Category Archives: Self-hatred And Shame

Shame And Its Agonizing Effects

As we have seen from other articles I have published on this site, those who suffer severe trauma in early life may go on to experience irrational, deep-seated feelings of shame in adulthood, particularly if they have developed conditions highly likely to be linked to their adverse childhood experiences such as clinical depression or borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Feelings of shame can be excruciatingly painful; at their worst, they can cause us to completely isolate ourselves so that we avoid contact with others to the extent that we may become virtual recluses, perhaps only daring to venture out of our house or flat when absolutely necessary. Indeed, the word ‘shame‘ derives from the Indian word ‘sham‘ which means ‘to hide.’

What Is Shame?

When we feel ashamed we feel very negatively about ourselves and believe we are, to put it simply, a deeply bad person. We also tend to assume that others are judging us in a similarly disparaging manner. The sensation of shame also frequently involves feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, incompetence, self-disgust, self-hatred, anxiety, anger, bodily tension, nausea and sweating/feeling too hot.

Effects On Relationships :

Because of our own jaundiced and self-lacerating view of ourselves, we assume others will feel the same way about us (or soon will do once they discover’ what a ‘horrible and disgusting’ person we are). We therefore avoid trying to form close relationships, believing such efforts to be futile given that we will ‘inevitably be rejected’ once the ‘real’ us is ‘discovered.’

Other Possible Effects Of Shame :

We may also try to psychologically defend ourselves from deep rooted feelings of shame. For example :

– we may become preoccupied with managing a superficial image of ourselves when interacting with others which we desperately hope will keep ‘our true badness‘ concealed; this can lead to the creation of a ‘false self’ which precludes any chance of authentic or meaningful interaction with others (in other words, we ‘become afraid to be who we are’).

   – perfectionism / ‘workaholism’ (in a desperate attempt to compensate for the profound inner feelings of inadequacy and inferiority that may accompany a pervasive sense of shame).’Workaholism’ and perfectionism are both extremely precarious ways of maintaining some semblance of self-respect and self-esteem as we tend to continually set ourselves targets which, inevitably, we sometimes fail to achieve. We are then highly vulnerable to suffering a catastrophic collapse in our sense of self-worth as it has not been built upon strong enough, nor sustainable, foundations.

Image result for shame

Differentiating Between Three Types Of Shame :

We can differentiate between three specific types of shame. These are :

1) INTERNAL SHAME

2) EXTERNAL SHAME

3) REFLECTED SHAME

I define these three types of shame below :

Internal Shame : this is a sense of shame we feel about ourselves

External Shame : this is when we perceive that others have a very low view of us which makes us feel ashamed

Reflected Shame : this is when we feel shame vicariously due to how someone else connected yo us has behaved, such as a family member or a member of a group with which we identify.

Often, a sense of internal shame and external shame co-exist within the same person. However, in the case of shame related to childhood trauma, we may (irrationally) feel a strong sense of internal shame even though we can accept that others are not negatively evaluating us as a result of what happened to us (i.e. there is an absence of external shame).

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION : COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY :

There is evidence to suggest that COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY may be of particular benefit to those suffering from distress connected to the experience of shame.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Healthy Guilt Versus Unhealthy Guilt

healthy and unhealthy guilt

Healthy And Unhealthy Guilt :

Like all emotions, feelings of guilt evolved in humans for their ‘survival value.’ However, feeling guilty is (at minimum) an unpleasant sensation so what ‘survival value’, or, to put it simply, benefits, does the emotion bring?

The answer to this question is that healthy feelings of guilt motivate us to preserve our personal standards/morality/ethics which, in turn, makes our relationships with others more likely to thrive (e.g. our conscience makes it less likely we will treat others badly and risk losing them as allies/friends).

