Tag Archives: Group synergy

5 Distinguishable Styles of Communication

CommunicateAs a Marriage and Family Therapist, I owe a debt of gratitude to the great psychotherapists and family therapists that have come before me. One such pioneer in the field of family therapy is Virginia Satir, who was widely regarded as the “Mother of Family Therapy.” One particular contribution that Virginia Satir made during her extraordinary career was her identification of 5 distinguishable styles of communication; she noted that communication has to do both with information and the style in which that information is relayed.

In light of this, Virginia named these 5 different styles of communicating as placating, computing, distracting, blaming, and leveling. The first four styles of communicating that I just mentioned are generally unproductive ways of communicating with others.  Satir saw leveling, however, as the healthiest  mode of communicating with others, and she and encouraged her clients to work towards becoming levelers in their interpersonal relationships.

Placators tend to engage in behaviors that are designed to please, soothe, and pacify others. They make unwarranted concessions to others and are prone to accommodating and pleasing others because they have an addiction to seeking out their acceptance and approval. In addition, they are afraid of being rejected or abandoned by others, fear that the people around them will become angry with them, and they therefore fear interpersonal conflict. Consequently, people who use a placating style of communication use language that is intended to win the favor of others, and they are constantly apologetic, and never confrontational or disagreeing. They also tend to walk on eggshells in their communication with others, and they tend to preface what they are about to say before they say it in the hopes that what they say won’t be misconstrued.  They do this to cover all their bases in order to preempt a misunderstanding that could unintentionally cause someone to be disappointed or angry with them.  As a result of this communication style, people who placate are often chameleons without a solid sense of themselves, or they are vulnerable to being codependent individuals or co-narcissists who give up their authentic voice because they’re too afraid of what’s at risk if they speak their truth.

Those who engage in a Computing style of communication tend to detach themselves from their emotions and attempt to respond to situations in their lives in a logical and controlled way that is not influenced by their feelings. They are intent on delivering responses that are dry, cool, and calculated, and they tend to keep their voices even and often make use of abstract language. These individuals are often prone to communicating in a computing style because they’ve often developed a fear regarding expressing their own emotions. People who use a Computing style of communicating tend to live in their heads, and they will even use language that reflects theirmore left-brained approach to experiencing relationships and the world at large.  For example, someone who uses a computing style of communicating is more apt to say, “that doesn’t compute with me,” “that’s illogical,” or “the facts and data that you’ve just provided for me simply don’t add up.”  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s often a goal of mine to help those who have a computing style of communication to drop down into their hearts and share their thoughts and feelings from that sacred, vulnerable space.

Those who adopt a Distracting style of communication tend to behave and respond in an unpredictable manner that jolts and interrupts one-self and others. They are known to say or do things that are irrelevant to the language and actions of others; they are not emotionally attuned to others, and they are therefore unable to hold space for others because they’re so disconnected from their own thoughts and feelings. When they speak, they are often prone to being tangential and  jump from one topic to another. Distracters tend to feel restless and panicked physiologically, and they often use a tone that is fast, erratic, and unstable, varying in pitch for no apparent reason. These individuals often appear to have significant psychological issues which make relating to them very challenging. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found that working with individuals and couples that have a distracting style of communication challenging because it can be difficult to follow what my client or clients are actually saying. As a group facilitator, I’ve found that individuals with a distracting style of communication can unintentionally interrupt the flow of what is taking place in my groups, and I’ve found that other group members become increasingly aware of this issue as time goes by.

Those who have a Blaming mindset are prone to looking for and seeing problems and fault in others, and they tend to boss others around and try to manipulate and control them. Blamers can often be quite narcissistic, and they believe that they are better than everyone else. They do not believe that they are accountable or at cause for any of the problems that they face in their lives. Instead, they see themselves as victims and believe that everyone else is to blame for everything that goes wrong in their lives. In addition, they tend to think in black and white, and they don’t see others or the world in shades of grey at all.  People who have a blaming style of communicating often distort events that have taken place, and their distorted, revisionist memories often serve to protect their fragile egos and preserve their pristine sense of self.  Sadly, they often  perceive that nobody is genuinely concerned about them, and as they become resentful and more angry at others, their tone can become loud, harsh, and abrasive. They can be insensitive to the feelings of others, and they are often very reluctant to apologize to those they’ve hurt because they sincerely believe that they’re the ones that have been wronged in the first place.  In addition, they are reluctant to say they’re sorry because they believe that doing so is a sign of weakness.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it can be very challenging to work with people who adopt a blaming style of thinking and communicating because they are rarely interested in personal introspection and personal growth.

