Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hurried child & personality types

The hurried child syndrome is a common phenomena in society. The transactions involved in it are shown here.

Hurried child dynamic

A child falls over, cuts its knee and seeks out mother for assistance. The youngster asks for help in the first transaction. The child has two problems, first it has the physical problem of a cut knee that needs a bandage put on it. Second it has a psychological problem. It is experiencing pain, perhaps shock of the fall and then the sight of the blood and it is generally feeling distress.

To respond successfully to the request the parent must at some point respond from their Nurturing Parent ego state to solve the psychological problem and the Adult to solve the physical problem. The hurried child syndrome occurs mainly when the psychological problem is not dealt with. Some parents do not do this and this can occur in a variety of ways.

1. The parent simply not respond at all. The mother may be in bed suffering severe PND and is simply too depressed to respond. The mother may be alcohol or drug affected which also does not permit her to respond or there may be some kind of severe mental illness or she is simply so consumed with her own emotional torment that she cannot respond.

Body language of a competent parent?

2. Others may respond but only from the Adult ego state. The physical wound is tended in the proper way, but it is done is a purely problem solving way with no nurturing involved. The psychological problem is left unsolved.

This most often occurs in parents who do parenting by the book. They will have a manual or some kind of book on parenting. When a difficulty occurs they will seek out the manual to find out what the author says is the right way to respond to it. It typically has chapters on discipline, toiletting, use of a dummy or not, getting a child to sleep, eat and so forth. Good information to have indeed but it is only Adult ego state and may reflect an insecurity in the person about their parenting.

3. The parent responds from their own Child ego state. In this case the youngster will feel unsatisfied because the parental response is child like and has no competent grownup nurturing quality to it. The parent responds from their own Child ego state with some kind of magical thinking about how to treat a wound or may simply try and jolly the youngster in some child like way.

Hijab girl
Some parents are dominated by their own Child ego state

If there is no competent Nurturing Parent and Adult ego state response then the child is forced to hurry up and grow up emotionally. The most common reaction to this is one of anxiety. The child has a sense of being emotionally alone in the world and there is no big person around that they can emotionally rely on. There may also be some anger but the primary response is one of anxiety and scare.

Below is a list of personality types. The hurried child dynamic can occur in most of them but is more likely in a some than others. Obviously it will be more common in those that tend to be anxiety based personality types. This will include:


Personality type Adaptation

Paranoid The world is hostile so don’t trust anyone and deal with people by being angry and attacking

Schizoid The world is scary so withdraw from it (people) and don’t show any of your feelings

Schizotypal The world is scary so withdraw from it (people) and don’t think clearly by being a bit crazy

Antisocial You can’t trust anyone & life’s unfair so take advantage of people and do what you like

Borderline Relationships & life are very unreliable so frantically do anything to keep people around

Histrionic I must be the centre of attention so I will be dramatic, flirtatious and highly emotional

Narcissistic I have always been told that I am very important and the best so I will behave and feel like that

Avoidant Life is scary and rejecting so I will withdraw and feel worthless

Dependent I can’t cope with life and am worthless so I will cling to others and do what they tell me

Obsessive/compulsive I have to feel in control of life and myself so I will be orderly and perfectionistic


Thursday, February 23, 2012

The great dummy debate - to use or not to use

This debate appears from time to time and I am always slightly bemused it. It is so banal but at the same time also important. An odd combination. Do you give your baby/child a dummy to suck on?

A summary of the effects of dummies was presented in a recent newspaper article by Rosie Squires

22% of new mothers who gave their child a dummy were advised by a mid wife
28% were told to use a dummy by their mother or mother-in-law

Dummies can be:

Useful settling tool

They are addictive

Prolonged use can cause overbite and speech problems

Many hospital policies say nurses should discourage mothers from using a dummy

Robin Baker, author of “Baby Love’ says parents should avoid using dummies if possible

baby & bear

She clearly presents the case against dummy use. Firstly she is saying they can be addictive. I must say I find that an odd comment - what does it even mean?

