Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lifestye and the repetition compulsion

Roses says in a comment on the last post

“Why then, is it that we need so badly to be locked in to a script?”

Our current leader of the opposition in Australia, Tony Abbott, got himself into hot water last week. He made the comment that for some homeless people it was a matter of lifestyle choice. That some chose that lifestyle to live.

The opposite argument to this is that it is not their choice but a result of poor economic conditions, neglectful government for the homeless and so forth. The psychologist would say that it is neither but it is something else altogether.

I worked in a prison for three years and without a doubt if an inmate wants to acquire work skills, improve their education level and so forth the opportunity is definitely there. There is a small group who do use their prison time to improve self but the majority do not tend to. Is that their choice? Most would say yes.

The good life

As one works with people over the years one finds that people will create lifestyles that are reflective of how they view themselves. If one has a good perception of self and respects self then over time they will create a lifestyle and relationships that reflect that belief of self. They create a good quality of life.

If one has been told they are useless, not wanted, beaten and neglected then they will tend to have a poor view of self. If this happens then as they go through life they will create relationships and lifestyles that reflect that poor view of self.

Hence those with a poor view of self will tend to end up destitute, in prison, a habitual drug user and so forth. However it is not always the down and outers. Having worked most of my life in private practice my clients have tended to be those who are financially stable. I have seen plenty of rich people who have horrible lives in terms of relationships, emotions and the predicaments they get themselves into. So its not just about homelessness and money.

Successful boxers a notorious for ending up with tragic lives

It is the long term out come that reflects ones level of self esteem

Just look at man of the moment - Tiger. His father drove him relentlessly and was swinging a golf club by age 2 and he has not been able to stop until just recently. He has plenty of money but what is the quality of his life? What it is in the long run will be a reflection of how he views himself. If he comes out of this and falls on his feet as they say then we know he has at least a reasonable opinion of himself. If he does not then he views himself in a much less favourable light and will create a crappy life for himself.

However the point at hand is that people will do this relentlessly. It is a very powerful driving force in them such that one could call it a compulsion and indeed Freud coined the term - repetition compulsion. People will tend to compulsively repeat the same over and over again and thus over time they end up with the same sort of lifestyle, relationships and so forth.

So it is a compulsion to adopt the same life script over and over. This means some of the homeless (like prisoners) will not take up the opportunities available to ‘improve’ their circumstances. This does happen and thus one can understand why some see it as a choice. The opportunities are there and they will not take them in the long run.

Is that a choice or a compulsion to create a lifestyle that reflects the current self image? If one decides it is a choice then the homeless are to blame. If one decides it is a compulsion to repeat the life script then it is not their fault and they are victims of unlucky circumstances.

Can it be a bit of both? Some do take up the opportunities and create a better life for self. Each and everyday I work with people who do precisely that. The goal is to improve ones view of self. If that happens then it is inevitable they will create better lifestyle for self. It will only be a matter of time until that is achieved.



  1. Great article Tony. You've given me some insight into myself and how I keep repeating patterns over and over again. It's an important realization, but I suppose it is very hard to break out of these patterns once one realizes they are stuck in them. Mind if I write about this in relation to myself on my blog?

  2. Good blog Tony. Pattern seeking and gravitating towards well worn grooves. The next blog could be about how some people are more open to changing than others.


  3. Hmm. Maybe. I hope it is as simple as creating a better view of self - through establishing a better environment (the therapy interview).

  4. Hi Harriet,

    Please do use stuff from here to write something on your blog if it assists.

    Yes I am afriad awareness alone is not the solution. Many are aware of their repetative patterns of self defeating behaviour and still engage in them. It requires more than just awareness.

    Also can I backchannel you about your post of driving into a tree.


  5. yes Kenoath,

    well worn grooves!

    I may take you up on your suggestion of another posting


  6. Evan,

    I am not of the same view as Mr Abbott as it does tend to blame the homeless which is not only not accurate but also not fair.

    We need to be careful to separate two words or concepts

    simple and easy.

    I suppose one could say that creating a new view of self is simple but it certainly is not easy. If it was easy everybody would have already done it and we would not need therapists!


  7. So... no one really knows. *Giggles* There are theories, thoughts and lots of different attitudes on the matter but what you're saying is that... no one actually knows.

    Simple and easy are worlds apart. That sounds like something we may beable to understand experiencially. Thanks for being politically correct; a thing that must need to happen - and happen it does.

    We're melting over here. I hope you're not a puddle on your kitchen floor.


  8. Does this bring us to the P and C head lock thing(what did you call it again?) where we build a bridge and journey over it? You know, that clash of our ego states thing? You called it something and wrote a whole blog post on it. I think it helps us to change our script or something?

    I'm watching 'Wolverine'. Holy smokes!

  9. Thanks Tony. And feel free to use anything from my blog as well. This gives me a lot to think about.

  10. Impasse! The word is impasse!! (perhaps not the spelling - but the word is impasse!)

  11. Interesting. I think a bit of both is the idea I like.