Category Archives: Mental Health Issues

Black and White Thinking in a Full Color World

Black and White Thinking

Everything may not be as it seems to people who live in a black and white, all good or all bad world. Remember when television was black and white and all of the imagery and perception supported a black and white view of life. It was a simple time when everything was predictable and life was very linear. People believed in God, went to church, children prayed in school, people kept their word, couples stayed together when they got married, and everything fit into a nice neat box.

It was a time when everyone seemed to know where to sit on the bus. Then, about the time color TV came along, it became difficult to visualize life in the same way anymore. To adjust many movie makers began to colorize the old black and white movies and paint a new picture of the old black and white world. However, as much as the movies were colorized, the world was no longer black and white, the music began to change the songs that people sang, the length of their hair, where they sat on the bus, and the age of color brought a different way that many people thought about marriage, values, and even their spiritual lives.

What happened to the black and white world that was so safe and predictable? The world of color brought life out of the black and white box in the living room and it changed the imagery and the hues of how the world looked. Therefore it was hard to to see a world in full color, the vivid expressions, and all that came with it while people could only see life inside a black and white TV. I wonder about how people who only see the world in black and white world are now managing in a HD world with a 1950’s black and white analog TV.

The resolution of the world and the brilliance of the imagery is hard to look on when the eyes are accustomed to I Love Lucy, Bob Hope, and John Wayne. I wonder how well a black and white culture is managing the abstract picture of the 21st Century in full color, where values are decided on demand in a pay per-view network delivered wherever people can get a signal. How is it possible to remain a Penguin and view life through a high density lens without feeling confused by what the range of color has revealed about the world that we did not have to view on a black and white screen? People are feeling a broad range of emotions because they are seeing different views of life.  The world is no longer black and white, nor is it all abstract color.  It is a very challenging time for all of us to find answers and a view of the world that will work.


When Life Spins Out of Control

Merry go round

Why does the negative energy from unhealthy attachments to unhealthy people and bad habits cause such a loss of balance and control in life?

When we are on the merry-go-round of life and events around us are spinning out of control, few people can maintain a grip and control their rational thinking process. As such, a person’s ability to act freely upon things they actually know well, falls prey to almost certain confusion and uncertainty.

The effect -> of spinning events out of our control, information overload, along with the stress that unhealthy and bad habits deliver to life experience -> cause some people to question everything that they know to be reasonable while the centrifugal force-the moments-weigh upon the exercise of reason. A favorite question of people to ask when life spins out of control is “Where is God?” and “Why doesn’t he rescue me from this dilemma?” What is missed in the dizzy effect is that God is always there in the dark moments of life and reachable within the activity presently surrounding the events of life.

We often are taken aback by life because what we are experiencing reveals some truth that we have not been fully prepared to face in this moment. That moment, the hard moment of life to face, is the decisive moment because the truth is hard to hear, feel, understand, and experience. In our humanity, we need to feel security and peace by having some sense of control, but at those times when God is not at the center of our filter for information, we struggle to find meaning and to understand why this is happening.

When life spins past our finite understandingpast a reasonable level of coping; then, we have to trust beyond what we are equipped to see, hear,  feel or know. The experience of trusting a sovereign God who has the scales and balances of life under his watchful eye and within the power of His hand is challenging when we have not centered life in the gospel. If we could understand that He is okay, even in the anomalies of the life that seems to be spinning out of control, because His knowledge is infinite and immutable.

God really does believe in Romans “All things work together for them that love God and are called according to hiss purpose” (8:28-29). In these moments, surrender yourself to the fact, which although life seems to be spinning past human understanding God has a purpose in our existence today. The smallest star does not fall from the sky that is not in God’s hand to protect and guide.

Therefore, by taking heart, God will make all of the mud pies of life somehow turn into Chocolate silk pies if we will trust him and be patient today.

The apostle Paul said, “be not weary in well doing for in due season you will reap if you think not”.

Organizational Change Solutions offers personalized life coaching and consultation services using evidence based approaches and applied methodology. Join me on Linkedin today for  more information


Finding a Balance in Second Marriages and Family Relationships

finding balanceExploring the Myths and Mystery

Who would have ever believed that a family who had been seemingly successful in life would find it so difficult to adjust to the process of accepting the changes years after the death of a parent, triggered by marriage, and then that the coming years would be filled with such difficult challenges and filled with so many adjustments and surprises?

Honestly, no marriage is perfect and all families have their flaws, but who can reliably state that they are fully prepared in any way for the things on a personal level that they will encounter after marriage within family dynamics that will come to the surface? I think that people who get married young the first time do not expect death to end their marriage, way of living life, daily expectation of life, or attachment that provides security, identity and meaning to life.

Thinking about marriage, most people would say without hesitation that they want to be in a healthy relationship, but most people do not prepare for the chain of events that take place when the wagons circle and the system closes within the immediate family. Families have a way of making life very difficult for couples adjusting and the things that happen among the extended family put up relational walls outside, as well as, inside of a marriage. Looking back beyond marriage, I remember the moment when death suddenly ended the physical relationship with the wife that I had known for thirty-seven years, since I was eighteen years old. I understand now that even though there was a physical separation, it did end the thirty-seven years of history and family ties that we had experienced.

It would be a myth to believe that all of that suddenly ended and that death took with it the emotional ties that made everyday life feel safe and work, what it had been and the way life experienced shaped meaning. So, I wondered how could people have a second chance when they have been married all their life and now face such resistance.

Thinking Believing and Choosing

On a thinking level, when a person has been married and is now a single, the mind follows a natural rationale, reasoning that you have been married all of your life and you only have two choices: face life living alone or considering marriage all over again, even if you are not happy. On a believing level, people sometimes hold the belief that life is not complete without that other person, but in fact, the truth is that life is not complete until a person can fill the feeling of emptiness without a substance, compulsion, or another person.

Out of this emptiness and grief, people set out to find a partner to ease their pain and others set out to help you do one or the other. Unfortunately, in the confusion, many people think that they know the right thing to do in this situation and are quite willing to tell you what you should do when life has suddenly changed its course without your permission.

What is the right answer for second marriages with the grief, the possessive children, and family culture? Your friends and family think they have the answer and if you are more committed to them than to a marriage partner, you should not get married. Until a person has reached the point in life where they are willing to become one flesh, you are not committed to marriage.

Family, friends, and others have a multitude of advice, but they never really do know what the living realities of loss, adjustment, and recommitment means or what it will lead them to do because most people are not in any way ready to face this moment with a plan of action in hand.

Consequently for the widowed, the natural expectation is that through the process of grief some will find satisfaction and a way to negotiate a life of meaning. However, for others the transition from grief leads to seeking companionship and attachment through a different relationship complicating life with challenges in ways difficult to negotiate without understanding the dynamics of second marriages later in life.

Cursing or Blessing: The Deceptive Process

When a person has been alone, been through a major crisis, and misses the companionship of marriage; it is easy to be deceived by the belief that this is going to be a breeze and that it will happen easily. I remember hearing those words that echo the sentiments about a loving accepting family who would always be supportive.

I think that people are always surprised by the reactions of family members when a fifth element is thrown into the mix who is not part of the closed loop culture and someone begins to feel threatened. Again, for individuals who have experience the loss of a spouse and later decided to remarry, the decision can bring rewarding consequences, but also it can be a challenge because the decision brings with it many variables that most people have not thought about nor are prepared to face.

