Saturday, March 22, 2014

Persona Theory

August 5th, 2013

     Persona psychotherapy came about when I thought about what shaped me.  I think that we an all agree that other people are huge shapers of what we think.  Moreover, they don't just change what comes to mind, such as our political leanings or speech patterns, but also the very fabric of who we are.
     This theory is obviously very nurture (as opposed to nature) based.  While I think that nature has its place in the argument, I believe that nurture is a greater force to be reckoned with.  Genetics can be micro-manipulated by the self in certain ways (weight gain, resistances, etc.).  But nurture is where the real lifelong change comes into play.  Whether or not we believe it, communication has both report and command components.  These sometimes subtle variations in behavior can signal life-long observable changes in an individual, especially if they are repeated for years.
     It's all about the people.  When we think who were the most important figures in our lives, we have to think in a broad scope or spectrum.  Obviously our parents were huge in our lives, but it's more than that.  We should be including co-workers, friends, media figures (actors, characters (in books and TV/movies), etc.) and societal norms.  All of these are "personas."  They all have the effect on us of proclaiming what is right, decent, or ideal (and very often what is wrong, indecent, and flawed) in our nature and in society.  I think that everyone's ideal is different.  For men, the ideal man could be younger Arnold Schwarzenegger or Clint Eastwood or perhaps some new charismatic media persona.
     As mentioned, cultural and over-arching time-sensitive norms are important here as well.  A persona consists of both of these.  A man is made up of many things, including the time period in which he or she lives.  A good example is Freud.  Though at this point in the future we scowl at the very name and poo poo his accomplishments and his at-that-time genuinely novel ideas, his ideas were celebrated because they were acceptable at that time.  The odd thing about the current age (especially as compared to pre-printing press days) is that we can choose to change ourselves based on past idea and persona due to the proliferation of media on the internet and in books.


August 10th, 2013

     One of my points in a previous entry was to ensure that I write about similarities and differences between this budding one and current psychotherapies.  I don't think that I will spend a separate entry detailing such things.  These will most likely be introduced piece-meal-style throughout this writing.
     As mentioned, persona psychotherapy is all about people.  There is a postmodernist feel here because our ideas about people (and how we integrate this figure into our own behaviors) is based, more or less, in our culture and upbringing.
     While these other figures or personas are important, we must understand the reason that we are integrating their behaviors into our own.  We saw or experience something in their actions that we aspire to.  Perhaps a behavior was expressed, like self-confidence, that brought about a date or pay raise.  We, on the outside, would see this behavior and attempt to mirror it on our own.  WE do this because we see a deficit of such behavior in our heretofore collected bag of expressions.
     But what is the goal here?  The goal is to gain all the correct behaviors so that any problem can be surmounted.  Similar to Maslow's theory, we are striving for a self-actualized persona.  I don't think, though, that self-enhancement by way of integration ever stops.  Just because one finds that most problems are solve with his or her current behaviors, there is always much more out there to react to.  I'd really rather call this unattainable (or shortly-attainable) goal the ideal self after Rogers.
     Akin to the idea that one see usable behaviors and integrates them into self, just like building a house from many bricks, it seems that the selection of behaviors has also to do with the matching of behaviors from someone who presents himself or herself as similar to that ideal self image.  I think that this might be one way that negative behaviors are integrated.
     As mentioned in a previous entry, a whole generation (or two) of America saw Clint Eastwood (his characters, really) as an ideal image of what it is/was to be a man.  In their attempt to adapt his "positive" mannerisms, such as his deep, scratchy voice or confident, yet haughty glare, they might adapt a characteristic stubbornness that goes with Eastwood's characters.  Another possibility, other than accidentally sweeping up an unwanted behavior, is that the unwanted mannerism was a stepping stone to, or building block of, the wanted behavior.  In order to attain the desired manliness of Clint Eastwood, a level of stubbornness must be attained.


