Sunday, January 27, 2013

Natural trauma debriefing

Dena on facebook says

“Sounds like interesting work Tony, do you have a particular way of working with individuals returning from combat?’ (end quote)

I have always been somewhat bemused by the debate about how to treat trauma. I find it quite easy to work with and I think I have been reasonably successful in doing so. My view is that trauma debriefing is a natural human process anyway which makes the counselling process easier and more likely to succeed. 

Humans when they have been traumatized in some way will most often spontaneously engage in the reparative process of trauma debriefing. Hence the goal of the therapist is basically to make sure the natural process proceeds as it should. They are kind of just helping the natural process along and are a bit of a bystander in this way, unlike other counselling situations.

Water throw

Once the shock has subsided and any serious physical damage is made reasonably stable then the person as I said will spontaneously engage in remediating their damaged psyche. The steps basically are.

1. The person enters into the relational. That is they do not isolate self and seek out others to engage in about talking about the traumatic episode. Here the therapist is looking out for things like a Be strong, Don’t trust or Don’t be a child script messages. People with these may falter at this first stage by tending to isolate self and not seek others out to talk about the incident.

2. They talk about what happened and this can be as basic as describing what physically happened in the event. What were their reactions to what happened and so on.

3. Cathartic release. Whilst doing number 2 most people will begin experiencing feelings and then one wants some kind of cathartic release of emotions. Some can falter at this stage because they have a Don’t feel message of some kind.

4. The get a sympathetic response of some kind by the other person they are talking to.

And that is about that. To me it all seems rather simple and uncomplicated. The person will do the same process a number of times over weeks or months and after that the debriefing is usually complete.


As I said before I think this is a natural human process. Watch people after a car accident. Most will automatically seek others out, want to talk about the event, show some emotions and want to get reassuring hugs which covers the four points I mentioned above.


Adult and Child information processing

On my facebook there has been a discussion about trauma. I wrote the following:

“In recent months I have been working with a US marine who served in Iraq. He says that whenever he hears fireworks going off he has an instant strong anxiety reaction. Apparently the sounds are similar to explosions one hears in war. He also says that if he sits and watches a fireworks show he has no anxiety reaction at all. It’s curious how the Child ego state works sometimes.” (end quote)

Dena commented about the different neurological processing that would go on in the different circumstances which was interesting. In addition to this there would also be alternate psychological processing going on. It is a good illustration how the different ego states function differently especially in how they process information in order to come to conclusions about the world.

Ski race

The US marine presented two different situations he found himself in:

1. When hearing fireworks he only has audio information - anxiety experienced.
2. When watching fireworks he has audio and video information - no anxiety.

This demonstrates how the Adult and Child ego states process information differently. This is explained further in the following three diagrams.

A thinks, C blieves

Adult & Child functions

Ego state processing Jpeg

When he can only hear the fireworks (and not see them) he knows in his Adult they are only fireworks and not real bombs. However his Child ego state he is not 100% convinced they are not bombs. This is a type of magical thinking. His Child believes that some how by magic they may be real.

To the person who has not been traumatized in a war zone it is not important for the Child to be fully convinced. To the marine who has been in situations where he could have been killed by the bombing it becomes very important and hence he experiences high anxiety in reaction to those sounds.

When he can watch the fireworks directly, see what is going on and see the bangs being connected to the fireworks exploding he has no anxiety. This shows how important video is to Child ego state information processing. With such visual confirmation his Child is 100% convinced they are not real bombs and he experiences no anxiety.

Magical thinking

Anyone who has studied child psychology knows the importance a young child puts on what they see rather than on words they are told. Children quickly learn that a parent’s actions are far more important than what a parent says. Indeed when it is preverbal it only has visual (& kinesthetic) information available to it.

The US marine reminds us that we never loose the Child ego state part of us even when we are a mature adult. We continue to process information in an illogical way with magical thinking no matter how old we are.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Different types of drug use

This is a diagram of drug use that I came across the other day.

Drug cycle

The explanation for it follows:

"The road to addiction is different for every person. Some people take their time while others go from zero to 60 in a short period of time. No matter how long your journey is, most rehabilitation counselors agree that there are five main stages of drug addiction: experimentation, regular use, risky use/abuse, and drug addiction and dependency. Not everyone in the first two stages will develop a drug addiction, but individuals in the third stage of drug abuse are very likely to progress into full-blown addicts. Here’s a closer look at the five main stages of drug addiction.

