Monday, June 28, 2010

Dependent drug use

People use drugs for a wide variety of reasons. Four of the most common are cited as

Experimental use

Recreational use

Symptomatic use - used to relieve some painful symptom such as anxiety, depression, shame and so forth

Dependent use - the true ‘drug addict’ who finds it very difficult to stop.

By far the largest group in number are the recreational users and the smallest group in numbers would be the dependent user. The group which uses up the most community resources such as health, counselling, police, courts, relationship disharmony, social security are the dependent user and the least would be the recreational and experimental users. So the smallest group tend to use up most of the resources.

People being people they tend to think that the rest of the world thinks, feels and behaves the same way they do. Indeed in the training of new counsellors this is one of the main concepts to learn. Others don’t think and feel the same way I do. To believe this at a Child ego state level is a difficult thing to achieve.

A common example of this is with depression. Everyone has been depressed in their life at some point which can be seen as normal persons depression. However there are others who are ‘abnormally’ depressed and even clinically depressed as it can be called. The average guy in the street will tend to believe that these neurotically depressed people think and feel the same way he does. Hence they will tend to think that such depressed people are just wallowing in their own self pity, or they should just ‘jolly’ themselves out of it, or just think positive thoughts, or just take a bit of a holiday and so on.

Hence the person with neurotic depression can be misunderstood as they can’t just think good thoughts or take a week off work to have the depression lift. The layman will often not understand this because they think others think and feel like they do.

The same applies for the dependent drug user and the layman cannot understand why they don’t stop using when it is destroying their health. For instance the person who wants to give up smoking. Mr average thinks they are just weak willed because all it really takes is just enduring a couple of weeks or a month of strong pangs and then they go away. They believe everyone else thinks and feels the same way they do but the dependent user of nicotine does not think and feel like that.

With other drugs like heroin the dependent user can have an attachment problem. Some come from a background where there was a disrupted attachment with mother and as a result they form a psychological attachment to the drug that is overly dependent. When you listen to people like this talk about their drug there is an uncanny similarity about their relationship with the drug and about their relationships to people. They talk about an attachment to the drug in a similar way one would talk about an attachment to another person.

This allows one to understand what the dependent drug user thinks and feels. One can indeed experience it first hand. One of the principle features of an attachment is the desire to maintain proximity. Never under estimate the power of human attachment it can be an very strong motivating force. People will expend very large amounts of time, energy and money to seek out the other so as to maintain proximity to them.

As an exercise recall a time when you were in love with someone and they did not love you back. All the things you tried to do and angst you had about this unrequited love. The drive you had to want to be with that person. The amount of thinking and feeling you had about the person and the relationship. If you can recall this then you know how some drug dependent users feel about their drug. You now can begin to understand the desire they have to maintain the proximity to the drug and how hard it is to give up.

As a second exercise recall a close loved one who died or for some reason left you for ever. Again recall the desire you had to once again be reunited with that person (maintain proximity). The pain and distress you experienced each time you realised that the proximity or a reunion was never going to happen. Remember what that felt like and how long it took you to get over it. If you can do this, then you begin to understand how some dependent drug users feel about their relationship to their drug.

However it is even worse for the drug user. If a close loved one dies you cannot ever again maintain proximity. So the break is forced upon you. However the dependent drug user can easily again maintain proximity by simply going and buying another deal.

If some how by magic you could spend $50 to get one more day with your deceased loved one, would you? How many times would you spend $50 for that one extra day? And when your money ran out how motivated would you be to steal or defraud to get one more $50? If you can understand these questions then one is gaining some kind of experiential understanding of how the dependent drug user thinks and feels.

Finally it should be noted that the drug addict type of drug user does not have great difficulty getting off drugs. They have most difficulty staying off drugs. In their histories one finds most have gotten off drugs on a number of occasions but the desire to return (proximity) is just very strong.

