Mark B. Borg, Jr.
Borg, Jr., M. B., &
Porter, L. (2010). Following the Life-Course of an Expectation: Examining the
Exchange of Expectations in a Homeless Shelter in New York City. In: P. León and N. Tamez (Eds.) The Psychology of
Expectations (pp. 1-47). Happague, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
In this chapter, the authors
present a study of expectations of clients and staff members as met and shaped
by the dynamics of the New York City homeless shelter system. A case study is
presented of one client who traversed New York City's homeless shelter system
over a two-year time period — a shelter for male individuals, many of
whom were dually diagnosed — mentally ill chemical abusers (MICA). In the
study, contemporary theories of Reasoned Action and its offshoot, Planned Behavior, are used to illustrate issues surrounding the conceptualization
of intentions and other proximal
antecedents affecting a person's expectations of life in the shelter. The
authors use the constructs of Implementation Intentions, Behavioral Expectation, and Behavioral Willingness to measure the degree to which
expectations are realized in terms of hope and of despair. The authors see this
cycle of hope and despair as a dynamic — and sometimes defensive —
process that continually transforms and is transformed by, bureaucratic, social
and other aspects of the shelter system itself. Also considered in the study
are the ways that the theories of reasoned action and planned behavior can
inform and be informed by system-level dynamics viewed through the lens of
community level security operations. The authors define this artifact as Community
Character. Through an analysis of this
construct the authors propose a dramatic distinction between expectations which
can be seen to have a life-course and
those that do not. The aim of the study is to use contemporary behavioral
health and community psychology theories and research methodologies to begin to
develop a model describing the process of configuring behavioral intentions,
expectations and motivation as they interact and play out in the life-cycle of
Expectation, as a signifier is
an empty vessel to be filled in with/by
semantics, with actual experience, and with its history as a word and as a
concept overflowing with meaning and cultural significance. Expectation has significant psychological meaning in that
it sets the stage for our belief systems, for our wagering on sophisticated
probabilities (certain preset outcomes) that we set in advance, only to find
that we adhere to our anticipated and habitual expectations even when the
empirical evidence suggests otherwise. We do so through the use of such
psychological defense mechanisms as denial and dissociation (Borg, 2002, 2003a,
b, d; Levenson, 2009; Stern, 1997; Stolorow, 2009; Sullivan, 1953, 1954).
Expectation sets up our own subjective — and often unconscious —
terms on hope, improbability, and possibility; it guides our intentions (Aarts,
Cuusters & Holland, 2007; Aarts, Gollwitzer & Hassin, 2004), our
willingness to engage in various and sundry behaviors (Aarts & Dijksterhuis, 2000), as well as the likelihood that we will repeat a
particular behavioral pattern that has a particular expectation at its central
core (cost what it may).
The term expectation has colloquial use-value. It is often aligned with wishful
thinking. It is a means of informally setting oneself up for disappointment and
failure that can be applied to everything from the suppositions one makes
regarding how a potential romantic partner is expected to behave in the context of a future relationship, to how
successful one should be in whatever
endeavor one so chooses to pursue (e.g., a new job or an educational
experience). Expectation, however, also has a complex surplus-value. It
overflows into each and every opportunity that both compels us forward through
our hope that we might accomplish that which, in advance, seems to veer into
the miraculous (say, the breaking of a destructive habit, or the achievement of
a grandiose wish) and simultaneously fills us with a sense of dread — the
dread that we might actually get what it was that we thought we wanted, only to
find that it no longer has, or holds, the expected value for us. This being the case, expectation can serve as
a prediction — with elements of
both hope and dread — that we will be able to make it through, to
survive, what feels like impossible conditions. This exponentially expanding
array of meanings and uses would constitute the many meanings (Signified) of the term expectation
— so, we will limit our operational
definition to that which is exemplified through our case study. In this study,
we will show how we can utilize our expectations as a means of traversing what
feels like intolerable conditions (though, through dissociative mechanisms, we
might not consciously feel it at all),
as a means of surviving what — in a more conscious sense — might
not feel survivable at all. This kind of circumstance is exactly the context
that we wish to set for examining expectation in this chapter as we follow the life-course of an
expectation through what felt like impossible conditions: the long and arduous
journey that begins when one enters the New York City homeless shelter system.
this chapter, the authors present a study of expectations of clients and staff
members as met and shaped by the dynamics of the New York City homeless shelter
system. The New York City homeless shelter system itself is presented as well
as some of the ways in which it has been shaped and transformed by the current
political environment, and by those who implement the programs to address the
needs of New York City's homeless population — sometimes represented
under the rubric of The Homeless Problem.
In this chapter, we will use the constructs of Implementation Intentions, Behavioral Expectation, and Behavioral Willingness to measure
the degree to which expectations are
realized in terms of hope and of despair. The authors see this cycle of hope
and despair as a dynamic — and sometimes defensive — process that
continually transforms and is transformed by bureaucratic, social and other
aspects of the shelter system itself. Also considered in the study are some
system-level dynamics viewed through the lens of community level security
operations (Borg, et al., 2009). The authors define this artifact as Community
Character. Through an analysis of this
construct the authors propose a dramatic distinction between expectations which
can be seen to have a life-course and
those that do not. A case study is presented of one client, who we refer to as
Mr. Cyrus (a pseudonym), who traversed New York City's homeless shelter system
over a two-year time period. This was a shelter for male individuals, many of
whom were dually diagnosed: mentally ill chemical abusers (MICA). In the study,
contemporary theories of Reasoned Action
and its offshoot, Planned Behavior, are used
to illustrate issues surrounding the
conceptualization of intentions and other proximal antecedents affecting a
person's expectations of life in the shelter. The aim of the study is to use
contemporary behavioral health and community psychology theories and research
methodologies to begin to develop a model describing the process of configuring
behavioral intentions, expectations and motivation as they interact and play
out in the life-cycle of an expectation.