Alas, the healthiest communication style that Satir highlighted is Leveling. Leveling refers to the healthy communication mode of expressing oneself in an assertive manner so that one’s language and behavior is direct, straightforward, and congruent with one’s honest and authentic self. People who adopt the leveling approach express themselves in a way where there is harmony between their actions, words, tone of voice, and posture/gestures. They engage in active listening, are comfortable with silence, and they articulate their thoughts and feelings in such a way that people truly hear and understand them.  Levelers seek first to understand, then to be understood.  They also tend to value partnership, and they  look to create win-win scenarios when they’re talking to people.  They are also able to empathize with others and  see things from their point of view, and they are excellent at diffusing tense discussions by letting the other person know that first and foremost they want what is best for everyone.

People who adopt a leveling style of communication also tend to speak from their heart, and they’re comfortable being vulnerable with others.  As a matter of fact, they believe that being vulnerable with others is an act of courage and serves as a bridge to deeper connection.  They also see conflicts that arise in their interpersonal relationships as opportunities for personal growth as well as opportunities to grow closer to that person after the conflict is talked through and resolved. Levelers also tend to be the first ones to take ownership for their mistakes, and they apologize to others when they’ve hurt them.  They tend to be easy to understand and relate to, and they project themselves as “What you see is what you get” kinds of people. Finally, they contribute toward relationships that are safe, mature, and capable of genuine intimacy.

Now that you’ve read about Satir’s 5 different communication styles, I want to invite you to consider the following question: Which of the five communication styles mentioned above typically represents your strategy for communicating with others?

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’m a firm believer that how we choose to communicate profoundly impacts our relationships and profoundly shapes the course of our lives. There are countless other nuances and insights into effective communication that I’ve written about in other blogs on my website. Never the less, I trust that you’ll find it useful to consider your particular communication style and whether or not it’s been serving you to date.

If you’d like to learn how to adopt a leveling communication style so that you can make the most out of your interpersonal relationships and ensure that you feel seen, heard, and thoroughly understood, please get in touch with me so that I can help you to acquire a leveler’s communication style and skill set. You’re very welcome to e-mail me at jboesky8@gmail.com or call me at my office at (619)280-8099 to set up a time to visit with me in person so we can get to work!! I trust that you’ll discover that learning a leveler’s style of communicating will be a very rewarding process for you.

Thank you for taking your time to read my blog on the 5 distinguishable communication styles. I hope that you found it interesting and enlightening.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP
Marriage and Family Therapist/Master NLP Practitioner

GROUP THERAPY NO-NO’s

Image taken from fotosearch.com

Image taken from fotosearch.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Group Facilitator, I’ve already written in a past blog about the ingredients that make for amazing group therapy experiences!!  In this blog, however, I want to take a moment to shed light on the ingredients that can kill the momentum of a thriving group and/or cause a group to wither and die out entirely.  As you read about these poisonous ingredients, I want to invite you to also consider how some of these particular behaviors may be hurting your relationships at home  and at work too.  Groups, after all, are often microcosms for how we  show up in our lives in general.

Like cyanide poisoning, the following ingredients that that can kill groups, friendships, romantic relationships, and chemistry on sports teams include the following:

1)  Gossiping with fellow group members about each other; This can lead to group alliances and coalitions forming in addition to triangulation among group members; These relationship dynamics destroy opportunities for open, honest, and direct communication between group members.

2)  Disregarding the confidentiality agreement that everyone agrees to when they originally join a group; Doing so kills trust, safety, and other group member’s willingness to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and with everyone else.

3)  Shaming other group members.  This includes belittling them, invalidating their feelings, emotionally abusing them, etc.  Shaming can be done with words, a person’s tone, or even his or her facial expressions.  Eye rolling, for example, is a physiological way of passive-aggressively shaming another person.

4)  A narrow-minded intolerance towards another’s beliefs, values, goals, sexual orientation, emotions, etc.

5)  Name calling:  Calling someone else a name that’s intended to belittle them and hurt them threatens group safety and causes the recipient of the name calling to contract and shut down.  In addition, the person doing the name calling instills fear in the other group members, so he or she becomes a threat to the safety of the group container.

5)  Being defensive by talking over people, turning away from people, or digging in your heels and proving you’re take on things is right without considering other perspectives and points of view.

