Mind games seems a popular subject that gives the impression of manipulation. Since the beginning of mankind, mind games have existed, though exploring what would happen were they employed in a family situation gives an interesting insight indeed.
The training of a psychologist takes into account logic. It works on logical conclusion of set stimuli and adds to the equation patient and doctor. The doctor is trained to analyze the problems of the patient and is paid to do so. The patient pays for his expertise and thus the full equation includes:
It seems pretty cut and dried that this is a job. It’s a learned skill used to earn a living. Where the equation falls apart is when you add the elements of love and emotional involvement. The balance doesn’t sit right, because instead of being paid to do a job, the psychologist is in a territory unfamiliar to him, just as any other human being. No amount of psychological training can prepare a man or woman for parenthood, reactions towards in laws, mothers, fathers, etc., because this is a separate agenda, driven by emotion rather than logic.
Taking this a step further, let’s look at the relationships between a psychologist who decides to use mind games within the family unit.
While a psychologist may make comparisons with their own life in the course of study, the playing of mind games would be pretty ineffective in the handling of parents. These are the people that gave birth to a mind that wants to explore psychology within the family unit. Mind games played against parents are ineffective, since they add another dimension to the equation of psychology in that the mind game would be motive driven. Parents have a greater in depth understanding of a child’s motives than children give them credit for, based upon experience alone, and the experience of a parent after say 20 years would certainly be greater than that of the young psychologist. Add to this the motive factor, and any attempt at mind games becomes transparent and ineffective.
Everyone in the world will play mind games with in-laws. They are a sitting target. Have you ever telephoned them thinking that one telephone call may deter a visit ? We all do it, and here the psychologist is no different, though the measure of success is no different to that of non qualified people.
Here, we have the greatest challenge on earth for the psychologist. While many believe that book learned theory works with children, and while this may actually have an element of truth behind it in an educational environment, what happens when you add love and nurture to the equation is that the psychologist would be frustrated that his attempts to use mind games to control his children using book learned techniques is too black and white. The gray area in the middle is the growing child and many a child has been under-estimated by parents seeking answers to life within text books. No-one can prepare a parent for parenting better than experience, and here the psychologist would do well to throw away the books and to learn that practical discovery works better than devised growth.
The joys of watching children grow and the pains of disappointment all stem from human perception, and it is much more likely that the psychologist would do well to work on their own perception problems rather than on the behavior of the children. By doing this, the enjoyment of child growth takes on a whole new experience with a richness that no psychological text book can teach.
Mind games to help the development of children need to be reversed mind games, and the psychologist would need to ask themselves these questions ?
*How can my attitude help my child develop ?
*How can my perception of my child make a difference ?
These are the mind games played by every parent on the planet, though many seek answers by asking the wrong questions, which indeed is a classical psychological mistake to make.
When a psychologist marries, they marry for the same motives as anyone else. One of the aspects of the psychologist’s mind may be that complexity that attracted their spouse in the first place. A wife or husband has intimate knowledge of their partner. It’s a nurtured relationship, taken through all the normal stages of intimacy and in these circumstances, psychological mind games may be part and parcel of the relationship, though not in a detrimental way. Here, the fun of going through life together and asking the kind of questions that a relatively educated person may pose is part of the process of sharing and bonding with the person you love.
Psychologists are humans first. This is the way in which they are perceived in the family unit as either a son, daughter, husband or wife, and the work factor doesn’t even come into play within the family other than as part of the make-up of the person. One might argue about the role of other professions and ask whether these impose restrictions upon family function; the coroner, the gynecologist, the teacher, the priest. Stripping each of these of a job title that was given to them based on their learning, what we are left with is a human being with the same strengths and vulnerabilities as anyone else in his family, or indeed any other human being, whose approach comes from the head and heart, rather than the text book.
IN A PROFESSIONAL SITUATION
Thankfully times have changed, and psychologists and psychiatric professionals have learned much from their pioneering adventures into the field of psychiatry. In the initial stages of treatment of patients that were minors, what was thought to be paramount was the authority and involvement of parents in each stage of counseling. The child didn’t have rights as a minor. The parents did. In the case that is cited here, the initial stages of the family therapy on an 8 year old child, back in the late fifties, assumed that parental involvement was more important than the child’s welfare. Studies have shown how ineffective these methods were, and in the case of this young child, he was showing signs of being anti-social. Losing himself in books and not mixing with siblings or those in his school, the child had become withdrawn to the extent that the authorities insisted on trying family therapy.
This was a relatively new concept, and all of the family members were called together to discuss their position within the family unit, in an effort to find the cause of the child’s behavioral problems. The child would not talk. In fact, he sat motionless, said nothing and could not be coerced into responding in any way.
The lack of experience of psychologists at this time meant that family therapy was extremely primitive. Taken away from other family members and placed in a room where the child felt more secure, the mind game played was that the psychologist made the child believe that nothing that would be said within the confines of that room would go further. Upon questioning the presence of cameras, the child was told that these were used for study purposes.
Opening up to his world, the child began to explain his dilemma with an overly possessive father whose attentions were not abusive, though too personal and demonstrative for the child to accept or be comfortable with. Children are fragile, and the trust the child placed in the psychologist was broken, in that unbeknown to him his parents were watching the conversation from another room.
Thousands and children passed through the system before the element of trust between patient and child was rectified, and the consequences for this particular child still follow him after more than fifty years. His parents isolated him from other family members. His father distanced himself to the extent of a stranger, and his mother resented the implication that her husband may have had sexual inclination towards the child, even though this was never indicated. Pushed into the care system partly due to the actions that took place in family therapy, the child grew up with complexes that were never resolved and that, instead of uniting a family in strength, tore it apart.
Early psychology on children in the years before and after World War two had drastic effects. Children were placed in mental institutions for the sin of pregnancy outside marriage, and when you consider that these children grew up as adults dependent upon being institutionalized for life and can still be seen in the geriatric wards of today, the system has failed them, and the psychological tricks that society played still present even in this day and age as a reminder of the mistaken priorities of a society that wanted to hide what it considered to be it’s shame.
With this background of failure, it is not surprising that mind games between patient and professional have been limited and that the professionals in this day and age have learned by bitter experience that mind games don’t work.