Thursday, July 29, 2010

Compulsive Gambling Is A Progressive Addiction

image by iprole, sxc.hu

Acknowledge It As Such, And Know That It Is Treatable

Does the sight of horses galloping down the racing tracks set your pulse racing too? Does the sight of the spinning roulette make your hand automatically and without your knowledge reach into your wallet to buy the chips at the casino cage? Does the mere hint of a situation giving you high returns if you handle it a certain way, propel you forward without any further thinking or reflection? And never mind the low probability that your way will work out in your favor!

image by jordifa, sxc.hu

In some individuals, gambling comes naturally. They are always attracted towards any situation with a small probability of large gain, than towards a situation with a high probability of small gain. The higher the stakes and the higher the returns, the more the adrenalin gushes through the veins! In others, it is usually peer pressure, or a casual fling with gambling to pass the time, or even the lure of easy money without expending much effort, or even as a fulltime profession - which brings them to the betting table. In both these cases, the line between harmless flirtation of staking one's money within limits - and becoming debt-ridden, depressed, suicidally-ideated, remorseful, followed later by breaking the family and / or breaking the law... is very thin. One never knows when this line got crossed until it is too late.

image by cjcj, sxc.hu

The extreme ends of the financial pendulum that a compulsive gambler keeps swinging back and forth are these: they have amassed certain amount of wealth in a short period of time and are therefore riding euphoric on new-found success, or they have lost their last dollar and don't have even the money to buy the ride home. The problem with the former is more severe, for when the fall comes, as it invariably does, they land on the ground with such a thud and so much drama that it becomes difficult for them, if not entirely impossible, to get up, shake off the detritus from their clothes and move on. Whatever financial state a compulsive gambler may be in, their mental state is nearly-similar: the thoughts are firmly focused on their particular fix, like an obsession, to the point that they even dream about it in sleep - that is, if they get sleep at all. If the last time turned out to be a total loss, don't worry, tomorrow you will surely and definitely win, and you will show them what you are made of.

image by henry_azui, sxc.hu


The social state is not different too. Their family life is in shambles, and their circle of friends outside the peers in the gambling den is reduced to nil. Priorities about money management are totally skewed in one direction - that of investing the next available dollar into gambling. This means that the money required for the child's education or the money required to pay the mortgage is siphoned towards addiction-fulfillment. To say that the impact on the family is disastrous would be an understatement. Just like in smoking where there are active smokers and passive smokers, in the same way, in compulsive gambling there are primary victims and secondary victims; and the latter unfortunately are more in number.

image by stlyesr1, sxc.hu

And unlike in other forms of addiction such as alcohol or smoking or substance abuse where you can take away the object of fixation such as the drink or the cigarette or the drug, here the object of fixation is money, which it is difficult to take away, especially if the compulsive gambler happens to be themselves earning. Family members can reason with the addicted person only up to a point. What usually works best in such cases is to make the person realize and acknowledge that they indeed have a problem. This is the first step towards recovery. And this is where the counselor and psychotherapist play a role.

image by gmarcelo, sxc.hu

There are quite a few psychotherapeutic techniques that have been put to use, either singly or in combination, and customized depending on the context. The success rate is reported to be quite high in this form of treatment. An important component of the therapy is the involvement of the family members, as it is they who have to take over after the addict walks out of the therapist's clinic.

image by hoefi, sxc.hu

So the next time you see a huge banner on the highway showing good-looking men and women having a good time at some betting game, inviting you to join in the fun and also to spend money and earn even more money, do a quick self-inventory. Is your pulse racing? Are you thinking about the money left in your wallet?

image by milca, sxc.hu

[It is not sensation-seeking and impulsivity and low self-control alone that drive the gambler to stake their entire funds on something that offers a very weak promise of returning their funds back, multiple-fold. Somewhere deep within, there is also this urge to enjoy life _now_, in the present moment, and not bother about what is to come tomorrow. "Carpe Diem", they call it. The opposite of this notion is a dull, drab, unfulfilled life. Poets down the ages have waxed eloquent on this notion. But is it so simple, the comparison between these opposites? This article here ponders: "Carpe Diem? Or Delayed Gratification?".]

image by svilen001, sxc.hu
Read More ›

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dysfunctional Families And Childhood Development

image by hortongrou, sxc.hu

How The Child Shapes Up Is In The Hands Of The Care-Givers

The child that you see there, bullying others? Being aggressive with the rest of the kids of the class? Taking perverse pleasure in breaking the rules of the class and the school? Having difficulty in concentrating on studies and flunking the exams repeatedly? Family therapists say one possible reason for this behavior is an environment at home that is disengaged. The family members do not share their emotions and feelings, whether positive or negative, intimacy is at its barest minimum, the child has never known the meaning of warmth and tender love and care, and the weather during breakfast and dinner is near-zero cold at the best of times.

image by memoossa, sxc.hu

Now let's look at this other child in the class. This child appears to be depressed, withdrawn, alienated, keeps to themselves, and requires a lot of prodding and probing to emerge from the shell. The child occasionally breaks into tears at the slightest provocation from peers, so the peers generally keep away, that is when they are not making fun of the child. The child is unable to connect either with peers or with teachers. According to family systems theorists, one probable psychological reason for this behavior is an outcome of a family environment where the family unit does not function as a team, but engages in excessive fault-finding and nitpicking, with bouts of hostile behavior between each other, and unpredictable and inconsistent display of warmth and intimacy towards the child.