However, feelings of guilt can also be unhealthy and affect our lives adversely. Those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are particularly likely to experience unhealthy guilt which, unfortunately, often persists into adulthood. I provide some examples of how feelings of unhealthy guilt may develop below :

– a child whose parents divorce may irrational blame him/herself for this divorce

– a child whose parent dies may irrationally feel guilty moving on with his/her own life

– a child whose mother suffers from depression may irrationally feel guilty enjoying him/herself

– a child who is perpetually criticized and treated negatively by his/her parents may develop deep seated and pervasive feelings of irrational guilt that are likely to persist into adulthood in the absence of effective therapy.

WHAT ARE THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF SUCH IRRATIONAL, UNHEALTHY GUILT?

  1. DISTRESS – this can range from the uncomfortable at one end of the spectrum to excruciating and paralyzing at the other.
  2. AN INABILITY PROPERLY TO FOCUS UPON ONE’S OWN NEEDS
  3. SELF-HATRED, EXTREMELY LOW SELF-ESTEEM, LACK OF CONFIDENCE
  4. FEELINGS OF SHAME – if we are made to feel guilty to a significant degree, and often enough, during childhood we can develop a constant, profound feeling of shame. [The difference between feelings of ‘guilt’ and feelings of ‘shame is that when we feel guilty we feel we’ve DONE something bad, but, when we feel shame, we feel that we ARE bad (i.e. intrinsically bad)]. Click here to read my article about How A Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.
  5. POOR CONCENTRATION AND FOCUS (due to intrusive, guilt-ridden thoughts and ruminations)
  6. POOR PERFORMANCE AT SCHOOL OR WORK (linked to number 5, above)
  7. LOSS OF CAPACITY TO ENJOY LIFE / WON’T PERMIT ONESELF TO DO ENJOYABLE THINGS (due to feelings/beliefs along the lines of ‘I don’t deserve to be happy’ or ‘it would be morally wrong to enjoy myself’). Such feelings/beliefs can also be related to conscious or unconscious desires to punish oneself.

It can be seen, then, that, whilst ‘healthy guilt’ has benefits, ‘unhealthy guilt’ serves no beneficial purpose and is solely destructive.

THE LINK BETWEEN UNHEALTHY GUILT AND PSYCHIATRIC CONDITIONS :

Unhealthy guilt can be a symptom of certain psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such guilt can be unremitting and overwhelming and, as such, should be treated by a relevantly qualified profession.

 Self-hypnosis MP3 – help alleviate feelings of guilt and shame. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Three Unconscious Psychological Defenses Against Inner Feelings Of Shame

According to psychodynamic theory, if, as babies, we are subjected to significant emotional abuse by the primary caregiver (usually the mother) such as constantly being subjected to her extreme anger, rage and hostility, we are at risk of developing a profound and pervasive sense of inner shame – the unshakable inner conviction that we are bad beyond redemption and worthless to humanity.

This can have extremely long-lasting, even lifelong (in the absence of effective therapy) effects, including great difficulty developing meaningful and satisfying relationships with others  and the unconscious adaptation of three main psychological defense mechanisms, according to the psychodynamic psychoanalyst, Burgo PhD.

Burgo identifies these three psychological defense mechanisms against the almost unbearable emotional pain our feelings of inner shame cause us as follows :

1) NARCISSISM

2) BLAMING OTHERS

3) TREATING OTHERS WITH CONTEMPT

 

1) Narcissism : Narcissists feel a desperate need to be admired by others and to feel superior to them. They may try to achieve this through their appearance (expensive clothes, jewelry, cosmetic ‘enhancements’ etc), occupational/professional success, social popularity and various other means, ‘Above all, they need to be the centre of attention (even notoriety is better than being ignored in their eyes). Their interest in others tends to be superficial at best (unless it involves exposing said others’ weaknesses and ‘inferiority, of course).

All these devices are a largely unconscious (usually) way of trying to keep hidden, concealed and buried a (from themselves and others) their profound inner sense of shame and unworthiness.

2) Blaming others : Because those afflicted by deep, internal feelings of shame cannot bear to be reminded of their own imperfections or to have them exposed, they deflect any blame that it might be their responsibility to accept onto others.