The New York City Homeless Shelter System
York has a large shelter population. In New York it is 38,400, of whom 8500 are
single adults. This is a significant population. Not-for-profit organizations
are given authority to run shelters, and these tend to have better conditions
that those run by the city authorities. One New York shelter held 800 people,
living in cramped and crude conditions. There are problems with street life in
New York in terms of drugs, petty crime and begging. There exists, currently,
in New York a strong political commitment to deal with people who are homeless.
In New York, 70 per cent of the homeless population are African-Americans or of
Spanish origin (Shelton, Taylor & van den Bree, 2009).
is high expectation that people in homeless shelters will work toward obtaining
and maintaining stable housing and high expectations — at least in theory — that this will result
in behavioral manifestations of commitment and motivation. This might be
assumed because it has been noted that up to 70 per cent of the staff who run
the shelters have been through the program themselves.
New York there is a universal right to shelter. This means that the city has had to take responsibility
for the people who are in the most desperate need of help — the
homeless/mentally ill. In 2004, the Bloomberg administration wanted to oppose
this universal right, claiming that people abuse the shelter system and do not
follow the care plans that are set up. However, since that time, the Bloomberg
administration has begun to implement strategic plans for addressing the
epidemic of homelessness in New York.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Homeless Services (DHS)
Commissioner Robert V. Hess announced that street homelessness in New York City
is down 12 percent since last year and 25 percent since 2005 — the first
year the City conducted the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, or HOPE (NYC
Department of Homeless, 2009). The HOPE survey is conducted annually in January
to produce an accurate estimate of the total number of unsheltered individuals
on the streets and in the subway system. The Mayor and Commissioner were joined
by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, MTA Executive
Director and CEO Elliot "Lee" Sander, former New York Jets running back Curtis
Martin, who is collaborating with the City on efforts to reduce homelessness,
and representatives from City agencies and homeless services non-profit
providers. The City and the MTA also unveiled a new public education campaign,
called 'Give Real Change', which reminds New Yorkers that the best way to help
homeless individuals on the streets or in subways is to call 311 to have an
outreach team sent to help.
In a complete reversal of his administration's previous policy, Mayor
homelessness in its many forms has been a priority for our Administration
— and I'm pleased to announce further progress in our efforts to help
people leave the streets for a better life. The good news, from both
humanitarian and quality of life perspectives, is that a quarter fewer New
Yorkers live on city streets today than when we started measuring in 2005. We
will continue to bring innovation and focused management attention to this
longstanding urban challenge (NYC Department of Homeless, 2009).
"The annual HOPE count not only provides
an estimate of the street homelessness population but it also enables us to
evaluate and improve our approach to services," said Commissioner Hess. "Used
along with other information, HOPE informs the development of programs and
partnerships that have produced the results we see today — nearly 1,100
fewer New Yorkers living on our streets."
Behind the Numbers:
City Points to Successful Strategies
The City credits the decline in street
homelessness to stepped-up strategies undertaken over the last two years. These
include the Homeless Encampments Initiative, through which DHS and more than a
dozen city and state agencies partnered to clear 70 targeted encampments and
"hot spots" throughout the five boroughs, and the NYC Street to Home outreach program
— a major overhaul of the City's approach to outreach efforts citywide.
In addition, the introduction of innovative housing options like Safe Havens
and a partnership with the MTA positively impacted this year's results.
From Street to Home
NYC Street to Home provides for the first time, a citywide
approach to street outreach. NYC Street to Home further changes DHS contracting
by combining a new outreach approach with increased accountability for
providers. Instead of many contracts being managed by multiple city agencies,
for the first time, DHS maintains oversight for all outreach contracts, with
one non-profit provider responsible for each borough, ensuring a higher level
of coordination. NYC Street to Home moves away from conventional outreach methods
that focus on the number of times a team contacts particular clients to one
that emphasizes placing the longest-term or most chronically homeless
individuals into permanent housing. Providers work independently and share best
practices and areas of concern at monthly StreetStat meetings, held by DHS to
ensure teams have the necessary resources. In its six short months, NYC Street
to Home providers have collectively placed 450 individuals with some of the
longest histories — sometimes decades — of street homelessness into
permanent or transitional housing.
DHS works closely with its sister agency,
the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), to provide clinical
expertise and guidance on the contracts. The providers are: Goddard Riverside
Community Center (Manhattan Consortium), Manhattan; Common Ground Community,
Brooklyn/Queens; Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Bronx; and Project Hospitality,
A Safe Haven from the
In November 2006, New York City piloted
its first Safe Haven, in partnership with the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC),
a non-profit service provider, and with the support of a grant from The Betty
and Norman F. Levy Foundation made to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York
City. Safe Havens offer a safe, barrier-free temporary housing option for
street homeless individuals who otherwise would not come off the streets. The
size and atmosphere of Safe Havens, which tend to be smaller and have few
restrictions, are an innovative alternative for those individuals who choose
not to come into shelter. In its first year, the BRC Safe Haven partnership had
served 52 clients with an average length of street homelessness of seven and a
half years. Seventeen of these clients — some who were chronically
homeless for more than 20 years — have moved into permanent homes of
Based on the success of the pilot program,
Mayor Bloomberg provided funding in the City's budget to replicate the Safe
Haven model citywide. There are currently more than 200 Safe Haven beds across
the City at five sites, and by the end of 2008 there will be more than 500
beds. The new Safe Havens will follow the BRC pilot program's approach,
reserving capacity for the hardest-to-reach street homeless individuals who
consistently have rejected placement in the shelter system, and who instead,
opt to stay on the streets.
