Search Results for: being contrarian

On Being Contrarian…

As a mother, therapy student, and healthcare worker, it seems the majority of my time is spent in the care of others.  As a Healer INFP personality type this endeavor suits me for the most part. However, as time has progressed, I’ve come to the realization that I’m becoming an adaptive reaction to others’ needs.  I have so little say in who I am becoming.  Everybody’s “baggage” tends to pile up after a long week.  When I review the endless needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires of those I provide care for, an “F’d” up hall of mirrors presents itself.  Within each individual’s worldview are a set of perceptual distortions That I become lost in.  I am unseen behind what is projected upon me….

EmperorCumulatively, these experiences are much like “The Emperor Has No Clothes”  fable.  What I like about this story is it represents effectively the notion of pluralistic ignorance: “a socio-psychological phenomenon that involves a systematic discrepancy between people’s private beliefs and public behavior in certain societal contexts” (Bjerring, et al, 2014, p. 2445).  This aggravates me to no end.  As I see it, pluralistic ignorance is the perpetuation of bullshit.  It requires us to pretend the king is not naked.  Effectively, in the context of the social situation, truth becomes bullshit and bullshit becomes truth.  A part of me feels compelled mention that the king is naked.  However, memories of ostracism  hold me back.   I stay quiet while my thoughts scream at me from inside.  Underlying a plastered smile, is a mind filled with aggravation.

I have to admit, by doing this I’m denying my true nature.  As a contrarian individual, I tend to see things in a manner which is counter to the norm.  Part of this has to do with my own temperament-based preferences, which I will discuss at another time.   Here,  I would like to examine a few interrelated concepts from psychology that can explain pluralistic ignorance.  Why is it we tend to collude with one another in order to perpetuate bullshit in this manner?

Piaget’s Schemas

Developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget studied cognitive development and believed it emerged in stages (i.e. sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational).   In his theory, is the concept of schemas, defined as building block of knowledge that allow children to interact with their environment  (Piaget, 1952). Schemas provide mental representations of the world and help us make sense of what we encounter.  Through a process of assimilation and accommodation, we incorporate new information in order to refine our understanding of the world. (Piaget, 1952).  Žvelc, (2009), also notes that since they provide a representation of ourselves and others, they have a profound affect on our interpersonal relationships.

What I find interesting about this concept, is it mirrors insights from Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (Kuhn, 2012).   According to Kuhn, academic fields tend to operate on an implicit set of beliefs and assumptions or “paradigm”.  Paradigms are explanatory models of belief systems that guide the progression of knowledge within a scientific field.  New insights are utilized to expand the prevailing paradigmatic explanatory model – until something unique is encountered.  This anomaly produces a crisis – and eventually a new paradigm, (much in the same manner as Piaget describes with schemas).  These views of cognitive development and scientific discovery both provide a Hegelian dialectical perspective of progress.

Goffman’s Frames

In his book, “Frame Analysis”, Erving Goffman seems to describe social frames as constructed schemas of interpretation (Goffman, 1974).  They provide a socially constructed agenda-setting framework, that give us a background for understanding social interactions.  This allows us to engage in impression management.   Much of this occurs outside of our awareness, at a subconscious level.  For example, personal experiences are imbued with social meaning in ways we are often do not realize.  Goffman’s theory is very dramaturgical in nature and provides a convenient way of examining our daily interactions as “performances”.  Essentially, as his theory asserts, our experiences are organized on the basis of social constructs which provide us meaning.   In order to function in the social world, we must frame our experiences within this meaning system.

Berne’s Scripts

In his book “Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy”, Eric Berne, (1961), provides a theory which is useful in analyzing social interactions.  His theory uses the concept of life scripts to describe a set of “unconscious relational patterns” (Erskine, 2010, p. 24).  Developed in childhood, they are relational patterns that reflect our attachment history and are repeated throughout life.  Scripts exist within limbic memory and influence our thoughts, perceptions and behaviors.  Finally, they provide “a generalization of specific experiences and an unconscious anticipation…that will be repeated throughout life” (Erskine, 2010, p. 22).  Berne uses the term “transference phenomena” (Ereskine, 2010, p. 15) to describe this repetitive nature reflected through our relationship history.

Concluding Thoughts…

Schemas are building blocks we utilize to understand our world in early childhood.  Goffman’s frames exist as an adult corollary, providing a means of impression management.  Finally, Berne’s scripts tie these two concepts together by allowing us to understand how our interactions are influenced by early childhood experiences.  Much of what we understand about the world, are assumed to be matters of fact. We expect others to see as we do with socially relevant meaning systems that can act as a guide for our interactions with one another. We expect others to comply behaviorally with this system of meaning regardless of whether it contradicts that individual’s true nature or lived experience.  We are disappointed when they do not comply for failing to validate this perceptual construct.  Kuhn calls contradictory evidence an anomaly (Kuhn, 2012).  Piaget (1952), asserts it is either assimilated or accommodated.  Berne (1961) uses script analysis to understand how social constructs influence our understanding of these relational anomalies. Overall, these concepts describe effectively how pluralistic ignorance is self-perpetuating.

As a contrarian, I feel it is important to note that “objective fact” and “common sense” are terms that often do not mean what we think they do.  They also happen to be highly overrated.  What is often perceived as “common sense” is instead a requisite deference to a schema-oriented social framework.  Objective facts frequently constitute lying by omission, when you consider their presentation edits out the fact that our experience of reality is Inherently subjective.  As a biracial individual, I have a lifetime of experiences with cultural relativism to back up this idea.  Things are never what they appear to be and we need to dig deeper…

What about the radical notion of thinking for myself and to hell with what others think?  There is something to be said for honoring my unique experience rather than bowing down to the bullshit perpetuated by “conventional wisdom”.

References

Berne, E. (1961). Transactional analysis in psychotherapy: A systematic individual and social psychiatry.
Bjerring, J. C., Hansen, J. U., Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee (2014). On the rationality of pluralistic ignorance. Synthese, 191(11), 2445-2470. doi:10.1007/s11229-014-0434-1
Erskine, R. G. (2010).Life scripts: A transactional analysis of unconscious relational patterns. London: Karnac.
Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Harvard University Press.
Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago press.
Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children (Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 18-1952). New York: International Universities Press.
Žvelc, G. (2009). Between self and others: Relational schemas as an integrating construct in psychotherapy. Transactional Analysis Journal, 39(1), 22-38.

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Post Archive of My Favorite Subjects….

imageIts funny, I was never a good student growing up.   The bullying was tough, & focusing on my education was impossible.  As an adult, I find myself back in school pursuing a graduate degree.  I have to admit I’m a bit of a “geek”, I really enjoy education as an end goal in itself.  This page contains an alphabetical list of favorite subjects (As well as a miscellaneous array of fun stuff).

Assessments

What is the WHODAS???
The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale
An ACE’s Study Assignment
Treatment Plan
Biopsychosocial Assessment
Mental Status Exam
Suicide Assessment
Understanding & Handling Resistance


A Review of Basic Counseling SKills

Confrontation, reflecting, focusing & influencing
Questioning & Listening Responses 
Active Listening Skills
Basic Attending Skills
Empathy, what is it? 
Feeling the Incompetence
Validation: what is it exactly?


Blast from the Past

The Story of an Almost Suicide
The Happy Family Game
Raggedy Ann & The China Dolls
A Recovering Schlumpadinka
“Why couldn’t I be what they want?”
“I’m sort of like a social plague. Why do I have to be me?”
In my Own Defense
I Suffer From Pathological Naviete
The Girl Who Refused to Speak
In my an “other”
An Interview with my Mother
I am a parental child and scapegoat
OMG he’s leaving us!


Case Formulation

MCC 670 – Data Gathering Assignment
MCC 670 – Metamodal Questions
MCC 670 – BASIC SID
MCC 670 – Defining the Problem 
MCC 670 – Setting Outcome Goals
MCC 670 – Subjective vs Objective
MCC 670 – Treatment Plan
MCC 670 – Crisis & Trauma
MCC 670 – Clinical Hypothesis
MCC 670 – Attachment Interventions
MCC 670 – Body & Emotions
MCC 670 – Existential & Spiritual Models
MCC 670 – Social & Environmental Models
MCC 670 – Behavior & Learning Models
MCC 670 – Cognitive Models
MCC 670 – Psychodynamic Models


Counseling Ethics

Boundary Setting
Informed Consent…
Nature & Limits of Confidentiality


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT Skills – Emotional Regulation
DBT Skills – Interpersonal Effectiveness
DBT Skills – Distress Tolerance
DBT Skills – Mindfulness
DBT Skills – Radical Acceptance
What is DBT?


Group Therapy Classes…

((During my very first internship, I was expected to run several therapy groups independently. No curriculum was provided, so I had to scramble to learn the subject.  What follows is a log of research-related information which chronicles this experience.)))

Codependency Class Research
Parents in Recovery Research 

Identity & Self-Perception

Identity Defined
Personal Identity – on being full of hot air
Ego vs Shadow
On Being Contrarian
The Nature of Belief Systems
The Go-It-Alone-Mentality
PART ONE: I am a “Seer of Unseeable Things”
PART TWO: Understanding “Unseen Things”


Life Lessons

The Art of Failure
psychology of the Trump supporter
Second Chances
Loving what is right or hating what is wrong?
Seeking answers: on my computer
Living in Oppositeland
Feeling the Gratitude….(& A Few Oprah Favorites)
A Genogram Assignment
An Emotional Hot Potato
A Quick Show-N-Tell
One Life. Live it!
Promises
Is there a cure for Intellectualizing???
A Final Creative Project
What Would They Say?


Misunderstanding & Forgiveness

Anatomy of a Misunderstanding
& Cancer Trumps PSTD
Transactional Analysis (A Move Beyond Understanding)
The Power of Forgiveness
What Forgiveness is & isn’t
Collateral Damage
“I message” vs. “you messages”
“And” Statements vs. “But” Statements 


Myers Briggs Typology (MBTI)

INFP: “A food log for the mind…”
Understanding Introverted Feeling
Understanding Extroverted Intuition


Motivational Inteviewing & The Stages of Change

Stages of Change
What is Motivational Interviewing?
Motivational Interviewing & Resistance
Motivational Interviewing & Ambivalence
“Git Er Done!!!” – Motivation & Change
Stages of Change: Treatment Needs & Strategies….
Stages of Change & Domestic Abuse Survivors
Dealing with Uncooperative Clients
Changes Talk


Nature of Love

Twisted Self-Deception
Codependency, what is it???
The Irony of Love
It’s Unspoken Rules


Sometimes I Feel Overwhelmed: here is me “pissing & moaning” about it

shit job
I hate my fucking job
Pulling my Head Out
OMG!!! I Really Need to Take a Frickin’ Chill-Pill…
Sofa-Surfing With My Husband…
When Will This Fuckin’ Hell End???


Parenting Experiences

and it only took one month!
My Shameful Parenting Story
Good-Enough Parenting
Happy Birthday Piglet!!!
My Mother’s Day
He Turns 16 Today!!!
Sofa-Time Snuggle
OMG He’s Leaving us!!!


