Tag Archives: alcoholism

Expectations

In response to questions posed at a group therapy session:

I have come to the conclusion that my issue with the therapy program as it is presented in its current form lies in its stance on expectations and the validity of my expectations in particular, as well as the effectiveness of this method in dealing with the real problem.

I am enrolled in this therapy program because I failed to meet a specific societal expectation encoded into law. As a result of my behavior, I am dealing with the consequences prescribed by that law. Failing to meet expectations (in this case breaking or violating a social contract) will inevitably result in consequences. My expectations are rooted in a belief system centered on a distinctly Western social perspective. And yet I am being told that, even though my expectations are not unique, within that perspective they are now considered inconsequential.  What has changed? Am I no longer a citizen or member of the society under that social contract? Am I considered unreasonable and therefor my expectations are no longer valid? Or is it that my reaction to the violation of my expectations has been deemed unreasonable and therefor requires alteration? Either way this determination is based on a solitary incident used to define my entire psychological and sociocultural disposition in a negative light. As a reasonable person I would say I have a right to certain expectations of the behavior of others living under the same social contract. Those expectations amount to the “underlying should” often referred to in these sessions.

In today’s society we tend to place violations of the social contract on a scale of seriousness, the reaction to which is also graduated. From what I have heard so far in the course, I gather that in general, my reaction to violations of expectations have been deemed inequitable to the seriousness of the violations themselves; that I was arrested for driving under the influence being indicative of this supposition. I think this is an unfair assessment to make based on one incident with the law and I have reservations about the effectiveness of this type of program with regards to the real problem; i.e. that an intoxicated individual is able to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive. The problem I have with this is that it is counterintuitive to say we are punishing you for your lack of decision making abilities when the act was committed under circumstances involving a drug that negatively affects those abilities. If the capability to choose not to drive under the influence of alcohol, or other drugs for that matter, is in any way damaged, then the consequence should be with regards to the decision to drink in the first place (with certain parameters applied). But we have tried that (prohibition) with minimal effectiveness to say the least. The other option is to make it impossible for inebriates to operate a vehicle at all. For example, I cannot practice medicine even if I wanted to. Lack of education, access to drugs and authority to prescribe medication are just a few of the limiting factors. But this is not an infringement of my constitutional rights because practicing medicine is a privilege assigned to qualified individuals. Driving is a privilege and not a right. A person under the influence has no more right to drive than I have to practice medicine, and if the system was serious about eliminating drunk driving, they would make it impossible for the driver to do so. But unlike practicing medicine without a license, the system benefits from the revenue stream associated with DUI offenses. This seems a little hypocritical.

As for isolation, I am sure you are aware Freud had a theory that it is a defense mechanism. Whether its pathological isolation or solitude, I think defining it in terms of a defense mechanism still applies. If I am dealing with the intellectual origin of specific emotions or behaviors, then my isolation is consider solitude and therapeutic. If I am defending against an emotional result or behavioral consequence of a particular thought, then my isolation is pathological – timeframe of isolation also being a factor in diagnosing pathology. However, if I redefine isolation, not in terms of an asocial or anti-social state but one in which my expectations of human behavior (thoughts) are removed and replaced with justified true beliefs (expectations consistently upheld over time; knowledge) such as would be the case with close family and friends then I can no longer be considered unreasonable in my belief about how those people will behave. With that said, violations of my expectations in this kind of isolation are minimal, and when they do occur, I am better prepared to understand the reasons behind those violations. In addition, I am more confident and I feel comfortable with my ability to be open with these people and secure in my expectations of their reactions.

You (as the therapist) assume and maybe rightly so, that I have an underlying fear of surprise or disappointment when my expectations of human behavior are not met. You attempt to discover what it is that I am afraid of (rejection, ridicule, abandonment, etc.) and reframe my perceptions in order that those fears are eliminated or are at least diminished and that my reaction to the violation of my expectations is on par with the violation itself. However, the assumptions are that I would be happier if this apprehension were removed and that my reactions are inordinate; again based on a single data point – the DUI. I don’t necessarily believe that all people fit this particular model of the balanced, healthy human being. To say that the extrovert personality type is more desirable than the introvert is to assume that the interior environment of the introvert is destructive, which is not always the case (what is the reason for isolation). As an introvert (or in isolation) I reserve my personal interaction with people I am familiar with, whose reactions I can anticipate. Strangers are kept at a psychological distance until my expectations of their behavior can be validated. I don’t think this is an unhealthy method for operating in the world nor do I believe it constitutes some form of psychological disturbance.

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