Thank you to all the loyal readers and contributors to this site. We will be moving our blog to the office Wiki beginning on December 1st, 2009.
Let the humanity of our purpose continue.
Thank you to all the loyal readers and contributors to this site. We will be moving our blog to the office Wiki beginning on December 1st, 2009.
Let the humanity of our purpose continue.
UW gives rats Jell-O shots in alcohol-abuse study
University of Washington scientists gave rats Jell-O shots to study links between adolescent alcohol abuse and adult decision-making, the UW reported in a news release.
Some of the alcohol-consuming rats were then given a choice of pushing a lever that always gave them two sugary pellets or another lever that gave them a larger but uncertain reward of either four or zero treats, according to a UW news release. T
he “party rats” more often chose uncertain rewards while a control group of teetotaling rats matched their choice well to whichever lever had the probability giving the larger reward, the UW said. “This model using rats lends support to causal link between early alcohol use and later increased risky decision making,” said Nicholas Nasrallah, a UW psychology doctoral student and co-author of the study.
Rats usually don’t drink alcohol, but researchers found that they consume ethanol when it is combined with gelatin. One group of rats was given 24-hour access to a 10 percent solution of ethanol in a tasty gel. The rats were 30 to 49 days old during the experiment, corresponding to human adolescence.
The rats consumed the alcohol-laced gel each day in amounts equivalent to a large number of drinks in human terms, said corresponding author Ilene Bernstein, a UW professor of psychology and faculty member of the program in neurobiology and behavior.
A separate control group of rats was given a gel made without any alcohol. At the end of the 20 days, the gelatin was withdrawn from both groups. Three weeks later, half of the rats from each group were trained to press levers to receive the treats.
Part of the training included a “forced choice” where there was only one lever to press. This gave the rats an opportunity to sample the pay-off schedule on the uncertain lever that day. Three days of trials were run with the payoff for the large but uncertain reward coming 75 percent of the time and then dropping to 50 percent and 25 percent on subsequent days.
The alcohol-exposed rats showed a strong bias toward the uncertain lever, even when the chance of receiving rewards on the third day diminished to only one in four. The control rats, however, behaved differently and adjusted perfectly to the changing conditions of the experiment, thus gaining more treats than the alcohol-exposed rats.
See more about the study at uwnews.org.
This study once again highlights how conditioned behavior works. Abusing alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes as an adolescent often leads to a lifetime of addiction and high-risk behaviors. Often those who chose to partake in such actions as a dare or a means to belong, find themselves with a life-long (and in many cases life-ending) habit.
by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
Intimate relationships can improve your life, or make it miserable! Here are seven sign signs of addictive relationships (which generally make life miserable).
These signs of addictive relationships will help you recognize an unhealthy marriage or partnership – because they can be hard to see, especially when you’re in the middle of it.
Some psychologists believe that if you grew up in a dysfunctional home, your chances of being in a dysfunctional or addictive relationship are higher. You feel like you’re not worthy of being loved so you settle for a partner who treats you badly. This could be obvious abuse or the less obvious addictive relationship.
According to Terence Gorski in Why Do I Keep Doing That? an addictive relationship involves one person who is self-centered and extremely independent. This partner (let’s call him Selfish Sam – but it could just as easily be Selfish Sally) believes he’s entitled to whatever he wants whenever he wants it. He surrounds himself with people who support his opinions of himself. The other partner (we’ll call her Dependant Debbie but it could be Dependent Darren) is dependent and other-centered, and willing to mirror whatever the first partner wants. She’s simply a reflection of him. This is how addictive relationships work.
About addictive relationships Gorski says, “It works until the other-centered person runs out of steam one night and doesn’t have enough energy to mirror back what is needed. The relationship is going to blow up. Addictive relationships do not necessarily have to have self-centered and other-centered partners, but it’s the norm.”
Addictive relationships can change, if both partners are self-aware and willing to do what it takes. In some cases an objective viewpoint (such as counseling) helps; other times, self-control and mutual accountability are all that’s needed to turn the addictive relationship around.
Infidelity is the act of unfaithfulness to a person, union or situation.
There is a significant amount of time dedicated to the subject. Everything from talk shows to weekly dramas, rely on the topic of infidelity for ratings.
How to avoid and/or survive infidelity are usually the topics. But rarely does one address the psychology of infidelity. People cheat for various reasons – but they all do it for some sort of psychological stimulation. Here are the main psychological roots of infidelity.
Insecure adulterers may feel insecure about the fortitude of their relationship. The insecurity may be personal, whereas one feels unworthy of their significant other. They don’t feel on equal level to their relationship and always fear that they will lose their boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. The fear becomes great in these people and they seek ways to resolve it. Believing that the dissolution of their relationship is inevitable, they never consider options such as counseling. Instead they turn their attention to minimizing their fear and pain. This is where an affair enters. The affair serves as security for if the relationship ends (a backup plan). The adulterer feels that they have a safety net to rely upon. This underlying fear usual stems from failed relationships (parent’s divorce or prior failed marriage) and an overwhelming fear of being abandoned or alone.
In the case of Insecurity, the cheat often chooses a second partner who they feel equal or superior to. This temporarily relieves their feelings of inadequacy.
The controlling adulterer cheats in order to feel powerful. They may not have any, or what they deem to be enough control in their primary relationship. There are several ways in which lack of control manifests into an extra-relational affair. The adulterer may choose a person who is easily controllable. This is prevalent in domineering types and/or boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses who are dominated. Since in their primary relationship they relinquish control, sometimes to the point of abuse, they resolve their frustrations in an extramarital affair which in some cases can be, itself, abusive to the secondary partner.
The second way one feels controlling in an affair is the ability to choose and select. In a relationship, compromise is essential. Many couples do it willingly, but some do it unwillingly. Having an affair, especially an unserious one, allows the adulterer to control how, when and where the relationship unfolds. One can establish the rules and manipulate them to one’s advantage-limiting them to physical-only or a secondary relationship in which they can come and go or demand of their secondary partner with no effort to allow or negotiate the other person’s feelings. The inability or unwillingness to compromise is solved through having a controlling affair. One can even create and control a new personal image through an affair. For example, in the affair the adulterer can avoid responsibility entirely–they may not keep promised schedules and enjoy the power of choosing how much or how little they spend on their secondary relationship.
This is the number one reason that adulterers cite for cheating. It is almost always the reason women cite for their extra-relational affairs. Everyone needs psychological stimulation (that sense of being wanted and desired). Without it one begins to suffer from mental and emotional neglect.
Sometimes, when a couple has been together for a long time, they begin to neglect each other. They don’t talk with or inquire about each other as often. They may even neglect to have sexual intercourse as often, or at all (or if it happens it is no longer intimate and open to fantasy or satisfying but rather mechanical). This type of neglect leaves a person feeling frustrated at best, and undesirable at worst.
Neglected people are the group that affairs find them; they don’t always look for or initiate affairs. The neglected ones can become like wounds in desperate need of a bandage. They may use work, religion or an affair, unknowingly, as their bandage. Or they can end up in an affair because somebody provided them with the attention that their significant other had neglected to give them.
These affairs may appear as extra-hours at work so he/she can avoid the unsatisfying relationship and replace it with time spent with someone who values them. Although most “neglect” affairs are physical, there has been a recent surge in emotional adultery where the neglected boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse conduct the extra-relationship online–receiving there the spark, value and satisfaction they no longer receive at home.
The psychology of infidelity is an important area to seek knowledge in, if you are in a committed relationship. Often times we blame others and ourselves when an affair occurs in our relationship. If we understand various personality types and individual needs, one can tailor a relationship that will prevent infidelity and promote a happy union.
Republish from: http://www.essortment.com/lifestyle/psychologyinfid_tvty.htm
Repost from WebMD. For entire article go here
June 10, 2009 — Parental depression can take a serious toll on children, and the whole family should be involved in depression care, according to a new report.
That report, issued today by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, estimates that in any given year, 7.5 million U.S. parents are depressed and at least 15 million U.S. children live with a parent who has major or severe depression.