When two people decide to get married it results in two separate families and very individual cultures joining after two sets of tragic losses. At the time a marriage occurs, the immediacy of the moment and present needs cloaks many of the issues with the hope that a normal life will return and an existence can be achieved in the joy of the moment; that there will be a respite from the tragic events and prospects of being alone.

However, when a person takes the time is consider the loss, the impact, natural and unresolved pain that death leaves, and the way it will travel through the corridors of time to become a real part of the new couple and family’s second relationships, it is unavoidable that the past events will not affect the present. Realistically, the death of a spouse, mother, or father is an unnatural event occurring at a younger age than expected.

As a result, family members have not yet developed emotional maturity and social skills to enter into a new stage of life with the ability to bridge new relationships over the many differences will experience difficulties, crisis, and developmental pains to make relationships work.

Consequently, these times of marriage for couple can be times of curse or times of blessing depending on the variables in family dynamic, maturity levels, readiness, and the family system dynamics at work.

The Dynamics of Adjustment

People outside the immediate family, individuals who look on with concern, often have simplistic and personalized advice or solutions to these family issues of a natural desire of others want to fix your problems and to impose their values and expectations as fixed solutions to a complex situation.

Other people may have good intentions and think that they need to rescue people to their satisfaction, but unless someone is in danger, people should be a friend from a distance and quietly support families in adjustment. Unfortunately, until people have lived the experience of loss, loneliness and reconstructing life from the complexity of a lost existence, learning how to live in a new social framework is something others may not have a clue about, as well as, understanding the personal and family dynamics involved, even though they care about you and the family.

The dynamics of adjustment start when couples decide to marry and they make the decision to start a new life together. It seems that creating balance should focus upon the quality of the relationship between the two people getting married and not with the vast array of people important to both husband and wife. A marriage relationship begins with two people, not a community, the in-group, or extended people that make up the family, even though they are very important to the quality of life.

The Blending-Negotiating Challenge

Unfortunately, the adjustment experience of widowed couples faces the challenge of coming from two different life experiences and holding different expectations of life, producing potential struggles in adjustment. A commonly reported story line from older remarried couples tells a tale of their inability to focus on their own relationship and find balance because of the demands of adjusting to life in a blended family.

The sad story that is a major contributing reason for high occurrence of divorce in second marriages among the widowed stems from the constant tension between the marriage partners and family members along with difficulty adapting to change. One of the events readily illustrating this tension is family rituals during holiday season celebrations. Adjustment issues grow more intense because of charged emotions that are associated with memories from the past, the importance of traditions, and expectations about what should happen, or who should be in charge of baking the Turkey. There is little doubt that a great sense of security, as well as, well-being in relationships results from striking a balance between self-protection of things of importance to families, traditions, and extending common grace to others through acceptance and flexibility to others.

How is Your Mental Health?

An important matter for all families to consider stems from the fact that everyone struggles with mental health at times, especially when there is great stress put on life and family systems. A honest assessment and general truth serving as a disclaimer is that the mental health and state of persons involved, as well as, family systems functionality influences how all relationships take place– especially when stress exacerbates life in ways that distorts perception, mentalization, and meaning about what is happening in the context of family.

Distorted beliefs about reality and individual perspective is a central factor influencing toxic relationships and behaviors by individuals who express protecting behaviors, which are defense mechanisms demonstrating embedded beliefs of dislike about what has changed or threat. At the heart of strained relationships is a pronounced difference in belief about values i.e., what each person believes is most important. When people are defensive, anger is a typical response and the form it takes is aggression, but unfortunately, in many cases anger cannot express constructive outcome in family events or family systems and often presents passive aggressive attempts to manipulate, control, or punish others revealing deep seated psychopathology underlying the dysfunction of adaptability in family units.

Sources of Defense Mechanisms and Passive Anger

The Fear of Abandonment and Isolation: Unfortunately, people can be very intelligent and have an unrealistic, irrational fear that they will no longer hold a place of importance or be needed as much in a relationship. The fear that they will lose their sense of importance when a new person enters the family unit and people dynamics in relationships change. The fear-felt is that a new person’s role and importance may cause displacement of existing family members.

When there is the a death, family members become comfortable with blurred and overenmeshed boundaries and overenmeshed relationships, which contributes to ineffective relationships, the lack of autonomy, and the fear of loss and anger when faced with change. For the widow/widower the death of a spouse leaves them in a lonely place of uncertainty about where they fit in the world.

The sudden detachment from the primary relationship that defines an identity in the family, community, church contributes to the feelings of confusion when the overly dependent parent who has no autonomy suddenly gets married and suddenly is independent. It is confusing for everyone involved and people become defensive and angry because they just do not understand.

How Unhealthy Attachments Created Dysfunction

The complexity of grief, personal identity confusion, and social role clarification are factors in the behavior of widows and widowers who become such an enormous burden for everyone after the spouse dies, by clinging to existing relationships and things that provide salience and security in a time of such unknowable loss to others.

What others, even family do not understand is that while children go home to their spouse and family, they are left alone and have lost their spousal support system, which leaves them feeling detached socially, emotionally, and psychologically. A common phenomenon that occurs is the formation of unhealthy attachments and widows/widowers become overly dependent upon other significant family members for the basic support needed. Unfortunately, this is the building material for an unhealthy relationship dynamic dissolving existing role expectations, boundaries, and autonomy, which inhibits functional and productive relationships.

Families and Friends Who Become Surrogates

One thing that children and other family members may not understand is that no other person can meet the relationship need that a widow/widower has like a spouse. Remarriage is not replacement of a former spouse or other family; it is a transition away from an unhealthy attachment, which has occurred through a time of tragedy.

A fundamental truth is that relationships must be in balance and have healthy boundaries to be effective for all. The reason that remarriage is important to widowers/widows is that they are alone. While everyone else has the need-meeting source of relationship with a partner in life, the surviving spouse feels empty and alone. What others may not see is that even though family may love them very much, they cannot meet that spousal need. When life is out of balance, it does not work for anyone.

Unhealthy Attachments: When relationships are out of balance and boundaries are skewed by unhealthy attachment after a death occurs, parties on all sides have a fear of being abandoned. This often presents in unhealthy relationship dynamics that triggers a chain of toxic, and many times, destructive behaviors that can permanently alter or destroy life-long relationships.

Underneath this relationship pattern is a fear that family members who have become accustomed to having 100% of the Mother or Father’s attention, suddenly has to adjust to an unwanted change. What is not accepted is the social changes that death has brought into a system of relationships.

Resistance to change is a component of the grief process, which has not been accepted nor addressed nor accepted. It may be that family members accept that death has come to someone very important, but there has not been acceptance of what this means to the lived-experience of relationships, as well as future development as a family –a social unit.

Personal identity that defines the social world people live in is forever changed, as well as, all future developments when death occurs. A normal response from denial is to try to hang on to the past to try to control something we do not understand i.e., something that has not been fully accepted. When security in relationships faces the threat of change, a natural response is anxiety that creates a felt-need to control life in efforts to dispel a perceived feeling of loss of control.

Psychosocial Disruptions: There is no doubt by theorists that “abandonment” issues are at the heart of many mental health problems. Most parents learn the importance of proper attachment relationships when raising small children. However, that sad fact reveals it is not clearly understood about how attachment is related to perceived identity issues, as well as, adjusting to changing roles and expectations in a family system resulting from remarriage. Another fact not understood is that social identity and feelings of security are instantly impacted as life-developments like death, divorce, and remarriage occur. The developmental changes that are a natural part of the flow of life take place and should be expected.

