Sunday, February 25, 2018

SELF-EXPRESSION IN CYBERSPACE

Self-expression is the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas. It is a reflection of a person’s individuality and autonomy, and is about behaving in line with ones states and traits. It enables one to distinguish oneself from others, reflect on ones beliefs and needs, and leads to self-empowerment.
Self-expression has been found to have a positive influence on individuals. It leads to self-empowerment and plays an important role in self-concept development. Suppression or lack of self-expression can lead to negative consequences on mental health. Therefore, self-expression is a highly significant aspect of behavior and has major implications on development and wellbeing.
There are specific types of people such as introverts, shy individuals, and individuals experiencing loneliness, who are known to have difficulties in self-expression. Introverts due to their physiological structure (high brain arousal) get easily stimulated that causes discomfort in situations that require a lot of social interactions. This makes them to keep to themselves and have reluctance in being involved in social situations.
Shyness is determined by the inhibited temperament often found to be associated with an overly sensitive amygdala (brain area known to be the seat of emotions). The inhibited temperament is characterized fear and distress in relation new situations, people or objects. Due to this, individuals have high levels of physiological activity in response to unfamiliar social situations that makes them to avoid such situations.
The feeling of loneliness, which is an unpleasant experience due to an unfulfilled need for intimacy, often occurs because of a lack of social skills that does not allow individuals to have satisfying interpersonal interactions.
In these cases, self-expression, especially in face-to-face social interactions, becomes difficult. They are highly hesitant in face-to-face interactions making them have very little interaction with people around them. The lack of or very limited social interactions that these individuals have, further, develops to a heightened and highly unfulfilled need for self-expression. The inability in self-express creates a discomforting experience leading to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
For such individuals, the internet or cyberspace turns out to be a comforting space. Cyberspace becomes a platform for such individuals to express themselves. Specific features of the cyberspace enable such individuals to be involved in self-expression, something that they are unable to do so in face-to-face scenarios.
A major feature of the cyberspace is the aspect of anonymity. Anonymity is referred to the inability to identify an individual or the inability for others to identify oneself. In the time when people are very active on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and tend to share information about themselves, including their own picture, complete anonymity is rarely possible on the internet. However, individuals on the internet have a feeling of social anonymity. Social anonymity refers to the perception of being anonymous, rather than actual or true anonymity.
Social distance, lack of interpersonal cues, and interacting with someone in a different space, instead of being face-to-face, develops a sense of obscurity, which makes the individual perceive him/herself to be relatively anonymous. Being on the internet, despite revealing information about oneself, there is a sense of impersonality, self-control, and liberty, which are characteristics of anonymity. Such anonymity has been found to be associated with privacy, catharsis, and autonomy.
Privacy is the ability to control the amount of contact with others. This may not necessarily mean to in terms of physical presence, but the ability to exert boundary control upon others to interact with oneself. This proves to be very helpful for introverts and shy individuals. Such people often have the feeling of violation of privacy during face-to-face interaction. Having a sense of control over privacy in cyberspace gives a lot of comfort, which makes it easier to interact with others, leading to better self-expression.
Catharsis, the unhindered expression of ones thoughts and feelings to others, is a major aspect of self-expression. Social anonymity makes catharsis easier as compared to face-to-face interaction. Especially for lonely individuals, this feature becomes very helpful. Individuals often hesitate to share their emotional pain of loneliness with others, thinking that it will further drive people away. Anonymity enabling catharsis works perfectly well for lonely individuals. It works well for introverts and shy individuals also, as they do not have to experience discomfort of being with individuals while sharing their thoughts and beliefs.
Autonomy involves being able to behave as freely as possible without worrying about social consequences. Social anonymity almost negates the idea of being judged by others. Introverts and shy and lonely individuals often become very hesitant in front of others. They tend to become highly self-conscious. Especially, shy individuals persistently have the feeling of being negatively scrutinized by others. The feature of autonomy due to social anonymity allows such individuals to be themselves without the fear of being judged others, which further helps in self-expression.
Anonymity on the internet with respect to privacy, catharsis, and autonomy, therefore, becomes very helpful when it comes to introversion, shyness, and loneliness. It makes it easier for such people to express themselves as compared to face-to-face interactions.
Along with social or perceived anonymity, facets of self-awareness in the context of the internet play a significant role in self-expression. Self-awareness refers to conscious self-knowledge. It is a focus, attention on features of the self.  The self-awareness perspective suggests that in different circumstances an individual’s attention is directed to different features of the self. When attention is directed to external factors such as people or surroundings then it is referred to as public self-awareness. When attention is directed to internal aspects such as beliefs, thoughts, feelings, personal memories, etc., then it is referred to as private self-awareness.
Both of these facets or features of self-awareness become important in the cyberspace, especially with respect to self-expression. Public self-awareness makes a person conscious of one’s surroundings and makes the individual behave as per the norms or in ways that are expected. In cyberspace, social anonymity, in terms of social distance and obscurity, reduces this sense of public self-awareness.
This means that the individual does not feel conscious of his/her surroundings and there is little evaluation apprehension and pressure of self-presentation. Apart from this, there are lack of accountability concerns. The person feels that whatever he/she does or says is in the cyberspace and has little to do in their actual life where they have face-to-face interactions.
The cyberspace with little pressure for self-presentation and the lack of accountability concerns is coupled with a sense of comfort where the individual is in his/her own private space, during online interaction. This comfort and high sense of privacy leads to a heightened sense of private self-awareness.
This means that the individual becomes more aware and tends to have greater access to inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The heightened sense of private self-awareness will enable the person to be involved in more self-disclosure, that is, revealing of more private and personal information.
Both reduced public sense of self-awareness and heightened private sense of self-awareness work together during online interaction, which is almost the opposite in face-to-face interaction. A heightened public sense of self-awareness and a reduced private sense of self-awareness in face-to-face interactions are often the reasons why introverts, and shy and lonely individuals have difficulties in self-expression. Together a reduced and heightened attention on the public and private aspects of self, in the cyberspace, makes it easier for such individuals to express themselves.
The aspect of deindividuation, a sense of loss of individuality and personal identity, in cyberspace, also enables individuals to be involved in more self-expression, as compared to face-to-face interactions.
Social distance and a lack of interpersonal cues during online interaction result in the deindividuation process. Interpersonal cues are referred to aspects that distinguish one from the other. These cues are very much visible in face-to-face interactions and are not present in online interaction (or are limited in case of video chats).
The deindividuation process reduces personal identity and heightens more of a social identity. During online interactions, this social identity develops with respect to the more salient features, which is being a part of the larger group of cyberspace. In such cases norms develop in accordance to the larger group and individuals tend to adhere to those norms.
The reduced personal identity and heightened social identity with respect to the cyberspace enables the individual to behave and say whatever he/she feels like, with very little hesitation. This little hesitation works well for introverts, and shy and lonely individuals for whom hesitation becomes a major deterrent for self-expression, in face-to-face interaction. The lack of hesitation in cyberspace, due to the process of deindividuation, makes them involved in self-expression in a much better way.
It is due to the aforementioned features of the cyberspace that it has been found that individuals, especially who are hesitant in face-to-face interactions, indulge in more self-disclosure, during online interactions. They feel lesser hesitancy and diminished social awkwardness, in the cyberspace, giving them a greater sense of comfort, enabling them to express themselves in a better manner.
In the past few years, people who have difficulties in self-expression in face-to-face interactions, have been using the cyberspace as a platform to express themselves. There are a number online forums or groups in which people discuss their personal issues and difficulties. They share their experiences in such forums, giving them ample opportunities for self-expression.
In this regard, blogging has become a very useful medium. Especially, a lot of introverts, and shy and lonely individuals write blogs, in which they either share their personal experiences or write on topics they find to be interesting, something they are unable to do so during face-to-face interactions.
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have also become very helpful for self-expression. Simple activities like tweeting ones opinions, writing a status, or sharing pictures with creative captions are all aspects of self-expression. They in some way represent the identity and personality of the individual. This works very well for individuals like introverts and those experiencing shyness and loneliness, who are unable to express themselves properly in face-to-face interactions.
Self-expression is a highly significant aspect of behavior. It is associated with positive mental health and self-concept development. Due to its specific features like social or perceived anonymity, reduced public sense of self-awareness, heightened private sense of self-awareness, and the aspect of deindividuation, the cyberspace has become a very useful medium for self-expression. The cyberspace can, thus, be used as a platform to help people like introverts, and shy and lonely individuals, who have difficulties in self-expression in face-to-face interactions.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