Those are conservative estimates, notes Mary Jane England, MD, who chaired the committee that wrote the report. England is president of Regis College in Weston, Mass., and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association.
Depression is a “major problem that affects a significant number of people” but is “very treatable,” England tells WebMD.
The new report is about how parental depression affects children — and what to do about it.
The new report traces the impact that parental depression may have on children — starting even before birth.
Here are some of the findings cited in the report:
The risks to children differ depending on the child’s age, notes committee member William Beardslee, MD, of the psychiatry department at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
“Early in life, we worry most that somehow the fundamental bond between the mother and father and the infant may be weakened because of depression,” Beardslee says.
“A little later on, when children are older, parents are vitally important in providing structure, order, encouragement, support, helping with school, helping with friendships, and those processes tend to be disrupted when a parent is depressed,” Beardslee says.
Most of the research done on parental depression has focused on mothers, especially during pregnancy or when their babies are very young. But parents can become depressed at any age, and depression in dads is also important.
“Fathers are a really critical part of families, and depression in fathers also has an impact on their children,” committee member Mareasa Isaacs, PhD, executive director of the nonprofit National Alliance of Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health Associations, tells WebMD. “In some households the depression of the father is a direct response to the mother’s illness. He in turn pulls away from the family–directly impacting the child or children. It is not uncommon, from the father’s withdrawl, for the children, themselves to become withdrawn and unable to connect in future positive relationships.”
Depression saps energy, which can make it harder for patients to seek help.
But “parents care most about their kids and they want to do the right things for their children, so that’s a major motivating factor,” Isaacs says.
The new report calls for a family focus in treating parental depression that includes parenting skills and attention to children’s well-being.
Tiffany Field, PhD, a pediatrics professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, agrees with that approach, though she wasn’t on the IOM committee.
“It’s critical to look at the whole family,” says Field, who studies parental depression. She notes that when a parent is depressed, the children will often become depressed, and then the parent gets even more depressed. “It’s like a vicious loop,” Field says.
The committee members want parental depression care to be available in several different settings — not just at mental health clinics or in specialists’ offices.
“There are childcare settings, school-based settings … other community settings where parents may feel more comfortable getting services,” Isaacs says. “We feel very strongly that we want to mainstream depression treatment,” England says.
The new report also recommends making policy changes and prioritizing research on parental depression.
“We have a major systems problem,” England says. “The system is truly broken, in the sense that we do not focus on families. We focus only on the individual, and if you happen to walk in the right door, then you will get care, but only as an individual.”
She and her colleagues recommend that state task forces be formed to make it easier to find parental depression resources. That way, England says, families dealing with depression won’t have to spend their scarce energy looking for help.
Read more about parental depression on WebMD’s news blog.
From: Fordham Urban Law Journal
The role of psychology and related mental health disciplines in the informed consent process has gradually evolved from an essentially non-existent role into a central and important one. The importance of informed consent as a mechanism for protecting patient autonomy cannot be overstated. Both the ethical principals of psychologists as well as countless legal decisions have emphasized the importance of patient autonomy. (1) Rooted in the constitutional right to privacy, the importance of autonomy as a guiding principal in medical decision making (as in other forms of decision making) has been well established and is essentially unchallenged. (2)
I. INFORMED CONSENT
As is perhaps common knowledge for many clinicians and legal scholars, the doctrine of informed consent requires three elements to be present in order to validate medical treatment decisions. (3) The decision must be knowledgeable (i.e., the treatment provider must have disclosed relevant information to the prospective patient), voluntary (i.e., a decision made of the patient’s own free will), and competent (i.e., by an individual with an adequate level of decision making ability). Although psychologists have been involved in providing research and clinical expertise to virtually all aspects of the informed consent process, psychology’s role is most important in determining whether the patient is competent to make a treatment decision. (4)
The burden of the first element of informed consent, the “knowledge” element, rests with the treating clinicians. Specifically, the doctor must provide a reasonable amount of information regarding the known risks and benefits of a recommended treatment, as well as the risks and benefits of treatment alternatives. Not surprisingly, the volume of information necessary to make an informed decision varies depending on the nature and complexity of the decision at hand. Furthermore, different patients will certainly differ in the amount of information they desire. In general, however, a standard has emerged that is consistent with numerous other areas of the law: the “reasonable person” standard, or that amount of information that the typical person would find adequate and/or necessary to make such a decision. (5) Although psychologists have begun to use research tools to clarify the boundaries of the reasonable person standard, literature has not yet focused squarely on informed consent. (6) Instead, most mental health research has addressed the impact of disclosed information on treatment decisions or methods to improve comprehension and retention of disclosed information. (7)
Voluntariness, the second element of informed consent, pertains to the patient’s decision making process. Individuals must be free to make their own decisions without undue coercion from others. Although studies of the patient’s perceptions of coercion and the factors that influence this perception have begun to emerge in the psychology literature, this issue remains largely outside the domain of psychology. (8) Instead, defining the contours of voluntariness occurs primarily in the courts. Even so, no clear definitions or standards have been forthcoming. (9)
Competence, the final aspect of informed consent, is arguably the most important element of consent. Although only recently identified as a topic worthy of scientific scrutiny, the competence question has increasingly attracted the attention of the psychological sciences. (10) While the burden of competence falls primarily upon the decision maker, the clinician or researcher is responsible for ensuring that this requirement has been satisfied. (11) Importantly, the law presumes that every adult is competent to make decisions for themselves unless proven otherwise; for many individuals the burden of demonstrating competence may shift as a practical matter, if not a legal one. Mentally ill, mentally retarded, severely medically ill, and even healthy elderly adults share this burden, in that many individuals perceive their competence to be questionable. (12) This discussion focuses on three scenarios in which questions of competence, and the role of the mental health professional, play a central role.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS, CLINICAL ASSESSMENTS
Separating legal theory and clinical decision-making is necessary to any discussion of legal and ethical principals guiding real-world situations. Among the many crucial distinctions, few are as important as the distinction between law and clinical practice. (13) Although the decision-making capacity is clinical, determinations of competence are legal conclusions that are based only partially on clinical input. (14) Until a judge has declared an individual incompetent, the law’s presumption of competence remains. (15) Moreover, when determinations of incompetence are rendered, they are typically situation-specific, pertaining to only a single issue or decision (although some individuals might be declared incompetent for a broad range of purposes). (16) Third, although the responsibility for determining whether an individual is competent or incompetent rests with a judge, formal proceedings to determine competence are relatively rare.
Frequently these decisions arise during end-stage life conditions, however, in the field we do come across the ocassional patient who has given up due to life-stress and life-strain conditions. It is due to this that guidance from a mental health professional is warranted to clearly determine: is the patient’s quality of life diminishing (via biological illness) or is the patient merely giving up on life?
The DNR order is not a rite for individual suicide. If the patient’s condition can be treated with marginally invasive means, but the patient refuses to access the treatment (medication, dialysis, etc.) that could not only save their life but improve the biological quality of life, the primary doctor, clinic, hospital should seek consult from a mental health professional to institute a discussion on whether the patient is mentally competent to make medical decisions.
(Note: Refusing dialysis or medication which will in turn prevent further medical issues such as stroke seems to indicate a state of depression. You need to engage your supports now. You need to recognize that there are people who would like to help you through these difficult times.)
(Repost by Ifat Glassman)
What is “important” in life? A commonly accepted answer is: Getting your name down in history books, bringing progress to humanity, helping people, changing things on a major scale.
Then, there is a sub-version of what is “important”: the idea of what is “successful”. “Successful” means being famous, having a triple degree in something, rich, popular, having people who love you, being good looking.
Philosophically she views morality as duty: as a set of rights and wrongs dictated to her from something outside herself (like society or God).
Psychologically this view of morality puts a wedge between her self esteem and desires; because she needs to choose if she wants to be good and obedient, or pursue her own desires and goals–thus giving up being good (which means to give up self-esteem).
