Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Thought Punctuation Ended a Thought

            Located within systems theory is the punctuation theory.  This theory explores the way that actions serve both as responses to former actions as well as stimulus for future responses.  Modern lyrical poet Brandon Boyd had this to say on this subject:
“Hey what would it mean to you?
To know that it’ll come back around again
Hey whatever it means to you
Know that everything moves in circles
Round and round we go
We could know when it ends so well
We fall on and we fall off
Existential carousel”
The song is called circles and it deals with reciprocity and how every person’s actions and every action directed at them brings future responses, which keeps the “existential carousel” spinning.  The message Boyd is attempting communicate is that in every situation one must evaluate their own responses to negative outside stimuli in order to shift the circle of reciprocity to an ongoing cycle of positive and avoid an ongoing vicious cycle of negative responses.  This paper will explore the theory behind the punctuation theory as well as the ways that it manifests itself within my family and relationships.

Period is Not the End

            Punctuation theory operates around the concept of interactive complexity.  Interactive complexity central tenant is that every “act triggers new behavior as  well as responds to previous behaviors.  This cycle of responses develop into patterns of behavior that once fully formed are not only hard to break, but hard to examine.  Punctuation theory provides stops, or, at the risk of sounding redundant, punctuation which allow the behaviors cycles to be broken into pieces and more carefully examined.  The problem that accompanies the punctuation of these behavior cycles is that different individuals within one system of behavior will punctuate the sequence differently.  It is easy to use the different punctuations to assign blame to one of the members within the system.  Each person would feel justified assigning the blame to one of the actions of another.  This is counter productive and an easy pitfall of assigning punctuation.  The aim is to deal with and solve the entire behavioral cycle.  To pick out one behavior and state that it is the cause of the problem accomplishes nothing and merely alienates the accused.  The ideal way to work through the problems is to use an “illness-free” lens where no one member is to blame for starting of continuing the cycle.  This removes the scapegoat member from the situation and allows a freedom to view the situation objectively because there is no blame being assigned.

The Turnover Cycle

            The ACU Men’s Basketball team has a problem and that is turnovers.  We are in the bottom three of the Lonestar conference in assist to turnover ratio.  During our last game, which was a loss to Tarleton State University, we had thirteen turnovers in one half.  This is a cyclical problem, which may be the only reason that we are not the bottom of the league in this statistic.  The cycle progresses like this: We have a high turnover game, Coach gets angry and we put enormous focus on taking care of the ball during the three days until the next game, We have a game with low turnovers (which usually means a win), Coach is content with our effort in that aspect of the game and moves the focus to another facet of our game, the next game we have another high turnover game.

The Player’s Perspective

            It is easy for the players on the team to view Coach’s shifting focus as the root of the problem.  The complaint most often heard thrown about in the locker room is that if Coach wants us to take care of the ball better than we need to have a stronger and more consistent focus on it throughout the year and not only after a high turnover game.  The idea is that you practice how you play and that if he has a set way that he wants the team to play then he should make sure that the practices we have before the game reflect that image.

The Coach’s Perspective

            Coach sees things differently and sets his own punctuation to the problem.  He sees turnovers as mental unpreparedness and a sign of being mentally weak.  He feels that the players, being college players, should be able to carry over basics of the game, such as taking care of the ball, from week to week.  The idea of having to drill on this one facet of the game from practice to practice seems like a large waste of valuable time.  He has other things that he wants to go over and wants to progress beyond this point into more complicated aspects of the game.  He does not want to leave the team unprepared by focusing on turnovers at the expense of other things.

Breaking the Cycle

            To break this vicious circle of poor games both the players and Coach will need to compromise on their viewpoints and the way that practice is run.  The players will need to take responsibility for making turnovers a personal focus every practice and every game.  They need to stop waiting on Coach to do something to fix the problem and take initiative themselves.  They need accountability amongst one another and not exclusively to Coach.
            Coach needs to bend as well.  He needs to recognize that this is a chronic problem and that the players are not exclusively to blame.  Players are a reflection of their coaching.  He can find creative ways to incorporate valuing the ball in the drills that he is using to teach other concepts.  This way he is not focusing on the turnovers at the expense of all else, but is working on both at once.
            If both parties are able to bend then neither will have to break and the season can be saved.  It takes the maturity to stop trying to assign blame and attempt to find what both can do to work together to stop this behavioral pattern.  If both will commit to doing this then ACU has a chance to go to the conference tournement.


1 comment:

Michael Chase Spain said...

Fantastic essay on Punctuation. As a therapist I rarely discuss this topic with clients, but rather have it as a constant refrain in my head. The complaint often goes like this: The mother complains her son doesn't get up on time. So, she goes to wake him up every morning. The son tells me privately he will never wake himself up as long as his mother will do it for him. They can both complain that the other is the "cause" of their behavior, whereas they are both randomly punctuating the narrative from their own perspective.

Punctuating is an extremely useful concept toward changing our view of behavior from "linear causality" (I scream at you when you make me angry.) to "circular causality" (When you make me angry, I scream at you, which makes you angrier, and me scream more!). Good stuff, Brooksie. Glad you've got this in your head, smart man.