October 25th, 2013

     Going back to my ideas on persona theory, I think that many of our anxieties in life occur when we don't have the necessary skills to deal with them.  Also, our affliction with the other characters in our lives is important.  I have already discussed that we mirror successful behavior (or unsuccessful behavior) from people we look up to.  But what if the relationship with that person degrades?  What does that mean for our current behaviors?
     Most people would choose to either A) continue their behavior because it is successful to them, or B) discontinue its use due to its negative association with that individual.  Their new stance on that person has changed their skill set.
     I think that every person in our lives occupies three levels (or more) in our mind.  The first is the real level.  This level is an accurate, relatively non-subjective view of this character.  The real level, especially if this person has recently become a "skill-setter," can take place in the past, before the skill has been absorbed.  Best said, the real level is a past-verified view of a person that is relatively well-believed across a sample.
     The next level is the ideal level.  This level denotes the rosy-eyed view of the individual.  At this level, one normally starts adopting behaviors and testing them out before absorbing them completely into themselves.
     The last level is the fall level.  This level occurs normally after the individual engages in some kind of behavior that brings their identity into question.  Oddly, the action could be anything - that's why people become stuck so often.
     These levels are important, because they really do note the level of favor and the chance in mood toward them when actions change.  It's a big drop from ideal to fall.  We do a lot of intra-personal work in building people up in our mind to get them to the level of ideal.  The fall consists not only of the general lack of favor and its disparity as compared to the ideal level, but in the acknowledgement of the need for the deconstruction of that foundation.  This is a painful process.
     It's important to remember that people aren't just searching for these new skills and to become unstuck, they are also looking for help to learn to re-trust.  Counselors are tasked with re-teaching, or perhaps better said, re-allowing clients to trust appropriate people.


October 29th, 2013

     There has to be someone who doesn't fit this theory, right?  Someone must exist who hasn't been "imprinted," right?  I'm not so sure.  The more I think about it, the more I come to believe that common man, who has developed in the company of others, can't have progressed without the guidance of those coming before.  When we hear of such untainted individuals, they are the wild man and woman of antiquity.
     Using the word untainted pushes me to talk about Ellis.  I remember that he talks a lot about younger individuals adopting the behaviors and rules of their parents.  He was a real advocate of a person identifying "correct" behaviors for themselves.  I don't disagree with his motivations, that is, to rid the self of inaccurate or outright incorrect thoughts and behaviors that are based on the teachings or examples of parents.  I agree with him that people have to learn to choose and expel behaviors based on their utility.


March 15, 2014

     I've come to the conclusion that this Personal Theory has a lot of influence from social-learning theory, but that it also has elements of a bunch of other theories.
     Let's talk about conflict for a second.  If a child or even an adult experience two viable yet opposed viewpoints, how does he or she choose which one to follow?  This is the heart of decision-making.  The subject must first review all biopsychosocial rules that they follow.  They would have to ask: "Would my parents agree with this?"; "Is this illegal?"; "Would my socioeconomic status decrease or increase due to this decision?"; et cetera.  I think that people then try out the behavior.  I would hope that the attempt at each would start on a small scale, but maturity and self-control might take a role in that specific instance.  After these testing results are yielding positive effects, the practice increases in intensity possibly being integrated into main parts of life.  The last step to that integration would be to add it into the personality schema.
     I'm trying to re-understand the levels that I wrote about prior to this.  I delineated three levels: Reality, Ideal, and Fall.  I think that it is hard to quantify these.  Better said, creating a hierarchal view of which one of these levels (or which a figure of significance may be on) is difficult.  Which one is better?  I think that each have their own positives and negatives.  Let's review them.
     Reality: Positive - Knowing a figure totally and understanding the real connotations and situation is an invaluable skill to have.
     Reality: Negative - If this real, "objective" view of this person is locked - and taking into account that that figure is under our expectations - there is a certain depression that might come from this failure.
     Ideal: Positive - If an ideal figure embraces characteristics that are positive and constructive, the follower would then aspire to these ideals and learn to adopt them.
     Ideal: Negative - I think that it is possible for subjects to adopt negative behaviors from a positive ideal figure.  If this figure was honored to the point of worship, then the negative behaviors shown would have just as much of an ability to be integrated as the positive ones.
     Fall: Positive - I think that the Fall is a part of the process.  One definite positive to this is coming to the realization that the figure has faults (and, even deeper, that the subject has faults) and that there is a learning process in life.  The identification of negative behaviors is also a positive learning experience.
     Fall: Negative - The change from Ideal to Fall can be a huge one . . . I think that this might lead a person to a minor depressive episode, depending on how glorified the figure was in the subject's mind.
     Let me try to tackle the non-hierarchal nature of this now.  At an earlier age, I think (and this is a gross generalization) that we tend to idealize both easily and often.  Children tend to be impressed with others easily.  So, it follows that the ideal level is the first.
     It is almost inevitable that we see through the ideal figures in our lives.  A good general example is our parents.  When it comes to gender-stereotyped behavior, boys idealize their fathers and girls idealize their mothers.  When a child reaches adolescence and the lines between parent-leader and parent-helper start to blur, the Fall level is reached.  There is some doubt as to some/all adopted characteristics from that person.  Much introspection is done and then, hopefully, a youth comes to create their own ideas about their actions.
     For me, a big fall (other than the normal parental one) came in the form of Carl Rogers.  In my education, Rogers was always portrayed as the ideal counselor and theorist.  I exalted him above all others.  Then two things happened.  1) My continuing education propelled me on to other interesting areas in psychotherapy and 2) I found out that he was an alcoholic.  For whatever reason, his me-created facade of constant angel-like calmness was gone.  Quickly his words meant less and less.
     The next step, after a figure has reached the apex of the Ideal and the trough of the Fall, is to become real in the eyes of the subject.  I think it is at this point when both faults and positive qualities can be weighed more objectively.


