In that regard, the counselor would want to explore any possible connection between the social turmoil that might have been responsible for generating his subsequent social disillusionment. To the extent the counselor determines that the subjects social disenfranchisement is attributable to his involvement or response to those social conflicts he would assist the subject evaluate the objective conclusions and expectations that have shaped his outlook as an older adult in substantially different social circumstances and living in a very different society than the one responsible for his feelings about government representatives and authority figures in general (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).
B. Preliminary Hypotheses of Main Apparent Problems
Hypothesis # 1 — Multiple Causes of Intimacy Issues
First, it is likely that there are multiple concurrent causes of the subjects apparent difficulty establishing and maintaining close intimate relationships and effective communications within his marriage. The psychodynamic perspective teaches that it is relatively rare for human beings to reach adulthood without at least some psychological influence from residual conflicts originating in classical Freudian psychodynamic concepts (McWilliams, 2004).
Second, it is also likely that dialectic dynamics play a role in the communication insufficiency in the subjects marriage. Specifically, it is a ubiquitous feature of gender-based differential socialization, social learning, and social expectations in relation to gender-specific expectations and communications patterns, particularly in intimate relationships between men and women (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).
Hypothesis # 2 — Typical (i.e. Non-pathological) Identity Confusion
The existential approach teaches that a significant percentage — if not a majority — of adults never reach the higher levels of self-actualization described by Maslow (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008). Likewise, many adults spend much or all of their adult lives either ignoring, or sublimating their personal insecurities and lack of genuine self-esteem into superficial means of overcompensating for internalized negative messages and poor self-image. In many cases, social learning, family-of-origin dysfunction, and negative religious influences (such as teaching that natural impulses, desires, and thoughts are sinful) are responsible for undermining the development of healthy self-esteem (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008). It is likely that some of this subjects reactions to relationships and his inability to maintain intimate satisfaction and communications have multiple concurrent origins in all of these areas, as is very typical throughout the human community (McWilliams, 2004).
Hypothesis # 3 — Residual Psychosocial Trauma from Vietnam Era
Social learning and behaviorism teach that the individual is highly susceptible to the influences of the external environment in which he lives and interacts with his community (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008). Many of this subjects apparent conflicts with his society and authority figures, and his disenfranchisement and difficulty identifying a fulfilling direction in his life have connections to his experiences and circumstances during and immediately after his wartime experiences in Vietnam.
Frequently, soldiers and others who survive traumatic environments in which they witness the death of close friends experience confusion, so-called “survivors guilt,” and subsequent disillusionment in life (Frain, Bishop., & Bethel, 2010). It is likely, therefore, that much of this subjects difficulty in these areas relate directly to his experiences as a soldier. Those concepts would explain the difficulty that the subject has had establishing a vocational identity and a fulfilling direction in life as an adult.
C. Possible First Counseling Steps
Possible Counseling Step # 1 — Exploration of Early Relationships
Since there is a good chance that at least some of this subjects complaints relate back to early experiences in connection with psychodynamic principles, the first possible counseling step would be to inquire into psychoanalytically relevant experiences and early relationships (McWilliams, 2004).
I that regard, it would be particularly important to understand the family dynamics of his family of origin and his relationships with and feelings about his parents. Ideally, that exploration should also include an examination of the communication patterns that were modeled in the home as between the subjects parents as well as any explicit teaching about male and female roles and relations (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).
Possible Counseling Step # 2 — Exploration of Biological Influences
Since the complaints of this subject could also be explained, either in whole or in part, by biological influences, the second possible counseling step would be a review of the available medical and psychological information pertaining to the subjects parents. Specifically, that inquiry would focus on any indications of inherited tendencies toward depression-related ailments. The results of that counseling step would naturally determine whether the primary focus of subsequent counseling should be in the realm of biological or behavioral analysis.
Possible Counseling Step # 3 — Exploration of Existential issues
This subject has expressed frustrations that are fairly typical of many adults who question their purpose in life and the higher meaning of their lives in middle adulthood (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008). Since those attitudes can be reflections of ordinary confusion of life perspective or manifestations of genuine psychological issues, this step would seek to distinguish those possible origins of the subjects present confusion.
Possible Counseling Step # 4 — Exploration of Spiritual Issues
It would be appropriate to apply the same approach recommended in connection with the subjects existential confusion to his spiritual conflict. Specifically, it is important to distinguish whether his rejection of organized religion is a reflection of intellectual autonomy or reaction to negative experiences with organized religion. In the case of the former situation, it would be appropriate to counsel him to pursue spiritual fulfillment without any connection to organized religion. In the case of the latter situation, it would be appropriate to address the specific negative experiences and offer the subject a chance to reconnect with the spirituality offered by organized religion.
Possible Counseling Step # 5 — Exploration of Societal Issues and Attitudes
Since the subject has expressed significant feelings of societal disenfranchisement (by choice) and a profound distrust of government and authority figures, this possible counseling step would address the origin of those sentiments. It is possible that they relate to personal psychological issues and to early social experiences but it is more likely that they are substantially the result of a combination of the subjects traumatic experiences in combat and to witnessing the horrors of war and the loss of close friends in battle. Naturally, they may also have to do with his reaction to feelings of betrayal by political leaders during the Vietnam era. To the extent his sentiments are functions of the former, a psychodynamic approach to PTSD issues and behavioral responses would be most appropriate. To the extent his sentiments are functions of the latter, it would be more appropriate to address the substantive beliefs and the conclusions formed by the subject.
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