Last updated on 21st September 2010
I have already written about the "Needs" and "Beliefs" sections of the "Needs, beliefs & behaviours" diagram. Today's post is about the "Behaviours" section. A fuller post from earlier this year - "Our life stories: needs, beliefs & behavours" - gives further insight into this territory. So the model is straightforward. We are born into this world with needs - physically for safety, food, shelter, and so on; and psychologically again for safety, reliability, responsiveness, love, encouragement. If our needs aren't satisfied we may well die or, at least, fail to flourish as we could have. When children's psychological needs aren't met by their parents and other key figures in their upbringing, they try to make sense of this. They form beliefs about themselves and about others from the evidence gained through limited life experiences. They then develop ways of behaving to cope with the situations they find themselves in. It may well be that these behaviours help them to get through difficult early experiences, relationships and environments. Unfortunately we have a strong tendency to keep right on with these behaviours when we're older and we don't really need them any more. To paraphrase Alice Miller - "The walls we build to protect ourselves become the prisons in which we live".
One of my favourite assessment scales here is a version of the "Inventory of Interpersonal Problems", the "IIP-48 questionnaire" (and "score sheet"). This assessment tool highlights and helps track changes in our interpersonal "prison walls." Spikes further out away from the centre of the score sheet chart highlight aspects of our interpersonal style that are causing us particular difficulties. Similarly, scores of "3" or "4" in answer to any of the individual questionnaire items may also benefit from therapeutic attention. The "Self-concealment scale" (and "background information") may also highlight unnecessary and self-damaging patterns that probably aren't still as necessary in our current situation. We may also get feedback on our behaviours from people who are close to us - for example by asking our partner to complete the "Intimate Bond Measure" and/or our children to complete the "Parental Bond Inventory" (although the latter query obviously needs to be done thoughtfully). The appropriate scales are on this website at "Relationships, families, couples & psychosexual". There is also the possibilty of asking for honest feedback from others about how we come across - especially in group situations where we have access to a whole cluster of viewpoints. See the "Johari window" diagram at "Opening up group, first session". And crucially, as we realise that we don't have to keep hiding behind the "prison walls" of outdated, unproductive behaviours, we can begin courageously exploring how it is letting go of these no-longer adaptive defences.