Understanding the Psychological Structure that Guides Us

So what’s new?

This is what you are about to discover in Part I of this discussion:

  • Structured  Psychology You cannot exist unless you do so relationally.

  • Conditioned reflexes, Man’s strive for perfection, the psychological repercussions of the human sex drive, genetic imprinting, the power of the sub-conscious, bio-chemical activity of the brain, life’s “actualizing tendency”, archetypes, the presence of micro or exo-systems, Man’s lust for power, the influence of human culture, your birth order, forces of human attachment, psychological hedonism etc, etc, are neither in part nor in whole, the primary cause of your behavior. Your behavior is driven by an existential structure that determines the behavior of all living things.

  • The traditionally accepted notion that some human conduct is created by mechanisms of defense is false. One’s behavior is neither mechanical nor driven by irrational fears. Your behavior is a direct structural response to your own particular psychological reality.

  • Structural contradiction is the primary cause of mental illness.

  • The artificial modification of human brain chemistry may artificially affect the results of structural contradiction.

  • Your self is not created by your Ego. Your self is created by your object world.

  • The Ego is a direct representative of Man’s genetic past in relationship with the genetic future it is becoming.

  • The structural balance that exists between the Ego and the self profoundly affects mental health.

  • The vast majority of Man’s psychological life is spent in an imaginary or virtual state. Only those relational events, which involve active thought, constitute true states of self-consciousness.


First things first

Structural PsychologyThe following is the result of research designed to reveal the ultimate causes of Man’s behavior. In order to better insure the accuracy of that research, the broadest possible point of departure was chosen: Existence itself.

When closely examined, existence reveals itself as a well-defined structured force composed of powerful self-evident imperatives. It is postulated that given the obligatory presence of these imperatives in all things existing, they implicitly exert a decisive influence not only over the behavior of our inanimate object world but over the behavior of all living things including, quite naturally, Man.

The most fundamental existential imperatives are:

Relationability, continuance, conformity.

Relationability: Nothing can exist unless it does so relationally. Either an existing object is, in some way or another, in relationship with that which it is not, or it cannot exist.

Continuance: Existence is, by self-evident necessity, a process of continuation. Once an existing object no longer continues its existence, that existence becomes self-contradictory and, therefore, ceases to be.

Conformity: All conscious beings must have their existential realities confirmed by those objects with which they are in relationship or sense a contradiction of that reality and, subsequently, an inability to maintain their relational status with the object in question.


Your relational being

Structural PsychologyPsychologically speaking, you are defined by the aware relational being that you are. Indeed, your entire psychological status depends upon your ability to relate to the object world around you, that is your Context. Because you are literally defined by who you are relationally, either you’re able to have your Relationability confirmed for you by your Context or your existence cannot continue. The only way you can have your Relationability confirmed for you, however, is by having it echoed back to you by your Context. If, however, instead of confirming your Relationability, your Context contradicts it, the structural integrity that defines who you are is placed in jeopardy and so, quite naturally, is the integrity of your psychological status.

The relational challenge before you then is indisputable: Either be consistently confirmed by your Context, or successfully defend yourself against, compensate for, or neutralize those contextual contradictions that may come your way.


Your Ego: The genetic you

Structural PsychologyWhen you are born, you do not arrive as a clean slate, nor as some sort of pre-programmed, unchangeable machine ready to be let loose on an unsuspecting world. At birth, your Ego is like the first half of an already created relational puzzle; a puzzle, however, that must be completed by having you relate to your Context (all those things and events that surround you). Only then; only when you become actively relational, can the relational process that defines you be completed, and you can psychologically exist.

The first half of the relational puzzle that you are at birth has already been painstakingly put together for you by millions of years of genetic imprinting. Now, like a huge electric power plant waiting for someone to turn on a light, your job is to relate to your Context so that your relational Existence can be confirmed and you can begin your lifetime task of creating the person you are to become.


Existential oneness; Existential separation

Strutural PsychologyJust after childbirth, your existence is undistinguishable from your mother’s. Your level of awareness is exclusively sub-conscious and your “self” is still just a promise. Indeed, it will be the relational interplay between your Ego and your Context that will eventually shape your “self” or your “identity”, a process that will begin shortly after you are jolted from subconscious awareness by the first breath you take.

Becoming aware of your Context begins when your Ego becomes separated from the nine months of physical “oneness” it enjoyed as part of another being’s existence; that of your mother’s. Now, little by little, you start noticing the world around you. All of a sudden there are things you enjoy, and things that you don’t. There are objects that interest you and others that mean almost nothing. You realize that there are parts of your life that are missing: You feel hungry or thirsty. You sense discomfort. You’re either too warm, or too cold. Sounds startle you. You hear, see, taste, feel, and smell objects but do not understand their meaning or significance. So what is it that is happening to you? You have began to relate to your Context for the first time and even though you are unable to sense the significance of your activity nor understand that it is you that is involved in the relationships you are establishing, your psychological development has taken its first steps to creating the person you are to become.

Speaking of genetics: Which is it, nurture or nature?

Structural PsychologyWhich ‘part’ of us is most responsible for our behavior? Is it the body or is it the mind; the heart or the head? What is it that carries the most weight in our psychological development: the nurturing we receive from others, or the powerful influence our genes exert upon us?

