Personal corruption

Sep 17 2022

The notion of personal corruption narrows down the individual’s systematized use of the psychic defense-activity rationalization.

In line with its nature, corruption tends to be considered a group-level phenomenon and as a society economic phenomenon. Most often described as a social phenomenon and society economic phenomenon, a closer look reveals that corruption begins at and is maintained at the level of the individual. Corruption may in some instances not even be a social phenomenon, but it is always a personal psychological phenomenon.

Corruption is commonly explained as the misuse of entrusted power for private gain. Thus the notion of personal corruption may seem a tautology. Still it is necessary, because the term corruption, as said, is currently used almost exclusively to describe corruption as a social and society economic phenomenon.

On the psychological level the notion of personal corruption encircles the individual’s misuse of the entrusted power of his or her own conscience. Personal corruption is widespread: in many instances it is the norm.

The sign of personal corruption is that the individual regularly tries to righteous wrong actions referring to others’ wrong actions and/or to the individual’s own earlier wrong actions. This is rationalization, a psychological defense-activity. Rationalization means making excuses.

Sigmund Freud‘s flavor of psychoanalysis talks about defense mechanisms and about unresolved unconscious intrapsychic conflicts. The alternative term defense-activity points out that humans always act according to a choice, even if not always fully aware of the choice they make. To not be fully aware is not the same as to be totally unaware. Between what is totally conscious and totally unconscious we find what is preconscious.

Corrupted thinking is the same as a thinking motivated by rationalization. Corrupted thinking is a thinking sanctioned by excuses.

Rationalization in personal corruption is about denial. Denial-activity signals unsolved problems with reality, and is close related to acting out contempt. The individual that acts out contempt acquires guilt. Guilt puts humans in an inferior position that can be denied.

The close relation between rationalization, acting out contempt, denial and guilt explains the observation that power often corrupts.

The early background of personal corruption is most often deficit and a feeling of guilt that used to exceed actual guilt, having been the repeated victim of others’ acting out contempt, identification with corrupted individuals, absence of meaningful boundaries and lack of constructive alternatives to identify with.

Personal corruption is an expression of the so called law of the jungle – the type of relationships which stand in contrast to contractual relationships. Personal corruption means the opposite to truth seeking, afterthought, taking responsibility, guilt regulation and independence.

Further reading: On denial, acting out contempt and revenge