Consequently, when there is a closed family system that includes mental health issues i.e., unresolved or mismanaged, a potential result that must be anticipated is psychosocial disruption of a family system resulting in relationship dysfunction. At the core of disruption is fear of rejection, isolation, and loss of emotional support connected to security felt from the comfortable ideas of what life was in the past. The critical issue to understand is how individuals negotiate change in the present and what a family does within a system, in response to changes in life, roles, identity, and relationship challenges in a family system determines the quality of life.

Unhealthy and Uninformed Choices Motivated by Fear of Loss: Life is about choices and when a behavior is chosen, the outcome is chosen. In families, more thought needs to be given to consequences, of even a solitary action in a process of change.

When fear drives insecurities in the direction of destructive choices, a good question to ponder is if people understand the broad effect that behaviors have upon family, friends, and children.

When a family member behaves badly after someone loses a spouse, experiences a divorced, or remarries; do others realize that there  the response to the fear of change, the loss of control, and unresolved grief is affecting every area and every relationships in life. The simple, truth is that selfish choices result in heartache for everyone. Something to consider about choices, behavior, and outcome is that if you are in this boat, you are creating the world you live in every day by the choices that you are making.

Some advice to consider is that if you are in a family that is disabled by the fear of changes, examine your fears to see if they are even rational; then face them. If a relationship is that important to you, the way to make it better is not to live captive to fear.

Obviously, staying angry is your choice and ultimately it will only widen the gap between you and the relationship you want. All you have to do is to make the right choice to get the right response. Relationships are not about winning or about control, they are about loving relationships with healthy boundaries that make life effective. When people can accept the fact that the dynamics of relationships have changed, through a divorce, death, or remarriage; then there is the potential that fear will be dispelled, change can be managed and relationships can develop into healthy outcomes.

There is a balance between self-protection and extending ourselves in developing relationships. If living in the grip of your fears is not working for you, then maybe you should try a different approach. You may be surprised that your fears are false and when you begin to build instead of tear down, felt-needs for relationship and security may be resolved very quickly.
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How Meaning is Generated in Borderline Thinking States

carl-jung-presentation-fd-16-638Mentalization, Attribution, and Meaning in Borderline Personality Disorder
Most people probably believe that their mental picture of life, people, and experiences represents an accurate representation of reality. The mental assumption is that thoughts or attribution made about observations are relatively fixed and stable that accurately describe  reality.  However, consider the possibility that perception about others, objects, experiences, or life situations might be interpreted or distorted because of the way the brain functions, interprets, and assigns meaning to things and people. Intentional stance, or how human beings recognize attribute meaning of others can be  distorted by a deficit capacity to “understand each other in terms of mental states—thoughts and feelings, beliefs and desires—in order to make sense of,  and even more importantly,  to anticipate,  each others’ actions” (Fonagy, 2000, p. 1130).

Intentional stance is a technical label that psychologists use to describe the theoretical application of cognitive processes within “mentalization or reflective function, which denote the understanding of one’s own as well as others’ behavior in mental state terms” (p. 1130).  For instance,  in the developmental phase of early childhood, mentalization may assign false beliefs about self,  others,  or behaviors from “inappropriately equating mental state with reality” (p. 1130).  The problem clearly identified is a faulty assignment of meaning to an experience, which embeds a belief creating a skewed perception of reality.  One important matter concerning the origin of faulty assignment and mentalization distortion stems from skewed thinking processes often associated with the symptomatic patterns of Borderline Personality Disorder.  One direction of research focuses attention upon causes of the disorder and reports that, “Evidence on the aetiology of BPD is conflicting.  Some research supports a biological basis for the disorder.  First, there are indications that erratic mood swings, social cognitive difficulties, and maladaptive behaviours may be caused by prefrontal and temporolimbic dysfunction, as cited in (Swift, 2009, p. 23).  For many practitioners, the importance of research focuses questions upon the ways that Borderline Personality Disorder links to mentalization deficiencies and the ways maladaptive behavior correlates with the inherited biological basis for personality disorders.

As well as, framing an understanding the biological aetiology of (BPD), an effort to further explain how meaning allocates thinking absolutes in (BPD) perception the answering research questions.  In the work of Robert J. Gregory (2007),  he explains the process of attribution by stating that,  “Attributions help … to understand ourselves,  our experiences in the world,  and others’ intentions” (Borderline Attributions, p. 133).  Indeed, it is possible that perception of experiences,  self-understanding,  and others intentions may have to do with the way thoughts work to organize a belief into an absolute held to be true about reality.  Therefore, attribution is a reliable measure to form a stable perception of reality, but when there is an “identity disturbance or pathology of the self-structure” (Borderline Attributions, p. 131), can reality constructed by a mental state accompanied by a  Axis 1 mental health condition consistent with Borderline Personality an accurate reflection of reality?

The challenge of understanding the mental processing hierarchy of the presentation of a person with definable conditions associated with BPD presents great difficulty in maintaining an effective way of managing stable thinking states.  To illustrate the level of challenge that practitioners encounter treating (BPD); Ann R. Bland, Carol A. Williams, Kathleen, Scharer, and Shari Manning (2004) point out that, “Mental health providers describe individuals diagnosed with BPD as among the most challenging and difficult patients they encounter (APA,2002; Sable, 1997)” as cited in (p. 656).  Consequently, a challenge for therapists presents through the fundamental difficulty associated with mentalization accompanied with emotional processing, which affects attribution of meaning.  Consequently, faulty assignment of meaning into irrational beliefs about people, events, and life situations impedes progress for clinicians in the way that the interpretation of perception, emotion, and logical information is interpreted.  On one level, the information from research indicates that the level of difficulty faced by psychology practitioners is challenging in a clinical setting. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that difficulty is equally magnified within a social system of family members, spouses, and friends who may be trying to rationalize living in conjunction with an untreated person with (BPD), while having a limited grasp of mental attribution processes.

The Impact of BPD on the Family System

The aggregate problem magnified in a BPD personal a relationship is that “Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be thought of as a disorder, which affects not only the person with the disorder, but also those around them systemically.  People with BPD have ongoing emotional pain that is often most intensely felt in their relationships with others” (Giffin, 2008).  Indeed, the ongoing pain of a person with a borderline personality is not a solitary event that only affects the person with the disorder;  it has an impact upon everyone in the social system of relationships.  When it is someone that you love and have lived with,  it is very hard to come to terms with the unusual behaviors because the behavior coupled with a skewed sense of reality may mean that something is happening you may not fully comprehend.  Unfortunately,  the depths of events are very difficult to understand without realizing the nature of a personality disorder coupled with a mental illness.  Indeed, behaviors seen and heard in the experience of life confuses the meaning of events about the disorder.  The confusion results largely from a lack of awareness about ambiguous and confusing actions witnessed.

While many people have an understanding that something seems off,  the conditioning that naturally occurs in a relationship system coupled with unusual behaviors are difficult to identify because of the strong emotional connection to persons involved, along with a lack of objectivity about occurrences in emotional charged familial relationship.  Consequently,  one of issues often neglected is the systemic effect deeply felt because of the intense emotional pain felt in relationships with others.  Obviously,  one issue of concern with is the personality disorder and the effect upon the person with the disorder.  However,  equally important is how the personality disorder effects family systems, i.e., those most directly affected by behaviors,  feelings,  and experiences not easily deciphered in a way that makes emotional sense.

