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Friday, May 25, 2007

Mental Breakdowns

Pop psychology has been an interest of mine for about ten years, back when I was trying to figure myself out. Part of that analysis has been to pour strange behaviours into my characters, which I can then examine from different angles as I try to understand the causes and destructive effects of certain behavioural patterns.

Unconditional obedience is an interesting one. Traditionally, it is "pleasing" for a child to be obedient, and unquestioningly do whatever he or she is asked. "Honour thy Father" and all that. So at first, it seems irrational to suggest that this is actually a really, really bad thing to teach your child. However, rarely is the distinction made of exactly who the child should be obeying while discipline is being applied. If this distinction is not made, it seems to me, that the child may become cowed in the presence of any authority, and obey any person who is dominant in a given situation. In some cases, I think this behaviour persists into adulthood, where it annoys and confuses colleagues. What if a person is so conditioned to be obedient, that they obey any command, even if they know it will get them into trouble? What if the conditioning is so strong, that it overwhelms common sense? After the action is done, outsiders who do not understand pose idiotic questions like "If George jumped off a bridge, would you jump as well?" If George was adequately dominant, then, yes. Conditioning kicks in, and off you go. I wonder if this is how many "nice girls" end up pregnant, leaving their elders asking "How? Why?" Well, perhaps because these girls were never allowed to say "no" at home, it doesn't occur to them that they can say "no" outside of home. To some extent, this was built into the character of Alaindra, however in the end, she escapes it by stepping outside of her family. The desire to live for what she wanted, rather than what her family expected, was her catalyst to grow, since without that independence, her life was forfeit in more ways than one.

Another weird behaviour is the "silent treatment". I can see how this may work nicely on a very young person still looking for validation and approval, but why is it sometimes applied to adults? Think of the arrogance required to come to the conclusion that one's attention is so profoundly wonderful that the recipient of said "silent treatment" will be punished by not being spoken to. Wouldn't a healthy adult rejoice at not being spoken to by someone indulging in self-righteous brooding? Even though it is apparently a common enough problem with adults (office politics manuals list it as a type of bullying and recommend it not be tolerated in the workplace) I can't quite unravel this one. Whenever I try to see what effect this will have if one of my characters practices it, all the other characters just seem to say "Oh, well" and get on with other things. I can't quite capture the same dramatic effect, as when the Klingon council all turned their backs on Worf in the DS9 series. Although come to think of it, he didn't really care either. I suppose you could argue that Worf was conditioned to be honourable above all, and his refusal to dishonourably invade the Cardassian Empire was more important to him than to unquestioningly obey his peers. So either he was conditioned in a completely different way, or he had extremely healthy boundaries, or maybe he just thought Gowron was a dumbass, or maybe since he knew he had the support and therefore validation of Sisko he didn't need acceptance from Gowron . . .

Well now I'm just confusing myself.

Maybe I need to email Dr. Phil.


Keeper of the Shiny Thing said...

not confusing at all (please no Dr. Phil! Please!). In fact, I think this proves how we are indebted to alien species to explain stupid human behaviour.

(yes, it's after midnight - I'll go to bed)

sfgirl said...

Wooo...the bit about unconditional obedience...I've got a stream going on my blog, The Alien Next Door, about what can happen when a whole society takes on that kind of behaviour: Nazi Germany. Book burning and mob behaviour and what that led to. Scary stuff!