Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 793593

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Posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 13:03:52

It's not that I mind being pragmatic. Isn't that one of the DBT skills? Learning to be effective in relationships?

But sometimes I worry that my pragmatism is too cold blooded. I don't *think* I manipulate... And my therapist says I don't manipulate... But there's no doubt that I consider the effects of my behavior.

I'm sure those of you who know me have seen it. I just am enormously pragmatic in my relationships.

I think it came up in therapy because I felt like I was talking in a flat monotone, and that that was putting my therapist to sleep. So I asked for his help with my monotone speech. He was ok with that part, but he was adamant that it wasn't my job to worry about his staying awake. It festered between sessions, and I concluded that it might not be my job in a "Steven Levenkron as he describes himself" case study where the therapist is always perfect. But in the real world it kind of is.

My take on it is this.

The sacred therapy space is created by two people engaging and joining their energies to form a bubble of special energy. While it's ok that one person or another puts more energy into it in any given week, it works at its best when both people put their energy into sustaining it. And it can't be created by only one person, because if it could, we wouldn't need therapy at all.

If he's not putting energy into the encounter at all, I'll likely mention that he doesn't seem present. And vice versa. But when, as is bound to happen in long term twice a week therapy, he doesn't put a lot of energy in, my reaction isn't to sit and be angry with him, or wait passively for him to conjure engagement, or to think that he *should* be more engaged. My reaction is more likely to try to elicit engagement. By not being monotone, or by coaxing a response, or in some manner considering it my job to try to obtain what I'm looking for in the relationship.

So yes, it is his job to come to our sessions engaged and with energy to put into creating the therapeutic space. As it is my job to do the same. But it's not "not my job" to try to elicit that if he doesn't for some reason offer it. That to be pragmatic, his level of engagement will vary over many sessions in many years, and that my behavior can and does have an effect on his level of engagement.

And to be honest, it matters more to me than it does to him. Not because he doesn't want to be a good therapist, but because my idea of a good therapy encounter is a bit demanding.

So I'm again left wondering at my pragmatic nature. Is it sensible or is it cold? Or manipulative...

I do take into account the needs of others as well as my own needs. And I'm never trying to achieve anything other than what I'm openly trying to achieve. Nor do I try to hide what I'm doing. I just tailor my response.


Re: Pragmatism

Posted by angela2 on November 6, 2007, at 15:35:51

In reply to Pragmatism, posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 13:03:52

I don't think wanting a response from T is cold or manipulative. It's just how you feel. Does that make sense?

I actually have often felt this way with my current T. I feel I don't get enough response from her.

I had a to read your thread a few times to fully comprehend, bc I have never heard of pragmatism. I'm estupido, lol. This is all philosophical I think, right? But I just wanted you to know I read.

Dinah, if you could, could you please explain to me why you think you might be being cold or manipulative? thanks


Re: Pragmatism

Posted by rskontos on November 6, 2007, at 17:26:12

In reply to Re: Pragmatism, posted by angela2 on November 6, 2007, at 15:35:51

Dinah, I think of you as more intelluctial versus pragmatic so you are analigizing (ms) the situation more than most. I am misspelling these words and can't take the time to spell check. Your current T is behaving like a T. Mine does the same thing. I don't speak unsually when she comes in and she will say so what has been going on this week. So the ball is in my court. I could say nothing much. But because I am not there to say that and pay for saying that I come up with something. I do understand what you are saying and I have left feeling the same as you like my T didn't remember what I had said the last time and the time before last I was very anxious and still having a panic attack and I called her on it and many other things. She said no I remember all you tell me I just thought it worth going back over. I didn't think of that. Could this be the same thing could your T think certain things worth re-visiting? I think y ou are very smart and articulate. YOu have made me see things in ways I hadn't seen. Manipulative I haven't seen that. Pragmatic I don't know yet smart yes, caring yes. That is my take. rk


Re: Pragmatism angela2

Posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 17:34:15

In reply to Re: Pragmatism, posted by angela2 on November 6, 2007, at 15:35:51

I suppose because while I feel emotions in my relationships, I don't necessarily act on them. Or I choose how to act on them, depending on what results I want. I tend to know what behaviors get me the results I want, and stick to those.