6)  Being contemptuous of others, haughty, smug, aloof, intimidating, arrogant, and self-righteous.

7)  Having a closed mind and a closed heart.  If you’re unwilling to open your mind to new ideas and listen to different perspectives, and if you’re unwilling to open your heart and share your feelings, then you will get very little out of your group therapy experience.

8)  Unleashing judgments on group members and/or offering unsolicited advice and feedback.  The purpose of joining a group is to do your own work;  it is not to rescue and/or fix other group members.

9)  Breaking group agreements such as being on time, honoring my 24 hour cancellation policy, honoring the group’s confidentiality agreement, etc.  When you break group agreements, you threaten group safety.  In addition, you are demonstrating to the other group members that you may not be reliable, trustworthy, etc.

If and/or when a group member is out of integrity and breaks a group agreement, it’s important then to be willing to explore the unconscious shadows ( reasons or motives) that may have compelled you to break the group agreement in the first place.  This exploration can turn into a growth opportunity for everyone in the group.  If you’re unwilling to engage in this self-exploration, however, you’ll likely create a sense of disconnection between you and the other group members.

10)   This group therapy NO-NO goes without saying:  there can be absolutely NO physical abuse among group members.  If you feel a charge or if you feel triggered by another group member, you’ve been given a rich opportunity to grow.  The person who  triggered you has been a gift to you in your life!!

11)  Do not pressure other group members to share more than they are ready to share at any given moment.  Everyone must feel safe and comfortable to grow at their own pace.

12)  Don’t delight in stirring the pot and intentionally triggering people.  Again, be in group to do your own work, and let that be your primary focus.

13)  Whether it be in my Men’s group, co-ed group, or Sports Psychology group, please do not flirt with other group members or attempt to date them.  Men and women may have unresolved issues with members of the opposite sex, and so being approached by another group member may cause a person to feel unsafe.  Even if two group members share a mutual attraction, dating while participating in the same group can create too much drama and upheaval in the group and destabilize the group in the end.  Plus, couples in groups may become less comfortable sharing their true thoughts and feelings because they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings.

Alas, thank you for taking the time to read my blog on Group Therapy NO-NO’s!!

If you’re interested in participating in one of my groups, please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Also, please keep this list of Group Therapy NO-NO’s in mind when you’re in my group or when you’re in any group for that matter!!

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

PSYCHODRAMA

Image taken from Londoncentreforpsycodrama.org

Image taken from Londoncentreforpsycodrama.org

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I often use Psychodrama with individual clients as well as in the groups that I facilitate.  Psychodrama is an action method, often used as a psychotherapy, in which clients use spontaneous dramatizationrole playing and dramatic self-presentation to investigate and gain insight into their lives.  Developed by Jacob L. Moreno, M.D. (1889–1974) psychodrama closely recreates real-life situations, and acting them out in the present, clients have the opportunity to evaluate their behavior and more deeply understand a particular situation in their lives.

Psychodrama is most often utilized in a group scenario, in which each person in the group can become   therapeutic agents for one another’s scenes. Psychodrama is not, however, a form of group therapy, and is instead an individual psychotherapy that is executed from within a group. A psychodrama is best conducted and produced by a person trained in the method, called a psychodrama director.

In a session of psychodrama, one client of the group becomes the protagonist, and focuses on a particular situation to enact among the group.  A variety of scenes may be enacted, depicting, for example, memories of specific happenings in the client’s past, unfinished situations, inner dramas, fantasiesdreams, preparations for future risk-taking situations, or unrehearsed expressions of mental and emotional states in the here and now. These scenes either approximate real-life situations or are externalizations of inner mental processes. Other members of the group may become auxiliaries, and support the protagonist by playing other significant roles in the scene for an individual to respond creatively to a situation through spontaneity, that is, through a readiness to improvise and respond in the moment.  By encouraging an individual to address a problem in a creative way, reacting spontaneously and based on impulse, they may begin to discover new solutions to problems in their lives and learn new roles they can inhabit within it.

In psychodrama, participants also explore internal conflicts by acting out their emotions and interpersonal interactions on stage. A psychodrama session focuses principally on a single participant, known as the protagonist. Protagonists examine their relationships by interacting with the other actors and the leader, known as the director. This is done using specific techniques, including mirroringdoubling soliloquy, and role reversal.