Philosophically, a proper moral code depends on a human’s choice to live and achieve her needs. It’s opposite, a moral code prescribed as duty, makes personal goals and thinking irrelevant, and is therefore improper as a guide to life (which is what ethics in essence IS).
For many it can be difficult to grasp that a proper moral code actually depends on their choice; Many of us are educated to accept what is “good” or “bad” as irrelevant to our choice and beyond our reasoning. Kids are taught what is “important”, such as; it is important to get good grades, important to keep a safe, traditional path vs. pursuing a “hopeless” dream, important to have friends, not to upset anyone, to “get along”. It is important to do “great things”, to have money, important to share, important to be modest, nice, etc’. All this is demanded from a child as measurement of how good she is, without providing an explanation what makes these things good for the child. Without giving her incentive or reason to choose this course of behavior herself. [Additional note at the end regarding this point]
This sort of “education” sets the psychological state of mind for having values without a valuer. To pursue “important” things that one does not enjoy and that are not part of individual self-fulfillment, rather they stand above one’s self, as a test of her worth.
A non-selfish person gives up her pleasure and her values easily if she is taught that the good is to do so. She does not act to achieve pleasure – rather she acts in a “moral” way for the sake of not disappointing others – for the fear of being bad or the attempt to be good, without any further purpose – without attempting to gain something of personal importance to her, something she enjoys.
For example: Suppose someone enjoys romantic relationships. And some day she learns that according to an accepted ethical principle, this kind of behavior is bad. If she is selfish she will say: “To hell with this principle, it’s taking away my enjoyment. Unless I understand in what way this principle is good for my life, I say to hell with it”.
The person who sees morality as duty, however, will think: “Well, to be good I must give up my pleasure from having this relationship. Being good and all the “others” in the world are more important than my pleasure”.
In what way, then, can morality be selfishly chosen?
As we grow up we learn that a certain course of action is required to achieve the things we aim at getting. We look for some guidance for the kind of person we want to be in order to deal with the difficulties in our lives and enjoy it, we look for some ideal or role model for guidance of the kind of person we want to be. Most people do not realize that this is their first step to choose a moral code – and not what they were taught to believe is “the good”.
The correct method to choose a moral code is highly personal: It is acting as the kind of person you are inspired to be, for the sake of achieving things you enjoy. And the process of integrating a chosen moral code to one’s life goes through one’s ability to understand it.
One cannot chose a career or personality that are good for him and yet make him self-alienated and bored.
Often, an individual who lives life through duty to others and morality only reaches a state of hopelessness–journeying through life with no sense of personal achievement or value to themselves or others–which leaves them to question why they are at all (ex: the character George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” who spent his entire life delaying his pleasure for the good of others until he wanted to kill himself).
Likewise a truly selfish person who acts only for the pleasure of herself through achieving instant gratification and material possessions may also reach that same state of failure–though frequently delayed to a time when she become old or ill (ex: The character Kane in the film “Citizen Kane” who came to realize that he had a great many things but no real value to anyone).
The purpose of morality compatible with human life is to provide us the principles to guide our lives: to teach us the kind of person we need to be in order to enjoy and sustain our lives.
Don’t give up any portion of your life for any purpose less than that.
A simple yet creative approach to personal growth and leadership development. (Reprint Saturday, March 8, 2008)
“I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve.” -Robert Burns, Scottish Poet known as the Bard of Ayrshire, Robert Burns
Passive-aggressive behaviors destroy relationships. Whining, complaining, blaming and deflecting responsibility for every problem that arises exasperates others. Relationships require people to take ownership over their own actions and life, so that all members can deal with each other on equal ground.
Many people form passive-aggressive habits without even knowing it because their friends or loved ones are afraid to confront them or tell them the truth. No one likes to hurt a friend’s feelings, but are you really doing them a favor by ignoring these types of behaviors?
No. If you care about someone, you tell them the truth; otherwise, if your cannot or do not, you will eventually abandon the relationship altogether. The responsibility, though, ultimately lies with the individual offender. The majority of the times – when it’s not a clinical condition such as PSTD – passive-aggressive behaviors are a choice.
It’s easy to blame others for your own misfortune, and it’s hard to take accountability for your own actions and condition in life. The ‘whoa-is-me’ attitude or the ‘it’s not my fault’ mentality is an easy way for cowards to justify their actions, or lack thereof.
Anger, insecurity, lack of self-confidence and fear of failure are often linked to passive-aggressive behaviors, so it is important to recognize and address these feelings before they get deeply rooted. If you want to build and maintain successful relationships with others, they will expect you to take responsibility for yourself. Friends want to help you get through tough times and listen to your opinions, but whining never inspires anyone to want to come to your aid.
Passive-aggressive behaviors ultimately destroy relationships. If you have a tendency to whine, complain and blame, the only thing you can be certain of is that people will eventually stop listening to you. Successful relationships are built on equality and trust, and the only way you instill these things in others is by taking responsibility for yourself.
But should all passive-aggressive people be treated this way?
Individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cognitively recognize the concept of over-whining being a tiresome burden, however they often bound in the opposite extreme and internalize–feelings. These individuals become so certain that no one wants to hear of their struggles and no one can or wants to help that they essentially see themselves as altered and isolated in experiences from those around them. And though there usually is a root issue, event or journey point that caused the condition, many become overly sensitive to the world’s frustration with whiners and so they resolve suffer in silence which further exacerbates the condition and symptoms.
Although the human instinct is to handle all such “chronically damaged” and troubled infividuals exactly as they would a stereotypical nagging spouse or neighbor–simply walking away or avoiding–those suffering from PTSD are already diminished in their ability to parse, separate and organize events. They stack events such as relationship rejections, and as a result spiral further into isolated distress. The result is deep emotional upheaval and depression which sometimes even extends itself into physical ailment and death.
So how can you tell whether you are being used as a dumping ground of aimless whining and complaints or are being reached out to by someone who needs that life-line? Perhaps the best way to react to any relationship is to stop and think, “What would this person do if it was me?” (or simply apply that Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)
Original post by Nimmy on August 4, 2008
(Much appreciation for a timely cross-reference.)
An intimate experience is one of the cherished moments of your life. Nothing else can be more fantastic than sharing your deepest thoughts with the person you love the most. “Fear of intimacy,” a common term referred to in failing relationships. Ever wondered why it matters so much? Well, I personally believe that a relationship is all about intimacy, and fear of intimacy ruins the basic fulfillment and no beautiful and long-lasting bonds can be developed over such a fragile foundation. It is hard for most of us to believe that if someone else REALLY knows us, they will still love us.
Intimacy is communicating your true thoughts and feelings; fear of intimacy involves emotional walls. Intimacy in relationships involves sharing what you really think, believe and feel. It’s about opening up your heart and mind, and letting others do the same. It’s risky, which is why fear of intimacy often develops. Intimacy is very risky. It requires making such a serious commitment to the relationship that each person will experience a sense of dependency on the other. Even if you love someone who loves you back wholeheartedly and vows to never hurt you, you’re taking a risk. But as potentially risky as loving is, not-loving is worse.
When you know what you fear, you’re in a better position to deal with it. Opening your heart and letting go of your fears can be difficult, but you have to when it becomes inevitable in making the relationship a beautiful one. Fear of intimacy can be overcome only when the dread of rejection is removed. The strongest foundation of an intimate relationship is a good friendship. Ask yourself questions like ’what stops me being more intimate in my relationships,’ and rapidly move to ‘what will happen when I am able to be more intimate in my relationships?’. The answer you find yourself–you open up windows and let bliss flow in.
Always remember that not everyone can express their feelings well. If you want, then you can practice on being more intimate. However, there is no way you can change the people you love. While we cannot change others, we can encourage them to express themselves and be true about themselves and their interests. It is important to let them know that we won’t reject them, no matter what. Thats part of trust building we talk about. Encourage openness and honesty. The more we discuss fear of intimacy, the more the other person may open up. Overcoming fear of intimacy requires honesty on both sides. The more both partners open up and embrace each other, the more deeper and intimate the relation will be. Good luck!!