Self-Help Junkie

Insights from Brene Brown
Understanding Shame


Stuckness & Resistance

“Getting Unstuck” & Why I Started this Blog
Defining Goals for This Blog
My Merry-Go-Round
An Underdog’s Credo: “Choking vs. Panic”
Arrested Development (Erikson Not the Show)
Dealing with Uncooperative Clients
Understanding & Handling Resistance
Coercion & Confrontation
Accepting Responsibility: shame, blame, guilt & Resentment


Studying The DSM-5

mdd-vs-dysthymia
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Dexter Morgan
Psychopathology & DSM Diagnosis
Dexter Morgan
schizophrenia
childhood onset schizophrenia
the accurate diagnosis of psychosis
Generalzied Anxiety Disorder
G.A.D. – “The Stress is Killing Me!!!”
An Overview of Childhood Anxiety Disorders…
An Overview of Autism
An Overview of ADHD
An Overview of Bipolar Disorder
An Overview of Depression
Conduct Disorder & ODD (An Overview)
Borderline Personality Disorder


Studying for the NCE – “Assessment Section”

Rosenthal on Assessment Section of NCE
Transforming Raw Scores
Validity
Reliability
Cognitive Assesssments
Norm/Criterion/Self Referenced Scoring
Basic Assessment Skills 
NCE Assessment Section – “The SASSI”
NCE Assessment Section – “The MMPI”
NCE Assessment Section – (Midterm Review Notes???)
NCE Assessment Section – (Cognitive Assessments)
NCE Assessment Section – (Reliability)
NCE Assessment Section – (Validity)
NCE Assessment Section – (Transforming Raw Scores)


Studying for the NCE – “Family Therapy Section”

Rosenthal on Family Section of NCE
Essential Family Skills
What is Family Therapy?
Solution-Focused Family Therapy
Murray Bowen Family Systems Theory
A Family Genogram
Contextual Family Therapy
Symbolic-Experimental Therapy
Satir Human Validation Process Model
Imber-Black Family Secrets
Strategic Family Therapy
Narrative Family Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy


Studying for the NCE – Research & Program Evaluation

NCE – Research & Program Evaluation


Studying for the NCE – Group Therapy

NCE – Group Therapy


Studying for The NCE – Social & Cultural Foundations

Multicultural Competency
A Cultural Self-Assessment
Culture & Rapport
Counseling Latino Clients 
Psychological Testing Bias
Counseling Older Adults
Asian-American Families
Understanding LGBT Clients 
Understanding Native Americans


Studying for the NCE – Counseling Theories

Choosing a Theoretical Orientation
Introduction To Behavioral Approaches
Classical Conditioning
Operant Condition-Inspired Models of Therapy
Karen Horney (Psychoanalysis)
Alfred Adler (Alderian Psychology)
Carl Jung (Analytic Psychology)
What is Psychodynamic Therapy???
Freud’s Ego Defense Mechanisms (Psychoanalysis)
Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalysis)
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
Aaron Beck’s CBT
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
Carl Rogers Nondirective Approach
Transactional Analysis
Reality Therapy 
Existential Psychotherapy
Gestalt Therapy
Narrative Therapy
Solution-Focused Therapy


Studying for the NCE – Human Growth & Development

Attachment Therory
Robert Kegan “The Evolving Self”
R. J. Havinghurst
Lev Vygotsky
Harry Stack Sullivan
Margaret Mahler
Freud’s Psychosexual Stages
Lawrence Kohlberg
William Perry
Jean Piaget


Studying for the NCE – Career Counseling

Rosenthal Overview of Career Counseling
Prescriptive vs. Proscriptive Decision Making
Self-Efficacy
Super’s Model
SSI Method
Parson’s Steps


The Nature of Emotions

The Nature of Emotions: Part #1
The Nature of Emotions: Part #2
The Intelligence of Emotions…
The Intelligence of Emotions, (Contd.)
Feelings about Feelings
Stolen Watermelons Taste Better


Miscellaneous

Dreams, Plans & Goals!!!
Fuck Facebook!!!


 Trauma & Healing Old Wounds

(HERE’S MY HUBBY’S STORY)“It was the most miserable day of my life” 

The earliest origins of my trauma started at home and continued at school.  There was no abatement for me, it was ongoing and continual.  I was completely alone
  1. (IT STARTED AT HOME) Happy Family Game
  2. (IT CONTINUED AT SCHOOL) The Girl With The Cooties
  3. (& THE BULLYING GOT REALLY BAD) Bullying as a Group Process
  4. (& THEN I EXPERIENCED OSTRACISM BY MY CUNTY COUSINS) Raggedy Ann & The China Dolls
And these experiences left me with a lousy self-esteem & years of built-up misunderstanding that took a while for my family to work through  They struggled to accept the traumas I was working through, & strangely enough I had to apologize for the reality of this fact.
  1. (HERE’S WHERE I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY OWN HURT)Anatomy of a Misunderstanding 
  2. (THIS DESCRIBES MY FEELINGS OF SHAME & INVALIDATION) Shame, Invalidation & A Little Baggage
  3. (& HERE IS THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE) Collateral Damage
But leaving home didn’t solve matters.  I carried the aftereffects of these early experiences with me & They infected my life, like the bubonic plague.
  1. (THIS IS A CONSEQUENCE OF PROLONGED SOCIAL ISOLATION)“Why Couldn’t I Be What I Want?”
  2. (THIS IS WHERE I ATTRIBUTE MY LIFE – A BYPRODUCT OF A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCES – TO MYSELF….SINCE EVERYTING IS COMPLETEY MY FAULT) “Why do I have to be me?”
  3. (THEN HERE IS WHERE THINGS GET REALLY BAD, I MEET “IT”) Stages of Change
  4. (THEN THIS IS WHERE I MEET AN ASSWIPE WITH ZERO EMPATHY WHO TAKES ADVANTAGE OF ME) A Recovering Schlumpadinka
  5. (AND THIS IS WHERE I FEEL COMPLETELY BROKEN & ALONE) The Story of an Almost Suicide
However, it does get better, but not without a few hiccups along the way.  Here are the latest posts describing my journey toward healing.
  1. (THEN MY PARENTS SUPPORT MY SISTER THRU CANCER & I REMEMBER THE TRAUMA OF BEING ALONE IN THE HOSPITAL AFTER A SUICDE ATTEMPT.  THEY WERE NEVER THERE FOR ME)  & Cancer Trumps PTSD
  2. (THIS IS WHERE I TAKE A CLASS ON THE DSM-5 AND REALIZE I HAVE DISSOCIATIVE PTSD) Dissociative PTSD
  3. (THIS IS WHERE I WRITE DOWN MY SURVIVAL PLAN FOR A WORLD THAT FEELS LIKE A HOT POTATO)A PTSD Survival Plan
  4. (THIS IS WHERE I RECOGNIZE TRAUMA AS A COLLECTIVE & SOCIOLOGICAL PHENOMENON) Collective Trauma
However, I hate to leave on such a down note.  Here are my reflections on this lifelong journey of healing.  
  1. (HERE I DESCRIBE THE OPTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO BEGIN HEALING) Holding onto Hurt or Letting it Go
  2. (HERE IS A BIT OF ADVICE I HEARD FROM A CLIENT) HOPE = “Hold on Pain Ends”
  3. (HERE I REFLECT ON HOW HEALING HAS ALLOWED ME TO GET “UNSTUCK”) “Getting Unstuck & Why I Started this Blog”

Finally, here are a few references pages, containing critical information I need to access often.

This link provides information on how to properly complete essential paperwork I will encounter as a therapist.
This post provides an overview of the Mental Status Exam.
This post provides an excellent summary of Substance Use Disorders as discussed in the DSM-5

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Who THE HELL do you think you are anyway?!?!

Understanding Shame…

imageIn a previous post I review a favorite self-help author of mine, Brene Brown (link above). I first learned about her from a now-famous Ted Talk video (see link above). Through her work, I was first introduced to the concept of shame: “an intensely painful feeling that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of accepting and belonging” (Brown, 2006, p45). In this post, I’d like to continue with this train of thought & share some insights on how to recognize shame. While no real preventative cure to shame exists, if you are aware of what triggers feelings of shame, you’re empowered to grow beyond its confines. What follows are insights I’ve recorded in an old journal based on Brene Brown’s work on shame resilience….

 

Personal Identity – on being full of hot air…

EmperorOne night after my family went to bed, I began my homework. While sifting through journal articles, the above quote jumped out at me. In light of recent affairs, it forced me to stop and think. At this point in life, I’m working hard to overcome old patterns and “get unstuck”. In addition to working on a Master’s degree, I’m trying to pay off some debt, and lose weight. As I work on accomplishing these goals, (and overcome a few old vices), I hope to maximize my efforts with a bit of radical self-responsibility. The idea that my hard work could yield another hamster-wheel experience frightens me.

 

Ego vs. Shadow

imageI found this strange table in an old journal titled “ego vs. shadow”. It described the consequences of denying certain parts of myself while presenting other parts to the world. I’m sure its a byproduct of the Jungian and Transactional Analysis stuff I’ve been reviewing. Since I thought you might find it entertaining, I’ve reproduced it here. This divisiveness of self starts out with a description of my hidden self and lived self. Keep in mind, I wouldn’t describe it as an iteration of theory but instead application of insights.

 

On Being Contrarian…

fddAs a mother, therapy student, and healthcare worker, it seems the majority of my time is spent in the care of others. As a Healer INFP personality type this endeavor suits my personality for the most part. However, as time has progressed, I’ve come to the realization that I’m becoming the adaptive reaction to others’ needs. I have so little say in who I am becoming. Everybody’s “baggage” tends to pile up after a long week. When I review the endless needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires of the people I care for after a long week, an “F’d” up hall of mirrors presents itself. Within each individual’s worldview are a set of perceptual distortions and I find I become lost in the mixed. I am unseen behind what other people tend to project upon me….

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Arrested Development??? (Erickson)

FireShot Capture 5 - erikson's eight stages - Google Search_ - https___www.google.com_search
Erik Erikson proposed a theory of personality development that includes eight stages.  In each stage we face developmental crises in order to develop a sense of identity alongside interpersonal beliefs through interactions with significant others (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010).  According to Erikson, two potential outcomes can result depending on how we address and resolve each developmental crisis [for each stage]…

 

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Welcome

image

img_0506

I am a full-time working mother living in the midwest who adores her family. As a healthcare worker & novice therapist, I spend 90% of my time in the service of others.  While this sort of activity suits me well as an INFP, I have to admit it the responsibility can be overwhelming at times.

This blog is the culmination of over 5 years of procrastination & represents for me a huge victory in overcoming a perpetual stuck-ness in my life.  With 5 years of therapy and well-earned lessons under my belt, I share my random thoughts on this journey through life.
This blog is a brain-dump for all the crap that collects within my mind after a long day.  There is a generous smattering academically-oriented information from years spent as a perpetual student.  Then there are the honest reflective thoughts collecting in my heart after years of personal and professional growth.  One common thread throughout it all is my own unique, contrarian & nerdy perspective

A lot of thought went into the creation of this blog. Ultimately, I’ve opted for a brutally honest approach to this creative endeavor.  I understand fully that there’s a chance that somebody I know might find this site, read it’s contents, & not like what they see here.  While I do regret the hurt feelings, when it comes to the traumas of my past, I feel it is vital that I speak of these experiences with great candor.  Doing so has been critical in my own healing process…

Read more about me here…

Thank’s for visiting!

