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Doane College
Cou. 655
Social and Cultural Context and Systems
G. Allen

Thomas Florez

Daily Journal
Week 1
October 19, 2010- Today was the first of the classes; it was primarily a orientation toward the expectations for the course. Gerry Allen is the professor, wish means it will be not only educational, but enlightening as well. I like his approach to counseling, as he explains in the beginning of class; a counselor must treat the client’s “self”. A potential client is much more than the sum of their assessment, more than a culmination of facts of events or a sequential historical data of behavioral inheritance. The client is a living human being that has perception that is unique unto their own. To really understand and be of service to them a counselor must work in concert with the client to understand their view and the origins of their perception of the world in wish they base this view upon.
We spent much of the time watching a documentary of two individuals, Chris and Cody. They lived in western Kentucky, and it followed them and their experiences as they attended a progressive alternative school. It was interesting in how their lives where different and yet the same in many respects. They both attended the same school, but their experiences were unique. Cody was orphaned as his mother had passed away and his father committed suicide. He lived with his grandmother after he had been in different living arraignments. As Gerry explained, he had a good support group and received a great deal of affirmation throughout his life.
Chris on the other hand lived with his parents, his father an alcoholic and his mother seemingly disengaged in the raising of the children. Chris appeared to want to withdraw from his peers, yet he took on tasks and presumed the role of a leader in many respects. In viewing this film I found that Chris, who seems to withdraw from others when ever he is depend upon or given any area of responsibility, does not live up to his potential. He seems to want to contribute and be involved in society to a certain degree, but is has difficulty in following through. It is as if he is afraid to succeed, even when success is certain. Perhaps this stems from low-self esteem and he worries that he will disappoint others, but by his not following through with projects that he starts, that act of avoidance creates what he most fears. It is clear that he has much to offer and that he has the ability to organize, it will be interesting to watch their lives play out in the documentary.
As I began to read the textbook I found that Chapter 2 was a review of subject matter that was taught during previous classes, however Chapter 1 intrigued me from the very beginning pages. It was interesting how they defined social psychology and used the example of Jennifer and the cult group that she had become affiliated with. It is interesting because I believe that people will conform to the norms of the group that they associate with. It reminds me of how some people become in power that should or should not be in an influential position.
It was interesting how they integrated the concept of the influence that people have on our behavior whether their presence is actual, imagined or implied. In this example they alluded to the stop sign scenario and inquired into why people would stop at a light signal in the middle of the night even when there is no one around. It is to this means that they conclude that although there is an implied presence this is an indication that people will conform to rules of society in general if they are of the mind set to want to belong to that particular group.
In Chapter 3 they discussed the concept of active construction of experience, the perception of ones experiences help formulate the individuals interpretation of what their world is or is not and this directs their decision making process into what their reaction maybe of any given circumstances. What I find enlightening in this ideology, as well as a cautionary warning as I am now raising a two year old son, is that the things that an individual encounters at an early age will form the bases of their world viewpoint, so it is important to consider this when taking action. Whatever is said or done may alter their perception of their world and guide the direction they may take in life. I do not think that may parents consider this notion when scolding a child or whatever punitive action they may take as a result of something that a child may have done that is disapproving of their parent. Even when the child is observing other adults and they may see them interact, they are taking this information, interpreting and even being influenced they such action that have far reaching consequences. The adult that chooses parenthood must be mindful that whatever actions they take, the actions can be a far reaching influence in their child’s life.
I enjoyed the section on non-verbal communication; it validates what I have always believed in that a person will tell you more about what they are thinking based on their non-verbal action than they will tell you with the spoken word. Non-verbal gestures are hard to disguise and do not lie. Often someone will talk to you and tell you one thing, but their tone or a facial gesture will indicate that they mean something quite different, even when it is not an intentional signal. I believe that it is very important for any counselor to be very observant toward these non-verbal messages in order to truly understand what is happening with their client. By not paying attention to this aspect of the interview process it is very possible that the counselor could miss some important information or miss the opportunity to invite the client to share what is not being said.