Addiction and fixation

Whilst on the topic of the dependent drug user it is probably pertinent to note that whilst some may end up a dependent user because of an attachment disorder it is also possible to have another aetiology. This can be due to a fixated development. The person gets stuck at a childhood stage of development and the drug addiction occurs due to that psychological basis.

The most obvious example of this is an addiction to cigarette smoking and a fixation at the oral stage of development. This can either be at the oral sucking stage (0 - 8 months) or the oral biting stage (6 - 18 months). For some reason the person never successfully completed either of these two stages of development. (This may also be the psychological basis for some very resilient eating disorders).

Satisfying oral stage needs

These people not only have the habit of smoking cigarettes to break and the addiction to nicotine. They also have the constant need for oral stimulation which is provided by smoking the cigarette and it is this point that makes it very difficult for them to stop for long periods of time.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Lets talk about sex

Psychotherapy can be a strange profession at times. It is designed perfectly for people to talk about sex.

When talking amongst themselves parents often recount their horror and “OMGs” when the kids ask about sex. From those parents who are just plain uncomfortable with the topic to those who agonise over how much to say and not too say, so as to not have their child twenty years later sitting in a therapist’s office talking about the day mommy or daddy told me about sex and the resultant trauma it caused.

If such traumatised people are unlucky they can also get a therapist who is uncomfortable with the topic of sex. Lets face it, it is a difficult topic and therapist’s are humans just like everyone else and some of them are just not comfortable talking about sex. Some therapists report that their clients never seem to talk about their sex lives which is probably not a good thing. The client probably picks up on the therapist’s discomfort about it and then gladly changes the topic as they are uncomfortable as well.

I was twenty two when I first ran my therapy groups and I too was probably uncomfortable and unsure of what to say and how to react when a client wanted to talk about their sex life. Over time that discomfort subsided as more and more people talked about sex and now it is no different to a client talking about how they clean their house obsessively.

On a personal note for therapists, having this happen is a good thing as it desensitises them to talking about sex. I have heard a lot of people talk about their sex lives, what they do and don’t do, what they think about during sex, fantasise about, their wants and sexual desires, pornography and so on. And I can tell you, there is not much that people have not thought about doing when it comes to sex.

Some of the straightest looking people have done a lot of very unstraight things in the bed room. The most unlikely looking people can have the most voracious sexual appetites and the most adventuresome of sex lives. On the other hand when the lights go out the Don Juan man and super model woman can be as boring a bats**t in bed and have little interest in sex. From what I have heard over the years there is no correlation between physical beauty and performance in the bedroom. Indeed if anything there is an inverse correlation. I am sorry guys, but the most beautiful and sexy women in the world are more likely to be bad lovers than good ones.

As I said therapy is perfectly designed for people to talk about sex. The confidentiality allows people to open up much more and the setting is designed to for people to talk about concerns, fears and problems they might have about anything including sex. Sometimes client’s say that I am the only person they have ever told this to.

This places the therapist in a unique position. They get a view of human nature that it is rare, namely a cross sectional view of peoples most intimate thoughts and feelings about their sex lives. In a similar vein we have the prostitute or sex worker who also gets such a unique view into human nature but it only relates to the male side of the sex equation. If I ever see a sex worker who comes to me as a client, invariably at some point I will ask her for her views and observations about male sexuality and their sex lives. Sex workers have a unique perspective on male sexuality on this clandestine topic.

Not so long ago I counselled a 30 year old guy who had found a lovely woman and they were probably going to get married. He had a great concern though. He found that sometimes when he was having sex with her he would think about a past girl friend. He was very worried about this. He thought that he was being unfaithful to his fiancé to be and that this must mean that he is still really in love with his prior girlfriend.

My first step was to alleviate some of his fears with information about what others have told me they think about when having sex. By some standards his thoughts were very innocuous. Indeed his fiancĂ© to be maybe thinking of other things her self. When you think about it orgasm and sexual arousal are quite narcissistic acts. It’s all about me and what I find erotic. Some people seem to need a lot going through their mind to orgasm whereas others need very little. For some there are just a few thoughts which they find erotic, yet for others they can be many and varied and they can change considerably over time. Thus we arrive at the point of sex and psychological diagnosis.