PART ONE: I am a “Seer of Unseeable Things”

I’ve been mulling over the purpose of this blog lately. Realistically, I suspect it will reflect the state of my mind’s inner workings & what I’m focused on at the time.  Since I’m completing a graduate degree, my posts have had an academic focus.  However, over time I hope to do much more with it….

I am a “seer of unseeable things”

One experiential thread woven throughout the fabric of my  life is a feeling of living in opposite-land.  In this frustratingly unique life position I am a seer of unseeable things which others are blind to.

Truth becomes bullshit and bullshit becomes truth…

Throughout my life, I have struggled with the existence daily experiences that I know as matters of fact and others perceive as blasphemous bullshit.  Instead a slew of social rules (i.e. bullshit) are presented to me as a preferred and/or desired way of being.  I am to tow the line or suffer the consequences.

I attribute this two three factors:

Firstly, I am an INFP

The above video provides an excellent visual depiction of the introverted feeling function from an “insider’s perspective”. The view from inside the fizzy pop can is different than others might be lead to believe based on outside appearances.

Sometimes I wonder if my experience made me how I am or if I make my experiences through how I perceive them.  The Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator provides excellent insight into this “chicken-or-egg-question”.   I process information based on extraverted intuition.  This perceptual function has boundless curiosity, preferring to synthesize seemingly disparate perspectives into a multifaceted perspective based that carries greater truths not otherwise really see.  I make decisions and judgments based on deeply felt values that reflect the sum total of my life experiences.  I know this respect I’m a “lone wolf” who marched to the beat of my own thumb.

I seem to naturally gravitate toward a contrarian view of things: profoundly am aware of the idiot bullshit that underlies convention.

Secondly, I grew up a bullied & ostracized oddball.


I was always on the outside looking in.   The social universe of peers, friendships, and cliques was always foreign to me as a scary and mysterious universe!   For whatever reason, (an innate predisposition toward dorkiness), I was always the girl with cooties that nobody wanted to play with.   I did my own thing & retreated into my own world.  These early socialization experiences left their mark upon me as an adult incapable of faking normal.

You see, we all utilize our childhood as a developmental reference point experientially.  The coping methods we use & level of success we encounter in handling developmental tasks leave their mark.  I was fearful of social situations as a bullied child, had zero sense of self-efficacy. And adapted by retreating into my own world.

It’s, therefore, not really surprising that I am an introvert who is reluctant to open up to others. I have difficulty establishing friendships & trusting others…

Finally, I’m a biracial

Click here for a bill of rights for people of mixed race heritage


There are four abstract constructs which together are effective in developing a basic understanding of a biracial individual’s experience of race.  Together they explain what it is like to live within an unclear “in-between” space. These constructs are: (1) genotype; (2) phenotype; (3) identity; & (4) culture.  Understanding how they converge within an individual’s life can help quite a bit in explaining their racial identity.  They are useful in understanding the diversity of experiences amongst biracial experiences, as well as the issue of colorism…

Genotype vs. Phenotype…

Genotype refers to the DNA you carry within you.  You get half from your mother and half from your father.  For example, at geneaology.com they studies of populations around the world.  When individuals are isolated historically these populations tend to share genes for traits that are conducive to survival in that area.  When you submit a test at genealogy.com, they tell you what subsets of the human population are present in your genes.

Phenotype has to do with your physical features, how do you look?  What is the color of your skin, your face shape, and hair color?  The point is, you can have the same set of parents, but inherit different subsets.  Therefore, two genetically biracial individuals can have very different appearances.

I have a genotype / phenotype mismatch problem…

What is Identity?

The DSM-5 Manual defines Identity as follows:  “[the] experience of oneself as unique with clear boundaries between self and others; stability of self-esteem and accuracy of self appraisal; capacity for, and ability to regulate, a range of emotional experience.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p823).  As a biracial individual the experience of how others see us diverges from the inner knowing of who they are.  Regarding how others’ experience, I feel as if I’m a man inside a monkey suit wearing upon my being the preconceived notions of others.  I wait for somebody to see within to the real me, but it happens rarely.  R.D. Laing (1990), summarizes this experience succinctly in his book “The Divided Self”.  In contrast, the description of our inner sense of self is best described in my old course textbook (Corsini & Wedding, 2013).

I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man’s invisibility to man. Experience used to be called the soul.” (Laing, 1990, p18).
“The usual sense of the self as being who we ‘really are’ and as being continuous and consistent over time seems to be an illusory construction of imprecise awareness….similar to the ‘flicker fusion phenomenon’ by which photographs projected successively on a movie screen…we suffer from a case of mistaken identity. We are not who, or even what, we thought we were. What we take to be our real self is merely an illusory construct” (Wedding & Corsini, 2013, p467).

What is culture?

Culture provides another set of mental programs relevant to a society (Chung & Bemak, 2002). It consists of a shared system of meanings within society that define modes of expression and communication, (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Nazir, et al, 2009). It influences how we view the world around us and sets the normative standards for behavior (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Nazir, et al, 2009). As a form of “mental programming” (Chung & Bemak, 2002, p282), it defines our value systems and preferred ways of thinking and feeling.

So what does it mean to see unseen things?

**As a biracial individual I am unable to take sides and am provided a unique view of the social world that mono-racial individuals cannot conceive.  I am not what I am perceived to be. 
**As an INFP, it means I live in a rich inner world filled with uncommon yet-valid truths unrecognized to the majority as contradictory to conventional thinking.
**As a bullied child I was never provided an insider’s view of the social world.  I stood outside the social world.  I wanted in but never gained access.  I did my own thing and can’t handle the idea of having to “fake normal”…

believe it or not there’s actually a point to all this pissing & moaning 🙂

On the one hand, I find myself doubting the validity of my own experiences.  Was it real?  If it was real then the world is filled with idiots who prefer to engage in pluralistic ignorance in the name of Santa-Clause-Like bullshit notions.  Or, am l the crazy person filled with irrational & delusional thoughts?  If so, should I be locked away somewhere?   How do I filter through the reality of my experiences and manage the disparities between my inner and outer worlds?

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Chung, R.C.Y. & Bemak, F. (2002) The relationship of culture and empathy in cross- cultural counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development. (80) pp154-158.
Coplan, A. (2004). Empathetic engagement with narrative fictions. The journal of aesthetics and criticism.62(2)
Dictionary.com (n.d.). Suspension of Disbelief.  Retrieved from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/suspension-of-disbelief
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City. Doubleday.
Laing, R. D. (1960). The divided self. New York: Random House
Nazir, A, Enz, S, Lim, M.Y., Aylett, R., & Cawsey A. (2009). Culture-personality based affective model. AI & Society. 24(3) pp 281-293.
Wedding, D., & Corsini, R. (2013). Current Psychotherapies. (9thed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

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Bullying as a Group Process

What is bullying?

A review of scholarly resources produces several definitions of bullying.  Idsoe, et al, (2012) define bullying as “a subtype of aggressive behavior in which an individual or a group repeatedly and over time direct negative actions against individuals who are not able to defend themselves, meaning there is an imbalance of power between perpetrators and victims, (p. 901).”   Carney, (2009) defines bullying as encompassing three key characteristics:  “harm is done, an unfair match exists, and the actions are repeated over time, (p. 179).”  Cassidy, (2008) defines bullying as “negative actions—physical or verbal— that have hostile intent, are repeated over time, and involve a power differential between the bully and the victim, (p. 63).” As a social interaction that involves harm and a power imbalance, I feel it is important  to begin discussing bullying as a social process that reflects group dynamics and social norms.  From this perspective “bullying may be regarded a group phenomenon in which most children…have a defined Participant Role, (Salmivalli, etc all, 1996, p. 11).”  This post discusses bullying as a group process.

Bystanders & Participants

Bullying is a complex process defined by peer culture social norms.  It takes place in a social context and involves more than just the bully and victim.  When bullying happens, everyone can be “seen as having different roles in the process, driven by diverse emotions, attitudes, and motivations, (Salmivelli, 2010, p.  113).”Many bystanders are available to participate in the creation of a social context which gives this specific exchange meaning.  Even if these bystanders don’t actively participate, they conduct themselves in ways which promote the continuation of bullying behaviors. “What matters more than their real attitude to bullying…is how they behave in [such] situations (Salmivalli, et al, 1996, p. 2).”  The specific role a child holds in a bullying encounter and their response to this situation depend on their social and calculations of risk.  “…through their behaviour in these situations they take a position towards what is going on. This…has effects on the outcome of the episodes of harassment (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 454).”  In addition to bullies and victims, several other participatory roles can be observed:

Bully Assistants

Some children can be observed “eagerly join[ing] in the bullying when someone has started it and act as assistants of the bully, (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 454).” The ringleader will “initiate the harassment of one or more victims…assisted by students who actively help and support them (e.g., catching the victim), (Huitsing, et al, 2012, p. 494).”

Bully Reinforcer

“Others, even if they do not actively attack the victim, offer positive feedback to the bully. For instance, they come to see what is going on, thus providing an audience for him/her, or they incite him/her by laughing or by encouraging gestures. These students can be called reinforcers, (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 453-454).”

Outsiders

“Furthermore, a remarkable number of students tend to stay away and not to take sides with anyone: they have been named outsiders. Not even these children are, however, non-involved. In their way, they allow bullying to go on by silently approving it (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 453-454).”

Defenders

“Finally, there are also students whose behaviour is clearly anti-bullying: they comfort the victim, take sides with him/her, and try to make the others stop bullying. They are defenders (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 453-454).”

social roles as self-fulfilling prophecies

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“For victimized students it seems especially difficult to attain a different role amongst their peers. Even in a completely new class with no former classmates…Insecurity and fearful expectancies are likely to arise. Unfortunately, these are easily communicated to the new classmates, (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 455).”

Social roles consist of norms, beliefs and behaviors that are associated with expectations of conformity.  They limit our ability to act independently and pressure us to engage in behavior that maintains our social status. Social roles are self-fulfilling prophecies in that we become what others believe us to be (Salmivalli, 1999).  In addition to determining our behavioral responses they heavily influence our self-perception. “When individuals categorize themselves as belonging to a particular social group, they self-stereotype in terms of the norms, values, and beliefs that define the group. In this way the defining features of the group become internalized and shape group members’ own self-definition, (Turner, et al, 2014, p. 4).”

The Popular Kids

6915722162_cbcc5e5857_b“[bullying] defines what is different …[and] creates the group of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and through the definition gains acceptance for the values represented by ‘us’. This definition creates a status within the community and the means of bullying create fear of the social punishment to follow. (Hamarus and Kaikkonen, 2008, p. 342)”

Difference between Cliques vs. Crowds

“Cliques are small groups of friends who hang out together a great deal and are personally close.  Crowds by contrast are larger, ‘Reputation-based collectives of similar of similarly stereotyped individuals'” (Bishop, et al, 2004, p. 236).”  Clique members often share similar interests, attitudes, and behavior patterns.  In contrast crowds norms are based on the reputation and stereotyped identity peers have of the typical members.  Cliques engage in selective entry and exit processes while crowd affiliation is more fluid.

What is Popularity?

Popularity Defined by Study Participant:  “When a girl said someone was popular, she meant first that the student was widely known by classmates and second that he or she was sought after by a friend, (Merten, 1997, p. 360).”