"Give Real Change" Public
To further reduce street homelessness,
Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Hess, and MTA Executive Director Sander also
unveiled a new public education ad campaign called 'Give Real Change', which is
currently going up in subway cars and stations around the city. The spots
inform subway riders that the best way to help homeless individuals on the
streets or subways is to call 311 to have an outreach team sent to help. The
campaign emphasizes that New Yorkers can make a difference by joining the
efforts already underway to house the homeless. The MTA provided premium subway
squares and one-sheet posters in subway cars and stations for this campaign,
which should extend into the spring.
By the Numbers
New York City has an
estimated 3,306 unsheltered individuals according to HOPE 2008 — a ratio
of 1 unsheltered homeless individual to 2,485 of the general city population.
San Francisco has a 1 in 269 ratio; followed by Seattle with 1 in 295;
Miami-Dade County with 1 in 1,741; and Chicago with 1 in 1,798. There were an
estimated 1,263 unsheltered individuals in Manhattan; 279 in the Bronx; 336 in
Brooklyn; 135 in Queens; and 152 in Staten Island for a total of 2,165 on the
surface (meaning streets and parks). There were 1,141 unsheltered individuals
in the subways. Additionally, the Single Adult Shelter Census showed a decline
by 19 percent from 8,687 in 2005 to 6,998 in 2008.
and Mentally Ill
An average of 16% of the
single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and
persistent mental illness (National Resource and Training Center on
Homelessness and Mental Illness, 2003; Coalition for the Mentally Ill, 2009).
While 22% of the American population suffers from a mental illness, a small
percentage of the 44 million people who have a serious mental illness are
homeless at any given point in time (National Institute of Mental Health,
2005). In a 2007 survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, of the 23
cities surveyed, 7.9% of the homeless population of individuals in a family
suffer from some type of mental illness. Additionally, 22.4% of the homeless
individuals in this survey have a mental illness (National Coalition for the
epidemiological studies since the 1960s have shown that the prevalence of
psychiatric disorders is extremely high among American homeless people, with a
broad consensus emerging that of the homeless people residing in shelters,
about one third have significant mental illnesses (Breakey & Thompson,
1995; Coalition for the Mentally Ill, 2009; World Health Organization, 2008).
Yet there is some discrepancy of opinion as to whether these illnesses are a
cause or a result of homelessness (Cohen, 1993; Saperia, 1999). Experience and
research findings suggest that homeless people are a heterogeneous lot
(Abberley, 1987). Although, a steely and impervious homogeneity is attributed
to homelessness, and it serves as a trigger for the stimulus-response nature of
the transferential reactions explored within this chapter, homeless people do
not constitute a distinct class of individuals (Borg, 2007; National Health
Care for the Homeless Council, 2007; Smith, North & Spitznagel, 1993). In
fact, the National Institute of Mental Health has identified eight major
subgroups among the homeless: 1) street people; 2) chronic alcoholics; 3)
situationally homeless; 4) chronically mentally ill; 5) dually diagnosed
(substance abuse and psychiatric disorder); 6) homeless families; 7) homeless
children and adolescents; and 8) HIV infection (National Coalition for the
Homeless, 2008). But how much heuristic penetration can we expect from an
epidemiological study? Does not that research methodology in and of itself
provide a repetition of the very circumstance that we are discussing, in that
it must compress the vast diversity and the many unique subjectivities and
individualities of actual people into objectifiable categories and almost
equally anonymous subcategories?
In one such study of the
"epidemic" of homeless mentally ill persons, the authors state that the
"outrage" of the American public has little to do with concern for the people
in this condition, and more to do with "visible signs of failures of our social
and health care policies" (Breakey & Thompson, 1997, p. ix). This system
breakdown, evidently, is the cause of a massive form of collective defense,
characterized (in a general way) by a generally hopeless attitude about the epidemic
proportions of homelessness among the whole of U.S. society in general. Thus,
society-level security operations are created against the anxiety that were we
(that is, I) to fall into this status, I, like those who are there now, would
be stuck there.
To think about the workings of
such a societal system conjures up the notion of Erich Fromm's (1941) "social
character." Invoking this specter, and Fromm's explicit forebodings regarding
it, Hegeman (1995) suggests that, within such a character formation, "successful
adjustment to society could produce psychopathology" (p. 830). This being a
society where the some (the homeless/mentally ill) suffer from an inability to
adapt while others suffer from the compromises they have made in order to adapt
(Bell, Adams & Griffin, 2007; Fromm, 1968; Levin & Greenwood, 2001;
Swan, French & Cameron, 2003). Directed specifically against homelessness
and mental illness, perhaps as a screen for the displacement of other concerns
about a system-wide failures, this adaptation allows us to maintain a blind
spot around the notion that were we to fall (into that death-like silence)
there would be nothing to catch us.
Behavioral Intentions, Expectations, and Willingness
This section follows closely — and
summarizes — the most contemporary research, conducted in the theories of
Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior by Francis Gibbons (cf. Gibbons, 2009). As we follow the life-course of Mr. Cyrus's expectation — as he traverses the New
York City shelter system — we will see how these theories informed our
analysis and understanding of what it takes to maintain an expectation
throughout chronically traumatic circumstances. We start, as does Gibbons and
the theories of reasoned action and planned behavior, with the belief that the
single best predictor of an individual's behavior is simply his/her intention to engage in that behavior. Thus, virtually all
health-behavior theories include some version of the construct of behavioral intention (BI) as a proximal antecedent to action. The most often
cited of these theories is the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), which has BI as
its focal antecedent. Together
with its offshoot, the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1991; Ajzen, Albarracín & Hornik,
2007), the TRA illustrates many of the issues surrounding the
conceptualization and measurement of intentions and other proximal
antecedents to health behavior (Hawkins et al., 2008; Hornik & Niederdeppe,
2008; Leader et al., 2009; Sheppard, Hartwick & Warshaw, 1988). Our
analysis follows a client in the New York City shelter system through a complex
series of behaviors and associated behavioral intentions. Nonetheless,
intention is the starting point for the expectation — and expectations
— that we will be analyzing throughout the rest of this chapter.
