforts. They furthermore support the application of justice, autonomy, fidelity, beneficence and nonmaleficence principles which form the backbone of my professional values.

While mental health counseling may not fix or solve all the problems in the lives of individuals it still has the ability to bring about social change. I intend to realize social change since mental health is influenced and can influence social elements and behavior and thus by promoting its well being then it becomes feasible to utilize it as an agent for societal change. For instance by initiating group therapy for stress management purposes then I can be able to assist a huge number of community members to deal with or  cope with their emotional problems consequently making them to become more productive for the benefit of the society at large.

Offering addiction counseling on the other hand will enable various individuals to get rid of their addictions to alcohol, heroin, cocaine or other dangerous substances. As a result I would be playing an important role in the community by preventing the occurrence of these habits since such addicts are usually responsible for many social evils in the community. With the existence of such people in the community criminal activity that includes property theft, shoplifting, murders or burglary increases. There is also the promotion of immoral habits such as prostitution which lead to the spread of deadly diseases such as AIDs in the community. By assisting these individuals to deal with their challenges, then social change becomes imminent because the root cause for the social evils that were available would have been dealt with. The community thus becomes a better and safer place to live and work in.

Furthermore assisting families to deal with their marital problems, suicidal ideations or self esteem problems will help in the promotion of happier and healthier families. This way disorders and medical conditions that would have otherwise cropped up courtesy of the environment provided by these situations are prevented from occurring. Generally through my services social change would be inevitable since my clients with their different problems would be encouraged to make healthier and positive choices and therefore become more productive members of society.

Mental health counseling must assist individuals, families and groups to experience overall wellbeing and attain good mental health; that is actually the main idea or attitude that I harbor towards this field. Generally the counseling offered therein does not necessarily target those people that suffer from major mental disorders but rather is also mainly designed for persons that do not enjoy good mental health and thus are unable to lead wholesome or healthy lives.

Seligman (2004) also a professional in the field agrees with the sentiments affirming that the path and practice of this field is diverse and even individuals with suicidal tendencies, abuse problems including other the family problems are eligible for this services. The ideas of this professional are in consistent with the attitudes that I have that as a professional in this field one must be able to diagnose a client’s problem, suggest a remedy path that is customized and personalized to the client in question. Additionally my position that is seconded by  various professionals in the field include the fact that I believe mental health counseling is even more effective than counseling that is availed by psychologists,  social workers or psychiatrists.  This is since counselors in mental health are well trained on the utilization of psycho educational models which they combine with traditional diagnosis approaches when handling their clients.  Through this approaches they are able to look at presented problems from various angles and issue the most appropriate and relevant treatment methodology and judgments. Mental health counselors are better able to unearth the complexities involved in the issues that their clients experience since they have the competence and training to assist them to overcome the problems.  Exposure to the services of a mental health counselor who understands the requirements of the field and who is familiar with his professional identity can be very helpful in assisting individuals to avoid serious mental health problems later and have a more positive outlook of life.


Aiken, T.D. (2004). Legal, ethical, and political issues in nursing. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.

American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) (2002). Code of ethics. Retrieved on November 12,2009, from http://www.amhca.org/about/default.aspx

Cherry, B., and Jacob, S. (2005). Contemporary nursing: issues, trends and management. USA: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Edwin, A.K. (2009). Non-Disclosure of Medical Errors an Egregious Violation of Ethical Principles. PubMed Journal, 43(1), 34-39.

Lewis, F., and Sterling, E. (2006). Autonomy in nursing.  Ishakawa journal of nursing, 3 (2),1-6.

Seligman, L. (2004). Diagnosis and treatment planning in counseling. New York: Springer.

North Dakota Counseling Association (NDCA) (2007). Constitution. Retrieved on12th October, 2009 from http://www2.edutech.nodak.edu/ndca/constitution.html

07 Feb 2010

Sample Essay: Critical Thinking on a Mental Health Article

“Time Trends in Autism and in MMR Immunization Coverage in California” an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association written by Loring Dales, MD; Sandra Jo Hammer, RN,PHN; Natalie J. Smith, MD,MPH discuss the correlation of the vaccine MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) and the onset of Autism in children from 1980 to 1994.  This study was conducted in response to the belief that immunizations in general and the MMR immunization specifically is the central cause to the increase of the mental health disorder of Autism.