During a typical psychodrama session, a number of clients gather together. One of these clients is chosen as the protagonist, and the director calls on the other clients to assist the protagonist’s “performance,” either by portraying other characters, or by utilizing mirroring, doubling, or role reversal. The clients act out a number of scenes in order to allow the protagonist to work through certain scenarios. This is obviously beneficial for the protagonist, but also is helpful to the other actors, allowing them to assume the role of another person and apply that experience to their own life. The focus during the session is on the acting out of different scenarios, rather than simply talking through them. All of the different elements of the session (group participants that hold the energy and remind the protagonist of someone in their past or present, props, lighting, etc.) are used to heighten the reality of the scene.

The three sections of a typical session are the warm-up, the action, and the sharing. During the warm-up, the actors are encouraged to enter into a state of mind where they can be present in and aware of the current moment and are free to be creative.

Next, the action section of the psychodrama session is the time in which the actual scenes themselves take place. During the action section of the psychodrama, the protagonist has an opportunity to give or receive love to or from someone that he never had a chance to in the past, give or receive forgiveness, slay old dragons (someone who may have been abusive to him or her, for example), empower him or herself in the presence of someone who belittled or emasculated them in some way, express angry thoughts and feelings, etc.  During the action sequence of the psychodrama, the protagonist has a chance to have a “corrective emotional experience”; he or she can experience themselves differently, re-write an old script that no longer serves them, and literally superimpose new memories on top of an old ones.  After all, our unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, so what’s taken place in the protagonist’s reenactment profoundly heals and transforms their relationships with themselves, others, and the world at large.

Finally, in the post-discussion, the different actors (group members) are able to comment on the action that just took place and share their empathy and experiences with the protagonist of the scene. In addition, the protagonist can share with the group members what his or her experience was like, what new insights and awareness have come up, and what positive shifts they notice in terms of how they feel in the scene’s aftermath.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found that there are several techniques that are used in psychodrama to make it an enlightening, transformational experience for everyone involved. Mirroring, for example, is an important technique in that the protagonist is first asked to act out an experience. After this, the client steps out of the scene and watches as another actor steps into their role and portrays the client. Afterwards, the client is asked to comment on the action and/or reenter the scene.

Doubling is another psycho-dramatic technique, in which the client is joined by another actor in his or her portrayal of him- or herself. The second actor assumes the role of an “auxiliary ego,” which reveals hidden parts of the protagonist’s behavior, by acting as him or her. Role playing is another method, in which the client portrays a person or object that is problematic to him or her. In soliloquy, another technique, the client speaks his or her thoughts aloud in order to build self-knowledge. Finally, role reversal is a technique in which a client is asked to portray another person while a second actor portrays the client in the particular scene. This not only prompts the client to think as the other person, but also has some of the benefits of mirroring, as the client sees him- or herself as portrayed by the second actor.

In conclusion, I’ve found that using Psychodrama in the groups that I facilitate in my Marriage and Family Therapy Practice has been a powerful interactive tool in fostering growth and transformation among my clients.  If you’re interested in having corrective emotional experiences and superimposing new, more empowering memories onto old ones that still limit you, I invite you to be in touch with me and ask to join one of my groups.

If you’d prefer to do some psychodrama in an individual session with me, no problem!!  EMDR, NLP, and Gestalt therapy are all therapeutic technologies that I use with individual clients that incorporate the very same psychodrama tools and techniques that I use effectively in groups.

To reach me, please call my office number at (619) 280-8099 or e-mail me at jboesky8@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening.

Warmly,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

BECOME AN EXTRAORDINARY COACH!!

Image taken from fr.wikipedia.org

Image taken from fr.wikipedia.org

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve had the privilege over the years of working with high school, collegiate, and professional athletes who compete with focus and passion in their chosen sport.  I’ve also had the honor of working with their coaches too.  I’ve worked with tennis coaches, volleyball coaches, football coaches, mixed martial arts coaches, etc.  In my work with these coaches, I’ve discovered that many of them are naturals at motivating and inspiring their players, teaching them about integrity, character, teamwork, partnership, etc.  With my help and guidance, they are able to add new insights, tools, techniques, and communication skills to become even greater coaches.  As importantly, the athletes they coach soak in their coach’s wisdom and compassion like sponges, and they in turn become better athletes as well as better people.

Great coaches that come to mind are John Wooden and Phil Jackson.  John Wooden taught his student athletes about hard work, dedication, character, teamwork, game excellence, and seeing how what goes on in an athlete’s life between the lines is a microcosm of what goes on his life outside the lines.   He led UCLA to countless NCAA basketball championships.  Never the less, his players loved and admired him for his ability to inspire them and for his unwavering belief in their full potential.  He became a mentor to many of his players and a father figure to many more.