Reposting article by Roy H Lubit, MD, PhD, J Martin Maldonado-Durán, MD, and Linda Helmig Bram, PhD
Attachment disorders are the psychological result of negative experiences with caregivers, usually since infancy, that disrupt the exclusive and unique relationship between children and their primary caregiver(s). Oppositional and defiant behaviors may be the result of disruptions in attachment.
Many children experience the loss of primary caregivers either because they are physically separated from them or because the caregiver is incapable of providing adequate care. Removal from primary caregivers can cause serious problems by breaking primary attachments, even if alternate caregivers are competent.
Attachment disorders have been described in the psychological and psychiatric literature for approximately 50 years. The condition Rene Spitz called anaclitic depression is now considered an attachment disorder. Spitz observed young children in an orphanage who were fed and kept clean and were initially in good physical condition but who received no consistent affection from a sole caregiver. The long-standing absence of emotional warmth took an enormous toll on the children, primarily on their emotional development but also on their physical growth and development condition. Spitz concluded that providing only for a baby’s physical needs is not sufficient for normal development.
A short while later, John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst interested in the parallels between human infants and animal babies, incorporated Harlow’s research on rhesus monkeys into his study of the child’s tie to its mother. He concluded that separations during the first few months of life negatively impact a baby’s psychic organization and that separation from a parental figure causes separation anxiety.
In a film entitled A-Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital, Bowlby shows that an infant goes through several phases in reaction to separation. The infant goes from protest to crying to a sad state and, finally, to a more desolate state of resignation regarding the loss.
Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, produced a report for theWorld Health Organization (WHO)highlighting the importance of parental sensitivity in adequate child development. Parental sensitivity refers to the ability of a parent to read internal states and emotions in his or her baby and to respond to them in a positive and supportive manner.
Attachment refers to a set of behaviors and inferred emotions that can be observed in infants. Humans need attachments with others for their psychological and emotional development as well as for their survival. Early manifestations of attachment include the unique and exclusive relationship between an infant and its parents. Parents and infants establish a continuous relationship that has specific features. The quality of this relationship colors the person’s relationships for the rest of his or her life.
Both caregiver and baby have biological preprogrammed instinctive equipment to foster their relationship. Most people have a strong attraction and desire to care for babies. In addition, a baby’s crying and clinging (signaling behaviors) reinforce the baby’s efforts to obtain care and attention. Parents also has instinctive behaviors, such as soothing the crying infant, caressing it, making sounds that are appealing to the infant, and mirroring the infant (ie, playfully imitating the baby’s facial expressions), all of which trigger tenderness and a maternal instinct.
Attachment develops through repeatedly being looked after and appropriately responded to by the caregiver. This convinces the baby and young child that a person is available to soothe, console, and comfort. Infants may develop attachments to other people who are consistent in their lives; however, the relationship with the primary caregiver(s) plays the most critical role in determining the child’s basis for future attachments. The attachment figure(s) cannot suddenly be replaced by any other caregiver because that relationship is unique and stable.
Based on the nature and quality of early attachments, children develop an internal working model of relationships that serves as a template for future relationships. These working models of relationships can be positive (ie, people can be trusted, confided in, helpful in distress) or negative (ie, no one can be trusted, people are not caring, one is all alone in the world). Babies internalize their parents (and other attachment figures) as a secure base. This allows infants to feel internally safe and to confidently explore the world around them. It also allows them to experience positive interpersonal exchanges with other children. The infant can come back to the caregiver to refuel emotionally before proceeding with further explorations.
Reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorder (RAD), as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), requires etiologic factors, such as gross deprivation of care or successive multiple caregivers, for diagnosis.
Attachment disorders independent of DSM-IV
Mary Ainsworth developed an attachment classification based on the behavior of infants (typically aged 10-13 mo) in the presence of a stranger during and after a short separation from their primary caregivers.
If caregivers are not reliably or consistently present or if they respond in an unpredictable and uncertain way, babies are not able to establish a pattern of confident expectation. One result is insecure attachment, or a less than optimal internal sense of confidence and trust in others, beginning with caregivers. The child then uses psychological defenses (eg, avoidance or ambivalence) to avoid disappointments with the caregiver. This is thought to contribute to a negative working model of relationships that leads to insecurity for the rest of the child’s life.
Young children exposed to multiple caregivers simultaneously or sequentially do not easily experience the sense of security associated with unique and exclusive long-standing relationships. No opportunity exists to trust one person because past relationships were interrupted, disrupted, or consistently unreliable. Children with disinhibited attachment resort to psychological defense mechanisms (eg, relying only on themselves and not expecting to be soothed, cared for, or consoled by adults) to survive. Instead of relying on one person, any sense of fear or loneliness is inhibited and the children develop a pseudocomfort with whoever is available. The child is thought to suppress the conscious experience of fear only as a result of a psychological defense. The child is afraid of trusting anyone and being further disappointed. This pattern can continue into adult life and adversely affect adult relationships.
No epidemiologic studies of frequency or prevalence of attachment disorders in children exist; however, statistical data regarding adoptions and foster care placement are available. One might estimate, based on the number of foster care placements and disruptions in relationships, approximately how many children can have attachment disorders.
Many children, examples being certain children from Romania and China, have lived in orphanages and have had little opportunity for attachment or they have lived in bleak conditions with multiple caregivers and are emotionally and cognitively deprived. In the midst of such deprivation and so many disruptions in relationships, determining exactly what causes a child to have difficulties in relating and communicating, in development of trust, and in linguistic and cognitive development can be difficult.
No evidence suggests greater prevalence of attachment disorders in a particular racial or ethnic group unless as noted above in specific countries with unusual child care practices.
No information in the scientific literature suggests a sex predilection exists.
Onset of attachment disorders is in children younger than 5 years. Typically, the disorder has its roots in infancy. The more serious effects of disruptions in attachment relationships tend to persist and manifest themselves in the preschool and school years. In more muted forms (eg, mistrust and difficulties in establishing supportive, sensitive, and intimate relationships), they last into adolescence and adulthood.
Rene Spitz noted that the children in the orphanage were prone to physical illness and had decreased appetites. They exhibited some stereotyped movements, self-stimulation, and an empty look in their eyes. They lacked normal responses of interest when people came close. They cried vaguely or softly many times a day and seemed unhappy. Many of these children seemed depressed and unresponsive to initiatives for interaction, as if they were resigned to their situation of affective deprivation. These children also had a much higher mortality rate than noninstitutionalized pediatric populations.
A history of gross neglect, lack of contingent responses, and little or no attention, interaction, and affection are required to establish a diagnosis of inhibited RAD. For a diagnosis of disinhibited RAD, a history of multiple caregivers, sequential changes in caregiver, disruptions in relationships, and placement with different people for considerable periods must exist. The child does not develop preferential attachments and secure base behavior toward a specific person but instead develops an undifferentiated closeness with anyone who approaches the child.
Multiple situations can lead to attachment disorders.
(Post from Psychology.com by Dr. Terry Tempinski)
We have all known the experience of being anxious, worried, and even panicked. While these symptoms can become overwhelming and debilitating, the good news is, generally speaking, anxiety is not difficult to treat. Let me explain.
No one likes to be anxious. I am here to help you appreciate your anxiety as a very good friend who is trying to call your attention to a source of inner turmoil. Typically, anxiety is not difficult to treat because it is only a symptom. Its exploration in the course of psychotherapy offers clues as to the source of the problem, and once that cause is understood, and the work of resolving the underlying cause begins, the anxiety tends to remit.
If you are feeling anxious, panicky or consumed with worry to the point of not being able to focus, concentrate, sleep, or comfortably interact with others, please don’t get caught up in what I call identifying with a diagnosis such as “anxiety disorder” or “panic disorder”. Diagnoses are merely tools mental health professionals use to describe a cluster of symptoms. Symptoms of anxiety are much like a fever, which we know indicates that we have an infection of some type.