Unfortunately,  the daily happenings with borderline personality presenting symptomatic behaviors is confusing to sort out,  partly because,  “persons with borderline personality disorder attempt to generate meaning,  eliminate ambiguity,  and maintain idealizations by assigning polarized attributions of value,  agency,  and motivation to their experience” (Gregory, 2007).  The application that Gregory makes points out one of the confusing and maddening behaviors is symptomatic for many borderlines.  The behavior confuses many onlookers because onlookers are blindsighted by polarized meaning characteristic of borderline personality thinking patterns. Others may not realize the way (BPD) thought generating meaning,  value of internal perception, and efforts made to eliminate ambiguity that is inconsistent with the  (BPD’s) perception of life is a natural and unrecognized pattern of behavior.

The challenge for individuals in relationships with borderlines is to understand how the disorder causes behaviors that attempt to put a spin events, people, and reality to match the mentalization and attributes, which have assigned meaning to a perception of reality skewed by idealization.  A point that is worthy of noting is the particular way thinking occurs that is unique in borderline presentation. A notable way of thinking that is characteristic of borderline personality is the linear patterns of polarization.  One trait is all good or all bad thinking about others and situations polarized by black and white thoughts that discount abstract and ambiguous ideas that are inconsistent with felt perception of people and life events.  Gregory (2007) describes the splitting pattern of thinking by stating, “The observation that patients with BPD exhibit opposing,  binary attributions has been incorporated into psychiatry’s modern diagnostic classification system,  points out this thinking pattern characterized by splitting. Patient perceptions of self and others are noted to be either all good or all bad, i.e. “characterized by alternating extremes of idealization or devaluation” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p.654).  A challenge in the family and social system where (BPD) exists is to understand the thinking swing that occurs resulting in idealizing or devaluation with no middle ground.

An important area of struggle that families experience in the relationship dynamics stems from inadequate understanding or poor information among most people living in social relationships with a person with (BPD).  Therefore, there is a missing link between lived-experience and understanding about how attribution contributes to unique perception.  In addition, perceived anomalies about life events related to the way meaning generates beliefs in the mentalization process.  Unfortunately,  a negative reaction that some people experience is that feeling caught by the emotional double bind within relationship dynamics that puts family in a position of becoming the villain or unwitting participant in the cycle of dysfunction and emotional pain stemming from (BPD) attribution.  In fact, realizing that life experience for a borderline personality affects daily living in a very real way every day because of the important role that relationship plays in the way that self-valuation attaches meaning to perception because of (BPD).  Consequently,  the person without an informed understanding of the impact of the importance of emotional pain felt in relationship and the way information interprets emotional meaning to reduce ambiguity.

Therefore, the subsequent difficulty of managing relationships for family and friends in a healthy functional way challenges life every day.  Indeed, the distinct difference contained within thoughts, meaning, and reasons for polarized idealization places persons in the circle of relationships with (BPD) at risk for behavioral and mental health problems.  When a borderline personality interprets meaning and attribution in a skewed manner because of the way the disorder affects thinking patterns,  the attribution should not be oversimplified and understood as a malicious choice,  but rather a personality disorder with very difficult symptomatology.  Because (BPD) is characterized by extremes in how behavior impacts management and treatment, “Health professionals often view personality disorders as an issue of self-control and choice rather than an illness (Kendell 2002). However, research shows that people with the disorder are prone to other psychiatric illnesses and or substance misuse.  Personality Disorder: No Longer a Diagnosis of Exclusion (NI MHE 2003) was published to facilitate best practice in the treatment and care of people with the condition”,  as cited in (Swift, 2009, p. 22) .  Therefore, making sense of the application of research data demonstrates the impulsive self-control and polarized thinking patterns resulting from polarization often are coupled with other mental health diagnosis that complicate the personality disorder presentation with psychiatric conditions.  Obviously,  the level of difficulty experienced in relationships deeply impacts what is perceived about self,  others, and situations and magnifies the deep pain felt by the person with (BPD).  However,  every person with the disorder is in a system of relationships dramatically affected by the way casual,  romantic,  and familial relationships with the borderline personality take place. Unfortunately,  in many cases,  the disorder is undiagnosed or under diagnosed and the result demonstrates patterns of impulsive reckless,  and sometimes,  self-destructive behaviors resulting in broken or damaged relationships,  and misunderstanding about the things that are happening.  When people do not seek assistance from professionals trained to diagnose and treat personality and mental disorders,  the effects can be devastating to a borderline, as well as, the people in a system of relationship who love and care about the things they are experiencing. Indeed many times fractured or destroyed lives of person’s with the disorder, as well as, the extended social system affected by secondary issues not adequately understanding mentalization, resulting from Borderline Personality Disorder.

Mentalization and Attribution in a Social-Relational Context

This particular attribution pattern associated with (BPD) demonstrates a vital connection between thinking, personality, and socialization disruption.  For this reason, associating the focal point of mentalization and attribution with symptomatology presenting in the context of interpersonal relationships suggest a rationale for ongoing patterns of instability.  In support of a correlation between thinking,  meaning,  and relationship behaviours (BPD), describes “‘a severe disturbance in the characterological condition and behavioural tendencies of the individual, usually involving several areas of personality, and nearly always associated with considerable personal and social disruption’, according to the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (World Health Organization 1992)”, as cited in (Swift, p. 22).

In fact,  the connection between ongoing difficulties and presentation of beliefs and behaviours delineates severe disturbance, areas of personality, and social disruption as symptomatic patterns observed.  Further observation in relation to the effect of (BPD) falls into categories defined as characterological, or (“enduring”) forms of psychopathology,  that characterize personality traits present from adolescence, early adulthood, and into adult life.  For this reason, the nature of how mentalization and attribution effects relationships has a systemic relationship to lifespan development and social attachment patterns that reinforce a belief construct in the person with the (PD) and confuses those involved in relationship disruption episodes.

Bland, A. R. (2004). Emotion processing in borderline personality disorders. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 25(7),    655-672. doi:10.1080/01612840490486692.
Fonagy, P. (2000). Attachment and Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of the American Psychological Association, 48(4), 1129-1146 doi: 10.1177/00030651000480040701 48 no. 4 . Retrieved April 16, 2011
Giffin, J. (2008). Family Experience of Borderline Personality Disorder. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 29(3), 133-138. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Gregory, R. J.-1. (2007). Borderline Attributions. American Journal of Psychotherapy [electronic version], 61(2), 131-147 Retrieved from EBSCOhost on 4-16-2011.
Stobie, M. R.-K. (2009). Borderline Personality Disorder, Divorce and Family Therapy: The Need for Family Crisis Intervention Strategies. American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(5), 414-432. doi:10.1080/01926180902754760.
Swift, E. (.-2. (2009). Borderline personality disorder: aetiology, presentation and therapeutic relationship. first of two articles [electronic version]. Mental Health Practice, 13(3), 22-25. Retrieved on April 16, 2011 from EBSCOhost.

Are You Tired of Being A Vicitim?