From a Sports Performance Consultant’s point of view, Phil Jackson seems to be an excellent coach as well.  I don’t base this assessment on the number of NBA championship rings he’s accumulated over the years while coaching for the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.  I deem him an excellent coach because of his willingness and desire to encourage his players to grow and expand as people outside of basketball.  Phil Jackson often encouraged his star athletes to read thought provoking books, practice visualization, practice meditation, and to put their egos aside for the sake of their team.  He was often called the “Zen Master”, and this was because of his tendency to blend Eastern thought and philosophy with Western thought and philosophy.  He also appeared to be a man of equanimity at times, allowing his players to make mistakes because he trusted that they would learn from them.   As a result of his faith his players, he got the most out of them.

Unfortunately, for every great coach out there, there are countless others who emotionally, physically, and even sexually abuse their athletes.  For Indiana University Basketball coach Bobby Knight comes to mind.  He often came across as narcissistic, petulant, and entitled in press conferences, and on one occasion he was caught on video tape violently throwing chairs across the basketball court in front of his own players. Even more disturbingly, there was a time when he was caught on video choking one his players.

More recently, Scarlet Knight’s Men’s Basketball coach Mike Rice and his assistant coach at Rutgers, Jimmy Martelli, resigned from their coaching positions following a physical and verbal abuse scandal.  A video broadcast by ESPN show Rice and Martelli punching, kicking, and throwing balls at players.  In addition, the video shows them shoving and screaming at them, sometimes calling them homophobic slurs.  I believe that what these men did was reprehensible and unconscionable.  Rather than uplift and inspire their players, they chose to intimidate, bully, and abuse them.

Motivating athletes to perform better by instilling fear and shame in them never works.  On the contrary, it only serves to erode their self-confidence.  In addition, it teaches them that abusing and degrading others are acceptable things to do.  As human beings, we’re unconsciously compelled to treat others the way that we’ve been treated.  Hence, it’s highly likely that some of the student athletes on the Rutgers basketball team will mentally, emotionally, and/or physically abuse someone they know sooner or later in their lives.  Thanks to Rice and Martelli, it’s very likely that one of the student athlete’s future son or daughter will be the recipient of similar abuse.

If you’re a coach and work with high school, collegiate, or professional athletes, I want to encourage you to consider meeting with a sports performance consultant/sports psychology consultant.  Do do even if you’re already a great coach because you’ll learn even more about yourself and how to be an even better coach.  I would especially encourage you to do so if you’re prone to hurting the athletes you serve when it’s really your intention to uplift and inspire them.  If you’re reflexively inclined to belittle, shame, or emotionally abuse your athletes, it’s not because you’re a bad person.  More than likely, you do this because you don’t know how of another way how to lead and motivate others differently.  Fortunately, you can acquire these skills rather quickly.  You can learn to offer your athletes words of affirmation, to praise them, and to offer them constructive criticism in ways that inspire them to change.  You can also quickly learn how to improve your communication skills, foster team unity and cohesion, and mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare your athletes for competition in ways that bring out the very best in them.  Finally, you can learn sports psychology tips, tools, and techniques that will help your athletes realize their full potential.

If you’re feeling inspired to up your game and be the best coach that you can possibly be, please call me so that we can visit in person and get to work on improving your coaching skills!!  I look forward to partnering with you and helping you achieve this very worthy goal.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Performance Consultant

 

THE PERFECT RECIPE FOR SUCCESSFUL GROUP THERAPY

image taken from mehealthyliving.com

image taken from mehealthyliving.com

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating Men’s groups, Women’s groups, co-ed groups, Sports Psychology groups, and groups for therapists and life coaches looking to support each other in learning new ways to facilitate growth in their clients.  Along the way, I’ve discovered that great groups don’t just  come together by chance.  Instead, great groups have a balance of both structure and flexibility in them.  In addition, I use my family therapy skills to incorporate rituals, metaphors, transformational  vocabulary, experiential exercises, and interactive group exercises to bring group members together and create a strong rapport among them.