And, for example, with my therapist my antennae is always up. I feel how he's responding to me and zig and zag in my approach in response. It's not that I'm not frank with him. I certainly am. It's more that I question the way I present the truth to him.

With other people, like my mother for instance, I'm not necessarily as frank. I know what I can reasonably expect from her. I know what will encourage her good and bad behaviors. And I tend to adjust my expectations and behaviors accordingly.

It's almost always in some part of my mind whether my approach is getting me the results I want. And if it's not, I'm willing to adjust my approach as needed. And I try to keep in mind what I really do want. And whether how I'm acting will help me achieve my long term goal.

If I figure a long term goal with any given person is impossible to meet, I'm likely to either walk away or to downwardly adjust my expectations and desires to meet what they can give me. I try not to invest much in any one relationship until I'm reasonably sure that it is good and healthy and reliable. And even then, I probably hold some emotional caution in reserve.

Overall, I'm not particularly sorry that I am as I am. I even have a reasonably good idea why I'm that way. It was my job in my house to keep my warring parents on reasonably good terms. To keep the peace. And since they were both fairly volatile, I learned to think things out and change course rapidly if they didn't respond the way I expected.

But I certainly can't overlook that my approach to relationships is more practical (which is all pragmatic is really. doing what works) than maybe it should be.

Thanks for wading through my muddled thoughts. :) I sometimes wrap myself up in circles with them.

Also, I might be overstating the case somewhat. I certainly have attached like a leech to my therapist, and stuck with it even when there was no way to explain it with logic. Perhaps I'm feeling more than normally practical right now, and I find it difficult to remember when I'm not feeling that way.


Re: Pragmatism rskontos

Posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 17:48:10

In reply to Re: Pragmatism, posted by rskontos on November 6, 2007, at 17:26:12

Thank you :)

Actually my therapist and I talked today about the fact that I usually make him think about what he says and not rely on the old therapy standards that he was taught in school.

I know that when he said it wasn't my job to help keep him awake, he was repeating in kneejerk fashion what he was taught. And I even agree with it.

But he also hadn't thought it out completely. When he did, he saw that what he was saying might be the truth, but it wasn't enough to be the entire truth.

We ended up having a lively discussion about Tamar (the biblical one, not the poster) and it ended well enough. But I think he was a little teensy bit shocked at what I said. And that my be why I'm worrying now.

Which is totally unfair because if he remembers it at all next session he will be completely unshocked. He's annoying that way.


Re: Pragmatism Dinah

Posted by angela2 on November 6, 2007, at 19:29:40

In reply to Re: Pragmatism angela2, posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 17:34:15

Wow Dinah. thank you for explaining to me. I think I am pragmatic too then (acting in ways that make another's behavior towards me just to feel pleasant). Probably not all the time, but at times I am.

When I think of manipulation, I think of a slimy character from a movie or something. But who is to say that's right? Probably the media and society give out that message.. Someone once told me that everyone is manipulative. Perhaps it's not a bad thing.


Re: Pragmatism - trigger possibility Dinah

Posted by DAisym on November 6, 2007, at 20:32:24

In reply to Pragmatism, posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 13:03:52

In the business world we call it "people skills." Knowing how to get what you want from people, no matter what the relationship, is typically a good and wise thing, as long as you don't hurt them, or yourself to get it. So no, I don't think you are cold or manipulative, except in the strictest, non-negative form of that word. By definition manipulating is manuvering to get what you want. But again, most people wish they were better at this.

I agree with you - I think we co-create in therapy. It isn't just one person's thoughts or feelings in the room. Because a client/patient simply can't help but respond to the overt and hidden signals being sent from the therapist. If you are talking, and someone yawns, as much as you want to dismiss it as not about you, it is hard not to think, "hey, am I boring you?" or some such thing. And I think we can also tell when we are discussing something that is "OK" vs something that makes our therapists uncomfortable. We might push forward anyway or we might back track and test the waters a bit. But we are responding and so are they.