March 17th, 2014

     The adoption of behaviors and assimilation into the self is what I have commented on so far in this theory.  I think that the original intent here was to understand my own use of other personas in my daily life.  That last sentences begs an example.  If I need to motivate a group of people, my mind immediately shifts to a guy I once knew named Bill who had this ability.  I try to mimic his way of speaking and acting and this seems to help me in this particular situation.  After this channelling is over, I try to grade the result.  If it is a positive one, I attempt to integrate some of the mannerisms into my own behavior set, rather than having to refer back to the character.  This has the advantage of personalizing the behavior, possibly making it more organic.


March 22nd, 2014

     As previously mentioned, sometimes people impersonate important figures in their lives.  I'm going to free associate with this and try to figure out a why and a when to this phenomenon.
     In my opinion, I think that impersonation might tend to happen with youths.  When I say youths, I do not necessarily mean children, but rather a state of being that denotes an immaturity in the functioning environment.  For example, a newly-promoted executive might impersonate his or her supervisor in order to act more professionally and integrate himself/herself into the job.
     I guess that impersonation is a phenomenon that occurs during the Ideal level.  The figure's significance to the subject at this level is so large that the adoption of specific behaviors is possible.  Impersonation does occur in the reality stage as well, but the subject's own personality is more dominant, allowing for the integration of behaviors, rather than pure adoption into a behavior system.
     So what happens when there are behaviors that conflict with one another?  Which one does the subject adopt and then integrate?  I think that this could be a main source of anxiety.  We might hear a client say, 'What do/should I do?"  It could be that two figures of similar level and dissimilar behavior are on trial in the subject's mind.
     Perhaps, on the developmental side of things, a therapist who is engaged with this type of counseling is charged with helping the client with any conflicts between figures, but also to help the client through a Fall.  This latter point includes both a Fall that occurs through the client's own thought process and one that a counselor might start.  I think that some clients hold their parents at the Ideal level a bit too long or a bit too high, increasing the likelihood that differentiation would not occur.  In this situation, very sensitive confrontational techniques could be used.  This is to say that a counselor should not slam the idea home.  Instead just a word or two of challenge might cause the client to think about the issue in a different manner.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Rules of Counseling (or Things to Remember in Therapy)

January 12th, 2014

1.  Everyone has strengths.  Remember to ask after, and support, their strengths.
2.  Projection is huge.  Remember that people come to counseling to talk about themselves and their own problems.  Search for any meaning behind their words for they are only talking from their own frame of reference.
3.  Don't be rude; always listen and react kindly (though sometimes being firm is OK too).
4.  Resistance is not inherently negative; in fact, it can show that a client has a firm grounding in a belief structure.  No resistance ever either means 1) that you are the best therapist ever or 2) that the client has no personal belief/thought system.  Also: resistance is a call for some process counseling.
5.  When in doubt, go back to process. This is a good way to increase rapport and possibly go to other topics. Process should not always be a last-ditch intervention.
6.  One of the most important things to understand for most interventions is that they should be what the client needs.  Countertransference is fine (it actually normally isn't), but to sate it during every compulsion will not benefit the client.
7.  Physical touch can be a huge factor in therapy for good or for ill. Boundaries being what they are, a quick hand on hand action, handshake, etc. can show support on a different level than normal talk therapy.
8.  Modern therapy is fixated on the present. To a certain extent, that is good. But we cannot disregard the past.  Situations and relationships may be informed very heavily by past ones. The past is rich with background information and clues to current behavior.


March 18th, 2014

9.  Don't underestimate the value of time in therapy.  If a technique of subject-matter does not work or is not yielding good discussion, it is perfectly alright to come back to it in a session or two.  Half of the time, the conversation will make the client think more during non-session times, anyway.
10.  Nothing happens within a vacuum.  Decisions are never made due to one variable only.  Always search outside the immediate circumstance for more information.
11.  Clinical distance is one of the most difficult things to implement and keep throughout the process.  That being said, it is there for a reason and will help with termination and difficult confronting.
12.  Understand the resources around your practice for continuing care and referral.