Acting-out means performing an act that expresses emotional conflict in the individual. The emotional conflict may be subconscious. The actions done in acting out are usually antisocial and are meant for getting attention. Behaviors acted out include drug taking, or behaving promiscuously.
Actions in this category are harmful to the individual and stand in the way of the individual developing constructive behavioral responses to feelings. Acting out is the opposite of response to feelings in ways like talking out, or psychodrama. (Blatner, 1996)
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This behavior happens within group processes and is studied in group dynamics which is the study of groups. The group dynamics study’s primary concern is small group behavior. A group is a number of individuals who are brought together by social relations. Groups develop peculiar dynamic behaviors among its members due to their close interaction.
According to psychoanalysis findings by Sigmund Freud, human actions can be explained by looking at the conscious and the subconscious part of the mind. The unconscious is a section of the mind that is not immediately connected to perceptions but is a store of a persons past experiences. The past experiences come out of the unconscious to the conscious and in a way affect our personalities.
The imperative here is that the motivations for acting out are beyond conscious control. However the motivations can be accessible through inference on behavior as the actions are believed to be the expression of repressed material. (Jones, 1973)
The term used to describe the relation of experiences from one interpersonal setting to another is called transference. It deals with revisiting past experiences in existing circumstances. The relation of past and present behaviors are established by other people who come into contact with the individual. The individual will be discovered to be trying to address the unresolved issues from his/her past.
In this paper, group therapy is tackled on the basis of psychotherapy, and psychoanalytic studies. Psychotherapy is the field that specializes in investigating the manifestations of relations of past actions on the present actions with aim of helping the persons overcomes the influence. Psychotherapists look into the unconscious projections of transference.
In psychoanalytic study transference is seen as a source of conflict and as one of the influences of choices in life including occupations. They lead a person to be interested in certain things like settings, and people. It therefore unites the past and the present.
A good understanding of transference helps psychotherapists understand the causes of some human behavior more clearly in order to be able to implement effective interventions. According to Sigmund Freud the formative experiences of a person are critical, and relationships of childhood years are reflected with other significant ones through life. The earlier events come out in repeated difficulties in relationships and dreams.
Lack of happiness and conflict can in this case be understood through knowledge of unconscious human motivations. (Nickel, 1987)
The repressed materials are thus acted out. Interpretations of acting out of individuals vary with the contexts under which they act, and the audiences that witness the actions. In the context of parenting acting out is literally understood. It means acting those desires that are forbidden by the society.
According to psychoanalysis study the laws in the society make the Superego and a person’s body of desires is called the Id. The Superego acts on the Id to make a person behave in socially acceptable manner. Freud used the theory of psychoanalysis to devise ways of treating patients with mental problems.
The initial desires of the individual are replaced with socially accepted behavior in a process called sublimation. However, in acting out the individual goes contrary to the authority of the superego on the Id. Acting out entails coping with pressure by giving in to the desires of the Id. The person who acts out their desires do it with little or no regard to their conscience and with little thought.
Hence the acts are either deliberately bad or unpremeditated wrongdoing. Even when the people are aware of their wrongdoing they try to protect themselves against the society’s censure by hiding their deeds. Other coping mechanisms that use are such as denial which is used to protect one from feelings of shame. (Freud, 1972)
Acting out in essence is handling pressure by giving in to the desires. It is however not actually coping, for coping mechanisms try to handle pressure and not conforming to it.
Acting out is the opposite of sublimation. Unlike in sublimation where the desired action is replaced by another socially acceptable activity, here the desire is acted out bluntly. Such things as temper tantrums are episodes of acting out. At the early age the children have not developed communication means for their distress feelings.
Thus they use tantrums as an effective means of alerting parents of their needs and commanding attention. But then when the children pass through the society they learn to get attention through strategies that are socially acceptable and that are constructive.
It is then interesting that the behavior of acting out shows again during the years of adolescence in many youths. It comes in the form of acts of rebellious nature such as smoking, and drug abuse that can be seen as a cry for recognition.
The youth may be disruptive, a behavior that is caused by an inability to control emotions in other ways. During adolescence emergence of antisocial and criminal behavior occurs. This behavior goes on into adulthood with considerable loss that comes from the action to the individual, families and also the community. Attempts to identify risk factors of antisocial and criminal behavior have been done with aim of preventing the problems.
Some of the risk factors are identified in the years of beginning primary school. At this age there is identified difference of acting in that two groups are found. The groups are the antisocial and social. From this age there is difference of behavior between the two groups. In mid childhood the antisocial group manifested higher levels of acting out, and showed more trouble behaviors like hyper action and aggression. They were also found to act in manner craving for attention.
Problematic behavior continues in late childhood. The children continue showing problematic behavior. They also become less cooperative; have lesser self control, as well as poor communication with their parents. At this age the children probably have acquired friends who practice antisocial behavior. During adolescence, the antisocial group gets more significantly different from the social group.
The differences between the groups were centered on aspects of temperamence such as negativity, low persistence, volatility, involvement in risky activities, and acting out. Acting out is a manifestation of all the other aspects of the individual psyche at this time.
A study on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among Australian youths illuminates the study of acting out. Heckerman in the report of the study states that there has been an increase in infection rates of youths with the deadly HIV through engaging in promiscuous behaviors. The rate of levels of adolescents who are infected with the HIV has increased in the past ten years, in spite of the education on the disease being taught in the schools and family courses.
With the teens receiving this information it becomes a matter of concern that the rate of infection continue to rise. However, studies show that knowledge and behavioral changes are not directly correlated. It has been established that despite the youths having adequate knowledge on HIV, the knowledge does not influence a change of risky sexual behavior.
It is seen here that the youths who act out by resorting to risky social behavior have influence that is manifested in the subconscious. (Heckerman, 2002)
In an essay on group analysis Rosenthal relates the issue of the persistent influence of subconscious on the actions of the individual on an aspect of psychoanalytic study called resistance. Resistance is understood to be an inadequate, wrongly adopted, and an indirect manner of self revelation.
Using the media of resistance the psychoanalytic patient tips that he/she cannot engage in verbal communication with emotional significance. (Rosenthal, 1979).
Analytic treatment exacts great demands for efforts on the part of the patient as it does on the physician. They are both demanded to overcome their inner resistances. By overcoming the resistances the patients’ mental, life is changed permanently.
The patient is hence lifted into a higher level of development and remains above possibilities of regression. It takes effort to overcome the resistances as the analytic treatment is achieved. (Freud, 1916)
In the essay above it has been seen that the phenomenon of acting out has got many sides to itself. A clear understanding of the concepts of transference, resistance, psychotherapy, leads one to a better understanding of the concept of acting out and helps in discerning the processes involved in the minds of those who act out and hence help in administering group therapy.
Blatner, A. (1996). Acting-in: Practical Applications of Psycho-dramatic Methods.
Springer Publishing Company.
Freud, Sigmund (1922) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. New York: Liveright Publishing.
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