Raging Bully
Raging Bully

I remember while growing up in the 60’s that I was a constant target of bullying. I was small and just wanted to be a kid like everyone else, but there were always those people who had to try to control and victimize. It was not something that I wanted, but the day I became frustrated enough about being bullied and decided that I was not going to be pushed anymore, that was the day that I began to quit being a victim. Unfortunately, that was not the last bully that I faced, I have discovered that they are there everywhere that you go. The tragedy is that people in the workplace, in families, churches, and social relationships are being bullied everyday: they have accepted that as a way of life that they feel no escape from. The best thing that you can arm yourself with is not a gun or knife, not even a body-guard, but with understanding about the behaviors of bullies and how people are trapped into victimization.

They Are Abusers

The violence (not only physical) committed by a serial bully is almost entirely psychological, for psychological violence leaves no scars and no physical evidence. Most commonly, the violence takes the form of verbal abuse and emotional abuse including trivial nit-picking criticism, constant fault-finding combined with simultaneous refusal to recognize, value, acknowledge and praise. Manipulation, isolation and exclusion are other favorite tactics, as is feigning victim-hood or persecution, especially when held accountable.

They Are Controllers

The objectives of serial bullies are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation.  These are achieved by a number of means including emotional dis-empowerment, stimulating excessive levels of fear, shame, embarrassment and guilt, manipulation (especially of emotions and perception), ritual humiliation, and constant denial. When you live with someone who is constantly denying what they said or did a day ago, or an hour ago, or even a minute ago, it drives you crazy. When the symptoms of injury to health start to become apparent, the bully will tell others you have a “mental health problem” and try to make you feel guilt about your response. However, you may be mad, but this is not mad-insane, this is mad angry.

Control is a common indicator of the serial bully.  Control of finances, control of movements, control over choice of friends, control of the right to work, control over what to think, and so on is the central motivation of bullies. Consequently,  all efforts to control are designed to dis-empower the victim and empower the bully.

They Are Dividers

A favorite tactic of the bully in the family is to set people against each other. The benefits to the bully are that:

  • The bully gains a great deal of gratification (a perverse form of satisfaction) from encouraging and provoking argument, quarreling and hostility, and then from watching others engage in adversarial interaction and destructive conflict.
  • The ensuing conflict ensures that people’s attention is distracted and diverted away from the cause of the conflict.

Bullies within the family, especially female bullies, are masters (mistresses) of manipulation and are fond of manipulating people through their emotions (e.g. guilt) and through their beliefsattitudes and perceptions. Bullies see any form of vulnerability as an opportunity for manipulation, and are especially prone to exploiting those who are most emotionally needy. Elderly relatives, those with infirmity, illness, those with the greatest vulnerability, or those who are emotionally needy or behaviorally immature family members are likely to be favorite targets for exploitation.

The family bully encourages and manipulates family members and others to lie, act dishonorably and dishonestly, withhold information, spread misinformation, and to punish the target for alleged infractions, i.e., the family members become the bully’s unwitting (and sometimes witting) instruments of harassment.

They Are Manipulators

Bullies are adept at distorting peoples’ perceptions with intent to engender a negative view of their target in the minds of family members, neighbors, friends and people in positions of leadership and authority; this is achieved through undermining, the creation of doubts and suspicions, and the sharing of false concerns, etc. This intentional poisoning of people’s minds is difficult to counter; however, explaining the game in a calm articulate manner helps people to see through the mask of deceit and to understand how and why they are being used as pawns.

They Are Deceivers Who Want To Be Your Confidant

The bully may try to establish an exclusive relationship (based on apparent trust and confidence) with one family member, such that, they (the bully) are seen as the sole reliable source of information. This may be achieved by portraying the target (and certain other family members) as irresponsible, unstable, undependable, uncaring, unreliable, and untrustworthy.  Perhaps by the constant highlighting, using distortion and fabrication, reminders of alleged failures, breaches of trust, and lack of reliability, etc. This process is reinforced by inclusion of the occasional piece of juicy gossip about the target’s alleged misdemeanors or untrustworthiness in respect of relationships and communication with people. Mostly, this is psychological projection of the bullies failures and inadequecies.

The objective is to manipulate the family member’s perceptions and create a dependency, so that the family member comes to rely exclusively on the bully and see, the bully, as the sole source of reliable information whilst distrusting everyone else. Any person who is capable of exposing and breaking the dependency is targeted with venom and will find their name blackened at every opportunity.

They Are Attention Seekers and You Are Their Audience

When close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victim hood and turns the focus on themselves.  This is another example of manipulating people through their emotion by invoking guilt, i.e., sympathy, feeling sorry, etc. Female serial bullies are especially partial to making themselves the center of attention by claiming to be the injured party whilst portraying their target as the villain of the alleged event. When the target tries to explain the game, they are immediately labeled “paranoid”.   Therefore, attention-seeking behavior is common with emotionally immature people trying to control others to feed their low sense of self worth by controlling their audience.

They Are Easy To Spot, but Usually Missed

The serial bully is easy to spot once you know what you are looking for: a Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, manipulation (of emotions, perceptions, beliefs, etc), unpredictability, deception, denial, arrogance, narcissism, attention-seeking, etc., whilst always charming and plausible, especially when impressionable witnesses are present.

Serial bullies can be male or female –the main difference is that female bullies are more devious, more manipulative, more cunning, more sly, more psychological, more subtle, leave less evidence and will often bully with a smile. Female bullies will often manipulate a male into committing their violence for them. Male bullies tend to be less subtle, have a tendency towards physical aggression, and are generally less clever than female bullies.

The best response to a bully is to avoid conflict if you can, but arm yourself with information and then you can take your life back and quit living like a victim.

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Finding Balance in Unbalanced Relationships: A Discussion about Conflicting Emotions.

GRL relationshipsThink about relationships that you have with significant people in your life, what is the first word that comes to mind when you think of the people involved?  Is the word a reaction to how you feel about relationship or a descriptor of how interaction occurs between people?  Something to consider is whether others, in your world of relationships, would see your relationships in the same way that your mental image picture them.  If we are honest at this point, the reality is that everyone has problems at certain times in relationships and all families experience a certain level of malfunction at times.  One of the reasons is that we are feeling/emotive people and, at times,  our feelings distort perception of things occurring which results responses to perception that are charged with emotion and misinformation.  The result is reaction, unreasonable behaviors, conflict, and relationships that are fracture by misinformation, feelings out of control, and inappropriate responses.

It is difficult to use sound reasoning when events are charged with distorted emotional thoughts. 

Consider this question: Is it reasonable to believe someone who tells you that they love you, while at the same time that person in hateful, vindictive, and spiteful ways at the same time.  Obviously, behavior that is inconsistent with what a person tells to you is a strong indicator that something is out of sync in the relationship.  Unbalanced relationships are plagued with behavioral cues that tells the informed observer that this behavior indicates that relationships are unbalanced and lack appropriate boundaries.  This is especially true when there is love espoused, while at the same time the person is demonstrating toxic, damaging, or abusive behaviors toward the person who is the object of their love-hate relationship.  Many instances of this can be seen among  couples who engage in extra-marital affairs, i.e., this is a commonly demonstrated behavior.  The conundrum is that there is a professed love professed for the spouse, while a toxic behavior occurs toward the spouse, as well as, the overall relationship.  I think that everyone would agree that this constitutes an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship.  The idea that a person can love one person and at the same time  engage in a clandestine relationship suggests that there is a conflict of how emotions are understood and what love really means within a relationship.  Consequently, the person who confesses love and fails to demonstrate values consistent with love is action on a faulty presumption of how love is characterized between two people in a relationship.   Another way of understanding the unbalanced conflict of rational thinking about love is in filial relationships.  A question comes to the surface here: Can I love someone while secretly harboring resentment toward them, holding on to unforgiveness while at the same time, acting out passive- aggressive anger toward a friend or relative?  Quite often, people communicate that they are angry without ever saying it. What it reveals is an unhealthy pattern of relating to other when emotional conflicts occur.  It is abundantly clear is that relationships do get unbalanced, but if individuals want to have reasonable ways in life to manage the conflicting emotions felt and and potential for unhealthy patterns of relating; it means having healthy boundaries and effective ways to manage the unmanageable problem of unbalanced emotional responses must become a priority.