Experimentation is defined as the voluntary use of drugs without experiencing any negative social or legal consequences. For many, experimenting may occur once or several times as a way to “have fun” or even to help the individual cope with a problem. For many, experimentation can occur without any desire to continue using the drug. For others, it can start to become a problem when it moves into the next stage of addiction.

Cigar smoking

Some people will be able to enter the stage of regular use without developing a dependence or addiction. These people will be able to stop the drug use on their own. The problem with regular use is that the risk for substance abuse greatly increases during this stage. It also increases risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, unexplained violence, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Many people stay in the stage of regular use for months or years. Some may not develop a problem but many may not be able to stop by themselves. This is ordinarily the period of time where the consequences of using drugs and/or alcohol regularly begin to show up. Some will completely stop at this point. Others will stop for a period of time in order to get back into the good graces of loved ones or possibly the law; for example if someone gets a DWI and is put on probation they may quit drinking completely or agree with their family never to drink and drive again but as soon as they complete their probation they feel they are “off the hook” and can finally return to their old behaviors. 

Characteristics of dependence include constant use of alcohol or other drugs that lead to the inability to take care of major responsibilities related to work, family, school and other roles. Repeatedly using drugs in situations that are physically hazardous, such as sharing needles or driving while under the influence, repeated legal problems, or any combination of these. Their risky behavior may also escalate to things such as prostitution and stealing from society because they can no longer take from their family. Many dependent people could be categorized as functioning, and are able to work, maintain family relationships, and friendships. They will attempt to limit their use of alcohol or other drugs to certain times, such as evenings or weekends. 


The last stage of persistent abuse of substances is addiction. At this point they have been addicted for some time but this is the point where change is inevitable because continued use will only lead to a few places. Addiction is a disease involving serious psychological and physical changes from constant heavy use of alcohol, drugs, or both. Symptoms include withdrawal and uncontrollable alcohol use and/or other drug craving, seeking, and use that continues even in the face of repeated negative consequences. Addiction is a progressive, chronic, and fatal disease. If left untreated, it can only lead to jails, institutions, death, and dereliction, in no specific order". (End of explanation)

My response
I find this has some accuracies or parts I would agree with. It also is an interesting statement because it typifies some of the ways misconceptions about drug use are presented to the public. I discuss these below:

It says that not everyone in the first two stages will develop a drug addiction. The majority or even the vast majority do not develop a drug addiction. The largest group by far are the social (recreational) users. The dependent users are quite a small group in number.

It kind of implies the gateway drug use scare tactics approach by saying there are 5 main stages to drug addiction from experimentation to dependency. This is true but again it is only quite a small group of users who go through all the five stages and most stop at stage 2. It is like saying eating leads to obesity. Yes it does for a small group but the vast majority of eaters do not become obese. 

To quote them, “Some may not develop a problem but many may not be able to stop by themselves.” This is a typical media driven statement that is using scare tactics. A more correct statement would be - Most will not develop a problem but a few may not be able to stop by themselves.

5 girls
If these five women all took drugs. Only about one tenth of one of them would ever develop a drug dependency. Four of them would only ever remain recreational users.

It says many stay at the stage of regular use for months or years. As I say in my book - Working with drug and alcohol users - if this happens then a move on to dependent use is unlikely. Most dependent users when they begin using their drug of choice the escalation to dependent use is rapid, within months. It most often does not develop slowly over time. So when they hit what the diagram calls social use they quickly skip to dependent use. If they stay in social use or regular use for months or years then they are unlikely to develop to dependent use.

It says addiction is a disease. This is one view of addiction and is commonly the psychiatric view of addiction. There are other views which see it resulting from adverse psychological development and is not a disease in the medical sense of the word. This psychological view is a widely held view of addiction around the world. 

It says addiction is a progressive, chronic and fatal disease. For the vast majority of dependent uses this is not so. The vast majority do not die when addicted. The  average time of use for the dependent user is 10 years and then they stop using. The vast majority do not die by overdose or due to medical problems when addicted. It may shorten their life span in the long term in varying degrees when they get old but the vast majority will not die when using drugs.