TYPOLOGIES OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS

Live-in relationships (also known as cohabitation) involve two unmarried partners living in an intimate sexual union, sharing the same household for a sustained period of time. Over the years, live-in relationships have been on the rise, in a way changing the normative family or household structure.
It is in some way inevitable that live-in relationships are often compared to marital relationships, as both involve two people living together and having a sexual relationship. Live-in relationships, although, are always viewed as a step of breaking away from the traditional concept of marriage.
The comparison of live-in relationships with marriage, initially favored marital relationships. Initial research suggested marriage to be better with respect to relationship quality, commitment, and wellbeing. Further, earlier, live-in relationships were often dismissed as non-serious and casual, when compared to marriage.
Later research, however, gave different results. It indicated that live-in relationships tend to be better in terms of individual wellbeing, as it involves equal distribution of household labor, egalitarianism, and less rigidity in terms of exertion of norms. There is still little agreement when it comes to which type of relationship is better, but in recent times there have been more of mixed results.
One of the major reasons for these mixed results is that a lot of research indicates that live-in relationships cannot be considered as a single theoretical framework and that all live-in relationships do not share similar attributes. Live-in relationships are not a homogenous group; there are many variations within live-in relationships. Viewing live-in relationships as a single construct is too simplistic of a way in understanding them. Live-in relationships are complex, vague, and fuzzy; they are anything but simplistic.
Psychologists and sociologists through their extensive research have found typologies of live-in relationships. These typologies give a good indication of the complexity and fuzziness of live-in relationships, and clearly show that live-in relationships cannot be viewed as a homogenous and single construct.
Initially, it was suggested that live-in relationships can be divided into two broad categories of prelude to marriage and alternative to marriage. Although a simplistic view of live-in relationships, unlike earlier perspectives, it does not view live-in relationships as a single conception.
Live-in relationship as a prelude to marriage suggests that some people see living together as a testing ground for their relationship, and see how it goes forward. They eventually have a plan to marry, but would like to see how things work out, before taking the final decision.
As an alternative to marriage, live-in relationships are viewed as a choice that is different from marriage. People in such a relationship, either do not want to get married or do not even believe in the idea of marriage. They have the belief that to be together they do not need to get married.
Later, live-in relationships have not been restricted to just two types. Research has indicated further types in terms how serious the individuals are in the relationship. This may range from whether they are casually involved and are living together, without thinking much about the future and the course of the relationship or if they are seriously committed, but have not yet thought about getting married.  