From a relational perspective that question cannot be answered. You, after all, are governed by an existential structure that works in synergy with both the genetic you and your Contextual world. Indeed, the existential structure that guides you is not only unchangeable but will never leave your side as it steers your head, your heart, and everything your are to become, until the day you die. If any changes are to occur in your life, they will take place according to those circumstances that are prevalent during each relationship you establish. In a word, your psychological development is the result of that interaction which takes place between who you genetically are and who you are genetically becoming. Remember, in this relational world of ours, it takes two to tango. What you genetically are may be a powerful influence on how you relate to your world, but that is not the only reason you behave the way you do. Your genetic make-up is perfectly susceptible to changes created by the relational experiences you may engage in with your Context. Indeed, that is precisely how your genes were formed and modified in the first place: Through relational experience.


Your evolving relational existence

Structural PsychologyExistence is not just a relational phenomenon. It is also a continually evolving one. It has to be. Evolving continuance forms the very nucleus of all that “is.”

Therefore, since you are purely existential in nature, if at any time your future should darken, structural contradiction will surely show its ugly head.

This is why when that which you are becoming no longer looks promising to you - appears no longer able to confirm you - your Ego will sense the underlying contradiction and become itself, depressed.

This is why you are naturally drawn to new opportunities, second chances, fresh adventures, things to look forward to, and promising tomorrows, even the latest news. The Structure loves anything that opens, promotes, or catalyzes future confirmations and loathes closed doors, blocked pathways, dim futures. After all, that is precisely what the structure that guides you is all about: Your potential, your future, the new you. Remember, “continuance” is one of existence’s primary imperatives, without it, we can simply no longer be.


Your existential evolution and the daily news

Structural PsychologySpeaking of relational evolution and renovation, note just how interested you are in almost anything that’s new. Interestingly, that is what the news is: Something new, and nothing grabs our interest quite like the latest scuttlebutt. That’s why any news from virtually any source seems to interest us. Marketing executives even slap the word NEW across the products they sell to make them sell better and the latest model of anything will always seem more interesting than that model’s previous version. This is why we are drawn to finding out something new we didn’t know before and the reason we pay so much attention to almost anyone who has something new to tell us. Basically speaking, the renovation of our existential status (our future) forms an integral part of who we are because it forms an integral part of the existential structure that guides us.

Your existential structure in action

The Structure that creates who we psychologically are, implicitly frames our behavior during the entirety of our lives, and it does so in rigorous loyalty to its own reality. That means that each time we relate to a real or actual object (not something virtual or just imagined) the Structure will encourage us to actualize or make real the relationship we are having. After all, that is what real or actual relationships are: Actual realities or real actualities; that which is now or that which is present.

In essence, then, guided by the Structure, we tend to confirm that which is confirming and contradict that which is contradicting.

When, for example, we hear a tune we enjoy (we ‘enjoy’ the tune because its melody and / or rhythm confirms a state of our Ego's reality), we tend to sing, hum or rhythmically become a part of the tune. Why? Because we have, in fact, become 'relationally' a part of a confirming event; a relational reality that structurally should be manifested. Remember, the Structure will always tend to somehow manifest the state of our psychological reality. Becoming a part of the relationship clearly brings us closer to more perfectly reflecting the relational reality of having become almost identified, as subjects, with the confirming object in question.


The evolution of your relational behavior

Structural PsychologyDuring infancy, your participation with your Context starts simply: Your five senses are stimulated by the relational activity you maintain with the events and people around you. This kind of relational activity provides you with the basic confirmations you need from your Context in order to survive. The more explicit the relationship, the more explicitly you respond to the experience. Therefore, those objects that you sense are confirming are experienced as such because they confirm your Relationability and, therefore, you are attracted to them. Those objects that threaten contradiction you experience contrarily and, therefore, as objectionable.

In essence, from the time you rise in the morning until you go to bed at night, the search for confirmation and the avoidance of contradiction is what makes you tick.

Your existential structure, then, requires you be constantly in relationship with your Context. You are, after all, a living relational being, so not to be relationally active would be ‘contradictory’ to the Structure, and the Structure implicitly rejects all contradiction.

The manifestation of our relational activity

The way our relational activity is manifested is simple; we experience it. Relational experiences, in turn, produce emotional responses, and our emotional responses not only manifest themselves as behavior but create human behavior as well.

Man’s emotional responses, no matter how insignificant, not only constitute human behavior in and of themselves, but confirm the structural significance or meaning of all human relational activity. When contradiction threatens us, we feel ‘fear’. When we are in coincidence with our Context, we sense joy. Loss of confirming relational objects or events create sadness and the inability to neutralize past or present contradictions make us angry. Although, the emotions can reflect profoundly complex structural states, (to be discussed in detail later) all confirm we are relationally active as well as allow us to know exactly what that activity means to us from a structural perspective.

Being that the Structure demands we behave in accordance to the way the Structure is configured, when we find an object or event that confirms us, we will tend to confirm the object or event. (Confirmation of an object or event can be, for example, as insignificant as sensing its presence). When something threatens contradiction, we will sense the threat and attempt to avoid it. And if contradiction takes place, the Structure will drive us to “contradict” or “neutralize” the contradiction. When the confirmational pickings are slim, (not much interesting going on out there) the Structure will utilize stored virtual experiences to exercise its requirement for progressive relational activity and we will “day dream”, “think about” or “reflect upon” the relational activity we require. Interestingly, the emotional impact and confirmational value of virtual relationships, although not as effective nor satisfying as “actual” ones, can serve as perfectly satisfactory replacements for the “real thing.”