Researchers have differentiated between two types of popularity:  “A sociometrically popular student is well-liked by her or his peers. Sociometric popularity is a measure of peer acceptance. Perceived popularity, however, is a measure of social visibility, much like the classic stereotype of adolescent popularity. (Borch, et al 2011).”  In other words, sociometric popularity is associated with prosocial characteristics and are perceived as “seen as kind and trustworthy (Thornberg, 2011 p. 6)” by peers.  In contrast, perceived popularity is not the same as being liked by your peers and is not mere a function of someone’s individual characteristics.  Instead, perceived popularity is a reflects how children make judgments of an individual based on their understanding of relevant social norms (Thornberg, 2011).

Popularity & Norm Reinforcement

Enforcing a Physical Attractiveness Standard:  “This kid in our grade is really weird looking.  he has really big ears and is really tall and awkward looking.  One of the seniors called him ‘dumbo and really hurt his feelings, (Bishop, 2004, p. 238).”

Norms “prescribe appropriate, expected, or desirable attitudes and conduct in matters relevant to the group, (Salmivalli, 2010, p. 113).”  They provide a standard of behaviorr pertaining to an individuals social status. “Popular students are role models and exemplars of cool, (Bishop, et al, 2004, p. 237).”  Consequently, they  define norms in order to reinforce their authority and differentiate between in group and out group status.

Techniques of Exclusion

Example of Exclusion:  “If a nerd goes over and sits next to a jock or somebody who’s really popular…they would probably tell them to leave, Bishop, 2004, p. 237).”

Ostracism is “defined as being ignored and excluded, and it often occurs without excessive explanation or explicit negative attention, (Williams, 2011, p. 429).” It serves the purpose of relieving the group of deviant members who violate social norms, ensuring group cohesion, and conformity.  Thornberg, (2011) notes that “everyday school life involved both inclusion and exclusion practices, like two sides of the same coin, (p. 7).”  It is an implicit part of the process in which adolescents define in group versus out group status.  Techniques of social exclusion include the following:

“(1)…harassing outsiders and turning others against them; (ii) harassing and being mean towards clique members with a weaker standing, (iii) going along with…other high-status clique members’ mean acts…(iv) stigmatisation [of] a particular clique member for a period; and (v) expulsion… from the clique” (Thornberg,  2011), p.5).”

Boundary Maintenance

Signal of Popularity: “…being allowed to hang out with them [the popular crowd]….If your friends with the popular people you’re considered more popular. (Bishop, 2004, p. 239).”

Preserving one’s status is an ever-present concern in the dynamics of the clique. Ostracism and bullying are a functional byproducts of this.  According the “social misfit hypothesis” (Thornberg, 2011), individuals with behaviors that contradict peer group culture can experience social rejection.  Those who conform with peer group expectations avoid ostracism.  Since the benefits of popularity are clear, membership into high status groups is sought-after position by many and barriers to entry are substantial (Bishop, 2004, p. 237).”

In-Group “Mean-ness”

Bulling does not just occur as an expression in-group vs. out-group behavior.  In an article titled “The Meaning of Mean-ness” (Merten, 1997), notes that high levels of conflict exist in high-status cliques as a means of preserving one’s status in the social hierarchy.  This internally focused mean-ness  also protects the group’s status in the larger social system.   Merten, (1997), describes his observations of a junior high clique below:

“Minor losses in relative popularity were frequently experienced as significant losses in status…One’s position in the clique was important, because it both symbolized one’s popularity and was salient in protecting it…hierarchical position was an essential factor for the successful use of meanness… (Merten, 1997, p. 354)”

This is an especially intriguing insight for me as an “outsider looking in”.  From this perspective Merten,  (1997), notes the following: “because most of the clique’s meanness was directed toward its own members, most outsiders continued to think…it would be nice to have a [friendship like that], p. 365).” The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Social Norms & Pluralistic Ignorance

“Social norms are produced among students at school…social exclusion and isolation are the consequences of non-conformity to these norms, (Thornberg, 2011, p. 2).”  They are typically defined as “a rule, value or standard shared by the members of a social group that prescribes appropriate, expected, or desirable attitudes and conduct in matters relevant to the group (Salmivalli, 2010, p. 113).”  Norms are useful when attempting to understand the behavioral choices of bully behaviors.

In the school setting, and especially the classroom, group membership is mandatory and involuntary.  Bully victims are left with no means of escape (Salmivalli, 2010).
An “emphasis on status and popularity in the school social environment promote[s] a social hierarchy in the peer culture. Bullying is…a result of the negotiation and struggle process of this social hierarchy. (Thornberg, 2011, p. 5).
Individually, a bully is motivated by a desire to establish a “powerful, dominant position in the peer group (Salmivalli, 2010, p. 115).”
Collectively bullying provides the dominant clique a way of defining norms (Salmivalli, 2010)….the popular crowd represent[s] a powerful influences on peer pressure. (Bishop, 2004, p. 238).
Bully reinforcers & assistants turn bullying into a group activity based on a need for acceptance and improve their social position (Salmivalli, 2010, p. 115).”

16201896020_4a09fc4397_b“It is important to note, however, that what is “normative in a classroom does not necessarily match with the private attitudes of individual children, (Salmivalli, 2010).” In other words, children act on the basis of a self-perceived understanding of social norms and not private attitudes.   When nobody challenges the bully, a child misinterprets this as a social norm that “bullying is okay (Salmivalli, 2010, p. 117).”  This is pluralistic ignorance:

PLURALISTIC IGNORANCE – “a socio-psychological phenomenon that involves a systematic discrepancy between people’s private beliefs and public behavior in certain societal contexts” (Bjerring, et al, 2014, p. 2445).

The Importance of Social Competence

“Social competence may be viewed as being prosocial, altruistic, empathic, and cooperative. In this view, social competence is seen as behavior that is socially approved and leads to being liked. Alternatively, social competence may be seen as the ability to achieve one’s goals in social settings (Lafontana & Cilessen, 2002, p. 645).”  In this respect it is both a prosocial and antisocial activity.  This confusing and dichotomous construct is useful in understanding the mixed reviews students display of popular and unpopular students

Popular Kids

Popular peers have large numbers of peers and play a central role in the social network. Described as interpersonally skilled, they are able to obtain their goals, “even if it means using aggression, (Lafontana & Cilessen, 2002, p. 245)).”  They are describe as having high academic and athletic ability while displaying of “dominance, attractiveness, and deviance” (Lafontana & Cilessen, 2002, p. 245).”

Unpopular Kids

Unpopular students are social isolates and frequent victims of bullying.  Described as deviant, unattractive misfits by peers, this study suggests that they are not, however disliked by them.  Instead, they are seen as “not possessing the socal skills to rise from the bottom of the hierarchy…and unaware of how to fit in with peers, (Lafontana & Cilessen, 2002, p. 245).”

The Consequences of Non-conformity

“Being a nerd is like having a communicable disease….students avoid hanging out with the student since it sends a signal that they are a nerd as well.”  Bishop, p. 237).”

As stated earlier, the social misfit hypothesis states that bullying is reaction to a deviation from peer group norms.  When an individual’s behaviors and attitudes are defined as deviant in this context, ostracism and rejection are a result (Thornberg, 2011)….

The situation is self-perpetuating & quickly becomes impossible to turn around.  It is this characteristic of bullying that causes children to feel hopeless & suicidal.

According to “taken-for-granted norms….deviance is in the eye of the beholder. (Thornberg, 2011, p. 4).” Individual’s not properly acclimated to an unfamiliar social environment struggle to fit in.
The victim [is] seen as a student who did not behave as he or she should have…[deviance disturbs] the existing…status quo…and demands on conformity, (Thornberg, 2011, p. 4).” 
“once classmates categorize you, changing categorization is difficult, (Bishop, et al, 2004, p. 237).”
“students who are labeled as outcasts find it difficult to make new friends and often lose old friends which limits their ability to develop social skills that can help them get out of their predicament (bishop, et al, 2004, p. 237).
“social roles…sometimes become self-fulfilling prophecies, the individual starts to resemble more and more, the expectations directed towards him” (Salmivalli, 1999, p. 453).”
“Harassment induces some victims to withdraw from social interaction….[a] climate of intimidation …can induce withdrawal (Bishop, p. 237).
ostracism is “defined as being ignored and excluded, and it often occurs without excessive explanation or explicit negative attention, (Williams, 2011, p. 429)”  Occurring without explanation, no guidance to resolve matters is provided.

Images: 1, 2, 3.

References

Bjerring, J. C., Hansen, J. U., Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee (2014). On the rationality of pluralistic ignorance. Synthese, 191(11), 2445-2470. doi:10.1007/s11229-014-0434-1
Bishop, J. H., Bishop, M., Bishop, M., Gelbwasser, L., Green, S., Peterson, E., … & Zuckerman, A. (2004). Why we harass nerds and freaks: A formal theory of student culture and norms. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 235-251.
Borch, C., Hyde, A., & Cillessen, A. H. (2011). The role of attractiveness and aggression in high school popularity. Social Psychology of Education, 14(1), 23-39.
Carney, J. (2008). Perceptions of bullying and associated trauma during adolescence. Professional School Counseling, 11(3), 179-188.
Cassidy, T. (2009). Bullying and victimisation in school children: The role of social identity, problem-solving style, and family and school context. Social Psychology of Education, 12(1), 63-76.
Hamarus P, Kaikkonen P. 2008. School bullying as a creator of pupil pressure. Educational Research 50: 333–345.
Idsoe, T., Dyregrov, A., & Idsoe, E. C. (2012). Bullying and PTSD symptoms. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 40(6), 901-911.
LaFontana, K. M., & Cillessen, A. H. (2002). Children’s perceptions of popular and unpopular peers: a multimethod assessment. Developmental psychology, 38(5), 635.
Merten, D. E. (1997). The meaning of meanness: Popularity, competition, and conflict among junior high school girls. Sociology of Education, 175-191.
Salmivalli, C., Lagerspetz, K., Björkqvist, K., Österman, K., & Kaukiainen, A. (1996). Bullying as a group process: Participant roles and their relations to social status within the group. Aggressive behavior, 22(1), 1-15.
Salmivalli, C. (1999). Participant role approach to school bullying: Implications for interventions. Journal of adolescence, 22(4), 453-459.
Salmivalli, C. (2010). Bullying and the peer group: A review. Aggression and violent behavior, 15(2), 112-120.
Thornberg, R. (2011). ‘She’s weird!’—The social construction of bullying in school: A review of qualitative research. Children & society, 25(4), 258-267.
Turner, I., Reynolds, K. J., Lee, E., Subasic, E., & Bromhead, D. (2014, June 16). Well-Being, School Climate, and the Social Identity Process: A Latent Growth Model Study of Bullying Perpetration and Peer Victimization. School Psychology Quarterly. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/spq0000074
Williams, K. D. (2007). Ostracism. Psychology, 58(1), 425-252.

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A PTSD Survival Plan….

As I may have mentioned earlier in this blog, I have PTSD.  Coming to terms with this diagnosis has required me to develop a greater understand of the symptoms I’m experiencing.  I’ve also had to accept that I’ve had this disorder for much of my life.   My perception of “normal” is therefore skewed and I’m left wondering what it might feel like….