Moving along with the idea of not having a simplistic typology, Casper and Bianchi describe four different types of live-in relationships - (1) alternative to marriage, (2) precursor to marriage, (3) trial marriage, and (4) coresidential dating.
As an alternative to marriage, the partners are not thinking about getting married and may have no intention of getting married. They just want to live together. As a precursor to marriage, the partners are living together with an expectation to get married some time in the future.
In trial marriage, the partners want to see if they are good enough to get married. They are not sure about their compatibility, and not sure if they really do want to get married. By living together, they are testing their relationship and trying to find out if they are suitable to get married with each other. Coresidential dating is like a serious dating relationship in which the couple lives together, without any intention or expectation to get married. They find living together to be convenient, instead of living apart.
This typology breaks the myth of live-in relationships being non-serious, casual, and may not last long. According to this typology, live-in relationships can vary in terms of expected long-term duration, with alternative to marriage and precursor to marriage being expected to be more long lasting than the other types.   

Heuvaline and Timberlake gave more variations in types of live-in relationships. They suggested that live-in relationships vary on the basis of how much it is institutionalized as family formation within the region/culture in which the partners are living together. Through their research in different countries, they concluded that live-in relationships can be divided into six types. Based on their research, they suggested that depending on the country or culture in which the partners are living, live-in relationships can be seen as (1) marginal, (2) prelude to marriage, (3) stage in the marriage process, (4) alternative to singlehood, (5) alternative to marriage, and (6) indistinguishable to marriage.
When live-in relationships are viewed as completely inappropriate with respect to the culture of a place and it is not institutionalized as a way family formation then it is categorized as marginal. Due to this, very few people are involved in live-in relationships, because they feel that they will be looked down upon and will be heavily criticized. In such instances giving birth to children becomes very rare.
In prelude to marriage, live-in relationships are seen as a testing ground for marriage. People indulge in such a relationship if it is culturally supportive and if there is access to affordable housing. If the relationship continues for some time, especially after giving birth to children, and then norms are not very supportive, then they are expected to get married or end the relationship.
In cases where partners in a live-in relationship decide to have a child but are not concerned about the timing and order of marriage and childbearing, live-in relationships are seen as a stage in the process of marriage. They eventually get married when they realize that there are institutional incentives to have children within marriage, and that their culture may not approve of having children out of wedlock.
Live-in relationships are seen as an alternative to singlehood, when partners want to postpone forming a family and at the same time do not want to live separately. The partners feel that they are too young or that it is too early to seriously consider being married, and prefer to live together, with no immediate intention to get married. This also depends on having increased access to affordable housing.
Partners often consider a live-in relationship as an alternative to marriage. Depending on greater cultural approval and institutional support for having children out of wedlock, partners feel that it is better to remain unmarried and still form a family just like a married couple. Perhaps they do not believe in the concept of marriage and feel that they do not need to get married to live together.
In indistinguishable from marriage, partners are indifferent to marriage because there is a high cultural approval for live-in relationships. There is a high level of acceptability for living together, without marriage, and there is also institutional support for having children out of wedlock. In such cases, live-in relationships are not viewed as something antithetical or like an alternative lifestyle. It is simply a way of living that is embedded in the culture. Partners may get married later on, but even if they do not get married, it is not culturally frowned upon, as they can live like married couples, without wanting or thinking of getting married.
This typology again indicates that live-in relationships have nothing to do with being a casual, frivolous relationship. People who are serious in their relationship and give value to their partner can also be involved in a live-in relationship. The typology gives a lot of emphasis on institutionalization and cultural norms in determining the number of people getting involved in a live-in relationship. Depending on that, partners may remain in a live-in relationship or end up getting married.
      
More recently, Hiekel, Liefbroer, and Portman, on the basis of their research, described five types of live-in relationships. These five types are grouped in two broad categories – live-in relationship as a stage in the marriage process and live-in relationship as an alternative to marriage.
Live-in relationships as a stage in the marriage process includes four subtypes - prelude to marriage, trial marriage, and living together for economic reasons. Prelude to marriage is a form of engagement. The partners have a firm intention to get married; they see moving in together as the last phase before marriage.
Trial marriage is somewhat similar to prelude to marriage. The difference between the two is that in trial marriage, the partners are not yet sure about getting married. They view living together as a test or an evaluation of their relationship.
Living together for economic reasons, the third subtype within this category suggests that the partners want to get married, but cannot afford it. It is the economic concerns that make them take the decision to be in a live-in relationship. They intend to marry once their economic conditions become better.
Live-in relationship as an alternative to marriage includes two subtypes. First, the partners decide to be in a live-in relationship because they feel that marriage is an outdated concept/institution. They have an ideological refusal of marriage. In this, the partners are in stable, long-term relationships, they believe in personal autonomy, and are liberal towards gender roles and division of labor.
Second, the partners do not feel the need to get married; they do not view marriage as relavant. Unlike, the first subtype, the partners do not have an ideological refusal about marriage; they just do not view it as important. They feel that getting married will not make any difference to their relationship.
This typology also breaks the myth that live-in relationships cannot be long-lasting and are just casual relationships. The typology gives further variations of the initial broad categorization of live-in relationship (prelude to marriage or alternative to marriage). According to this typology, as well, live-in relationships can be serious and long lasting relationships. This is clearly reflected, especially, in the subtypes of prelude to marriage, living together for economic reasons, viewing marriage as outdated, and not viewing marriage as relevant.