The more an object is identifiable with our Ego’s Relationability, the more we desire for the object to confirm us and the more we desire to confirm the object. The less an object is identifiable with our Ego’s Relationability, the more distant we will place ourselves from the object. The Ego’s prime goal, after all, is to experience its own Relationability in object form, so the closer we can get to having relationships that do just that, the closer we are to fulfilling the Structure’s relational goals.

Take body odors for example; those that one normally is repulsed by when coming from someone else. Interestingly, when you sense that an odor is yours, the Structure recognizes an effective way of confirming your Ego’s Relationaiblity and immediately takes action. What, after all could be more relationally perfect than to perceive one’s own Relationability, not just as something from its object world, but as something directly associated with the Ego itself.

Attraction and repulsion:
The aesthetic experience

Structural Psychology

The perception of value, including your aesthetic perceptions, are peculiar psychological events; peculiar because they do not come from the object itself but rather from you, the subject. Given that the perception of value in general is directly derived from a subject’s relational experiences and each human subject is destined to experience his or her object world in his or her particular way, that which makes things attractive or repulsive to you, might be totally meaningless to someone else. Indeed, for an object to be significant in any way, that object’s Relationability must first resonate within your Ego or your self, or it will mean nothing to you at all.

Clearly there are values that may seem universal to us all, but they’re not: Not everyone is necessarily attracted to ice cream or Mozart, nor repulsed by death or live TV. Indeed, that which ultimately determines how or in what way an object or event is valued is not only how each one of us is psychologically composed but in what way we relate to the world around us.

Relationships which involve the self typically create emotions such as joy, jealousy, elation, or anger -- emotions which include factors of control, judgment, approval or condemnation. When the self is bypassed, however, and the Ego is allowed to relate ‘directly’ to objects or events, very different emotions are involved. Indeed, your Ego’s direct relationships allow it to do a kind of exercise in `free-basing,’ thereby creating feelings of euphoria, elation, awe, or amazement or, on the contrary, repulsion, repugnance, dread or disgust. The reason we sometimes find ourselves ‘transfixed’ when in the presence of certain objects (a sunset, an exceptionally beautiful painting or person, a specific musical composition, or a particular kind of food, etc), is because that kind of experience takes place ‘directly’ between the object and the Ego, bypassing any existential corruption often present when the self becomes involved.


What is thought?
Who is your “self?”
What is consciousness?

Structural Psychology“I am always blabbing to myself inside my head. I wonder who is doing the talking and who is doing the listening? Who is my self anyway?”

You are a unique animal. Mostly because you are not only able to sub-consciously reflect on the world around you, you can consciously think about it as well. ‘Reflection’ takes place when your Ego makes conscious comparisons between objects and events . Thought, not just reflection however, can only occur when the Ego not only makes comparisons between objects and events, but does so in relationship to the self. It is, indeed, the activation or use of the self during reflection that which allows for human consciousness and thought to take place. Given, however, that the Ego is unable to perceive its self without it first being objectively “represented”, in order for a subject to become conscious and ‘think’, that representation must first be created.

The creation of the “self.”
The Context’s representation of your Ego

During the initial months of infancy, your psychological life consists of a steady series of sub-conscious physical experiences. You taste, hear, feel, see and smell the world around you, yet have absolutely no idea that it is you that is involved in these relational experiences. Self-realization has not taken place yet because it can’t. The self has yet to be created.

Development of the self occurs when those around you, (or your animate Context), begins identifying specific relational objects and events with whom they think you are. You sense from others that you are: Fabulous, in pain, cute, big, tall, enjoying yourself, thirsty, too loud, too quiet, handsome, sleepy, beautiful, bad, eating something sweet, good, hearing a loud sound, happy, hungry, not hungry, tired, smelling something, full of energy, funny, mean, kind, seeing the color red, sloppy, neat etc. As a result, little by little, your Context provides you with a representation of who and what ‘they’ think your Ego must be. It is precisely that information from your animate Context, that which eventually evolves into your self: That contextually dependent place, with-in your Ego, which makes consciousness and thought possible.


The emergence of “thought”

Your self, then, is created when your Context identifies objects and events with whom they think you are, then relationally echoes those identifications back to you. The self is, for that reason, a strictly contextual event whereby the Ego reserves a portion of its content for self-aware contextual activity. In a word, when you think, your Ego may oversee the relational activity involved, but it is your self that does the thinking.

So, who does the talking and who does the listening when we talk to our “selves?” Our selves do it all. Indeed, having one part of the self contextually communicate with another creates all of our ‘imaginary communication’. Keep in mind that with each representation of our Ego that our Context provides us, a representation of our selves is created. All it takes is for us to interrelate those representations and conscious thought takes place.


Relational reality; Relational virtuality

Structural PsychologyIn relational terms, the difference between so-called “reality” and that which is “virtual” or imaginary, is miniscule. Indeed, attempting to differentiate between these two levels of existence can lead to relational confusion and misunderstanding. Frequently, “virtual” relationships can be experienced as if they were real, and vice versa. Indeed, the only difference between actual relationships and virtual relationships is that in virtual relationships the “subject” controls the relationship, not the object. That means that the subject controls, simultaneously, both its “self” AND the object. When the relationship is actual or real, however, it is the object that controls the relationship, not the subject. Indeed, the psychological effectiveness of all relational activity is directly determined by the positioning of relational control.

