Thursday, April 29, 2010

Human attachment and addiction

This is a follow on from the post before on human attachment.

Sometimes however children do not go through the attachment build up followed by the attachment breakdown. Consider the experiments done by John Bowlby with attachment many years ago.

A mother and young child would go into a room that had a chair in the middle. In the room there would be toys and other interesting things for a child to look at and play with. The mother sits in the chair by herself or just talks with another adult. The researchers then simply observed what the child did and there were three patterns that came up.

1. Some children would stay next to mother but slowly and surely move away from her to investigate the room. They would move away and then come back and then move away again further and further each time. Checking on mother from time to time. This they called a secure attachment

2. Some children just moved away from mother did not look back at her or seek her out again and amused themselves with the toys. This is called an isolated attachment as the child did not use mother as a secure home base. Typical in later life of the schizoid personality

3. Some children never left mother’s side . They may look around the room at the interesting stuff but never left mother’s side in any significant way. This is called an insecure attachment. This is the psychological basis of the addictive personality. They never adequately learnt the process of the attachment breakdown.

The vast majority of children learn how to form an attachment. Those who don’t end up showing autistic like symptoms. Children will develop an attachment to a parent who treats them well and also to the parent who treats them badly. The need to form an attachment is that essential for the psychological well being of the child. The stockholm syndrome is an example of those who developed an attachment to their abuser as do young children.

However the process of breaking down the attachment is not learnt by all, those who don’t can develop the insecure attachment and continually seek mother’s side. As we know the essential feature of an attachment is the desire to maintain proximity with the attachment figure. Thus the child’s reluctance to leave mother’s proximity.

The dependent personality is the same and this explains the ‘drug addict’ type of drug user. These are the ones who find it really, really, really hard to stop using. People use drugs for many reasons and these are the ones often portrayed in the movies, usually live wretched lives and use up most of the health, legal and counselling resources in the community. In number they are quite small but they use up most of the resources allocated to drug users in the community because drugs ruin their lives, families and often they are outside the law and require health resources as a result of their drug taking. Listening to these people talk about the drug one finds an uncanny similarity to talking about a relationship with a husband or wife. The drug becomes their partner.

As they grow through life into adulthood they discover something that feels good for them. That can be anything with the most common ones being cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, religion, another person and they in essence form an attachment to it. As they never developed the ability to break the attachment down they then form an insecure attachment with the ‘thing’. Thus they have a continual heightened desire to maintain proximity with it and thus one ends up with the addiction. It is an attachment problem.

In the histories of drug addicts one finds they have gotten off the drugs on many occasions. Their problem is not to get off the drug but to stay off the drug. When they remove self from the attachment figure (drug) they find it so difficult to maintain the distance that they they sooner or later again seek the proximity of the attachment figure and thus start using again.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The serial nature of human attachment**

I have had prior opportunity to talk about the attachment process in humans. No matter what the relationship is when two humans meet they they initially go through a process of attachment development. I have used the relationship diagram to show this process.

Whilst all relationship go through this process they can do it in differing ways depending on what type of relationship it is

There can be the four stages of a romantic relationship that a man and woman go through.

1. Acquaintances

2. Honeymoon stage

3. Smothering - abandonment stage

4. Complete relationship

The honeymoon stage which usually lasts between 6 to 18 months is where the attachment builds up. Attachment building occurs when at least one of the parties views the other in an attractive and appealing light.

Then for some reason that is followed by a period where they couple set about separating and individuating from each other. They set about breaking down the attachment which they just spent all that time and energy creating. This occurs in the Smothering - abandonment stage of the model above.

Once done they set about doing the same again with someone else. This just seems to be the natural human condition. With attachment development of course comes the very strong inbred desire to maintain proximity to the other which is at the very core of human relationships and makes sure most stay together for that period. After the detachment period is ended they are more easily able to separate geographically if society allows such a thing. The love between them changes from an attachment based love to a FC to FC liking type of love. The psychological need to maintain proximity is reduced and they more choose to stay together (or not) rather than being biologically programmed to.

Hence we end up with the serial monogamy model of marriage. In a westernised family type of situation the attachment - detachment process takes about 7 to 10 years. After that they are more psychologically capable to geographically separate and this can explain why the divorce rate in such societies tends to hover around the 40 to 50 percent mark.

Of course the same can happen in the therapeutic relationship between the client and therapist. Compared to the marital relationship it is much more unequal in that it is more on the client’s side but the same process occurs as is shown in this diagram.

