COVID-19 UPDATE: VIRTUAL “TELEHEALTH” APPOINTMENTS:
Joseph Contorer MFT and CounselingLA.com continue to offer support during The Covid-19 Pandemic.
In response to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, therapy sessions are provided virtually.
"TeleHealth" options include FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and telephonic appointments.
For more information and flexible appointment scheduling please contact the office at any time at:
310-486-0087 or you may also email directly: joseph@counselingLA.com
Hope to hear from you soon!
Self-Esteem, The Have / Have-Not Disparity and
the importance of Internal approval
SELF-ESTEEM, SELF-AFFIRMING vs. DEFINING YOURSELF BASED ON EXTERNAL APPROVAL
There are numerous factors present when considering the development or management of healthy self-esteem. Unfortunately, for some, there are profound feelings of inadequacy.
It is likely that there were incorrectly learned messages during childhood and adolescence continue to play out for many adults who have a dysfunctional history; this may include experiences like abuse, mental illness, addictions and other inappropriate/boundary violations. These occurred at a time when there may have been less knowledge, tools, awareness or other empowering options to challenge the distorted conclusions. These thinking errors have lead many adults to believe that whatever incorrect messages they were subjected to earlier in their lives are unequivocally, undisputedly accurate and applicable. Psychotherapy can be a useful tool in the reprogramming of incorrect or negative messages.
You are “you” and other people are other people. Self-Esteem Component Number 1 is about the basic premise that comparing self to others is not productive and creates unnecessary distress. Component Number 2 is about understanding why we don’t compare ourselves to others in that capacity where we discount ourselves (vs. being inspired or motivated or mentored or positively influenced by others.)
It may be less exciting, but it is critical to understand that old saying: “Life Ain’t Fair.” This means comprehending the difference between being inspired by others, such as being motivated or modeling what is admired vs. being apparently jealous or envious of others. By being resentful, angry, jealous or envious of other people, it only serves to become self-limiting, because you discount and de-value yourself in the process. The Have/Have-Not Disparity is perhaps even more noticeable in this day and age thanks to social media and technology. Information is disseminated immediately and is frequently sensationalized and embellished for dramatic effects and propaganda manipulations. Hence the advent of the term “Fake News.” There is a lot of bull shit to untangle through these days. From a practical standpoint, this means that we need to learn to take most information with a “grain of salt.” This is not just about daily hysterical hopped-up routine events that the media labels as “Breaking News” and other over-dramatizations of routine occurrences that are re-branded as some alarmist catastrophe. The information overloads come from many sources; many of which are from private individuals’ with their grandstanding personal platforms of social media. It is the multitude of these outlets (i.e. “Facebook,” “Twitter,” “Instagram,” “Snapchat,” “YouTube,” etc.) You are you and they are they.
Maximize your potential; make the best of what you have to work with. The idea of self-acceptance can be challenging because it means accepting realty. The reality is this:
Most people are average in their physical appearance, their intelligence capacity, their social capacity, and their ability to perform various tasks, skills and actions. While you may be “unique” in your own way, you may also be average and just a part of the masses, so most people being average may actually include you.
Most people are not models; they are not professional athletes, they are not “famous,” “A-List” celebrities or high-profile people. The majority of people are of middle-class financial means, have obtained a “living wage,” modest level of income and are not monumentally financially successful.
Reasonably attempt to find who and what is your best self and maximize the “ingredients” for that self. Ideally, this may include incorporating what you're passionate about and your skills, gifts and interests. Set a reasonable, obtainable goal(s) and expectation(s) for yourself. Weigh out the pros and cons of conformity. Set personal boundaries for how you want and need your life to run to facilitate your stable sense of self and self-worth. Be mindful of the present time; combine any mistakes or past experiences and turn them around to your advantage to be the best you can be in the here and now.