If they can cause over bite is a very debatable point and would apply to only a very small group of children. To shift the position of the teeth in the jaw is a very difficult thing to do. It takes considerable pressure to be applied over a very prolonged period of time. For a child to do such a thing indicates other psychological disturbance anyway. It seems that it is impossible for a dummy to apply such pressure. The part inside the mouth is made of soft plastic and can not apply any force onto the teeth. As an example now, just do some sucking and you can see no pressure is being applied to the teeth with the sucking reflex. With thumb sucking pressure could be applied to the teeth by the thumb but again it would have to be quite forceful and over a very long period of time.

Even if it is possible to shift the teeth a dentist confirmed to me that should the baby (primary) teeth be moved when they fall out the secondary teeth would come down in the normal position anyway. The falling out of these teeth lasts from 6 to 12 years of age.


From a psychological point of view the very first stage of life is the oral stage. It is the first way the child communicates with the world. By sucking, usually in breast feeding. It is acknowledged that children need to get oral stimulation by sucking, touching the lips and the oral cavity. Young children will naturally put items in their mouth as it is the way they understand the world. As parents find out that will include all sorts of things from small toys, food, worms, dirt, snails and so forth. When adults want to discover the nature of an object they pick it up, look at it and touch it. That is how they come to understand it. A young child does not have the cognitive ability to do that so it discovers the object by placing it in the mouth and that is how it understands things in the world. All this is seen as basic requirement for psychological health. To deprive a child of such oral experiences and stimulation would be seen as a retrograde step psychologically.

Kid kissing pig
"It's how I understand the world."

As it is an orally focussed person the child also learns that to relieve distress and stress it can suck. This is one of the very first ways a child learns how to emotionally regulate it self. It is one of the very first ways it learns how to self soothe. With the use of a dummy or a thumb the child can learn how to do its very first self soothing and emotional regulation.

In the oral stage problems can occur in two ways. Firstly the parents deprive the child of enough oral stimulation. By various means they do not allow the child to touch its mouth, have objects in it’s mouth on which to suck and so forth. If the need for oral stimulation is not met then the person goes through life craving the sucking reflex and oral stimulation. One prime example of this is cigarette smoking.


People smoke cigarettes for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it is a way by which they can gain the oral stimulation and sucking reflex which they were deprived of in childhood. It is this group of smokers who find it very difficult to give up because it is satisfying one of the most basic needs humans have and people will be very reluctant to let that go.

The other difficulty is when the the child is traumatized in some way when it is in the oral stage of development (0 - 18 months of age). It could be repeatedly hit or maybe left for long periods of time unattended. This significantly traumatizes the child such that it becomes fixated at the stage in which it is - the oral stage. In adulthood this can lead to all kinds of psychological manifestations in adulthood which these two diagrams show, particularly in the second.

Oral Stage 1

Oral Stage 2

The thing which surprises me about all this is that the great dummy debate even exists in the first place and some people can get quite emotive about it all. All that is happening is a baby is sucking on a piece of soft plastic, what on earth can be wrong with such a banal piece of human behaviour.

Of course it is not about the behaviour but about the reactions adults have when they observe the behaviour. What they see is a baby satisfying one of it’s very first needs and this can bring up all sorts of feelings for the adult observer. It reminds them of how they were allowed or not allowed to satisfy their own needs and this can generate strong internal emotions for the adult.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Book update - Feb 2012

This is a list of libraries that stock the book - Working with suicidal individuals.

I can count 161 libraries that have this book.

Initially it was Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and Singapore that showed up on the internet for these libraries. Then came Canada after some time. In more recent times the book has shown up in libraries in Europe in particular and then China and Taiwan.

girl dancer

University of Waterloo (Canada)
University of Manitoba (Canada)
University of Western Ontario (Canada)
Saint Francis Xavier University (Canada)
University of Victoria (Canada)
Vancouver Island University (Canada)
Ryerson University (Canada)
Royal Roads University (Canada)
Simon Frasier University (Canada)
St. Clair College (Canada)
Universite de Montreal (Canada)
Memorial University (Canada)
Mount Saint Vincent University (Canada)
Mount Royal University (Canada)
Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
Cambrian College (Canada)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Canada)
University of Lethbridge (Canada)
Concordia University (Canada)
University of Guelph (Canada)
Library and Archives Canada (Canada)