As I am writing this journal I have had the opportunity to attend my other assigned class of Human Growth and Development II, with Dr. Rob Walsh and he alluded to a concept that Prof. Allen had touched upon in classes that I found to be quite exciting. In the past few classes we have addressed the client as a culmination of data, diagnosis, behavioral observations, and it seems that we are leaving out the human element of treating them.
Prof, Allen mentioned that we must become in touch with the client and understand the “self” before we can understand how they view the world and their perception that is relevant to the approach toward treating their issue. I found this theoretical approach to be absent in other classes and this may only be a testament to the level of courses that I have taken to this point, I was just excited to hear a Professor introduce the idea that the DSM-IV was not all the guideline that was relevant to treating our client, that the counselor must not loses the human element of counseling others.
Week 2
Oct. 25, 2010- We watched more of the movie “Country Boys”, it was sad to see that Chris has so much potential, yet he seems to give up on himself before he can witness any level of success. In the movie he talked about quitting school and beginning anew the following year due to being so far behind, what was even more surprising was his mother reinforced this notion. I was not clear in this concept, rather than encouraging him to try and complete the work missed, she gave him encouragement to quit.
In the classes we discussed the power of the influence within the family structure and how it has an impact on the child and their decision making process, as well as with their sense of self and level of self-worth. There is clear evidence of this when we contrast Chris as opposed to Cody. Cody seems to have a good support group around him, as described in last week’s journal, and it appears that his group extends beyond his Grandmothers care to include his girlfriend’s parents. Yet, I sense that Chris is much more capable of achievement than Cody, as indicated in last week’s journal he has organizational skills when needed, yet he does not follow through. He seems to be more serious in nature than this counterpart in the film, less time for social interaction, and as tonight’s film indicates he is not as socially developed as Cody when it comes to female interaction.
Chris’s self-worth has been compromised as well, where Cody’s seems to have been more established, although may not have fully developed due to his family history and his earlier experiences of losing both parents. Tonight’s film does suggest that Cody is becoming more responsible and maturing to some degree as he inform his girlfriend the need for her to get her homework completed, his priorities are becoming better aligned than that of Chris’s.
It was interesting to watch how the two progresses throughout the film and to associate what we are observing to what is being discussed in classes. The point that was made concerning social structure and where the household is impoverished can affect a child’s degree of self-worth or self-image was intriguing. At first, as the discussion began on this subject, I antiquated impoverished as referring to economic status, but as we continued I realized that this may included financial standing, but it is not all inclusive when explaining the term impoverished. It can included the moral and values that are reflected within the home.
In chapter 3 it discussed several areas in the context of understanding others and the message we send to communicate, whether verbal or non-verbal. What was of particular interest to me was the issue of proximity when interacting with another. It is quite clear that this action is contextual toward cultural norms, but it also is has a perceptual bases as well. In some circumstances, distance between the client and counselor may be desirable.
A counselor must be careful to have appropriate distance and boundaries at the onset of any session until they are familiar with the clients’ history and needs. If a client has had a history, for example, of being physically violated, the counselor must understand that the client may want distant between them until the counselor has established an environment that the client feels safe and the counselor has established a rapport with the client.
It talked about the means in which clients may use deception, however, non-verbal cues are usually visible in order to identify when a client is being less than honest. It was interesting in that the different indicators, such as the blinking of the eye, shortness of answers, which are normal indicators of lying, are only subject in its effectiveness based on the persons motivation toward deception. This was not an aspect that I was aware of prior to the reading of this text. What was equally surprising was how most people make statement like “that I can tell you are lying, I can see it in your face”, is an erroneous and inaccurate claim. However, I did know, but often not aware, that the pitch of someone tone of voice is a better indicator overall for identifying deceptiveness in a person.
I agree with the text in that most people want to understand each other, many laymen feel that they can “read” others based on their actions. I think that this desire is based on the need for predictability toward our own environment. I think this is simply a primal instinct to understand and control our environment and the possible outcome. If we can understand the nature of each other’s actions, we can predict and prepare for a counteraction in order to protect ourselves from negative consequences.