This is the start of our journey through the
life-course of Mr. Cyrus's expectation, and, consistent with this endeavor, the
TRA is one of a group of psychosocial theories of human social behavior
referred to collectively as expectancy value theories (Feather & Newton, 1982; Fishbein,
1963). The name reflects a process
thought to precede all behaviors: decisions to act or not act are the
result of an assessment of the likelihood of specific outcomes associated with
the act along with the subjective value assigned to those outcomes. As we
will see throughout Mr. Cyrus's journey, when the assessment produces a
positive evaluation, a decision is made (usually) to act — and the
opposite is also (generally) the case. The decision to act is the BI, which is the only proximal antecedent to
behavior in the TRA and TPB. Specific antecedents to BI in the TRA and TPB
are subjective norms (what important others want one to do) and attitudes
toward the behavior (e.g., one's affective reaction to performance of the
Intentions have been defined in the TRA/TPB
as: the amount of effort one is willing to exert to attain a goal (Ajzen, 1991), "behavioral plans
that...enable attainment of a behavioral goal" (Ajzen, 1996), or simply "proximal
goals" (Bandura, 1969, 1986, 1997; Bandura & Schunk, 1981). In
essence, intentions can be conceived of as goal states in the expectancy
value tradition that are the result of a conscious process that takes
time, requires some deliberation, and focuses on consequences (Loewenstein et al., 2001; Sheeran, 2002, Xianchi,
Wertenbroch & Brendhl, 2008). Meta-analyses have shown that intentions
account for between 20% and 30% of the variance in health behaviors
(Albarracin et al., 2001; Ajzen, 2002; Armitage & Conner, 2001; Conner
& Sparks, 2005a; Gibbons, 2009; Hagger, Chatzisarantis, & Biddle,
2002; Sheeran, 2002; Sheeran & Orbell, 1998a, b), and therefore, it would
appear that a more in-depth look at — or into — the processes of
analyzing intentions (especially as they underlie goals, expectations, and
outcomes) is required.
Implementation Intentions, Behavioral Expectation, and
Gibbons (2009) notes that in order to
decrease the variance associated with TRA measures, as well as to reduce the
"literal inconsistency" problem (the inconsistency between what people say
and what they do), and therefore increase the observed relation between
proximal antecedents and behavior, researchers have explored a number
of proximal measures — implementation intentions, behavioral
expectations, and behavioral willingness — associated with the Theory of
One way to increase the predictive power of
intentions is to make them more concrete; i.e., add items regarding the
specific ways in which the behavior may be performed, or the goal
attained. In other words, ask about when
the behavior will be performed, as well as where and how it will
take place. This is what Gollwitzer (1999) calls implementation intentions. Adding these specifics has been shown to increase
the likelihood that intentions to engage in behaviors, such as maintaining
a healthy diet (Armitage et al., 2004; Verplanken & Faes, 1999), or
engaging in breast self-examination (Orbell & Sheeran, 2000, 2002) will
predict those behaviors — in part because it increases the
likelihood that the behaviors will actually be performed (Abraham &
Sheeran, 2004, 2005; Rivis & Sheeran, 2004; Sheeran, Webb & Gollwitzer,
2005, 2006). Forming these types of intentions is likely to be most
important for health behaviors that are complex, and clearly linked with
situational cues or prompts. We will discuss implementation intentions more
thoroughly in the Dynamic Implications
Warshaw and Davis (1985) developed the
construct of Behavioral Expectation (BE)
as an addition to the construct of BI. Whereas intentions are defined as plans
or goals, (BE) is an estimate, or subjective probability, that a behavior
will actually be performed. Since people oftentimes fall short of achieving
their goals, BE accounts for whether a person' goals are completed or
achieved. Whereas BI is a plan, BE is a
prediction. Theoretically, when
answering BE items, people will take into account additional influential
factors — circumstances, past behavior, anticipated change in
intentions or circumstances — that might not enter into
expressions of goals. Thus, BE should work better for behaviors that are
undesirable and/or difficult; and there is some evidence of this (e.g.,
speeding; cf. Parker et al., 1992). Meta-analytic studies have produced mixed
results. Some have shown a slight, but significant superiority of BE for
difficult or socially undesirable behaviors (Courneya & McAuley, 1994;
Rhodes & Matheson, 2005; Shepperd et al., 1988); others report no
difference (Orbell & Sheeran, 2002; Sheeran & Orbell, 1998b;
Webb & Sheeran, 2006). One reason for this is that people are not very
good at estimating the impact of influential factors that are presumably considered
when forming expectations: peer pressure and past behavior, for example;
nor are they very good at estimating or anticipating changes in
circumstances or in intentions. Thus, BE and BI often end up looking very
similar (Conner et al., 2000; Conner & Sparks, 1996a, b).
When asked, most respondents in research
studies and in general state they have no intention of engaging in
behaviors that put their health at risk; and yet, when given the
opportunity, many of them — especially adolescents — do (Gibbons et
al., 2005; Kahneman &
Tversky, 1979). This is one reason why
intentions are less effective at predicting behavior (Ajzen, Brown &
Carhaval, 2004; Albarracin et al., 2001; Sheeran & Orbell, 1998a), or
behavior that involves health risk (Webb & Sheeran, 2006). In
an effort to improve this type of prediction, Gibbons and Gerrard
developed the prototype/willingness model of health behavior (see Gibbons
& Gerrard, 1997; and, Gibbons, Gerrard, & Lane, 2003). The basic
contention of the model is that much health risk behavior (binge drinking, drug abuse, risky sex),
especially among adolescents, is not intentional, but rather a reaction to
social circumstances (Flowers et al., 1997, 1998). This is especially so when
the stakes are raised, the social environment is hostile and dangerous, and the
conditions are chronically traumatic (Borg, 2004; Borg et al., 2009). That is,
when certain behaviors begin to be endowed with survival — whether emotional or actual.