If we define our problem as merely a fever and only treat the fever, we run the risk of overlooking the cause of the fever….thus prolonging our recovery. Similarly, anxious feelings that are tenacious are a sign that something is troubling us deeply. Perhaps you have had the experience of feeling anxious about something and, at the same time, realizing clearly why you were anxious. In such situations, you were probably able to “take the bull by the horns”, so to speak, and resolve things somehow so that you could re-establish your emotional equilibrium. When people present themselves for psychotherapy, this is what we try to do. However, when persistent or long-standing feelings of anxiety are ignored, they often give way to more exaggerated forms of anxiety, such as the person who struggles with anxiety to the point that they begin becoming anxious about becoming anxious, which of course, only makes them more anxious!
It sounds simple, but if you are struggling with anxiety, you know it is not. Our mind is so complicated with its multiple layers of awareness. On a continuum we have our conscious mind at one end, which includes things we are thinking about right this minute, and at the other end of the continuum we have our unconscious mind which includes memories of feelings and experiences we cannot recall (eg., being born). It’s mind-boggling when you think about it: stored in our brains are all of our life experiences along with all of our feelings about them. It’s no wonder that when we are feeling anxious or panicky, it is not a simple, straightforward process of deciphering the cause(s).
In a typical course of psychotherapy, as we explore our anxieties, we begin to identify contradictions which are the key to resolving our issues or conflicts. For example, let’s say you are one of those people who are anxiety free until you begin really pursuing what you want for yourself or when you try to do something that is truly in your best interest (eg., lose weight, meet people, get close, try to commit, or even pursue your career goals). This is confusing, right? If you want these things, why are you so uncomfortable pursuing them?
Perhaps you are beginning to recognize that, ironically, you feel comfortable being passive or even with acting in self-destructive ways. At first glance this seems to make no sense! But these kinds of contradictions or conflicts, as we call them, are exactly the kinds of things that often underlie symptoms of anxiety. At its best, therapy effectively uncovers such contradictions and helps people come to terms with whatever is troubling them. When that happens, symptoms of anxiety naturally then subside.
So if you are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, please try conceptualizing your anxiety as your friend, not as your foe. Think of your symptoms as a valuable source of information which contains answers as to why you are struggling. I think you will find this helpful and then, at least, you won’t be working against yourself!
What can you do to help a person who is in the midst of a suicidal crisis and put them in touch with the help they need?
1. ENGAGE: Engage the person at risk in a personal way; let the person know you are paying attention and make the person feel accepted. Maintain eye contact. Let your personal reactions show on your face. Sit forward, lean toward the person, and don’t get distracted. For example, convey empathy, try to see and feel things from the person’s perspective. Often the person is feeling isolated and disconnected, so assure them. Make certain they know you value them.
2. IDENTIFY: Ask whether the person is thinking about suicide. Be direct but sensitive. It gives the person permission to talk about suicidal thoughts or plans.
3. INQUIRE: If the person is considering suicide, ask about their reasons. Reflect back in your own words what you are hearing to help the person feel that he or she is being understood. With understanding you can then work together to find ways other than suicide to resolve the situation.
4. ASSESS: Ask if the person has a plan. For example “Have you thought of how you might kill yourself”? Is there a gun in the house? How soon are you planning to do it? Assess as to whether the person has attempted suicide before. If you have any doubts about the level of danger, err on the side of caution. In a situation where a person’s life is at stake, it is better to do too much then not enough. You ask about where, when, and how they are planning on doing it…You are also looking for any positive things that light them up. You want to support any coping strategies that they show are working for them. And you might even ask them; in the past when you felt bad how have you dealt with it? What’s helped?
5. DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN: This task involves you and the person at-risk coming to an agreement and putting a plan into action to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. Be specific: Be sure the person is able to play back the plan to you to show that he or she clearly understands it. You want to commit to doing things, and you want them to commit to doing things. Play the plan back to them, and make sure they are really understanding it. It is important to provide structure for them; to make it simple, direct and with structure, because people at risk are feeling fragmented. They feel like they’re coming apart…and you need to provide the structure. Limit objectives: The action plan is not meant to be a total solution for all the person’s problems. Be realistic. Do not make false promises or resort to phony statements. (Likewise, reprimands will only enhance the at-risk person’s feeling of inadequacy.) Confirm a commitment: The person at-risk agrees not to engage in any self-harming behavior for an agreed-upon time period. Ask the person to repeat the agreement out loud. Both of you will experience a feeling of relief. If you don’t experience a feeling of relief, get them to help immediately. Develop crisis control: Make arrangements for emergency support if the steps of your plan for action cannot be carried out. For example, have the person or their parents call the local or national suicide hotline.
Lastly, what you want to do is make up a back up plan with them. What are they going to do if they get overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts or feelings between now and when you are going to do the next step of your plan or the next time you are going to see them? You want to make sure that they have both the local and the national Hot Line Numbers so that 24 hours a day they could reach another trained person at the end of the line that can help talk them through it. You also want them to be able to contact you, but if they can’t get a hold of you, you want to make sure that they have those numbers. Extending the invitation for future conversations are key. Spell out the follow-up: After assistance is obtained, follow up to see how they are doing.
On a final point, it’s really important that we reach out and act kindly toward everyone in our lives, people we come across, that we smile at people; you know that we take the time to talk to somebody who looks distressed and ask them what’s wrong. Make the effort because some people are just waiting to be stopped, to be interrupted, to be helped. Go ahead and ask, it couldn’t hurt. GO ahead and smile at somebody, it doesn’t take a lot for you, it doesn’t cost you anything. It could really save a life.
If you or someone you know is at risk, and you don’t feel there is someone else to trust, call you local suicide hotline or 1 (800)-SUICIDE
(One final, and more personal note for mj, in hopes that you are reading tonight: please call to let me know where you are. I can help.)
Is it an invented relationship? The truth is that only one of you is banking on this relationship, and it is most definitely not him.
It’s well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the “disinhibition effect.” It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes people share very personal things about themselves. They reveal secret emotions, fears, wishes. Or they show unusual acts of kindness and generosity. We may call this benign disinhibition.
On the other hand, the disinhibition effect may not be so benign. Out spills rude language and harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, even threats. Or people explore the dark underworld of the internet, places of pornography and violence, places they would never visit in the real world. We might call this toxic disinhibition.
On the benign side, the disinhibition indicates an attempt to understand and explore oneself, to work through problems and find new ways of being. And sometimes, in toxic disinhibition, it is simply a blind catharsis, an acting out of unsavory needs and wishes without any personal growth at all.
What causes this online disinhibition? What is it about cyberspace that loosens the psychological barriers that block the release of these inner feelings and needs? Several factors are at play. For some people, one or two of them produces the lion’s share of the disinhibition effect. In most cases, though, these factors interact with each other, supplement each other, resulting in a more complex, amplified effect.
As you move around the internet, most of the people you encounter can’t easily tell who you are. System operators and some technologically savvy, motivated users may be able to detect your e-mail or internet address, but for the most part people only know what you tell them about yourself. If you wish, you can keep your identity hidden. As the word “anonymous” indicates, you can have no name – at least not your real name. That anonymity works wonders for the disinhibition effect. When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can’t be directly linked to the rest of their lives. They don’t have to own their behavior by acknowledging it within the full context of who they “really” are. When acting out hostile feelings, the person doesn’t have to take responsibility for those actions. In fact, people might even convince themselves that those behaviors “aren’t me at all.” In psychology this is called “dissociation.”
In many online environments other people cannot see you. As you browse through web sites, message boards, and even some chat rooms, people may not even know you are there at all – with the possible exception of web masters and other users who have access to software tools that can detect traffic through the site, assuming they have the inclination to keep an eye on you, one of maybe hundreds or thousands of users. Invisibility gives people the courage to go places and do things that they otherwise wouldn’t.