Mindfulness and Holistic Health
Mindfulness plays an important role in therapy and recovery because it encourages a self-empowering focus on the present. Sometimes the focus is very specifically on the immediate presence, such as being in a state of uber-cognizance of one’s feelings, thoughts and reactions to various scenarios and triggers. The opposite of being mindful or immediately cognizant brings us in to states of denial, repression and disconnecting from self, others and general collective connection. A decreased level of mindfulness can hinder progress by limiting a sense of personal power and rational thinking and disconnect from the theory of relative “levels of awareness.” Maintaining a more accurate state of relative awareness allows for progress moving forward vs. being stagnated or trapped in the past. For example, there is a state of forgiveness when thinking or feeling in terms of relative levels of awareness personally or externally.
“I may have thought or acted or reacted a certain way in the past; now there is a different level of awareness in the here and now that I am mindful about. Therefore I can react and respond differently, with more constructive reactions and greater sense of control and self-care."
In taking a personal health/wellness inventory, how balanced do you think you are? Here are some elements of holistic health to think about:
Dr. Hans Selye was a famous Hungarian Physician who studied the effects of stress on the body. The idea of holistic health includes a premise about a state of healthiness or lack thereof, that is contingent upon the interactive balance of several areas of health and well-being. If one area of the holistic health dynamic is compromised, there is a high likelihood of impacting the other four areas; hence there is an importance of balance.
For example, if a person doesn’t feel good physically, they are less likely to think well or socialize/interact as well.
Stress Management may be helpful to intervene and re-balance the set of the five areas of holistic health. This could be establishing new coping sills like exercise, meditation, relaxation exercises, assertive communication training, cognitive-behavioral therapy or other therapy, healthier eating, branching out and being more social or taking a class or engaging in a hobby or volunteer work etc. Maintaining a healthier state of being is typically enhanced by attention to one’s activity level, nutrition, sleep, self-care, stress management/outlets and possibly some type of spirituality or social stimulation.
BUILDING, DISSOLVING OR SUSTAINING VARIOUS kinds of Relationships:
"Open-RELATIONSHIPS," Divorce, Codependency, Abuse AND Violence
Similar to many aspects of individual therapy and positive constructive progress, when thinking about couples, relationships and interpersonal situations and therapy, the concept of validation is equally critical. By creating a sense of collective/mutual validation we are able to understand and feel understood by others/our partner/significant other, etc., mirroring and empathizing.
Therapy can help create and fostering a sense of mutual validation and empathy; this facilitates a sense of mutual understanding between the couple/family members in treatment. Many positive aftereffects arise, such as improved communication, better listening skills and improved abilities to minimize or manage conflict and confrontation.
The “Couples Dialogue” is a three-step technique that focuses on
1. “Mirroring” which is basically a type of ultra-detailed, mimicking, reflective listening skill
“Yes.. I hear you..”
2. “Validating,” which offers a sense of being and feeling mutually understood. “Yes, I get you..”
3. “Empathy,” which promotes a deeper emotional sense of being and feeling understood “Yes, I know how you feel and can imagine how you feel.”
Relationships can be complicated entities. Research has shown that the more successful relationships tend to start off with a combination of similar values and commonalities in cultural/religious and family backgrounds.
Communication, trust, mutual respect, sharing realities with each other that builds deeper romantic, physical and emotional intimate connection.
Healthy ingredients for a solid relationship/marriage: Some have referred to "The Three Legs of A Healthy relationship." These are reportedly selflessness (humility/being a "Mensch.") Forgiveness, (being flexible and realistic.) The last leg of the stool is communication.
Sometimes it is helpful to complete an inventory with the intention to establish clarification about why this relationship came to be more than just a friendship or nothing at all as most initial meetings end up. (What is the connection about/why are you together etc.) This is a prudent time to also explore what the boundaries are in this relationship, including how each person defines what a relationship means and what the potentially different perceptions and expectations consist of. It is time to do a deeper analysis of the relationship dynamics at play.
When considering the boundaries in the relationship, there is the option for maintaining some type of non-monogamous relationship, sometimes referred to as an Open Relationship. These types of relationships are more commonly seen among gay men for various comprehensive reasons. Complications arise with open relationships when the implied rules, understanding and boundaries do not line up between the partners. It could be that one of the partners ideally really doesn’t want or condone the openness, but is going along with it to suit the needs of the other partner in the relationship. What sometimes occurs is that there is an emotional bond that occurs with one of the "open" side-relationships creating disruption and confusion. Relationship therapy (couples counseling) can provide the forum from which to discuss these more delicate and sometimes complicated matters.