…The other concern which occupies my mind is the fact that this diagnosis has no cure.  Coming to terms with this fact has required me to fully develop a realistic understanding of healing means.  PTSD is managed and not cured.  This has been a bitter pill to swallow.  I mourn what could have been, and feel like a cumulative byproduct of others’ opinions about me.  I have to accept, regretfully, that I allowed the worst of my bully’s words throughout life, to become my truth.  Overcoming the cumulative byproduct of these early traumas has consumed much of my life.  On the alter of healing, a potential of “what could have been” has been sacrificed.  My own personal sense of self, has been consumed by external factors including a socially-relevant idea of my utilitarian value.  I feel like a man in a monkey suit with a scarlet letter sewn on front.  The fact that this perceived value has no basis in reality of my ultimate worth seems pointless.  I protest against the idea that anybody external to myself defines my ultimate worth.  However, by iterating this fact, I feel like that kid in story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  At times I speak the truth and yet get crucified for it.  It seems as if the rules of the game in life are set up to drive me mad.  Socially relevant “truths” carry the weight of a collective systems of belief in which the majority of us play by the rules unquestioningly.  Acting otherwise seems like a radical idea to some….

…..And as I read this stream-of-thought, I realize it reflects intrusive memories of recent events that have trigged painful memories, I had naively believed were buried in the past….

A Trigger & Reminder…

“The traumatic event can be re-experienced in various ways.  Commonly, the individual has recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive recollections of the event…depressive rumination…intrusive distressing memories….(American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 275).”

The above video, provides a good sampling of the rhetoric I’ve heard during this election.  I brought it up on the November 8th, as the election results began pouring in.  Its worth noting, that my husband and I have divergent political beliefs.  He is an ardent conservative and Trump supporter.  I am a progressive who voted for Hillary in the hopes of preventing a Trump presidency. As I expressed my concerns regarding this hateful rhetoric, memories of a time long ago rendered my brain.   Feelings of shame fell over me as memories of past abuse flashed through my mind.   I began crying uncontrollably, as my husband immediately dismissed my concern, iterating the what he heard that night on the Fox network.

Before I begin, I must admit I’m not a very politically-minded person and this post has nothing to do with who is president.  It is a personal recollection of an experience that points out vividly the lasting impact of PTSD on my daily life.  

Needless to day, shock & panic took over as this year’s election results began pouring in.   Panic & anxiety set in as I struggled to understand his appeal. The very idea that Donald Trump would be president horrified me.   My mind vacillated between shock and horror, panic, and numbness.   As this painful reality set in, I describe how hurtful Trumps words were for me to hear as a trauma survivor.   Rather than providing comfort and an empathic ear, he became defensive and angry.   Misperceiving my concerns as an attack of his own political beliefs began criticizing and attacking everything I said.   This sent me into an emotional tailspin.   I ran headlong into an interaction that was reminiscent of a child that involved a complete dismissal of my thoughts and feelings.

As I struggle to manage the effects of this election on our marriage, I came to realize my symptoms were evidence of a diagnosis and not an ardent political belief system.  I’m coming to the realization that I need to take this PTSD diagnosis seriously.  What is it that causes these emotional flashbacks and the painful distressing memories?  

A Survival Tool-Kit…

What follows is a quick list of steps I can take to manage trauma triggers and the emotional flashbacks that might ensue.  I need a plan of action, to endure the resulting PTSD symptoms should they flood my mind.  Mind you this is something I create for my own benefit.  I’m not an expert here, I’m a sufferer who is learning to cope.  Here’s what I’m doing now & what appears to be working.  In this respect, it is a quick reminder on how to survive emotional flashbacks, should they recur.

STEP ONE:  Find a Psychiatrist.

Currently I’m only seeing a therapist.  I am not taking any medications and don’t have a psychiatrist following my case, since the one who diagnosed me retired.  This first step is much more frustrating that I might have imagined.  However, I’m happy to admit I’ve finally find somebody.

STEP TWO:  Identifying Trauma Triggers.

“Trauma triggers are reminders of a traumatic experience that provoke continued trauma symptoms. Trauma triggers can be internal or external stimuli, (Trauma triggers, 2012).”  At myptsd.com, site owner Anthony, makes a point of arguing the semantics of what is and/or isn’t a trigger, according to his self-imposed expertise (myptsd.com, 2015).  As a sufferer I don’t feel these semantics are of any value.  Instead, for survival purposes, self-awareness is the ultimate goal.  What is it that has produces these painful reactions to reminders of past traumas?  The DSM-5 manual notes the foll0wing about trauma triggers:

“[they can be] events that resemble or symbolize an aspect of the traumatic event, (e.g. windy days after a hurricane, seeing someone who resembles one’s perpetrator”.  The triggering cue could be a physical sensation (dizziness….rapid heartbeat). (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 275).”

“Even though it may sometimes feel like PTSD symptoms come out-of-the-blue, [they] rarely spontaneously occur….cued by something in our internal (thoughts or feelings) or external environment (…a stressful situation). (Tull, 2016a).”  It is for this reason, that the above description from the DSM-5 manual is useful as a jumping off point.   The following questions are posed in an article I found online titled: “How to Identify & Cope with your PTSD triggers?” (Tull, 2016a).

FIRSTLY, “what types of situations are you in (Tull, 2016a)?”

Utilizing the above example, I was in the middle of a conversation with my husband.   Throughout the election, the rhetoric (see video) has been hard for me to take in.  When I expressed my horror that a man with corrupt value system was in office, he became angry.  He began dismissing my perspective and refused to hear my concerns.  A critical aspect of this exchange reminded me of that bad relationship from long ago where my feelings were continually dismissed and belittled.   While not intended, my mind was thrown into a wellspring of negative emotions.  

SECONDLY, “What is happening around you (Tull, 2016a)?”

We were in the basement watching television together.  The kids were upstairs playing.  I remember feeling exhausted, still recovering after a three-day weekend night shift.   I drifted in and out of consciousness, taking cat naps throughout that evening.  Realizing our divergent political belief systems were problematic this election season, we’ve avoided the subject.  That evening we had agreed to not watch the results together.

With an f-d up sleep schedule, I found myself battling insomnia at 1 a.m.  I took out my iPad and decided to read a few blogs I like to follow.  The post I found announcing Trump’s win was unexpected, since this specific blog doesn’t cover the subject of politics.  As I started crying, my husband rolled over and asked me what I was reading.  This is when the conversation happened and things went downhill.

THIRDLY, “What kind of emotions are you feeling (Tull, 2016a)?”

A mixture of anxiety, fear, and depression overcame me.  They were to remain for the rest of the week as I began feeling I was left to “white knuckle it”.  Desperate for a magic “happy pill” to make the feelings go away, I was angry at myself for not finding a new psychiatrist since my last one retired.  Finally, I can’t help but compare my reaction to others’ I know who voted against Trump.  While my parents and sister were shock and worried about the nation’s future, somehow they remained more in control.  Like the above video, they found some ability to remain positive and keep things in perspective.  My mind, on the other hand, began spinning out of control…..

FOURTH, What thoughts are you experiencing (Tull, 2016a)?”

Intrusive and painful memories entered my mind.  I tried willing them to go away, but somehow found this impossible.  The most exquisitely painful memories that still haunt me, aren’t physical abuses, but simply harsh and abusive words.  Nothing can scar your soul more that emotional abuse and an endless barrage of hate and contempt.  The painful aspect of these experiences that still haunts me is that nobody acknowledged my feelings.  They did these mean things to me and let it known to me that it was my fault and I deserved what I got.  Somehow this fucked-up sentiment hurt the worst.

FIFTH, What does your body feel like (Tull, 2016a)?”

My body drifts back and fourth between a state of hyper-arousal and dissociative numbing. At a moments when the emotional pain is literally excruciating, I curse my family and their undying love for me.  If it wasn’t for this, I could just “off” myself and be done with it.  Enduring somehow has felt like a curse.  However, much I want to live and keep going, the struggle has been difficult.

STEP THREE:  Distract First…

When experiencing flashbacks or dissociative symptoms, first distract then challenge.  Distraction techniques involve “coping tools designed to ‘ground’ you in the present moment…so you can retain your connection with the present moment, (Tull, 2016b).”  The DBT distress tolerance and mindfulness skills described in this blog are useful as a jumping off point.  Distracting ourselves from a situation or trigger that can cause us pain, can ground us as we focus on the five senses (Tull, 2016b).  For example, one client I met recently has an aromatherapy glass roll-on bottle which she carries everywhere.  I, on the other hand, have utilized calming music, exercise or mandalas as a tool for distraction.

STEP FOUR:  Challenge Second….

Anthony at myptsd.com (2015), makes a useful point regarding ptsd triggers:

“Categorize your triggers as realistic or unrealistic. You may want outside opinions on this….Review your cognitive biases based on your immediate thoughts and reactions to the trigger, and have counter-statements prepared to confirm the unrealistic aspect of the trigger, (myptsd.com, 2015).”

This suggestion is useful in developing an awareness of how PTSD symptoms often reflect past events or unresolved cognitive biases, and not present situations.  Marsha Linehan’s emotional regulation skills a re useful in challenging our emotions and thoughts.  The ultimate goal here is thinking through them and not with them.

STEP FIVE:  Seek Support.

Tull (2016b), suggests finally, to utilize any support system we have in place.  “If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support.  Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers and knows how to tell and what to do when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state, (Tull, 2016b).”  My husband, sister, and parents have been a critical first line of defense here.

Image: 1

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing
myptsd.com (2015, September, 2). PTSD Triggers.  What triggers PTSD symptoms?  Retrieved from:  https://www.myptsd.com/how-to-use-triggers-as-a-means-to-recovery/291/
TRAUMA TRIGGERS. Encyclopedia of Trauma. Jan. 1, 2012.
Tull, M., Phd. (2016a, May, 4)  How to identify and cope with your PTSD triggers.  Retrieved from:  https://www.verywell.com/ptsd-triggers-and-coping-strategies-2797557
Tull, M., Phd. (2016b, September, 6).  Coping With Flashback and Dissociation in PTSD.  Retrieved from:  https://www.verywell.com/coping-with-flashbacks-2797574

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Transactional Analysis

***This post is a study exercise as a I prepare to take the NCE exam.  It contains excerpts from other posts that can be found hereherehere…&… here***

Eric Berne, (1910 – 1970) was born in Canada as Leonard Bernstein.  His father was a physician who died when Eric was young.  His mother was a writer.  In an effort to follow in his father’s footsteps, Eric Berne also became a physician, graduating in 1935.  After completing his internships, and becoming an American citizen, he changed his name to Eric Berne.  He started his practice in Connecticut and married his wife, Ruth in the early 40’s.  They had two children together.

Rosenthal, (2005) states that Transactional Analysis is often referred to as a “Populist Therapy Method”, since it is fun and easy for the laymen to understand.  While developing his approach, he made a point of simplifying the language and wrote several books on the subject including.

An overview of Transactional Analysis….

matryoshka-970943_1920Utilizing insights from this theory, my therapist keeps nesting dolls on the coffee table in her office.  Utilizing them in conversations from time to time, they have been productive tools for reflecting on the opposing ego states underlying my stuckness.  It seems my own “inner critic” and “hurt child” are fighting for “control” and as a result I’m getting nowhere.  Now that I’m a student, and reading Eric Brene’s works, it may be useful to quickly review some essential concepts.