As sex is such a personal and intimate act involving very close physical contact with another it is heavily influenced by the psychology of the individual. This may be why for some stress can have such a significant and quick effect on the libido. However it also can be a very useful source of diagnostic information psychologically. The type of sexual acts they engage in or want to engage in, differing sexual positions, their sexual fantasises and what they find erotic, the type of pornography they find arousing all can provide very good insight into the psychological status of the individual at quite a ‘deep’ level.

So much for the life of a therapist!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Self grooming

In the previous post I mentioned self grooming. Generally speaking most people would see self grooming as something like brushing hair, cleaning their teeth, tending to their skin or person is some kind affectionate like way. Indeed these are kinds of self grooming but not the only kind.

From a psychoanalytic or Freudian point of view such grooming could be seen as a type of masturbatory behaviour. It is a reflection of the person’s desire to masturbate but they are prohibited from doing so because of some teaching in the past. A common example of this is the woman who repeatedly and excessively combs her hair. This could be a metaphoric type of masturbation. She feels compelled to do this because she has been told that sex is dirty, only bad girls touch self that way or it is a sin and makes you go blind. Thus the masturbatory behaviour gets transformed into hair brushing. It does seem reasonable to conclude that this psychological situation does exist on occasion.

Is it just coincidence the artist portrayed

the woman combing her hair in a sexualised manner?

In the literature one reads that a characteristic of the teenage stage of development is an excessive focus on physical appearance and self grooming. One explanation for this could be the masturbatory basis of self grooming as that stage of development is where the hormones and interest in sex are prominent. At the same time teenagers can be unsure and at times frightened about their own sexual feelings hence the grooming is redirected from the genitals to other areas of the body.

Pursuant to this, self grooming does not have to be restricted to the individual’s physical self. People are quite capable of projection and introjection with self grooming. The man who puts his much loved motor car out on the front lawn and spends hours washing it, cleaning it and grooming it. His car has considerable emotional significance to him. He has in essence projected his own Child ego state onto the car and sets about grooming it. Such projection allows self grooming by proxy. Anything that has some kind of personal or emotional significance for the individual can be used for self grooming by proxy. A car, a painting one is doing, a piece of craft, a garden, a house and so on endlessly. By grooming the thing one can be grooming self by proxy and of course we all know what a powerful sports car can mean for the young man.

Another other type of self grooming by proxy can be done by the grooming of a loved one or indeed a pet. Grooming a loved pet can be a way of gaining positive strokes due to self grooming by proxy. This could be due as much to projection as introjection. The mother who grooms a young child has formed an attachment to that child, thus she has introjected part of the child’s personality into her own. Such grooming of the child means she is also partly grooming herself.

As mentioned before self grooming can have a sexual basis. However to sexualise all self grooming does seem a bit inordinate. It seems very likely that some self grooming may not have a masturbatory basis at all. So why am I banging on about this then.

Self grooming by proxy or other wise is about giving self positive strokes and using the Nurturing Parent ego state to look after self. All this is psychologically good and health promoting. The power of the positive stroke should not be underestimated especially if it is relentless day in and day out. If self grooming becomes a daily occurrence this is a very good thing. Positive strokes are not going to cure schizophrenia or solve your drug problem but they are a very good start to establishing a more solid basis of a healthy psychology. Once done then therapy has a much stronger foundation upon which to operate.

From a therapist’s point of view regardless of what the client presents in therapy one would be highlighting such self grooming and giving homework exercises on this. Sometimes the client’s resistance can be quite strong about such homework.

This can include homework contracts to do non sexual self grooming, self grooming by proxy and sexualised self grooming. Those who find this hard to do may find it easiest to start with self grooming by proxy. These are often those who feel they are of little worth but they feel to groom others is OK. When doing this one would suggest the client imagine their own child being groomed as they groom the other. Once mastered this can lead on to the more direct self grooming.