image by 0odyssey0, sxc.hu

The above are two examples of children from dysfunctional families. The parents and other seniors evolve certain behavioral patterns in their intra-psychic personalities over a period of time due to various reasons, which patterns inevitably engulf the child, leading to developmental maladaptive behavior that the child begins manifesting.

image by memoossa, sxc.hu

Contrast these families with a family where the elders hold high regard and love for all those whom they are sharing the roof with. The child is treated with regard and respect; in just the same way an adult is treated. The child is involved in all group activities, to the extent that they can contribute. There is no putting down or insult or humiliation for the kid. Instead, appropriately positive behavior in the child is proactively sought out in order to shower praise and give approval. Indiscipline is handled with a firm hand, but gently and definitely without going overboard. Now will a child who comes to the school from such a home exhibit the kind of behavior that we saw in the earlier two cases?

image by harrykeely, sxc.hu

When two individuals decide to raise a family and bring forth a child, it is left to them to decide and work out how they are going to rear the child. Nobody from outside the unit gets to know exactly how this rearing is taking place. It is only when the child arrives in a social setting such as the school, where others get any inkling about how the parents or the care-givers went about the rearing task.

image by dgburns, sxc.hu

Shifting from dysfunction to cohesion is not all that difficult. The first step is introspection on how one has led one's life thus far, followed by an acknowledgment that the child who is presently growing in the household may have been negatively influenced because of it. The next step is to make a sincere commitment to make the shift. The job of the family therapist becomes much easier once the introspection, the acknowledgment and the commitment are in place.

image by bugbru, sxc.hu

[When a child begins growing from the cradle onwards, it is an enriching experience to watch their journey. One interesting and important milestone that is often overlooked is the moment when they begin to recognize themselves in the mirror. Psychologists conduct a test called the "Mirror Self-Recognition Test" or MSR to assess whether the child has begun to recognize themselves in the mirror or not. The process is so subtle as to escape attention. Similar is with introspection. We do not need to stand before a physical mirror to watch what has been going on within and with us, and what we are presently going through. But recognition of where we are right at this moment - is a prerequisite for growth to happen. And this happens very subtly. The article here explains: "From Self-Recognition To Self-Awareness To Self-Identity To Self-Actualization".]

image by kiddee, sxc.hu
Read More ›

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cancer-Diagnosed And Parenting A Minor

image by jana_koll, sxc.hu

Use The Occasion To Build Resilience In The Family

It is a very decent family from all angles. There's you, and there are your children, all of them minors. The partner may or may not be in the picture. Life is progressing on an even keel. It's a beautiful world. However, of late, you have been feeling slightly odd, there's this funny feeling, and you check in with the doctor. Some routine investigations are suggested. The reports come in after a few days. And the diagnosis turns your world upside down. You have been diagnosed with cancer.

image by hortongrou, sxc.hu

A knee-jerk reaction for most parents is to hide the condition from the child and pretend that everything is hunky-dory. As a parent, you think you are being protective by shielding the child from all that the word "Cancer" stands for. Psychologists suggest that, on the contrary, you might be actually harming the child by doing so. As member of the family unit, the child cannot escape all that is going on in the family. The subtle and not-so-subtle change in the lifestyle and routine of the parent is not lost on the child. The frequency of visits to the hospital and clinics suddenly appear to have increased. There are a lot more medicines in the cabinet which the parent keeps popping every now and then. The feeling of a general pall of gloom in the household whenever the child comes back from school is puzzling. The parent themselves increasingly look haggard and down by the day. There is a change in the tone and the body language that the sensitive child picks up. At a certain psychic level, the child is unable to cope with the new environment, which, depending on their susceptibility and predisposition, leads to emotional distress in the short-to-medium term and developmental problems in the longer term. Now imagine such a child learning about the condition, and even worse, that you - their parent - has it, from outside?

image by doriana_s, sxc.hu

So what is the solution? It is suggested that rather than hide, it is best to discuss the issue with the child upfront and engage them in a constructive dialog. Educate yourself, and give the child enough education about what the term "cancer" is all about - how it is caused, how it is different from the ordinary cold and fever the child had last winter, how it will likely affect your lifestyle further down the road, and what are the steps you are taking to recover from it. Talk about it in a matter-of-fact manner, without adding any element of profundity or melancholy. As you share your own anxiety and stress about the disease with the child, you will realize that your own perspective towards the condition shifts from woolly helplessness to solid resilience.

image by lilgoldwmn, sxc.hu

Of course death is a possibility, so be open and honest about it, and in a self-affirming, constructive way. Instead of surrendering to the inevitability of transiting to the next dimension in a sad, despairing way, when you believe from the core of your heart that you want to recover and that you are fighting against the disease in your body with all your might, you are not only sending out a strong, positive signal to the Universe at large, you will also be demonstrating to your child how to face adversity. If there is any lesson of living that you can pass on to the child as legacy, then this must be it. And the child will thank you for it down the road.

image by hisks, sxc.hu

[Handling adversity is a skill that one learns with maturity. Imagine a child handling adversity in the form of a snake it encounters in its path while crawling on its belly? The same child grows into an adult and has to handle situations such as unexpected job loss or sudden death of the intimate partner due to accident. Adversities are inevitable in this Universe; they are part of the package. You cannot "avoid" them, but you can definitely shift your attitude towards them. Here is an article to help you better understand this shifting process: "Handling Adversity".]

image by izilein, sxc.hu
Read More ›