The study looked at the Kindergarten students in California that were born between 1980 and 1994 and their immunization records.  The immunization that was focused on was the MMR and it was given between 17 and 24 months of age.  The number of immunizations were tracked and compared to the number of children diagnosed with Autism and found that there were 44 cases of autism per 100,000 in 1980 and 208 cases of autism per 100,000 in 1994.

The authors of the study state the largest drawback to their study was not being able to talk to the students or their families to determine other factors that may have had an impact on the cause of the autism.  Concerns also about the heredity factor of the disorder were mentioned in the article.  These were all the elements that they were not privy to or able to investigate.  This writer agrees that the information is simply not known by the authors and could have a huge impact in their ability to make a solid conclusion with the collateral information.

Information is also lacking about the sex of the children being reviewed.  Concerns about the sex of the children should have been addressed.  The percentage of males with a mental health diagnosis of autism is higher than the female population.  One simply must question whether or not the numbers of females included in the statistics caused a faulty result of conclusion.  This is an area of concern as the conclusion of MMR immunizations not causing an increase of mental health diagnosis of autism in children from the years of 1980 to 1994.

Dr. Stephen Barrett, who operates the Quackwatch website that will address medical issues to determine if it is a legitimate medical conclusion and is supported by many other medical professionals in the particular field of medicine being discussed.  Dr. Barrett has looked into the claim that autism is caused by vaccines and all vaccines should be discontinued in children.  Dr. Barrett supports his conclusion that immunizations as a whole and MMR specifically does not cause autism to develop in children.  Dr. Barrett’s article included studies which looked into the children’s medical history far more deeply than the study by Dales et al.  This supported the Dales et al conclusion by bringing evidence that has been missing in the first study.

The Immunization Safety Review Committee published a report of their studies and their conclusion also indicated that there is no correlation between the immunizations specifically the MMR vaccine and the occurrence of autism.  While this could certainly be a non-surprising conclusion of a study conducted by an immunization safety review committee; however, the findings in their study also supported the findings of the other two studies listed in this paper.  Each one brings another component to the original study that adds support and validity to the conclusion that would otherwise be questioned for the lacking elements.

A point that all three articles make that is extremely crucial in the findings of the lack of cases of autism being recorded.  What this mean is simply, there were millions of MMR vaccines given to both male and female children during these years and in 1980 only 44 cases were found in this study.  In 1994 there was only 208 recorded in this study.  If the MMR vaccine was the cause of the increase in autism, the numbers would have been substantially higher.

What this tells the researchers in all the studies is the cause of the onset of autism is not the MMR vaccine.  The reason for the belief of MMR immunizations causing autism is the time frame the immunization is given.  It is given between 17 and 24 months.  Additional studies have been conducted and referenced in Dales et al and Dr. Barrett articles of other causes of the onset of autism.  One fact that was mentioned numerous times is the age in which autism often manifests itself in outward symptoms parents are able to notice as something different or wrong with their child.  The abilities the child had been developing during their first year to year and a half begin to decline.  This time frame is also the time frame of the MMR immunizations.  However, the studies point out that even in children who did not have the MMR immunizations between the ages of 17 months to 24 months began demonstrating the symptoms of autism.

This was crucial in their findings that MMR does not cause autism or autistic symptoms to begin to manifest themselves.  It is unfortunate that the symptoms begin to manifest themselves after the child had shown great promise in their lives, but the MMR immunization is not the cause. Parents with children who have been diagnosed with autism are faced with a lifetime of struggles for themselves and their children.  While the MMR immunization is not the cause, nor the absence of the vaccine the cure for autism, this article demonstrates the need for finding the cause and possible cure or vastly more successful treatment for this disorder.  This writer believes that by ruling out one cause will enable the researchers to move forward to find the cause.  Causing ones child to face the risk of a serious disease simply due to the belief of it causing autism is tantamount to child abuse.


Barrett, Dr. Stephen. “Misconceptions about Immunization, Misconception #9:Vaccines Cause Autism” Quackwatch, Your Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud, and Intelligent Decisions. Accessed October 19, 2009. http://www.quackwatch.com/03HealthPromotion/immu/autism.html.