Supplemental to this we have other forms of self grooming like trichotillomania. This is the compulsive pulling out of one’s hair that is generally considered a form of self harm. One could argue that this is self grooming which provides a negative stroke but the situation is more complex. Those who engage in this behaviour report that it is soothing for them and thus affords a kind of positive stroke as well. More maybe said in a subsequent post.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Hypnotic suggestion as a form of therapeutic communication

I had a supervisee ask the other day about hypnosis. In my early days I did a little bit of hypnosis in the usual sense of the word. Where the person lies on the couch and I wave a watch before their eyes. I found it pretty boring as I would much prefer to talk with people who are awake rather than those who are asleep.

So I have rarely done hypnosis in this way but I would say that I use hypnotic suggestion regularly in the way I communicate with the client. This is where you hypnotise the client and they don’t even know they are being hypnotised.

The more the Adult ego state is involved in communication the less hypnotic communication will go on. A person who has high Adult ego state in their communication will be a poor hypnotic subject. Those who have a lowered Adult ego state will be much more ‘suggestible’ as it is said. They make good hypnotic subjects.

Hypnotic communication occurs when the Adult ego state is distracted or lowered in some way. When this is the case the therapist can communicate more so to the Child ego state or directly into the unconscious of the person.

The therapist is in some way wanting to circumvent or by pass the Adult ego state and communicate directly with the unconscious which is one aspect of the Child ego state. If achieved one has a powerful mode by which to communicate and make therapeutic interventions.

I don’t want to give away too many of my trade secrets so I will start with an example that is a naturally occurring form of hypnotic communication. Modelling behaviour. Yes as simple as that.

Many years ago when I was a young trainee therapist I was getting some peer group supervision. That means I sit with a person who has agreed to be a client and work on a personal issue of theirs. The supervisor sits there watching you and makes comments. A great way to learn how to do therapy even if it can be a bit daunting because you have absolutely no where to hide. Most often trainees will do an oral presentation of a client or even present an audio or video tape. Of course all that is censored by the trainee who selects the parts to be listened to. Many trainee therapists simply never do peer group supervision as they find it too daunting as I mentioned above.

On one occasion the supervisor made a statement to me that I clearly remember to this day. He said, “You do a lot of self grooming”. This surprised me as I had been not aware of it at all. Over the years I have observed myself as a therapist and I do indeed do a lot of self grooming. A whole array of hand movements rubbing together, rubbing or scratching my arms, scratching my head, rubbing my chin and neck with my hands, playing with my ears, and so on. By no means excessively so but it definitely is there.

There is one particular idiosyncratic movement that I do with my fingers and guess what, over the years I have watched many a client doing exactly the same self grooming movement or some variant of it. By doing this I have been able to directly tap into the clients unconscious.

The client and I sit there talking in our Adult ego states and thus the Adult is distracted. At the same time I am communicating self grooming behaviour to the client through my own unconscious behaviour. That communication from me is going directly into the client’s unconscious because the Adult is being occupied elsewhere. It is a form of hypnotic communication.

Distracted Adult ego state

What is self grooming? It is the Nurturing Parent ego state looking after the Child ego state. It is the person giving self non verbal positive strokes. If a person does this what happens? Their sense of self worth goes up and their self esteem goes up. And of course because it is an hypnotic communication the stroke filter is non existent.

As it sit with the client they are giving self 50 unfiltered physical positive strokes per session. That is a very good thing from a therapeutic point of view. However it’s not just a matter of sitting back and letting it happen I am afraid. This unconscious communication whilst inevitable between any two people can vary greatly in the amount of material taken on by the imitator.

Generally speaking the more psychologically important the other is the more unconscious material will be communicated by this means. If the therapist is perceived as very important then there can be a great deal of hypnotic suggestion and thus the client will take on a considerable amount of information this way. If the therapist is perceived as not having much psychological potency then there will be minimal hypnotic suggestion like this.