To capture this unintentional, reactive
component of risky behavior, Gibbons and Gerrard created the construct of
behavioral willingness (BW), which they define
as an openness to risk
opportunity — what an individual
would be willing to do under some circumstances (Achtziger, Gollwitzer
& Sheeran, 2006). To assess BW, risk-conducive situations are
described, along with the qualifier that no assumptions are being made
about whether the respondent would ever be in (or seek out) these types of
situations (Gibbons, 2009). The intent is to avoid implied internal
attribution or "blame." After describing the situation, a series of
possible responses is described, which increase in level of risk. The
aggregated total provides an assessment of what kinds of risky behavior
the respondent is capable of performing — if they encounter the
Behavioral Intention vs. Behavioral
Expectation vs. Behavioral Willingness
Gibbons (2009) concludes with an assessment
of important factors to consider when deciding which measures to use in health
research. Most importantly, the factors to consider are: 1) the type of
behavior being examined; and, 2) the age of the population being assessed. For health-promoting behaviors, such as those related to diet and nutrition,
medical regimen, exercise, etc., standard BI measures should work well,
especially if accompanied by implementation intentions — where and
when to exercise, which diet to follow, or which doctor to trust. If the
behaviors are complex and control is an issue, then these BI items should
be accompanied by measures of perceived control (Milne, Orbell & Sheeran,
2002; Sheeran & Abraham, 2003). By the same token, if there is reason
to believe that commitment to the intention or goal is tenuous, or if the
behavior has a clear social desirability element associated with it,
or, again, if perceived (or actual) control is low, such as with drug,
alcohol or smoking cessation, then BE measures may do better than BI (it's
not likely they will do worse). Finally, much health behavior research concerns
health risk, which often has a significant "social reaction" component
(Webb & Sheeran, 2006), especially for adolescents (Gibbons et al., 2005)
and people who are living in chronically traumatizing circumstances (Borg et
al., 2009). As we will see in the analysis of Mr. Cyrus's expectation(s),
performance of these behaviors often depends on the situation. The best way to
assess these kinds of behaviors would be to use BW as well as BE measures,
and, if possible, measures of intention to not engage in the behavior.
Conscious and Unconscious Elements of Implementation
Expectations and Other Dynamic Implications
Perhaps because Implementation Intention is the one construct of the many we have described that can
be assessed in a more or less longitudinal manner, we assert that it provides
the most salient construct for assessing conscious and unconscious elements — opportunities for assessment and prediction that
also account for successes and failures, as well as the revision of plans and
expectations — along the life-course of an expectation.
The moderating effects of seven properties of
cognitions — accessibility, temporal stability, direct experience,
involvement, certainty, ambivalence and affective-cognitive consistency —
on cognition-intention and cognition-behavior relations (Cooke & Sheeran,
2004; Fife-Schaw, Sheeran & Norman, 2007; Trafimow et al., 2004;
Trafimow & Sheeran, 2004) showed that all of the properties, except involvement,
moderated attitude-behavior consistency. Similarly, all relevant moderators
improved the consistency between intentions and behavior (Ajzen, 2005 a, b;
Ajzen & Fishbein, 2000, 2005; Ajzen, Albarracín & Hornik, 2007; Martijn
et al., 2008). Temporal stability moderated predictive behavioral control-behavior
relations, certainty moderated subjective norm-intention relations, and
ambivalence, certainty, and involvement all moderated attitude-intention
relations (Norman, Sheeran & Orbell, 2003; Sheeran, Webb & Gollwitzer,
2006; Sheeran et al., 2005). Overall, temporal stability appeared to be the
strongest moderator of cognition-behavior relations. This suggests that these moderators variables — and, we highlight the fact that each has an
affective component, a direct link to emotional and unconscious process —
are key in understanding and predicting behavior (Cuusters & Aarts, 2005),
and the associated expectations (Shweiger-Gallo & Gollwitzer, 2007;
Shweiger-Gallo et al., 2009).
Holding a strong goal intention ("I intend to
reach obtain my own independent housing") does not guarantee goal achievement,
because people may fail to deal effectively with self-regulatory
(affective/dynamic) problems during goal striving (Webb & Sheeran, 2006). Gollwitzer and Sheeran (2006) analyzed
whether realization of goal intentions is facilitated by forming an
implementation intention that spells out the when, where, and how of goal
striving in advance ("If situation Y is
encountered, then I will initiate goal-directed behavior X!"). Implementation intentions were effective in promoting the
initiation of goal striving (hence tapping into and making use of ego strengths
— coping skills such as reality testing, impulse control, affect
regulation, and judgment — against anxiety), the shielding of ongoing
goal pursuit from unwanted influences, disengagement from failing courses of
action, and conservation of capability for future goal striving (all three of
which are influenced, and maintained, through the non-pathological use of such
psychological defense as selective inattention and dissociation) (Wortman
&Silver, 2001). There was also strong support for postulated component
processes: implementation intention formation both enhanced the accessibility
of specified opportunities and automated respective goal-directed responses
(hence suggesting that these responses become somehow relegated into the
unconscious dynamic system that regulate thoughts, behaviors and emotions
— allowing these responses to then become associated with — and
felt to be — internalized aspects of one's sense of self). Crucially, implementation intention effects are mediated
by the accessibility of the specified cue and by the strength of cue-response
links. Therefore, implementation intentions benefit performance because control
of behavior is delegated to specified situational cues that initiate action
automatically (Tsai, Knutson & Fung, 2006; Webb & Sheeran, 2006). In a
follow-up study, Martijn et al. (2008) found
that implementation intention conserve self-regulatory strength. After goal
blockage, the remaining strength can be used to continue goal-directed action
(that is, when such responses become internalized expectations — consonant with one's sense of self — the
likelihood increases dramatically that one will be able to redirect oneself
according to said expectations).