Dales, MD Loring; Hammer,  RN, PHN Sandra Jo; Smith, MD, MPH Natalie. “Time Trends in Autism and in MMR Immunization Coverage in California”. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2001: 285:1183-1185. Accessed on October 19, 2009.  http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/285/9/1183.

Immunization Safety Review Committee.  “Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism

Released”. May 14, 2004. Accessed on October 19, 2009. Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice. http://www.iom.edu/en/Reports/2004/Immunization-Safety-Review-Vaccines-and-Autism.aspx.

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11 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Lolita,Humbert's Obsession

Love is an abstraction that can be described about as easily as telling someone where the sky begins. It is a concept that can only be based off the person thinking it. So to be in love can mean something completely different to two separate people. In the story of Lolita, many people claim that Humbert Humbert was just obsessed with Lolita. But what is obsession? Why can’t obsession be love? I believe that Humbert, or in the non-fictional case, Nabokov, can only decide that. And because of this I believe we have to trust Humbert in his feelings toward Lolita that they are not totally out of love and not purely of obsession, but a combination of both.

What is the difference between obsession and love? If you were to ask someone whether or not it was love or obsession that caused a man, a husband, if you will, to remain faithful to his wife, I’d be willing to bet their answer would be love. The ideas of love and obsession and very small. I don’t see much of a difference at all. Or rather, I see a form of unity. The only difference, maybe, would be the reciprocating party. For if the other does not love on an equal plane, then perhaps the allusion of obsession can drift in. But again, in the eyes of the beholder, what may be obsession to others, is true love to them.

The book itself has been a controversy for years. It was unable to find a publisher for quite some time (Edmunds). And as Stephen Metcalf, accurately sums it up, “Public taste was never meant to catch up to Humbert Humbert…[yet] you must look past its beauty to recognize how shocking it is,” (Metcalf). So we come back to the dichotomy of love v. obsession. The word obsession always seems to have a bit of distaste to it. But how can something that needs to have its beauty overlooked to see how shocking it is, be considered distasteful. I understand the man, Humbert Humbert is quite vile in thought, but because he is writing this down for us in the form of a journal written in prison, then doesn’t his eloquent words overrule obsession and therefore enter the vein of love?

It is clear from the beginning that Humbert clearly has strong feelings for this woman. Starting from the first chapter, from the first two lines, we feel this power. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” (Nabokov 1). This is not to say that his love for her is not an obsession, because one cannot have one without the other. This is a totally logical statement. If a mother was not obsessed with her child, could she provide for it in the manner a mother must? If Beethoven wasn’t obsessed with music, could he have been able to write his ninth? Yet, this argument, I understand is not the same as Humbert’s love/obsession for Lolita, but the point I’m trying to get at is, aren’t some forms of love encouraged by obsession and some forms of obsession encouraged by love? Please, though, do not misunderstand me, for as I write this, I am horrified that there could be an acceptable rational which could condone a pedophile to love a child in the same way two people of the same age could. No situation should be acceptable. But to belabor the point, we are only reading one person’s version. It is only his world we see, and therefore we have to be more objective.

To grasp the full concept of Humbert’s words, the reader not only has to look back in time, but look forward as well (McLaughlin). Written in “The Review of Contemporary Fiction,” Robert McLaughlin states that, “Lolita is often two things at once…By generating this disturbingly both/and perspective, it calls for a strategy of double-reading on our part.” (McLaughlin). I couldn’t agree more. What McLaughlin is saying is that even what we are reading, the literal word itself, has two meanings. This explanation is quite relevant in the discussion of whether or not Humbert was in love or obsessed. Because if we only see Humbert’s view as obsessive then we miss half of the idea, which is enough to skew the entire meaning. Hearing only Humbert’s words as obsessive or as love would be to throw down judgment upon the narrator and condemn the book and the Nabokov. We would be undermining the very thing that complex literature does, which is to explain the world.

Going back to one of Humbert’s relationships, one could say that Annabel was Humbert’s first real “love”, since he met her when they were young and had never actually consummated their love. But placing Lolita against that kind of feeling, driving Humbert out of the mental prison of the twenty-four year love/obsession with Annabel, shows that his feelings leaned toward love.