3) Treating others with contempt : This psychological defense works in a similar way to the psychological defense of blaming others (see above). Viewing and/or treating others in a contemptuous manner is very frequently a projection of one’s sense of one’s own inferiority onto others.

RESOURCES :

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Recovering Our Self-Esteem : 6 Key Elements.

self-esteem

If we have experienced significant childhood trauma, such as parental rejection, our self-esteem is likely to have been severely damaged. However, it is possible for us to rebuild it.

Branden (1994) identified six key foundations upon which the development of a healthy level of self-esteem is built; these six building blocks of self-esteem are as follows:

THE SIX KEY FACTORS THAT UNDERPIN A HEALTHY LEVEL OF SELF-ESTEEM:

1) Being consciously engaged with the present

2) Being accepting of oneself

3) Taking responsibility for oneself

4) Having a definite and meaningful purpose in life

5) Having personal integrity

6) Having a capability to act in an assertive manner when necessary

recover self esteem

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) Being consciously engaged in the present :

When a young child is playing, s/he becomes ‘lost’ in the present, utterly mentally involved with the activity and living entirely in the here and now.

As adults, we tend to lose this ability; instead of living in the present we dwell on/ ruminate about the past (as is often the case for people suffering from clinical depression) and/or worry about the future (which frequently occurs, often to an obsessive degree, in people who suffer from an anxiety disorder), rarely living for now.

Whole lifetimes can be wasted in this manner, possibly spent using drink and drugs in a futile attempt to recapture this childhood mental state of unsullied psychological purity.

However, we can train ourselves to live more in the present through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Indeed, research into the positive psychological effect of mindfulness meditation had yielded impressive results.

2) Accepting oneself :

This means accepting both one’s good qualities and bad (after learning from our mistakes and undertaking not to repeat them we need to forgive ourselves, acknowledging we are a highly fallible human being, like everyone else, rather than torturing ourselves with guilt. Also, making mistakes ourselves can give us empathy for others around us who make mistakes too, and help us not to judge them.

3) Taking responsibility for ourselves :

If we deny any responsibility for our own lives, we deprive ourselves of the motivating belief that we can significantly contribute towards the shaping our own destinies.

4) Having a definite and meaningful purpose in life:

This could be finding one’s true vocation (rather than a job one would rather not do due to financial necessity) which may involve downsizing and living a less materialistic life.

And, of course, some find meaning through religion, spirituality or a political or social cause.

5) Having personal integrity :

This means living an authentic life that is true to who we are, developing our own moral code based on personal reasoning and attempting to live by it.

6) Having a capability to act assertively when necessary :

A key component of this is to value our own needs and not allow ourselves to be exploited by others. This means having the strength and courage to stand up for ourselves in a firm, but not aggressive, manner.

Resource:

hypnosis for self esteemTen Steps To Solid Self-Esteem. Click here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Self-Defeating Personality? Its Link To Childhood Trauma.

self-defeating personality

Why Do Some Seem To Have A Self-Defeating Personality?

I have written elsewhere on this site about how my illness caused me to behave in ways that were self-sabotaging in the extreme.

Some psychoanalysts refer to people who are, to put it informally, their own worst enemy, as having a self-defeating personality disorder; below, I briefly explain how this disorder, according to psychodynamic theory, can be strongly connected to traumatic childhood experiences.

Stop_being_own_worst_enemy

Self-Defeating Behaviour And Its Relationship To Childhood Trauma:

Self-defeating and self-sabotaging behaviour in adulthood, with its roots in adverse childhood experiences, often lies at the heart of addictions (such as drugs and alcohol), compulsions (such as gambling) obsessions (e.g. in connection to romantic relationships), depression, low confidence, pride and poor self-esteem.

However, most people are unaware that the source of their problematic behaviours lies in their difficult early life.

This lack of awareness of what really lies behind our self-destructive inclinations is due to the fact (according to psychodynamic theory) that we repress (banish to the unconscious) the true cause (our painful childhood) as to be conscious of it would be too distressing. This is known as a psychological defense mechanism.

Psychodynamic theory also postulates that it is necessary to break through our psychological defense to bring into consciousness understanding and insight into these clandestine, dark and dysfunctional motivational forces.