Apart from the aforementioned typologies, another subtype of live-in relationships known as part-time live-in relationships has emerged. In this, the partners are in a serious relationship but due to some reason like work or staying at different cities, they do not always live together and share the same household. They are live separate, individual lives, and live together only during weekends or holidays or vacations. After that, they get back to their individual life and then get back together whenever they get the opportunity.  

Live-in relationships are often construed as frivolous, non-committal relationships that have little chance to be long lasting. This, however, has been found to be a big misconception and a highly simplistic view about live-in relationships. Research by psychologists and sociologists indicate there are many variations in live-in relationships.
These variations have led to the development of many typologies of live-in relationships. The typologies not only suggest that live-in relationships cannot be viewed as homogenous and a single construct, but depending on the typology, they can be relationships that are long lasting, highly committed, have high relationship quality, and associated with high levels of wellbeing.       

Friday, September 29, 2017

SOCIAL REJECTION: THE TROUBLED PATH TO SELF-DISCOVERY

Society enforces a lot of expectations on an individual from a very early phase of life. These expectations keep increasing and become more varied as the person grows older and enters into different phases of life. Such expectations have been carried on for years and in many ways have become an integral part of society, and have developed into norms that must be followed.
Most of these expectations are usually about general behaviors, appearance, ways of interacting, socializing, career choices, and even the kind of success. Most of the time, an individual is expected to be outgoing, smart, prim, intelligent, confident, competitive, a good conversationalist, sociable, someone who is popular and successful – all that makes a person likeable and appreciable.
These are characteristics that almost everyone would like to have; after all being likeable is something that anyone would want to be. For some people, however, these characteristics do not come naturally. No matter how much they try, they just cannot behave in that manner. They are different from what is expected of them, right from the beginning, perhaps due to their temperament.
Such people are often associated with words like socially awkward, shy, timid, morose, melancholic, or loner. Right from an early stage of life, they are told by others to behave in an appropriate manner, to be normal, or to be like others. They are always asked questions like “why are you like this?” or “why don’t you be like others?”. These are questions that they do not have any answers to, and would like to be the first ones to know them.
The inherent condescending, mocking, and sometimes rude tone of these frequent questions make them realize that they are different and that perhaps there is something wrong with them. They get the feeling of being looked down upon and unwanted. As they grow older, this feeling of being unwanted keeps on increasing. They begin to realize that they are not really liked by anyone, and they get the feeling of being rejected by everyone.
The feeling of being unwanted and not being accepted by others is a disturbing experience. It develops low self-esteem and inferiority complex. It also develops a sense of loneliness, neediness, clinginess, and an excessive need for social approval. This excessive need for social approval tends to make such individuals put in too much of effort and try extra hard to get accepted by others, which makes them look more needy, and may make them behave in socially inadequate and inappropriate ways, further leading them to be avoided.
The experience of social rejection is certainly devastating for the individual. The belief of not being liked by anyone gives a choking and suffocating kind of feeling that only leads to the feeling of worthlessness. The person feels there is nobody to take care of him/her and that he/she is all alone in the big bad world.
No matter how devastating the feeling might be, however, it is surely not the end of the world. It does not mean that the person is doomed forever. Depending on how the individual takes it all, he/she can either go further down in the dumps, or he/she can rise above everything and turn the tide – of course, easier said than done.
When the individual gets the realization that he/she is not being accepted almost everywhere, it tends to make that person aloof and relatively socially isolated; the person experiences aloneness. Being alone, however, becomes advantageous.
Being alone, the individual gets more time to spend by himself/herself. The person gets to put everything in perspective. He/she looks back at all the past experiences and events in relation to other surrounding events. All of this is done in terms of an evaluation and analysis, and not in terms of rumination. In other words, being alone and distanced from others, the individual tends to get involved in self-reflection. The individual begins to have an inner focus of attention with respect to thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
All this self-reflection gives the individual a certain level of self-understanding. The person gets a realization of what he/she truly is all about. It helps in developing self-awareness. The person develops an understanding of who he/she is, what are his/her strengths and weaknesses, what is his/her true potential, what does he/she want from life, and why does he/she belong here. On the whole, the individual is able to get some realistic perspective about himself/herself, and develops purpose in life.
Once this happens, the individual does not have too much difficulty in accepting that he/she is unwanted and not liked by many. The person does not let it all affect him/her too much and stops giving it a lot of importance. He/she develops an understanding that he/she may not fit in within the normal and the usual, and feels that perhaps that is what was meant to be. A feeling arises that instead of trying to fit in, it is better to step aside and move away.
The idea of not being accepted, then, no longer means the end of life. The individual feels life has a greater purpose than just being accepted by others, and being part of a larger social group. He/she builds a world of his/her own, becomes goal-oriented, and tries not to become too affected by others’ opinions and judgments. Within all this darkness, he/she tries to find happiness. The individual develops a sense of meaning within the painful experience of social rejection.
From the troubling and painful experience of not being accepted, judged, and falling short of others’ expectations, the individual moves towards a sense of positivity. Social rejection leading to aloneness tends to make the make the person indulge in self-reflection. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness, self-realization, and self-discovery.
No one wants to be disliked and rejected by others. It becomes a troubling experience for the individual and takes him/her away from the normal and the usual. Out of all this, due to self-reflection, the individual rises above all the negativity and moves towards a phase in which he/she finds meaning and purpose in life. Social rejection, then, can take the individual towards self-discovery, even it is a troubled and painful path.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: ATTACHMENT STYLES AND INTERACTION PATTERNS

The third part of the series - Individual Differences and Interpersonal Interactions ...



