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Abnormal Psychology and Abnormal Behavior Essay

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Updated: Dec 4th, 2021

Introduction

Adulthood evolves from childhood and therefore, the latter stages of life are influenced by the earlier experiences. Anxiety is caused when id impulses are expressed in behavior, and individuals express unconscious id through defense mechanisms.

An abnormal behavior can be defined as “behavioral, emotional, or cognitive dysfunctions that are unexpected in their cultural context and associated with personal distress or substantial impairment in functioning” (Barlow & Durand). Anxiety has been linked to the id which operates on “pleasure principle or the maximization of pleasure and minimization of competing tension” and “thought to be a source for sexual and aggressive thoughts and behaviors and the superego which is instilled in an individual through parents and other influences (which acts to suppress the drives of id). This means that it can be present in childhood and go on to adulthood or latter life.

The case of Rhea is indicative of a person who has developed defensive mechanisms in order to keep in check intrapsychic conflicts so as to ward off anxiety. The defensive mechanisms that are suspect in her life are; displacement which is her directing of anger on the father who in actual sense is trying to help her out, denial, projection, and rationalization.

Psychoanalytic model

The ideas of psychoanalytic model have their basis on the Freud conception that awareness (consciousness) was different from mentation (thinking). According to Freud (1915/1957; qtd. in Blatt, Auerbach, 2000), consciousness would be characteristic of focused or attention and intentional, making it differ from thinking which proceeded without awareness according to the author. Unconscious thought which according to this author is the “mental content and functions that are out of awareness” and may occur sometimes when an individual represses conflict issues or when there is decay of his or her memory (Kihlstrom, Barnhardt & Tetaryn, 1992; Bucci, 1997; qtd. in Blatt, Auerbach, 2000). Descriptive unconsciousness which may occur as a result of memory decay is not likely to manifest with symptoms, dream forms, parapraxes and psychological disturbances; since they do not involve conflict and defense. Because the dynamic unconsciousness have been excluded from awareness intentionally by the individual through defense by repression as they conflict with his personality issues, they may end up manifesting through other unusual circumstances like dream formation, experimental primation, therapeutic process and in free associations (Blatt, Auerbach, 2000). Psychological defense seeks to keep away dynamic unconscious mental contents like feelings, wishes that occur to conflict individual’s wishes or interests or feelings for example. The structural properties of the primary processes (symbolization, condensation and displacement) determine the way these dynamic unconscious mental contents are organized (Blatt, Auerbach, 2000). Freud realized in 1923 that primary processes mentation were not expressly unconscious, but that some elements in drive impulses and primary-processes would be conscious; while some elements of secondary-process like implicit memory and others would be unconscious. Thus a structural theory model was initiated by the author by considering “conflicts among psychic agencies” and not the levels of awareness. Further studies that seek to link the issues of cognitive processes and personalities have been proposed and these have linked the therapeutic changes, psychopathology and normal personality development.

The superego which represents the moral standards implanted by parents or other influences exist to suppress the drives of the id, while the ego develops shortly after birth and develops on the secondary process based on the logical and reasonable thought. According to the developed theory, phobia due to anxiety such as that indicated by Rhea would have its roots from the conscious ego is challenged by the id or superego. The effort of Rhea to deal with anxiety would result in employing of protective processes which may be unconscious or the defensive mechanisms both of which according to theory are employed in order to keep in check intrapsychic conflicts. These conflicts can be revealed by a psychoanalyst through techniques such as free association and dream analysis. In Rhea’s case, these conflicts can be noticed through the transference (her relationship with her mother who she praises as so helpful). Rhea is indicative of being affected by projection by attributing her failure on her father by referring to him as a weak man without a bone instead of dealing with the phobia. She re-assures herself by resigning because as she argues it is difficult for her to travel at night back to work. The reality that she has not told anyone why she is leaving could be a way of self-service or reassurance, and the argument she gives that she knows no one understand is a form of rationalization where she conceals the true motive for resigning by giving this explanation. She also argues that his father does not do anything about what he proposes as a way of explaining her shortcoming. The explanation that could also prove that he is rationalizing is by blaming the relationship between the father and the mother for her phobia. It is evident that the behavior could have been passed from the mother who experienced the same problem of phobia.