Only then can we turn our behaviour around so that it helps, rather than hinders (putting it very mildly in many cases, including my own) us.

Essentially, then, to cure ourselves we need to resolve our, thus far, unresolved childhood emotional conflicts; these may include, for example:

– having been rejected or abandoned by our parents

– having been unloved by our parents

– having been emotionally deprived by our parents

– having been excessively controlled and manipulated by our parents

If we do not resolve these issues (again, according to psychodynamic theory) we will continue to be unconsciously driven to put ourselves in situations that cause us to re-experience the highly distressing emotions originally generated by our traumatic childhood experiences.

BUT WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE BE UNCONSCIOUSLY DRIVEN TO RE-EXPERIENCE THESE DISTRESSING EMOTIONS TIME AND TIME AGAIN?

Well, according to Sigmund Freud, the answer is that this repetition compulsion (as he phrased it) represents our inwardly driven frantic and desperate attempts to gain mastery over the original trauma and its associated negative emotions, something we (inevitably, because we were powerless) failed to do in childhood.


Example:

A woman rejected in childhood by her parents may be unconsciously driven to try to form relationships with utterly unsuitable men who are bound to reject her.


Yes, incredible as it may sound, according to psychodynamic theory, her unconscious mind compels  her to form relationships that are doomed to failure (some go as far as to say all our behaviours are, in the final analysis, unconsciously driven and our sense of control over our own fates is a foolish fantasy; but we are submerging ourselves in murky and hazardous philosophical waters here).

Finally, it is also theorised that we will also interprete events negatively, when it is not objectively justified, in an attempt to recreate our adverse childhood experiences and the negative emotions which pertained to them at the time.

So, following on from the example above, if we were rejected by our parents as children, we may constantly believe others are rejecting us when this is, in fact, NOT the case.

Resource:

SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOAD : STOP SELF SABOTAGE – Click here for further details.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Effects Of Parents Treating Their Children With Contempt

what is contempt?

A particularly devastating form of emotional abuse is when parents or primary caregivers treat their children with contempt.

Psychologists define contempt as a blend of two primary human emotions – anger and disgust. Acting contemptuously towards an individual also entails treating him/her as a much inferior being (eg. intellectually, morally).

Sometimes this contemptuous treatment may be relatively subtle and insidious, perhaps involving making, on the surface, seemingly neutral remarks but delivering such remarks in a condescending tone, perhaps with a slight, barely perceptible, smug, superior and self-satisfied sneer or smirk.

contempt

Or, at other times, the expression of contempt may be flagrant and overt; at such times, the parent may take a sadistic delight in humiliating their child.

When a child is treated in such a way, his/her morale, sense of worth and confidence are gradually eroded away and destroyed.

Why Do Some Parents Treat Their Children With Contempt?

Often such parents are narcissists who have a powerful need to make themselves feel ‘superior to’, ‘above’ and ‘better’ than others.

Many psychotherapists regard people who feel the need to treat others with contempt as employing a psychological defense mechanism that protects them from facing up to their own repressed feelings of shame, unworthiness and inferiority – in other words, they DENY these feelings about themselves, and PROJECT them on to others.

However, the child, of course, does not realize the parent is behaving as s/he does due to his/her own buried feelings of inferiority and is therefore very likely to end up internalizing the parent’s contemptuous attitude to him/ her.

Treatment

If, when we were growing up, we internalized our parents’ negative and contemptuous attitude towards us, and, now, as adults, and as a result, have come to see ourselves as ‘of little worth’, ‘inferior’, ‘unlovable’ etc, therapy may be necessary in order to rid ourselves of such erroneous beliefs. There is evidence to suggest that, in this regard, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be of particular benefit.

More Information On CBT: click here.

Resource:

Overcoming An Inferiority Complex Self Hypnosis Audio MP3. Click here.

eBook:

emotional abuse

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

The Vital Importance Of Having Our Traumatic Experiences Validated.

validation of childhood experiences

Research has established, beyond doubt, that, all else being equal, the greater our experience of childhood trauma, the worse both our physical and mental health are likely to be during our adulthood, and the more likely we are to die prematurely.