Crisis should bring people together and not keep them apart.

During changes in life stages and the unexpected stressors that are a part of life change many feelings come to the surface and individuals are often exposed to the possibility of facing conflicting emotions.  While struggling with what to do and managing unbalanced relationship issues that result from very normal life issues, people are face with real life choices that are at times very difficult.  For example, many who have lost a loved one deal with emptiness, grief over the loss, as well as feelings of isolation, which bring to the surface unrealized emotional expectations for themselves and others  For others, the season of change brings issues to the surface, which has been placed, on hold in the file of unresolved issues and unanswered questions.  Others are facing reassignment from military duty, the effects of the economy, loss of jobs– homes, which bring to the surface the emotional pain that people are experiencing because of the conditions of life  being experienced.

An emotional crisis is an opportunity to add positive value and resolution to relationships.

I remember a story that my dad used to tell about two brothers who had become angry at one another early on in life and had avoided each other, through most of life—both being unwilling to take a step toward reconciliation.  As the story goes, one of the brothers became deathly ill, was placed in the hospital—the other brother went to see him and because of the grave nature of the illness and the possibility of the brother dying, they agreed to bury the hatchet.  After talking and renewing the relationship, it was time to leave.  The brother who was sick, the patient in the hospital, said to departing brother; “by the way, if I live the feud is still on.” Unfortunately, many people cannot break away from the self-defeating behavior that creates a no win situation and feeds off of the feud, the conflict, and an inability to ever reconcile life in a healthy way.

Balancing relationships is about making the right choices for you.

The lived experience for many people is one fueled by conflicts that are unresolved and in fact, may never be solved.  Divorce, broken families, a family member in prison, poverty, child abuse, homelessness, and sickness are all deeply felt issues –the source of painful experiences that are a source for emotional conflict during the seasons of life.  At a time in life when conflicting emotions are magnified by natural events, it is  a perfect time for imbalance to erupt or a time to balance something that feels out of balance by making a choice to act on the felt experience of hopelessness. If we can wrap our head around the fact that even though life is very difficult that there is still hope to balance unbalanced relationships and embrace life with a hope that elevates life and those around us.  I do not know what you are experiencing in life, but if we can focus our thoughts Christ, who is our hope ; then  the peace that He can bring to life can bring balance to seems so out of balance in our experience of life.  Unfortunately, many people’s attention will focus around unbalanced relationships, what has been lost, or what is wrong with others and life.  Fortunately, hope for balance in the midst of conflict is possible through trusting in Savior who is larger than life and greater than problems.  When Christ comes to our life, it is not to abandon us in the moment of conflict or to magnify our failures; it is a happens to magnify the power of Christ to  bring freedom from a life without a balanced hope in the experiences of life. A relationship with Christ is a reminder that He gives us the opportunity, motive, and place to a be peacemaker.

Indeed, people can have the language right, the ritual right, but the reality is that our audio needs to match our video.  However, the crisis that we experience is what reveals who we are going to trust when life gets out of kilter.  An important thing to consider is whether our relationship with Christ is having an impact on the way we handle unbalanced relationships and experiences.   Is what we are saying –experiencing on the inside having a significant impact upon the lived experience of life?  It is good sometimes to just be confessional and stop denying what we feel because pushing down emotions, conflicts, and unresolved pain only pushes issues to the surface when stress is placed upon life.  The act of denying the reality of an internal condition guarantees an undesirable future prospect of artificial existence that will be characterized by the appearance of functionality.  Unfortunately, life will be expressed and may look good on the outside, but the inner dialogue of pain, frustration, and unbalanced emotions will influence life and relationships.

Exercising your options to make good choices starts with individual choice.

What is a person to do about the conflicting emotions and unbalanced relationships in life?  First, understand that there is only one person that you can change—the person that you see in the mirror each day.  Next, realize that it is not your responsibility to fix other people, change them, and you are not responsible for what others do or life they create.  Also, recognize that much of what people feel about disappointments in life stems from faulty expectations and misplaced trust.  Then, allowing people the grace to be who they are and work it out individually, releases others into God’s care to be who they are while still loving them– even though you may not agree.  Accepting others disappointing acts is not ratifying what has been done in a passive form of acceptance, it is allowing others to be free to choose what they do– placing responsibility for behaviors on the person making the choice.  Finally,say it, “I am not responsible, and it is not my fault”.

Is it possible to love someone and hate what they do, be in love with one person and maintain loyalty and admiration for others?  The answer depends upon you and how life is balanced within boundaries to manage the unmanageable things in life.  Remember, we are not responsible for what others choose to do and it is not our fault.  One of the sources of balance comes in how a person thinks about life.  For linear, black and white, everything fits in the box—literal, concrete thinkers, this will not compute because it requires thinking about life outside  of the box:  “most of the time your brain is involved in just one of three activities: distraction, reaction, or following well-worn pattern” (Tim Hurson). In the Bible it says, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he”.  Are you following a well-worn pattern in life or are you interested in balancing how you feel about your relationships in life:  Change your thoughts and change your life.

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Science, Misinformation, and Make-Believe Memories

In what is known about memory, our memories serve a purpose of enabling people to make sense of the past and incorporate it into the present experience of life.  This importance of memories according to Loftus (2003) explains that people are the sum of our memories: what we have thought, what we are told, and what we believe.  In addition, we are not only shaped by our memories, but existence is shaped by our personal experience.  Loftus argues that we “seem to reinvent our memories, and in doing so, we become the person of our own imagination”  (p. 872).

An important distinction made about the power of suggestion upon initial memory of an event and how memory that is manipulated impacts beliefs formed about events.  Information offered by Elizabeth Loftus in, Make-Believe Memories, advocates that memories are malleable and subject to distortion and suggestion.  The following observations about how memory is influenced through eyewitness accounts of crimes:

“Misinformation can influence people’s memories when they are in a suggestive fashion or when they talk to other people who give their version of events. Misinformation can sway people when they see biased media coverage about some event that they may have experienced themselves. This phenomenon would ultimately be called the misinformation effect [Loftus’ italics]” (p. 868).

An apparent assumption about initial memory of an event is that it is influenced by suggestion and post-memory influences, but also by the weight of said influences upon the person holding the memory.  A good place to begin in an understanding what misinformation effect actually means.