In the positive transference the client can develop a strong attachment and thus the desire to maintain proximity can be quite strong indeed. After that comes the negative transference where the client sets about breaking down the attachment they have just spent all that time developing. Once complete then the therapist becomes much less psychologically important to the client and the desire to maintain proximity reduces and eventually the client sort of outgrows the therapist and moves onto the next relationship. Again we have this serial quality in attachments in relationships.

Finally we have the child and mother relationship where the same takes place. The child spends the first two years developing a very strong attachment and thus a very strong desire to maintain proximity to mother. It then spends the next 16 years breaking down that attachment and separating and individuating. Whilst the overall process is the same it differs quite considerably in a number of ways than the two other relationships just described.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

ANZAC day silence

It is ANZAC day here in Australia tomorrow. It is a national day where we say a very great thanks to those men and women who have fought in wars over the years to protect Australia and its citizens. A most worthwhile task in my view. My grandfather was a doctor in the army and my father was an able bodied seaman in the navy during the second world war. Fortunately I missed out on a potential call up for the Vietnam war by being just a bit too young. I admire my father and grandfather for what they did for this country and me and my family

In the past week there has been the usual build up to this most reverent of days in this country. Much comment has been made, articles written and commentary on the different theatres of war in which Australians have fought and many images of our gallant men fighting where they did.

Me in high school “army”.

Whilst it is a day to show our thanks it is also a day where Australian society makes a statement to itself and particularly its children about war. It says to the children what we think about war, how we view it and how we wish to remember it. This is where I have concerns

There is a silence that is most disconcerting.

At the moment ANZAC day is a good fun day. The first thing the children learn about ANZAC day is that it is a day off school so they are all in favour of it I would imagine. There are also dawn services that a solemn and moving and very picturesque. Plenty of parades with lots of flag waving, smiles, cheering, clapping, tears in the eyes, BBQs, beer drinking, playing two up and I would imagine that the women of the night probably do a good days trade as well.

At the moment everybody is slapping everybody else on the back and everyone is agreeing on how this celebration and national statement about war is being conducted.

The anti war movement is completely silent. It would seem there is none at all. I recall quite a few years ago now there would be anti war protesters on ANZAC day who would burn the Australian flag, shout their anti war views and in the dark of night put graffiti on war memorials like “Men’s wars rape women”.

Whilst I find such slogans most repugnant they are also reassuring. At least someone is disagree and the children will see this and will make them think. It will make them think that maybe war isn’t just parades and days off school. And it is true, men’s wars do rape women. Whether that be the random rapes by male soldiers on female civilians or armies using rape as a systematic method of warfare. Like the “comfort women” used by the Japanese soldiers in WWII or the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war as in recent conflicts in Sub saharan Africa. Why don’t we tell our children about this? Why don’t we show images of this to our children? One sees very, very few if any images on ANZAC of mutilated bodies and death and torture. So what are we teaching our children about war on ANZAC day?

Unfortunately ANZAC day has commercialised war and sanitised war. One of the worst offenders in this way is the Australian Football League (AFL). They have wholeheartedly seized on ANZAC day and squeezed it for every dollar it can make out of it to sell seats at games of football. Equating footballers to our fine soldiers and games of football to the battle fields. Now that is repugnant!. For heavens sake it is just a game of football and who really cares who wins and looses. But perhaps it teaches our children that some how, kind of, war is like a game of football. And that the young adult males kind of start to think that going to war is like going on a long extended camp with your mates at the expense of the government.

The AFL have commercialised ANZAC day so you are never going to get any truth about the ‘bad’ aspects of war, and there are many. And thus one ends up with endless good pictures about war and never any of the bad ones.

Is the AFL going to show our children pictures of war like these.

I don’t think so because that would be bad for business and they will continue to send only a very ANZAC day sanitised view of war to our children.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Relational contact with the AC **

In Transactional Analysis terms it is the Adapted Child (AC) ego state where self destructive urges reside in the suicidal individual. The young child makes an early script decision that is known as the “Don’t exist” decision or the suicide decision. It is the AC part of the personality that encompasses that decision and thus subsequent suicidal urges are seen to come from there.

In the treatment and management of the suicidal one can give the client an opportunity to seek to clarify this ego state or part of their personality. One way to do this is to get the client to project that part of their personality out onto the environment. They can project it into an empty chair or they may draw it on a piece of paper thus allowing it to be projected out in that way.