Selfdefinition.org (n.d.) describes transactional analysis as a theory of social intercourse.  According to Eric Berne, “The human brain acts in many ways like a camcorder, vividly recording events.” (ericbrene.com, n.d.).  While not necessarily remaining available for conscious retrieval, the emotive consequences of these events and our experiences of them remain.  It is only when interactions and events, trigger these memories that the effects of these events arise.  This cognitive process is much more complex in an individual with PTSD as you might imagine.  In an effort to provide convenient constructs to discuss the transactional process between these ego states, Eric Brene created several key concepts in this theory.  For example, structural analysis involves an examination of the various mental states I described earlier (“inner critic” vs. “hurt child”).  In contrast, transactional analysis examines the dynamics of social interaction and how these elements of our psyche play their role.  The nesting dolls in my therapy sessions provide a convenient method of illustrating Eric Brene’s concepts of ego states.  Rather than conceiving of these ego states as Freudian structures in the brain, Berne states they are “phenomenological realities” (ericbrene.com, n.d.), that represent consistent patterns of reacting to life events.  Additionally, these phenomenological realities are based on past choices in response to life events.  Therefore, his conception of personality development is less determinstic than Freud.  For example, my own “hurt child”, reflects Eric Brene’s child ego state in which past experiences are experienced from the standpoint of their emotive impact.    In my specific instance, this is where most of my unresolved traumas exist.  In contrast, the Parent ego state, represents my own “critical parent”.  The critical parent’s camcorder provides an overview of early life experiences and the implicit messages they contained.  Finally, as I understand it, Berne’s adult ego state, reflects closely Marsha Linehan’s wise-mind concept.

T.A. Ego States…


529807Ego states refer to experiential realities that also represent a consistent pattern of relating with the world around us (Ingram, 2012)  Analysis of ego states is called Structural Analysis (Rosenthal, 2005).  Since, only one ego state is dominant at any point in time, our communication style and body language often communoicates which ego state we are operating out of (Rosenthal, 2005).

Three primary ego states exist in transactional analysis: parent, adult and child. The parent ego state is a representation of the way parents and other authority figures conduct themselves. The parental ego influences us by echoing the learned rules and morals communicated to us from authority figures throughout our life. Two main forms of parental ego states include the nurturing and critical parent. The child ego state, in contrast, is archaic and emotionally 490629driven. Comprised of our own first-hand early childhood experiences, it reacts impulsively with others on the basis of these deep emotional memories. Two versions of the childlike ego state exist: the rebel and hurt child.  Finally, The adult ego state is much like the wise-minded DBT perspective. In this respect, it is fully present in the moment and is capable of making realistic appraisals based on all perspectives, including thoughts and emotions. As somebody who is trying to lose weight, a funny description of each state is provided in my textbook:

“[rebellious child] I’m going to eat what I want and you can’t stop me…[hurt child] I know I am bad; what’s wrong with me. I’m trying, but just can’t…[nurturing parent]…don’t worry, I know you’re stressed. Go ahead and have some ice cream…[critical parent] you should take those pounds of. What’s wrong with you?! You’re an indulgent loser…[Adult] Lets come up with a plan where I can maintain a steady weight loss of one pound a week yet still eat foods I enjoy and have certain meals where I can disregard the rules.” (Ingram, 2013, p 295)

Basic Concepts….

Defining Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis can be thought of as an attempt to understand social interactions between individual ego states (Rosenthal, 2005; selfdefinition.org, n.d.).

TRANSACTION – a unit of social intercourse, where two or more individuals interact

TRANSACTION STIMULUS – the actions and/or words from another acknowledging our presence & reacting to our behaviors.

TRANSACTIONAL RESPONSE –  is naturally our chosen manner of responding to transactional stimuli.

Types of Transactions

Berne also classifies types of social transactions in his theory, these include: (1) complimentary transactions; (2) cross-transactions; and (3) gimmicks, (Rosenthal, 2005).

Complementary Transactions

complimentaryAre predictable interactions based on the natural order of a relationship between individuals.  Responses are predictable, parallel and can proceed in this manner as long as all individual respect the parameters of the relationship, (selfdefinition.org, n.d.).   Rosenthal, (2005) describes these as healthy relationships. For example, when interacting with my kids I’m adopting a parent ego state, they can expect when they talk to me.

Cross-Transactions

pac10Rosenthal, (2005) describes these as unhealthy relationships, (i.e. hurt child / critical parent).  Communication that is not complementary creates conflict and causes a breakdown in understanding.  It can be best described as a form of transference.  For example, let’s say I’m talking to my husband about the bills.  I assume I’m talking to an adult.  However, I get a response from his “Hurt Child”, and pouts when I begin discussing our spending this last month.

Gimmicks

Gimmicks are used in games for a payoff – or ulterior motive (Rosenthal, 2005).  Selfdefinition.org, (n.d.) notes that they can involve the activity of more than two ego states are at play during an interaction. Gimmicks are based on our social needs.  In order to meet these social needs, our true feelings psychologically can contradict how we behavior in the social transaction.

In my last internship I received no support or training and was overwhelmed.

I initially engaged in a complementary transaction with my supervisor, and notified them the 70+ hour work week was too much.

However this didn’t work, they were desperately understaffed.

Therefore, I bided my time, appearing appreciative and friendly.

However, I was seething in frustration underneath.

I desired to make a good impression.

This is a gimmick.

Strokes

selfdefinition.org (n.d.) defines as a unit of social interaction that are interpreted as a form of physical or verbal recognition.  They can involve a form of intimate physical contact or include verbal recognition.  Rosenthal, (2005), notes that they can be either positive or negative.

Rituals & Procedures

Typically socially interactions exist as a series of events that are learned as a result of previous interactions.  Procedures are series of complex transactions such as the standard greeting of a casual acquaintance when you ask them about how they’re doing and they say fine in the grocery store.  They serve the purpose of allowing us to folllow social rules while acknowledging others without expending a great deal of mental energy.  In contrast, rituals are byproducts of external social requirements (i.e. scripts, schemas and/or frames).  An excellent example of a formal ritual includes the typical Catholic mass (selfdefinition.org, n.d.).  We all know what’s expected and behave accordingly.

Games

Like rituals and procedures, games exist as a series of typical events in the course of our interaction with others.  However, what makes them unique are that they include a series of gimmicks and can be characterized by an ulterior motives, and concealed motivations.  Rosenthal, (2005) describes them as containing underlying messages that contradict our behaviors, preventing intimacy and honesty.  They are repetitive in nature and color the nature of our unhealthy relationships.

Berne’s Scripts

In his book “Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy”, Eric Berne, (1961), provides a theory which is useful in analyzing social interactions.  His theory uses the concept of life scripts to describe a set of “unconscious relational patterns” (Erskine, 2010, p. 24).  Developed in childhood, they are relational patterns that reflect our attachment history and are repeated throughout life.  Scripts exist within limbic memory and influence our thoughts, perceptions and behaviors.  Finally, they provide “a generalization of specific experiences and an unconscious anticipation…that will be repeated throughout life” (Erskine, 2010, p. 22).  Berne uses the term “transference phenomena” (Ereskine, 2010, p. 15) to describe this repetitive nature reflected through our relationship history.

Our life script unfolds “like a novel based on messages accepted in childhood.  Therapy is based on creating new decisions and re-writing your own life script.”  A physician by the name of Stephen Karpman, (who studied under Eric Berne)(, has developed a “drama triangle” that builds on this concept.  It consists of the concepts of the concepts persecutor, victim & rescuer.  These roles are described below:

Life Positions…

transa6In the second of his videos (theramin trees, 2010), delves into how our own ego states interact with significant others.  Why is it this endless cycle occurs?  In answer to this question, (theramin trees, 2010), mentions the concept of “life positions”.  In transactional analysis, this concept refers to a consistent belief about ourselves in relation to others.  As a broad stance we take in relation to others, it might convenient to think of “life positions” as self-imposed roles.  We distort our realties through these life positions, and utilize patterns of interaction with others as preferred coping tools.   Naturally, the benefit of a “life position” is its pay-off.  Theramin trees (2010), suggests to viewers, that in addition to desconstructing transactions to gain clarity, we should let go of the payoff that allows these cycles to continue.  Without the payoff (i.e. need fulfillment) the “life position” is no longer a logical choice.

“I’M OKAY YOU’RE OKAY”

Since this position conceives everyone as equals, it promotes well-being in your social interactions  You do not act from a position of superiority or inferiority so are effective in meeting your own social needs in a positive and mutually healthy relationships

“I’M OKAY YOU’RE NOT OKAY”

This life position “causes clients to blame others for their difficulties and cause paranoia and criminal tendencies, (Rosenthal, 2005).”  You place yourself in a dominant or superior position over others and tend to project inadequacies onto others.  Donald Trump Exists Here.  

“I’M NOT OKAY YOU’RE OKAY”

This is my own life position as a result of childhood ostracism. It caused me  to feel inept and inferior to others, and led to feelings of severe depression and suicide ideation during my teens.

NOBODY OKAY

Rosenthal (2005) states people here are often “homicidal, suicidal, both or schizoid”.  Are frequently overwhelmed with feelings of anger or betrayal.  It is characterized by extreme apathy and existential hopelessness.

A Personal Application…

“Transactional analysis often regards the experience of ‘ feeling stuck’ as the manifestation of an impasse or an intrapsychic conflict or interpersonal roadblock…my own aim here is to broaden the theory of impasses, exploring whether and how ‘stuckness’ may constitute a developmental opportunity” (Petriglieri, 2007, p185).

Resistance from this theoretical perspective can be “explained as a battle between inner parts: one part wants to change, while the other does not…” (Ingram, 2013, p 234).   According to transactional analysis, within us exist ego states that represent experiential realities from various stages in life.  Within each ego state is a typical coping style or pattern of relating to those around us. As I recall, two in particular have been engaged in a perpetual lifelong battle….

My Hurt Child

The child ego state can be thought of as an inner mental recording of painful childhood experiences.  When encountering triggers that remind us of these events, we’re sent back in time.  Emotionally, we can re-enact these early experiences with those around us. For example, within me lives a “hurt child” who was bullied kid and had no friends.  This hurt child asks, “I know I am bad; what’s wrong with me” (Ingram, 2013, p. 295).  She is submissive, insecure, with no sense of self.  Filled with a sense of shame, she seeks validation and acceptance from others – wherever she can get it…

My Critical Parent

The parent ego state reflects messages we receive from authority figures in our lives and standards of conduct we were taught.  My own critical parent, consists of messages from my parents that emotions were bad and creativity was a waste of time.   My critical parent consists of message from parents and teachers who ignored and overlooked the bullying.

My critical parent might say “you should take those pounds off. What’s wrong with you?! Your an indulgent loser (Ingram, 2013, p. 295).”  
My hurt child will be filled with feelings of insecurity as a former “ugly duckling”.  Shame takes over in reaction to the random characteristics that happen to define my meatsuit

References

Berne, E. (1961). Transactional analysis in psychotherapy: A systematic individual and social psychiatry.
ericberne.com (n.d.) A description of transactional analysis.  Retrieved from:  http://www.ericberne.com/transactional-analysis/
Erskine, R. G. (2010). Life scripts: A transactional analysis of unconscious relational patterns. London: Karnac.
Ingram, B.L. (2012). Clinical Case Formulations: Matching the Integrative Treatment Plan to the client. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN: 978-1-118-03822-2
selfdefinition.org (n.d.) Games people play by Eric Berne. Retrieved from:  http://selfdefinition.org/psychology/Eric%20Berne%20-%20Games%20People%20Play.pdf
Theramin trees [screen name] (2010, June, 10) Transactional Analysis 1: ego states & basic transactions  Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKNyFSLJy6o
theramin trees [screen name] (2010, June, 17) Transactional analysis 2: games. Retrieved from:  http://youtu.be/YOqJ4sc9TAc
Petriglieri, G. (2007). Stuck in a moment: A developmental perspective on impasses. Transactional Analysis Journal. 37(3), 185-194.

