Episode 2 · 1 year ago

#2 Resilience from psychological perspective with Raymond Bakaitis, Ph.D.


In episode 2 we are pleased to welcome Raymond Bakaitis, Ph.D. who is a clinical psychologist and was an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychology at U.C.L.A. where he supervised doctoral students.

Raymond Bakaitis is President of the A. K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems and Past-President of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, Past-President of Grex.

As Raymond is interested in the study of group relations – learning about the complex dynamics in groups of all kinds and supporting the development of leadership capacities in persons interested in promoting progressive social change – our discussion is multilayered.

We talk about different aspects of resilience and why it is such an important topic right now. Raymond shares his own experience and what helps him as regards our topic.

Also, some broader issues are tackled in the conversation – organizational struggles with resilience and also tipping points in more general society, i.e. movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter...

Talking points:

1. Resilience in psychological sense – for listeners that do not necessarily have a psychology background

2. Why is there a special need for resilience now?

3. Real life examples

4. How can we build resilience by exploring group relations and/or social issues

5. A word of encouragement for listeners on how to build resilience

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So hello everyone, Yelena Dmitrievich, La Consult today in our resilience podcast we have a special guest from Los Angeles. Our guests is Raymond bacitis. Dr Raymond Backitis is a clinical psychologist and he was an associate clinical professor at the Department of Psychology at University of California in La Ucla, where he supervised Dr Students. Right, yes, yes, and Dr Backitis is a license psychologist and has an independent practice in West Los Angeles and really review work with the adults, adolescents. Rights. Yes, and with a range of problems. Right, you integrate different PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC Orient Patients. That's right, and I also want to mention that you were a past president of the La County Psychological Association and also of the group relations. Which society was it till that was Grex the west coast of the United States, and currently you are President of Aka Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems. Right, yes, great, and so you are interested in the study of group relations to better understand your own self and learn about the complex dynamics of operating between groups of all kinds, and also to support the development of leadership in persons who are interested in promoting progressive social change, as you hope to see. Thanks very welcome guest. It's a pleasure to be here with you. Pleasure is mind and ours, and we wanted to ask you a lot about resilience. We wanted to you to help us understand more about resilience in psychological sense. So I would ask you, how would you describe it to listeners who are not necessarily from a psychological background? Well, I would say that resilience involves the ability to deal with laws. Disappointments to our fantasies about ourself, blows to our ego, our sense of who we were who we are. When that's disrupted, we can start to lose confidence in our sense of self and whom we are, and resilience refers to the ability to persevere through that doubt and come out the other side with a different sense of our self. It sounds very comprehensive and I really appreciate these two mentioned loss. We had all suffered huge losses last year. I mean not just loss of lives, but also loss of our ways of working and connecting with with other people. Yes, why do you think there's a special need for resilience now, and why are we talking so much about it? I think there has always been a need for this, to talk about resilience. But there's two things I would speak to. One is theoretical. In the history of psychology, dominant theories were psycho analytic theory, which is began with Freud, and behavioral theory, and both of ...