In addition, I strongly encourage group participants to be mindful of how important it is to create a feeling of safety within the group container that we’re co-creating together.  With this in mind, shaming, judging, blaming, and attacking others have no place in a group therapy setting.  Instead, group members are encouraged to actively listen to one another, deeply see one another, and be as emotionally attuned to one another as humanly possible.  They’re also asked to validate one another, empathize with one another, offer each other words of affirmation, and be respectful of one another’s different temperaments, belief systems, values, etc.  It’s also important that group members allow for moments of silence, which often allows someone to process or integrate a new learning more deeply.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that vulnerability is the birthplace of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness.  Therefore, I encourage my clients to be courageous enough to tell the story of who they are, warts and all.  I also encourage them to be compassionate towards one another, patient, flexible, open-minded,sensitive, curious, and fully present.  In addition, I encourage each group participant to be authentic, to be accountable for their actions, to be in integrity with their word, to own their projections onto others, to own their shadows, and to own their gold.  Group members are also encouraged to be resourceful, creative, and imaginative. I believe that everyone is full of wisdom, so I also encourage each group member to share their wisdom with their peers.  If someone has something to say to another group member that he or she believes will be helpful,  I remind that person to ask  first if the other group member is open to receiving  feedback. I remind them that it’s always important to honor and respect another person’s autonomy, and asking permission to share an observation or thought-provoking question does just that.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often encountered group members who seem more focused on fixing other group members or calling them out on their stuff than on working on themselves.  This is often a way of feeding one’s ego and hiding from oneself at the same time. In addition to all of the other aforementioned ingredients that lead to successful group therapy experiences, it’s very important that each group member understand that first and foremost they’ve elected to participate in a group setting to work on themselves!!  By doing so, they will be stretching outside of their comfort zones and stepping into the light, and this is where the greatest growth occurs.

If this article has piqued your interest in participating in one of my groups,  please call e-mail me or call me at (619)280-8099 and let me know.  In my experience, group therapy settings become sanctuaries inside which personal growth and transformation inevitably take place.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on groups!!

Your Marriage and Family Therapist,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

 

THE BACHELOR: THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY EXPERIMENT THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM~

Image taken from digitalfiles.com

Image taken from digitalfiles.com

There’s no question that Sean Lowe, America’s most recent Bachelor, seems like a great catch.  He’s good looking, well spoken, appears to be sincere, claims to value integrity and character above all else, etc.  In light of all his positive traits, it makes sense to me that some women would find him attractive, and it also makes sense to me that some women would even fall in love with him and want to marry him.  However, it doesn’t make sense to me at all that every single female contestant that gets on the show ends up falling in love with him.  The odds of this seem happening to one mere mortal guy seems astronomically low.  So, I ask myself, how come every time a new bachelor shows up on our television sets to find his potential wife, every single woman flocks to him, fawns all over him, and falls deeply in love with him in a matter of weeks?

I think I have the answer.  With all due respect to Sean Lowe, it isn’t him at all that’s causing these ladies to fall head over heels in love with him.  Its the culture of the show, and the way the show’s  producers deliberately and pre-metitatively use social psychology to entrance these women into believing that their season’s bachelor is the Chosen One.  The truth is, the moment the women get out of their limousines to greet their prince charming, they’ve set out on a hypnotic journey full of symbols and metaphors that are intended to get them to fall in love with their man as quickly as possible.  In addition, other psychological forces are at play that get the women in deeper and deeper over their heads, and what’s sad is that the women have no idea that their emotions are being manipulated by a bunch of reality T.V. head honchos.

For starters, when the women first meet the bachelor, he’s there to greet them in front of a mansion with roses in hand.  Women naturally associate a mansion with power and wealth, and it’s fair to say that most women find power and wealth very attractive.  Soon after their brief meeting outside of the mansion, the women are given champagne, which is another symbol of decadence, sophistication, wealth, etc.  Inside the mansion are fireplaces and candles, which women associate with warmth, romance, and masculine charm.  Finally, at the end of the first evening, the bachelor gives out roses to the women he’d like to get to know better.  Women of course love roses, and they associate them with romance, passion, and love.  Alas, unbeknownst to the women, they’re already in the process of making an unconscious link (Anchor) between their bachelor and their own seductive longings for power, wealth, opulence, sophistication, warmth, romance, charm, passion, and love.  The bachelor has become an archetype for the perfect gentlemen, a prince if you will.

The producers of the Bachelor surely know that most women start off as young, impressionable girls reading fairy tales that kindle their dreams to one day find their prince charming.  They also know that these girls also long to one day become princesses.  With this awareness in mind, the producers present the women the seductive vision of a real life prince standing before their very eyes in front of a castle-like mansion, and they give these ladies the persuasive impression that if they win their bachelor’s heart, their dream of becoming a princess and leading a fairy tale life may soon become their reality.