When you relate to an object or event “in your head,” you do so virtually and, therefore, you are in control of the results of the relationship. When you carry out virtual relationships, although you may emotionally sense a portion of that relationship’s impact, you will not feel the full force of it. After all, the relationship is virtual, and you know it. You are well aware that you are in full control of whatever occurs between you and your thoughts. When you relate to your world virtually, you can manipulate the relationship anyway you please. You can make objects confirm your Relationability, or contradict it at will. You can neutralize or compensate contradictions, create them or destroy them as if they were real. But, they’re not. They have lost their true relational power and that is, sometimes, just the way you like it.


Goal seeking:
Exposure, and the relational nature of “effort”

Structural PsychologyGoal seeking is Man’s most common form of behavior. Goals are goals because they promise us confirmation of either the self’s Relationability or the Relationability of the Ego, or both. Goal seeking is invariably accompanied by some measure of effort. Curiously, all human effort “exposes” the Relationability of he or she who exerts it. “Relational exposure” primarily refers to the exposure of the self to Contextual contradiction. If, for example, you have a paper to write for school, and you make an effort to do a good job, you have left your ability to relate or your Relationability exposed for your Context to judge. When little or no effort is made to reach a goal, your exposure will be less. No matter what, if and when you do make an effort to accomplish something, you place your Relationability “out there” to be confirmed or contradicted. In essence, the larger the effort you make, the more you expose your Relationability and the more vulnerable you become to the full emotional and structural impact of Contextual confirmation or contradiction. Equally so, reducing the level of the effort you make when dealing on a contextual level will always reduce your exposure to contextual contradiction.

Exposure and “sour grapes”

Structural PsychologyWhen an effort made, brings an unsuccessful result, it isn’t the effort that contradicts the effort maker, it’s the unsuccessful result that does. That’s why when Jonny learns that he can’t go to the local air show, the air show implicitly becomes “not all that much fun”. An unreachable goal, after all, is not a confirming object or event, it is a contradictory one and contradictory events are never “much fun at all.” When Sally fails to reach some seemingly succulent grapes that dangle overhead, she doesn’t experience the grapes as sour because she needs to “defend” her Ego against some undesired occult reality. She experiences the grapes as sour because they contradict her goal of eating them. Sally does not “Rationalize” the value of her objective, she just experiences its contradictory nature.


Specific types of goal seeking.

Human effort can be manifested in two ways: As coming directly from the Ego or coming from the “self.” If an effort is not Contextually driven, it will not be exposed to the effects of Contextual contradiction.

As an example, let’s take Mary and her love for painting landscapes. Few members of her Context like what she paints. Mary, however, is not affected by her Context’s contradictory judgments, as the relational confirmation she seeks has no Contextual connections. Mary paints landscapes to confirm her Ego, not her self. Efforts that are Contextually based, however, expose the self to possible Contextual contradiction. Using our example of Mary and the landscapes she paints, if Mary only paints landscapes to impress or satisfy her Context, if few liked what she does, her self will be affected but not her Ego.

Your flawless Ego

Structural PsychologyYour Ego’s Relationability is the psychological representation of your existence and, therefore, qualitative in nature. Being that the Ego is qualitative it cannot be quantified and, therefore, it should not be susceptible to judgment. It just either “is” or it “is not,”. Our Egos Relationability, therefore, have no contextual value, they just either “are” or they “are not”. Simply put, one cannot have more or less existence, so clearly our Egos can’t have more or less Relationabiliy. One’s Ego cannot be better or worse, stronger or weaker, or more or less significant than another. If you are alive, you have all the Relationability you can handle, and it’s perfect.

Your Ego, your self, and contextual “control”

As mentioned before, your Ego and your self are not separate physically defined parts of who you are psychologically but simply diverse ways the Structure relates to the world around it. Your Ego is your primary point of relational departure and, therefore, the primary representative of your existence. It is, in essence, who you really are and, therefore, the focal point of your vital search for confirmation. The Ego does not involve itself with evaluations or judgments. That job is reserved for your Context. The Ego focuses exclusively on searching and ultimately finding confirmation of the reality it is.

This does not mean that the Ego is not affected by the self’s relational interactions as, indeed, it can be. If the self is contradicted the Ego will know it, as it is a primary representative of Man’s existence. Yet when the Ego has been touched by contradiction, there is little it can do. Contradiction is quantitative in nature yet the Ego is purely a qualitative entity. When contradiction blocks the Ego from acquiring the confirmations it needs (a kind of contradiction of the Ego’s structural needs) only the self may react to defend, compensate for or neutralize whatever is in the Ego’s way.


So what about Control and its link to contradicion?

Contradiction is a little like atomic power; it can either be the self’s best friend or its worst enemy. That is; your exposure to contradiction can either help you to build a healthy repertoire of defensive, compensatory or neutralizing tactics against its destructive effects or it can render you insane. Interestingly, the only truly effective tool the self has for both obtaining confirmation as well as dealing with contradiction, is the amount of relational ‘control’ it can wield over its Context. Indeed, from a relational perspective, being ‘in control’ is synonymous with ‘being in power’. Curiously, although control is vital to the self, it is useless to the Ego. The Ego only deals with qualitative issues whereas control is only interested in that which is quantitative in nature. When the Ego is blocked from confirmation, however, it is often the self that is be called upon to run interference, and do whatever is necessary to get it the confirmations it needs. Remember, whatever affects the self, affects the Ego and vice versa.

So where does the Ego or the self go when it needs a good shot in the arm of pure, un-controlled, non-judgmental, confirmation? What sort of relationships fall beyond the critical eye of the Context and allow both the Ego and the self to maintain their relational balance?

