By Herbie Gomez
ONE displays an “imeldific” lifestyle while the other shows off his motorcycles stunts. They’re lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, appear to be overly concerned with how they look––and both have a penchant for expensive cars.
The similarities between Cagayan de Oro Rep. Jose Benjamin Benaldo of the 1st District of Cagayan de Oro and Lynard Allan Bigcas, the man linked to big-time smuggling, arms possession and now illegal drugs, are striking and too conspicuous even one with an untrained eye would suspect that something different is taking place behind all that loudness, and the superficial appearance they put on.
“All I’m saying is, all the signs and tendencies are there,” said psychology teacher Vera Dereka Orcullo as she expressed concern for one of the city’s representatives to the Lower House.
Orcullo, who teaches personality psychology and abnormal psychology in two of the city’s biggest schools, said the congressman’s “inner conflicts” would likely take its toll on public service sooner or later, if it hasn’t been affecting his work in the Lower House yet.
Orcullo gave this unsolicited advice: “He (Benaldo) should try to seek counseling. It’s acceptable, there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m sure he has inner conflicts that needs to be resolved.”
She said Benaldo’s behavior and lifestyle––his fondness for expensive designer clothing and accessories, gadgets, cars, parties and barhopping, attention-grabbing videos and photos of himself or with celebrities and even his frequent trips abroad––were signs of histrionic personality disorder (HPD).
Such condition is characterized by intense, unstable emotions, distorted self-images and “high need for attention,” said Orcullo.
“He doesn’t behave like he’s forty-something and that’s probably because he is ‘feeling young’ and wants to show it to people. This is not to say that it’s already a disorder. These are merely tendencies and symptoms,” she said.
She said there is no way that a person with signs of HPD could be properly diagnosed unless he or she undergoes a thorough assessment and evaluation by a licensed professional using appropriate behavior measuring tools.
But as Orcullo watched Benaldo’s eyebrow-raising 55-second boxing video production on YouTube, she snapped: “What for?”
She said the widely criticized “political infomercial” was apparently not intended for the congressman’s politics. Rather, she opined, “it was to grab attention.”
“His ways are not conventional and he is so unlike most politicians. All politicians want attention because they need it for political purposes but they do it appropriately. Their motivation is politics and not self-gratification,” Orcullo said.
She said people with HPD are attention seekers who have an excessive need for approval. Often, she said, they exhibit inappropriate behavior intended to get attention and have the tendency to be vain and flirtatious.
She said people with HPD also tend to exaggerate their emotions and behavior––like pulling off motorcycle and car stunts in public even when they are not asked to or going to a depressed area dressed up like a matinee idol.
“Sometimes, they’re even happy with bad publicity because their real purpose is to get attention,” said Orcullo. “They exaggerate and dramatize their difficulties.”
She said they also have good social skills which are often used to manipulate other people so that they would become the center of attention from which they draw satisfaction. “That probably explains why Benaldo wants to be seen in public with foreigners and celebrities.”
People with HPD have the tendency to party a lot or go to expensive places so they would be associated with those who are popular, she said.
“They could place themselves in risky situations, and they don’t care what other people think because it’s all about self-gratification. They are happy to think nga daghan gakasuya sa ilaha,” she said. “But the truth is, they’re the ones who are really feeling insecure.”
The problem, she said, is people with HPD often do not see the real picture, and indulge in fantasies that they are superior and their critics are merely insecure of them. Generally, they do not believe they need professional help.
Orcullo said the condition could worsen unless people with symptoms of HPD seek intervention. “It could damage one’s normal thinking and normal actions, and affect a person’s behavior toward other people. The worst thing that could happen is if it becomes neurotic.”
She said the condition develops as a result of repressed emotions during childhood, and the signs come out during early adulthood.
“In most cases, the disorder results from lack of attention and approval at home during childhood,” Orcullo said.
Orcullo said factors that might cause the disorder include a lack of criticism or punishment as a child, positive reinforcement that is given only when a child completes certain approved behaviors, and unpredictable attention given to a child by his or her parent. All these, she said, could lead to confusion about what types of behavior earn parental approval.
The condition, she said, should be taken seriously because unless some intervention is made, “a person’s excessive need for attention could pose dangers to himself and other people.”
“Some go to the extent of jumping off a cliff just to get attention because they feel that the things they do are no longer enough for self-gratification. They would always crave for more,” Orcullo said.