One of the more distressing parts of life and of relationships is when there is escalating conflict that often leads to a dissolution/break up or divorce of the relationship. This office errs on the conservative side with regard to break-ups, because the consequences and end results can be potentially so severe and permanent.
It is true that relationships can heal from trauma and damage, such as infidelity (cheating.) This can be a challenging and fragile process where there has to be true investment in moving forward by both persons in the relationship. The necessary ingredients for recovery from this type of indiscretion is about patience, forgiveness, honesty, trust, compromise, common sense and critical thinking. For example, can you envision yourself not repeating this behavior/ not acting out (again) with infidelity or can you go deep and consider the pros and cons of forgiveness? Do you want to forgive and move forward? Ideally, there must be conjoint willingness to make sacrifices such as possibly being scrutinized in a different manner while trust is presumably being reconstructed through reconciliation/rebuilding the relationship components back together again.
Sometimes people stay in relationships that would be considered less than ideal or objectively unhealthy. Some relationships are not traditional or conformed to some collective externally determined “norm.”
On occasion, individuals and couples will come to an understanding where they choose to accept the limitations of their relationship along with the benefits; this may include companionship, or determining that staying in an imperfect arrangement is better than being alone. Sometimes there are financial considerations at play; some couples decide not to get legally divorced because it is financially more advantageous for both parties, or they have other types of non-traditional arrangements.
While *codependency is not preferred, it is also not uncommonly seen in relationships and may even have some degree of functionality.
*Read more about codependency under the Chemical Dependency Page.
Anger is a type of emotion that most all human beings experience and express or have some “need” to express at some point or various times in their lives and in various scenarios.
Sometimes we hold on to anger because we fear that letting it go will be too frightening or something might explode or escalate. We might fear that expressing the anger is scary or undesirable, thinking that there is a desire to not be perceived as an angry person. Many people end up repressing their anger and then become depressed or develop other mental health issues, conditions and physical conditions. Sometimes they are not being assertive or setting appropriate boundaries that would otherwise indicate a healthier sense of self and self-respect. Saying “Yes” when they mean "No" and saying “No” when they wanted to say “Yes,” might just make you angry and feel blocked.
There may be a fear or resistance or some distorted thoughts, also known as a cognitive distortion, surrounding one’s personal feelings of anger or similar emotions, like rage or resentment, to or about some issue or that would otherwise be directed at some person or entity. The feelings of pent up or repressed anger may be difficult to let out or channel constructively because there can be hesitation and fear that doing so would be letting someone or some thing get “off the hook” and get away with hurting us or disrespecting us or having created a sense of being subjugated and invalidated.
The anger may persist because there are feelings that justice has not been achieved yet. The source of the anger owes us something and letting the anger go may feel like handing a win over to the offense. It is challenging to readily let go of anger because there are feelings that if we don’t maintain the angry resentment, there is a loss of control or pride or letting someone get away with something. Anger is frequently smoldering but not effectively released.
Cycle of Domestic Violence/ what does the term “Domestic Violence” actually mean?
Domestic violence describes a volatile, threatening, abusive type of conflict within a couple, family or similar constellation. Domestic violence refers not only to physical violence and abuse, but also to verbal, emotional and sometimes even psychological abuse or similar threatening confrontations, sometimes called “posturing.” So just because there may be an absence of physical violence, there can still definitely be a domestic violence scenario playing out with verbally abusive and other threatening, posturing and fear and intimidation-based situations.
There is a commonly identified “Cycle of Domestic Violence” (DV) that occurs with domestic violence situations. There are several phases to the cycle, which is an insidious and self-perpetuating vicious cycle that often times is uncontrollably persistent for many years or indefinite periods of time. People that are in unhealthy, abusive or codependent relationships are more likely to experience some time of domestic violence including the classic phases of this cycle.