Research has also shown that having our perception of our childhood trauma, and its adverse effect on us, validated is an essential part of our recovery.

Surrounding my own childhood experiences there has always been a conspiracy of silence by family members. My feelings about my early experiences have been met variously with evasion, denial, contempt, disdain, cold dismissiveness, minimisation, stone-walling, passive -aggression and straight- forward lies.

When our experiences are NOT validated, or, worse still, shamelessly refuted, recovery becomes almost impossible : insult is added to injury, with the likely outcome that our condition will actually become worse .

When our experiences and their effects remain NON-VALIDATED, our very sense of reality is undermined which puts us in danger of developing psychosis (a condition in which we become pathologically detached from reality).

child trauma

When we are told things such as ‘stop harping on about the past’ or, ‘you sound like a broken record, let it go’, it is this very contemptuous dismissal of our feelings that perpetuates our condition. The tacit implication is that we are self-absorbed, self-pitying, egotistical and should stop blaming our problems on our childhooods as this is wrong and selfish. But let’s examine the logic (or lack, thereof) of this rebuffal to our fundamental beliefs about our early traumatic experiences:

Can we take seriously the suggestion that a child who was frequently beaten to a pulp by a drunken father (as a hypothetical example), or the person whose brain development was impaired by emotional abuse (as another hypothetical example), and develops psychological problems in adulthood as a result, is somehow being weak and self-indulgent, and is wrong and unentitled to suggest his/her childhood may be linked to his/her adult difficulties?!

Of course we can’t. In fact, it takes an awful amount of inner, mental strength to face up to and acknowledge the harm done to oneself by one’s childhood, and doing so is absolutely key to one’s recovery. 

Recent research has shown that if a person’s feelings about their traumatic experiences in childhood are just sympathetically listened to and validated, and their pain and suffering as a result of their trauma is acknowledged and authenticated, their condition improves, even in the absence of any additional, active therapy.

This is powerful evidence that having our feelings about our childhoods validated is absolutely essential in order for us to recover from our adverse experiences.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc, PGDE (FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Why We Must Stop Blaming Ourselves For Our Mistreatment.

 

It is an established fact that most children who are mistreated by their parents or primary care givers believe they are to blame for their abuse. I know I did. Indeed, I concluded I must be a terrible person or why else would I be treated so badly?  This, too, I have since learned, is an extremely common inference mistreated children make.

Because we tend to blame ourselves for the bad treatment we received (such as psychological abuse, physical beatings etc), we develop a deep sense of deep and abiding shame.

As a consequence, we tell nobody about our terrible predicament; in my own case, I absolutely dreaded others finding out and developed an obsessive and profound (and irrational) anxiety that somehow they would; I imagined other school children taunting me with comments such as:

‘What sort of  freak are you that your own parents hate you and don’t want you!!??’

It is very important that we stop blaming ourselves for what happened to us as carrying around a sense of guilt is exceptionally psychologically debilitating and prevents us from gaining any pleasure from life as we believe we simply do not deserve any happiness. Also, our sense of being ‘a bad person’ tends to be self-perpetuating.

However, despite the obvious benefits of freeing ourselves from crushing, yet irrational, guilt, the process of doing so can entail its own painful elements : for example, by stopping blaming ourselves, we may need to face up to the reality that, in fact, it was someone who should have cared for us and protected us who was the wrong – doer. At last seeing the truth about this person (or persons) can be extremely upsetting and an enormous shock.

childhood trauma self blame

Who Was To Blame?

According to the psychologist, Padesky, we should try to identify all those involved in our mistreatment which can help us to deflect the blame from ourselves. For example, the list that we come up with may look something like this:

– family members who turned a blind eye to what was happening

– our school for not picking up on signs we may have been at risk

– social services for not intervening

– the abuser/s themselves

– doctors who missed signs we were at risk

etc…etc…

Reminding Ourselves Of Our Former Vulnerability:

Another technique we can use to help remind ourselves we were not to blame is to find, and look at, photographs of ourselves at the age we were at the time we suffered our mistreatment in order to help us to empathize with just how vulnerable we were at the time.

