Better the demon you know

by CarlD

In a bit of amusing local news, conservative groups got together in Raleigh recently for workshops, strategic planning, demon-strations and inspirational speeches from such luminaries as former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean.

Also attending were some Durham progressives who thought it would be a good idea to understand the enemy, the better to combat them. As activist Lanya Shapiro explained, “it has illuminated why the extreme right-wing grass-roots are so cynical and hateful:… their leaders call the left evil and power-grabbing.”

Maybe being called cynical and hateful extremists by evil, power-grabbing lefties has something to do with it too.

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9 Comments to “Better the demon you know”

  1. Generally I agree with you and in fact argue against the vitriol I sometimes find at places like DailyKos. There is another side to it though and you often see it expressed as “How dare you not tolerate my intolerance!”

    “Prejean said she was shunned…” Well, yes and no. She said some pretty hateful things and then expected that she wouldn’t suffer any consequences from her statements. She said the pageant officials mistreated here but as I recall she handled her end very poorly. Miss Prejan is an example of Christian privilege and the teabaggers are examples of white privilege. Society is undergoing big changes and they are not happy about it.

    On the other hand, yeah, the dynamic where the left and right are at each other’s throats is not a healthy one and I think we know whom it benefits most.

  2. Yeah, agreed on each point. There’s a lot of fear and loathing on the liberal side too but it’s the native mode of conservatives faced with change, and therefore an escalation they can always ‘win’.

    Btw I took a crack at some of the general contours of these issues a while back here, including a doubt that ‘conservative/liberal’ maps cleanly onto ‘right/left’.

  3. Ahh thank you. That was good. I was thinking about this the other night. After I commented I went downstairs to the community room to watch TV and the Daily Show had LeBron James on. He talked openly about his faith and how he felt it contributed to his success in life. No one batted an eye about that.

    The difference was that he talked about his faith and belief in god. He didn’t make value judgments about other people. He made “I” statements about himself. Important distinction I believe. This is what I’m taught in group to do. (Yes, I go to group therapy, DBT to be exact.) “Don’t make value statements about other people if you want to get along with them” and so on.

  4. Noen, would I be correct that in DBT the objective of the original behavior mod to keep value statements to yourself would be seen as a tool in a process to unlearn the habit of making value judgments in the first place?

  5. Yes it would. For oneself or others. I’ve said I suffer from depression and one feature of that is a lot of negative self judgments. I am told, and I agree, that the cognitive/behavioral techniques I am taught are like a toolbox full of tools to be used to achieve certain ends. I visualize it as “I am more than my behaviors”. So you are encouraged to identify behaviors that are not working, are ineffective, and to then apply certain skills in the hope of changing that and getting a better outcome.

    There are an awful lot of people in the public arena that could benefit from a little DBT. Miss Prejean for one but I think she’d be very resistant. One of the first things she’d be taught would be to lose her black or white mindset and to think of everything as existing on a dialectic, that everything comes in shades of gray. I don’t think she’d be very receptive to that.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to make this about me. I could go on at length about it. After all I taught my therapist everything he knows about DBT. 😉

  6. “I visualize it as “I am more than my behaviors”. So you are encouraged to identify behaviors that are not working, are ineffective, and to then apply certain skills in the hope of changing that and getting a better outcome.”

    Yup. Because this is how I was raised I find it really intuitive, and practice it on myself quite a bit (or self-ironize for failing to do so). But it’s interesting to see that others are highly resistant to the basic insight, gripping tightly to their behaviors as essentials of ‘who they are’.

  7. “Because this is how I was raised”

    The population for whom DBT is usually the preferred therapy were not given this luxury. Speaking for others and not necessarily myself (I am atypical, there are things I haven’t talked about) most DBT clients come from very dysfunctional families and never learned some things to begin with. People come into therapy because the behaviors that worked before no longer work and their lives have fallen apart.

    In the larger culture I think that most people assume that their behaviors are their identity and are normative. For DBT clients, typically those with borderline personality disorder, they have this same attitude but the problem is they need to change because the behaviors you need to adopt to survive a dysfunctional home do not work once you escape.

    Marsha Linehan originally developed DBT to treat heroin addicts. When she was successful people took notice and her therapy is now one of the few that insurance companies will actually pay money for, because it works. But… in the groups I’ve been in there is a wide variety of… experience I guess is how you might put it. I have seen paranoid schizophrenics successfully treated through DBT. “Treated” here being “having a more functional life.”

    DBT has it’s roots in Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive therapy. I also think that it is a lot like William Glasser’s Choice theory

    I particularly like Glasser’s Choice Theory because it helped me a great deal during a difficult time in my life.

    Choice Theory:

    * all we do is behave,
    * that almost all behavior is chosen, and
    * that we are driven by our genes to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.

    He also says that “Being disconnected is the source of almost all human problems”. Which I fully and completely believe. I watched a Michael Wesch video on YouTube the other night and what I got from that was how people faced with new media will form new connections, new ways of relating to each other. It seemed to me to only reinforce what Glasser says above.

    After all it’s why I’m here.

  8. Thanks, Noen, this is great.

    “Being disconnected is the source of almost all human problems”

    So true. And with something like bpd, the characteristic volatile, escalative good/bad ‘splitting’, ‘I hate you – don’t leave me’ behaviors create a self-fulfilling cycle of disconnection. All those tests and preemptive strikes pushing toward confirmation of the underlying unlovable self-image.

    Conceptually I quite liked Paul Watzlawick et. al.’s wittgensteinian ‘brief therapy’ in which the idea was to identify the ‘game’ that the patient was stuck playing and change it. “The belief that one’s own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions…. It obviously makes a difference whether we consider ourselves as pawns in a game whose rules we call reality or as players of the game who know that rules are ‘real’ only to the extent that we have created or accepted them, and that we can change them.” But the theory didn’t lead obviously to a practice and therefore seemed to require a level of therapeutic virtuosity that wasn’t easily generalized. DBT seems to do much better.

  9. Thanks, I hadn’t heard of Paul Watzlawick. If his idea was to find the game the patient was playing then with a BPD that would be hard since they would not be likely to co-operate. DBT does rely on you coming in motivated to change. It also says: “Here are the tools we have, pick the one that works best for you.” This neatly avoids having the therapist probe the patient to discover what is going on.

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