- Phase 1 “Normal” or “Honeymoon Phase” Where it may seem like there is peace and harmony or no problem present or perhaps major denial or distorted thinking that “the (domestic violence) problem is non-existent or gone…” But the DV is never just simply gone without some type of profound intervention, treatment or assistance.
- Phase 2 Tension-building phase Where the alluring idealistic peaceful situation starts to subside and become increasingly conflictual with more tendency towards fighting, arguing, beginning to become threatening again.
- Phase 3 The Battering Where there is the actual peak of the abuse in a physical altercation, attack or beating or extreme verbal altercation or similar emotionally abusive attack.
- Phase 4 The Make-Up phase- Where there may be a temporary truce, along with redundant predictable empty promises that it will never happen again or sociopathic denial as if the battering never happened at all or as if this is a normal “perfect” relationship or family (very common with personality disorders and with severe alcoholism/drug addiction/alcoholic family systems.)
Not always the case but sometimes the batterer has to be separated (move out/live apart) from the abuse victim, or some type of separation is necessary to elicit an effective healing and recovery phase that will hopefully be more permanent. The classic example is when a battered wife/mother finally is able to leave and seek refuge at a shelter, family or friend’s residence to intervene the vicious cycle, let alone to protect from further harm or death (i.e. OJ Simpson.)
During this separation time, all parties potentially will need a multi-disciplined course of treatment that may include individual and or conjoint or family therapy, 12-step programs, like al-anon, anger-management or domestic-violence diversion groups or treatment (sometimes court-ordered.) During these treatments there is a focus on learning how to properly communicate, manage stress and triggers, clarifying what healthier boundaries consist of and education about the cycle of violence and the important classic stages of violence and what “domestic violence” really means and why it typically occurs in general and in specific individual personal cases/incidents.
Hopefully, after treatment, recovery and increased awareness and healthier coping skills and tools are learned and applied, the couple or family can be re-united and live in a DV-free environment finally. In some cases the conflict cannot be resolved and some type of split (divorce/break-up) is inevitable and unfortunately necessitated.)
Some examples of treatment approaches and related goals pertaining to improved management of anger are as follows:
In general, anger management is an elaborate label for achieving an improved level of insight into one’s emotions- all emotions, not just that of anger. All emotions need to be assessed, because often times there is a lot emotional substitution going on. A classic example was Freud’s contention that depression was essentially about anger turned inward. In other words, if anger is not managed properly it can be disguised or transformed in to feelings and symptoms of depression.
Similarly, there are a multitude of feelings that can be misperceived as something else or manifested as something else when they are not constructively identified and channeled appropriately. For example, some people struggling with anger might be exhibiting other symptoms, like depression, irritability/agitation, inappropriate laughing or disconnected emotional expression (flat affect/numbness.) Some clients come to find out they are giggling or laughing when they really are screaming inside or are devastated about something. These are paradoxical self-protective defenses.
- Identifying and educating what “anger” is, what causes it and if it is always a bad thing. Establishing realistic expectations of what anger emotions and management of emotions should be consist of.
- Identifying which specific emotions and feelings are being experienced right now and what your identifiable various potential emotions and feelings actually might be.
- Identifying triggers for these emotions; analyzing the typical scenario of how they play out.
- Identifying how “transference” is relevant to the various emotional triggers- meaning what other related factors or previous experiences / history of similar dynamics is playing out.
- Assertiveness training- teaching other options to manage emotions, such as anger. Assisting with improved communication
- Working on learning coping mechanisms as a means for prevention, such as relaxation exercises/activities, meditation, yoga, exercise/fitness, hobbies, leisure/fun, or other various stress management efforts.
Critical Choices and Timing: “Forks in The Road”
Forks in the road: We have points throughout our lives where there are critical decisions that must be made. Whether there is a sense of urgency or any critical thought or awareness, particularly at the time of these life choice/requirements is another story.
Here are some examples of real life scenarios where important life-changing decisions and choices are required, which create dramatically different outcomes based on what choices and decisions the individual made:
- Boundaries/Self-Respect and Self-Control- Learning or not or setting appropriate boundaries when and where needed. Not being assertive and expressing your right to meet your needs in a reasonable fashion. Not coming out of the closet in various ways and being your authentic self.
