Friday, January 14, 2011

Waiting as a Form of Alloplasty

Alloplastic adaptation (from the Greek word allos) is a form of adaptation where the subject attempts to change the environment when faced with a difficult situation.

The concept of alloplastic adaptation was developed by Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, and Franz Alexander. They proposed that when an individual was presented with a stressful situation, he could react in one of two ways:

Autoplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change himself, i.e. the internal environment.

Alloplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change the situation, i.e. the external environment.

Criminality, mental illness and activism can all be classified as categories of alloplastic adaptation.

It has recently occurred to me that the act of waiting or the use of delaying tactics in hopes of changes in the environment can be a form of alloplasty.  In such an adaptation the individual relies on changes in the environment that will naturally occur over time that present the individual with a more advantageous environment.

The use of delay or waiting would be a form of passive alloplasty.  The individual does not actively seek to change the environment; instead he delays gratification until such time as the environment will change to his advantage.

Though the following example is not exactly on point, it gives some sense of what I mean when I say say that passively waiting for the passage of time can be a form of alloplasty.  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese government attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.  Days later the United States declared war on Japan.  At the commencement of the war the United States embarked on a program to develop atomic weapons, the so-called Manhattan project.  By 1945, years after the United States had entered the Second World War against Japan and Germany, the United States was successful in developing atomic weapons which were used in the war against Japan.  The use of these weapons brought a swift end to the War with Japan.  In this instance, the United States cannot be said to have been passive.  The U.S. government actively engaged in a program to develop novel weapons of supreme destructiveness.  But the United States did rely on the passage of time, in the hopes that with the passage of time the arsenal of the United States would come to include weapons that did not exist at the commencement of the war.

Perhaps the following is a better example.  An individual is terminated from his job in October 1991.  He uses delaying tactics and inaction to preserve his claim to disability benefits that preserve a jurisdictionally live claim over many years.  He intentionally remains unemployed so that his receipt of disability benefits, to which he became entitled as of the date of the job termination, preserves a legal link with the employer that inflicted a legal injury.   He waits patiently for changes in the environment, environmental changes that will be advantageous to him.  In fact, changes do occur in the environment over which the individual has no control.  Since the individual has been terminated from his job in 1991, the Internet is invented -- an environmental change that the individual uses in an attempt to remedy the injury he suffered in 1991.  Also, a new presidential administration has come to office that offers advantageous opportunities.  In this example the individual remains passive, waiting for changes in the environment that will help him redress a legal wrong that occurred many years earlier.  Is that not a form of alloplasty?  Instead of actively attempting to change the environment when faced with a difficult situation -- the individual passively waits for changes that will occur in the environment that will serve his ends.


Gary Freedman said...

Perhaps it is this form of alloplasty that alligators rely on in stalking their prey. Alligators are notorious for waiting motionless for hours in a swamp or river, eyeing potential prey, secure in the knowledge that with the passage of time, animals grazing at the water's edge will position themselves in a way that is advantageous for the alligator to strike.

Gary Freedman said...

Psychologically, one wonders what childhood experiences would condition a person to employ this peculiar form of adaptation to the environment?

A question for psychoanalysts!

Gary Freedman said...

Those litigators fucked with the wrong alligator!

Gary Freedman said...

Republicans use this form of alloplasty during economic downturns.

Unlike Democrats who want to actively change economic conditions, Republicans point out that business cycles have ups and downs. "Let us simply wait, do nothing, and with the passage of time, the economy (the business environment) will improve."

Speaking metaphorically, it looks like Mr. Democrat met his match in an avid Republican!