In addition to creating this intoxicating link between the bachelor and all things rich and royal, the producers of the show seem well aware of the psychological concept known as social proofing.”  Social proofing essentially describes when people unconsciously engage in a herd mentality.  If someone who is perceived to be knowledgeable or credible strongly believes something, everyone else follows suit.  This happens a lot in the stock market, for example.  If a well known investor like Warren Buffet, for example, says with conviction that America is entering into a bull market and it’s time to buy stocks, droves of ambivalent investors will follow his lead.  This is because a man like Warren Buffet is highly esteemed, and he’s become a credible source to turn to for direction throughout the years.  Most of the time he’s managed the winds of the market well, so investors worldwide are willing to blindly follow his lead for this reason alone.  In the case of the Bachelor, the show’s producers have rolled out the red carpet and told the world that their bachelor is highly desirable.  They’ve deemed him special, and they have concluded that he is the ultimate prize for any lady seeking love.

The Bachelor is a credible show, and most people who tune in to watch it assume the producers of the show must know something about their chosen man that they don’t.  Alas, social proof is in securely in place.  When the women meet their bachelor, they already believe that he’s the highest of the high hanging fruit.  He’s the ultimate prize, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It only makes sense then that their hearts flutter within seconds of meeting him.  And it only makes sense that they find themselves falling in love with him within days.

There’s another psychological factor at play on the bachelor that compels the female contestants to fall in love with their chosen one so soon after meeting him.  It’s called “confirmation bias.”  Confirmation bias happens when someone believes something to such a degree that they’ll actively disregard any information that contradicts their fixed belief.  If these girls believe that their bachelor is the ultimate prize, then they’re going to ignore the fact he’s kissing 5 or 6 other girls on the very same night.  They’ll also choose to ignore the fact he may be having sex with the last 3 remaining women in the fantasy suites within days of their own sexual encounter with him.  In addition, they will choose to ignore red flags like he may be emotionally immature, self-preoccupied, etc.  I’ve often found it interesting that the bachelor takes his women on dates that he would like, without much consideration for whether or not his date would like it.  He’ll have her repel down a jagged rock face, eat rancid insects,  or plunge into freezing water, for example.  He’ll say these activities are designed to build trust, of course.  He’ll also say that they serve as metaphors because relationships often have downturns when you feel like you’re repelling backwards or plunging into cold water.  It’s important, he’ll say, that he and his date can weather these metaphorical storms to build trust, connection, etc.

The truth is, however, that most women would rather not repel down a cliff, eat unsavory insects, or endure freezing water to prove their worth to their date.  It’s because of confirmation bias, however, that they’re willing to subject themselves to any and all kinds emotional torture to win the approval and affections of this very special man.  It doesn’t even occur to them that their bachelor is being awfully self-centered.  Just because he’s adventurous and likes to rock climb or plunge into cold water doesn’t mean that she shares his same interests.  When most women have their head’s on straight, they’d ditch that date right after it got started!!  But in their minds their handsome bachelor can do no wrong.  They’re mired in confirmation bias, and nothing he does will dispel them from their belief that he’s every woman’s fantasy.

Another way the show, The Bachelor, manipulates their women to fall in love quickly with their bachelor is to introduce the psychology of  “human competition” into the equation.  It’s no secret to anybody, least of all the women on the show, that they’re competing for their bachelor’s heart.  First of all, most people who compete would much rather win than lose.  Winning means to the victor that she’s the prettiest and most charming woman of them all.  Her ego gets a huge lift, and the answer she gets to her “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, whose the fairest of them all” question is simply music to her ears.  The losers of the Bachelor competition, on the other hand, generally feel like rejects and failures.  They’re left feeling  inadequate and worthless.  This very phenomenon explains why almost every woman that gets eliminated from the Bachelor whimpers and cries during her limousine ride back to the hotel where she will be asked to promptly pack her bags and leave the premises as soon as humanly possible.  As she’s crying, she’ll inevitably wonder out loud, “What did I do wrong?”  “Why wasn’t I good enough for him?”  “What did the other girls have that I didn’t?”  These types of thoughts and feelings cut through each woman’s heart like a knife.  To avoid this pain, each female competitor sets out to win.  After all, they equate associate losing with deep pain and winning with great pleasure.