- Career and Education/training, job choices, work for self or others, stay in inadequate or disrespectful or damaging job, position, employer or career. Making use of one’s education or training or not becoming educated/choosing the proper training in the first place. Fooling yourself and filling yourself full of excuses.
- Denial: Refraining from making repeated excuses for self or others that either serves to justify foolish self-destructive choices- Like trying to imply something really isn’t a problem when it is a huge problem; like minimizing the severity of a problem.
- Financial: Learning the basics about financial management or consulting with someone who can assist in planning for a secure financial independence. When and how do you plan on retiring; what kind of lifestyle to you expect to have and what will that entail? Do you want to worry about nickeling and diming vs. having a fulfilling quality of life, which is an option if you make the generally correct choices and sacrifices along the way.
- Health and Wellness issues: Getting a handle on physical or emotional illness so that you can manage your life in a reasonably constructive capacity- not getting proper medical or dental treatment when it is necessary. Taking medical action with the proper specialists as needed.
- Learning from mistakes; repeating the same foolish or self-destructive, counter-productive behaviors and choices over and over again. There are various FIR moments that come around in life. It is up to you as in individual to make use of these opportunities for choices, consequences and growth or stagnation or worse- regression. Too many FIR opportunities where the wrong direction is chosen at the fork can spell disastrous consequences.
- Life Experiences: Engaging in various life experiences before it is too late or you are too old, or too limited.
- Relationships/intimacy- choosing obviously dysfunctional, sick, inappropriate relationships and forcing them through or staying in them when it is long overdo to get the hell out and run for the hills. Not cleaning up messy relationships with family members.
- Social Life: Developing or not developing your version of sufficient, proper social activities, connections and interests or hobbies. Ideally finding a sense of passion as you define it.
- Therapy/Treatment for mental disorders, addictions/eating disorders- not getting a handle on it in time. Not seeking proper treatments/therapy for individual or relationship or chemical dependency issues. Overcoming (at least somewhat) limiting fears and anxiety.
Common Sense- Accepting life for what it is
IT WOULD BE NICE IF...
- Everyone acted "appropriately," but they probably won't.
- Everyone got along just fine, but they won't and they don't.
- Everyone did what they were “supposed to do,” but they probably won't.
- Everyone knew about and followed appropriate boundaries with themselves and others, but they probably won't.
- Everyone felt satisfied with their lives in most every way, but they probably won't.
- Everyone had their problems properly managed, but they probably won't.
In the reality of life and human nature: The more accurate and likely reality check is this: Everyone won’t do and think like someone or everyone else wants them to; everyone will not automatically “get along” or do what they are “supposed to do.” Most people will have their own rendition of what they are “supposed to do” (or maybe little or no rendition at all) and for what or how a boundary is defined, if they have them at all. Many people likely don’t feel that satisfied with their lives and possess minimal insight in to themselves or others, let alone, have an adequate proficiency of managing their problems.
Because that is the way it is folks. This is how life is. From a therapy, common sense standpoint, we must remember that not having a perfectly fair ideal reality is not the end of the world. Acceptance of this realism and developing realistic expectations of humanity might be a better approach and lead to less disappointment, conflict and distress.
ASSESSMENT/CHOICES (thoughts and critical thinking)
+ BEHAVIORS =
What kind of day would you like to have?
What kind of relationships, social involvement, interests, growth, look, health, mental health, self-worth, self-esteem, do you want to develop, have or maintain?
What kind of life do you want to have?
These ABC’s are about individuals- YOU…creating your own reality and being cognizant of your choices, your behaviors and the associated outcomes/consequences. It may sound a bit cut-throat provocative, or insensitive, however, it is quite a simple premise. Despite this simplicity, there are those who become wedged in a victim, “poor-me” or poverty-mentality. Rather than working or thinking through the congestion, and stopping to think things through for themselves, even if not a genius or brilliant, there tends to be denial of personal responsibility.