...those theories are somewhat deterministic. Your personality, your life is very much affected by your early childhood upbringing, or your personality and your life is very much determined by behavior modification contingencies that affected you, and in both cases you might not have any conscious awareness at all of what is determining your life. I would say humanistic psychology was an alternative to that point of view, because humanistic psychology said, you know, we do have some will, we do have some capacity to determine our life through the choices that we make. And I add, a humanistic psychology developed what's called positive psychology and positive psychology. Rather than looking only at pathology and why we're sick, positive psychology tended to look at strengths that we have. So positive psychology began researching resiliency, another word that is sometimes seen in the literature now is Grit, looking at people who have grit. So in theory, resiliency and grit have been looked at in the last twenty years, when they were not really looked at in the psychological literature before that at all. And then I suppose there's, you know, cultural issues. While we're why we are thinking about, you know, resiliency. More and more the world is in some ways becoming smaller and smaller. I think we're having more recognition that we need to rely more on each other. We can't just, you know, put ourselves in a cocoon or a silo and just be okay, that doesn't work anymore. So I think we may be more interested in how we can work with the inevitable conflict, losses, problems that we have in living and that there's not some way that you can just protect yourself from ever experiencing, you know, threat and loss. And glad that you mentioned this globalization and our networks are spreading and our social structures are also changing. So I think it puts us in a position where we had to deal with much more frustration and, yes, as you said, more conflicts and yes, yes, where we don't feel very comfortable in these huge networks. Yes, I think that's one reason why we see so much political unrest and and why we see some emergence of antigovernment, you know, authoritarian, you know more right wing, you know, political action. Because there's reason, gentman, there's bitterness about our increasing vulnerability and are increasing interdependence on each other. But but that's a different subject for a different talk. Yes, I know you like to talk about it and you're interested in social change, but we can also make another podcast on that topic. But while we were at resilience, do you think maybe there's some story, some real life example? I know you don't share, you protect your clients privacy and so on, but perhaps there's something that we can connect it with,...

...there's some real life story that we can share with our listeners regarding resiliency. Yes, well, rather than, you know, talking about someone else, I mean I can talk about myself and where resiliency has been something I've struggled with, it needed in my life. I would say there's a couple areas for me. There have been times in my life, you know, going back to when I was young, you know, times when I had left, you know, home to pursue you know, work or education, far from home, and there were times when I was, you know, quite lonely and I felt very much like I was in over my head, that I had undertaken more than I was, you know, capable of managing. And you know, I can think of several times in my life, you know, that way and was very painful. It felt very lonely and I, you know, question whether I could, you know, continue on. I think I did find some resiliency to not give up into you know, continue what I was doing. I think for me, what helped me as I felt some connectedness in my head, in my mind still, to the family, you know, that I grew up with and that I was part of that family and part of that group. So even though I felt very far away and in over my head and didn't know that I could make it, I did carry with me this sense of belonging to this other group and I think that helped me to not despair, to not abandon myself. And I'm saying that now because I think, when we're talking about resiliency, I do think it's important to have connections, you know, with other people, and I you know, here I'm talking about family, but connections to other people might it might be, you know, it could be church, it could be temple, it could be mosque, it could be professional associations, it for people with drugging alcohol problems. It could be alcoholics anonymous or is some support like that. So I do think it's very difficult to find a result, to have resiliency all by oneself. Yes, we're getting back to the fact that we are interconnected and that we are all supporting each other, should be supporting each other. I think that that's right well. And speaking of interconnected, then let me speak to another area of my life where when I've been in leadership positions, you know, there certainly have been times when I felt I was not doing well in my job, I was failing, I wasn't doing a good job and leading, I didn't know enough, I wasn't smart enough, I wasn't strong enough. And what's helped me in my thinking is, as you know, I'm involved in what we call group relations work, and in group relations work we tend we think of interconnectedness in the sense that individuals always represent, you know, part of the group as a whole. Individuals, you know, are playing roles in the the life of the group as a whole and that an individuals experience. I re saying something...