In general, virtually all non-reflective relational activity (any activity which does not involve thought) provides the Ego with some degree of confirmation. Nevertheless, there are certain kids of relational activity that seem to provide more existentially significant confirmations than others.

Here are some examples:

When we eat or drink, we lose much of our control to the experience. We’re allowed to by the Context because eating is linked to survival. The same holds true when we fall in love, the Context lets us behave as we wish. We’re supposed to be out of control when we’re in love. If we’re tired and fall asleep, the Context rarely will criticize our decision to rest, and if we fall ill, it will leave us well enough alone; may even come to our aid. Body functions like sneezing, complaining from pain, urinating, verbally expressing pleasure, coughing, defecating, yawing, sighing, etc, are non-contextually relevant behaviors as well. Contemplating beauty, having an orgasm, stretching, laughing, or crying uncontrollably, are not considered Context pertinent either and, therefore, are perfect sources for non-threatening confirmation. In short, almost any behavior that the Context feels is ‘ none of its business’; both the self as well as the Ego will experience as a good source for revalidation of their existential reality. This is why each time we find an object or event we sense is not susceptible to contextual intervention we go for it like a bear goes for honey. After all, the Structure is such that all living organisms implicitly lust for survival and we are no different. Relational confirmation is, after all, that which sustains our survival so quite naturally we will desire it.


Your controllable self:
Why Denial.

Structural PsychologyYour self then, is a purely contextual phenomenon. Given that all things contextual are quantitative in nature, the Context will expect your self to be controllable or self disciplined. That’s why when the self behaves, its behavior is susceptible evaluation or to judgment. Here’s an example:

Lets imagine that you invited friends over to sample some of your famous cherry pie. This time, however, instead of creating a tasty desert, you burn your good intentions to a crisp. Your self looks for a culprit. After all, you invited friends over for some great cheery pie and they’ll be wondering what happened.

So who messed up? Whose Relationability wasn’t good enough to bake that pie? You know it couldn’t have been your Ego’s. Your Ego has perfect Relationability. Could it have been your “self?” You know that people screw up all the time. At least that is what your Context always tells you. So who burnt that pie, anyway?

As you look for a culprit, you might wonder if your oven needed repair or perhaps that you were distracted by a phone call, or that you were too tired to pay attention to what you were doing, or maybe you should have reviewed the recipe just one more time. No matter what the reason was that the pie got burnt, (a bad oven, a rogue phone call, fatigue or a lack of knowledge,) you know it wasn’t you (the real you…your Ego) that caused the error. It couldn’t have been. No human’s existential structure can identify itself with contradiction, yet that is precisely what your Context or even your self is accusing you of. This is why when we are blamed for being self-contradictory, we implicitly “deny” it. We can’t be self-contradicting nor can we have a Context out there thinking we can. Accusations of self-contradiction are anathema to our psychological structure. That’s why when a subject “denies” being identified with contradiction it isn’t because they are mechanically defending themselves from some unwanted truth. They deny involvement with contradiction because they must always correctly represent the reality of their Structure. Given that Man’s Structure can never identify itself with contradiction that is the reality all human subjects must represent, or on the contrary, become themselves self-contradictory.

Why we love to hate

As we continue to observe, our Contexts incessantly search for and find fault anywhere they can. It is almost as if one’s Context were on some sort of permanent witch-hunt. But why? Why do our Contexts, or we as someone else’s Context, so often enjoy finding others guilty? The reason once again is, of course, structural.

Each time we, as Contexts, are able to identify a guilty party,--someone who has contradicted themselves by making committing an error, we are given an opportunity to “neutralize” their contradictory behavior with impunity, an opportunity which we are always are ready to cease. After all, all of us have a history of past un-resolved contradictions in our own lives; contradictions that beg for neutralization yet have not yet been neutralized. When we feel someone else has ‘unjustifiably’ contradicted themselves by contradicting, (through insult or non-compliance with contextual rules), their Context (us), we will jump at the opportunity to neutralize their contradiction as by doing so, we are able to neutralize a portion of our own accumulated contradictions. This is why we “love to hate.” as we love any opportunity to successfully neutralize our own errors and, thereby, make one more step toward a renewal of our existential balance.


Relational logic, value and “common sense”

Structural PsychologyThe entirety of our behavior is driven by the value of every relational event we experience. All relational value, however, is not necessarily the same. The value or significance that your mother, your new car, or your next vacation may have for you will not necessarily be the same for anyone else. Relational values and meanings are the result of relational circumstances and perspectives; but nothing else.

Given that relational values depend upon relational circumstances and perspectives, that which appears logical to one subject or a group of subjects may not appear logical at all to another. Nevertheless, when relational perspectives become “common” to one or more individuals, the logic or “sense” active in the relationship also becomes “common.”

So-called “common sense,” for example, is derived exclusively from the relational circumstances certain perspectives offer for a specific individual or group. Therefore, that which is common sense for individual X or group A, may be completely “illogical” for individual B or group Y.

Matt and his family, for example, might think it “senseless” that their neighbor spend $1,000.00 dollars for an old table they found at a garage sale. Yet when Matt’s family discovers that the garage sale table brought $6,000.00 at a local auction, the family’s view of the logic behind buying the table may change. After all it is “common sense” that making money is a good thing to do.


Behavioral “hand me downs”

Structural PsychologyAs you have seen, your psychological survival is a relational phenomenon and, therefore, dependent upon how and in what way you relate to other things and other people. In a reciprocal way, the psychological survival of others, depends upon how “their” Relationability is echoed back to them by “their” Contexts (you and me and everyone else). We all are, as it were, in the same relational boat.

