4. Context AmpsMitigates Temperament - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
Consultant/Trainer/Author
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Born that Way, Temperamental Challenges in Relationships and Therapy
Chapter 4: CONTEXT AMPLIFIES AND MITIGATES TEMPERAMENT
by Ronald Mah





In this discussion, while much of the focus is on adult relationships and couples, parenting and children will be referenced as an issue in of itself.  Problems in parenting temperamentally difficult or poorly matched temperaments in the family create crises for the couple as well.  For the therapist working with individuals, couples, and families, temperament does not exist, develop, or manifest in isolation.  Temperament along with other considerations occurs in various contexts from infancy through adulthood.  While temperament is considered largely to be innate or in-born, the family and other environmental contexts amplify and/or mitigate temperament.  This therapeutic approach initially is largely psycho-educational for clients.  As the individual is more able to understand and apply temperamental theory (and to their nuclear families and family of origins), the individual and couple can develop practical guidelines to improve couple and family relationships.

Understanding also serves to prevent negative labeling of temperamentally challenged partners and children.  Charlie in the family presented may be so labeled.  Samuel as the more aggressive partner may be labeled as problematic.  Aliya could be labeled as over-sensitive, borderline, or uptight. The therapist may have his or her own choices for the IP- identified patient depending on a favored theoretical orientation.  Temperamental theory subjectively defines a trait as positive or negative depending primarily on the demands of the environment.  The demands vary depending on the other individuals in the environment and shifting circumstances.  For example, one person may be on the low end temperamentally in activity level such as Aliya.  As a result, he or she does not make much physical demands on the environment, his or her partner, parent, or teacher.  If another person in the community, however is on the high end of activity such as Samuel or Charlie, he or she may make great physical demands and challenges on the environment- for example, frequently bouncing around the house or classroom.  From the perspective of someone trying to manage the classroom or house environment, then the first person's low activity level is often seen as positive, while the second person's high activity level is perceived as negative.  If the household, workplace, classroom, or the task at hand can accommodate both low and high energy members, then neither person would be labeled as being negative.  The high activity person would be seen as benign, since the person's behaviors doesn't cause any problems.  However, if the high activity person is bouncing around the setting and disrupting the other person's low activity tasks, then for the low activity person the high activity and perhaps, the high activity person are seen as "bad."  On the other hand, if someone was looking for a high activity partner for a high activity level adventure, then the high activity person and high activity is great!  Samuel and Charlie match up well this way.  Off they go- two rambunctious puppies!  Reaction and judgment can be very compassionate and nurturing to very negative and punitive.  The knowledge, sophistication, and mental, psychological, and emotional health of the other individuals in the context will determine the quality of response.  An individual may suffer the poor luck of having ignorant and unhealthy others.  This is often true...very unfair, but still true. The context and the other individuals in the context will either amplify or mitigate individual's temperament.  The other individuals and context are initially parents and siblings with a newborn at home, then teacher and peers at school, coach and teammates at practice and games, supervisor and colleagues at work, and eventually, partner in couplehood.

ADDRESS:
433 Estudillo Ave., #305
San Leandro, CA 94577-4915
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
CONTACT INFORMATION:
(510) 614-5641 or (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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