Like in every competition, there are certain rules you must follow and criteria you must meet  in order to emerge victorious.  In the case of the Bachelor, the women must generally follow the following implicit rules in order to stand a chance of winning the bachelor’s heart:  She must demonstrate vulnerability, depth of emotion, physical affection,  and an open heart and soul.  And she must demonstrate the aforementioned as quickly as possible, because she’s up against other women who will gladly bear their souls at the drop of a hat to move onto the next rose ceremony and avoid the dreaded pain of losing.  Within days each woman is rushing the romantic process to outpace her peers on her race to cross the finish line and claim her prize:  The Bachelor. In this rush mode, she’s sharing with the Bachelor her greatest fears, her past traumas, her life dreams, her family history, her weaknesses, her strengths, etc.  She’s even sharing with him secrets she’s never shared with anyone else ever before because she really, really wants to win this competition and feel good about herself, and it makes her nauseous to think of how she’ll feel about herself if she loses.  What happens, though, when a woman shares these kinds of thoughts and feelings with a man is that her heart invariably opens.  She feels heard, validated, and connected.  If she shares these deep thoughts and feelings with a man at an accelerated pace, it’s only inevitable that she’s going to fall in love with him.

There’s one last psychological phenomenon that I’d like to touch on to support my hypothesis that the women are more or less programmed to fall in love with their season’s bachelor.  This phenomenon has to do with “unconscious mimicry.”  Essentially, human emotions are contagious.  Human motivation is contagious too.  That’s how come you’re more likely to get into a frenzy when you sit next to other frenzied football fans at a football game.  It’s also how come you’re more likely to laugh out loud when you’re sitting besides others who are laughing out loud while watching a comedy at a movie theater vs. when you’re sitting at home watching the same comedy on your couch.  Finally, it’s how come you’re more likely to work really hard at your job if you’re surrounded by co-workers who are really driven and hard working too.  In light of this, imagine now that you have 25 women who are falling in love with one man.  Given that emotions are contagious, just imagine how one woman’s lust for her bachelor emotionally affects the women around her.  Like the flu, her lust is going to spread, and the other women around her are going to catch what she’s feeling.  Pretty soon all the women have caught the love bug, and the bachelor can’t turn any of them away even if he tried.  Night after night, he offers a lucky woman a red rose, and each and every time she blushes and says, “Of course I’ll accept this rose.”

Image taken from colourose.com

Image taken from colourose.com

I wonder if the bachelor himself has any idea that while he may be a great guy, it’s not his princely charms that were causing every woman on the show to fall in love with him.  It had far more to do with the psychological spell and hypnotic trance that the participants on the show fell under than anything else.  I personally doubt that he had a clue.   It’s more likely that he momentarily forgets who he really is, and he merrily buys into the notion that he really is the cat’s meow.  That is,  until his season of the Bachelor finally comes to a close,  and at least half the women he goes on first dates with in the real world think he’s just alright and politely decline to go out with him again.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post!!

John Boesky, LMFT

GROUP THERAPY MAGIC

A Group

Image from montrosecounselingcenter.org

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve facilitated Men’s groups, Women’s groups, Sports Psychology groups, Therapist/Life Coach Training groups, etc. I’ve found time and time again that there’s a magical self-transcendence that takes place in them. Individuals are no longer islands unto themselves privately working one-on-one with a therapist. Instead, they become part of a larger collective, and they develop a sense of kinship and belonging with their peers that they don’t have with their closest friends. This is because groups, when capably facilitated, become safe, sacred sanctuaries where people can take off their masks, shed their personas, and become truly vulnerable and authentic. When this happens, people develop self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance which in turn frees them to experience the grounded joy that comes from connection to themselves and others.

The common misconception that group therapy provides a forum for self-pity, whining, and passivity couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, group therapy is a very dynamic experience. Group members compassionately challenge each other to stretch beyond their comfort zones in order to expand and grow. As for me, I ask my clients to participate in experiential exercises that get them to think and feel and act in new ways that will serve them most in their lives. I also offer my group members teaching pieces on mindfulness, communication, active listening, etc. Most importantly, I make it my top priority to have my clients feel deeply seen and truly understood. Before you know it, everyone is learning how to deeply see, understand, and validate each other. Group members become co-creators, challengers, coaches, confidantes, and great friends.

If you’re looking to grow emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually, a therapy group is definitely one place where you can do this. As a matter of fact, in my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, Self-transcendence and self-transformation often take place faster in groups than they do in individual or couple’s therapy alone. In light of this, if you’ve ever wondered about participating in a therapy group, by all means give me a call!!  I look forward to hearing from you 🙂  John Boesky, LMFT