A dictionary description of the misinformation effect given in the APA Dictionary of Psychology (2007) states, “a phenomenon in which a person mistakenly recalls misleading information that an experimenter has provided, instead of accurately recalling the correct information that has been presented earlier (VandenBos, 2007).  This theory often used in connection with eyewitness memory of events in the investigation procedure.  Loftus cites a cause and effect relationship between what is presented to witnesses to a crime responses to questions asked i.e., “Research on memory distortion has shown that post event suggestion can contaminate what a person remembers” (p. 867).  As a result, a fair assumption about recall of a crime or incident is that the further removed a witness is from the incident and the more times it is discussed the greater chance there is that misinformation effect jades original memories of the event and details.

The position of this article presents the opinion that memory can be distorted by interjecting information and by using techniques which may be misleading to distort original memory.  What can be learned is that misinformation exerts an influence upon what may have been sensed, experienced, and stored in the memory at the time of an event.  The inference is that memories can be altered or changed in intentional and unintentional ways i.e., “Misinformation can influence people’s memories when they are in a suggestive fashion or when they talk to other people who give their version of events”, as cited in (u04d2 Make-Believe Memories, 2010).  A rational conclusion suggests that changes in memories are connected to the suggestions made by the examiner and suggestibility of the person remembering the account.  As a result, an explanation of the misinformation effect contained within the statement made through: post event suggestion (Loftus, 2003) which alters original memory that is stored as suggestion, as well as exposure to other perspectives about the memory-event places influence upon perception.

One important factor in the process is described by Sternberg (2009), as encoding (p. 217). Based on this description, how a memory is encoded –one’s experience, conditions surrounding an event –factors contributing to retrieval, will affect acquisition of information: “the physical, sensory input into a kind of representation” (p. 217) which distorts original sensory input.  Therefore, the misinformation effect suggests that, “suggestion can lead to false memories being injected outright into the minds of people” (Loftus, 2003).

When questions are asked that are suggestive,  false memories are injected into the first impressions of the person being questioned.  Loftus (2003) reports, “that leading questions could contaminate or distort a witness’s memory … Related studies showed that memory could become skewed with various techniques that fed misinformation to unsuspecting individuals” (Make-believe memories).  This practice is associated with techniques which are used in police-witness interviews to a crime.  For example, “Three errors occurred universally: interrupting the witness, asking too many short-answer questions, and inappropriate sequencing of questions” (Fisher, 1995).  A conclusion can be made here that demonstrates that when rehearsal of the memory is interspersed with the injection of questions, interruptions, dialogue, and questions, the initial sensory perception will become adapted to misinformation that affects perception of the original occurrence.

It may seem on the surface that the misinformation effect presents a negative perspective of how memory can be manipulated and the impact upon a criminal investigation.   However, one application of this theory may be of value when applied to research, which could aid in better training for law enforcement professional when conducting witness interviews.  In addition, another application could be that when misinformation is used to correct distorted memories, it may hold properties of value, which present a therapeutic value.  Some examples could be in treatment with those who have experienced traumatic events that present with PTSD symptoms or anxiety related conditions.

Obviously, this article only scratches the surface and more needs to be written on such an important subject of interest.


Fisher, R. P. (1995). Interviewing victims and witnesses of a crime. Psychology, Public Policy,  Law [electronic version] , 1 (4), 732-764, doi:10.1037/1076-8971.1.4.732.

Loftus, E. F. (2003, November). Make-believe memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied [electronic version] , 14 (3), pp. 255-265,, doi: 10.1037/1076-898X.14.3.255.

Sternberg, R. J. (2009). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

u04d2 Make-Believe Memories. (2010). Retrieved 5 2009, August , from Capella Universisty:

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC, USA: American Psychological Association.

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Science, Philosophy, Reason, and Life Without Memory

Watching this video is a very sobering look at the way that what the memory provides to an individual in the everyday activities is taken for granted and that without a functioning memory there is no connection with the past, identity, and a conscious way of relating to the present activities of life or the future. A line from the film says it clearly, “I think it is a very dramatic illustration particularly for the public of what it is like to being without memory. For example, this constant feeling that he has just waken up or he has not tasted anything before” (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). While the video, stimulated thoughts about the value of memory, there is also the thought about how many things could be different, if only some memories could be erased. However, a connection is implicit from the story that it is relative to every individual is and how functioning occurs in life within the environment.

One question which has already been discussed in previous posts in the connection between the brain and the mind. If consciousness and memory are functions of the brain, but also connected to the mind, then there is a relationship between the anatomical structure of the, how the mind operates, neurologically, function, and the wakening experience of awareness in behavior and response. The way that memory is encoded and retrieved forms an understanding of knowing, believing, and behaving. Sternberg (2009) says, “A memory is a mental experience taken to be veridical (truthful) representation from one’s past.  Memories can be false in relatively minor ways … and in major ways that can have profound implications for oneself and others” (p. 198).  In the case of Wearing’s condition, the damage to the brain through Encephalitis affected not only the encoding, but also the ability to recall because of the damage to the Hippo-campus. This raises another observation about the impact of chemical, biological affects to the brain, mind functioning.

It has been established that Teratogens, (Friedman J.M., 1999), affect development of the brain, and also how the introduction of disease destroys tissue, thus disabling explicit memory (Sternberg, 2009, p. 180) from engaging the mind in an experience of conscious recollection (p. 180). A question might be posed about the difference in the absence of explicit memory in contrast to implicit use of information (p. 180). This is discussed in the dialogue by Dr. Michael Oddy who stated, “We ask him if he would like the coffee … But it is all about current events, it is about the surroundings (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). The events seem to suggest that there is not a reference to past experiences that could have been encoded and recalled, but rather knowing through cognition of present observations in the moment.

The traditional model of memory referred to by Sternberg (2009), in William James (1890-1970) theory of primary memory and secondary memory; then later Waugh and Norman, 1965 (p. 182) give explanation of the components and functions of the memory that are not in tact as a result of disease which destroyed brain tissue. However, the theories as presented, do not adequately offer explanation of ingrained skill or the, “four or five things, he will if questioned appropriately tell you about” (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). In analysis, it seems evident that one working model of memory does not provide a complete picture without gaining insight from a Neuropsychology model that examines how dissociation of function, “to explain a link between a particular lesion or function” (Sternberg, 2009, p. 207). It seems that there is a correlational relationship to all of the activities, biology, physical structures, or trauma to the brain which in turn affects what happens in conscious awareness that is connected to how perception occurs, what is understood and believed, and what the experience of the life is in feeling and behavior.   How important is this to advancing understanding in the study of psychology?

It cannot be underscored enough that understanding what has been written and engaging with current and future research will build a bridge from the encoded memory that has been described by theorist to provide ongoing and enriched understanding of how the functioning of memory in the mind-brain relationship is enhanced by the value of ongoing research in Cognitive Affective Psychology.


Friedman JM, a. J. (1999). Clinical Teratology: identifying teratogenic risks in humans. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from Capella Library:, doi:10.1034/j.1399-0004.1999.560601.xJans,
Sternberg, R. J. (2009). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.
The Anenburg Foundation. (2009). Life without memory: The case of Clive Wearing, Part 1. Washington, DC: Annenberg Media,, DC.

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Science, Philosophy, and Reason and the Mind-Brain Problem

A primary voice within the history of philosophy was Rene Descartes who coined the phrase, Cogito ergo sum — “I think, therefore I am”.  It was Rene Descartes who suggested and early explanation of the nature of the mind that separated, at least in philosophy a separation between the brain and mind and described in the term Cartesian Dualism.

What relationship or difference does the mind hold from the brain?

