Agency is a philosophical term that refers to one’s ability to act in a given situation. When discussing the nature of free will and responsibility, it is important to be mindful of how much agency a person has. If there’s an electrical fault in your house and you’re alone, there might not be anything you can do about it. If you’re a trained electrician, there might be a great deal you could do to fix the problem. However, being knowledgeable about electronics might not be enough if your tools are at your workplace. Thus, agency depends on both having the knowledge and having the means. A person with electrical training and tools has full agency over the problem of the electrical fault, whereas a person with no training and no tools has no direct agency over their electrical problems. They will have to pay someone who does have agency in this situation to fix it. Despite sounding so simple, problems with agency account for a lot of drama in relationships. This article will discuss a healthy sense of agency and then compare it to unhealthy perceptions of agency such as hyper-agency and hypo-agency. Continue reading
Calculating the Cost of Irresponsibility
Today I was sick at home with a the remnants of the flu to get over. So I decided to create a Twitter account for Philosophical Therapist and join in the cut throat world of snide, but sometimes humorous, tweeting. I like using Twitter sometimes to find interesting articles to read, so if I like them or loathe them I will try to remember to tweet about it for the fine folk wanting to follow me. However, today an article came up that hit me very emotionally. It was a news story about a homicide and an attempted homicide committed by a mother against her two sons. It happened in the north of my state in a place I used to visit over twenty years ago to spend time with my grandfather. Suffice it to say, it was a place I have many happy memories of and it is sad to think of it as being the setting for such a horrible crime. However, during the day, twitter kept me informed of updates to this event.
The grandmother of the boys had hired a lawyer and was blaming the government for her daughter’s actions. Her daughter was 27 years old and had two boys, the eldest was nine and the youngest was five years old (now presumed deceased). Her lawyer made the statement that her daughter was an ice addict and that she had not wanted her daughter to live with her and had been trying to kick her out of her home. That if the government had just taken her daughter and grand children from her when she wanted them to then none of this would have happened. At this point there has been no mention whatsoever of any fathers. Neither the father(s) of the two boys, or of the mother’s father. Continue reading
Anger Inside and Outside
In the interests of keeping my site fresh with new content, I’ve decided to start blogging about the various therapy related ideas that come into my head. These are generally just my thoughts about a particular topic, article, or book that I have read recently.
Have you ever seen that animation of the ballerina silhouette pirouetting? Where one cannot tell if she is turning clockwise or counter clockwise? If you observe her long enough you can actually control which direction you would like her to spin. It’s a fascinating example of how our minds can shape our perception with the prejudices we bring to them subconsciously. Especially when one considers that one can decide whether or not to see the ballerina turning towards oneself, or away.
Anger is an emotion that works just like this animation. One can decide if the anger is directed away from you or towards you. For example, Bert has a habit of leaving his car lights on and one morning he attempts to start his car only to find it won’t start. Bert initially thinks about how he only just recently had his car serviced. He flares up in anger at the mechanic, cursing his supposed incompetence. Then just as he was about to call the mechanic to give him a piece of his mind; Bert notices that his car lights were left on.
Who Makes You Feel?
John was running late to work because the bus had broken down. When he arrived at his office he was worried that his boss would be angry at him. He informed her about the bus, but she just frowned and said you cannot control things like that. John felt huge relief and as though his boss cared about him. Mary was trying on clothes in a store and she overheard one of the staff comment on how fat she was. She peeked out the door of the change room and saw that the staff member who had said it was a thin, tall girl, like all the girls in the store. She immediately felt self-conscious about her body and ashamed.
The two little stories above are examples of events that many people have probably experienced at some point in their lives. What I find curious is the different answers I get from people when I ask them, “Who makes John and Mary feel the different emotions they experience?”
Some people will answer that John has no control over how he feels, it is his boss who decides if he will feel relieved or frightened about losing his job based on how she reacts to him being late. In the case of Mary, she is powerless to prevent herself from feeling self-conscious and ashamed when someone calls her fat. The skinny girl makes Mary feel bad about herself.