Crucial for a dynamic understanding of
implementation intentions, research on ego-depletion suggests that the ability
to self-regulate one's behavior is limited: exerting self-control on an initial
task reduces performance on a subsequent task that also requires self-control
(Aspinwall, 1997; Buunk & Gibbons, 1997; Förster, Liberman &Friedman, 2007; Gibbons, 2009). Implementation intentions help to enhance people's ability
to self-regulate their behavior (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005; Godin & Kok,
1996; Godin et al, 1992; Sheeran, 2002). Self-regulation, in turn, sets the
foundation for people to begin to establish viable expectations that can be utilized when and while traversing more
long-term processes that require postponement of success and/or goal
In the literature, and in Gibbons' (2009)
description, the constructs we have described in this section have generally
been used for their predictive value. Implementation intention notwithstanding,
the predictive value — the variance associated with each of these
constructs — is limited when it comes to evaluating behavioral outcomes (Achtziger, Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2008; Gollwitzer,
& Sheeran, 2006; Gibbons & Gerrard, 1997; Rivis, Sheeran &
Armitage, 2006; Webb & Sheeran, 2003, 2007). Therefore, in the following
section, we will be developing a means to assess a dynamic component associated
with (and/or underlying) expectation. We
have observed through our analysis that each of the constructs we have
described are at play (constantly in flux) at various points along the way as
one is embedded in a chronically traumatic process — such as traversing
the homeless shelter system.
Developing a Construct for Assessing Expectation and
Associated Community Dynamics
Clearly, it is a complex task to get back to the
starting point — the intention — that results in the series of
behaviors that ultimately cause a person to become homeless. When one resides
in a homeless shelter, there is also the increased complication of being mentally
ill and chemically dependent (Borg, 2007). Goal states are described as being the result of a conscious
process that takes time, requires deliberation, and focuses on consequences
(Gibbons, 2009; Siemens & Tittenberger, 2009). Therefore, somewhere between
the initial intention and the outcome we can see that something dramatic has
surely gone awry. This is especially so because it is unlikely that the
intentions that are initially set in motion (behavioral plans that enable
attainment of a behavioral goal), that then result in the kinds of behaviors
that ultimately result in homelessness (time, deliberation, and a focus on
consequences), start out as intentions to engage in behaviors that will result
in total destitution. That is, it is improbable that the behavioral intentions
that set up expectancy values — decisions to act or not act resulting from an assessment of the
likelihood of specific outcomes (Ajzen, 1991, 1996;
Feather & Newton, 1982; Fishbein, 1963; Hagger, 2009; Ran, Urminsky &
Zhang, 2006) — result in subjective norms (what important others want us to do) and attitudes
toward behavior (our affective response to performance of the behavior) that
could be predicted, at the outset, to lead to total failure. Therefore, in
regard to failure (as a general
description of how one might feel as a result of winding up in a homeless
shelter), it seems necessary to expand our conceptualization from the personal
to the interpersonal, as well as to the system (family, community, society)
within which one operates.
Many failures — system and other —
along the way to homelessness are already part and parcel of the homeless
individual's sense of self. How many of these belong to the homeless individual
specifically? How much of the sense of being the very incarnation of failure on
the part of the homeless person also reflect large-scale failures in the
systems/communities within which the whole life-course of our expectations are
at play? The homeless individual is, in many ways, set up to be the scapegoat for
these system failures. Therefore, the homeless individual serves as a
receptacle for our most dreaded projections (fears and insecurities) about
being ourselves the victims of such system failures (Borg, 2006, 2007). This
complex social defense sets up a multi-determined, bidirectional (between the
individual and representatives of the system itself) process where a whole
series of failures — personal, interpersonal, community, society —
are experienced as belonging solely to the individual and establishes failure
as an expectation that then inhabits and
influences the intentions, behaviors and even the comprehensive sense of self
of individuals (e.g., homeless shelter residents). Since expectation itself
becomes unhinged from the individual within this process, we find it necessary
to describe a community-level construct to establish a way of expanding our
lens to examine the life-course of an expectation.
Community, itself, can be conceptualized as a
defense against the overwhelming sense of isolation and alienation that is
increasingly part and parcel of modern life in most Western cultures (Cohen,
2009; Nancy, 1991, 2008). We can see the dynamics associated with so-called modern
life in any U.S. inner city; more so in the
enclaves that form in the margins of such cities (Bellah, 1995; Bellah, et al.,
1985; Hage & Kenny, 2009). A typical shelter for homeless individuals could
be perceived as such an enclave, and might serve to highlight problematic
dynamics even more acutely. What intentions might underlie the behaviors
— often perceived as failures — of those who wind up in the margins (especially the
far reaches of the margins such as a homeless shelter)? Are these
behaviors/failures (and the intentions that operate to either promote or
disinhibit certain problematic behaviors) purely personal? Might they also
represent system failures? Might whole systems operate to stultify the
life-course of an expectation to the mere repetition of failure?
Our starting point for developing a construct for
assessing expectation and associated community dynamics is the assertion that
communities, like individuals, develop distinctive characters that make use of
unique constellations of psychological defense systems (Borg, 2002; 2004, 2005,
2007). Also like individuals, community responses to trauma — and, let us
state definitively, being homeless and mentally ill in a large U.S. inner city
is traumatic — are frequently marked by rigid and repetitive modes of
interaction (Borg, 2003a, c; Bose, 1998; Friedman, 2001; Garland, 1998; Stokols
et al., 2009; Tedeschi, Park & Calhoun, 1998; Ursano, McCaughey &
Fullerton, 1994). For
instance, in many communities that have been traumatized by oppressive
conditions — and unjust treatment — from the wider society,
patterns of interaction are marked by suspicion and hostility (Borg &
Dalla, 2005; Borg & Garrod, 2003). As I use the term, community
character describes group-level
self-protective mechanisms (or group-level self-system operations).
