Saturday, July 16, 2011

Psychology, symptomatic and systemic dysfunction

Often people seek psychological help when

a) The status quo changes, as with a death, divorce, end of life-stage, move, retrenchment or job loss, an affair or the discoverty of an affair and so forth

b) when a coping style is no longer adequate, or indeed has in itself become a problem

c) at moments of crisis - which obviously also includes the previous two categories - but could also include when the cost of an addiction has grown to great to ignore, or have been ordered into therapy, or a particular behavioural problem.

While some of these can only be dealt with when they arise and crystallise, in other instances it seems the therapist's assigned role is a token one, just as much philanthropy in Australia and much of so called "western civilization" , where problems are dealt with symptomatically rather than systemmically. We fund cancer research rather than tackling lifestyle and consumer habits which drive the production of carcinogenic fuels, foods and cleaning agents. We run anti gambolling programs rather limiting the activities of casinos. We provide no channels to ecstacy and bliss other than chemicals, no outlets for agression other than sport and hunting, no way of dealing with sexuality other than commodifying or repressing it. We educate around type II diabetes while gladly accepting massive sponsorships from the companies who help create it. We decry racism and predjudice while soaking up the reactive media which constantly recreate them/us bifurcations and fear based consciousness. We try to save biodiversity while spoending billions on, and being relentlessly brainwashed by, advertising that sells us things that damage us and our environment, and that we can well do without.

The psychologist-counsellor becomes a token solution, a pawn, a chamber maid who cleans up the mess while the source of the mess is left unchallenged and unattended to. Like Dr River's in Pat Barkers regeneration triology who patches up Siegfried Sassoon so that he is well enough again to go back and die on the Western Front, we work to get our clients well enough to go back into the insanity of daily life, where a thin veneer of civilty hides the "quiet desperation" of most ordinary people.

the assumption and expectation that incest and adult or elder sibling sexual(ised) interactions with a younger child must have deterministic outcomes in itself may set up years of “unnecessary” struggle. Ditto with the terms “abuse”, “bullying” etc which all come with their accompanying story. There are many kinds of interactions in many different circumstances, and not all of them have to be framed as trauma. The child may have had an interaction – or several -  with an adult that was fleeting and unclassifiable; which sat in them as something neither good or bad, but upon contact and sharing with other adults will take on a whole raft of frames, and suddenly graft any outrage, hurt, shame, or anger in them onto those events. Suddenly any pleasure they may have felt will become guilt and complicity which needs to be beaten away with “it is never the child’s fault”. The subtle cues to adopt certain stances in exchange for subtle and not so subtle rewards – sympathy, belonging to a victims club, power over the perpertrator, self righteousness, avoidance of all the other subsequent challenges that have arisen in their lives…all of these set to work clouding whatever happened with a swirling mass of their own and other’s affect. 

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