Reasons We Were Not To Blame:

Finally, given that we may have spent years experiencing self-blame and self-hatred it can be very useful to make a list of all the reasons we can think of why we were not to blame and to occasionally re-read this list in order to help ourselves in our continuing recovery process.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Shame Caused By Childhood Trauma And How We Try To Repress It.

trauma and shame

 

We have seen in other articles published on this site that if we have experienced significant childhood trauma we may, as adults, develop profound feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, self-hatred, rock-bottom self-esteem, feelings of being ‘innately bad’ and irrational self-blame for what we experienced. This pernicious brew of feelings about the self can devastate every area of our lives and cause us to live with a deep, abiding sense of shame.

Because feelings of such shame are so psychologically painful to live with, some individuals may develop certain psychological defense mechanisms (the cause of which is generally unconscious) in order to banish them from conscious awareness into the dark recesses of the unconscious where they simmer and fester.

According to the psychoanalyst, Joseph Burgo, PhD., the three main types of defense mechanisms we may unconsciously be driven to employ in a desperate attempt to avoid feeling this shame are as follows:

narcissism

– blame

– contempt

Let’s look at each of these defense mechanisms in turn.

NARCISSISM:

Narcissists have a relentless and desperate need to prove to both themselves and others that they are superior. They crave admiration from others and aspire to make themselves the object of great envy.

They feel that they must perpetually be the centre of attention and may be driven to achieve, or attempt to achieve, high social status (including ‘social climbing’), earning a high salary, and seeking positions of power.

Or they may always try to appear cleverer, wittier or more interesting than those around them (although these attempts, especially if perceived as desperate, generally serve only to annoy, irritate and alienate others, as opposed to enthralling them).

narcissistic defense

They tend, too, to treat others as if they are beneath them. However, their view of themselves as superior beings is often strongly out of kilter with reality – in other words, they may suffer something approaching delusions of grandeur. Indeed, they may provoke comments from others such as the following (overused) one: Who does she think she is? The Queen of Sheeba?’ Or others may regard them as a prima donna.

To reiterate, this constant need to view themselves as superior is a desperate attempt to avoid coming face-to-face with who they (deep down) believe they really are, as fully experiencing such a deep sense of worthlessness and shame is psychologically intolerable to them.

BLAME:

Because acceptance of failure would cause the individual who feels worthless and inadequate in the core of his/her being, and who needs to keep these feelings repressed, s/he cannot tolerate criticism and will shift the blame onto others when things go wrong. Such individuals may also be perfectionists.

CONTEMPT:

Another defense mechanism an individual may utilize in an attempt to keep feelings of shame buried in the unconscious is to ‘look down’ on others and to see them as inferior beings to be mocked or pitied. Such individuals may relish the humiliation of others and delight in their failures. The more s/he can view others as beneath him/her, the more effectively s/he can keep his/her own profound feelings of inferiority and shame at bay.

The Role Of Therapy:

Psychoanalysis can help the individual realize that his/her core feelings of inadequacy and shame, hitherto largely unconscious, were caused by his/her childhood trauma that the trauma was not his/her fault and by absolutely no means means s/he is inferior, worthless, or, in any way whatsoever, needs to feel ashamed. Under the supervision of a skilled therapist, this can cause the individual’s dysfunctional defense mechanisms to start to melt away so that s/he may start to live an altogether more authentic life.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

‘Acting Out’ And Childhood Trauma

Young people who express their psychological turmoil by directing their negative feelings OUTWARD onto the environment (eg vandalism) or other people (eg violence) are performing what psychologists term externalising behaviours. This is also known as, more colloquially, ‘ACTING OUT.’