Individuals are able to run away from sudden traumatic experiences until they become less sensitive to these shocks. Repression may be used by an individual so as “to control dangerous and acceptable desires” and also lessen the associated desires. Other stronger maladaptive defenses are tried, as evidenced, if repression fails, which gives an indication prove that the stages of developing defense mechanisms may be present and related. Thus for example, if a child experiencing problems may apply repression at earlier stages but latter on develop more maladaptive defense if repression fails.

People who apply rationalization seek to ascribe faulty logic to noble motives that do not inspire it. It seeks to justify the behaviors and ease disappointment related to goals which they fail to attain.

Behaviors that are related to rationalization include the individual looking for reasons to justify behavior, the individual becoming upset if his explanations are questioned because he or she has formed defenses against self-devaluation and such questioning is a threat to such defenses. People who are applying rationalization may use rationalization to soften the disappointment of thwarted desires. Instead of taking actions to reach a certain goal, the victims may argue that it is not worth having it. The case of Rhea where she resigns from her job so as to avoid reporting at 9 pm for her job and seeking explanations for her actions may be indicative of such a behavior.

Defense mechanisms are said to act involuntarily and without the victim’s knowledge according to Trull (2005; qtd. in Lain, 2007). Therefore even to Rhea, they are not known and may appear to her as normal while the other people can notice them. There are different types of defenses namely, repression where the individual resists the internal threatening impulses from reaching the conscious, fixation which is a delayed movement from one stage of psychosexual progression either due to excess frustration or anxiety to enter the next stage. Regression means re-tracking to the previous stage which is perceived as no anxious hence more satisfying and gratifying. Regression occurs as a result of frustration with the current psychosexual stage. Reaction formation refers to an ego defense where individuals will act to outwardly express what is not what they are feeling (express what is opposite to unconscious feeling) but an opposite behavioral expression (Lain, 2007). For the case study above, anxiety which is one of the contents of the unconscious mind which are unpleasant influence the behavior and experience of the individual according to Freud even in instances where we are unaware of the influences (Wagner, 2006). Rhea seems not to be aware that anxiety is the cause of the phobia. Her case seems complicated with other factors like weak family relationship and lack of siblings which may have played an important part in developing the anxiety. When the experiences cause frustration according to the above theoretical analysis, it would be easier for Rhea to retreat from going through the preceding stages of psychosexual development which is indicated by the reaction that his dad, who is trying to help her out by explaining the safety of Singapore in order to assist her of the phobia that he is not “doing anything about it”.

Conclusion

An abnormal behavior can be defined as “behavioral, emotional, or cognitive dysfunctions that are unexpected in their cultural context and associated with personal distress or substantial impairment in functioning” (Barlow & Durand). Defense mechanisms are the protective processes that an individual will use to keep in check the intrapsychic conflicts. Anxiety has been linked to the id which operates on “pleasure principle or the maximization of pleasure and minimization of competing tension” and “thought to be a source for sexual and aggressive thoughts and behaviors and the superego which is instilled in an individual through parents and other influences (which acts to suppress the drives of id). Literature as concerns psychoanalytic model has developed over time. The defensive mechanisms associated to Rhea’s case include repression, regression, reaction formation, displacement, denial and rationalization.

References and bibliography

Barlow & Durand’s Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. Fifth Edition. Chapter Outline. (2009). Web.

Blatt Sidney and Auerbach John. (2000). Psychoanalytic Models of the Mind and their Contributions to Personality Research. European Journal of Personality. 14: 429-447

Bucci W. 1997. Psychoanalysis and Cognitive Science: A Multiple Code Theory. Guilford: New York

Freud S. 1957. The Unconscious, Strachey J. (ed.),orig.workpubl.1915,Vol.14. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Hogarth: London;166204

Kihlstrom JF., Barnhardt TM., Tetaryn DJ.1992.The psychological unconscious: found, lost, and regained. American Psychologist 47:788791.

Lain. The Psychoanalytic Theory of Our Defense Mechanisms. 2007. (2009). Web.

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