This can be shown diagrammatically as:

The AC is projected out onto some kind of ‘screen’ allowing the client's and therapist’s Adult ego states to see it in a clearer form. Once done the client can see, understand and experience this aspect of the personality in more profound way than if it had never been ‘externalised’ before. However the point at hand is it also allows the therapist to understand it much better and begin to relate to that part specifically.

In my view one of the most important therapeutic undertakings with the suicidal client is precisely this. For the therapist to establish relational contact with the self destructive aspect of the client. When the client makes such a projection then such an activity is possible.

But why is it seen as such an important action? The answer to this question addresses the spheres of humans, relationships and attachments. The research is prolific and emphatic about the health promoting ramifications of human relationships and attachment. Humans are much more psychologically robust if they have substantive relationships (attachments) in their current lives. Indeed it is better to have attachments of a poor quality than no attachments at all. Humans need relational contact and they are healthier when they have it.

However it should be noted that what is being suggested here is different to the usual kind of relationship formation. It is different than two people meeting and over time forming a bond and attachment. The difference is that the therapist is addressing one specific aspect of the client’s personality rather than the person as a whole.

It seems safe to say that in normal relating this aspect of the personality would rarely be addressed or even recognised between the two people so a different dimension of relating is being discussed here. I do not know of any research on this specific type of relating. All I can do is make statements on what I have observed over the years of working like this in therapy. In addition I must say that I have rarely seen others set about to establish this type of relational contact with a client.

However my conclusion is that this type of relational contact is of considerable therapeutic value. A part of the client’s personality, the Adapted Child ego state, that rarely if ever gets directly addressed by another all of a sudden is not only being address but is being sought for relational contact. Some person all of a sudden is seeking it out for a relationship and attachment. Someone wants to get to know it and relate to it probably for the first time ever in its life. To treat it with respect and compassion again probably for the first time ever in its life.

Not uncommonly there is some initial resistance but that usually subsides quite quickly, after about three or four episodes of relational contact. Then there tends to be a dropping of its ‘harshness’ for the want of a better word. Initial contact from the therapist can be met with a response of glaring, subdued, abrupt, unfriendly, desolate and so forth. (I have just picked some words that try to explain the types of responses that can happen.) (It is similar to dealing with the lilith of a client)

It is a like a young child who has been ignored and maybe even derided for many years, all of a sudden is sought out in a compassionate way by a friendly other. It will feel most strange for the child, they wont trust it but they quickly discover that it feels nice. They may even be angry and hostile about being treated like that for such a long time. But if the other accepts the anger and hostility without abandoning it or hitting back angrily then the Child will start to find it is most appealing and then will start seeking it out by itself.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How long before Carl Williams becomes a legend?

One would imagine that it will be quite quick. Quicker than average one could even say. Carl Williams gained great notoriety in recent years due not so much to his money making criminal activities but to his way of dealing with the competition. He had the unfortunate habit of shooting them dead.

His rotund figure and baby face looks made him the most unlikely looking crime lord.

However last year a biopic TV series done on him and his criminal era where many were shot dead. It was one of the most successful TV series in recent times and from it will proliferate many other books, articles and maybe even a movie or to. With his very violent murder in prison yesterday that will only add to the Carl Williams mystique.

In one way he was canonised even before he died thanks to modern day TV. Of course he is no different than the Australian criminal legend, Ned Kelly. The same as Carl Williams, a murdering thief who left a trail of victims of crime in his wake. But it seems we have a need to make heroes of such villains in our Australian psyche.

5 years, 10 years or 20 years before Carl Williams is held in high esteem? Maybe longer but it seems safe to say that the stage has been set for this man to become one of the great modern day “Highwaymen” of Australian history.

Here is a picture at his trial. The woman in the yellow beanie is his ex-wife spewing venom at the blonde woman who was his new 20 something girlfriend at the time. These two women were publicly fighting over a man who was about to spend at least the next 35 years of his life in jail.

I have done some prison time myself, fortunately as an employee rather than a resident. I used to sometimes watch “visits” as it was called when the visitors came to see the men in jail. I was for ever surprised at the long line of attractive women who would come in through the gates dressed in all their finery that would have the average man pursuing them for sure.

Maybe this is the same psychological mechanism at work. There is something about the outlaw man that is attractive to at least some women. In addition overall society can tend to put them in some position of reverence as well.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Transference cure and introjection

It is interesting how at times normal psychological processes can end up being defined as pathological states. The American Psychiatric Association (1994) in the DSM-IV discuss what is known as a Folie a Deux or shared psychotic disorder.