Maribor General Hospital Library (Slovenia)

Mitt hogskolan library (Sweden)
Stockholm University (Sweden)

Central Library of Zurich (Switzerland)

PJ Library (Norway)
University of Bergen (Norway)
Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (Norway)
University of Oslo (Norway)
University of Tromso (Norway)

Freie Universitat Berlin (Germany)
Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany)
State and University Library of Dresden (Germany)
Bibliotheksservice - zentrum baden-w├╝rttemberg (Germany)
Universitat Des Saarlandes (Germany)

Stellenbosch University Library (South Africa)

University of the West of England (UK)
British Medical Association Library (UK)
Sheffield Hallam University (UK)
Brunel University (UK)
Northumbria University (UK)
King’s College London (UK)
Derbyshire library (UK)
Dorset County Libraries (UK)
Berrywood Library Northampton (UK)
University of Plymouth (UK)
Manchester Metropolitan University (UK)
Lancaster University (UK)
University of East London (UK)
University of Hull (UK)
University of East Anglia (UK)
University of Cambridge (UK)
Oxford University library (UK)
University of Exeter (UK)
Coventry City Council library (UK)
The Berne Institute (UK)
The Link Centre (UK)
Bromley Library service (UK)
Cadbury Heath Library (UK)
Kingswood Library (UK)
Nottingham Central Library (UK)
Yate Library (UK)
British Library, St. Pancras (UK)
British Library, Document supply (UK)
Ebook library London (UK)
Hounslow Library (UK)
Barnet London Borough Library (UK)

National library of Scotland (Scotland)
University of Strathclyde (Scotland)

National Library of Wales (Wales)
Swansea University (Wales)
University of Glamorgan (Wales)
Bangor University (Wales)

University of California San Diego (USA)
San Diego Christian College (USA)
Open Library. California State Library (USA)
University of Southern California (USA)
University of California San Francisco (USA)
University of California Merced (USA)
Loyola Marymount University California (USA)
Golden Gate University (USA)
University of Washington (USA)
Arizona State University (USA)
Brigham Young University Utah (USA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)
University of Massachusetts Amherst (USA)
Williams College Massachusetts (USA)
Boston College (USA)
Portland Community College Oregon (USA)
University of Minnesota (USA)
Norwich University (USA)
Santa Clara University (USA)
Ithaca College (USA)
Marquette University Raynor Memorial Library (USA)
City University of Seattle (USA)
National Library of Medicine Maryland (USA)
Illinois State University (USA)
College of DuPage Illinois (USA)
University of Chicago Illinois (USA)
University of Michigan (USA)
Grand Valley State University (USA)
Central Michigan University (USA)
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (USA)
University of North Carolina Greensboro (USA)
University of Missouri-Columbia (USA)
Akron-Summit County Public Library, Ohio (USA)
Library of congress (USA)
Mt. Hood Community College Library Oregon (USA)
National College of Natural Medicine Oregon (USA)
Oregon Health and Science University (USA)
Northeast WI Public Libraries (USA)
University of North Texas (USA)
Laredo Public Library Texas (USA)
University of Texas-Pan American (USA)
University of Texas at Austin (USA)
Texas Tech University (USA)

Executive Counseling and Training Academy (Singapore)
Ngee Ann Polytechnic Library(Singapore)
Singapore Polytechnic Library (Singapore)
National University of Singapore (Singapore)
Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)

City University of Hong Kong (China)
Hong Kong Academic Library (China)

National Cheng Kung University (Taiwan)
Taipei City Hospital library (Taiwan)
National Kaohsiung Normal University Library (Taiwan)