The concept of attachment styles extends the notion of Freudian psychoanalytic thought that childhood experiences play a significant role in adult life. Attachment is a strong emotional bond to a significant other person. For an infant, the parents/caretakers become an attachment figure.
To grow up mentally healthy, the infant and the young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his/her mother or caretaker, in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment. There are three different types of attachment styles that an infant may develop – secure attachment style, avoidant attachment style, and ambivalent attachment style.
The secure attachment style occurs when the parent is generally available and responsive to the child’s needs. The child with a secure attachment style feels supported and secure. The avoidant attachment style occurs when the parent is generally cool, unresponsive, or even rejecting. The infant due to this becomes detached from the caretaker. The avoidant attachment style makes the child to suppress feelings of vulnerability and neediness. The ambivalent attachment style occurs when the primary caretaker does not respond consistently to the infant’s needs. This makes the child to be vigilant for threats and feel anxious or angry.
The attachment style developed in childhood determines the interaction patterns for future relationships, when the child grows up. Depending on the attachment style, the child may grow up to be sociable and have healthy interpersonal interactions, or may become distrustful of others, be aloof, and end up feeling lonely.
A child with secure attachment style grows up into an individual who seeks closeness with others, and thus becomes friendly and sociable. Such a person will most likely enjoy being with others, develop long lasting friendships, and be trustworthy of others.
In contrast, a child with avoidant attachment style grows up into an individual who becomes fearful in relationships and tends to avoid closeness with others in order to avoid social rejection. This avoidance in closeness may lead to an unfulfilled need for intimacy. The person prefers to stay alone and end up feeling loneliness.
Likewise, a child with ambivalent attachment style grows up to be a person who is emotionally distressed in social interactions and expects the worst from others. The person becomes highly distrustful of others Due to this the emotional needs of the individual are not fulfilled and brings about a feeling of lack of intimacy, and could also lead to loneliness.
It should be noted that an avoidant or ambivalent attachment style does not always necessarily mean that the parents or caretakers have not been good to their child. It could also be that the parents did their best, but somehow the child perceived their interactions to be in that manner.
The attachment theory further suggests that poor attachment or inadequate parental care may lead to psychological disorders in adulthood. Inadequate parental care may lead to the development of the anxious attachment pattern, which involves insecurity and dependency, and makes the individual prone to phobias, hypochondriasis, and eating disorders. Inadequate parenting may also lead to the development of the pattern of emotional detachment in which the individual feels serious deprivation of affection, and makes the person prone to antisocial and hysterical personality disorders.
These attachment styles could further determine four adult interactions patterns. These four interaction patterns are based on two underlying dimensions, which are positive versus negative evaluation of self and positive versus negative evaluation of others.
People who have a positive evaluation of the self tend to assume that others will respond positively, expect to be liked by others, which makes them feel comfortable with others, and thus have satisfying relationships. People with a negative self-evaluation makes them expect that others will be rejecting, which makes them feel anxious with others, and therefore tend to avoid others.
Individuals who have a positive evaluation of others expect that they will be comforting and supporting, and thus will they will seek close relationships. Individuals who have a negative evaluation of others will expect them to be unavailable and non-supportive, which makes them tend to avoid people and be aloof.
People with positive evaluations of self and others have positive and healthy interpersonal interactions; they are comfortable being around others. People with negative evaluations of self and others tend to have maladaptive interpersonal interactions; they may not have long-lasting relationships, they may always be distrustful, and be distant from others.
Therefore, early interactions with caretakers, in terms of the different attachment styles determine the nature of interpersonal interactions that individuals may have in their life. These differing interpersonal interactions are also manifested in the adult interaction patterns, which are often found to be a result of the attachment styles.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