In this case two people who are in a close relationship over time develop the same delusional belief system. This could include a delusion where suicide is seen as the only real solution. Usually there tends to be one dominant party and the more submissive party takes on the delusion of the other. This means that should the relationship end the more submissive party will tend to drop the delusion over time even though the submissive party probably has a tendency to have the same delusional beliefs.

However this happens in every relationship that has an attachment. As I have said before when an attachment develops both parties take on personality characteristics of each other. There is a blurring of their identities and the process of introjection occurs where one literally takes in the personality characteristics of the other.

Transactional Analysis can explain this process at least in part with the development of the Parent ego state. That ego state is merely a collection of parent tapes as they are called and can be drawn as such;

Each person we model off will be incorporated into our Parent ego state. The more emotionally important they are for us the more we will introject them into our Parent ego state. This can occur in a marriage as is shown in the diagram below. Here the wife is incorporating the husband into her own personality.

In this process it is not necessarily equal and the less emotionally potent figure will tend to introject more of the dominant figure than the other way around. This is a natural process that is inevitable. It will occur unconsciously and relentlessly in all significant relationships one has.

If the husband happens to have significant paranoid delusions then we have a Folie a deux with the husband seen as the ‘inducer’ as they are called. If they should separate then the wife’s paranoid delusions will subside over time as her Parent ego state readjusts and the other ‘tapes’ gain more of a presence in her personality or she may even begin incorporating a new partners Parent ego state who is not delusional.

There is nothing odd about this process. We are all doing the same psychological processing everyday. If his wife happens to be of a low self esteem and the husband happens to be a strong character who believes in himself and others then she will tend to take those personality characteristics in as well. Over time she will begin to have a ‘spontaneous recovery’ as it is called. How much that recovery occurs depends on how strong the Child ego state believes she is worthless, the strength and quality of the relationship with the husband, how selective her perception is, other Parent ego state influences in her current life and so forth.

But it is certainly not going to hurt the wife if this situation exists. However what usually tends to happen is people who believe they are of little worth will tend to form relationships with others who also believe they are of little worth. So the wife would be constantly introjecting new Parent ego state tapes that support her self deprecating beliefs.

This introjecting process can manifest in other interesting ways. It is particularly strong with teenagers and why ‘peer pressure’ is particularly important in that stage of development. In childhood it is the parents who dominate the young child’s attachments and thus dominate their introjections and Parent ego state tape incorporation. For a child the mother is the inducer and the child introjects her personality. If the mother has paranoid delusions then they may develop a shared paranoid disorder together.

When the child becomes an adolescent it begins to form strong attachments to others besides the parent, most often its peers. The parents rapidly begin to loose their psychological control over the child because the child is not dependent on them for its primary attachments. It starts developing its primary attachments to its peers.

In addition to this adolescence is when there is a growth spurt of development in the Parent ego state. Parent tape introjections are particularly influential at this point as the teenager’s Parent ego state is immature and very susceptible to influence by tape incorporation. Mothers and fathers realise this at some level and can become quite concerned of the peer pressure that they feel their son may be under. The introjection process is particularly prominent in adolescence.

This same process can also explain how a suicide pact may develop. Just as two people can develop shared paranoid delusions they can also develop shared delusions about all sorts of things including suicide. As they talk about suicide over time their Parent ego states can become more and more similar and thus become more and more supportive of each others beliefs about suicide as a solution to problems. Eventually one can end up with a suicide pact where both parties attempt suicide together. Again teenagers can be particularly susceptible to this as their Parent ego states are immature.

Then we can have the same process in what is called a transference cure in psychotherapy. The introjection process is at times quite prominent in the counselling process. If the therapist and client form a significant attachment then they will of course be introjecting each other into their Parent ego states. In this situation most often it is quite uneven and the therapist is very much the ‘inducer’ with the client doing much more introjecting than the therapist. However it still will occur both ways. Over time the therapist will become one of the client’s Parent ego state tapes.

When this happens you will hear client’s say things like. “I was talking with someone the other day and I suddenly realised that I sounded exactly like you”. Or the client will adopt some behavioural idiosyncrasies of the therapist and maybe adopt some similar dress or other attitudes they have.

This is sometimes called a transference cure. By introjecting the therapist the client is introjecting beliefs that the client is OK, worthwhile and important which the therapist believes. As this new tape becomes more influential in the personality it will dominate more and more and thus the pre-existing tapes which told the client they are bad and worthless will have less impact.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Negative transference and real feelings

I have written before about the process of transference that the client and therapist go through.

