Thursday, April 6, 2017


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“The Accuser”

Fault finding is a destructive behavior for all concerned. Once the behavior of pointing out others’ faults begins, it frequently becomes obsessive. Soon the finger pointer becomes an expert on what is wrong with everything.

Psychotherapists frequently see this pattern in their clients. The genesis of this behavior is counter-intuitive. An observer might conclude that the fault finder identifies the faults of others in order to enhance their own self esteem. However, these personality-flawed, nit pickers are often filled with self-loathing. They make everyone else miserable, and they are miserable themselves. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “Holding resentments is like drinking poison and expecting others to get sick.”

This fault finding habit stubbornly resists the cognitive therapy technique of establishing alternative thought patterns until the new patterns become dominant and the pathological pattern atrophies from lack of use. This leads me to believe that obsessive fault-finding is a biogenic disorder. DNA is the most likely culprit. If there is hope for fault-finders to be helped and their pathologies corrected, the answer is probably biological rather than behavioral.

Several decades ago I found a piece of literature that described the pathology we are discussing as it occurs in prosecuting attorneys.

“The prosecutor's, by obligation, is a special mind, coiled-snake quick, bullying, devious, unrelenting, forever baited to ensnare. It is devoted to misleading, and by instinct dotes on confusion and flourishes on weakness. Its search is for ordinary blemishes it can present as festering boils, its obligation is to raise doubts or sour with suspicion. It asks questions, not to learn the truth, but to convict, and can read guilt into the most innocent of answers. Its hope, its aim, its triumph, is to addle a witness by tricking, exhausting, or irritating him into a verbal indiscretion which sounds like a damaging admission. To natural lapses of memory it gives the appearance either of stratagems for hiding misdeeds, or worse still, of lies dark and deliberate. Feigned and wheedling politeness, sarcasm that scalds, intimidation, surprise and besmirchment by innuendo, association or suggestion, at the same time that any intention to besmirch is denied. . . all these as methods and devices are such staples in the prosecutor's repertoire that his depraved mind returns to them again and again, as a dog returns to his vomit. Eventually, by imperceptible degrees, he loses all decency and renders himself unfit for any human community, his professional skills having robbed him of his soul.”         Anonymous

As a frequent expert witness, I have observed that the same behavior is common among lawyers who are conducting cross examination in any court procedure.

The source of the above portrait of a prosecutor is uncertain. I first discovered it in the book “Anatomy of a Murder.” However, I have seen several versions that predate that bestselling novel. Some of the individuals so described were not court officials, prosecutors, or attorneys. The premise of all these versions is that accusing is evil.

Author’s note*  The word Satan was not originally the proper name of an evil, supernatural being. Satan was the title of a court official. In ancient courts of law the person who had the official function of “blaming” a citizen bore the title “Satan.” The person we call "prosecutor" was called “Satan” by the ancients. That is why the Bible refers to Satan as "The Accuser."

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