It says that if left untreated it can only lead to jail, institution, death and so forth. I have spoken about the death statement above. In addition research shows that only 40% to 50% of dependent users will ever do any prison time. For at least half or for a small majority, it does not lead to jail.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The development of personality types

Deb from facebook asks if the anti social personality is created as a defence mechanism.

Generally speaking most would see that to be the case along with all 10 personality types listed here in addition to the core belief of each one.

Personality type core beliefs

Most theories would say that as the child grows it makes decisions about life. It picks up stories it liked as child and uses these to create a template (or life script) about how to live and what life is going to be like for them. This would tend to be mainstream thinking on the subject and thus would tend to agree with the assertion which Deb makes. The child picks the particular personality type as a way of adapting or defending against what it sees as adverse circumstances in childhood. All children get stressed and suffer varying degrees of trauma. It is in these times especially that they choose which defence they will have and some of those are listed in the diagram above.

I however would suggest there is an exception to this and that is the narcissistic personality and to a lesser degree the anti social personality type. With all the other types the child grows into them as a defence but with these two it is different. Instead the child never grows out of them.

All children are born narcissistic and to a lesser extent anti social. Freud called this primary narcissism. All children are born completely narcissistic and the goal is to grow out of that narcissism. Thus one could say that the adult who has a narcissistic personality never achieved this. He didn’t grow into the narcissistic personality type as a defence instead he just never grew out of it. In this way the narcissistic personality type is unique amongst all the other personality types.

N picture

Back to the original point about the anti social. It is somewhat similar in this way to the narcissist but to a lesser degree. For instance many anti socials have very little empathy for others. All children are born with no empathy. They are out for number 1 and if others suffer along the way then so be it. People acquire the skill of empathy later in life. They have to grow into it. The anti social personality never does this. They do not grow into a lack of empathy as a way of coping instead they just never grew out of a lack of empathy like most others do.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Libraries - Working with drug and alcohol users

Current list of university, college and training insititute libraries that have the book - Working with drug and alcohol users

The book has only been out 4 months and there are a 116 (& these are only the ones I am aware of at this stage)

The British library - British National Bibliography (UK)
Ashforn Library Kent (UK)
Tunbridge Wells Library Kent (UK)
Norfolk County Council (UK)
Reading Borough Libraries (UK)
Westminster Libraries(UK)
University of Sussex (UK)
University of East Anglia (UK)
University of Hertfordshire (UK)
University of Huddersfield (UK)
University of Hull (UK)
University of Leicester (UK)
University of Cambridge (UK)
Kingston University (UK)
Brunel University (UK)
Oxford University (UK)
Sandwell Hospital library (UK)

Prince of Wales Hospital library (Wales)
Cefn Coed Hospital, Swansea (Wales)
Neath Port Talbot Hospital (Wales)
Glan Clwyd Hospital Library (Wales)
National Library of Wales (Wales)

National Library of Scotland (Scotland)

Tubingen University (Germany)

Oslo University College (Norway)

Stockholms Universitet (Sweden)

Zurich Central Library (Switzerland)

University of South Africa (South Africa)
University of the Western Cape (South Africia)

Library and Archives Canada (Canada)
Algoma University (Canada)
Atlantic School of Theology (Canada)
Nova Scotia College University (Canada)
Saint Francis Xavier University (Canada)
Cape Breton University (Canada)
Mount Saint Vincent University (Canada)
Saint Mary’s University (Canada)
Sherbrooke University (Canada)
Dalhousie University Design & Technology library (Canada)
Dalhousie University Health Sciences library (Canada)
Dalhousie University Law library (Canada)
Dalhousie University MacRae library (Canada)
Dalhousie University Killam Memorial library (Canada)
Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
University of Alberta (Canada)
University of King’s College (Canada)
University of Waterloo (Canada)
University of Calgary (Canada)
Université Sainte-Anne (Canada)
Université du Québec en Outaouais (Canada)

Chisholm Institute of TAFE  (Aust)
Cairns Base Hospital (Aust)
National Library of Australia (Aust)
Mater Hospital Library (Aust)
King Edward Memorial Hospital (Aust)
University of Newcastle (Aust)
University of Ballarat (Aust)
University of Canberra (Aust)
Monash University (Aust)
Deakin University (Aust)
Bond University (Aust)
RMIT University (Aust)
Queensland University of Technology (Aust)
Gold Coast Health Services (Aust)
State library of Western Australia (Aust)

University of California, Merced (USA)
Library of Congress  (USA)
Marylhurst University (USA)
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (USA)
SUNY College at Plattsburgh (USA)
Marymount University (USA)
New York University (USA)
Brigham Young University (USA)
Pennsylvania State University (USA)
Ohio State University (USA)
Arizona State University (USA)
Colorado State University (USA)
Multnomah County library (USA)
Tennessee State University (USA)
University of Tennessee (USA)
Austin Peay State University (USA)
Indiana University (USA)
Webster University (USA)
Temple University (USA)
Southern Methodist University (USA)
Eden Seminary Library (USA)
Birmingham-Jefferson Public Library (USA)
Saint Mary of the Woods College (USA)
Williams College (USA)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (USA)
Central Michigan University (USA)
George Mason University (USA)
Virginia Commonwealth University (USA)
Southern Illinois University (USA)
Boise State University (USA)
Purdue University Library (USA)
Appalachian State University (USA)
University of North Carolina at Greensboro (USA)
University of Virginia (USA)
University of Notre Dame (USA)
University of Missouri - Columbia (USA)
University of Chicago (USA)
University of Colorado at Boulder (USA)
University of Iowa (USA)
University of Minnesota (USA)
University of Alabama (USA)
University of Texas at Dallas (USA)
Texas State University-San Marcos (USA)

Unitec Institute of Technology (New Zealand)
Rotorua Public Library (New Zealand)
Central City Library (New Zealand)
Mt Albert Community Library (New Zealand)
University of Auckland (New Zealand)

Hong Kong PolyU Library (China)
Chinese University of Hong Kong (China)
University of Hong Kong (China)

Book review

First review of my new book - Working with drug and alcohol users, 2012. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Natasa review Jpeg

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The psychology of the lie

With all the ado about Lance I thought it was an opportune time to present this

Some young children play the game of: “Liar, liar pants on fire”.

This is the child who is a repetitive or compulsive liar. They habitually or continually tell falsehoods or lies. There are two main types of compulsive liars:

Type A) The child who tells a lie where they are obviously going to get caught. So why do they want to get caught? It can be for attention (strokes), there is some bigger issue going on and they want it brought out into the open (e.g. abuse of some kind, bullying at school), the child is a drama queen, the child is crying out for limits to be set and so forth.

Type B) The child who lies for expediency. To avoid conflict, punishment, escape the consequences of behaviour or obtain money/property. This is a more insidious type of lying and can reflect the beginnings of the development of the anti-social personality type.

Sitting girl

An adult version of the game, is the game of “The affair”. This is not the type of affair where it is a one off. For example both parties get drunk at the office christmas party and have a quickie in the storeroom. Instead this game refers to the affair that is ongoing and involves planned deception. For an affair to continue for any length of time there must be an ongoing series of falsehoods being told.

These are type A lies if the parties in the affair start taking more and more risks and thus continually increase the chances of getting caught. They want to get found out. Often this type of affair occurs because at least one party is desperately unhappy in a marriage and does not know how to deal with it, so they create a situation that brings it out. Finally, the ‘innocent’ husband or wife forces the issues to be dealt with when they find out.

Unstable marriage

There are other affairs that are long term and no one ever gets found out and these would involve more of the type B lies.

Game antithesis -
Type A - find out the motive for the lying or wanting to get caught and then deal with that.

Type B - consequences of behaviour, developing a sense of morality and the rights of others as being important.

As with any piece of behaviour lying can become habitual. One particularly sees this with drug users. To live in the drug subculture one has to lie at least reasonably often, so it becomes a habit and then you find sometimes drug users will lie when there is no reason for them to. They simply do it because it is a habit.

Is this lying?
I remember a long time ago a 20 something year old woman came to see me. When asked why she was there she announced that she was a compulsive liar. The first thing I did was to get her to redefine herself as a creative story teller rather than a compulsive liar.

One career possibility for such individuals is to consider creative writing. The good liar is a good story teller. Hans Christian Anderson was a very successful liar. He had the ability to present “false facts” in a convincing and effective manner. He made his lies seem very believable and thus people would ‘get into’ the story being told.

The good story teller and good liar get the person into a state of mind where they themselves will want to believe the lie even before it has been told.