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Twisted Self-Deception

I Have a Desire to Empathize….

I’m reading a book titled “Staying Sober” by Goreski & Miller (2013).

It’s for an upcoming internship at a homeless shelter next quarter.  Since I decided to take a quarter off, my three goals have been as follows:

*Improve my overall level of self-care. (This will require me to re-institute my weight loss regimen, find a spiritual community, & solidify friendships).
*Prepare for the NCE exam. (This will involve listening to a bunch of CD’s, reading through “The Encyclopedia of Counseling”, & creating a series of blog posts for review)
*Prepare for my upcoming internship. (This will involve reading information pertaining to a therapy group I co-facilitate while I also consider my own therapeutic approach, for my first meeting with the supervisor)

img_3184I just finished the first few chapters of “Staying Sober” & was struck by the following comment: “addiction is distinguished from drug use by a lack of freedom of choice (page, 39).”  While the physical effects of addiction explain this lack of freedom to some extent, there’s more to it than that.  Addiction affects every area of one’s life and in time becomes their primary coping tool. It is a disease which includes delusional thinking and self-deception. This inability to see things as they are that can eliminate any motivation to change.  Immersed in a distorted reality, they are unable to overcome the endless cycle of obsession and compulsion.

Since my addiction history is limited, this information was very thought provoking.  I recalled the last three months at my last internship site.  The perspective this resource provided was a useful counterpoint to the confrontational style I witnessed there.   In order to help, I must first understand my clients and appreciate what it is to walk in their shoes.  The following quote from Gorek & Miller, (2013) intrigued me for this reason.

“The middle stage of addiction, is marked by a progressive loss of control…unable to function normally without the dru, family and friends begin to notice problems with the person’s job, health, marriage and legal matters. They are apt to believe, however, that the person is just behaving irresponsibly. They are not aware that the addicted person is not choosing the behavior (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 47).”

This quote seems to describe 2 perspectives of addiction…

*On one hand, there are the addict’s loved one’s who want them to simply “Get their Shit Together”.  From an outsider’s perspective the answer is quite simple: “Just Quit”….
*On the hand, there is the addict’s first-hand experience: “…The person cannot, through willpower, choose to drink or use responsibly” (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 47).  The answer isn’t that simple.  

Developing Empathy (Connecting the Dots)

How Does This insight Relate to My Own Experiences

These divergent perspectives describe two sides of a bigger picture.  Both perspectives are critical to understanding addiction as a biopsychosocial issue.  Without this, everyone is left perplexed, while the addict is left feeling shamed and misunderstood.  In fact this situational overview of addiction is reminiscent of my own experiences in an abusive relationship over 20+ years ago.  For this reason, I think its worth describing these diverge perspectives.  In one post, titled “Collateral Damage” I include excerpts of a letter written by my father after I dropped out of school and moved to New York.  The second, is an excerpt from a post titled “Stages of Change”, in which I describe my own growth process during this relationship.

An Outsider’s Perspective
A First-Hand Account

Getting the Big Picture – A Dialectical Perspective….

The above quote comes from another blog post in which I provide an overview of the theoretical perspective underlying Lineman’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.  This therapeutic strategy provides a combination of change, validation, and dialectical strategies.  I find this perspective useful, since it represents my very first introduction with therapy as a client, when I first started seeing my current therapist and joint a DBT Skills Group.  To this day, my therapist asks the question “What is the AND?” as a dialectical exercise, that requires me to address the side of the matter that I might resist acknowledging.  How can this question pertain to my own story?

So What is the AND? – UNDERSTANDING MY DAD

Its been about 20+ years since I left that abusive relationship.  Today, I can clearly understand my Dad’s logic.  Put simply, nobody was forcing me to stay in the situation.  The solution to my misery is to leave him and move on with my life.  However, as you might expect, there’s a “BUT” coming.  It’s not as easy or simple as that…

From a First-Hand Perspective – “LEAVING IT” 

img_2877So where’s the “BUT”?  Without getting too far “off track”, I’d like to note the importance of “CONTEXT”.  The idea of walking in someone’s shoes is vital.  You can’t truly understand the problem and it’s solution until you know an individual’s lived experience.  While, my parents were puzzled: “We didn’t raise you this way?”…I was angry by their complete ignorance of the inner world of fucked-up-ness.  t was a suicidal, bullied, and ostracized as a kid .  From the time my best friend Ruby left, my life was worse than death, as an unseen pain that knew no end.  I had no friends and supporters.  Nobody was in my corner.  My parents were too busy with their careers.  My sister was self-righteous.  My extended family made me feel like the perpetual outsider as the biracial oddball.  My classmates labeled me the fruit-nut.  The teachers ignored me since I was was so compliant & obedient.  This is the backdrop that enabled me to develop such a shitty self-esteem that made “THE IT YEARS” so very attractive.  I was desperate to numb the unresolved hurts of my childhood with the most convenient band-aid that fell in my lap.  This bandaid: any promise of affection, love and belonging I could find.  Like attracts like…

Twisted Self-Deception…

So with this perspective in my mind, I can begin to construct, in a general way those things that stand in the way of progress.  Unresolved issues from an individual’s life-history exist as monkey-wrenches forestalling forward movement.  However, something still puzzles me.  The fact is I was deceiving myself much as a recovering addict was: I knew the problem and could write a novel detailing it from every possible angle.  I knew the solution, plain and simple.

What is it in the psyche that allows one to ignore facts?

In his book Vital Lies & Simple Truths, Goleman (1996) notes: “there are…vital parts of our lives which are, in a sense, missing – blanks in experiences hidden by holes in the vocabulary.  That we do not experience them is a fact which we know only vaguely, if at all” (p. 15).   Sharpio (1996) notes the perplexing nature of self-deception when he asks: “How can the knowing deceiver also be the unknowing deceived?  How can one intentionally, knowingly, not know?” (p. 786).  Definitely food for thought….

Defining Self-Deception….

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines self-deception as: “the acquisition and maintenance of a belief (or, at least, the avowal of that belief) in the face of strong evidence to the contrary motivated by desires or emotions favoring the acquisition and retention of that belief, (Self-Deception, 2006).”  This process of willful denial reflects a desire to uphold a preferred version of reality by editing out evidence to the contrary.  Jean-Paul Sarte characterizes this as a matter of bad faith wherein we intentionally lie to ourselves & choose pretty lies over bitter truths.  Whether we do this intentionally or not is a matter of debate.  However, based on this description, it appears self-deception functions as  complex psychological mechanism that allows us to avoid responsibility of anything that causes us anxiety.  Belief systems and personal attitudes can exist as a filtering systems allowing reality to bend according to our preconceived notions, like byproducts of self-fulfilling prophecies.

Our Relationship with Reality…

img_2878In my college literature class, many years ago the “suspension-of-disbelief” concept was discussed.  It refers to a decision on the part of the readers, to suspend any disbelief in the “un-reality” of a story so we can immerse ourselves in it.  In my opinion, self-deception works in very much the same way.  Self-deception allows us to understand our reality in a way that dispels fears and anxieties.   It allows us to develop a sensible version of external reality based on our life experiences and temperament-based attitudes.   For example, the MBTI test makes it clear that we process information & utilize it in ways that are comfortable to us.  Our past experiences are a template for making sense of life events.  In my own case, unresolved traumas from my childhood created a minefield of anxiety.

When Self-Deception is “twisted”

As stated earlier, attitudes & beliefs function as reality filters, allowing us to create an experience that reflects it.  Essentially, self-deception is a process in which our belief systems acts as self-fulfilling prophecies.  We edit out all aspects of our experience that contradict these beliefs.  In light of this, how do you explain self-deception in situations where you prefer to hold onto undesirable beliefs?  Mele, (1999), calls this twisted self-deception, “instances [in which]…people deceive themselves into believing things they do not want to be true” (p. 117).  For example, why is it that I preferred to hold onto what my childhood bullies said about me?  Why did I then subsequently choose to adopt the unwanted belief in that abusive relationship that I was unworthy of love and belonging?

What follows are some thoughts to better understand  twisted self-deception & why we would prefer to believe in negative falsehoods over positive realities

1st: unwelcome false beliefs are desired as true even if they are unwanted (Mele, 1999).

img_2895For example, we might not want to believe the burner is on after we leave the house.  However, the idea that the house burns down scares us.  Therefore, for the sake of vigilance we choose to believe we left it on.  This allows us to avoid losing our home.   When, applying this insight to that abusive relationship, an f’d up logic begins to unfold:

(((FYI – it is worth noting that the example below, constitutes my mindset 20+ years ago after I graduated high school & not how I feel today….))
*RELATIONSHIP GOALS “THEN”: to gain acceptance, love, and belong from others.
*RELATIONSHIP FEARS “THEN: To re-experience rejection, shame, & invalidation.
*THE UNWELCOME BELIEF:  I believe I won’t measure up to others expectations and that somehow all my bullies and tormentors “were right about me”.
*MOTIVATION TO BELIEVE:  Unresolved anxiety & trauma d/t undiagnosed-PTSD and a desire to avoid any “triggers”…
*”PERCEIVED” FUNCTION OF UNWELCOME BELIEF:  Worrying about others’ opinions is a byproduct of unresolved hurt, and reflects a state of perpetual hyper-vigilance, in which I actively avoid anything that might trigger old traumas.
*THE REALITY:  The reality is, we perpetuate what we deny.  My life situation was  a reflection of my mindset at the time…like a walking shit-magnet.

2nd: Unwanted false beliefs are associated with a misinterpretation of evidence….

The interesting thing about belief-systems is that we experience them as logical conclusions from life experience.  “What [we]…end up believing is determined by…the strength of the evidence for and against [a] proposition (Mele, 1999, p. 125).”  When conceiving beliefs as byproducts of experiences, we fail to see that they also define our life experiences, as well.  Failing to get this fact causes life experiences to be misinterpreted as “FACTS”:

We believe something…

We act on belief…

Life reflects these beliefs

We forget that beliefs define experiences…

We use experiences as evidences of beliefs.

Most – if not all – therapeutic approaches include insight pertaining to the notion that beliefs also exist as cause.   They are not just logical conclusion of life experience.  They also define our experience, by acting as self-fulfilling prophecies when unexamined.

3rd: Twisted self-deception reflects a desire to avoid psychological discomfort (Mele, 1999).

It is only logical that those things which occupy the greatest share of our mental energy have the biggest effect on how we perceive things.  In my own case, a blind fear of rejection overwhelmed my thinking at this point in life.  I conducted myself in all relationships according to one implicit goal: avoid rejection.  I still had not resolved the traumas of childhood.  My perpetual hypervigilance, wouldn’t allow me to.  In my own twisted mind, any evidence of rejection or disapproval was a source of great worry and stress.  I would respond by ruminating endlessly over the matter.  By attempting to avoid psychological discomfort of these triggers, I allowed my insecurities to direct the course of my life throughout my 20’s.

4th: The selectivity paradox associated with twisted self-deception reflects underlying motivational biases (Mele, 1999).