Self grooming gives lots of positive strokes

What is such potency and how do you get it is a vexed question. Many have sought to define it and clear definition still remains elusive. It’s like the ‘X’ factor that is talked about with singers and musicians. Hard to articulate what it is but you know when it is there and when it’s not.

Anywise that is for another post as are the other means by which hypnotic suggestions can be made to a client. How to bypass the conscious Adult and communicate directly with the client’s unconscious.


Monday, June 14, 2010

The psychology of revenge **

Do you seek apologies on occasion? Indeed one could argue that wanting an apology is an act of vengeance. A want for revenge. When one makes an earnest apology they realise they have done wrong and thus feel guilt, humiliation and so forth. If the person sees the apologiser feeling such pain then he feels satisfied and the apology is accepted as genuine. If no such pain is felt by the apologiser then the apology will lack a genuine quality. Thus the person receiving the apology really wants revenge in that the apologiser must feel pain about what they have done.

You hurt me, so I hurt you back probably sums up revenge. I think it would be safe to say this is a natural or Free Child reaction. When someone hurts us there is an initial reaction of wanting to hurt them back. If one observes young children interacting one certainly sees such attitudes and behaviours expressed.

However, as we know just because something is a Free Child reaction does not necessarily mean that it is good for us psychologically, particularly in the longer term. The vengeful Free Child is one thing that many transactional analysts would see in their clients. The client who is endeavouring to come to terms with being badly treated by another whether that be them killing some one you loved or a divorce or someone who simply insulted you.

Many a client will express a desire for revenge of some kind against the offender. Does that psychologically help? It is probably safe to say that for most the actual act of revenge will bring a feeling of some kind of satisfaction at least to some degree. Does that make it therapeutic thing to do?

Maybe revenge is a double edged sword. For instance consider capital punishment. Some people express the view that the execution of the person who killed a loved one does not help you in getting over the whole experience. It does not help you come to terms with the death of a loved one. In some ways it can make it worse or more complicated.

As a therapist of the bereaved I could use the execution to assist in the process of the person working through their reactions but the execution in itself does not assist in the psychological process to health. The client now knows that the offender has been executed. How are they supposed to deal with that?. Are they meant to feel happy, feel that revenge has been done, feel some sadness, feel ambivalent about it. It just adds in another thing that has to be worked through. It complicates matters further.

(Note: I am not arguing the case against capital punishment here. I personally believe it has a place in extreme circumstances)

Consider a more common scenario than an execution which is illegal in this country anyway. Many people at some point in their life can become involved in the legal process as a victim or a loved one of a victim of crime. When that happens the psychology of revenge assumes considerable importance. If not dealt with properly the person will end up worse off, psychologically.

The first trap is the person will redefine revenge in their mind and this is used a defence mechanism. Most people want to see themselves in a positive light and revenge is generally seen as an unattractive or unsightly emotion and behaviour. To avoid seeing self in this unattractive light they lie to themselves. They say, “All I want is for justice to be done”. What does that mean? I would contend that for most justice is really just a nice word for revenge at least to some extent.

It allows the person to see self in a much more positive light and thus defend self against an unattractive self perception. The problem is once such a defence mechanism is employed their feelings become confused and thus not dealt with in a healthy way. The feelings of anger and revenge can’t be dealt with because they are not even recognised in the first place. The person has convinced self they want justice and not revenge.

The first step in counselling such a person is to break down such a defence mechanism thus allowing the true Free Child feeling to be recognised and dealt with. For the person to allow self to see the ‘ugly’ side of self.

Other than that I counsel people to stay as far away from the trial as they can. Leave the country and go on a two week holiday. The goal of a trial is to answer a legal question it is not a therapeutic exercise. The goal of a trial is to solve a legal problem not for anyone to get closure or obtain some other kind of psychological advantage.

Most who follow a trial will end up feeling worse at the end of it because ti has not gone how they wanted. They will feel they have not been able to extract the revenge they wanted and now they feel bad about that as well. They will also probably hear some very unpleasant facts stated that will leave them feeling worse and thus there is more complications to deal with.