As one can see it includes what is called the positive and negative transference. Those are the stages where the client can have quite strong feeling reactions to the therapist. In the positive transference that usually includes the liking, loving and even at times erotic feelings.

This period can vary enormously in duration. Some times it is quite short and other times it lasts for long periods. One aspect of this is the attachment changes that occur during these phases.

In the positive transference the attachment develops and in the negative transference the attachment is broken down as the psychological separation occurs.

When the client switches to the negative transference they stop being friendly, helpful, agreeable and so forth and become disagreeable and argumentative. This can include arguing about the bills, changing appointments, getting appointment times wrong and so forth.

As regards the emotional quality of this stage I came across a blog post the other day. It was an open letter that had been written from a client to her therapist. I found it captured the emotional quality of the negative transference very well and I will use it in future as a teaching piece and hence I am writing about it here. It goes as such:

“Dear J,

I’m feeling angry about therapy. Here are some of the reasons why:

You always start the session by asking, “So what are we talking about today?” even if it is very obvious what needs to be talked about.

Every week feels like the first week all over again, instead of accumulating knowledge about me and reflecting back.

There is never any silence; I like to have silence occasionally.

I trusted you to read my blog and you searched for “sex” and “job” and then lied about it.

I gave you a really long account of 2009 and you said there was enough material in there to last for a few weeks of therapy and you never brought it up again.

You try to make everything logical and rational and then I feel guilty and I feel like a failure that it’s not sinking in.

You don’t pick up on what I need or what I feel. You never ask me what I need. I don’t even know what I need, but maybe if you ask me I’ll try to figure it out.

You once said in an email, “I think that one needs to work through or resolve issues in order to avoid repeating them.” All I feel like I’m doing is repeating the same things over and over and over.

Your office is so damn beige.

Tags: anger”

(end quote)

To summarise the grievances:

She questions his therapeutic skills

He is told he lied which implies he is also unreliable and untrustworthy

She reports he made her feel bad in this case guilty and a failure

He is told he does not give her what she wants, in this case silence

But it is best summed up in her last comment about the beige office. Translated = “I am angry at you”, as her tag so accurately portrays.

One of the difficulties of defining this as negative transference is the client can take it to mean that their feelings of anger are not real or are somehow invalid. That is not the case as the client feels what they feel and they are real and valid.

However the feelings are out of proportion to what is going on in the here and now because the client is misperceiving the therapist. It is a situation of misperception not ‘unreal’ emotions. I didn’t call it a problem of misperception because such misperceptions can lead to therapeutic gain if handled correctly by the therapist. The misperception is a positive thing in this sense.

If a client states they they have strong feelings for or are in love with the therapist that of course is great for the therapist’s ego. It’s great to think that I must be so attractive that someone has such feelings for me. But alas it is not so. A client does not fall in love with me they fall in love with what I represent to them.

How can you love someone when you hardly even know them? The client therapist relationship is a very specific and restricted one. The client only gets to see the therapist in a very singular way, that is in a sympathetic, understanding, reliable, caring role. The transactions would usually be as such:

In the therapy setting these transactions would most often occur 90% of the time. This is very different to the usual male and a female relationship which in part could be drawn as such:

Whether they be just friends or married both parties are supposed to express their Child ego state wants and needs about 50% of the time. In addition they are meant to be caring of each other about equal amounts as well. Both sides get to see the other’s Child ego state in particular. Thus they know them more ‘deeply’ than a client can know a therapist as the therapist very infrequently expresses such child needs to the client.

Thus the client does not really get to know the therapist even though the level of emotional reaction in the transferences would indicate that they do. In the positive transference the client unconsciously fills in the gaps that they do not know about the therapist thus giving them the perception that they know the person well.

If you go back to that letter one finds a lot of ‘gap filling in’ being done but in a negative transference way in that case. A good deal of therapist motivations and meaning to his perceived behaviour are added in such as about the silence. Also no therapist is that bad. In the letter none of his good points are being acknowledged.

For many years my parents an I ran a counselling training institute together. They were both psychologists and trainers like I was, and we trained many hundreds of people. Not uncommonly over the years a trainee and/or client of theirs would take me aside and tell me how lucky I was to have been raised with such healthy parents. I would just look a bit stunned, (as I was), smile blankly and change the topic.

