I find it remarkable that so many people think it’s easy to change a system despite their continual frustration at trying to change any of their own habits, or the patterns of behavior in their families, friends, and work groups that seem to annoy or undermine their efforts at “fixing” what’s wrong with whatever it is that isn’t working for them. Remarkable.
Part of the difficulty in trying to change behavior is that “giving up” a behavior or “role” feels like giving up a part of ourselves. Who will I be without my cigarette? What will I hold in my hand at a cocktail party? These thoughts are not necessarily conscious and even when they do break through and are recognized as obstructionistic they are not easily given up.
Cognitive therapy makes the point of replacing them with more useful cognitive instructions and the literature in that field supports that strategy as useful. But it is difficult for most of us to remember what behavior we are supposed to be changing when the cues come in that trigger what feels like an automatic response. It is also difficult to understand ourselves, let alone others, close to us or simply collegial. While simplicity inevitably dwarfs the “truth” it does make it manageable in a functional way so the recommendations that follow aim at that kind of functional simplicity.
One way often used to understand behavior is to organize it in a quadrant kind of system designed to cluster behaviors according to the way we engage or do not engage with other people and/or with tasks. For this kind of consideration I am currently using the DiSC system developed many years ago by a gentleman named William M. Marston in his book Emotions of Normal People. To better understand the clusters of behavior I use Psychodramatic Role Theory, created and developed by J.L. Moreno in the early 20th century. That combination provides the individual with ways to think about behavior and ways to begin to choose the kinds of changes in behavior that he/she determines will be most effective.
This posting will serve as an introduction to a series of a sort in which I will write about the usefulness of approaching our understanding of human behavior via the “marriage” of these two constructs and how we can implement that understanding in our daily lives. I offer a link to my professional biography which may be of interest to some readers.