...about what's going on in the group as a whole and what the group needs. So, for example, at times when I felt that I was not doing well as a leader, I came to realize that I had been elected into leadership position in organizations, that I did not have that much experience in the organization and that there were people with much more experience in the organization who could have been elected in the position of leadership, but they were not, that I was. So I had to think, well, why might that be? And I think in part because organization was looking for some somebody fresh and leadership, somebody that was not going to be involved in the same old fights of the same old people that have been fighting and doing the same thing forever and ever and ever, and that in fact there was some desire for a new person. I think they're also may have been some fantasy that maybe the new person like me could be controlled by, you know, the people that had, you know, been there for a very, very long time or perhaps saved the organization or PRE's exactly, yeah, exactly exactly, and I think so. I think I was in as an individual. I think I was in some way selected by the Organization for this role and for the fantasies that the organization had. And when I realize that, it helped me quite a bit because I felt like my not knowing things was not reflective of my inadequacy but actually was in some way something that was good, because my not knowing things meant that I could have a fresh perspective and it meant that I could learn, and that was valuable for the organization to have learning and new learning and not just continue to do things the way it always had been done. So knowing that helped me to have some resiliency, to, you know, have some grit, to be able to hang in and not abandoned myself in a band in the role I was in it because even with the struggle, I realized the struggle had to do with what the group needed in wasn't because there was something inadequate about me. So that way of thinking has helped me, you know, quite a bit. I tend to be less judgmental about myself, that I'm bad or I'm really good, because things are not so much about me. I try to think more in terms of what the group needs and what role I'm being called to to meet the group's needs. I think it helps because you kind of put the locusts of control somewhere more realistically, because it's it's not you that it's a leader, but you also kind of reflect the needs of the group. So you kind of if you put the locus of control somewhere realistically, then it helps be aware of the situation more and not, yes, not to kind of get into omnipotence or impotence or any of these polarities that might be harmful to a leader. Exactly. I'd like how you put that Omnipotence or impotence or, you know, those polarities exactly. That's right. Yes, I actually read it in a Lauren look yet I wrote about it and I really like this article he...

...wrote about this leadership, how there's this relative but to see that is needed. It's kind of like an integration between the two polarities. And I also appreciate your story because I had similar thing and what also helped me as well. I'm not in the leadership position, but in kind of dealing with all the losses we had last year, for example, my health challenges, work challenges and, you know, private family challenges. I think it helped me a lot. These groups that we also saw each other in occasionally online on zoom, professional groups and so on, and will help me a lot. It was this sense making and just sitting and thinking about it, not rushing into action and just trying to find a way way through it, and it was also the support from from from the group members as well that that help, but also this kind of reflecting that I thought was important for or it was important for me, especially last year since the pandemics started. But how do you think the group relations can kind of help build resilience, for example, taking part in group relation conferences or well, group relations is is helpful in being able to think about systems and what's operating in a system. And let me give a let me give you like two exams. False. It's something that we know is happens in society. Is a sexual assault, sexual assault against women. I think there's been, you know, a tendency, you know historically, for women who have been assaulted to feel tremendous shame. There's something not that there's something wrong with me. I might have caused the disc I might have caused this and we have some tendency then to you know, want to you know shun women, you know like that kind of push them into the shadows. And I think what's starting to emerge, and not saying because of group relations, but this is a this shows, I like group relations things. I mean we start to think more about the system and the reality is we live in a larger system where women tend to be objectified, women tend to be overly sexualized, women tend to be, you know, denigraded. So that's what's operating in the system and it's sexual assault on any one person is really just an example of representation of the larger social, you know, devaluing and what's you know what I what we see like in particularly like in the last ten to twenty years, what we called like the me to movement. Women are more willing not to stay a shame but more willing to speak to their experience because the individual experience is speaking to something that's larger, you know, that's bigger. The individual experience is data for the group as a whole to consider it what's going on in the culture, what's going on in the system? You know, that results in these you know, individual outcomes. So that would be a group relations way of you know, thinking about things. I'm consulting to a case right now that I find very perplexing that I that I look at from a group relations point of view.