HYPNOSIS: ORIGINS, DEVELOPMENT, AND CONTROVERSIES

Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by intense absorption with internal experience and a voluntary suspension of normal awareness. It is a trance that is induced by another person, often referred to as a hypnotist. It also involves high levels of suggestibility, which is believed to enable the hypnotist influence voluntary and involuntary behavior in the person who is in the hypnotic state.
There has always been an element of mystery and enigma associated with hypnotism. Hypnosis has often been talked about in ancient myths and folklore, and has been associated with magic spells, which a person uses to control the mind of others. It is this aspect of hypnosis that makes it a part of occultism, which also has made it a matter of skepticism.     
Hypnosis, used in its current form is associated with the Scottish surgeon James Braid. He gave the term neurohypnology and wrote a book on it in 1843. He was also known to be the person to use the terms hypnotism and hypnotist. Neurohypnology was then shortened to the term hypnosis. Due the significance of Braid in the usage of hypnosis in its current form, he is often considered the first genuine hypnotherapist or the founder of hypnotherapy and the father of modern hypnosis.
Franz Anton Mesmer
Even though Braid is regarded as the first genuine hypnotherapist, the roots of hypnosis can be traced back to the 18th century German physician, Franz Mesmer. He later established himself in Vienna and then in Paris. Mesmer was a strong believer in the theory of animal magnetism. He theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects and called it animal magnetism.
He believed that each individual or any other animate object has an invisible natural force or a magnetic force field. This magnetic force field influences the bodily functioning of the individual. For a healthy person, according to Mesmer, the force field is evenly distributed. But it is unevenly distributed for someone who is unhealthy.
Mesmer believed that he could use magnets (mineral magnetism) to evenly distribute the force field and thus cure the diseases of any person. After successfully using magnets to cure people, he began to use his own hands (animal magnetism) to cure them. Mesmer used to touch the body parts of his patients by magnets or his own hands and in doing so, he would cure his patients.
After being highly successful, Mesmer, in 1788, opened a clinic in Paris. He began to treat patients of hysteria, individually as well as in groups. He used the same techniques that he used in Vienna. His treatment involved patients of hysteria sitting in a darkened room, with soft music playing in the background. Mesmer, being dressed like wizard, then entered the room holding a stick in his hand that had a magnet attached to it. Mesmer used to mostly touch the effected part of the body of his patients by his hands, and sometimes by the stick with a magnet. Miraculously, the hysteria patients used to get cured by this. This led to Mesmer becoming very popular. His method of treatment came to be known as mesmerism.
Even though Mesmer became highly popular and his treatment was very effective, skeptics were not ready to believe him. After investigating the matter, they felt Mesmer’s method was unscientific and the treatment to be a mere imagination. Mesmer was considered to be a fraud and a charlatan, and was banned from practicing his method of treatment. Eventually, Mesmer faded away into obscurity.
Years later, further investigations into mesmerism revealed that instead of animal magnetism, Mesmer actually created a trance-like situation that also involved a lot of suggestibility. The induced trance made the patients of hysteria susceptible to suggestibility, which helped in the patients being cured. What Mesmer believed to be animal magnetism, was actually artificially created trance coupled with suggestibility. Later, modifications in mesmerism were made, eventually being known as hypnosis. Mesmer, thus, came to be known as the first person to use hypnosis, although it was not the kind of hypnosis that began to be used in modern times.
Marquis de Puysegur
One such person who made modifications in mesmerism was Marquis de Puysegur. He was a member of the Society for Harmony, a group that promoted animal magnetism. Puysegur discovered that artificially creating a peaceful, sleep-like scenario could induce trance in people. He named this situation as artificial somnambulism. He found this artificially induced sleep-like situation as an effective therapeutic technique.
Puysegur discovered that during this sleep-like situation, individuals are highly susceptible to suggestions. He found that people would follow instructions such as laughing, crying, or dancing. In the somnambulistic state, due to suggestibility, they believed that they could feel no pain, or they could feel sensation in parts of the body that are paralyzed. He also found that, people did not remember anything during the trance state, after they come out of it. In all, what Puysegur had found is almost what is known about hypnotism in today’s time.
Puysegur modified mesmerism and renamed it as artificial somnambulism, which was almost like the hypnotism practiced in today’s time. However, the person who gave hypnotism credibility and made it acceptable in the mainstream is the Scottish surgeon, James Braid.
Braid was initially skeptical about any trance inducing or artificial sleep-like situation. He was highly intrigued by the possibilities, and after extensive investigation, which involved a lot of experimentation, he changed his views. He believed that a trance situation could be created, but not in the ways in which Mesmer used to do it.
James Braid
Unlike Mesmer, Braid induced trance by asking individuals to focus their attention on illuminated objects like a candle flame or small mirrors that were held at different distances from the face. This prolonged concentration, according to Braid, caused physical exhaustion, which made them susceptible to suggestibility. Any resulting change in behavior was explained by suggestibility, and not by any kind of magnetic field, as was believed by Mesmer.
Braid, thus, gave a proper scientific explanation for the induced trance, which made it acceptable in the field of medicine. A key feature discovered by Braid is that people have greater sensory awareness during the induced trance, for instance a person displaying an extremely high ability in hearing as compared to normal consciousness. He also found that during the trance, autonomic bodily processes can be controlled to a great degree. These findings were important to further establish it in the medical field.
Braid named this induced trance situation as neurypnology (meaning nervous sleep), which was also the title of his book published in the year 1843. In the book he described 25 different cases in which he used neurypnology to treat varied conditions such as pain in the spinal cord, stroke, paralysis, headache, and sensory impairment. He later changed the name from neurypnology to neurohypnology (taken from Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep). This was later shortened to hypnosis.
The efforts of Braid made neurohypnology (later named as hypnosis) as a subject of scientific research and a valid clinical technique that can be used for treating various medical conditions. He thus, came to be known as the first genuine hypnotherapist. He defined neurohypnology as “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature”.
Auguste-Ambroise Liebeault
Braid might have given hypnosis credibility, but it became popular due to the developments that took place in France. The French physician Auguste Ambroise Liebeault was convinced about the effectiveness of hypnosis. Liebeault believed that all mental disorders, especially hysteria, can be treated by hypnosis. Very soon he successfully began treating many patients of hysteria and other disorders by hypnosis.
Liebeault began gaining a lot of popularity and his perspectives gradually began to develop into a school. In 1866, he established the suggestion-centered school of psychotherapy. Because Liebeault practiced near the city of Nancy, France, it came to known as the Nancy School. It was only during this time when the term hypnosis began to be used.
The Nancy School attracted many scholars and physicians. One of them was the physician Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim. At Nancy, Liebeault had been treating patients of hysteria successfully by simply hypnotizing them and telling them that their symptoms will be gone when they will be awakened. Bernheim was persuaded, and after that both of them began working as a team. Bernheim also became the spokesperson of the Nancy School.
Hyppolyte-Marie Bernheim
Bernheim believed that everyone was susceptible to suggestibility, and that some are more susceptible than the others. According to Bernheim, the more susceptible to suggestibility the easier it is to hypnotize that person. This susceptibility to suggestibility and hypnosis, later, came to be known as the trait of hypnotiziability. In treating patients successfully with hypnosis, Liebeault and Bernheim together helped establish the idea that hysteria and other mental disorders have psychological causes.
During the same time, the famous French physician and neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot, was also using hypnosis on hysteria patients very successfully. Charcot was working at the La Salpêtrière hospital at Paris. He, however, differed in his views about hysteria and hypnosis. He believed hysteria to be a neurological disorder and hypnosis to be a clinical feature of it. Unlike Liebeault and Berheim, he did not think that everybody can be hypnotized or that hypnosis can be used to treat hysteria and other mental disorders.
