History Versus Intent

We all like to think that we are in control of ourself but often, although we may be quite rational, we may find ourself acting in an irrational manner towards others. We react to people with emotions that are too intense, or not intense, not intimate enough. We may act completely the opposite of what we would have desired to do if we could have exercised more adequate control. If we could have "thought" we possibly would not have acted as we did. Yet some find that, time after time, they have not been able to do what we call "thinking" before they reacted.

Actually in many situations, if we had to wait until we did "conscious" thinking about most events before acting we would be far too late for most encounters. Some obsessive-compulsive people have a real painful problem with getting stuck in loop-like continually expanding lines of thought, feelings or actions that may repeat and repeat in what seems like forever to those around them and possibly to themselves. The OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) person is definitely not enjoying the sort of psychological-mud that they are stuck in.

However OCD people are not the only ones that have a problem dealing with interfering psychological patterns preventing their acting, feeling, or thinking efficiently and clearly. Many cannot act without undue amounts of hesitation or interfering inner patterns. In many present situations we are acting as if we were in a past situation or syndrome rather than behaving as we would have liked in the present.

Our beloved mate or friend, our student, or waiter performs some minor error and we explode or snarl with venom all out of line with reality. We go into road rage when someone needs to go slower than we want them to. We presume that a person doing something that we don't like or don't want is intending to do something to us rather than just that they are carrying out what their personal history has taught them to do, just as our inappropriate reaction may seem like our intent, but actually is often also an unconsciously determined sequence of emotions acquired in our personal history or development.

We may have spent our development years under the authority of a person who, out of their history and without any conscious intent, may have denigrated us, put us down, by use of their tone, manner or words. People who are picked on tend to learn at least two things: to pick on others and to pick on themselves. Self-denigration may be done quite unconsciously, but the underlying feeling of inferiority can orient a person to putting others down with an intensity that baffles the onlooker and the perpetrator, who does not display or even know the history that makes them act as they do.

If we do not know our history well enough we cannot control our life with relative comfort. Knowing our history does not mean being able to write an essay describing our history. As we explore the connections beneath and between our conscious activity we find an entire rich world of purpose and meaning that once mastered (through many continuous interpretive sessions with an insightful psychotherapist) may help us to learn to do that realistic, sometimes lightning quick evaluating that prevents us from behaving inappropriately.

Drs. Arnold and Maxine Lehrer
Associates in Psychotherapy P.A.
(908) 654-3677
(908) 654-4118