This is done through the relational. If a man is about to deny to his wife that he is having an affair, he does not start with, “I didn’t do it”. Instead he starts with, “You know I love you”. He gives the wife exactly what she wants to hear because she at least partly wants to be lied to because the facts are too painful. She does not want to believe the truth and by professing his love to her the errant husband heightens her desire to not believe the truth. It’s not about him convincing her its about her convincing herself.

Without a doubt we all lie and the person we lie to most, is ourselves. Humans are continually lying to themselves. We are very good at telling ourselves lies and then believing them. How we do it is by such means as denial, repression, intellectualization, catastrophizing, projection, sublimation and so on endlessly. Technically these called the defence mechanisms, more accurately they could be called, “The ways we lie to ourselves”.

Head in water
A basic, childlike reaction of all children (and adults). If it hurts just pretend it's not there. In this way we all have a desire to be lied to. Lying not only makes things easier for the liar but also for the person being lied to. Many didn't want to believe Lance was a cheat as that would be painful. They chose to believe the lie because it was easier, even when it was bleeding obvious! When he finally said it, the lie could no longer be maintained in many people's minds and hence the emotional response by many.

When the truth hurts the Child ego state will naturally just closes its ears and eyes to reality. It wants to be lied to, at least in part. The effective liar will heighten the other’s desire to be lied to and thus the liar will be more effective.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life script story - Part 2

KYLady says:

“I remember you wrote in an old blog post about wanting to join the circus when you were young.”
Well that is a good point KYLady and you have made an interesting connection that I had not. About my life script and the circus. I did write previously about the circus and my reaction to it. Also it would have been a very similar age to how old I was when I watched the Toby Tyler movie.
I recall my mother took me to the the “Moscow Circus” when it visted here in Australia. For some reason my brother and sister were not there which made it a bit more special for me being alone with just my mother. I was especially fascinated by the famous Popov the clown who as I found out later was regarded as one of the best clowns of all time.

After that I was convinced that this what I wanted to be - a clown in the circus like Popov. So there we have another decision about being in the circus that would have occured close in time to the Toby Tyler movie.
Indeed this decision of mine must have persisted for a number of years as I recall later my mother actually investigated how I could become a clown. She found that there was actually a clown school run by Popov. But it was in Russia and the Cold War was in full flight at that time so it never happened in the end.
Also I have always been fascinated by Marcel Marceau. For example how he can create such powerful visiual images by simply moving his hands.

Truly magic I think!
Maybe this also contibuted to this part of my life script story.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Life script story

The life script of Toby Tyler (or part thereof)

Eric Berne highlighted the idea that children will take on stories as templates for parts of their own life script.

Toby Tyler was a movie that I first saw at a drive-in theatre! I would have been almost exactly the same age as Toby Tyler was in the movie. I have never forgotten this movie and it was one of my most favorite movies of all time. And to make matters more interesting. All through my childhood and also when I was this age I had one very good friend. We were best friends for many years and his name was also Toby.

Here is a picture of Toby Tyler with Mr Stubbs and a picture of me with my pet cat.

TT & me

The synopsis that Wiki gave for the movie

Overhearing stern Uncle Daniel describe him as a "millstone", Toby Tyler runs away from his foster home to join the circus, where he soon befriends Mr. Stubbs, the frisky chimpanzee. However, the circus isn't all fun and games when the evil candy vendor, Harry Tupper, convinces Toby that his Aunt Olive and Uncle Daniel don't love him or want him back. Toby resigns himself to circus life even scoring a much bigger role at the circus. When Toby realizes (with the help of Mr. Stubbs) that Tupper lied to him, and that his aunt and uncle truly love him, Toby leaves the circus to go home. On the way, however, he finds that Mr. Stubbs has followed him. Deciding to take Mr. Stubbs home with him (to keep him safe,) Mr. Stubbs is chased by a hunter's dog. A hunter named Jim Weaver accidentally shoots Mr. Stubbs as Harry hauls Toby back to the circus.

Toby discovers his aunt and uncle are at the circus, with hugs all around. When Harry tries to pursue Toby, he is caught by Ben for using the Sheriff's money. Ben tells Harry to leave Toby alone and stop acting unkind. Just before Toby's big performance for his family, he discovers Mr. Stubbs is still alive, having been brought back to the circus by the hunter. Toby performs on horseback, only to have Mr. Stubbs join him, creating a great new act for the circus.