This power to be concealed overlaps with anonymity, because anonymity is the concealment of identity. But there are some important differences. In text communication such as e-mail, chat, blogs, and instant messaging, others may know a great deal about who you are. However, they still can’t see or hear you – and you can’t see or hear them. Even with everyone’s identity visible, the opportunity to be physically invisible amplifies the disinhibition effect. You don’t have to worry about how you look or sound when you say (type) something. You don’t have to worry about how others look or sound when you say something. Seeing a frown, a shaking head, a sigh, a bored expression, and many other subtle and not so subtle signs of disapproval or indifference can slam the breaks on what people are willing to express. In psychoanalysis, the analyst sits behind the patient in order remain a physically ambiguous figure, without revealing any body language or facial expression, so that the patient has free range to discuss whatever he or she wants, without feeling inhibited by how the analyst is physically reacting. In everyday relationships, people sometimes avert their eyes when discussing something personal and emotional. It’s easier not to look into the other’s face. Text communication offers a built-in opportunity to keep one’s eyes averted.
In e-mail and message boards, communication is asynchronous. People don’t interact with each other in real time. Others may take minutes, hours, days, or even months to reply to something you say. Not having to deal with someone’s immediate reaction can be disinhibiting. In real life, it would be like saying something to someone, magically suspending time before that person can reply, and then returning to the conversation when you’re willing and able to hear the response. Immediate, real-time feedback from others tends to have a very powerful effect on the ongoing flow of how much people reveal about themselves. In e-mail and message boards, where there are delays in that feedback, people’s train of thought may progress more steadily and quickly towards deeper expressions of what they are thinking and feeling. Some people may even experience asynchronous communication as “running away” after posting a message that is personal, emotional, or hostile. It feels safe putting it “out there” where it can be left behind. In some cases, as Kali Munro, an online psychotherapist, aptly describes it, the person may be participating in an “emotional hit and run.”
Absent f2f cues combined with text communication can have an interesting effect on people. Sometimes they feel that their mind has merged with the mind of the online companion. Reading another person’s message might be experienced as a voice within one’s head, as if that person magically has been inserted or “introjected” into one’s psyche. Of course, we may not know what the other person’s voice actually sounds like, so in our head we assign a voice to that companion. In fact, consciously or unconsciously, we may even assign a visual image to what we think that person looks like and how that person behaves. The online companion now becomes a character within our intrapsychic world, a character that is shaped partly by how the person actually presents him or herself via text communication, but also by our expectations, wishes, and needs. Because the person may even remind us of other people we know, we fill in the image of that character with memories of those other acquaintances.
As the character now becomes more elaborate and “real” within our minds, we may start to think, perhaps without being fully aware of it, that the typed-text conversation is all taking place within our heads, as if it’s a dialogue between us and this character in our imagination – even as if we are authors typing out a play or a novel. Actually, even when it doesn’t involve online relationships, many people carry on these kinds of conversations in their imagination throughout the day. People fantasize about flirting, arguing with a boss, or very honestly confronting a friend about what they feel. In their imagination, where it’s safe, people feel free to say and do all sorts of things that they wouldn’t in reality. At that moment, reality IS one’s imagination. Online text communication can become the psychological tapestry in which a person’s mind weaves these fantasy role plays, usually unconsciously and with considerable disinhibition. All of cyberspace is a stage and we are merely players.
When reading another’s message, it’s also possible that you “hear” that person’s words using your own voice. We may be subvocalizing as we read, thereby projecting the sound of our voice into the other person’s message. Perhaps unconsciously, it feels as if I am talking to/with myself. When we talk to ourselves, we are willing to say all sorts of things that we wouldn’t say to others!
It’s Just a Game (dissociative imagination)
If we combine solipsistic introjection with the escapability of cyberspace, we get a slightly different force that magnifies disinhibition. People may feel that the imaginary characters they “created” exist in a different space, that one’s online persona along with the online others live in an make-believe dimension, a dream world, separate and apart from the demands and responsibilities of the real world. They split or “dissociate” online fiction from offline fact. Emily Finch, an author and criminal lawyer studying identity theft in cyberspace, has suggested that some people see their online life as a kind of game with rules and norms that don’t apply to everyday living (pers. comm., 2002). Once they turn off the computer and return to their daily routine, they believe they can leave that game and their game-identity behind. Why should they be held responsible for what happens in that make-believe play world that has nothing to do with reality? After all, it isn’t that different than blasting away at your pals in a shoot-em up video game… or so some people might think, perhaps unconsciously.
Although anonymity tends to amplify dissociative imagination, dissociative imagination and dissociative anonymity usually differ in the complexity of the dissociated part of oneself. Under the influence of anonymity, the person may try to be invisible, to become a non-person, resulting in a reducing or simplifying of identity. During dissociative imagination, the self that is expressed, but split-off, tends to be more elaborate.
While online a person’s status in the face-to-face world may not be known to others and it may not have as much impact as it does in the face-to-face world. If people can’t see you or your surroundings, they don’t know if you are the president of a major corporation sitting in your expensive office, or some “ordinary” person lounging around at home in front of the computer. Even if people do know something about your offline status and power, that elevated position may have little bearing on your online presence and influence. In most cases, everyone on the internet has an equal opportunity to voice him or herself. Everyone – regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, etc. – starts off on a level playing field. Although one’s status in the outside world ultimately may have some impact on one’s powers in cyberspace, what mostly determines your influence on others is your skill in communicating (including writing skills), your persistence, the quality of your ideas, and your technical know-how.
People are reluctant to say what they really think as they stand before an authority figure. A fear of disapproval and punishment from on high dampens the spirit. But online, in what feels like a peer relationship – with the appearances of “authority” minimized – people are much more willing to speak out or misbehave.
According to traditional Internet philosophy, everyone is an equal: Peers share ideas and resources. In fact, the net itself is engineered with no centralized control. As it grows, with a seemingly endless potential for creating new environments, many people see themselves as independent-minded explorers. This atmosphere and philosophy contribute to the minimizing of authority.
The disinhibition effect is not the only factor that determines how much people open up or act out in cyberspace. The strength of underlying feelings, needs, and drive level has a big influence on how people behave. Personalities also vary greatly in the strength of defense mechanisms and tendencies towards inhibition or expression. People with histrionic styles tend to be very open and emotional. Compulsive people are more restrained. The online disinhibition effect will interact with these personality variables, in some cases resulting in a small deviation from the person’s baseline (offline) behavior, while in other cases causing dramatic changes.
Does the disinhibition effect release inner needs, emotions, and attributes that dwell beneath surface personality presentations? Does it reveal your “true self.” For example, a woman with repressed anger unleashes her hostility online, thereby showing others how she really feels. Or a shy man openly expresses his hidden affection for his cyberspace companion.
Some people do report being more like their true self in cyberspace. If personality is constructed in layers, with a core or true self buried beneath surface defenses and the seemingly superficial roles of everyday social interactions, then does the disinhibition effect release that true self?
This is a tempting conclusion. In fact, the very notion of a true self is tempting because it is useful in helping people articulate their experiences in how and what they express to others about themselves. The concept also works well, in a humanistic fashion, as a motivational tool in the process of self-actualization.
However, a comprehensive psychological as well as philosophical analysis reveals complexities in
Personal and cultural values: Personal and cultural values often dictate what we consider the true and false aspects of who we are. We more readily accept as valid those attributes that we regard as positive. An unpleasant aspect of one’s personality is not really “me.” However, sexual and aggressive tendencies, as Freud noted, are basic components of personality too, as are the psychological defenses designed to control them.
Personal and cultural values may also label the usually polite persona that we present to others during everyday living as superficial or false. However, this persona is the product of years of social and psychological development. As a critical component of the ego’s construction and functioning, it is essential to interpersonal survival and no less important or true than other components of intrapsychic structure.
While online people may feel they have more opportunities to present themselves as they would like to present themselves, particularly in the carefully composed text of asynchronous communication. They may have more chances to convey thoughts and emotions that go “deeper” than the seemingly superficial persona of everyday living. These opportunities are very valuable aspects of cyberspace, but not necessarily evidence of a more true self. What we reveal about ourselves spontaneously, often right on the surface for others to see but without our being consciously awareness of it, may be just as real and true.