The backwards thinking becomes a mantra of standardized deficient responsibility. The philosophy contains a type of disconnected, irresponsible, humility-lacking entitlement:
- It’s not my fault, especially if I feel inadequate or unable to make my own destiny and manage my life.
- It’s someone else's fault (that whatever happened/happens to me occurred.)
- It’s someone else's responsibility to fix, resolve or improve the situation. I will blame someone or something else for my incompetence, laziness, bad choices, stupidity or failures.
- I can’t do it.
- I must wait for someone or something else to do it for me.
We see evidence of this resistance to the ABC premise when people fail to take ownership of their thoughts, choices and consequences. For a variety of potential reasons, there is an aversion to seeing the simple facts that we all can create our reality. When looking at specific situations and scenarios we can see how the ABC expectation of personal responsibility plays out in a chronically dysfunctional limiting capacity. This mentality and these types of behaviors are sometimes evident in those suffering from addictions, personality disorders, other mental health conditions and sometimes culturally among various movements/schools of thought, groups and communities.
It may be a better plan to focus on what we have as opposed to what we don't have. Life is not always fair; there are multiple factors that play out here. This begins with better luck, but might end with a mindful attitude and personal purpose and integrity about life.
Sigmund Freud, The brilliant, iconic Father Of Psychology, identified several prominent psychological “defense mechanisms.”
Dr. Freud concluded that these defenses were part of unconscious drives that protected the psyche from some type of emotional distress or harm (challenge/unpleasant emotions/fears/anxiety/depression etc.)
- Reaction Formation
Think of defense mechanisms as our bodies putting themselves in a psychological/emotional and sometimes physical “safe mode” similar to that of what our computers sometimes create during technical difficulties.
Actually feeling one's feelings is a critical part of therapy and recovery from various psychological ailments like depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse history, alcoholism and substance abuse. One of the ways we protect ourselves from unpleasant emotions is by functioning in some form of psychological resistance.
Compensation occurs when emotions like guilt, shame, insecurity, fear or anxiety, for example, trigger a deliberate behavioral response. This reaction is created in an effort to somehow normalize or counter-balance what they perceive to be deficient or unsatisfactory is some regard. For example, some people will over-achieve to compensate for another area or some condition(s) that they feel ashamed, embarrassed or discomfort about. They may be desperately needing or attempting to propel their performance to an exceptional level in one area to make up for what they perceive to be a deficient failure in another area.
Denial is one of the more common defense mechanisms. In fact, denial is listed as the first stage in the psyche’s response to dealing with or encountering a death, loss or a similar significant life change.Denial can be used to help us emotionally deflect away from feeling guilty or from facing unpleasant realities that are either overwhelming, terrifying or present with potential dangers/consequences. Some enter a state of denial to refute that they are sick or depressed or chemically dependent. Some deny they have a problem at all and others adamantly decline to admit they are acting inappropriately or have offensive personality traits and behaviors. Some even deny that they have a particular sexual orientation/ interest in another. Ultimately, denial is a powerful emotion that protects from the magnitude that not being.
Displacement occurs when we have strong feelings, such as anger, resentment, envy and we transfer these emotions related behaviors over to someone or something else. For example, an angry alcoholic drunk comes home and goes off on the kids or spouse. They are displacing their emotions on to someone else. Having a bad day at work or school and the dark cloud gets dumped on to someone or somewhere else to diffuse and contain the unpleasant emotions. Sometimes there will be a re-direction of emotional reactions when a person experiences profound feelings/emotions that come up for a specific reason, but the feelings/behavior is then displaced or “taken out” on another person or object (even pets, children, parents, friends, coworkers, strangers, “service people,” employees, students, etc.) Displacing commonly occurs in dysfunctional families and alcoholic family systems quite regularly when the addict is (usually drunk, high or coming down or craving to get high which covers just about all times) engaging in/on one of their rants and acting out in a predictably abusive, bullying manner.