The question of mind, body, and brain interaction is a subject speculated upon, as well as, studied by philosophers, religious thinkers, medical researchers, and psychological researchers in an effort to find definitive answers. One of the places to begin looking for answers is to understand the difference between mind and matter.  A distinction between mind and matter stated “to be found in the fact that in man there is a mind which is absent in the rock.  The mind, they argue, controls that part of the individual which is mind” (Frost, 1945). This inference separates a man from all other creations and inanimate objects.

A distinction in difference between the mind, brain, and body is at the heart of the position held by Descartes.  This difference is referenced by Johnson, (1991) who poses a question about cognitive process and the impact upon the material and biological structural development (In the palaces of memory: How we build the worlds inside our heads). This question becomes important in understanding that a relationship exists between what goes on in the mind –thought processes and the physical development and structural changes in the brain tissue.  What is apparent through research that is currently available is that theories that support Cartesian Dualism, as well as Cognitive Neuroscience do influence modern assumptions about the science of Cognitive and Affective Psychology in the development of a theory of mind-brain interaction.

The argument for the mind-brain problem, attributed to Descartes, is a subject which has been debated by philosophers who predated his work.  Examination of what is believed in Cartesian Dualism reveals the essential core teaching that is characteristic of, “Plato (c. 428-347 B.C.)  [who] was a dualist who divided the human being in his dualist theory into material body and immaterial soul” (Mind-BodyTheories, 2006).   A number of important issues that are contained in dualism, which are important to understanding how philosophy delineates the arguments presented.

One presupposition is, “the body is a hindrance to the soul in the acquisition of knowledge and, as a rationalist, he abandoned the body and the senses for the activity of the soul capable of accounting for absolute being” (Mind-BodyTheories, 2006).  Inherent within this position an ontological influence is reflected that essentially regards the mind, soul, as a metaphysical property that is contained in the concept of mind, thoughts rational ability, and cognition. The basis of the mind-brain body dualism is that, “the body is a hindrance to the soul in the acquisition of knowledge and, as a rationalist; … [Plato] abandoned the body and the senses for the activity of the soul capable of accounting for absolute being (Mind-BodyTheories, 2006).

This approach lends itself naturally to a “rational/deductive science over the empirical/inductive approach “ (Elsevier’s Dictionary of Psychological Theories).  This essential framework of thinking has a substantive connection to Descartes who, “proposed that matter (body) is ‘extended substance’ and that the soul (mind) is ‘unextended substance’” (Mind-BodyTheories).  According to this view, the atoms or constituent parts that make up the mind are existent in the universe and are joined to form the mind. A way of explaining this by philosophers is in the term, interactionism, that is, “the theory that mind and body are separate realities that mutually influence each other” (Hunnex, 1986). This way of explaining the brain-mind differs from contemporary approaches in that it describes the mind in terms of what it is as opposed to what it does.

A contrast to this approach is found in the theoretical propositions of Cognitive Neuroscience which uses a scientific approach to what the brain-mind-body processes include. This is noted in the Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science (2004) where Cognitive neuroscience is described as “The study of the neural basis of cognition … that depends heavily on the use of modern imaging technologies such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)” (Neuroscience, 2004).  One the significant differences in the approach of the psychologist—scientist and the philosopher-dualist is the assumptions that frame the epistemology for Neuroscience.

Cognitive science is based in the same logic which the theory of evolution follows. The rationale is to weight the biological and physical interactions as precursors of theory as opposed to metaphysical theory.  This is evident in early theorist in psychology, such as Freud looked at what the mind did in the unconscious more as a “flow than a ‘place”’ (Unconscious, 1995) .  His work in the latter part of the nineteenth century was a byproduct of what was understood in neurology and physiology.  This is illustrated in his theory about the “reflexive arc … the involuntary jerk of the leg when the knee is struck … tension builds up and needs to be released, and this release is an involuntary action” (Unconscious, 1995).

However in contrast, understanding the complex symbolism in psychoanalytical approaches and literature analogies placed upon the subconscious, repression, and consciousness that are presented by Freud seem to bear a resemblance in approach to Cartesian Dualism.  A question which arises is whether there is a metaphysical distinction-separation of the mind-brain, body or is there a tension that occurs in the narrative of the subconscious—with slips, lapses, and knee jerk reactions that alleviate the primal tension between what is perceived or repressed in the way the mind-brain and body function?  Answers that are contained in the science of Cognitive, Affective Psychology that answer questions related to the mind-brain issue by mapping understanding through Localization of Function (Sternberg, 2009,2006, p. 34).

Looking at the brain and identifying which schematic zones affect activity associated with behaviors or abilities enhances understanding of how the brain controls the activity in the body.  According to Sternberg (2009), “the fundamental structures and processes of the brain … [are] the nervous system … divided into two main parts: the central nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system” (p. 71).  The relativity of how brain topography, organic construction, and systemic interaction is related to intelligence, aptitude, learning,  behavior, feeling, personality, memory, and physical motor activity are important to establishing a correlation between brain activity and phenomena occurring in human existence.

A truth abundantly clear is there is a relationship that is molecular, physical, and related to development and experience in brain function.  This is attested to in explanations of how behaviors connect to those individuals with injury to the head and brain which demonstrate that a correlation exists between brain functioning and perceptions in the experience of the individual.  This is noted by Sternberg (2009) who demonstrates how, “Damage resulting from head injuries can include spastic movements, difficulty swallowing, slurring of speech among many other cognitive problems” (p. 70).  An observation inferred is that influence on the neurological, psychological, vision, motor skills, etc. directly affects how the tissue and cells of react to trauma.  This experience and phenomena establishes a correlation between tissue, biology, experience, and how changes relate to the experience, as well as, the functions of the brain, mind, and body.

What relationship do the disciplines of science, theology, and philosophy have to gain from one another?

Summing it up reminds me that this is a developing science and while there may be substantive answers, the fact remains that there is more that we do not know than what we do know.  Within the theory of Cartesian Dualism and modern views about how mind-brain-body interactions occurs, what is apparent is that epistemology seems to dominate the research that has been done in the past and it seems that there still needs to be a greater understanding of the relationship between the brain-mind connection.  What is apparent to this writer is a need to demythologize the process of understanding and place appropriate value upon spiritual and religious understanding while allowing science, research, and benefits from theoretical study to posit value to the field of psychology bringing greater understanding of the mind-brain conundrum.  Consequently, I know that the polemics will rise up in arms to protect the ideals that are held, but my suggestion is that we defend high ideals to advance the truth and not to inhibit, scientific, theological, or spiritual input into such a complex subject.

Frost, S. (1945). The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Garden City Publishing.

Hunnex, M. D. (1986). Chronological and thematic charts of philosophies and pholosphers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan House.

Johnson, G. (1991). In the palaces of memory: How we build the worlds inside our heads. New York: Random House.

Mind-BodyTheories. (2006). Elsevier’s Dictionary of Psychological Theories. Retrieved July 24, 2010, from Capella University Library: MIND-BODY THEORIES. (2006). In Els

Neuroscience, C. (2004). Cognitive Neuroscience. Retrieved July 17, 2010, from Capella Univertsity Library: Cognitive Neuroscience. (2004). In The Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavior

Sternberg, R. J. (2009,2006). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.

Unconscious. (1995). In Critical Terms for Literary Study. Retrieved July 18, 2101, from Capella University Library: Retrieved from

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