I'm can it's a situation where it's a it's a business, it's a corporation and they're in the entertainment business. You know, they produce a product in the entertainment business, and then the business they've had lots of problems with complaints of sexual harassment against women and unequal treatment of women, poor treatment of women, and they've had, you know, lawsuits, they've had resignations, they've had, you know, very poor morale and they've hired a couple people to lead departments to try to examine what's going on in the company and why is this happening and make changes. But the people that they've hired have been very ineffective, you know, not very competent, and these problems continue in the company and there's some tendency to you know, blame individuals. Oh well, these people we hired, they just weren't competent. There was something wrong with them and you know, there's something wrong with these women that are complaining, they they're they're just opportunistic, they they can't take a joke. But I think really what the company doesn't want to look at is that the product that they sell, where they make their money, is a product that appeals. It's marketed towards young men and the product, the product, is very exploiting of women, over sexualizing women, always putting women and very, you know, minor you know roles, always, you know, subjugated to men, and that's the product that they sell. So at a system level, that attitude, there's those values are going to come down and operate in the employment structures of the company and the Human Resources Department, you know, has to deal with all the fallout of that. But I my own thought is that I don't think changes will be able to happen in the company unless they really address the larger umbrella of what it is that they're selling and what that's about. And they don't want to do that because that's how they make their money. So and using that as an example of group relations in systems, thinking, you know, what's in the system is going to manifest in individuals. Yes, and the day it seems that need to they need to read ifuly change the Tusk if they want to avoid the lawsuits. Exactly exactly, exactly exactly, and it seems that they're going to have a lot of consultants, external consultants, kind of being pushed away until they're ready to take a look at the Tusk. I think that's exactly right. Yes, yes, it's not an accident that they hired people who weren't very, you know, competent. I think it was an unconscious process, but a western the accidental. Yeah, well, it happens sometimes. But I think with what is also positive. You mentioned me to movement, and we have a similar one in Serbia now, also an act, a couple of actresses kind of starting things up and speaking up about same thing in the acting industry, and I think what is positive about this is that we see that when it kind of...

...piles up and when there's a lot of people start to speak up, it kind of gets the momentum for the change to happen. So I guess it's just the question of maybe you are that consultant that's going to start the change, you're going to make them take a look at now. I won't. It won't be me, it'll be you. You'll be doing that, you'll be that consultant. I will be in Serbia in some other company. I mean it's important to make these social changes and kind of take a look at things that are not really that easy to look at, but I think it's also important for resilience at yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, to deal to deal with things as they come, not to just put them on their carpet. I would agree. In I would say I can part of the reason. Well, I use the United States as an example. We just had this insurrection, this attack on our capital, and I would say in some ways there there's there's a failure of resiliency, a failure to respond to hardship and lass, particularly in United States, as a lot of white men feel that they're losing opportunity, as more women have opportunity, more blacks and browns have opportunity. Having resiliency, being able to work with those, you know, changes and make adjustments their strengthen that. But being unable to, you know, make adjustments, not having resiliency, leads to desperation and you know, desperation leads to hatred and attack. So I would say in my own country were having trouble with resiliency adjusting to social changes. So can we kind of sum up some things for our listeners as a kind of a I don't know, maybe a message, a positive note. How can we try to build it or nourish it? I would say that, because we're talking about resiliency. Resiliency is something that we want, in need in response to loss, hardship pain. I would say lost hardship pain, as unpleasant as those experiences are, those experiences are opportunities, their opportunities for learning, their opportunities for transformation, and we this has been true. Well, we've seen this written about in human history. They the Old Testament, you know, was full of stories of people who, in a way, descended into darkness and, you know, experienced, you know, doubt and their task was, in a way, to be resilient so they could come out of that transformed, reborn with new learning. We see that in, you know, literature where, you know, characters go into the darkness, go into the underworld, go into hell, and the heroic figure is able to emerge from that with, you know, a transformed you know, with with new learning. So I would say to me, resilience is not just, you know, hanging on. You know, tight resilience involves being cheery, being curious, what something is going on for me. That's painful. It's...

...a loss here. But what can this experience tell me about myself? What can I learn, you know, from this? You know that will help me to develop in some ways, to transform in some ways, if you will. So I think, I think resilience is is an important kind of, you know, link or bridge between, you know, the loss and the new growth. So there is an opportunity in it, even as painful as it is. I like how you framed it and I like how you we mentioned the change that resilience can bring and also the transformation within individuals, and I especially like the learning component. HMM. I think it's really helpful to understand it and to reframe it in your mind as learning potential and potential for growth. Yes, exactly, yes, yes, yeah, thank you so much, rate. It was a wonderful discussion and thank you for being our guest. I really enjoyed talking with you and I look forward to other times and I wish you the best. Thank you right, okay, bye,.

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