Projection is a fascinating defense along with it’s associated counterpart, “displacement.” Projection occurs when we essentially accuse someone/something else of doing, being or acting a certain way, when it is actually we (the projector) talking about ourselves or committing the alleged behavior ourselves. If there is a sickening reaction of self-revulsion that occurring, it is easier for the offender to project their behavior on to someone or something else. Projecting is a big problem in large-scale conflicts (rampant in political arenas) in many different capacities; in addition to interpersonal relationships and family dynamics, projection is a handy tool used in politics and in many work place settings to protect one entity and undermine another/at the expense of another. Scary.
When there are situations that are overwhelming in some manner, rationalization is yet another psychodynamic defense that may be initiated or “kicked on.” Similar to denial, which implies more of a generalized denouncement/minimization of a situation/emotion/impact of an event/interaction.
Psychotherapy aims to expose some of the otherwise (mostly automatically) employed defenses that enable an avoidance of dealing with core issues. Defense mechanisms can be manifesting as an aversion to a phobic situation including intimacy/relationships, or an avoidance of certain social situations. Sometimes emotional defenses are activated to deflect away from self-challenges which can look like underachieving vs. over-achieving/meeting needs, elevating self-esteem, confidence and mood and decreasing/containing anxiety, powerlessness and overall anxiety.
Reaction-Formation consists of other similar elements, like projection, where there is a perfect opportunity to project self-hatred outwardly to minimize their discomfort. Complicated and tragic, but also disgusting and shameful potentially damaging dangerous behavior. Reaction-Formation is a combination of several defense mechanisms blocking out unpleasant emotions by “forming” a response (reaction) that is actually the opposite of what feelings, sometimes ironically quite strong feelings that actually exist. In children, (and sometimes adults as well,) they may act tough and overly confident when they are actually insecure. Latent aged children are known to act like they don’t like something when they actually like it. An example is the phase when children act like they “hate” the opposite sex or when a child is deliberately mean to another peer, when they actually are jealous or have a “crush” on them.
Reaction-Formation and Latent/Repressed “Closeted” Homosexuals:
A classic example of “Reaction-Formation” is a latent/repressed (closeted) homosexual who will to way out of their way to be perceived as heterosexual; this is done in an attempt to present and project an alternate persona of themselves. This sometimes dramatic, histrionic-like emotional psychological pretense is produced in a desperate effort to contain the anxiety-provoking situation of facing their true homosexual self. We even observe this sometimes with higher profile people, such as entertainment industry celebrities who "act-out" in the media/TV etc when it is a whole drama covering up their homosexuality.
Reaction-Formation (RF) and Power Positions
We also observe Reaction-Formation pathology in higher-profile people, such as politicians or religious leaders and sometimes celebrities who can also become homophobic, hateful and destructive to the LGBTQ Communities. When RF is playing out in these aforementioned scenarios, it can be particularly dangerous to the LGBTQ/GMC Communities. The actual or potential level of malicious intention towards (themselves) the LGBTQ Communities you have a powerful emulated individual who is also a closeted person acting out in a hateful way towards persons of LGBTQ extraction. (They may be preaching ant-gay/anti-trans propaganda, promoting quackery like “Conversion Therapy,” or initiating and supporting anti-LGBTQ laws and policies.
Repression is similar to denial, in that it involves a somewhat specific conscious desire to mechanically contain emotions that can be scary or daunting to actually face. Common underlying drives of repression would be trauma/abuse history/ severely dysfunctional family history (family of origin,) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
Past Influences Present: Stages of Development
|AGE RANGE||STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT|
|0-1||Trust vs. Mistrust|
|1-3||Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt|
|4-5||Initiative vs. Guilt|
|6-11||Industry vs. Inferiority|
|Adolescence 12-18||Identity vs. Role Confusion|
|Early Adulthood 18-35||Intimacy vs. Isolation|
|Middle Adulthood 35-60||Generativity vs. Stagnation|
|Late Adulthood 60 and beyond||Integrity vs. Despair|
Notice the mini continuum diagrams at each identified critical stage of development:
This theory suggests that there are variable in the consequences of the potential disparity at each stage of development. If there is generally nurturing, caring, validating support and appropriate environmental factors.
