Category Archives: Psychology

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and relationships

Over a year ago, my mom urged me against having a tit-for-tat mentality in relationships. Since then, I have wondered: does this mean pure cooperation–no defection at all (ideal)–or only defecting after two offenses? Everyone deserves a second chance…but, what about a third?

As someone new to the field of ABA, I got to wondering this past week about its discouragement of punishment. Punishment in the field can be justified perhaps only as follows: a client fails to produce correct behavior more than twice in a row. (This occurs after a reinforcement protocol of correct behavior.) After two offenses, what is a competent behavior interventionist to do without giving up? One answer would be to switch to a better reinforcement procedure, such as differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI). It is better to teach over an inappropriate behavior with a replacement behavior than to take away something valued.

Tit-for-tat might be the optimal strategy to employ in a prisoner’s dilemma setting. But, its success as a relational tactic is likely only limited to such contexts. Certainly, escalating or snowballing with someone into mutually frustrated (or, God forbid–vengeful) behavior won’t be a good time! But in settings like romantic relationships or ABA, tit-for-tat should be transcended in favor of always seeking to establish cooperation (or, worst-case, healthily-spirited competition or friendly rivalry).

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Let them go with forgiveness and grace, and work to do better in one’s relationships next time!

Grief (and beyond): Netflix’s *Never Have I Ever* 《spoilers》

A central theme running through this series is grief. Devi Vishwakumar and her mother must face the recent death of the former’s dad and latter’s husband. I just finished watching Season 3, which seems to give the most solid treatment of Devi’s grief.

The first explicit case of grief in this season happens as Devi moves on after Paxton breaks up with her. Narrator John McEnroe lists three of five stages of grief per Kübler-Ross’ model: anger (“raging”), depression (“wallowing”)–and finally, acceptance.

Devi notes to therapist Jamie Ryan (played by Niecy Nash) that her life is going well, and she feels guilty for such given her late father Mohan’s passing. In Episode 9 of this season, Devi plays her first harp concert since Mohan’s heart attack at her performance just a couple of years prior. After retreating anxiously to the bathroom just before playing in this season’s concert, Devi is able to confide in her boyfriend Des’ mother Rhyah that she had a visual hallucination of Mohan sitting in the audience.

Rhyah validates Devi’s feelings, supporting her enough for Devi to successfully play through her performance. While Rhyah is later shown to not be fully understanding, this portion of Season 3 shows Devi being able to lean on those close to her as she copes with her feelings of grief.

Finally, following Paxton’s graduation speech at the end of the season, Devi acknowledges that he got her through her dad’s death. This is a touching moment worthy of a goodbye, as Paxton will be leaving Sherman Oaks (and Devi) to attend Arizona State University. What starts off as an enduring obsession with Paxton for Devi ends up being a “dream” that allows her to move forward and let others into her life. Overall, Devi handles her grief maturely by letting people get close to her throughout the series.

As someone who has studied and/or worked in the field of psychology for 13 years, I look forward to seeing what Devi’s previously defining grief transforms into in Season 4. After learning acceptance through her relationship with Paxton, what will come next for this teenage Indian-American character?

Solving for the trauma of superheroes

Have you ever wondered about the experience–i.e., the phenomenology–of superheroes like Marvel’s Daredevil (Matt Murdock), or DC’s Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)? Each of theirs is a story on how heroes plagued with trauma cope via their personal mission. A “sub-phenomenology” of trauma is possible when repressed traumatic content passes into the subconscious, or sub-awareness.

Once such content passes into the subconscious, it can be treated. But before being treated, the peculiar kind of trauma should be identified. Is it grief caused by loss: as is the case for Matt, Bruce, and Oliver?

It occurred to me while outlining this post that art immersion could serve as relief therapy. Assuming trauma has not been prevented, and once sufficient insight has been gained on its nature, it should be cured. Once cured, we could move toward establishing the right prevention parameters!

The “good” self-actualizing environmentalist

What makes a good self-actualizing environmentalist? For Robert Hartman the axiologist, a good X fulfills its concept’s definition. A good self-actualizing environmentalist has attended sufficiently to their lower four need types–physiological, safety, love, and esteem (probably, but not necessarily, in this order). Further, they self-actualize in the 13 ways outlined by Maslow in being creative, spontaneous, humorous, etc.

Jung and Maslow

Carl Jung is represented as having believed that we should render the unconscious conscious. This should be done to free ourselves of the former’s power in defining our beliefs and habits.

One of Abraham Maslow’s 13 self-actualizing characteristics is the superior perception of reality. Do we not achieve the latter by learning about and knowing the contents of our unconscious?

Self-acceptance and Eupsychia

Acceptance of self, others, and nature is one of Maslow’s self-actualizing characteristics.

Can self- and other-actualization lead to Eupsychia (the psychologically healthy socioculture)?

The above characteristic might be a good place to start! Just try accepting nature, too…

It would be ideal if acceptance of each of self, others, and nature reinforce one another 🙂

Eupsychian self-actualization

One of Maslow’s characteristics of self-actualizers is the continued freshness of appreciation.

How does this lead one to Eupsychia–Maslow’s idea of the psychologically healthy culture/society?

The more we appreciate life, the more we may start to notice the ways it nourishes our soul!

The maximally healthy collective consists of spirited individuals taking great care of their souls…

Darrow from Red Rising

Darrow (“Red Rising”) and self-actualization

In an interview featured on the HowlerPod podcast, Red Rising trilogy author Pierce Brown noted main character Darrow’s trait of not caring about what other characters think.

By the end of the trilogy (and still after fourth installment Iron Gold), it is undeniable that Darrow has earned almost unanimous respect of the universe’s various inhabitants. For the pioneering theorist of self-actualization Abraham H. Maslow, esteem follows from love as a universal human need.

If Darrow has achieved love by the end of the trilogy and respect after Iron Gold, has his character in fifth Red Rising novel Dark Age moved on to fulfilling his self-actualization needs (which come immediately after esteem in Maslow’s hierarchy)?

Whether Darrow is in the process of self-actualizing by Dark Age or not would require analysis of his actions and comparison with the traits of self-actualizing figures. Some of the latter’s traits include having a non-hostile, philosophical sense of humor as well as superior perceptions of reality.

Probably the easiest self-actualizing trait to relate Darrow with is autonomy. In his efforts to preserve “the Rising” of his “Red” social class (primarily made up of miners), Darrow has come to develop a highly independent conscience. He has become the kind of hero who sees what must be done for the cause he and his team have fought for over more than a decade–even when certain members of said team might not understand themselves.

It doesn’t matter for the Rising if a few of its proponents have strayed from the core of its project, which is to break the chains of slaves everywhere. Darrow is the heart of the revolution, and to keep its flame lit, it may be that he must self-actualize in certain ways.

Maslow and Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim fights Gideon for love (Ramona Flowers), then for self-respect.

How does he reach the next level on Maslow’s pyramid and attain self-actualization?

After conquering Gideon, Scott must fight Nega Scott. This is the battle to confront and overcome his shadow.

Ultimately, Scott is successful in befriending his dark self. Having done so, he achieves Jungian individuation, integrating the two sides of his being.

Able to move forward with the woman of his dreams, Scott becomes a self-actualized pilgrim!