LaTrobe University (Aust)
RMIT University (Aust)
Murdoch University (Aust)
Edith Cowan University (Aust)
Monash University (Aust)
Victoria University (Aust)
Bankstown Campus library (Aust)
University of Sydney (Aust)
Queensland University of Technology (Aust)
University of Queensland (Aust)
Deakin University (Aust)
University of Adelaide (Aust)
University of Western Australia (Aust)
University of Ballarat (Aust)
University of New England (Aust)
University of Western Sydney (Aust)
Charles Sturt University (Aust)
Curtin University (Aust)
Australian Catholic University (Aust)
University of Newcastle (Aust)
Bond University (Aust)
University of Melbourne (Aust)
James Cook University (Aust)
National Library of Australia (Aust)

Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland)

University of Auckland Library (New Zealand)
University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
Lincoln University (New Zealand)
Northtec library (New Zealand)
Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand)
Unitec Institute of Technology (New Zealand)
Eastern Institute of Technology (New Zealand)
University of Otago (New Zealand)
Rotorua District Library (New Zealand)

girl & gun


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Treatment plan - Part 4

Alison Jesson makes the following suggestions of treatment plans for the various personality types. I tend to agree with the suggestions but also disagree with various aspects.
Personality types 1
Personality types 2

For example the hysteric needs to learn the temperate and considered expression of emotion and how to think and feel at the same time. Also needs to resolve the romanticized relationship with father.

With the schizoid one would normally have a No Run contract in the treatment plan.

I agree that the paranoid is basically a anxiety (scare) based personality and one seeks to have the scare recognized and expressed. The paranoid also needs to be aware of how they change their scare into anger and thus to let the anger go. They may find this very difficult to do. Also their personal boundaries are very important to them - never hug a paranoid (or enter their personal space) unless they are ready for it. Even if they say yes to the request for a hug one needs to be reluctant to do so.

More to be said on these later.

Obsessive compulsive?
Dress woman

Woman & dog.

Anime woman



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Treatment plan - part 3

The treatment plan with micro and macro counselling.

As I said in the previous post one can counsel at the micro or macro levels. As an example consider the hysteric personality type. This individual who is most often female has a basic problem with feelings and thinking. The feelings are overly strong and she needs to have more considered feelings. Also often when she feels she will stop thinking so at times she has to learn how to think and feel at the same time.

In addition she often has an overly romantic perception of her relationship with father. I wont use the word sexualized because people add in all sorts of things when you say that, but the girl has feelings for father that can be of a romantic nature. This may or may not be fostered by others in the family by commenting on the relationship between father and daughter. If this does exist, typically the woman will have trouble in adulthood with her males partners as she will see that these men never measure up to the ‘perfect’ relationship she has with father. She has never significantly detached from father which also disrupts her current relationship with men. She is fixated at the phallic stage of development.

Tattoo woman 2

Her sexual relationships with men tend to be all or nothing. In the beginning of the relationship she may be highly sexual and then at some point becomes completely asexual and looses all interest in sex. The switch may come when in her mind she realizes that the man does not meet the high standards that father set for a (romantic) relationship.

Upon enquiry one can begin to ascertain if some of these features form the core personality structures I mentioned in the previous post. For example one could enquire about her history of relationships with men and get her to talk about her relationship with father. How does she perceive him and so forth. If these seem to be a very dominant and pervasive aspect of her then it may be one of the core personality structures.

Alternatively if her strong and dramatic feelings and the inability to think and feel at the same time are also pervasive and quite resistant to change then they may also form core personality structures. One has now established part of the long term treatment plan for her.

Letting go

If one ascertains these to be the case then one can see how macro counselling can take place. As I said before counselling at the macro level involves not what you do with the client but how you do it. For example a client may present with the complaint of insomnia. After some discussion it is ascertained that the person has injunctions like Don’t get your needs met and Don’t be a child and these are related to the insomnia.

One needs to address these injunctions in order to relieve some of the symptoms of insomnia. With the non hysteric person that can involve redecision work that may involve some significant feelings and regression by the client. With the hysteric client one does not do this so much. One changes how they work at the macro level. Therapy with the hysteric client is more cognitive and involves much less feeling work. Yes the therapist may encourage the hysteric client to experience and express emotions but will always be corralling the client to only have considered emotions. At times the hysteric client may even complain that therapy is boring because they are missing the excitement of having intense emotions.