I selected unwanted false beliefs over truth due to a blinding motivation to avoid trauma triggers.  I was well-aware of the problem and its solution.  However,  overwhelming panic would result from the mere suggestion that I accept rejection willingly.  This was simply an unthinkable price to trigger pay.   Likewise, Goriski &. Miller, (2013), note that a knowledge of the problem and its solution isn’t enough to “cure addiction”.  Many addicts are brutally aware of this fact, yet feel powerless to stop given addictions powerful biopsychosocial nature.

“Addiction is a condition in which a person develops a biopsychosocial dependence…[it] is accompanied by obsession, compulsion, and loss of control. When not using the person…things about, plans and looks forward to using again…despite long-term painful consequences (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 39).”

Twisted Self-Deception & Coercion.

Some parallels can clearly be seen in the twisted self-deception that is prevalent in abusive relationships and addiction.  However, there are also some key differences that are worth noting.  Firstly, addiction has a biological component that explains the self-deceptive nature of one’s thinking.  Secondly, abusive relationships include an interpersonal component tha makes the self-deception much more complex.   In an article titled “On The Psychology of Self-Deception” David Shaprio defines coercion as follows:

“a type of self-deception that is enforced by external threat. This occurs not as a matter of internal submission [or internal anxiety] but as a matter of suspended critical judgment or inability to engage in rational thinking (Shaprio, 1996, p. 794).”

This is especially critical knowledge, when counseling individuals who are in various stages of extricating themselves from an abusive relationship.  What follows are a few key points worth noting on the coercive nature of abusive relationships:

“The objective relation to external reality is suspended (Shaprio, 1996, p 794).”

Abusive relationships impair your ability to thinking logically.  Knowing the nature of past insecurities, my “ex” utilized them as a coercive tool.  He dangled promises of love in front of me like carrot on a stick, (while never fully delivering).  He utilized fear of rejection as a powerful motivator that would allow me to put up with whatever he dished out.

“…the bullied and intimidated wife does not dare even to look at her angry husband. Much less can she consider what she is saying and, perhaps more to the point, what he is doing clearly. From her standpoint, merely to consider him, to look at him objectively is an act of brazen defiance (Shaprio, 1996, p. 795).”

Diminished Personal Autonomy (Sharpio, 1996)

The above quote comes from a recent post titled “Stages of Change”, in which I describe my own experiences leaving an abusive relationship.   In this particular instance, every single action I took throughout the day was coercively controlled by my ex.  I was constantly on edge and lived in fear of disappointing him.  A loss of objective interest in reality occurred through his verbal dominance, requirements of secrecy and a gradual process of isolation & imprisonment (Shaprio, 1996).  My ability to engage in a healthy discernment of the situation was inhibited, by a constant state of hyperarousal.  This perpetual state of fear-based complicance existed due to his adept knowledge of my trauma triggers.    Over time, he was able to associate “his leaving” with the realization of my “worst fears”.   My only available response in this situation was a dissociative compliance.

  1. I couldn’t see beyond my desire to avoid rejection.

  2. Rejection was a powerful trauma trigger.

  3. I was well-aware of the problem: He treated me like crap.

  4. I also knew the solution: I should leave.

  5. Knowledge alone wasn’t enough.

  6. My moment-to-moment awareness was focused only on emotional survival.

Self-Deceptions are shared constructs in an Abusive Situation.

“the objective relation to external reality, the normal attitude of judgment, is suspended or disabled, at least within the relevant area, in some cases consciously so…the subject of coercion never does come to believe in the ordinary sense that he did what he did not do. But he can be brought to the point where he is unable to sustain disbelief. To be more exact, he cannot sustain the capacity to consider the matter, to believe or disbelief…a passive, uncritical state of mind is a familiar anxiety-forestalling defense reaction (Shapiro, 1996, p. 797).”

What this quote convey’s is simply the idea that twisted self-deception is a shared by both the abuser and abused.  Both individuals are partaking in a relationship that requires them to create a reality based on self-deceptive untruths.  Additionally, the abuse victim is in an emotional state that makes rational judgment difficult – if not impossible at times.  This brings me to a final point worth noting about the twisted self-deception which occurs in an abusive relationship.

….An UnWritten Relationship Contract

Goleman (1996) suggests even health relationships are based on some degree of agreed-upon self-deception.  In his book, Goleman (1996) refers to the work of family therapists Lilly Pincus & Christopher Dare who note that an unwritten marriage agreement often exists between married partners:

“This agreement…is between the unconscious of each, and has to do with the partners’ mutual obligations to fulfill certain unspoken longings and soothe unmentioned fears. In its most general form it goes something like this: ‘I will attempt to be some of the many important things you want of me, even though they are some of them impossible, contradictory and crazy, if you will be for me some of the important, impossible, contradictory, and crazy things I want of you. We won’t have to let each other know what these things are, but we will be cross, sulk become depressed or difficulty, if we do not keep to the bargain” (Goleman, 1996, p. 157).
  1. I entered into this sort of unspoken agreement slowly.

  2. In the beginning there were promises of love and acceptance.

  3. He became the solution to all my worst fears and insecurities.

  4. Then a “boot camp” period occurred where I was transformed into his willing participant

  5. He assessed my insecurities, and feelings of low self-worth.

  6. He utilized them against me, turning insecurity into certainty.

  7. In this way, he presented me with the embodiment of your worst fears:  “I am worthless & unlovable”.

  8. In a state of constant hyper-vigilance I developed learned helplessness.

  9. Only then, was I able to fully agree to this unwritten contract that “He puts up with me & I comply fully”.

  10. Unable to see beyond my own feelings of hopelessness, I felt stuck, with no solution but to survive moment-to-moment.

CONCLUSIONS…

In this academic & personal exercise, I’m “thinking out loud”.  I’m attempting to utilize personal experience as a basis for understanding the twisted self-deception that exists as an element of an addictive mindset.  I think I’m several steps closer towards empathy, for my future clients in the recovery classes for the upcoming internship.  However, more study and experiential reflection is required to fully connect the dots.  As time progresses and new insights pop up, I will take up this train of thought up again as it pertains to issue of addiction…

THANKS FOR READING…

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References

Goleman, D. (1996). Vital lies, simple truths: The psychology of self deception. Simon and Schuster.
Gorski, T. T., & Miller, M. (2013). Staying sober : a guide for relapse prevention. Spring Hill, Florida: Herald Publishing.
Lynch, T.R., Chapman, A.L, Rosenthal, M.Z., Kuo, J.R., & Linehan, M.M. (2006). Mechanism of change in dialectical behavior therapy: Theoretical and empirical observations. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 62(4), 459-480
Mele, A. R. (1999). Twisted self-deception. Philosophical Psychology, 12(2), 117-137.
Self-Deception (2006, October, 17).  Retrieved from:  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-deception/
Shapiro, D. (1996). On the Psychology of Self-Deception.  Social Research, 63(3). Retrieved from:  http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/on_the_psychology_of_self-deception.pdf

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Living in Opposite-land

((Warning: INFP piss-n-moan gripe session)))

What does Opposite-land look like?

Due to the unique perspectives provided By introverted feeling and extroverted intuition, my perspective in life is filled with overlooked and uncommon truths.  My greatest frustration lies in the fact that while these greater truths are guiding principles in my life, this seems to produce puzzlement in others.   For whatever reason, it seems as if “conventional thinking” requires us to ignore the obvious fact that social reality is more a matter of perception than fact.  The following quote comes from philosophytalk.org and summarizes my thoughts superbly:

“…social realities are all around us. Think of cocktail parties, football games, bar mitzvahs, political rallies, and even nations…And in connection with this sort of thing both parts of that phrase “social reality” are worth focusing on. All the things I just mentioned are things that really and truly exist…But at the same time, they’re all made up entities, at least in a sense.   People just sort of decide that these things are going to exist. And so they do exist. Seems kind of like magic….social realities are just creations of the human mind. Not individual human minds, but collections of human minds…put a bunch of people together, let them exercise their imaginations together; let them agree; and presto, you’ve got a new social reality.” (Taylor, n.d.)

Functioning in this sort of socially-defined reality, requires a bit of self-deception.  We must learn to abide by the rules of the game.  Ignoring the obvious for me is an ongoing struggle.  I’m like that child in the Hans Christen Andersen fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  I wanna ask “why that man is naked?”  However, I suppress this desire out of a painful awareness that pointing the obvious isn’t “a good idea”.

Acccepting The Backasswards Flustercuck…

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There is a place called oppositeland where bullsh*t is truth and truth is bullsh*t.

It is a reality that exists thanks to the active willful collusion occurs amongst society’s members.  As individual members of society, we tend to live out what we are taught. For most of us this means embodying an existence that presents as a reflection of greater sociocultural misperceptions. As a result, we ignore greater truths in order to perpetuate trivial falsehoods.

Systems-of-belief remain unquestioned “truths” and are perpetuated as self-fulfilling-prophecies.  We fail to acknowledge the possibility of believing otherwise.  Life becomes an endless hedonistic treadmill.  We chase after affectively forecasted futures like hamsters on the wheel.  Our greatest oversight: failing to recognize the solution can’t be uncovered with the same mindset we utilized to create the problem.

Reading the fine print

Playing by society’s rules is really quite simple:  blindly follow like a happy little mushroom.  Mind you, it’s important to read the fine print before you sign up as a willing participant.  In order to maintain the status quo, we must, as members of society, collectively ignore greater truths in order to perpetuate trivial falsehoods. This status quo is an an agreed-upon reality of “the way things are”. This predefined & familiar reality is essential as a paradigmatic reference point in our daily lives. It tells us “who we are”, where we’re going and how to get there.

In his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” Thomas Kuhn, (2012) describes paradigms as explanatory models comprised of beliefs and assumptions that provides us a “way of understanding”. When society’s members work together to support a belief unquestioningly, many aspects of this belief system appear objective facts. With social norms in place, individual’s are liable to page a huge price for bucking the trend of conventional thinking….

The problem is paradigms are self-perpetuating. We can’t see the solution from within the same mindset as we utilized to create the problem. Therefore, we’re complaining about what we see in the world, when in reality it is our “way of seeing” that’s the biggest issue.

Examining the Price I’ve paid….

  1.  Life has became an endless hedonestic treadmill. I’ve engaged in a never-ending process of affective forecasting that has meant weighing current decisions from a cost benefit perspective with the overarching goal of maximing happiness & contentment.  Along the way,  the present moment has been sacrificed for past sorrows and future worries.
  2. I’ve lost sight of who I know I am, in an endless chase for acceptance, love and belonging.  I’ve allowed others’ opinions to dominate myself perception.  I present to the world, what I feel it wishes to see, while denying the very truth of who I am.
  3. Despite my best efforts, I’ve felt like I’m running toward nowhere, stuck in the same place.  Little did I know my problem was simply a matter of misplaced motivations, and an incomplete understanding of the problem.

Working through this mess?

*STEP ONERadical Acceptance  (Think Serenity Prayer)

*STEP TWOAccept Responsibility for Your Life..

*STEP THREELearn from Your Mistakes.

*STEP FOUR – To make chance happen, take consistent efforts to transform your life, (i.e. stages of change & DBT)

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References

Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago press.
Taylor, K. (n.d.) Social Reality, [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://philosophytalk.org/community/blog/ken-taylor/2015/04/social-reality

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