Your psychological dependency on contextual confirmation then, is absolute. After all, because you are a relational being, without a Context, you simply cannot survive. Confirmation of the existential reality that you are, therefore, is a 24-hour a day requirement. Without a consistent flow of sub-conscious or conscious confirmation, you would be, as it were, “dead in the water.”

In fact, it is your dependency on Contextual confirmation which forms the person you are becoming and, therefore, is a primary factor in the creation of your evolving behavior. Given that your primary psychological goal is to have your Relationability confirmed, and your Context is your only source for confirmation, you implicitly identify the “confirmational process” with how “you” have received confirmation in the past. If kindness, love and understanding were the way your Context was accustomed to confirming your Relationability during your formative years, there is a good chance that that is how you will confirm the Relationability of others later on. If, however, cruelty, abuse and violence were the way your Relationability was confirmed, it is likely that that is how you will confirm the Relationability of others as an adult. Having been confirmed the way you have during the initial formation of the self is your primary source for knowing “what confirmation looks and feels like.” That experience, then, is all you have as a reference point when you search for a way to “confirm” the Relationability of others. This, indeed, is the reason we tend to repeat behaviors of our predecessors.

Do keep in mind, however, that because one does not arrive on this earth as a ‘clean slate’ they may already possess strong personality or character traits that can weigh heavily on the outcome of any relational exchange, even that of one’s primary Context. This means that according to our genetic past, how or in what way one individual might understand what ‘confirmation’ feels like may differ substantially with the way their Context understands it must feel. Yet with all things being equal, our primary Context’s confirmational behavior -- that of our moms, dads, sisters brothers or friends -- will significantly influence the way we will confirm and contradict others as our lives develop.


The ugly face of contradiction

Structural PsychologyExistential contradiction is our worst enemy, yet all relational activity can produce it. We are all different and differences unavoidably create contradiction.

There are two basic kinds of contradiction: Direct and indirect, both are interrelated. Direct contradictions are those that reverse a subject’s confirmational intentions: Peter tries repeatedly to close a mayonnaise jar but is unsuccessful. Indirect contradictions are those that come from demand or non-coincidence: (the needs of the Ego are contradicted by the Context) Mark’s parents expect him to become an astute businessman but Mark has no talent for business. Direct contradictions are commonly dealt with through “neutralization:” The contradiction is contradicted: Peter throws the mayonnaise jar across the room and breaks it. Indirect contradictions are dealt with through compensation by reaching expectations “on one’s own terms.” Mark becomes an astute businessman’s right arm instead of becoming an astute businessman himself. At least that way he will be successful “in business.”

No matter what a contradiction’s origin may be, or how a contradiction may manifest itself, subjects will often attempt to eliminate its destructive effects through any means available. Direct contradictions, for example, may be met with attempts at compensation and non-coincidence may be fought with neutralization. No matter what the case may be, most attempts to eliminate contradiction are either insufficient or ineffective and often can even become catalysts for further structural conflict.

Contradiction and relational balance.
Relational balance and mental health.

Finding balance, equilibrium or coincidence between the Ego and its Context, is a key requirement for maintaining mental health. Coincidence with one’s Context creates joy, contentment and satisfaction. It also provides a positive “self image” and, subsequently, strong feelings of “self-confidence.” Non-coincidence or relational imbalance, on the other hand, brings unhappiness, frustration and despair; a poor self-image and little self-confidence. If you love to read, build things, are a good organizer and are passionate about music, as long as those are the traits your Context admires, your Ego will “coincide with” or be in “balance with” your Context and all will be well. If, however, your Ego content does not “coincide” with contextual values, you will be “out of balance” with your Context and subsequently feel continually contradicted by your non-coinciding Context.


The relational power of the animate object

Structural PsychologyAll I have to do is look at my girlfriend and I know right away if I’m in trouble. My dog seems to know what I’m thinking about too.

Among all the objects contained in our Reference Contexts, it’s the animate object that wields the most relational power. Animate objects have an exceptional capacity to express themselves and, therefore, communicate the degree of relational value they sense you have. A single cell ameoba or your common house fly may not be such good examples of a living thing that is all that expressive, but when you start talking about a well trained parakeet or your pet dog Spot, you are getting closer to those kinds of animate objects that are pretty good relational communicators. So who are the best communicators of all? Humans are. Humans are powerhouses of relational expression and, therefore, the most effective source of relational echo we have at our disposal.

The power of human thought

Structural PsychologyEven though what others think of us and what we think of others is almost a virtual experience (guess work) it is still that which makes a lion’s share of our psychological world go around. After all, when we “think” about other things or other people, our thoughts invariably contain some sort of value judgment concerning the status of their Relationability. Value judgments as you’ll remember, either confirm or contradict relationships so, quite naturally, they’re important. Given that our behavior is governed by the confirmations or contradictions we receive from our contextual world--the way our thoughts value the Relationability of others and the way we can best estimate that others value our Relationability--is a primary motivator of our behavior.

In order to better understand the power of thought, consider the following:

Every year, writers publish millions of books, magazine articles, and newspaper editorials solely to let others know what they’re thinking. Your physical appearance is important, but only because of what it makes others think. People put bumper stickers on their cars, paste political posters on walls and send out personal resumes just so that others will think about them in a specific way. That which we think a loved one thinks of us either brings us joy or sadness, hope or despair, pride or shame. Few would refuse having a monument of them placed in the middle of their town after they die. At least that way, others would think of them. (Could it possibly be that the thoughts are so powerful as to give life?) We lay flowers at loved ones tombs and think about them on the outside chance our thoughts might affect their existential status. We feel guilty if we forget to wish a friend happy birthday; arrive late to a social function; or accidentally insult someone we admire, but only because of what they might think of us. We even care what those with whom we have the slightest of contact may think about us like a simple passer-by on the street or our local newsvendor. Indeed, that which we think of others or imagine that others think of us is as vital to our psychological existences as is the very air we breathe.