The overall treatment plan with the hysteric client is to only have considered emotions and to do a much more cognitive type of work. When working with a paranoid or schizoid client this is not required in their treatment plan. So what one does with the paranoid and hysteric client is the same but how you go about it is different because the macro level are different. The overall treatment plan is different. One works with the same injunctions but in a different way.

The paranoid client

Anyone who has studied the writings of Freud will know that hysteria and the hysteric client were very important in his formulations of the foundations of the theory of psychoanalysis. He discovered that working with hysteric clients seemed to work using his new theory of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a thinking style of therapy. It encourages the client to think about who they are and why they are. There is very little emphasis on intense emotional expressive work. At the macro level psychoanalysis works with the hysteric because it encourages them to think rather than to feel.

The point at hand is to describe how the macro approach or the treatment plan can be defined. In other circumstances what may begin as micro counselling eventually turns into macro counselling. The other day I was working with a woman who would be of a schizoid personality type. It became apparent over time that her primal response to stress was flight. Of the three - fight, flight or freeze - when she was highly regressed she had a very strong drive to flight. It was seen that one of her primal personality structures was the mechanism of flight which she had used consistently throughout her life when placed under considerable stress.

Of course my next step was to suggest a No Run contract to her. This was a micro counselling technique, to remove her primal response of flight from her relationship with me and then to work through her reactions to that. She did that and we discussed the various psychological ramifications of that for her. However the No Run contract still remains. I will raise it from time to time but it sits there ever present in the background.

Dont look
The schizoid client

She is now involved in a therapeutic relationship with me where one of her core personality structures - the mechanism of flight - has been nullified. It can no longer be used by her and this persists day after day in her relationship with me. This can be seen to be therapy at the macro level as it directly addresses her core personality structures. It is part of the overall treatment plan for her, to let go of the mechanism of flight as a problem solving technique.

Thus we have an example of a specific micro counselling technique evolving into part of the macro counselling approach or part of her overall treatment plan.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Developing a treatment plan - part 2

I have spent the last few days working with clients. In that time I have consciously listened to the thinking in my head that I do about clients. Thinking I would normally do but not really been aware of. I have been listening to the thinking I do about formulating a treatment plan.

In the previous post I talked about micro issues and macro issues. This of course leads to micro counselling approaches and macro counselling approaches. I have tried to conceptualize this diagrammatically as such.

Personality and character Jpeg

This diagram shows that the personality rests on a few basic structures. As a young child develops it will establish a few core personality structures and this can be seen to form the basic character of the child. This of course will be a combination of the child’s natural temperament plus the early decisions it makes from the Little Professor ego state (A1 ego state).

The term treatment plan as used here is that plan which addresses the core personality structures of the client. This will identify the overall direction the client can go in therapy and this is shown as the macro counselling approach. Macro counselling addresses these core structures directly. Micro counselling does not focus on nor address the core structures, instead it will address the personality features which rest upon the basic core structures.

Micro counselling is the vast majority of activity that occurs in counselling. Macro counselling is not so much what therapist does and are not the techniques employed but it is how the therapist goes about what he does or the basic parameters the therapist imposes on the therapy.

Despondent woman

As I said before I have listened to my thinking in the past few days as I developed an understanding of the core personality structures in the client and then how I go about devising the macro counselling approaches.

The first thing I noticed was there was not much of a plan to how I went about this. Instead my thinking was quite haphazard as I discovered the core structures. What ever the client happened to be talking about defined what I thought in my formulations. The ones I thought of are added to the list I started to construct in the previous post.

Personality types - I use these a lot.
Fixated developmental stage
Current developmental stage
Attachment style
Compulsion to either thinking, feeling or behaviour
Primal reaction of flight, fight or freeze.
Behaviour patterns that have been consistent through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Six basic temperament features formulated in the New York study
(I am sure there are more and I do not fully understand the nature of the list I am creating here)

Of particular interest is when a client becomes highly regressed in therapy. This is when one will see the core personality structures being displayed. The more regressed a client becomes the more they will resort to their primal ways of problem solving. If a client’s primal response to stress is flight one will see this expressed more openly when they are in a highly regressed state.