In this sense (community qua group-level
defensive/security operation), community can be considered a kind of
system-level conscious and unconscious intervention — complete with complicated implicit and explicit implementation
procedures that influence, fuel and guide
intentions, behaviors and emotions of individual's within each specific
To sum up, community character is a typical
style of interaction that reflects the unconscious, unwritten, unstated, but
ever-present laws that decrease group anxiety by governing and limiting the ways
that people interact with each other within a community (Borg, 2004, p. 155). These implicit laws grow out of
the actual historical events, circumstances, and experiences to which the
community has had to adjust. They give communities and even cultures their
distinctive characters, similar to the ones found in individuals. Indeed, there
is a direct connection between community and individual character. Individuals
are formed in part by the character of their communities, and experiences and
behaviors that are not consistent with the community character must be
dissociated and enacted.
For example, gang violence can be seen as an enactment of a prohibited protest
against injustice (Borg, 2005; Borg & Dalla, 2005). The community may
acknowledge the injustice, but the act of protest is prohibited, out of fear
that protest would mark the community for more oppression. The gangs hold and
enact the protest for the community, partly due to their willingness to violate
the standard rules and regulations of the community, and partly as a
displacement of repressed/dissociated community concerns.
Community character is organized into patterns of
social interaction, relations, and connections — essentially the sum
total of the conscious and unconscious enactments of a particular community's
stakeholders (Borg, 2004). Through repetition, these enactments lead to the
establishment of rules, regulations, taboos, and stereotypes, implying that any
character formation based on acclimation to a pathological society can produce
psychopathology (Ainslie, 2009; Coles, 2009; Fromm, 1941, 1956, Fromm &
MacCoby, 1970; Hegeman, 1995; Menzies, 1960; Revenson & Seidman, 2002;
Richardson, Fowers, & Guignon, 1999; Schultheis, 2004; Wachtel, 2009). Most
importantly, the community character sets up and regulates the implicit expectations
of any particular community. In communities
that have experienced significant trauma, as in individuals, character tends to
become inflexible, impinging upon individual members in ways that are more overt
than in less traumatized communities. Rigid patterns of relating within communities are partly the enactment of the community character (Borg, 2004) — and
this is where a more thorough assessment of expectation comes in.
Behavioral expectation is an estimate, a subjective probability, that a
behavior will actually be performed (Warshaw & Davis, 1985). Whereas
behavioral intention is a plan,
behavioral expectation is a prediction (Parker et al., 1992). Community character qua anti-anxiety/security system is both an unconscious
system level prediction and plan
— an a priori expectation for how behavior (specifically resulting
in interaction patterns) should/must be conducted, and a retroactive assessment of whether or not its members were in compliance with its
rules and regulations. Since in the construct of behavioral
expectation people take into account such
influential factors as circumstances, past behaviors (Gibbons, 2009),
anticipated change in intentions or circumstances (Mc Culloch et al., 2008a, b).
It also runs parallel to the multifaceted influence of the community character.
Since people are not very good at estimating the impact of such influential
factors, the community character itself picks up the slack in the realm of
expectation and it is possible that this will significantly affect the outcome
— as the community character is also run on the dynamics of repetition
(Borg, 2003e). This, of course, is not necessarily good news. Though the
estimates of the outcome of behavioral expectation is highly enhanced, it also
suggests that changes at this (system) level are also influenced by repetitive
(and highly resistant to change) processes under the influence of the community
character. This in turn, of course, affects behavioral willingness: 1) an openness to risk opportunity; and
2) what an individual would be willing to do under certain circumstances
(Achtziger, Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2008; Yanovitzky, Hornik & Zanutto,
2008). The heart of behavioral willingness is also the heart of the community character:
much of our behavior is not intentional at all, but rather a reaction to social
represents interaction patterns among individuals who respond and react to each
other and to the outside world according to their sense of security within the
context that they have inherited and that they themselves sustain (Borg, 2002).
This is what Kurt Lewin (1935b) meant when he argued that a natural
relationship exists between "the character of a given situation and the
character of the group which dominates the behavior of the individual in the
situation" (p. 109). First and foremost, the rules and prohibitions of a
community and the repetitive interactions they shape protect a tentative sense
of security. This function encompasses all the feelings, thoughts, belief
systems, passions, longings and other facets of community character — and
sets up a whole cycle of repetition wherein reactions to social circumstances
(especially if they are traumatic) repeat the very traumatic elements that have
been dissociated, and are then enacted in habitual interaction patterns.
Community itself can also be examined as an
interpretable context wherein the factors that affect behavioral intentions can
be taken into account. For instance, we can assess the measurement factor of aggregation
within the context of community as complex
variations of behaviors that are constantly enacted between and among
residents. Regarding possible change in residents and/or the character of the
community itself, the factor of compatibility — intervention strategies that involve exactly the same
action, target, context, and time — is a natural resource (at least
potentially so) in a given community, especially if goals and behaviors are
specific. This will be highly influenced by the next factor which is more
likely to induce in an individual the actual influence of the community
character. That factor is commitment — the factor that assumes that if the given behavior
(goal) is important to the individual, his/her expressed intention to do it
should be related more strongly to its performance (Fishbein, 2007, 2008). This
is strongly influenced by the community character, as it implicitly sets up
guidelines for acceptable/permissible behaviors that are likely to create a feedback
loop. In this process, enactment
enhances commitment (Borg 2003d). Of
course, regarding the highly salient influence of emotion — especially the level of anxiety that, in classic
approach-avoidance terms (Lewin, 1935b), might inhibit behavior — the influence
of community character is most applicable, as its primary task is to limit
anxiety and increase (the sense of) security.