Expectation and demand: Public enemy # 1?

“The other day I was about to grab my dark blue shirt out of the closet when I heard Karen shout from downstairs, ‘Know what? You’re wearing that dark blue shirt of yours tonight.’ It was weird, right after that I couldn’t bring myself to put it on.”

Demand and our relational structure

Structural PsychologyWhen someone demands something or expects something from us, we often find ourselves unable to meet the expectation or complete the demand. Why? Because the demand doesn’t relationally belong to us and someone is telling us it has to. Remember, relationships take place between subjects and objects: You and the other guy, you and the other thing. So in order to maintain your Structure’s relational integrity, everybody--including your self, has got to know who your behavior really belongs to: you, or someone else. In a word, every time you behave in a specific way, your behavior must have the correct relational polarity (subject-object) or you simply won’t be able to carry out that behavior. That’s why we often are so decidedly affected by expectation or demand. When someone demands we do something, they are not only demanding that we ignore the reality of our Structure, they are demanding that we contradict it.

Demands, of course, are met every day, but only because their relational polarity is properly positioned: That is, that everybody knows where the demand has come from. If, for example, someone demands something from a subject that the subject doesn’t want to do, a simple demonstration on the part of the subject of non-accordance, is sufficient to re-position relational polarity and allow the subject to complete the demand. All Jerry has to say to his mother is: “Aw come on, do I have to?” thereby allowing all concerned to properly position Jerry’s relational polarity and Jerry can complete his mother’s request. If, however, Jerry is unable to communicate his non-conformity with the demanded task, he won’t be able to complete it.

The power of demand can sometimes surprise us. Some types of behavior can even be stopped in mid-action because of the appearance of unexpected demand. If, for example, you plan to do something that, all of a sudden, someone tells you they now “expect” of you, the only way you can fulfill the expectation is if you can demonstrate that you were the original author of the action to be completed (“I was just going to do that”). If, however, you are unable to set your relational polarity straight, ( making a declaration to others or even just to your self ) try as you may, you will not be able to complete the demand.


Your Context, your “self,” and Contextual demand

Structural PsychologyAs you relationally grow, Contextual “demand” slowly creeps into your daily life. It has to. One’s Ego cannot always be in coincidence with the relational goals of its Context (Billy wants to play all day then cuddle up in bed with mom and dad. Mom and dad, however, have their own lives to lead as well.
Once a child enters into relational contact with their Context they quickly find that ‘its one demand after the other.’ After all, the child’s Context is in need of confirmation just as much as the child is, and sometimes the way the child might be behaving can get in their Context’s way.

That’s why when relational imbalance occurs--you want to do something your Context doesn’t want you to--the Context is forced to use demand to acquire the confirmations it needs, and all of a sudden, it’s no longer is enough for you just to be you. Now, in order to acquire the contextual confirmations you need, you must do what your Contexts wants you to. That means that as infancy turns to childhood, gratuitous Contextual confirmation grinds quickly to a halt and the need to “earn” one’s relational confirmations appears for the first time.

Now you have to eat when you’re not hungry, or not eat when you are; take a nap when you’re not tired but wake up when you are. Stop shouting; put clothes on when you want them off, take clothes off when you want them on; smile on command; stop crawling, start crawling; get off the couch, get back on it; eat a piece of fruit when you really want cake; walk when you want to run, run when you want to walk; put your toys away, get your toys out. In short, as long as your self remains under construction, the list of demands you must comply with goes on and on. It’s a good thing you sense that everyone knows where all those demands are coming from, or you, pretty much, couldn’t move.

How we deal with demand.

Having to fulfill demands is clearly not something you do just during infancy. Demands fill your relational life. The only difference is, sometimes you voluntarily submit yourself to demand scenarios, (join a club or organization and happily follow their rules), and sometimes you don’t, (find yourself involuntarily born into a demanding environment).

Be that as it may, there are three basic ways one can deal with demand or expectation: 1) by neutralizing the contradictory nature of the demand (contradict the demand, by refusing its completion); 2) by properly situating the polarity of the demand (reveal the ownership of the demand); or 3) by finding compensation for the demand (enter a demand environment “on one’s own terms”).

In addition, as you leave infancy and enter childhood, you have yet another option for reducing the possible contradictory effects of demand. You can abandon your relationship with the source of unwanted expectation and go somewhere else to acquire the confirmations you need: You can get yourself another Context.

Your peer Context

Structural PsychologyPeer groups or parallel Contexts can provide you with relief from demanding Primary Contexts. (Those relationally closest to you like parents and other loved ones) That doesn’t mean that parallel Contexts or peer groups are able to ‘take over’ the relational position of the Primary Context or that such Contexts are not themselves demanding. Parallel Contexts can, indeed, be as demanding as any primary Context. The advantage to having a parallel Context, however, is that not only is the peer group chosen voluntarily, but that such liaisons create less exposure to possible contradictions coming from their Primary Context: If you’re “marching to a different drummer” you’re not marching anymore to the previous one.