Below is a list of some of the core decisions of the personality types. Much more is involved in the personality types but this does provide some of the core structures one would find in the different personality types.

Paranoid - The world is hostile so don’t trust anyone and deal with people by being angry and attacking

Schizoid - The world is scary so withdraw from it (people) and don’t show any of your feelings

Schizotypal - The world is scary so withdraw from it (people) and don’t think clearly by being a bit crazy

Antisocial - You can’t trust anyone & life’s unfair so take advantage of people and do what you like

Borderline - Relationships & life are very unreliable so frantically do anything to keep people around

Histrionic - I must be the centre of attention so I will be dramatic, flirtatious and highly emotional

Narcissistic - I have always been told that I am very important and the best so I will behave and feel like that

Avoidant - Life is scary and rejecting so I will withdraw and feel worthless

Dependent - I can’t cope with life and am worthless so I will cling to others and do what they tell me

Obsessive/compulsive - I have to feel in control of life and myself so I will be orderly and perfectionistic

Hair women


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Developing a treatment plan

(This post is definitely a work in progress)

I was talking with a supervisee two days ago about psychotherapy as one tends to do! Somehow the topic of treatment plans came up. A treatment plan is a plan that is formulated by the therapist which provides the therapist (and client) with the overall direction of therapy. It identifies the general direction the client needs to go.

When a client presents at a session usually they have some matter they wish to address. This can be seen as a micro issue. This is different to the treatment plan which is a much more global understanding of the client and their psychology. One deals with the micro issue presented by the client but it is seen to form only one part of the overall marco issue or the treatment plan. Whilst dealing with the micro issue the therapist does this in the context of the overall treatment plan. It’s like the therapist has the treatment plan always in the back of his mind and all discussions are done within the context of that plan.

Cat leaping
Don't get lost in the micro issue

My supervisee then asked how one formulates such a plan and I was a bit flummoxed by the question. I did not have an answer and it seems I had never been asked that question before.

I presented a few responses as I thought on my feet at the time and have subsequently given it more deliberation. Again I find myself doing something in therapy that I did not know I was doing. I can not recall ever reading about such a thing. All I know is that in my early days as a psychotherapist in various training groups we always talked about treatment plans but I can not recall ever talking about their formulation, which seems a bit odd now. Maybe we did and I just cannot remember.

What I came up with was a short list of things which I consider when developing a treatment plan. I suspect this is by no means a complete list.

Client core issues versus secondary presenting issues - characterological structures of the personality.

Personality types - this relates to the core issues.

Fixated developmental stage

Current developmental stage


I will certainly muse on this some more as it is an important idea for therapists and I am intrigued by the fact that as a young therapist we used to often talk about treatment plans but one hears them not mentioned much at all these days.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

8th life position

That is a good question Kahless,

So what is the life position of the victim? Is it I--,U-?
I don't see it as I-,U+


My response

I do make some comment on this in my article.

The reason why the bully is not - I’m OK, You’re not OK and is I’m Not OK but you’re worse - is because it is assumed it is not possible to see others as not OK and still see self as OK.

The normally developing child will automatically see others as OK. It is seen as the natural human condition. If a child suffers adverse parenting then it may decide that others are not OK but a soon as it does this it must see self at least partly as not ok as well because it has adopted an unnatural psychological state. Secondly the life position of I-U-- describes the clinical situation of this individual much better than I+U-. They are trying to make self feel OK by making others seem not OK in their eyes at least.

dog attack

The I-U+ person has adopted the natural state in seeing others as OK so that can be seen as correct. They have only decided that self is Not OK and that does not have to reflect on their view of others.

They have no motive to see others as not OK.