Last week I was talking about being little and throwing up in a corner of my room. I've mentioned this before in therapy under different context, no big deal. I've just always known this and when I think about that room and that house, it is one of the things I remember - I guess because it was a weird thing to do. But I've never been the least bit curious about it. My therapist asked, "why did you throw up?" Now, he could have asked, "where was your mother?" or a number of other questions. But he didn't. And this question set me spinning and popped down another memory and I was so angry at him for asking that...

It was totally the give and take of the session that sent us down this particular road. If he'd let it go, or been half asleep, or a number of other things, we'd likely be working on something else this week. So, it was my job to talk, and his job to listen, but it was also my job to give him things to question.

It takes two - I completely agree.


Re: Pragmatism Dinah

Posted by antigua3 on November 7, 2007, at 7:14:50

In reply to Pragmatism, posted by Dinah on November 6, 2007, at 13:03:52

sorry, this may come from out in left field.

I'm a pragmatist too because it allows me to accept what is being given, and not to ask for more. If I want more, I manipulate. I do this more with my pdoc than my T because I don't trust him yet. At the base, I believe he will hurt me, and I use my pragmatism and manipulation as a defense. I'm already plotting how I'm going to try to manipulate him when I see him next.

So, for me, and my definitions may be very different, my pragmatism is a lowering of standards of sorts, and along with manipulation is a huge defense mechanism for me. That said, I don't think many people who know me (except pdoc maybe) would say that I'm a manipulator. I want a certain outcome at times and I feel good when I get it, no matter how I do it. (Please don't think I'm an evil person; I don't manipulate for evil means, but I do work strategically to get what I want in the kindest way. Not so kind with pdoc, and I know that's all based on trust. I really don't trust him yet and maybe never will.

Just a diferent take--all mine.


Re: Pragmatism

Posted by rskontos on November 7, 2007, at 10:31:30

In reply to Re: Pragmatism Dinah, posted by antigua3 on November 7, 2007, at 7:14:50

Well then I would venture to say that for us as survivor of trauma either in childhood or adulthood that we have learned this as a means too to keep us safe in a world that we have never really felt safe in. I know that I manipulate my world and the people in it to the extent i can to keep me as safe as possible so my inner demons don't surface as I can't control them. I still feel like I am surviving on the basic level so I try to accept (like a pragmatist) what is being given to me unless I feel threatened, and then if threaten I manipulate the situation. If all else fails, I run. That always has been the way I work. If therapy becomes to much I might run. I am trying not to be pragmatist or manipulative in this setting as I see that for me it isn't the best course of action to get well if I can. I am trying to see the therapist as a means to an end because I don't want to get too close to her either. I want to do this on my own. I want the accomplishment to come about from a new me. The one that has always been hidden. I don't know if I can do this but this is my current approach. I don't know what that makes me but I know that my approach to life for the past 48 years isn't working anymore so I must try something new or there might not be much more in store for me. Sorry to hijack the thread, Dinah

In the end I think Dinah I think that whoever you are, the very reason you are digging so deep to think about who and why you do what you do shows a really deep desire to be a better person in therapy and life and I think you will reach it. You are a smart person and whether or not you pragmatist or not, I think you are very intelligent articulate and have given me loads of great advice! So thanks for that and all you are! rk


Re: Pragmatism angela2

Posted by Dinah on November 7, 2007, at 19:15:44

In reply to Re: Pragmatism Dinah, posted by angela2 on November 6, 2007, at 19:29:40

Perhaps it isn't. It would seem that the alternatives would be to either passively accept what is offered, or be confrontational. And neither really appeals.

It's not like I am trying to obtain anything that would be against someone's wishes.

I'm probably being my most obsessive self. I'm noticing it in other ways as well.


Re: Pragmatism - trigger possibility DAisym

Posted by Dinah on November 7, 2007, at 19:24:27

In reply to Re: Pragmatism - trigger possibility Dinah, posted by DAisym on November 6, 2007, at 20:32:24

I wish it were a skill that had such wide applications. :) I pick up on other people's reactions, but lacking knowledge about them I'm not really able to react appropriately. So it's really only people I know very very well that it's any use. In fact, I think my husband has the benefit in his complete lack of awareness of emotional currents in a room. He doesn't get upset by other people's reactions and flounder about as I do.