He travels around giving performances for the public. 


But it is his relationships that are of most importance. He runs away from home and ends up having an exciting life but essentially is living alone at least emotionally. His best friend is a monkey! At one point he thinks his best friend (Mr Stubbs) dies but then discovers he is still alive.

He has a loving family in the background but will he ever get to it or will he always remain a traveler who never settles with a loving partner to enjoy the more common type of intimacy? Will he ever be with his best friend or has he lost his friend for ever? A battle between the want for intimacy and the want to move away from it.

That is the life script quest for Toby Tyler.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Parenting the teenager who drinks alcohol

I was recently listening to the radio and heard an announcement about a new government initiative regarding drinking alcohol. The programme is called DrinkWise Australia. Part of it is about parents dealing with teenagers who drink. In my recent book - Working with drug and alcohol users - I discuss in depth the area of teenagers and alcohol and drug use. I decided to go to the website and have a look to see what they had to say.  

The things teenagers do

This is basically what they say:

“3A Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.

3B For young people aged 15–17 years the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.”

“Communicate your concerns about drinking alcohol to your teen. Discuss the range of risks involved and the impact on their physical, psychological and social health. They may not agree with your views on the matter but they need to understand why you have created the rules that exist in your home.

Involve your teenager in the development of the rules. As you and your partner decide on the rules and boundaries have your teenager with you. They may not like the rules but they are more likely to follow them if they understand your reasoning.

Renegotiate rules as they become dated – every six months. If you’ve created a set of rules around alcohol for a 15 year old, these need to be re-examined to suit different stages in your teen’s development.” (end quote)

Teenage bonding

In essence they are advising parents to tell their teenagers not to drink or at least have very restricted drinking.

In my book I note that there are two approaches here that parents can use.

1. To do what DrinkWise Australia suggests and recommend no alcohol use and possibly use punishments if they do not keep to those rules.

2. To not make any statements to the teenager about alcohol use being ‘bad’ and something you disapprove of. The parent does not tell the teenager not to drink. You simply listen to them talk about their drinking and make comments from time to time such as reflective listening or appreciating them being open with you.

The advantage to number 1 approach is it gives the teenager a clear sense of what is right and wrong which they will incorporate from the parents. The disadvantage of approach 2 is the teenager does not get the clear boundary set by the parents. 

The disadvantage to number 1 is you ‘loose’ the teenager in varying degrees. As soon as the teenager hears the parents say “don’t drink” it is likely from then on they will not get the truth about the drinking. The teenager who is drinking will either deny it completely or give the parents a significantly modified version that understates the amount they are drinking. Even if the parents deliver the ‘Don’t drink’ message in a soft form the teenager will still usually ‘hide’ their drinking at least to some degree.

This can be a problem as it can damage the relationship with the teenager in that they withdraw from the relationship with the parents. Hence they can experience more of a sense of isolation from the family. The teenager thinks, 

“I can’t tell my parents stuff as they will (disapprove, lecture me, worry about me....)”

If this is minor the negative effects are not so bad but if the teenager experiences it to a significant degree then it can be quite a problem.

Pick up girls

One thing you do not want is a teenager who feels isolated from the parents and family. The more a teenager has a sense of isolation the more psychologically vulnerable they are. This is why the most basic ‘rule’ of parenting a teenager is never break off the lines of communication. No matter how offensively they have behaved it is strongly advised that a parent never ceases communication with the teenager.

If they stop telling parents about their drinking, what else are they not telling the parents? If they stop talking with the parents about sensitive issues like drug and alcohol use that usually results in them giving more power and influence to the peers as they become the teenager’s main confidant rather than the parents. Obviously an undesirable situation.

As stated before approach 2 does not give the teenager a clear boundary set by the parents about drinking. However it is more likely to avoid the difficulties just mentioned which go along with approach 1. 

Approach 1 = directing from the front

Approach 2 = persuading from behind

Two women

In approach 2 the parents do not openly state that the teenager should not drink or take drugs. They simply listen to the teenager, reflect back to them and generally keep the teenager talking. As I said before the downside of this approach is that it gives implicit permission for the teenager to use alcohol but it does not have the negatives of damaging the relationship with the teenager that approach 1 can. Approach 2 tends to give the teenager a sense of a connection with the parents and the parents can become a key person who the teenager confides in. The parents can remain more influential in the teenager psyche for longer. This reduces the negative impact that can come from ‘advice’ given by peers. Also the teenager does not experience a sense of isolation which makes them more psychologically robust.