The psychological goal is to make the outcome of a trial as emotionally irrelevant as possible. To get to the end of a trial, appeals and so forth can take years. Why psychologically waste those years? Instead, deal with the feelings of anger and revenge in counselling then accept that life sometimes isn’t fair and drop it.

Certainly easier said than done but what is the alternative?


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Competitive transactions

Competing for the Parent ego state position

In some relationships the parties can compete for a particular ego state or position in the relationship.

Competing for the Parent ego state position is a power struggle for the powerful position in the relationship. This type of situation can often lead to the game of Uproar and often happens after about the first 2 or 3 years of marriage. The honeymoon period is over, they are beginning to realise that what they thought they could ‘train’ the spouse out of or into is not going to happen. So there can be a period of disharmony or uproar about who is going to ‘be in charge’ or who is really going to wear the pants in the relationship.

Such a couple tend to come to counselling because they are arguing about the big three - child management, money or sex. These are the three most common issues that couples will repetitively argue over. But the real reason is a power struggle for the top dog position, they are establishing the basis of the relationship for the next 20 or 30 years

Lots of “shoulds”, finger pointing, “you are...” statements, raised voices, “Ain’t men/women awful” games with their peers, and so on. In the extreme this type of relationship can lead to domestic violence as indeed all uproar games have the potential to do so. Of course the ego state that is missing is the Adult and hence we get to the cycle of violence. If they are interested in stopping the violence then they use their Adult ego states to become aware of the build up of tension and then to avoid that.

Nagging can also be a power play in a relationship

This can also occur counselling with the client. Typically it is the type of client who is used to being the one in charge in relationships. In the counselling setting they are definitely in the less powerful position when one is the client. The power difference between the client and the therapist is clear and obvious. If the challenge for power in the therapeutic relationship is to come from the Parent position then the client in some way will express anger at the therapist. The hope is that the therapist will be frightened or intimidated by this in some way. If that does happen then the therapist becomes in some ways the less powerful one in the relationship.

Working in a prison setting this type of transaction by the client is not uncommon at all. Prisoners not uncommonly will seek to establish them self as the psychologically dominant one in the relationship with the prison staff member, If achieved they can intimidate that person to do favours which they are not meant to do.

However in the everyday counselling setting this does occur from time to time. It is most important that the therapist does not get personally caught in and this can happen because people with power issues can be attracted to being a therapist. As I said before, the therapy setting is structured such that the therapist is the more powerful one in the relationship and hence people with power issues can be attracted to this kind of occupation.

Yes food and power can go together

If the power play from the client disturbs the therapist’s own Child ego state, then there is a problem indeed and counter transference issues can cause all sorts of problems. Of course the therapist is meant to personally stay out of the client’s power play and see that the client’s young inner child is just struggling with the personal resources it has. Don’t take it personally is the key.

With your average marital couple, anger is the most common emotion to used to obtain the power position, but it is not the only way. There is another way which is most often used by females. The woman has something the man wants and its called sex. So she communicates to him in some way “Do as I want or sexual favours will be withdrawn”. If couples are arguing over sex then a therapist would certainly be looking to see if there is a power play underneath the disharmony presented in counselling.

Competing for the Child position

In this instance both parties are wanting to take the Child position where they are taken care of by the other party. They do not want to do the looking after instead they want to be looked after.

Wife: “I had a terrible day today. The children cried, the dog vomited, I had a fight with my sister and I just feel worn down”

Husband: “You should have seen my day. The boss told me off, the car got bumped in the car park and I have so much work to do tonight. I am so tired”.

In this instance you do not tend to get uproar or shouting, rather you have two people who are tending to be passive and doing nothing. Maybe playing the psychological games of Helpless, Poor me, Yes but, I’m only trying to help, and so on. The resultant feelings are not likely to be anger (at least not openly), but more likely to be disappointment, frustration, sulking, sadness and depression.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Adult ego state strengthening - Part 4 **

The final part of this composition on strengthening the Adult ego state seeks a different path.