The life position of I--U- would seem to imply that I view others as not OK and I cope with that by viewing myself as worse than them. Perhaps you have defined a new clinical condition Kahless and discovered the eighth life position.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Victim response to the bully

Zbig asks about possible responses to bullying

The bottom line in the victim dealing with the bully really has nothing to do with the bully at all. People will become involved in relationships (of some duration and importance) that support their life position. People will use such relationships to reconfirm over and over what they decided about themselves and life in general as a child.

If they decided ‘I’m OK’, they will become involved in relationships which support that view of self. On the other hand if they decided ‘I’m not OK’, they will become involved in relationships which will reconfirm that for them over and over. If therapy can assist the person to see self as more OK then the relationship with the bully just wont happen. The two people wont fit in the relationship. Of course this is easier said than done

Snow house

Many potential victims of bullying simply use the avoidance technique. I have heard numerous clients tell me over the years how they would spend many a school lunchtime break in the library and the like simply to avoid the bully. This can be easily done when the victim has the choice but at places like school or work or in the family it becomes much harder as the person is forced to be in a particular environment. However if they can reasonably easily avoid the bully then that seems to be a sensible approach at least to take in the interim.

My personal view is that in the final analysis it is necessary for the victim in some form to stand his/her ground against the bully. To behaviorally make the statement - ‘I’m OK and will not accept the abuse”. This however is a vexed point and there are some who would definitely disagree with it. They say it is incumbent on the ‘organization’ to protect the victims from bullies and furthermore may make the point that standing up to the bully directly only encourages more violence and conflict.

I am all in favor of schools and the like having bullying policies and organizational strategies which children can use to assist them in dealing with the bully. I think they are a very good idea. I would want any child of mine to tell me if they were being bullied and then I would take some kind of action to assist.

Wet man

However it seems to me it is important for an individual in the final analysis to make a stand for them self. Having others assist is a great idea but at some point one must stand up for self as that breeds self respect and a belief in self. If one uses an organization to try and stop the bully often the bullying simply becomes more subtle and sooner or later there are going to be circumstances where there is not an organization there to assist.

As to the idea that pushing the bully back breeding more violence and conflict one needs to look at the degree. If a child is being beaten up that is not bullying, it is criminal assault and needs to be dealt with by the police. Bullying at school with males usually involves shoving, verbal abuse, maybe a few punches, taunts and so forth. I agree that ignoring it to see if it goes away is a good first strategy. If it does not go away then pushing back is needed. As I said before there will be those who disagree with me on this matter. I understand their argument but it does not ring true to me. When the bully realizes the person is not going to take the position of victim the trouble stops. It does not cause an escalation of violence.


I understand this is also very easy to say and can be very hard for a child or teenager to do if they feel intimidated, lack confidence and a belief in self. So it may not happen over night but I would see it as a potential goal to look toward.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The bully victim dynamic.

I was recently asked by a journalist to make a comment on bullying which I have and have decided to include it here as well.

The bully victim dynamic is a particular relationship style. Two or more people relate in a particular way such that bullying can be seen to occur between these people. The relationship is primarily based on power. From a psychological point of view the central feature of the bully victim relationship is power.

The bully and victim are actually quite similar in their psychological makeup in this way. They are both people who have a pervasive sense of powerlessness. This is something that humans find quite repugnant - feeling powerless. Humans have a strong, even very strong need to feel powerful or have a sense that they have some power in their life. They will at times go to great lengths to regain a sense of power. This is a core psychological need in the human psyche - feeling powerful.

Man & monkey

Some children are raised in such a way that they have a sense of feeling powerless or not having any power in their life. Both the bully and victim are the same here. As children they both felt powerless. However they differ in how they dealt with that sense of powerlessness as children. Some children learn they can find a sense of power if they make others look bad. They discover they can feel powerful by making someone else feel powerless. The child who discovers this way of coping is a bully in the making.

To explain the psychology of how this work on finds an answer in the theory of seven life positions - here.