When we discussed attitudes in the classroom, what came to mind was how we as human beings tend to overestimate factors that take place within the context of our environment and then we make presumptions based the event, not taking account the situation. This was referred to as the fundamental attribution error in the textbook; it further explained how we tend to label specific behavior and then make inferences toward that behavior that only solidifies an assumption. I think that we establish biases based on this type of practice. It is important for the counselor to understand how a client may construct such an inference toward a specific behavior, where the origins may have come from and how to reframe these beliefs if they are misadjusting.
Week 3
Nov. 2, 2010- Tonight class centered on the influences of attitudes and how the counselor must consider this when engaged in therapy. We discussed many of the external forces that are present in a clients life and how they influence his perception of the world which in turn becomes a factor toward his decision making process. It is these environmental influences that help shape his character traits that will ultimately form the bases of his decisions and it is those outcomes from those decisions that frame the experience that the client has, that will shape his perception of the world. It appears to me that this is a cycle that seems to be very dependent on the outcomes of each element. One factor influences the other and it becomes clearer that if a counselor can reframe the perception of the client on any given view or issue, then the reframed perception can also change the actions taken by the client which will then change the outcomes of the experience. If the experience changes, then a different view of the world will reinforces positive action.
We also talked about how society is demanding education that goes beyond the high school level. Our society has become a high tech, credential oriented society and to live a life that goes beyond acquiring the essential, to thrive and live comfortably, it is requiring an advance education to work in the market place. Annette brought up how the world is becoming a global market (it has been for some time) and I disagreed that a college degree is the key to success, and I was shut down quite rapidly without furthering my case.
It was my intent to explain that a college degree does not guarantee success due to the fact that so many others are now acquiring the same degrees. Yes, it is necessary to get further education because the individual will be left out in the job market if they do not obtain one, but it is no longer means in which to give someone an advantage over his competitor, it is only a tool to remain even. Depending on the field, a Masters degree will give someone the advantage that a Bachelors degree once had.
In the field of counseling, it has been explained to me that getting a Masters is an advantage when seeking employment, but it will soon become a necessity with the demand for the counselors to have the ability to dual diagnosis increasing. What concerns myself is that with the economic concerns so uncertain and the increased of the elderly living and working longer, will the field see more issues of misplaced, over educated workers going to therapy due to the lack of options and their age becoming a barrier as far as employment opportunities’? Will there become an increase of major depressive cases as potential aging clients are feeling a sense of uselessness because they are not able to secure meaningful employment.
We also watched a film about a church in Omaha that was taking place in the 60’s, during the time of racial unrest. It was interesting to watch this period of time, one that I was living in as a child. I remember the civil rights movement, but was too young to truly grasp the significant of it. I adopted opinion that were not necessarily framed as my own, but that of my parents. It was interesting in the fact that while this was all taking place , we lived in Omaha and we would frequent the north section quite often, a friend of my father’s was named Willy Govan, who was African American, yet I was so oblivious to the strained relationships of whites and blacks. We just did not grow up with that type of awareness. My father being Hispanic did not distinguish between racial differences in our associations, my mother was white, yet I never heard any comments that were of a racial nature.
I give this example to demonstrate that although there must have been some level of prejudice, perhaps even directed toward my own parents by someone in this neighborhood, I was not privy to its existence and therefore it does not become part of my mental schema to this day. This can be a demonstration that absents of an element can form the bases of someone’s perception.
Week 4 Nov. 8- We began the class discussing relationships and how the expectations of those within the relationship can be unrealistic and detrimental if the bases of the union are not ground with a solid foundation. Too often people enter marriage with the concept that it will be filled with blissfulness and euphoria. I reflect on my own experience, as I have had four marriages that resulted in divorce, and it was the unrealistic and unfulfilled expectations that had contributed to its demise.
I antiquated what a marriage should be based on what I had observed in my own childhood, what each of the roles should be within the relationship. Of course this was never discussed or established with my partner, I just assumed that this was how it should be and no further communication or deliberation was required. After several attempts, accompanied with court proceedings for dissolution of these unions, I came to the conclusion that perhaps my perception of what a marriage should be is not quite what others perceive it. It is at this point I began to investigate and redefine what was expected of me, what I could expect from others and the power of communication prior to matrimony.
