Here is a quick bit of food for thought: our defenses all have to work unconsciously. Our psychological defenses protect us from thoughts or feelings, or being aware of things that might be very troublesome for us. In order to do so, the mind decides to trick itself. Obviously, the only way that would work is to keep the ‘trick’ an unconscious process. Thus, when we project our feelings (attribute them to some one else, and disavow them in ourselves), or when we deny an issue or use a counter-phobic defense (for example deciding something is thrilling rather than terrifying in order to manage our feelings) – these processes have to be done unconsciously – or they would not work.
Here is a snippet from our Clinical Camp!
Acting Out is a term often used by parents or teachers to mean misbehaving. However, for psychodynamic therapists this is a much richer concept. Psychodynamic therapists believe all behaviors have meaning AND that unwanted thoughts and feelings which are unresolved will find expression through unconscious means. Thus, acting out means that unresolved thoughts and/or feelings are being expressed in some way – however- this is outside of the awareness of the actor! For example, a person who feels she is guilty over some perceived misdeed may conduct herself in a way that results in her getting into trouble (sometimes repeatedly). This way, the guilty feeling can be somewhat satisfied by being punished over and over. Since the original ‘misdeed’ is never dealt with, she is unconsciously compelled to repeatedly get herself into a position of being punished. Acting out is a defense in that the problematic thought or feeling does not gain conscious acknowledgment, but finds expression in behavior (outside of the person’s awareness!). One clear example is the ‘Freudian Slip’ in which a person says something which is really on her mind, without any conscious awareness she is about to do so (revealing some true and often problematic thoughts or feelings).
We introduced SF Clinical Camp last year to fill a void – allowing motivated, bright teenagers to learn more about themselves and the world. This is NOT treatment, but rather a fun and educational experience for teens. We learn about Freud; subjectivity and defenses (and how defenses impact our subjective sense of self). We learn about dreams and slips of the tongue. We also learn about culture, the impact of culture on the individual and the family; about individual and family developmental models. We finished up with a pretty sophisticated look at one possible psychological function of Facebook.
This year we have an added bonus! The Chair of the Psychology Department at SFSU has agreed to speak to our campers about research in psychology. Moreover, interested campers will have an opportunity to participate in research (with their guardian’s permission), and to learn about any study in which they participate. Lastly, campers can apply to become members of the Society for Research on Adolescence!
This is a very exciting new development for SF Clinical Camp. Campers are not required to participate in research. However, it is exciting to have this as an opportunity!