Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Similarity of Man, or, The Ego of Man

May 23rd, 2014

     There are only a few types of people in the world.  I know that we like to think that everyone is a unique individual with wholly different plumbing than anyone else.  This is true and untrue.  It is true int hat, biologically, there is almost infinite variability in man.  There will most certainly never be two men with the exact same neuron organization pattern in existence.  It is untrue in that the general behavioral consequences have many less probabilistic reactions (mostly due to learned/simulated responses seen in the past demonstrating what is proper or possible, and due to the natural lack of response reactions to any given stimulus).  While biology may yield a human who has never before set foot upon the earth, many people will have the same reactions to specific stimuli.  When stimuli are viewed back-to-back, it is, of course, less likely that the individuals will continue behaving similarly.  But these are broad categories under which some people may be catalogued.  I will not administer titles to these groups at this time; such categorization is tricky due to the common man's need to be individualistic.  Were I to create such broad groups (and other theorists have done so in the past), they would lead to different types of interventions that would be used to pursue betterment.  I must be clear in saying that these titles would not label the client, but instead would only describe behavior (much like diagnosis should do).


June 24th, 2014

     I'm wondering if we romanticize the human personality too much.  We continually marvel at the complexity of our own brains, but are they really so intrigue-worthy?  We revel in our own superiority due to our increased intelligence.  I think that there are equal parts stupidity and ingenuity where the human collective is concerned.  Sure, we've created books and harnessed electricity, but we've done so many things that warrant repugnance.  We've created so many wonders fit for gods, yet we still lack basic self-control and morality.
     I don't want to go too far off track here.  We see ourselves as superior to all due to our inventions.  Douglas Adams said it best when he wrote:  "For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was much about in the water having a good time.  But conversely, the dolphins believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons."
     I think that the turning point in our superiority in intelligence occurred when we became conscious of our consciousness.  Somehow this imbued us with a sense of supremacy so vast that the behavior study of humans became very different from the study of any other animal.  We have shown, though, that the needs, habit, tendencies, etc. of man are similar to the "lower" animals.  Primates close to us, like chimpanzees and gorillas, exhibit behavior that is so close to ours, such as grouping and communication.  Verbal language, something uniquely human (another engineering marvel of ours), isn't just ours.  Well, it isn't our insofar that not only we can learn it.  We can teach other beings communication (parrots (though meaning behind the words might not be understood) and gorillas), so can we teach them to feel?  To think?  I believe that primates have already answered that for us.
     Complexity in behavior deals pretty heavily with brain plasticity and neuroscience as well as previous education and experience (nature versus nurture at its finest).  I can't help but equate this to the biological variance inherent in DNA.  Just like we see people who resemble others (including, sometimes, that other's behavior as well) we experience different behavior-styles in people.  If these groups can be given names and whose elements can be catalogued, doesn't it then seem as if personality variance is finite?  We act as if it is not.
     I think that it can follow that certain measures can then be taken for certain personality types.  This can help when people are seeking treatment.  If all this is correct, and I have no reason to think that it is, then human personality is not as infinite as idealists once thought.  In fact, it is the finiteness of personality that allow us to treat it.  Were the human mind a constantly changing and uniquely independent variable, it is somewhat reasonable to think that only the deepest of psychotherapies could work.  Perhaps that is the crux of some of the deeper psychotherapies' arguments.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Change vs. Persistence

     What is the correct methodology behind psychotherapy?  Namely, should clients be encouraged to change or to persist in their behavior?  Both points have their advantages and disadvantages.  Also:  what is the metric through which the two sides are measured?  Health (whatever that means)?  Decreased distress after the treatment?  Increased feelings of "at-oneness"?  Are both points correct but should be used for different populations?  Why is it at all relevant or important to current discourse?
     Change is a scary thing.  The familiar has a certain amount of safety.  Safety, as any introductory course in psychology would note, is one of the core needs of humans, after basic physiological requirements.  When the familiar is disrupted, as it most likely will be in vigorous therapy, one feels as if the bottom has been dropped out them.  Skills must be re-learned, relationships re-crafted.  All other non-physical needs (again referring back to Maslow) are secondary, meaning that such things as love and family, education, or exercise are obscured by the re-prioritization that occurs when a change is made.
     The argument can be made (and should be made) that any change that a client incurs is of their own making.  A client must accept change.  I think that the subject of conscious and sub- or un-conscious comes into play here.  A client, after having been force-fed a treatment, even a necessary one by a practitioner, might deny it consciously, but their subconscious may be have soaking in the teaching, allowing the chain reaction to start whereas the client's front mind is not yet willing to grasp it.  
     A change has the ability to bring a client to a more beneficial place.  A change in behavior may allow the client to attract less unwanted attention to him/herself when on an outing.  Such slight behavioral changes could be both positive and relatively simple to implement.  Changes in thoughts and feelings are much more difficult to access and implement because the operate at the core of our being.  When it comes down to it, we are walking bundles of thoughts and feelings, spewing out behaviors.  
     Changes can also be hazardous to our health.  When change occurs too quickly and dramatically, it is foreseeable and understandable that these individuals with an especially weak grounding or constitution might turn to self-harm or inhibitors as a way to cope.  We experience unwillingness to change from clients in the form of words and actions in the office.  We can lose points with our clients by forcing change that they are not ready for or by promoting too much change to the thirsty client that they cannot handle.
     Persistence is something else entirely.  I see persistence occurring in two ways:  First, persistence may occur through lack of encouragement to change.  In effect, this position emphasizes only the strengths that a client owns, while not looking at the deficits in the client's character.  I think that a client might also go along the path of persistence by choosing to change the world instead of themselves.  This is a difficult course of action, but that which is frequently taken by many organizations vying for the inclusion of certain non-behavioral, biologically-based mental disorders (autism, intellectual disability, lefthandedness (heh)).
     We must ask ourselves if persistence is enough.  Change shows that a client has learned a new way of thinking/feeling/behaving through an observable alteration.  Persistence is the opposite.  At best, a client would learn more about themselves and endeavor to piss of others as little as possible.  The gold standard for results in psychotherapy is change.  The metric is change.  Persistence has a lot to live up to.
     I think that persistence could be seen by many people as "persistence of intrinsic directive" versus an extrinsic imperative set onto the client.  The latter here is change.  Of course, in this interpretation, persistence takes on the identity of more fundamental humanism while change adopts the mantras similar to structured psychoeducational methods.
     In general, I think that it is difficult to advocate for a persistence model of psychotherapy when compared to a change model.  In this circumstance, I must add that I am specifically referring to behavioral issues, not biological ones.  Society needs to learn to work with these people, not against them.  I do wonder if there is any middle ground between the two.  To a pretty high degree, I think that the Wellness Model fits the bill nicely.
     I think that two main methods of persistence are normalizing and universality - both cooling techniques.  Normalizing is the act of telling a client that their actions/behaviors/thoughts/feelings are normal and representative of their bracket.  Universality is more helping the client understand that others have behaved/suffered as the client has behaved/suffered and have walked away from it.  While these two techniques are viable and useful, they are not unto themselves total means of therapy.
     One thing that goes along with change that might incur the most resentment is the tendency for either side of the relationship to want to "fix" the other.  Here, an additional point about change must be written.  Change must come intrinsically.  The therapist can only do so much; more is over-working of and over-functioning for the client.  This is not useful to either party.