The previous three parts are examining behavioural strategies to assist a person to increase their Adult ego state functioning when under stress. This section will look at some of the underlying causes that may lead to poor Adult ego state function.

Modelling. All children model on their parents. If the parents display defective Adult then children will model that to varying degrees. If the child has a particularly strong attachment to a parent who has poor Adult then the modelling can be quite strong and the child will pick up the same traits. This on its own is usually not that hard to treat as it involves simply adding to their Parent ego state tapes.

As this diagram shows the Parent ego state is merely a collection of tapes that have been modelled from various parent type figures. In adulthood it is continually being added to and one can seek out those who seem to have strong Adult function and model off them. Thus creating a new tape that has modelling for a well functioning Adult ego state.

Exercises can be done where the counsellor assists the person to identify their main Parent ego state tapes and draws them as in the diagram above. This allows the person to be aware and then start to make choices about which ones to listen to and which ones to turn the volume down. Which one to practice and so forth. The more they are practised the more robust that tape will become.

Injunctions. Sometimes parents for their own unconscious reasons will send a “Don’t think” message to a child. This type of message to the child can be particularly powerful if combined with consistent modelling.

Historically this has occurred in the sex role scripting of children. Boys were told they were practical problem solvers who would think problems through. Girls were told. “Not to worry their little heads about such things” and they didn’t really need an education because they were going to become just mothers and home makers. They did not need strong logical problem solving skills when the men could do it for them. Hence the woman ended up not being able to change the tire on a car or drill a hole into the wall to hang a picture.

Thus we ended up with a way of influencing the dynamics of the relationship between men and women particularly in relation to the power structure. This is why in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s, women becoming more educated became a central aspect of that societal change. Those with strong Adult functioning are going to be the ones who are in charge in relationships and politically powerful.

If mother or father have such power issues of their own then they can script a child to be a certain way in relation to their Adult ego state strength. If mother thinks that women should be dependent on men then she may deliver such a “Don’t think” message to her daughter and the girl’s Adult ego state functioning will suffer.

In other cases a father may be insecure in himself and thus becomes competitive with his son. The father’s own Child ego state may be scared that his son will become more successful than he is and thus he can also unconsciously tell the son, “Don’t think” in a whole variety of ways.

An example of this is stroking patterns. One can ask the question, “Did my parents give me positive strokes for good thinking and problem solving? Did they give me negative strokes for thinking or did they give no strokes at all?” This is illustrated in two main ways.

How highly did the parents value education? Was it important for their children to get a good education and go as far as they can or was education derided or simply ignored.

Second, when the child showed mother and father their report card how did the parents respond? If the child got a high mark what was the attitude and comments - were there positive strokes, negative strokes or no strokes at all? Similarly what was the stroking pattern the child received when he got a low mark on his report card.

Positive strokes for good thinking?

Finally some parents in their parenting style will put down the child or vent their anger at the child by denigrating it. This can occur in many areas such as the child's physical appearance, its sporting prowess, its social skills, musical ability and so forth. It can also be at its academic ability or thinking ability. Some parents will directly tell a child that it is stupid or a moron. A boy who is trying to repair his push bike may be simply pushed aside by father who indicates that he is obviously too stupid to be able to make such repairs and does it himself.

Another way the Adult ego state can underdeveloped is due to what has historically been called maternal over protection. In Transactional Analysis terms the mother (or father) does not allow the child develop out of the symbiosis it formed at a very young age with mother. A new born has no Parent or Adult ego states and thus it has to form a symbiosis with mother and ‘use’ hers until it develops its own.

In some cases the mother or father will not permit the youngster to develop their own Parent and Adult ego states. They can do this in a variety of ways.

1. Restriction of the child’s social world. The child is encouraged not to develop friends and out of family contacts. The child may be kept from going to school because he often gets ‘sick’. Indeed when a child develops a school phobia (and refuses to go to school) often that is due to emotional manoeuvring by the mother in the back ground who does not want the child to go.