And of course in therapy I sprout sensors all over my skin. :) I'm soooo in tune to everything he does.

It really does take two in therapy. Two attuned people in the dance of therapy. My therapist doesn't actually yawn. Visibly, his only sign of sleepiness is heavy liddedness. But it's enormously obvious in the energy of the room. And I need him to really be fully present.

Mind you, if he wasn't usually present and engaged, I wouldn't notice when he wasn't. :) It's something he usually does well.

Actually, I've been thinking of all the things he really does do well. It's more than I usually give him credit for. He might not be good at the big insight (and not especially good at the little ones) but he has a lot of skills that aren't as obvious.


Re: Pragmatism antigua3

Posted by Dinah on November 7, 2007, at 19:39:43

In reply to Re: Pragmatism Dinah, posted by antigua3 on November 7, 2007, at 7:14:50

No, not all yours. I understand and agree.

I'm not altogether sure it's a bad thing. I'm torn about that. I often say that reduced expectations are the key to happiness. I probably should amend that to low expectations with high standards are the key to happiness. We spend so much of our time banging our heads against walls trying to get things from people that they just aren't willing or able to give. It is so much less painful to just recognize it and accept what they can give or move on.

I do trust my therapist. I trust him completely. I trust him to be the person I think he is, and that includes both good and bad things. I trust him to want the best for me. I trust him to listen and try to understand. I trust him not to try hard not to lie to me. I trust him to go out of his way to see me or call me when I need him, although I also trust him to forget to call me when promised at least half the time if more than a day lapses between promise and fulfillment. I trust him to be sleepy sometimes in session. I trust him to be occasionally thoughtless. I trust him to admit to his thoughtlessness and apologize for it. I trust all of those things, good and bad.

Whatever reasons I might have for what I do, I do trust him.


Re: Pragmatism rskontos

Posted by Dinah on November 7, 2007, at 19:53:25

In reply to Re: Pragmatism, posted by rskontos on November 7, 2007, at 10:31:30

I'm not a survivor of trauma. No more so than is expected in a life I think. I might be influenced by my past, but my problems are based more on an overexcitable nervous system. And perhaps on the behaviors I've developed to try to keep the results of that manageable.

I think I'm introspective by nature. My therapist also says I'm really hard on myself. For some reason he is positive I'm self loathing, although I don't quite understand his conclusion. I *am* always trying to be better than I am now.

I just haven't quite decided whether or not this is an aspect of myself that needs work.


Re: Pragmatism Dinah

Posted by antigua3 on November 8, 2007, at 6:27:13

In reply to Re: Pragmatism antigua3, posted by Dinah on November 7, 2007, at 19:39:43

Sounds like you've got it right! I think pragmatism is a good thing also, because I think it does help us lower our expectations and I think that's a good thing, at least for me. It's when I expect too much, or at least told that I'm expecting too much, I get hurt. My job is to figure out if I'm right and my standards are correct or the other person is wrong. As I get stronger, I see the differences better.

You have a great T, who understands you so well, and I'm glad you trust him so much. I can see why, especially since you made it through Hurricane Katrina all the stronger.

Have a good day,


Re: Pragmatism

Posted by rskontos on November 8, 2007, at 9:48:10

In reply to Re: Pragmatism rskontos, posted by Dinah on November 7, 2007, at 19:53:25

Why does he think you are self loathing? My H is a very introspective person too. He is a philospher by nature too. Due to that he is always searching for a deeper meaning. It doesn't mean he hates anything about himself, he is a very confident man and does great in his career. He has risen very high in his position and makes the big bucks. But he is an intellitect by nature and will always search for the greater meaning. You could be the same way. He is hard on himself and others that work for him and has the highest standards. But he is isn't emotional he is a loner. Probably why I was attractive to him. and me to him. I didn't go after him I didn't care but that is another story. Anyway, you could very well be the kind that would always search for a greater meaning. MY H just isn't excitable or nervous. So no therapy. I wonder if that is the difference. Anyway does your T say why he thinks you are self loathing? And can you not love yourself but not hate yourself do you think? Just a question your post got me to thinking about? I am in a worse way today so forgive me for the questions. rk


Re: Pragmatism antigua3

Posted by Dinah on November 8, 2007, at 11:21:39

In reply to Re: Pragmatism Dinah, posted by antigua3 on November 8, 2007, at 6:27:13

I suppose with any given person it doesn't matter if expectations are reasonable or not. :( They're either likely to be met or not likely to be met, and that really has little to do with us. After all, it is possible to find people who are willing to meet quite unreasonable expectations, and others who through lack of effort or lack of willingness or just lack of the ability are unlikely to meet even the most reasonable expectations.