The parent would tend to be saying things like
That’s a good point
What do yo think would happen if you did this..?
It seems like that worries you

It’s more of a counselling approach to parenting but if at all possible the parent should avoid becoming a ‘therapist’ to the child. Unlike approach 1 which is a directive approach, approach 2 is persuading from behind. This is done by highlighting certain points and ignoring other points. It’s a much more subtle approach to the parenting of the teenager.

As so often happens when dealing with teenagers about alcohol use the parents are left with two bad choices. The goal is to choose the least bad one. Both approaches have positives and negatives.

Vader in Japan
Parents have all sorts of different appraoches to teenagers depending on their own personalities.

However as also is the case in parenting often the best approach to use ends up being dependent on the personality of the child and the parent. If the teenager tends to be somewhat conservative in their attitudes and somewhat conforming then approach 1 may be best. If one has a strong willed, rebellious teenager who is in a group who use alcohol and drugs then approach 2 may be the best choice. In these circumstances to use the approach suggested by DrinkWise Australia could result in some quite negative outcomes.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The psychology of danger

Danger - the risk of injury or death - has important or even essential psychological effects for normal human development. If one does not experience and live through danger then they will never fully psychologically develop. To become a fully psychologically developed individual one has to survive dangerous situations at least at some point in ones life.

Why would this be so?

A good example of this is overseas travel especially for Australians as Australia is such a paternalistic place where the government and organizations like the AMA are constantly trying to make everything safe. As soon as a young person is hurt or killed it immediately sets about changing laws and any other thing it can think of to eradicate that danger or reduce it to its barest minimum.


The only way to get away from this is to travel overseas to other countries where governments are not so paternalistic. When that happens you have to learn to survive on your own. The young person is putting self into a more dangerous situation where they have to make observations of the environment, make correct decisions about how to act and then they survive. Of course because the danger is increased more of them will be hurt and occasionally some will die. This shows to all the others that they survived, they did make it on their own and they lived through a dangerous situation.

Unfortunately there is no way around it. Sooner or later the youngster has to fly from the nest. When they do some will fly and some will fall to the ground and die. What the Australian government would do is put a big soft mattress under the nest to protect all the ones that fell. As soon as you do that you take away the danger and flying out of the nest looses its psychological significance and benefits. In essence you haven’t really flown from the nest, at least psychologically anyway. All those that did fly no longer get the psychological benefits because they knew there was no danger in flying.

Bubble blower

Hence we have one of the first psychological benefits of living through danger. It allows the youngster to psychologically separate and individuate as they say. They have seen themselves enter a dangerous situation (with out paternal protection), deal with the danger and survive. Thus showing them self that they can survive on their own hence the development of psychological separation and individuation from the parents. Along with this goes a increase in ones self esteem and a sense of achievement is experienced. Finally it also allows the youngster to develop skills in dealing with the world. If one never puts self in danger they are never going to develop the skills to deal with that danger. 

At this point we can thus see three important psychological consequences of putting self in dangerous (potentially life threatening) situations.

1. Development of psychological separation and individuation
2. Increase in self esteem
3. Obtaining important life skills.

The reason why I have chosen the topic of overseas travel is because in recent times the press have been in a big flurry over a young Australia who dank contaminated alcohol in Indonesia and died. This is getting massive coverage in the press. Without a doubt a very tragic situation to have a young Australian die like that. An instance of one who flew from the nest but fell to the ground and died.

This is a quote of the first paragraph written in a newspaper article by Steve Pennells. 

“The bar that allegedly served the drink that killed Perth teenager Liam Davies remained open yesterday as Indonesian police revealed that no investigation had been launched into his death.”

When I first read this I chuckled as it is such a culturally egocentric point of view. The Indonesian government have far larger social issues to deal with than this. If Australia was in the same position as Indonesian society we would not be investigating it either. There are far more important social issues to spend the scare resources on, than such an investigation.


Secondly it typifies the Australian solution to the problem - remove the danger. The solution of putting the mattress under the nest. Hence we are creating a generation who are not getting the essential psychological benefits that come from allowing young people to go into dangerous and potentially life threatening situations.