Now my parents were OK as parents but they were far from perfect, god rest their souls. The client/trainee was in a positive transference and had filled in the gaps about them without even knowing it.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Fulfilling one’s contractual obligations

I signed the contract and had to produce a 70,000 word document for the publisher. As I mentioned in the last book update I was worried that I would be short of words and would have to do significant padding at the end so there was going to be a lot of words not saying much at all.

But the latest word count came up as 70,665 words.


And I have about 3 chapters to go so it will probably be about 80,000 words by the end and I do not have to do all that waffle.

Now if I may be so bold as to do a bit of self aggrandisement, and I may. All in all it was quite a good guess or prediction on my behalf. Having never done a project like this before I had to give the publisher a figure for the number of words and I plucked 70K out of the air and it has ended up being quite a good prediction.

So cheers to Ynot.

Me as a 18 year old with my girlfriend

He is glad he has fulfilled his contractual obligations

But mostly my stress has dropped because my contractual obligations are now fulfilled and I can proceed with the writing to its conclusion.


Contracts and promises

I was talking with someone the other day about therapy and contracts and an interesting notion came up about contracts and promises.

All therapy has a contract of some kind. That is the client must have a contract. Some times it will be explicitly stated and at other times it may be ill-defined but it is still there. It is the goal the client has. If they did not have a goal then they wouldn’t be there in the first place, assuming they are not a coerced client of course.

I was asked if a contract was a promise. Most would be clear that a contract in the Transactional Analysis sense is not a promise of the client to the therapist. Not many would accept the contracts like:

I promise to use relaxation exercises when I have a panic attack.

I promise to be assertive with my mother this week.

However one does hear other words used such as assurance and commitment. “A contract is a commitment” one would find in the literature. According to my dictionary assurance and commitment are synonyms for a promise. Of course it is not the word that is important it is the psychological process that the word defines that is important.

A common treatment contracting process would usually be drawn as such

It is an Adult ego state process of the client

A promise would probably be drawn as such

As one can see it involves the Conforming Child ego state and not the Adult ego state and thus is quite a different psychological process.

Is there anything wrong with a contact being a promise or an assurance? It seems one needs to look at the psychology of the promise.

If a child is asked to promise to its parents to tidy its bedroom a number of things could happen. Promises work on the basis of guilt. The child knows that if it breaks its promise then the parents will feel distress of some kind such as disappointed, hurt, let down, betrayed and so forth. If the child lets them down then it knows they will feel distress and thus it may feel guilt about ‘hurting’ the parents.

The parents are using guilt to get the child to do something it does not want to do. If the child is highly compliant it will clean its room because the guilt is too much for it to deal with.

However when one is in Conforming Child it is usually not all that hard to switch to the Rebellious Child ego state. If the child is less compliant then that could easily happen as the child will realise at some level that it is being manipulated by the parents using guilt.

If the switch to Rebellious Child occurs then anger in the child will arise so the child will either

Not tidy its room at all and live through the guilt or their anger may become its predominant emotion instead of guilt.

Tidy its room and feel resentful

Tidy its room poorly as a passive expression of its anger against the parents.

If one changes the context from cleaning a room to making a therapeutic contract one can see the potential problems. If the client perceives the therapist to be asking him to make a promise type of contract then the outcomes described above are also likely to occur. Of course the therapist may not even be doing that and the client may still perceive the therapist to be requesting a promise and thus the outcomes would be the same regardless.

If the client goes into the Conforming Child ego state in their relationship with the therapist when asked to make promise contracts, it is so easy for them to switch into the Rebellious Child. Most will do this at some point so the therapist is wanting to avoid such a dynamic developing in the therapeutic alliance.

In addition in such circumstances the initial problem often gets lost. The young child may in fact want to have a tidy room but because he has been made to promise to make it tidy his initial want can be forgotten. The parents are pressuring him to either comply to or rebel against their conditions and thus he moves away from his own Free Child want. If such conflict with the parents continues for an extended period the child can eventually loose touch with his Free Child and ends up not knowing what he wants.

From a therapeutic point of view this gains considerable importance especially when one considers the no suicide contract. Indeed it is in this area of contracting where one in particular hears of the promise type of contracting. Of all the areas of contracting this is the one where promises are wanting to be avoided for the reasons cited above.

The desire for the promise is usually generated from the anxiety of the therapist who does not want their client to kill self. Understandable indeed, but to request a client to promise not to kill self for ‘x’ amount of time is a counter productive plan of action to take. One is not wanting a NSC to be made from the client’s Conforming Child ego state as happens when it is a promise.