These are important comparisons to be aware of; if something is “off," or underdeveloped or unresolved or traumatized at any particular stage of development there is likely a dysfunctional result, such as the child developing some sense of mis-trust vs. being trusting of others. Furthermore, if one stage is it may cause a systemic deficiency as the child proceeds through the later stages on in to adulthood and later adulthood. If there are traumatic or pivotal events that occurred at any particular time, those should be considered and noted as well (such as when abuse escalated or when a divorce or death, major life change, stressor or when some other trauma occurred.)
Each stage of development is taken in to consideration at the commencement of treatment to establish any relative link of present symptoms/complaints with historical issues and events.
**During therapy, there is an opportunity to explore these various critical historical life states of development to analyze what the implications of past events and positive or negative compliance with each expected variation of each stage.
Grief and Loss: Recovery and Treatment
(Such as the death of loved one, coming to terms with your own personal diagnosis of illness or terminal illness, loss of physical capabilities/paralysis, eyesight/hearing, career change/job ending, divorce/relationship ending/changing, new job, moving someone leaving, child or friend coming out of closet etc.)
The classic Stages of Grief and Loss, as identified in the book "On Death and Dying," by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross MD:
“This can’t be happening; it is overwhelming shocking or almost unbelievable.” There may even be some dismissal that the precipitating event occurred or that it has any impact at all during this stage.
After the denial wears off, there is a somewhat ironic emotion of anger that may surface about why this event had to occur or how or when or what capacity the loss/trauma or grief is occurring in or has occurred in.
“If only I had done more of this or less of that.” “Why didn’t I______ or I should have or shouldn’t have_______.” “Maybe this isn’t really true or somehow will go away like a bad dream.”
After some variation of denial, anger and bargaining, adjustment and the various reactions to the grief, loss and or major life change process finally just becomes over consuming like a huge weight. The devastation is now more real and the defenses are lessoned but the raw emotions are still highly resonating with no necessarily well-defined or simple swift pathway to be excreted.
The reference of acceptance should be used cautiously, because accepting the loss or change implies that there has been some prior resolution at the earlier stages where the preliminary emotional and psychological “work” needed to be processed. Acceptance may mean that the sheer raw impact of encountering the grief, loss or major life change is now at least more “manageable,” although the pain and void of the loss or major change may be still quite profound.
Therapy anticipates the arrival, presence and influence of these various stages and invites a sense of self-tolerance and understanding during these fragile periods. They are normal and are part of the healing/recovery process. Knowledge is hopefully a strengthening force when dealing with what can be very painful and disruptive.
Therapy will attempt to assist clients experiencing loss, grief or similar feelings that stem from adjusting to major life changes by validating the implications of each stage. This acknowledges that there is a complex set of emotions that tends to occur at various points during the process. Each person going through their recovery and or adjustment process of grief, loss or major changes will be impacted differently with respect to when, where and how the emotions and the various stages or approximate stages will manifest.
For example, clients will sometimes experience depression and anxiety surrounding major life changes, such as moving, relationships starting or ending and careers or jobs that have incurred major modifications. These changes along with the more obvious grief and loss processes due to death of loved ones can cause very strong emotional and psychological impact. The general five stages of grief, loss and major life change adjustment come with strong feelings, mood and anxiety implications.
These stages may occur after being laid off from a job, or with the onset or aftermath of divorce/relationship ending/changing or a major job change or relocation. The sometimes classic emotions are experienced after or during the time when a (often times an adult) child “comes out” of the closet as LGBTQ; the “previously known” child as the parent knew him or her is essentially deceased. In this last example, whatever presumptions or expectations the parent had about that child are now forcibly imposed creating a markedly different emotional reality.
Dealing with loss and major life changes is apt to cause the profound emotions identified in these general stages and notably in some similar semblance. Therapy can assist clients by reinforcing that there is some degree of predictability that occurs as clients progress through these stages. With the process of grief/loss recovery comes ongoing difficult emotions like depression, anxiety, fear, anger or confusion. Sometimes there is interference in basic functioning that is self-medicated by substance use or various related social and behavioral challenges.