I think the notion of obsession derives from his insatiable allure to “nymphets”. It is wrong to overlook that he, in fact, has a problem with sexually lusting after young children. This, especially in today’s world, is hard to stomach. Watching the protagonist fanaticize over girls while they play on the playground is unnerving, to say the least. But when he is describing the kind of person it takes to find “nymphets” attractive, Humbert paints a very despicable person who is also self-aware of such flaws, one who is, “…a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy,” (Nabokov 18). There is no mention of love in that description. When realizing what kind of man lusts after a “nymphet” only a twisted need appears, only a sick obsession.

As time in the novel progresses, we begin to see even more of Humbert’s bizarre qualities. After Valeria leaves him for the taxi driver, Humbert goes to New York and has several breakdowns. This again leads me to believe that Humbert had some serious issues in relation to his mental health, which plays in greatly to his obsession with young girls. But the question of love vs. obsession comes in, after Humbert meets Lolita for the first time. The incident I am thinking about is in chapters thirteen and fourteen.

Though it is extremely disturbing, we have to look through Humbert’s eyes on morality, play the clichéd “devils advocate”. In chapter thirteen Humbert describes a sexual episode with the unknowing Lolita where he clearly violates her. But the strange thing, the thing that might point to a feeling of love within Humbert is in chapter fourteen when he is pleased with himself that he has managed to pleasure himself, yet while also keeping the purity of Lolita. He says, “I had stolen the honey of a spasm without impairing the morals of a minor,” (Nabokov 65). Yet, within the next several sentences he claims that, “What I had madly possessed was not she, but my own creation, another, fanciful Lolita…” (Nabokov 65). It strikes me as odd, that these two ideas would be joined so paradoxically together in such quick succession; one with the keeping of moral purity and the other dealing with an invention. This is why, again, I feel that we cannot simply declare that Humbert was singularly obsessing or singularly in love; it is a combination of both.

Like I said earlier in the essay, for it to be love, there must some form of reciprocation. Even though Lolita is a child and more than likely implying a childlike crush on Humbert, she does respond positively to him. And because he is our narrator, we are only being told this story through his words. We have no choice but to believe what he is saying to be true. Again I am forced to believe this a combination of love and obsession due to Humbert’s desire to obtain sleeping pills so he can give them to Lolita and Charlotte, therefore being able to fondle Lolita. This is not reciprocated on the part of Lolita, which would fall toward the obsessive.

It is not until the end of the book, where it should be, I suppose, that the true metaphor of the love/obsession debacle is quasi-resolved. On page 327, Humbert tells us about writing about Lolita, he says, “I thought I would use these notes in toto at my trial, to save not my head, of course, but my soul. In mid-composition, however, I realized that I could not parade living Lolita.” (Nabokov 327). I think that in the entire shameless obsession Humbert has acted in, we see here that he is sincere in his love for her and that he realizes he has done wrong.

It is quite reasonable to see Nabokov’s character, Humbert, as a pedophilic maniac, who stalks children and seduces them in subtle and disgusting ways, but it is impossible to justify the authenticity of his manifesto and whether or not he loves her. We have to place trust, however hard that may seem, into the narrator, and that he is telling the truth of his feelings.

1. A specific mention of time, is when Humbert says that it has been twenty four years since he has had any feelings toward a girl that were not related to Annabel. Humbert believes that this expansive amount of time is quite significant in relation to love.

2. The very fact that at the end of the novel he is in prison shows that he was ultimately not in control. Because if he was in control Lolita would have never run off and Humbert never would’ve killed Quilty.

3. b: I find the protective nature Humbert’s specter will show if any man decides to treat his wife badly, interesting. This change in attitude is quite drastic.

4. Yes, I think he has come to love, but since he has obsessed over her for such a long time, I also feel like he sees Lolita as strictly his. So again, it’s not as simple as plainly saying he has come to love her.

Works Cited.

Edmunds, Jeff. “‘Lolita’: Complex, often tricky and ‘a hard sell’.” CNN.com 9 Apr 1999
4 Oct 2008


McLaughlin, Robert. “Lolita: A Janus Text.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 1995.

Metcalf, Stephen. “The Disgusting Brilliance of Lolita.” Slate Magazine 19 Dec 2005 4

Oct 2008 < http://www.slate.com.id/2132708/>.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita. Fifth. NewYork: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1955.

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