Jean-Martin Charcot
Because Charcot believed hypnosis to be a clinical feature of hysteria, he felt that only hysterics can be hypnotized. He believed that hypnosis can be used to induce the symptoms of hysteria on hysterical patients, and thus used hypnosis only as a way of studying hysteria. He never felt of it to be as a treatment of hysteria. He was very efficient in hypnotizing patients, often demonstrating it for students.
The difference in perspective on the causes of hysteria and the usage of hypnosis between Charcot and his school of thought and the Nancy School led to a huge heated debate between the two. This is considered to be one of the earliest academic debates in psychology. Eventually, the Nancy school was triumphant over Charcot. The Nancy School, thus, became an important landmark in firmly establishing hypnosis as a method of treatment of mental disorders.
Even though Braid gave hypnosis scientific credibility and acceptance, and the Nancy school made it widely popular, over the years, hypnosis has always been associated with skepticism, uncertainty, and controversies. The heated debate on the use of hypnosis between Charcot and the Nancy School was just the beginning when it came to controversies associated with hypnosis.
One person who very openly claimed his reservations with hypnosis was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and arguably the most well-known psychologist of the 20th century. Freud, early in his career, realized that many of his patients were actually suffering from hysteria. In 1885, he therefore, went to Charcot to study hypnosis.
After returning to Vienna, Freud found hypnosis to be not very effective. The reasons for this, according to Freud, were that everyone cannot be easily hypnotized, and that individuals deny what they have said or done in the hypnotic state. He also suggested that hypnosis may lead to the emergence of others problems.
The reasons for the ineffectiveness of hypnosis have been corroborated by researches done later on. Specifically, extensive research has been done on Freud’s claims of other problems coming into existence due to hypnosis.
A lot of research has been done on the concept of iatrogenesis. Iatrogensis refers to adverse effects or complications that may occur due to a medical treatment. It has also been found to be caused sometimes by psychotherapy.
A number of clinicians and researchers have claimed that dissociative identity disorder (DID), earlier known as multiple personality disorder is actually an iatrogenic condition. DID is a severe mental disorder in which an individual develops two or more relatively enduring identities or dissociated personalities. These identities occur in the individual alternately (that is why the identities are also referred as alters), displaying completely distinct behavior patterns, in which the individual is unable to recall anything that has taken place during the emergence any one of the alters.
The occurrence of DID has been very rare, which is what made clinicians feel that is an iatrogenic condition rather than a disorder. There has been compelling evidence that DID is caused by suggestion-based psychotherapy such as hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
The trance state during hypnosis makes individuals highly susceptible to suggestibility. In such a state, when the therapist asks some leading questions about another thought process or behavior pattern, it tends to induce DID. Such questions or instructions in a hypnotic state, which involves extremely high suggestibility, lead to the emergence of other alters.
Hypnosis is often used to discover presumed alters. The therapists sometimes try to reify the existence of alternate identities and thus, validating their existence. The patients’ constantly reifying and attending to alternate personalities adventitiously reinforces multiplicity.
Many studies have also shown that hypnotized patients show greater frequencies of alternate personalities as compared to non-hypnotized patients. Additionally, it has been found that therapists using hypnosis are more likely to diagnose patients with DID, which has been regarded to be as consistent with iatrogensis. Hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, therefore, has often been found to induce and facilitate the symptoms of DID.
Apart from facilitating the symptoms of DID, hypnosis has also been found to be one of the major causes of false memory syndrome. False memory syndrome is the condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered on the memory of a traumatic event that has not taken place and is objectively false. The person’s life in a way is guided by the memory of an event or events that have never taken place. The false memory is so deeply ingrained in the individual that it orients his/her entire personality and lifestyle, leading to disruption in adaptive behavior.
There have been a number of individuals who have reported of being sexually abused in their childhood, but investigation did not reveal any forensic evidences. Likewise, a lot of people have reported of having paranormal experiences, with further investigation showing that none of such things have ever happened. Despite these events and experiences not taking place in reality, these people strongly believed in the occurrence of these events.
Research shows that some people develop such kinds of strong beliefs after going through hypnotic therapy. Hypnotic therapy involves recovery of lost memories – memories that have been repressed (pushed into the unconscious that is beyond conscious awareness), due to being traumatic. The idea behind this is that once those lost traumatic memories are recovered, they will help the patient to overcome the psychological problems that he/she has been experiencing.
Clinicians claim that this recovery of lost memories during hypnosis is not accurate. Sometimes, inadvertently, the therapist might implant false memories within the patient. The high susceptibility to suggestibility makes the individual under hypnosis believe things that have never occurred in the life of the person.
It has been found that the therapist due to suggestibility leads the person to believe such things. In the hypnotic state the person often says certain things that may be in his/her subconscious; something that he/she might have read somewhere or something that might have occurred with someone else. The therapist reacts based on these responses, and due to high suggestibility influences the person to believe that those events have occurred in his/her life. This then becomes strongly ingrained into the memory of that individual, leading him/her to develop false memory syndrome.
Many of such paranormal experiences like alien abduction, reincarnation, or encountering ghosts have been found to be actually a result of false memory syndrome that has been caused by hypnotic therapy. Therefore, instead of treating an individual from existing problems, hypnosis may actually lead to the development of newer problems like DID and false memory syndrome.
Over the years, despite the contributions of Braid and later the Nancy School in giving it hypnosis scientific validity, it has still not got that credibility. The basic nature of hypnosis has not been able to dissociate it from occultism. Even though it has been used as a clinical method, both in terms of treatment and research, the idea of hypnosis is still strongly associated with the element of mystery and magic.
Apart from being a clinical method, hypnosis, has often been used for entertainment purposes. A trance being induced making a person follow all kinds of instructions draws good viewership. It has become a kind of magic show that people enjoy. Skeptics also have strong doubts about the very reality of hypnosis, often claiming it to be a make-believe act that has no truth in it. All these controversies and skepticism associated with hypnosis has made clinicians and experts not to consider it in mainstream psychology and psychotherapy.
The controversies associated with hypnosis certainly raise questions over its credibility. However, the significance of the discovery of hypnosis cannot be denied. It was the discovery of hypnosis that led to the idea that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The causes of mental disorders are broadly categorized as somatogenic and psychogenic – somatogenic are biological causes and psychogenic are psychological causes.
The origins of the psychogenic causes of mental disorders are linked with Franz Mesmer. It was Mesmer’s method of treatment, mesmerism, which later developed into hypnosis, that for the first time led to the belief that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The significance of hypnosis can be further exemplified in that it was this belief that made it possible to get rid of the superstitions associated with mental disorders, which was that all mental disorders are caused by being possessed by demons and ghosts.
Further, even though hypnosis has been plagued by alleged claims of ineffectiveness in terms of DID and false memory syndrome, in today’s time it has been found to very useful in the treatment of specific problems like anxiety, headaches, chronic pain, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This shows that hypnosis has not lost all of its credibility and is indeed effective with respect to some specific psychological problems.
Finally, hypnosis not yet completely being accepted as a part of mainstream psychology and still being associated with occultism has added to its intrigue, leading to a lot of curiosity. It has always been a subject matter of fascination. It may have its skeptics, but its skepticism has only increased its popularity among the masses and has made people wanting to know more and more about it.