I noticed how Prof. Allen outlined how in the beginning of a relationship it is difficult to have true intimacy, that intimacy should not suggest sexual encounter, but should not exclude it either. He alluded to that intimacy become a much deeper revealing of “self” to ones partner without fear of judgment or reprisal. This is a concept that was difficult for me to grasp in my youth, and it was often the source of many issues within my earlier relationships. We talked about how women view the world and communicate much differently than men do and that it is important to grasp this concept in order to convey what each other desires in a meaningful way that your partner can understand and accept.
In my current relationship I understand that if I want to convey a thought or desire to my wife I simply say so in a straightforward manner, but I also understand that this is not what she will do in return. I must listen and understand that the she will be less precise in convey her desire and will focus on how she may feel about something or use statements of intimacy, it is through this conversation and her previous actions that her partner is expected to decipher what it is she wants. If you don’t she will get anger and say “you don’t really know you?” Then you will be in really trouble.
In the beginning of this chapter in address the issue of attractiveness and how we select who we choose to have relationships with. It mentions how we tend to gravitate toward those that enhance our self worth and that the state of mind we currently are in can affect if we will like or dislike someone. I think in causal relationships, such as those that we may work with or encounter that are not a romantic consideration, the state of mind the person is in at the time of their initial encounter can have large bearing on what their impression is of the person and how they will later interact with them.
However, when we encounter someone that we are contemplating having a romantic relationship with there are many factors that go into whether we will pursue this. The first is the proximity of the individual. We tend to be attracted toward those that we see on a routine bases, the second is the physical attribute of the individual. The physical appearance and the desire for someone may not be a determining factor whether we pursue someone as a potential mate. Often someone we find physically attractive may be intimidating to the individual if they do not have a solid self-image. We also tend to pursue those that we find to be within our own economic stratification.
Although physical attractiveness plays a key role in the initial contact of someone in a romantic relationship, it does not sustain for the long term. There must be some similar features each of their characters’ and background. This goes against the old saying that opposites attract, people tend to gravitate and sustain relationships with those that have similar backgrounds and interest than those that are polar opposites. It is through this form of familiarity that they are able to see the world in similar fashion or view point; this was referred to as matching hypothesis. If they come from a similar sociological background they will more than likely have common values and beliefs. This is pivotal in order to sustain a long-term relationship.
I also believe that a couple, in order to maintain their relationship, need to share intellectual development. I had a friend that his wife and he where quite happy, had been married for 15 years with children. She decided to get her bachelor’s degree and become a teacher; she pursued her degree and then began her Master’s in education. It was approximately midway through her master’s program that the couple began to have some difficulty. When she discussed this problem with my wife she mentioned that she felt she was outgrowing her husband intellectually, in that they no longer were able to communicate at the same level or interest.
This is just one example that I have encountered throughout my 52 years. I experienced this also while serving in the armed forces. I am not suggesting that the other member needs to pursue a degree as well, but I believe that the couples need to intellectually grow in the same direction in order for them to maintain a close and stimulating relationship. If the couples share interdependence with each other then this process can take place naturally. When this process is absent there is less cohesiveness in the relationship, then it is important that the couple are able to convey that there is a absents of their needs being met and discuss what actions can be taken in order to prevent further emotional and intellectual separation.
The last thing we did in the classes was to watch a film about a women entitled Shirley Valentine, this was an interesting movie about a women who seem to have lost her sense of self during the course of her marriage and the raising of her children. It appears that through the years of marriage Shirley and her husband had became complacent about their relationship and have not attended to each other’s needs or even their own. Shirley, through some introspection, decided that she has lost her own identity and wished to find her true self once again.
While watching this film I could understand and empathize with her character, although it is centered around a women’s prospective, this could just as easily be a man’s story as well. There has been many a times that I have been so wrapped up in the daily grind of making a living, tending to the children’s needs and trying to take care of the maintenance of the home that I become lost as a person. The relationship with the children’s mother becomes a secondary consideration and this neglect ultimately evolves into resentment toward each other. Unfortunately, because of this narrow sightedness often the marriage becomes a casualty.