In fact, I can probably count myself in both categories at different times and situations. :)

And that's where I need to add high standards to the recipe for happiness. Because without them, low expectations can lead to a different sort of unhappiness.

My cousin once asked me where I found such *nice* boys to date. I didn't say so out loud, but I was somewhat taken aback. It wouldn't occur to me to date anyone who wouldn't be classified as "nice". Any particular boy might not have met my expectations of minimal date behavior. And it would be silly of me to take one who didn't and try to hope he'd become one who did, or to convince him that he was supposed to. I'd be far better off lowering my expectations for that particular person and enjoy what contact I had with him without actually considering him a suitable candidate for dating.

So lowered expectations for individuals, but high standards for what I felt I deserved? Basic things like respect and I suppose "niceness".

So I think that might be the key to happiness.

But I think about those things, and I have since I was a child. And I suppose in some ways it is a rather cool way to live a life. That's what worries me. I think I maybe should be more warm and spontaneous.

(And not to say that it doesn't sometimes take me a while to recognize that lowered expectations are a wise course of action in a given situation.)


Re: Pragmatism rskontos

Posted by Dinah on November 8, 2007, at 11:37:09

In reply to Re: Pragmatism, posted by rskontos on November 8, 2007, at 9:48:10

It's interesting how we pick our mates, isn't it? I found my husband devastatingly attractive because he was so at ease socially, and because he had a great sense of humor. While I'm socially anxious (though not shy) and while I can't say I don't have a sense of humor, it's a low key one not a laugh out loud one.

And in the end, I'm the one who arranges most of our mutual social outings and it's my friends we socialize with on the rare occasions we socialize. It seems that he is enormously comfortable in social situations, but he doesn't really create them or extend work friendships outside of work. He just quietly wishes we were with friends more often. And while he's absolutely hilarious, with a perfect recall of voices and quotes and a genius for using them in context, he takes himself really very seriously. I'd never have guessed that at all. Fortunately I still find him devastatingly attractive, if not quite for the same reasons I originally did. :)

I have no earthly idea why my therapist thinks I'm self loathing. He knows I hate my body, but that's a reasonable thing to do really. I've let it fall to pieces, and it really isn't at all loveable. And I hate when I am lazy or self indulgent with money or food, or fall behind at work. But I think it's reasonable to be disgusted with myself at those times. Even intensely disgusted.

But what he seems to fail to grasp is that at the core of all of that disgust is the sense that I could do better, and anger at myself for not doing better. I had two parents who loved me as much as they could love. My father adored me more than any person alive, even if he yelled a lot and made my life miserable at times. I did very well at school, and beat myself up if I got an B, or even a low A, or not the highest A, because I felt like I could and should do well. I don't loathe myself for things I'm not good at, like humor or sports. And he seems to fail to grasp that it's in the areas that I fully expect myself to do better because I think well of myself that I despise myself for falling short. Which is not, I think, self loathing but the exact opposite. I seem somehow to never have managed the lower expectations toward myself that I apply to others.

Boy, I am coming across quite awfully in this thread, aren't I? I am not only cool and more calculating than I might wish in my relations, but I think very well of myself - at least in some areas.

(I sort of wish we had a lot of icons here. Not the sort that move, but more choice in expressing emotions. The written word is so hard that way.)


For what it's worth

Posted by Dinah on November 19, 2007, at 10:38:23

In reply to Re: Pragmatism rskontos, posted by Dinah on November 8, 2007, at 11:37:09

My therapist says that some of what I'm describing is what he advises clients to do.

And as for the rest of it, he says it's just one of a number of different ways of being. Not better or worse than any other.

Of course, he wouldn't likely to be say anything else. :) But it seemed like he meant it.

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