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Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) Continued

Simone Hoermann, Ph.D., Corinne E. Zupanick, Psy.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

SASB recognizes that internalized, relationship representations are essentially interpersonal in nature. As such, there are three possible perspectives (or vantage points) from which to view the relational dynamic. The first is an inward-facing perspective of the self judging itself; what we traditionally call the self-concept. The second is an outward-facing perspective of the self judging other people. The third is the introject is making a judgment about oneself but from the perspective of another person, rather than from one's own perspective. Thus, a person can be focused on another person, they can be focused on themselves, or they may take on the focus of the introject. In SASB terms, a person's internal representations are thought to be multi-faceted, and containing within them, each of these three perspectives. Thus, the two dimensions of affiliation and interdependence are plotted three times; once for each of these three self-perspectives. Because a social interaction looks differently depending on which perspective is doing the judging, the plots on each of these three different graphs may end up being different.

To illustrate this complicated scheme, consider a situation where a parent tells a child, "You never do anything right." This interaction can be viewed and coded from each of the three perspectives described above.  These three different perspectives are illustrated in Diagram E below. The diagram may aid the reader's understanding of the following rather complex narrative. Coding the two dimensions from the perspective of self-judging-other (the parent is judging child), the interaction has an attacking or hostile quality (low need for affiliation on the X axis). The intent is to control rather than to emancipate the child (low need for interdependence on the Y axis).  SASB characterizes this configuration of dimensions (attack paired with control), and perspective (self judging others), using the term "Blame". The experience of the interaction from the perspective of the parent is the feeling of a desire to attack the child.

From the second perspective of the self-judging-self (the child is judging himself) the interaction has a hostile quality.  It is likely the powerless child recoils from the attack, as he submits to the parent's dominance over him. SASB characterizes this configuration of dimensions (attack paired with control) and perspective (self judging self) using the term "Resentful Submission." The experience of this interaction from the child's perspective is the feeling of protest against the parent's attack.

If this blaming interaction is repeated multiple times, the child will ultimately develop an introjected representation of himself as blame-worthy. This occurs as the child internalizes a representation of the parent's blaming, other-focused perspective, then experiences this internalized model of the blaming parent. Lastly (but most importantly), the child fails to discriminate this new internal voice as belonging to the parent, separate and distinct from his own voice.  Once the introject forms, the child becomes harshly self-critical and self-attacking, and the parent no longer needs to be present in order for the child to feel badly about himself. Therefore, from the third perspective of the introject, the child's experience is one of deserving to be attacked (blame-worthy). Note that this is not really the child's own perception, but rather a representation of the parent's perspective, which the child has now internalized and confused with his own.

Diagram E

As is the case with Kernberg's dimensional model the various personality disorders can be plotted on the SASB grid. Doing so provides a means for viewing personality disorders less as separate categories, and more as distinctively-themed, interpersonal, interaction tendencies.  Individual interactions (such as our example in Diagram E) of people with personality disorders may overlap with the healthy, flexible range (illustrated by the green shaded area in Diagram D).However, when diagramed across time and situation, a pattern begins to emerge. The interactions would tend to cluster in the outer edges of the graph.  The interactional patterns characteristic of personality disorders are represented by the more extreme and rigid interpersonal features: an excessive interest in controlling others or conversely, a complete willingness to submit to others; an exaggerated need for other people, or its opposite extreme, a complete disinterest in other people.  Thus, interactional patterns of healthy personalities would tend to cluster more towards the center of the grid where the two lines intersect. In contrast, the interactional patterns of personality disorders would be scattered in the outer edges of the grid representing extremes.  

The interested reader may enjoy reviewing our interview transcript with Lorna Smith Benjamin about personality disorders.