These behaviours are in contrast to internalising behaviours such as anxiety and depression by which young people may turn their negative feelings inwards into themselves. However, it is important to point out that the two types (externalized behaviour and internalized behaviour) very often co-exist within the same person; for example, a teenager who is very depressed may also be sometimes aggressive and violent (indeed, it is certainly worth noting here that both clinical depression and violence are linked to low levels in the brain of the neurotransmitter serotonin).

But let’s return to look specifically at acting out/externalising behaviours:

acting out

Externalizing behaviours can be split into three groups. These are:

1) Aggression/Violence

2) Anti-Social Behaviour  (Non-Violent)

3) Hyperavtivity

Let’s look at each of these three categories in turn:

1) Aggression/Violence:

These may take the form of both verbal and physical behaviour (at the most extreme end of the spectrum it may even involve the use of weapons).

This type of externalizing behaviour is more likely to occur in boys.

Furthermore, whilst boys are more likely to employ the use of physical aggression, girls are more likely to make use of what is known as ‘relational’ aggression (Hadlet, 2003), such as excluding another girl, in a spiteful manner calculated to cause emotional harm, from their social group.

Feschbach, 1970, further proposed that aggression could also be divided into two other types : HOSTILE AGGRESSION and INSTRUMENTAL AGGRESSION. Let’s briefly look at what he meant by each of these:

HOSTILE AGGRESSION:

This refers to hot-bloodied, spontaneous, impulsive, reactive AGGRESSION involving loss of control of powerful and intense emotions. The aggressor tends not to benefit from this type of aggression and often, in fact, makes matters worse for him/herself (it is not coldly calculated aggression).

INSTRUMENTAL AGGRESSION:

This refers to cold-bloodied, calculated, manipulative aggession by the use of which the aggressor hopes/plans to derive personal benefit.

What Are The Causes Of Such Aggressive/Violent Externalizing Behaviours In Young People?

Causes are both genetic and environmental. They include:

-modelling (learned behaviour)

– abuse

– neglect

– being bullied at school

– hormonal influence

– an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters (eg. serotonin – see above).

Young people who display a significant level of aggression and violence are at higher risk than average of gaining criminal convictions as adults.

2) Anti-Social Behaviour (Non-Violent):

This may involve stealing/theft, vandalism, pathological lying, excessive use of drugs/alcohol. As in the case of aggressive/violent behaviour (see above) boys are more prone to this particular form of externalised behaviour than are girls.

What Are The Causes Of Such Anti-Social Externalizing Behaviours In Young People?

Again, causes can be both environmental and genetic. They include modelling/learned behaviour, ethnic conflict (Feschbach, 1998), abuse, neglect and genetic inheritance.

As in the case of aggressive and violent behaviour, young people who exhibit non-violent, anti – social behaviours are more likely to acquire criminal convictions as adults.

Research suggests that young people displaying high levels of anti-social behaviour may benefit from Empathy Training (Fascenbach, 1982) in school with the aim of encouraging their pro-social behaviour and improving their self-image (many young people who frequently behave anti-socially have low levels of self-esteem).

3) Hyperactivity:

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may:

a) be hyperactive eg. restless, impulsive

b) have a poor attention span eg. easily distractable, poor powers of concentration

c) have symptoms of both of the above

As is the case with aggression/violence and anti-social behaviour, boys are more likely to suffer from this condition than are girls.

Young people who suffer from hyperactivity, like young people who display excessive aggression and anti-social behaviour are more likely to be convicted of criminal activities as adults.

What Are The Possible Causes Of Hyperactivity?

Causes of this condition are not fully understood but research suggests genetics, brain structure and disruptions of brain functionality are involved.

A Note On Possible Future Development Of Anti-Social Personality Disorder:

Lynam et. al., 1988, carried out research which suggested that young people who demonstrate a combination of :

– hyperactivity

– conduct problems

– attention deficitsdeficits

and

– high levels of impulsivity

are at especially increased risk of developing Anti-Social Personality Disorder (this used to be called ‘psychopathy’) as adults.

61ZqEIxF2CL._AA160_ 

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here.

Other Resources:

Anger Management Hypnosis. Downloadable MP3. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE( FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery