Interview: Revista “Isto é” – June/05/2005

Nobody is good
The psychiatrist declares that people divide themselves into the selfish or generous type due to weakness and not according to will. Neither type deserves applause.
Camilo Vannuchi

Caption: Gikovate is a doctor, graduated from the University of São Paulo in 1966, who has treated over seven thousand patients in his brief therapy clinic. He was a pioneer in broaching the themes of love and sexuality in Brazil. His first book was written thirty years ago, and since then he published another 23.

A diabolic plot. That is how 63 year old Flávio Gikovate classifies the division between selfish and generous people in his book Good, Evil and Beyond (MG Editores, 160 pages, R$ 29,70), to be launched next Tuesday the 14th in São Paulo. His counseling experience led him to conclude that almost all couples – also in social liaisons between friends – base their relationship on established exchanges between a more demanding, boisterous and emotionally high strung personality and another that is more mature and excessively understanding. A somewhat Manicheist division? Gikovate says no. “It is not my fault if there are only two types of people”, he remarks. The novelty presented in the book is that, from his point of view, generous persons do not constitute the goodness team, as accepted by common sense, nor are selfish persons the villains. His hypothesis is that the different reactions to human emotions, such as vanity, envy, guilt and humiliation, determine the individual profile. The wretchedness of the selfish types is due to the fact that they depend on the generous types, just as the generous types are needy of the selfish ones.

ISTO É – What led you to write about the ancient opposition between good and evil?

Flávio Gikovate – Moral issues have been present in my work for a while, but in the past I treated selfishness as something worse than generosity. In 1976 I wrote that there were two types of love, based on difference or on similarity. The great majority of couples are formed by antagonistic types. The current fad is to speak of soul mates, but people continue to be attracted to their opposites and agreeing that opposites attract each other. The attraction between opposites has many causes, beginning with a difficulty in self-esteem (disliking your way of being and being attracted to the opposing way); and even the fear of very intense passion as established between similar personalities. Passion, as opposed to the majority of relationships, occurs between similar persons.

ISTO É – Why?

Gikovate – Passion is love of great intensity conjoined with fear in great intensity. The heart does not beat to the tempo of love but fear. And many people believe that when passion cools, love also dwindles. But it is only the fear that diminishes. Yet many passions end when the lovers do not bear what I call fear of happiness. This fear is at the root of superstitious thinking. The evil eye has existed for five thousand years. The fear of happiness arises when we are experiencing many good things and labor under the impression that lightning will strike us down any moment. Many prefer to bond with a different person so as to guarantee some degree of irritation. Uniting with an antagonistic personality causes both enchantment and annoyance. In a passionate relationship, affinities are enormous, both combine admirably well, and panic installs itself. Separations occur on account fear, not due to any obstacles.

ISTO É – Is that why the majority of couples is composed of a selfish and a generous person?

Gikovate – Between two selfish individuals a relationship is impossible. Too many fights ensue. It does not cause psychiatric problems but orthopedic ones (laughter). When the selfish person is married to a generous one, the latter appeases conflicts. Passion almost always occurs between two generous persons who end up forsaking their generosity. They would be a perfect match if the generous person, as psychologically mixed up as the selfish one, would learn acceptance.

ISTO É – What are the generous and selfish types like?

Gikovate – The selfish type is unrestrained, jealous, and indulges in self promotion; he is an extrovert because he is incapable of being alone and does not tolerate frustration. He raises hell with the devil to avoid frustration, to the point of overriding other people´s rights. From the age of six on, a child is capable of abstraction and can place himself in another´s shoes. If a child sees another in a wheel chair and imagines himself in the same situation, he suffers. And a child who is unable to bear that pain will interrupt the process. It will grow up with a one sided view of the world and will perpetuate a self centered pattern. They are envious people, even if they always show themselves off well. This baffles psychoanalysts to this day, since they founded the concept of narcissism.

ISTO É – Does narcissism not exist?

Gikovate – It is a concept used to describe people with an attitude of “I am the best”, as if they really judged themselves that way, but that is not true. They know they are a bluff. They pretend to be superior because they are conscious of their envy and jealousness. They need to receive more than they give. Mathematically, they are emotionally bankrupt persons. They may put on airs as much as they want but they are weak.

ISTO É – And what are the generous types like and why should they not be viewed as models of goodness?

Gikovate – The generous person is the opposite of the selfish type. He does not assert himself when appropriate, he is unable to inflict pain to another person, and tamely puts up with a heap of annoyance. He says a lot of ‘yes’ when he should say no. When you are 8 years old and are a good boy and your brother begins to cry because he wants your ball, you cannot stand the remorse that you imagine yourself feeling and so you relinquish the ball. But that was not what you wanted to do. Then your mother comes and says that you are kind. The praise stimulates vanity, which hooks up with generosity. Again this is a trick to feel superior at the expense of a weakness. The generous type also envies the selfish one for his capacity to say no and to enjoy the pleasures of life, while the generous person is so full of shamefacedness and constraint. Both types wind up as no-goods.

ISTO É – Is society to blame for valuing concession as a virtue?

Gikovate – To have a kind son, there must be a naughty one. The mother could address the son who wants the ball saying “don´t be such a nuisance, the ball belongs to your brother”. But when reinforcing the generosity of one of her children, she also reinforces the selfishness of the other. There is no generosity without selfishness. Once in a while I watch these evangelic television shows and wonder what would become of them without Satan. There would be no shows. This duality is pathetic and ridiculous. In order to be the good, the nice one, to go to heaven and to become the nipple from which everyone sucks, there needs to be a parasite to suck it all up. There is a bond, in the domain of the leading circles in society, between the generous and the selfish types. I compare them to the priest and the warrior. The priest would be the good one and the warrior the evil one. Both have always visited each other and divided power.

ISTO É – Is Lula more like the warrior or the priest?

Gikovate – According to his nature and temperament, Lula would be the generous type. But after invested with power… Once I read an interview with a French philosopher who said that there are no leftists in government. By definition, the left wing creates ideas when in the opposition. Power is not the place for ideas, but an environment for action, where the ideas generated on the outside can be put to good use. Generosity is practically impossible in office. Lula is a ruler who, as all others, needs to establish political associations. And not all friends are generous. People change their character and grow worse over the years.

“According to his temperament, Lula would be the generous type. But once invested with power… Generosity is practically impossible in office.”

ISTO É – Are you still referring to Lula?

Gikovate – No. I mean generally. You have probably heard that someone who was a socialist in his youth and has not become a pragmatic individual at 45, is an idiot. As if idealism were a youthful flaw that must be cured over time until it transforms into selfishness. I believe there is a third set up beyond this duality. It is a morally sophisticated individual, neither selfish nor generous, who tolerates frustration well and does not feel unjustified guilt, and whom I would call the fair type.

ISTO É – Would that be the pinnacle of individualism?

Gikovate – In the good sense of the word, yes. Individuality means self-sufficiency. The selfish and the generous type are not self-sufficient. The fair type is. He will establish relationships without the need for power games. He does not give more than he receives nor does he receive more than he gives. The interesting point is that modern society has a tendency to move toward the fair type.

ISTO É – Is society not moving toward a more selfish world?

Gikovate – It would seem so, due to the enhancement of a superficial culture, connected to vanity and based on appearances. But the fact is that not everybody fits into this system. There are no jobs for all, nor sufficient nipples to suck. When I think about individualism, I compare it to iPod. You feed it with hundreds of tunes and board the subway where you swing to a sound that only you can hear. Among the ten million inhabitants of New York, three million live alone. São Paulo is also like that. It is becoming the land of dogs. If the generous types begin to exchange their partners for dogs, the world will be changed. Especially since dogs reciprocate. When selling iPods, the enthusiasts of the consumer society are producing the seeds to destroy capitalism itself. The individual who is more self sufficient by himself will consume less because his vanity needs fewer external instruments. He will be closer to democratic happiness and further removed from aristocratic happiness.

ISTO É – What is the difference?

Gikovate – You cannot favor things that are not there for everybody. Even intellectuals make this mistake. Elements of aristocratic happiness such as beauty, riches and intelligence, condemn the ugly, the poor, and those who had no access to education to unhappiness. I stand up for democratic happiness, of the kind that is there for everyone, such as love, for example. The fair type is satisfied with that. He does not condemn anyone to unhappiness.

ISTO É – How can we reach a world where the fair type prevails?

Gikovate – Everyone will have to evolve. Quality relationships will be the only stable ones, both friendship and marital wise. And, when education does not favor two competing models, all the children can grow up good. Besides, it is stupid to believe that marriages without quarrels are tedious. Life is only tedious between two people if they are both boring. Boredom arises from lack of recycling among mates. But this does not mean that altercations favor the relationship.

ISTO É – That may arise from the belief that quarrels act as sexual stimuli for the majority of people.

Gikovate – That is not a belief. Sex is connected to aggressiveness in our culture – it is considered part of the devil´s domain – and complicates good quality relationships. In our culture, differences always engender envy. Freud talked about the penis envy experienced by girls. Teenage boys start to envy the alluring power of girls. Then women become the object of their desire and men drool over them. It is the origin of machismo and of jokes about women. The macho man feels both anger and desire for the woman. Yet it does not mean that it is impossible to have sex without hate.

ISTO É – Is that where we are headed to?

Gikovate – Yes. The modern world disentails sex from aggressiveness in spite of the capitalistic system which fosters human unhappiness. Unhappiness does not only enrich my colleagues (psychotherapists), but it is profitable to industry. Casual dating completely alters this relationship of hate and envy. At the age when boys drooled over girls, they already kiss them. For the first time, a boy of 14 exercises his sexuality with someone his own age and in his same social class. Without having to pay. Boys do not run after women as wolfishly as before. Parents sometimes bring their children to my office, fearing that they are homosexual. “Don´t fuss, man. It will happen”, they say. Nowadays, they allow themselves the right to wait until the girls approach them.

ISTO É – Is the generous type of the couple capable of being selfish in business?

Gikovate – That is rare. But the generous type is smart. He establishes highly convenient associations. He partners up with selfish types who engage in shady business transactions and profits from them. His business associate is a trickster who conducts illicit business, but he profits from the money while remaining the nice one. The generous type is an opportunist in disguise. He provides his family with a beautiful home but lives in it. He says he would not mind to live in a “dump”, but has trouble separating and giving up the house. It is all a spectacle.

ISTO É – Speaking of spectacle, do Ronaldo and Cicarelli fit the model?

Gikovate – As an outsider I would say that they seem like two selfish types who are unable to stick together longer than it serves their mutual interests. Maybe Ronaldo places his interests above everything else; I have the impression that Milene (his first wife) was the more tolerant one. Even so, she could not cope. So he settled for one in a league of his own. Three months was a long time even for them. It did not give them enough time to have orthopedic problems (laughter).

“As an outsider I would say that Ronaldo and Cicarelli seem like two selfish persons who are unable to stick together longer than it serves their mutual interests”.