It is important for a couple to maintain a relationship that fosters open and honest communication, the development of more than just being lovers and living companions must evolved into a friendship as well. I have found that in relationships, the time of passion and elated sense of love is fleeting and there will be moments that one or both of the members will question the purpose of their union. However, these moments will pass and if there is a development of friendship and mutual respect between them, those fleeting moments into the abyss of uncertainty will survive.
If Shirley and her husband had develop such a relationship of friendship and open communication she could have talked to her husband and tell him how she was feeling. He would have seen her need to have a holiday for herself and get some perspective on life. He may not have understood her need, but would have had enough trust in the relationship to allow her to have the time she needed without question. It will be interesting to find out what transpire toward the end of this movie. I don’t know if she will have an affair with the bar guy, but she is having a contemplating a renewing a relationship with herself and may find this relationship has no room for her husband.

Week 6
Nov. 22- We missed last week due to many of our classmates being absent, so we began the class by watching the conclusion of “Shirley Valentine”. It was an interesting conclusion in that you really never know what becomes of Shirley and her husband. Perhaps they find the passion they once had for each other again. It sometimes take the threat of losing someone you care about to put priorities in perspective. Gerry suggested that perhaps they both move to Greece and give their old life up for a new, less complicated one so that they can focus on each other. It is possible they divorce and go their separate ways, all is possible, and the important message is that we must understand it is important to maintain some level of self-identity in life. We must not lose ourselves when we are engaged with others, whether it is family, friends, and careers. It is important that we find balance in all aspects of life in order to stay true to our nature and in doing so will allow us to give the most in of ourselves to others.
We then watched a film entitled “Nightline in Afghanistan”, this was a very powerful movie in the exhibiting of the impact of the horrors of war and how the soldiers suffer long after the leaving the immediate dangers. I could relate to the testimonies that were given due to being in the military for 11 years. It is interesting that the United States government proclaims that they are concern with the well being of our troops during time of crisis, they spend millions of dollars preparing them for combat, providing them with the latest equipment to destroy homes and lives of those who oppose our will. Yet, it seem that when our service men and women return home from witnessing the mass devastation and death that they have inflicted on what at the time was perceived to be their enemy, little is done to prepare them for the readjustment to civilian life or caring for their mental stability.
In the film they indicated that before returning home they are asked if they need professional consultation due to mental health issues, which would require them to stay in country for an extended period of time. Of course they are going to opt to leave and deny any problems, this is not the kind of assistance that our troops need. It is so sad that those who have made such a sacrifice for our freedom are now imprisoned from the horrors of their past and they must fight for the help they require.
Since we did not have classes in week 5 we were required to review the report on Afghanistan done by Nightline. This film gave some insight into the difficulties that the troops are having in fighting a war that is now going on nine years. In some ways it reminds me of the Vietnam War in the sense that there is difficulty in distinguishing the locals from those that are being our allies and those that are opposing us. It also seems to have no end in sight, as the progress against the Taliban is slow and it is not clear what the true nature of the mission is or if the local residents even what are presents there.
What is clear is that many soldiers volunteered themselves with the belief that they would be serving others by entering the armed forces. Their sense of duty and their desire to help those that are of in need is clear in this documentary as they are willing to work with the villagers in constructing a water source in return for them to side with the American forces. This approach is consistent with the ideological concept of reciprocal altruism, each participate helping the other in exchange for gains that both parties will benefit from.

Week 7
Nov. 29-

Week 8
Dec. 6, 2010-
Tonight we viewed a documentary entitled “American Hollow”, this was about a family living in eastern Kentucky in the mist of poverty and a sense of hopelessness. In was a film that was in the span of one year and all the trials and tribulations that this family faced. In my viewpoint it was in many ways uplifting and thought provoking. As I indicated in the class, I grew up poor and as I viewed this film I realize my family is not so far removed from this type of lifestyle.
I can remember the not having much to eat, and when visiting my grandmother how the grownups would sit around and listen to the Victrola to grandma’s old 78’s records and they would drink and talk of the days during the Great Depression. My grandmother was not a well educated woman, but much like the film she had strong feelings about family, and her faith, and when we visited her over summers we would go out to the chicken coop and get our eggs for breakfast and Sunday morning would attend the neighborhood church.