Some people are not fully satisfied with their in-person relationships. Perhaps they don’t have opportunities to develop many relationships, or those that did develop turned out to be unfulfilling. In cyberspace they may find the companions they need. They feel more authentic in those online relationships, and this becomes a viable lifestyle alternative. On the other hand, some people who need to deny or rationalize the unfulfilling quality of their in-person relationships may resort to a personal philosophy that idealizes the disinhibition effect and the notion that the true self appears online.
The inhibiting self: The concept of disinhibition may mistakenly lead us into thinking that what is disinhibited is more real or true than the part of us that inhibits. If we can just peel away repression, suppression, and other defense mechanisms, we will discover the “real” self that lies below. Based loosely on the kind of archeological approach to intrapsychic structure proposed by Freud, this notion suggests that the personality is constructed in layers, with more true or real features of personality existing at a deeper level.
This is a simplistic interpretation of the much more dynamic psychoanalytic model which states that the inhibitory processes of repression and defense mechanisms are components of personality no less real or important than others. Psychoanalytic clinicians believe that understanding defenses is crucial to the success of the therapy because it reveals hidden thoughts, feelings, and needs. Why does a person repress something? Why is it being inhibited? Bypassing defenses to get to the “true” self may also bypass the opportunity to discover aspects of the inhibiting self that are just as true. When these defenses and elements of the inhibited self are worked through, remnants of them sometimes remain to serve an important function. Sometimes they evolve into productive aspects of one’s personality independent of the problematic emotions that were originally defended.
The same is true online. Some people in some online situations become disinhibited and reveal aspects of themselves. However, at the same time, they may not be not grappling with the underlying causes of that inhibition, and therefore are missing an opportunity to discover something important about themselves – something very true about themselves, but often unconscious. If anonymity in cyberspace eases people’s anxiety so they are more comfortable to express themselves, then they also are bypassing an essential component of who they are. Important personality dynamics are embedded in that anxiety.
People who are shy in-person may thrive in cyberspace when the disinhibition effect allows them to express who they “truly” are inside. This is a wonderful opportunity for them. But why is Joe’s shyness a less true aspect of him compared to other features of his personality, especially given the fact that his shyness is a prominent feature of his day-to-day living? If online companions, who had formed the impression Joe was outgoing, finally met him in-person, might they not conclude that Joe is “really” shy? And what makes him shy? Are there underlying psychological problems and anxieties that caused it? Is it a biologically determined temperment, as much research in developmental psychology suggests about shyness. Aren’t these possible causes of his shyness also true aspects of Joe? Here we see the arbitrary nature of the “true self” concept.
Compromise formations: Quite often when people are online and some aspect of their personality is disinhibited, some other aspect of their personality is inhibited. After all, the anonymity that contributes to online disinhibition means that the person is “without a name” – something about that person is not known. In online communication, consciously or unconsciously, people conceal or misrepresent aspects of themselves as often as they honestly reveal aspects of themselves. Any particular media encourages some aspects of identity to be expressed while inhibiting other aspects. Something is revealed while something else is hidden. Expressions of self are compromise formations within any particular media or communication modality. In email Joe reveals for the first time to Sue that “I love you,” but his voice and body language, which in-person might reveal unwritten dimensions and even qualifications of his stated affection, are hidden.
This particular example also points to the polarities that operate within the dynamics of personality. Sometimes we act, think, or feel one way, and sometimes the opposite. We have ambivalent, sometimes opposing emotions. Online Joe says that he truly loves Sue, but in-person his voice indicates some doubt. Face-to-face he appears angry and rejecting, but online he admits that he feels insecure and guilty. Different communication environments convey different facets of these polarities in self. Here one side appears, and there another. Neither is more true than another.
Each media allows for a particular expression of self that differs – sometimes greatly, sometimes subtly – from another media. In different media people present a different perspective of their identity. Chat, email, blogs, videocams, telephones, face-to-face conversation, and all types of communication modalities, each uniquely highlight certain aspects of self expression and personal identity, while hiding others. The self expressed in one modality is not necessarily deeper, more real, or more authentic than another. This multiple modality framework for understanding the self-within-media bypasses the tendency to become bogged down in arbitrary arguments about the location of the true or real self.
The self interacts with the environment in which it is expressed. It is not independent of that environment. If a man suppresses his aggression in life but expresses it online, both behaviors reflect important aspects of his personality that surface under different conditions. If a woman is shy in-person but outgoing online, neither self-presentation is more true than the other. Both are dimensions of who she is, each revealed within a different situational context.
Instead of thinking that personality is constructed in layers with the environment “out there” somewhere, we can conceptualize it as an intrapsyhic field containing clusters or constellations of emotion, memory, and thinking that are interconnected with certain environments. Some constellations overlap, others are more dissociated from each other, with environmental variables influencing those levels of integration and dissociation. Personality dynamics involve the complex interactions among these various clusters within the self and in relation to the environment. An extreme version of these dynamics occur in a multiple personality disorder, in which consciousness shifts laterally from one constellation of personality formation to another, with strong dissociative barriers between those formations. In the more “normal” person, the distinction between the formations may be less dramatic, and the dissociative barriers less intense, but the same alterations in identity expression does occur.
These ideas about self constellations extend as far back as William James’ theory of consciousness shifting from one focus to another within a field of associations. They also are consistent with contemporary theories about dissociation and the information processing of experience.
Therefore, we can think of the disinhibition effect as a person shifting to an “online” personality constellation that may be dissociated – in varying degrees, depending on the person – from the in-person constellation. Inhibiting guilt, shame, or anxiety may be features of the in-person self but not that online self. This constellations model also helps explain other online phenomena, like identity experimentation, role-playing fantasy games, multitasking projects, and other subtle shifts in personality expression as we move from one online environment to another. In fact, a single disinhibited “online self” probably does not exist at all, but rather a collection of slightly different constellations of emotion, memory, and thinking that surface in and interact with different types of online environments. Different communication modalities enable different expressions of oneself. They allow us to see the different perspectives of that complex thing we call “identity.”
This is something to keep in mind for online psychotherapy. Using a multidimensional analysis of the various features of cyberspace, a comprehensive theory of online psychotherapy explores how the design of a computer-mediated environment allows for the inhibition, expression, and development of different aspects of a person’s identity.
My discussion so far rests on the assumption that almost everyone online tends to be disinhibited, even if the effect is small. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some people feel guarded and suspicious about cyberspace. You don’t know who people really are, or how exactly they may be reacting to you behind their typed words. You don’t realize who is watching you or what they know about you. You can’t trust everyone’s intentions. In black hole situations, you send out a message and receive no reply, for reasons not clear. Is anyone really there?
Online environments can stir uncertainty, frustration, and anxiety – even paranoia about the possible mishaps and calamities that may befall you if you venture into the wrong environment or connect with the wrong people. As a result, people sometimes proceed with hesitancy and caution.
Some vacillate between feeling disinhibited and restrained as they move in and out of the various areas of their online lifestyle. They shift up and down what we might consider a disinhibition/inhibition continuum. However, others may feel both ways simultaneously within a particular environment or relationship. For example, you reveal intimate details about yourself to someone you meet online, but you won’t give that person your phone number.
How do we explain these alternating as well as concurrent experiences of both an open and guarded self? If we focus just on online disinhibition or only on online suspiciousness, we will overlook an important underlying psychological experience that gives rise to this disinhibition/inhibition polarity. That experience is “self boundary.”
Self-boundary is the sense of what is me and what is not me. It’s the experience of a flexible perimeter marking the distinction between my personality – my thoughts, feelings, and memories – and what exists outside that perimeter, within other people.
A variety of factors contribute to self-boundary, including the awareness of having a distinct physical body, the perception via the five senses of an outside world, the feeling of a psychological distinction between what I know versus what others know about me, and the sensation of the physical/psychological self moving cohesively along a linear continuum of past, present, and future.