This article can also be found on the blog, History Of Psychology

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: SELF-MONITORING



Self-monitoring is the monitoring of behavior in social situations. It refers to individual differences in the ability and motivation to regulate expressive behaviors.  It is the regulation of behavior with respect to social and interpersonal interactions. Thus, self-monitoring is about how individuals respond to others and the extent to which they engage in expressive control.
There are individual differences in self-monitoring. People are either high on self-monitoring or low on self-monitoring. High self-monitors act according to the appropriateness of the situation. They are concerned about how others will perceive them in a specific situation and mold their behavior accordingly. Their behavior also varies with the kind of people that they interact with. Therefore, high self-monitors may be highly responsive to social and interpersonal cues, with respect to the appropriateness of the situation.
In contrast, low self-monitors show a lot lesser concern for situational appropriateness. They do not indulge in behaviors that appear situationally appropriate. Rather than molding and maneuvering their behavior, they show more consistency in their behavior in varying situations and with different types of individuals. Instead of being highly responsive to situational cues, low self-monitors behave according to their inner beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and dispositions.
High and low self-monitoring is also associated with different types of interaction patterns. People who are high on self-monitoring choose their friendships and acquaintanceships based on shared activities. Their bonding with others depends on how well they are suited to the particular activity. They like spending time with only those people who are relevant to the concerned activity.
People who are low on self-monitoring, on the other hand, choose their friendships and acquaintanceships based on emotional bonds. They like to spend time with people whom they like, irrespective of the activity.
Consequently, the social world of high self-monitors differs from that of low self-monitors. The social world of high self-monitors is very compartmentalized, with different individuals (friends, acquaintances) linked with different specific activities. Whereas the social world of low self-monitors is less uncategorized, with individuals not necessarily related to specific activities.
With respect to growth in intimacy and interconnectedness, low self-monitors take more time as compared to high self-monitors. Low self-monitors, generally, prefer to take time in establishing a stronger emotional bond with others. High self-monitors are able to connect well with others with relative ease.
High and low self-monitors also differ in terms of romantic behavior and sexuality. High self-monitors have been found to choose a romantic partner, largely, on the basis of physical appearance. Low self-monitors give more emphasis to inner qualities. High self-monitors, also, are likely to have more romantic and sexual partners as compared low self-monitors.
Further, low self-monitors are likely to be more satisfied in their relationships with others. Research suggests that low self-monitors are concerned with the inner qualities of any relationship, such as shared values, and are lesser focused on the external aspects of relationships. This allows them to be themselves with others, and thus be more satisfied.
High self-monitors, in contrast, are more concerned and preoccupied with the external aspects of individuals and relationships, such as physical appearance or prestige associated with the relationship. This allows them to act as per the expectations of the roles. They tend to derive esteem from others, whereas low self-monitors base their relationships on the basis of authenticity and trust.
Therefore, self-monitoring – individual differences in the regulation of expressive behavior – plays a strong role in determining interpersonal interactions. Individuals, depending on being either high or low on self-monitoring, can differ with respect to how they interact with others and how they develop social and emotional connectedness with others.

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