Where behavioral science and humanism get out of the ivory tower, and into the world.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We need a mask for the outer world…?

I was listening to an interview from npr and that statement was made. It caught me off guard. I think most people agree with it, but why? Why do we need a mask? What does it do for us? Keep “us” safe? Safe from what?... Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out… I just re-read mending wall, (go ahead, it only takes a min or two) Why keep ourselves safe from being known…. There is no difference between those who cannot read and those who do not read according to Mark Twain. Is there a difference between the struggles of being unknown, or being known and being rejected? Maybe, at least if you’re known to yourself and others then the “option” of being accepted exists….

How to get your [co-worker, neighbor family member, pet, significant other] to do what you want – Part 2

Planned ignoring, while effective, is not a very fun way of interacting with people. It takes a lot of consistency and fortitude and generally causes headaches before the major results kick in.

The best way to get people to act how you want is by what’s called “Proactive” positive behavioral supports. This is by far the effective and enjoyable way to effect change in people. It’s simple, effective, and makes you feel good too.

So here’s what it all boils down to “Go out of your way to tell people you like what they’re doing.” Yep, that’s it. A few well placed “thank you”s and some pats on the back will make everything great. How does that happen you ask? And why then isn’t everyone great now?

Two things:

First, very few people go out of their way to give compliments and approving statements.

Second, the person shouldn’t be doing something extraordinary, they should just be doing behavior you’d like to see them do again in the future.

Your significant other takes out the trash for you? Give them a compliment. Your child is sitting quietly focused on their homework? Tell them how great they are for doing their math. Your dog has happily greeted you at the door without jumping all over you? Milkbones for everyone!

I know this all seems crazy. I mean, why should people get praise for doing what they’re doing anyway? That’s the “trick” with this stuff, anytime you reward a behavior, you make it more likely for the behavior to occur again.

This usually works pretty quickly, and once you get into the habit of it, you can start getting into the fancier techniques, and getting totally new behaviors you’ve always dreamed of but never thought possible. Some day, you too could have children who clean their rooms on their own, a spouse who interacts with you how you want, or a staff who’s ahead of their work. :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Are Terrorism and Borderline Personality Disorder a Difference of Scale?

Right off the bat let me state three things.

1.) I do not support terrorism, I do however think exploring its cause can lead to an understanding of why it is used, how it can be dealt with, and how it can stopped before it starts.

2.) I am not implying in any way, shape, or form that have knowledge of the mental status of people who are involved in terrorism. I do, however, think that there may be parallels “terrorist activities” as a concept and behaviors that can be used to identify some psychological disorders.

3.) I fully admit to making glib statements and gross generalizations about extremely complex, multi-faceted issues that have people many many many many different ideas and opinions on.

And now! On with the show!

“Once upon a time a famous pirate prisoner was brought in front of Alexander the Great. Alexander asked him: ‘Why do you infest the seas with so much audacity and freedom?’ The pirate answered: ‘For the same reason because you infest the earth; but because I do it with a little ship, I am called a pirate; because you do it with an armada you are called an emperor.’”
De Civitate Dei, Augustine of Hippo

The Parallels that I see:

Purpose of terrorism

To disrupt the environment in a manor that cause people and nations chaos so that; they will be noticed, their distress and grievances heard, in hopes that they will receive what feel they need from the global community to lead a good life.

Purpose of “acting out” by a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD)

To disrupt their environment in a manor that cause the people in their lives chaos so that; they will be noticed, their distress and grievances heard, in hopes that they will receive what feel they need from them to lead a good life.

Causes of terrorism

Some research shows that a good way to get a revolution going and radicalize groups of people is the following: do not allow moderate levels of decent. This tends to push people towards the poles of thinking. “Pangea is the best place in the world!” “Pangea is terrible” because all the people who start saying “Well, Pangea is nice, but I’d like to see some improvements,” Get disappeared and the grievances and concerns of the people become ignored because “hey, it’s only words, besides we’re in charge!”

Now the only voices not being 100% pro-Pangea are the ones who want to tear Pangea apart. The ones who are really upset, and the ones that have been taught that words are not enough to be heard by the powers that be. Their logical course of action? Ramp up the volume. Ramp it up till it’s loud enough that people take notice and work with them to fix the problem.

Causes of “Acting out” by people with BPD
(NOTE: this is not the cause of BPD, just a general idea of why they act out.)

People with BPD feel extremely distressed and need help from the people around them. At some point they learned that saying “I’m upset and could use some support,” would get them in trouble. As such they learned to stay very quiet and not express themselves, but that only works to a point. Once that’s been reached they lash out destructively either against themselves, others, or objects so that people will know how upset they are and have the hope that someone will come in and fix the problem.