2. Excessive contact. This can be continuous companionship of mother and child, prolonged nursing care, excessive fondling, prolonged breast feeding, sleeping with mother long past infancy. Highlighting of a special connection or relationship between child and parent. This can even be mildly romanticised and thus one has the development of the oedipus complex and the electra complex.

3. Infantilization. The parent treats the child in the same manner it would a much younger child. This can be in feeding, dressing, bathing, washing, punishing. The mother may dress a 13 year old son or punish him by putting him to bed in the afternoon.

4. Maternal control. This can manifest as either overdomination or overindulgence of the child by mother.

All of these pressure the child to stay childlike and not develop a competent Adult ego state. If a child cannot think for itself then it has to continue to rely on mother to think for it. Thus we have another reason why as an adult a person may find it difficult to stay in their Adult ego state and require Adult ego state strengthening exercises.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Adult ego state strengthening - Part 3 **

As mentioned in the previous article on Adult ego state strengthening a most valuable skill for a child to learn is to think and feel at the same time. To do this the child learns how to be in two ego states at the one time.

The individual maintains Adult ego state function and Child ego state function at the one time. The Adult remains aware of the feelings experienced in the Child ego state. The Child simultaneously is aware of the thinking that is going on in the Adult ego state. As a result they can maintain an influence over each other and their expression.

Sometimes this breaks down or the person never learnt the skill in the first place. An example of this is with the hysteric personality type. Characteristics of this personality type are:

Exhibitionist behaviour.

Constant seeking of reassurance or approval.

Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotions.

Inappropriately seductive appearance or behaviour.

Somatic symptoms, and using these symptoms as a means of garnering attention.

A need to be the centre of attention.

Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear superficial or exaggerated to others.

In this individual who is most often female, the Adult ego state can reduce to such an extent that it has very little influence on the Child ego state. The Adult ego state can be too fragile and thus needs strengthening. Thus they are prone to dramatic and exaggerated displays of emotion from the Child ego state. With no Adult in use the person can become hysterical and loose a sense of control or thinking as they are dominated by the Child ego state feeling.

The reason why I am mentioning this is it is an unusual way of Adult strengthening. Indeed it is not really Adult ego state strengthening at all. Most Adult strengthening simply exercises the Adult. Various techniques are used to get the person into Adult and they simply practice being in Adult ego state. It uses the same principle as physical exercise. The more you exercise a muscle the stronger it becomes such that it can be easily accessed and used. Most Adult ego state strengthening use the same principle. Dealing with the hysteric personality or the hysterical person demonstrates another method of accessing the Adult ego state.

In the movies when the woman who is under great stress becomes hysterical what does the man do? He grabs her arms tightly and slaps her across the cheek. When he does this she stops being so hysterical and calms down. What has happened here?

1. The woman becomes hysterical. That is she moves fully into her Child ego state and the Adult ego state becomes largely non functioning. She is no longer feeling and thinking at the same time.

2. The man slaps her cheek. He gets into his Controlling Parent (CP+) ego state, takes charge of her by demanding that she stop the hysterics.

3. She responds to his Parent ego state demand by moving into her Conforming Child ego state and conforms to his demand that she calms down and stops the hysterics.

4. Once done her Adult ego state becomes much more accessible for her and she moves back into that ego state and starts to think and behave rationally again.

Thus we have the process defined. If a person goes into Child ego state with high emotions or a state of confusion or just a state of psychological collapse one can respond with their CP+ ego state to get them to move into a conforming frame of mind. Once in Conforming Child they will follow the demand that they calm down and start thinking again. I am not suggesting the cheek slapping method of CP+. Instead one simply has to use a strong and demanding voice that takes charge of the situation.

The more this is done with the person the more they will introject the CP+ ego state from the other person who demands their conformity. Thus they become more capable of using their own CP+ on self in the future should they start to become hysterical or confused.

This method is actually strengthening the person’s CP+ ego state rather than Adult strengthening. However with a stronger internal CP+ the person is more capable of getting into conformity and thus eventually getting back into their Adult ego state.