Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book club

Remember when I said I was in the "Smarty Pants Book Club"? Well, tonight I'm feeling a little smarty pants. Tonight my book club discussed that book to the left. Apparently, the author, Dr Glasser, is convinced that Freudian psychoanalytic procedures are ineffective and developed his own approach. He takes a much more action-oriented look at things. Rather than look at what happened to you in your past, he wants you to look at how things are going for you now. He also uses terminology that sets people (or their actions) in two categories: responsible and irresponsible. He says that each person has just a few basic needs: to love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to others as well as himself or herself. Whether you are completely delusional and think you are a duck, or if you are just prone to depression, the common cause is an inability to meet these needs.

Now, I liked the principle behind the book. I’m all for taking responsibility for your actions and moving on with life. No one gets anywhere if we all sit in our rooms and sulk, wondering who is to blame for the problems in our lives. Even if you know who is to blame, it’s not making your life better. But while the principle works for the average Joe, I’m not sure that learning correct behavior or teaching responsibility to a schizophrenic person will cure them.

Another disagreement I had with the book is that I don’t think that completely ignoring your past is the best way to move on. Here’s a paragraph from the book:

“It is not only possible, it is desirable [for a person] to ignore his past and work in the present because, contrary to almost universal belief, nothing which happens in his past, no matter how it may have affected him then or now, will make any difference once he learns to fulfill his needs at the present time.”

I agree there’s no need to dwell on the past. But what if fulfilling your present needs includes a correct understanding of your past? How can you move on in a healthy state of mind if you think the physical abuse you endured as a child was your fault? If you think that the discord in your family life is your fault, because a verbally abusive parent told you so? I don’t think it is always necessary to confront an abuser or otherwise guilty party and speak your peace, but I do think that it is often necessary to realize that horrible experiences, like abuse, weren’t the victim’s fault in order for the victim to move on and have a normal life with normal relationships.

I do however, agree with the following statement from the book:

“If we do not evaluate our own behavior, or having evaluated it, we do not act to improve our conduct where it is below our standards, we will not fulfill our need to be worthwhile and we will suffer as acutely as when we fail to love or be loved. Morals, standards, values, or right and wrong behavior are intimately related to the fulfillment of our need for self worth and… a necessary part of Reality Therapy.”

So what do you think? Can most psychoses and bad or irregular behavior be explained by past experiences that must be reviewed and scrutinized to fully understand how to move on, or can most psychoses and bad or irregular behavior be countered and fixed by teaching and learning responsible behavior, while correcting irresponsible behavior? I’ll be honest, I haven’t quite finished the book, but I plan to. So what’s your take?


Haley Greer said...

Well, my field being Family and Human Development, any time I come across anyone with issues I immediately think, "this is probably something resulting from how they were raised." There's a lot you can do to jack your child up in its developmental years. However, I hold firm to the fact that in no way shape or form should you allow your present behaviors to be dictated by past experiences. It could explain habits you have, but does not justify them (except in extreme cases). I think an important part of the "healing" process comes from recognizing, "oh. that's why I do that. well maybe I should stop."
At the same time, I think children can be incredibly resilient. One of my mission companions was kidnapped by her father and raised in a mennonite community, and then at 13 escaped it and found her mom who was now a drug addict, and eventually the missionaries found them, yadda yadda yadda... I mean, the girl wore home-made dresses and attended a one-room school house until the age of 13, and she's one of the most normal people I've ever met. It all goes back to the nature vs. nurture argument, and I guess my real answer to the question is this: "it depends." People aren't a science. There are so many variables involved in human behavior that all we can do is try and see patterns in it, but there are no exact right or wrong answers.
I lied. My short answer is this: it's good to acknowledge the past to make sense of things, but there's no need to dwell. AND, it's ridiculous to completely pretend it didn't happen.

Katey said...

I agree with a lot Haley said. Past experiences create habits but doesn't necessarily validate them. I also agree that there are too many variables to human behavior. There is no sort of blanket statement if you will on why people are the way they are or how people should be because of this that and the other. I'm interested in the book...cause ideas like this make me think a lot and wonder about my ownself and how I am. Good topic Garret! :)

Jentry said...

My husband is a behavior analyst, which is the study of behavior and the reason why people behave the way they do. So the other side the coin to your argument is this: We behave the way we do because it is reinforcing. That is a very watered down version, but that basically sums it up. I think the next book you should read is "The Power of Reinforcement" by Steven Ray Flora. It explores a lot of things like the school systems and the prison system and why people behave the way they do.

Tiffanie said...

Very Mr. Smary-Pants, nice. I get so sick of people looking to blame others for their problems. Not to say that thier problems weren't caused by others, but take some responsibility for your actions and move forward already!!!

Oh, I have a shop vac if you still need one for your trunk.

Bonny said...

i like the fresh new perspective and agree with haley's comments. I think a healthy mix of both would make for a great psychiatrist session.