Life in cyberspace tends to disrupt these factors that support self-boundary. The physical body and its five senses no longer play as crucial a role as in face-to-face relationships. What others know or don’t know about me is not always clear. The feeling of a linear past, present, and future becomes more obscure as we move back and forth through synchronous and asynchronous communication. As a result, this altered state of consciousness in cyberspace tends to shift or destabilize self-boundary. The distinction between inner-me and outer-other is not as clear. The person shifts to what psychoanalytic theory calls “primary process thinking” in which boundaries between self and other representations become more diffuse, and thinking becomes more subjective and emotion-centered. Within the transitional space of online communication, the psyches of self and other feel like they might be overlapping. We allow the hidden self to surface because we no longer experience it as a purely inner self; but at the same time we also sense, sometimes vaguely and sometimes distinctly, the intrusion of an unknown other into our private world, which results in suspicion, anxiety, and the need to defend our exposed and vulnerable intrapsychic territory.
No doubt, there are important individual differences in how people shift along the inhibition/disinhibition continuum. The effect of inhibition or disinhibition might be weak or strong, depending on the person and the situation. People might experience small or wide oscillations between the two polarities. Some might be more susceptible to inhibition than to disinhibition, or vice versa. Studying what is revealed or hidden about people within the wide range of online environments can become a laboratory for understanding the subtle dynamics of the self.
The book itself speaks on the topic of cults, but more generally it addresses the epidemic of control in relationship. The abusive controller and the person who continually returns to that abusive situation regardless of the negative and sometimes harmful outcome. It asks the broader question of what the psychological impact is of a relationship built on lies, control and continued, repetitive betrayal.
Chapter 7 : Psychological Persuasion Techniques
Trance and Hypnosis
When this method is used in a cultic environment, it becomes a form of psychological manipulation and coercion because the cult leader implants suggestions aimed at his own agenda while the person is in a vulnerable state.
A considerable number of different guided-imagery techniques are used by cult leaders and trainers to remove followers from their normal frames of reference.
Cult members often say to their families and friends, “No one orders me around. I choose to do what I do.” Getting members to think that way is one of the manipulations mastered by cult leaders who have become skillful at getting acts carried out through indirection and implication. Accomplishing this task is easier when the member is in an altered state, fatigued, or otherwise anxious or under stress.
Peer Pressure and Modeling
We look around and see models, and we comport ourselves to be like them. Most cults train new members either overtly stated policies or by more implicit shaping, to act in ways desired by the group.
Peer pressure is an effective means to get people to fit their behavior to group norms. In cults, this works for new and old members alike, going far beyond what is generally seen in society at large. In an atmosphere that states or implies that there is only one way to be this is it, it is most important to have models around to imitate.
According to Cialdini, the majority of the thousands of different tactics that compliance professionals use fall into six categories, and each category is based on a psychological principle that directs human behavior. These six principles are:
We can see how transformations occur when the six principles are skillfully put into play by cult leaders and cultic groups. For example:
Too often we are willing to settle for less than satisfying relationships just for the chance to be with someone. The following article “10 Tips for Surviving Singleness” is filled with common sense that is often recognized after the damage has been done. In practice, it is far better to be a whole and confident single than a stressed and miserable half of a couple.
by Anna Silversten May 21, 2009
Singleness is a phenomenon affecting people of all ages. Life may seem very dull and lonely when you don’t have a partner to share it with. You may even feel that you’ll be alone forever. This article offers 10 tips and hints for the single time in your life. Singleness can be extremely difficult when you have not chosen it freely. Our society is family-centered and assumes that people live in multi units rather than single units. Phrases like “Family fun”, “Family Day” and “Focus on the Family” seem to peek at us everywhere. Family members and acquaintances may pressure single people to find a partner. Even food is packaged in huge “family” packages. All this makes singleness seem the worse way of life, and certainly won’t make the single person feel better. Despite these things, coping with singleness is not impossible. Here are 10 tips for surviving the single time in your life.
That’s right; write down on paper (or just make clear to yourself) the kind of partner you’re looking for. Jot down both qualities that are important to you and qualities that you would not like to see in your future partner. When you have a clear picture of what you want, it is easier to avoid pitfalls and bad relationships that will end up in ruins. However, think carefully about the things you mark down. For example, it is not wise to decide the eye color, height, weight, or profession of your future mate, because that would limit your vision and even make you miss possible partners. Those things, while surely important, are often the things that suddenly seem to matter the least when people fall in love. The things that are worth jotting down are life goals and personality types. If you are an artist who enjoys irregular life and often acts on impulses, a very systematic, orderly person with a 9am-5pm career might not be your best match. Similarly, if you want a large family, you may not want to date a person who hates messiness and noise (or small children!).
Don’t just sit and wait for Prince/Princess Charming, but be active in preparing for a relationship in advance. Think about the things and situations in your life that might cause conflicts with a partner, and try to work out solutions for dealing with them. For example, the highlight of your year might be a traditional Thanksgiving turkey at your parents’ mountain house, but what if your future partner prefers fish and absolutely despises mountain air? How far would you be willing to give in? It is worth it to find and consider such points already when you are single.
Sometimes you may hit such a low point with your singleness that even seeing couples and families feels hard. Parties and gatherings become a nightmare when you feel so alone, surrounded by loving couples and happy kids. This is normal and happens to all singles who wish to find a mate. Even though singleness shouldn’t become such a burden that it paralyzes normal life, you don’t have to intentionally push yourself in painful situations either. If you are inclined to self-pity (and self-pity -related eating, i.e. binges), it is better to avoid dreaded “couple” situations than go with clenched teeth and dive into a chocolate pity party afterwards.
As long as you’re single, you have the advantage of being able to spend your income as you wish. Now is the time to be a little selfish, to pamper yourself. When you have a partner and perhaps kids, the collective needs of the family must go ahead of yours, and you may have to give up on various things. Buy that DVD -set now, order that hobby magazine, take that trip to Italy. You deserve it.
Similarly to pampering yourself materially, spend time doing what you enjoy. When you have a partner and kids, your personal “me” -time will be limited. MUCH limited. You won’t have time to spend all night building that model or chatting hours at that message board. Now is the time to do that.
Singleness isn’t such a bad thing in some aspects. One of them is freedom. You are free to do whatever you please whenever you please. In a relationship everything is a compromise, including how to spend your time. When you are single, you are free to sleep till noon if you wish. Use this freedom now and enjoy it. When you have children, you will look back to these days longingly!
Work actively to avoid self-pity. It is a hard thing to conquer, especially if you feel that everybody else around you is pairing up except you. But remember, self-pity and negative feelings reflect in you physically. It is a very subtle thing, but it is there and people notice it. You are much more attractive when you try to stay positive and expect good things in life.
Singleness might feel truly awful at the moment, but don’t jump into comfort relationships. By comfort relationships I mean relationships with people with whom you know things won’t work in the long run. A fling might provide a short moment of comfort, but it will likely lead to even more hurting. Desperation is one of those things that show, too, and desperate people are easy to use. Don’t allow yourself to be used when you feel low about your singleness. Likewise, don’t be fooled into thinking that someone who found fault with you once before is going to go any easier on you this time around.
Many singles are plagued with the so-called “Singles’ Eye”. This means scanning every suitable looking person’s finger for a ring, checking whether they are “taken”. It can get very tiring and consuming after a while. Try to adopt an attitude of welcoming opportunities rather than hunting them. Make a conscious attempt to avoid looking at the marriage finger of the people you meet, and concentrate on their face instead. If this person won’t be your future partner, that’s fine. Someone more suitable will come along. Be open to different situations and people, you never know who might steal your heart.
Lastly, keep up the hope. You might feel that you’re the last single on the globe, and that you will never find anybody. Know that this is not true. The world is, amazingly enough, full of singles of all ages, looking for a loved one. Keep your eyes open and your mind optimistic. Who knows, True Love might be waiting for you around the next corner.