The theory of four life positions has been shown to have significant theoretical inaccuracies and that seven life positions more accurately describes human psychology in this way. With the four life position theory the bully would be seen as adopting the position of I+, U- (I’m OK, You’re not OK). The seven life position theory describes the bully as I-, U-- (I’m not OK, but you’re worse). This acknowledges that the bully has a basic sense of not okness (powerlessness) and deals with it by making others feel less powerful than him. This then allows him to have (at least a temporarily) a sense of feeling powerful. The victim gets caught in the relationship because it supports their life position and a sense of feeling not ok about self. The relationship psychologically fits for both parties. It allows them to reconfirm what they have always known about self and life. It feels ‘right’ in this sense.

panda man

I used to see this when I worked in prison. It was called ‘stand over’. The ‘stand over man’ would bully and usually extort items from the victim. Prominent stand over men would often have a group of younger men who hung around with him. None of them liked the bully but would associate with him and flatter him for some other reason. It may be because they felt it was better to be a sycophant to the bully than to be a victim to him. Or some may associate with him to increase their reputation in the prison.

But no one likes a bully. One of the main problems for the bully is he has no friends, the bully does not know how to have a friendship relationship. In the psychological sense a friendship is a relationship where there is no big power difference between the two parties. The bully finds this a very difficult thing to do as he needs others to feel powerless such that he can feel powerful. This need to bully others rarely only stays with the few victims the bully knows but pervades into other relationships in his life such as at home or at work. Often the bully is also being bullied by some other person in his life.

Slave girls

As to the question of cyber bullying. This raises an interesting gender difference in bullying. Male bullies usually at some point will physically assault the victim in varying degrees. They may use psychological bullying and taunts but they also have a ‘need’ to express the bullying physically. With females this tends to be less so. Psychological abuse and bullying allows them to achieve that sense of “You are worse than me so I am powerful” more so than with the male. Males tend to also need physical bulling to achieve the same psychological result. In this sense one could say cyber bullying is a feminized way of bullying as physical assaults are not possible. Males can certainly engage in cyber bullying but they also need the face to face physical contact at some point as well.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The assumption of change in therapy

There continues to be much coverage of suicide in the press where I live in relation to the well known woman who recently suicided. The focus has now moved onto why and what can be done so that such a thing does not happen again. There is talk about diagnoses, what drugs could be used, other treatments and so forth.

From what has been said about her it seems it could have been a case of chronic suicidality. As I say in my book there are three common suicidal timelines.
Acute suicidal crisis. The suicidal urges appear quickly and usually in reaction to an event such as marital breakdown or incarceration. Suicide watch is very useful here as the urges can disappear after a not too long a period of time.

Slow suicidal crisis. The suicidal urges develop over time but tend to be cyclical over months. They come and they go due to treatments or spontaneous remission.

Chronic suicidal crisis. The suicidal urges appear and stay. They do not remit or come and go. Treatments have little or no effect. Suicide watch is of little use here. The woman under discussion seems to be of this kind.

Pacifier cigar

There is an underlying assumption in all the current discussion about her in the press - that a solution exists to her suicidality. I am now going to say something that one rarely sees in the literature in the counselling industry. I may be labeled a heretic for doing so.

Sometimes clients don’t get better.

This is rarely said, let alone accepted. Psychological theories are so constructed such that there is always hope and always an explanation of why change is not currently occurring and what can be done such that it should. However some clients do not get better or they obtain only minimal positive result to treatment. This is probably a small group of clients but they certainly exist.

These people will report they have spent often years in different treatments including drug treatment, behavioural therapy, insight therapies, spiritual approaches and they have not gotten any better. I am reminded of one woman who suffers from chronic insomnia which she has had for years and no treatment has ever made it any better.

Man in seaweed
Some clients will try all kinds of different treatments to ease their angst

This is bad enough which leads to the horrible effects of sleep deprivation but sometimes people have suicidal urges which do not get any better no matter what treatment is used. Hence one has the chronic suicidal crisis.

Underlying all the discussion about the woman mentioned before is the assumption that something can be done. Sometimes people just don’t get better and hence the assumption in this case may be wrong. Of course we all like to believe there is hope and a solution but is that to make us feel better or the suicidal person feel better. How long does one persist with treatment that has so far had no positive effect?

It can be very hard to accept that sometimes clients just don’t get better.