It was interesting in the film to see the struggles of Clint in his relationship with his girlfriend. It was very apparent the social economic differences in this girlfriends family and himself. I believe that his was much of the problem within their relationship. I feel that her family wanted more for their daughter than someone from the “holler” and desired for her to seek a college education, rather than marry at such a young age. I am not making a judgment toward Clint or his family, rather making an educated guess and presumption.
I feel Clint understood that there was not much of a future for him if he remained in his community, yet he is not intellectually being prepared to venture out in the world. In many aspects he is socially inept to deal with the culture beyond the hills of Kentucky. He has gone to school and understands that there is life beyond his family’s present existence, but rather than his loved ones reinforcing his desires to seek other opportunities they seem to discourage him. I think there reluctance to support Clint in his desire to move to the outside world is due to their own sense of failure to succeed. They may have resigned themselves to the fact that this is all they will ever have and it is best to make the most of what life has to offer them in the hills and be grateful to it. I do not think they are discouraging Clint out of fear that he may do what they could not, but to save him from a feeling of failure and for him to have learned from their mistakes. I think it was a look at a small community of people, not meant to encapsulate life in Kentucky. I think it's sad that drugs and alcohol was so prevalent and consuming to many in the film, I personally believe that living out in the country and on that level of poverty brings a kind of appreciation and understanding of things most of us take for granted. People who judge them should keep in mind that we all have our own set of issues. Those who live in a more traditional form have their own bouts with drug/alcohol abuse, as well as crime to deal with. I would suspect that the portrayal was not representative of how the participants truly are as people tend to project images in front of a camera that are less factual and more desirable . I would suggest though that people living like that, problems notwithstanding have a much deeper respect and understanding of life than many of us who do not have to contend with life such as theirs. I do not find myself pitying them as they have some admirable qualities as a network of people, what I do feel is that those who wish to leave that area should have the opportunity and training so that they may have a better chance of success. I truly feel that people should have options and not have a sense of that their lives and future predetermined based on their economic birth right or generational inheritance. I truly feel that anyone can rise above from their impoverished existence if they are shown how, given encouragement that it is possible for them, and that someone open the door to opportunities that they too may see they are not alone and are capable.

In chapter 13 they discussed the concept of compliance, which is similar to conformity, but has some distinct differences. In order for compliance to take place a person or group of people must act in a manner that is consistent toward the wishes of someone else. A person that conforms to these wishes must have the type of character that allows them to act in agreement. We all comply to some form in our daily lives. When your boss or significant other asks you to perform a task, this is a request for compliance.
The most effective method to gain compliance is through persuasion or inspiring someone. One of the byproducts from employing such persuasive methods is what the text calls the “foot-in-the-door” technique. When reading this it brought to mind several circumstances that I have experienced where this had been applied. One of those circumstances was when I was in the Marine Corps and my friend and I was sitting at a bar when we were approached by another gentleman that struck up a conversation with us. He indicated that he was in Hawaii on vacation (where we were stationed) and that he was trying to get a hold of his friend to pay him a surprise visit.
He then to buy us drinks and after a time asked if we could get a base phone book in order to look up his friends unit. I ask him what unit he was in, but he indicated that he was not sure but would recognize if you could see it in the phone book. I asked his friends name and that I would locate him, again he was evasive and indicated that he would prefer to contact his friend himself.
Before we left, my friend had told the gentleman that he would be happy to get him a phone book and he acquaintance gave him his phone number. I would not be until days later that I was contacted by NIS (Naval Intelligence Service, as it was known in those days) to describe the gentleman that we had met. I later talked to my friend and asked him what was going on and he said that the man that we came into contact was not who he said he was and was under further investigation.
Here was a prime example of getting a foot in the door concept, one other technique I learned employing such tactics is when I was a salesman for a home improvement company. We were taught that during our warm up and presentation period to ask the potential customer to get a drink of water, or make some simple request several times during the session. The idea is to get the customer accustom to saying “yes” that when it was time to close, through immediate conditioning they would more be apt to respond in positive manner.
Another concept that I found intriguing was the “false consensus effect”, this is the assumption that we think that others agree with

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