Therapy for BPD:
The course of treatment that seems to do the most food for people with PBD is modality called “Dialectic Behavioral Therapy.” Which, at its core, is a combination of having strong boundaries, and teaching the person with BPD how to express themselves moderately, which ideas and expectations they have of others are realistic and which aren’t (along with “traditional” and other types of skill building). Over the course of many months the client and therapist build trust and a rapport. Often during this time the client will act out, to which often the response is “I will not work with you if you are being destructive. We can continue working when you’re calm, and can talk about your problems.” With the key being that the person with BPD knowing and trusting that they will be heard when they communicate correctly.

Potential therapy for “terrorism”
Any terrorist act immediately shuts down communication with the powers that be. No negotiation, no trades, no communication until there has been X months of non-violent activity. The people involved in the terrorist acts must believe that there is an entity that will hear their grievances, and help with support their ideas with in reason.

“No you cannot have your own nation, besides, the land you want doesn’t have an independent infrastructure and ya’ll would be in the dark and hungry with in the week. However, you do make up 3% of the population, so lets work on getting you representation in the government.”

Would it work? Who knows, at best I’m an arm chair political theorist. I do know that the parallels seem strong to me, and I know at least on the scale I’m used to working on it works well. Often people with BPD make you want to pull your hair out and go screaming into the night, but they’re still a great group of people to work with and can have such amazing positive results in the end.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Part 1: Making Little Darlings Out Of Little Monsters

We all know nightmare kids: The ones screaming in the supermarket, the niece who comes over and trashes the house, maybe your own kid who's whine makes you cringe...

So who did the dark rites to bring them up from Hades?

We Did.

Can we send them back and get a "good kid"?

Absolutely, and with out punishment, corporal or otherwise.


Here's the "Behavioral Reinforcement" break down of bratty kids:

So where do "bad" kids come from? Trick question, there are no bad kids, they're neutral. Kids act however people in their environment have taught them to act.

We taught them that screaming, whining, hitting and breaking things works. Anytime anyone has given in to those behaviors, this is what they've learned:

1.) Being "bad" works to get what I want.

2.) This is the level of being "bad" that I need to be.

3.) I should be this "bad" again or worse next time I want something.

All people, kids and adults, act like monsters/jerks because it works to fulfill their needs in the most expedient way possible. Essentially, they've been taught that acting like a butt gets results.

So, how do you use Science to change this without punishment and how do I know it works?

A large percentage of my work with in the mr/dd/id field was about changing destructive (read that as self mutilation, assault of others, damaging property...) and inappropriate behaviors (stealing, stripping, screaming...) in people where all punishment was essentially forbidden. Even speaking in harsh tones could be grounds to be brought up on abuse against protected citizens.

So believe me, if I can get a 300 lb. man with intellectual disabilities to go from stripping and trashing his roommate's stuff for attention, to asking his support staff to play a game and spend time with him, you can get you kid to stop whining at you when they want a new toy.

Version 1.) Trying to get something they should have, the wrong way.

Step 1: To really change behavior you need to identify the purpose of the behavior.

-So Johnny is being disruptive while you're talking to your friend because he wants your attention?

Step 2: Provide an explanation and alternative that meets the same need.

-"Johnny, It's rude to interrupt people who are speaking. I'm not talking till you until you are calm and say excuse me."

Step 3: Stop responding to unwanted behavior.

Then ignore his behavior until it stops. Don't look at him, tell him no, that he's bad, just pretend you and your friend are out having coffee and Johnny is at home.

Step 4: Support what you want.

The INSTANT Johnny is calm and says excuse me Praise him for being calm and polite and speak to him for a moment.

Step 5: Rinse and repeat as necessary!

If done correctly and consistently, the negative behavior could be gone in as little as a week or two.

Version 2.) Trying to get something they shouldn't have.

Step 1: Stop responding to unwanted behavior.

Johnny is now yelling throughout the supermarket for candy. Let him know calmly it's not time for candy. When the screaming, throwing things out of the cart and other mayhem starts. Just calmly put the Cherrios back in the cart, and ignore his behavior until it stops.

Pretend you're the priest from "The Exorcist," whatever happens don't give in! That second you let it get to you and you caved in. That was the second where Johnny was taught his tantrums work. That's where he learned to do it to get what he wants. (Be prepared to remove him from the store, or to go all the way through the checkout isle with him yelling.)

Sure the first few time you'll get some death stares, but you'll only have to go through it a few times, rather than a life time of bratty behavior.

The Downside and hard part:

The behavior will go UP at first. Oh, it'll go sky high, higher than you could ever imagine and then...... it'll totally stop. It'll just drop off. So if you can make it through those final highs without giving in, you're golden. So you gotta totally commit before you start, remember, if you waiver even once, you've taught them the new baseline.

That new baseline be worse then ever and take even longer to get rid of. Why you may ask? Because you've essentially become a slot machine for the kid. They never know when acting up will pay off, so they'll do it all the time.

Think you can do it? It might be the hardest thing you've ever done. But then, think how much freedom you'll get, no more whining, tantrums, and you can take your kid out in public and not be ashamed and glared at by everyone else around. Totalllllly worth it.

Coming soon!

Part 2: How to use Positive Supports, Shaping, and Modeling to teach new and better behaviors!