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Christian Counseling - Politicians Behaving Badly

Another week... another scandal. It seems we cannot open our newspapers without seeing another politician fall. First, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then John Edwards, and then Anthony Weiner. Each accused of using their power in inappropriate ways. Many people have asked me the question, "If these politicians are so smart, how is it that they seem so stupid?" Another way of looking at this is how did they think that they would not get caught?

There are many possible explanations for these issues. I will focus on one possible explanation that would not be unique or specific to the men mentioned above. There are personality traits that are often associated with people who pick certain careers. Politicians often score high on scales of narcissism and sociopathy. People who score high on narcissism and sociopathy typically lack empathy for others. In addition, there is a tendency toward manipulative behavior associated with narcissism and sociopathy.

Lack of empathy and manipulative behavior has often been associated with career politicians. However, this does not explain the risky behavior that some politicians display. One explanation for this is the idea of homeostasis. Our personalities, like our body temperature, seek level ground. When we get too hot, we sweat, which serves to cool our body to a natural set point (typically 98.6). Well, we also have a set point for arousal. Some people have a higher set point for arousal than others. The set point for arousal of those with narcissistic or sociopathic traits is often significantly higher than others. What this means is that a "normal" family or sex life does not help them reach their natural set point. As a result, they feel a need to engage in more arousing activities to reach that set point. For some people, this results in engaging in risky sexual behavior.

Finally, like with drug abuse, as they engage in riskier sexual behavior, they get used to, or become habituated to the sexual behavior and need to increase the behavior either in terms of frequency or severity to reach the previous level of arousal. This increase in the behavior sometimes results in the person being "found out".

The above answer represents only one possible answer as to why some people, not just politicians, engage in this type of sexual behavior. It is not meant to excuse behavior. Rather, the above serves as one possible explanation for certain behaviors.

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