Monday, February 12, 1996

Is it easier to learn maladaptive behaviors?

Winston Purdy commented that "maladaptive behaviours seem to be easier and quicker to learn than good ones"

I'm not so sure. Unfortunately, in the immediate moment, it's not usually
obvious what is maladaptive and what isn't. A consequence of a belief in an
organic origin is the possibility that, given an organic "fix" to the problem,
any maladaptive behavior would "melt away" on its own accord. The body would probably "find its own wisdom".

This is by no means sure. It is also plausible that maladaptive stuttering
behavior could have become so entrenched that we would require years of
"unlearning" even after the organic problem has been fixed. I consider this
plausible but unfortunate (because it would mask the "fix" and make it much
harder to prove). I would bet, however, on the former. I.e., given an organic
fix, any maladaptive learning would prove to be very tame.

In mathematical terms, the organic problem is like a "forcing function" that
causes the permanence of the maladaptive behavior. We can, in hindsight,
recognize maladaptive behavior and work on creating a new transformation that is able to reduce the effect of the forcing function, but there is no guarantee
that this will work for everybody (the forcing functions may be different).
Unfortunately this is the ONLY course of action we have available and I, for
one, wouldn't sit around waiting for an organic fix (and I haven't).

Anyhow, my main message is: We learn maladptive behaviors not because they are somehow easier than "good" ones, but because they are an immediate consequence of some real underlying problem. We put our hands in front of our face because we keep falling. Yes, putting our hands in front of our face makes us fall even more, so we can spend years in self- or other therapy to learn how to keep our hands at our sides and accept the occasional bump in the head, and that's fine, I agree that that's a better strategy, but, if you could just eliminate the underlying reason for falling, then your arms would find their way to your sides very naturally and with no need for great revelations. That's my bet.

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