Peer Contexts and conformity
“Marching to a different drummer”

Structural PsychologyConformity to a group is that ostensible sign of allegiance to a specific Context which can provide one not only with the assurance that they are candidate for confirmation by that Context, but a way for them to demonstrate to others from what source they are receiving the confirmations they require. Even though conformity is clearly just another form of demand, he or she who submits to conformity usually does so voluntarily, thereby eliminating contradiction.

Once you are identified as being a member of a specific Context, anyone who is not a member of that Context immediately senses a loss of relational power over you. (you don’t need them anymore as a source of confirmation) Demonstrating one’s membership to a parallel Context is an effective way of disarming one’s previous context of its power of contradiction. Indeed, once a subject is able to demonstrate that they “march to a different drummer” that subject may no longer be a viable target for contradiction by any other Context.

Relational value.

Structural PsychologyRelational values are really all about contextual Relationability; really all about how you and your Context ‘measure’ or ‘quantify’ an object or event’s Relationability. Indeed, nothing has value unless its power of confirmation or contradiction can be quantified or measured. This is why all value experiences are contextual experiences. Only the Context is able to quantify existence. Sub-conscious experiences like the simple sensing of the world around you are not initially quantifiable and, therefore, have no ostensible value. That does not mean that sub-conscious experiences cannot have structural impact. That they can indeed, and often do. That only means that our conscious perception of any sub-conscious impact that may occur will have its “value” hidden from us until it is contextually quantified. Once, however, an object or event is brought into consciousness, and its level of Relationability becomes quantified, that object or event may be assessed and valued. We may take a breath of air every six seconds or brush death daily, yet if we are not conscious of those experiences, they will have no meaning for us. In short, owning a new Porsche, taking a new drug, dreaming about our last vacation or feeling a thrill every time we listen to Brahms can either be valueless experiences or experiences that are packed with contextual meaning. It all depends on what our level of consciousness may be at the time of the experience and, therefore, to what level the self is involved.

Value, and the law of relational supply and demand.

One of the most common ways the value of an object or event can be modified or even reversed is by manipulating its level of access. This can happen basically in two ways: 1) By changing the level of ‘difficulty’ required to obtain the object or event or 2) By modifying the level of ‘demand’ associated with the object or event.

No man is a prophet in his own land because there he is accessible to all. Seeing the Eiffel Tower has no value for Jane because she lives only a block away from it. No one may listen to a famous violinist who plays in a subway station, as subway stations are accessible to all. Of course reversing levels of access also can also affect values. He who climbs Mr. Everest is admired because of the control needed to reach its peek. Having dinner with a famous movie star has contextual value because ‘not just anybody’ can be associated with a public figure.

Another way an object or event’s value can be modified or even reversed is by decreasing the level of demand associated with its access.

When you learn that the houseguest who would never leave is to leave for good, you realize how interesting they were. When you hear that the only gym in town is about to close, all of a sudden you want to work out there. The lover you’d been taking for granted becomes attractive again when they announce they may not be interested in you anymore. Your neighbor’s grass may seem greener than yours. After all, his yard will never be yours. Examples abound. In short, when demand is eliminated from a relationship that relationship’s value may increase. Inversely, however, when demand is suddenly introduced into a relationship, that relationship’s value can be put at risk.

A couple that had been living happily together for 10 years finally breaks up only months after signing their marriage ‘contract’. When Mary’s doctor tells her she ‘must eat’ five tablets of chocolate a day, her passion for chocolate vanishes. The vacation spot you always dreamt about becomes a nightmare when you learn its been quarantined and ‘you cannot leave’ there for six months.

The power of the collective Context

“Every time I need to convince Mom she should give me something, I just tell her
‘everybody’ has one. I’ve always had the feeling that I will have a better chance of getting what I want that way.“

Structural PsychologyIn general there are two kinds of Contexts that can echo back to us their version of who we are: Individual and Collective. Individual Contexts are made up of animate or inanimate objects (individual things that are alive and individual things that are not). Collective Contexts represent entire groups of animate or inanimate objects, like the members of your community or the number of shoes you have in your closet.

Groups of just about any kind have a greater echoing power than almost any individual object ever could. Relationally speaking, there really is “power in numbers.” A singular object that echoes back to us who we are is one thing, but 100 of those objects has one hundred times as much echoing power, and that’s a big deal. Our Context is an important source of confirmation, so the more numerous the representation of that Context may be, the more motivated we may be to contextually behave in one way or another. If our buddy Jerry suggests we take a listen to the new rock group “Planet X” we may drawn to listening to them. If suddenly we hear ‘everybody talking about “Planet X”, however, we will definitely give them a listen.


Our existential structure and mental illness

By understanding the existential structure that guides us, we may more easily understand the powerfully decisive role contradiction plays in our psychological lives. In essence, due to each of our unique genetic backgrounds as well as the unique relational circumstances we all face over a lifetime, each one of us finds our own unique way to deal with the destructive effects of contradiction. In the end, no matter how, or in which way, we may choose to deal with contradiction, each diverse example of our behavior should not be separately categorized or diagnosed as if it were a separate malady, but rather, understood as a manifestation of one singular structural event: An existentially based structural reaction to the presence of self-contradiction.

Part II of this site will be forthcoming.

With regard to the content expressed in the above hypotheses this writer welcomes your comments, observations, and criticisms as well as any constructive suggestions that you feel might either enrich or challenge its validity. Please see the ‘Contact’ option in the options window found on the home page.

Thank you for your interest.

Rogers V. Follansbee PhD