Community character has the potential, therefore,
to regulate emotions and impact one's perceived ability to perform a particular
behavior, or achieve a certain goal, and this in turn may directly influence
— for better and/or for worse — one's overall sense of
self-efficacy. It answers the question posed by Zizek (2005), "not 'How does
one explicitly relate to power?' but 'How is one situated within predominant
power relations'" (p. 93). A potential problem related to community character
itself is that, in some communities it is taboo to achieve certain levels of
efficacy (i.e., power, as this might
induce envy, or target one as having valuable resources in an environment of
scarcity). Therefore, community character will, and does, most certainly effect
perceived behavioral control
(Cappella, 2006; Kreuter et al., 2007). However, it might do so in a manner
that is destructive, by providing an implicit, though artificial, limit on
perception, behavior and sense of control (Wong & Cappella, 2009).
Community character, however, does tend to regulate social
desirability, and can provide an implicit
confrontation with the issue of literal inconsistency (the tendency for people to not do what they said
they were going to do). In fact, community character essentially sets the
criteria for what is and what is not socially desirable. Therefore, it can and
does confront literal inconsistency on a regular basis (but it is also possible
that being behaviorally consistent can include involvement in destructive
behaviors), though it is likely that consistency might also be a code word for
habitual behavior that is highly resistant to change.
To summarize, the concept of community character
allows practitioners to view community intervention through a lens which
accounts for group-level dynamic patterns, by which character is seen as a
series of repetitive ways or patterns of relating to self and others. At the
most basic level, these adaptive/defensive patterns form a stable —
sometimes intractable — structure for addressing security needs in the
face of anxiety. They are reinforced according to the degree that such needs
are threatened in a given relationship (e.g., between parent and child), in a
specific community (e.g., by local beliefs, prejudices, and taboos), or within
society (e.g., by formal laws, sanctioned rules of conduct, or cultural norms).
Numerous authors have concluded that intentional
control over health behavior is limited (Cappella et al., 2009; Gibbons, 2009;
Ryan, 2009). They have recommend that future behavior change efforts give
greater consideration to non-intentional routes to health behavior and automatic (that is, situationally-controlled) processes.
Overall, the community character — for better and for worse — is
The functioning of community character might,
therefore, be compared to the workings of the digestive system. In the case of
a client who is ingested into the community character of the New York City
homeless shelter system, we might consider how it is that a person is sown,
harvested and reaped. We are interested in how he or she is then prepared for
consumption by the system itself. How is one prepared for the process of being ingested by this system? How well does the system absorb and
metabolize the individual? What about digestive problems? Indigestion, etc.?
Might there, then, be problems at the tail-end of this process? Such problems
might include excretory functions (and malfunctions) and constipation, for
instance. If a person gets caught up in the various mechanisms — in a
digestive sense of the term — what are the consequences, the
repercussions, for the person and the system itself?
Through our ongoing interviews with the client, Mr.
Cyrus, who we will introduce in the next section, we have seen that the Next
program is a very special shelter
circumstance for those who reside therein. In fact, Mr. Cyrus described the
Next Step program as being "the very end of the service-delivery system." He
described the Next Step program as a system within a system — acting like
an enzyme in the digestive system
metaphor — with a special function in the New York shelter system: to
break down the homeless person into something more digestible.
Following the Life-Course of an Expectation:
Mr. Cyrus and His Sojourn Through The New York City
Homeless Shelter System
In this section the
authors will describe how expectation can be influenced and transformed by
living in a New York City Next Step
Shelter. The authors will describe stages of living in the shelter and how the
life course of expectations changes in an individual who lives in the shelter.
The following descriptions of the Next Step program and the vignettes are
interview data obtained from a person, who we will refer to as Mr. Cyrus, who
we interviewed over the course of a year as he traversed the Next Step homeless
shelter system, and who actually had these experiences. Let us introduce Mr. Cyrus.
The Client, Mr. Cyrus, is a 46 year old
African American male who has a history of chronic crack cocaine addiction and
alcohol abuse. He is well educated and articulate. Mr. Cyrus prides himself in
his communicative skills. Mr. Cyrus, per his own self-description, "Has had
many opportunities to turn (his) life around and has not taken advantage of
help that has been offered." He had previously obtained independent living (an
apartment) through the shelter system in the past and returned to the shelter
system. He admits to having "a rebellious nature" and states that he is often
told by staff members, other residents, and people in his social circles that
go beyond the shelter system, that he is "arrogant." He stated that he has lost
all connection to his family due to his addiction and he also stated that he is
"somewhat of a 'lone ranger' character." Prior to his re-entry into the shelter
system he stated that he had "lost everything once again." When he reentered
the shelter system, he had no place to go nor any support system to which he
could turn. He said, "I was at ground zero." He continues to refuse long term
drug treatment. He has attempted long term treatment two times previously and
walked away — AMA (against medical advice) — from the help on both
occasions. He believes that he needs more "treatment" and now must come to
terms with his "shattered life." He has joined a 12-Step program, Alcoholics
Anonymous, and stated that he expects that joining this 12-Step program will
save him from "dying in his addiction." Mr. Cyrus, in answer to the direct
question of what are his expectations for/of
the shelter system answered:
I quite simply could not even expect to survive out there
in the streets. I expect...I believe that I will survive if I am able to use the
shelter system properly this time. I expect to be back on my feet fairly
quickly and live a better life if I can just get all the way through [the
shelter system] this time."
What To Expect When Entering The (Next Step)
It is important to
delineate what it means to live in a New York City Next Step Shelter. Although
there are a number of Next Step Shelters, this article will concern itself with
one such program located in the South Bronx of New York City. The reader can assume
that all Next Step programs will have the following characteristics and operate
pretty much in the same manner. Here is the New York City Department of
Homeless Services description of the Next Step Program:
the standard shelter model serves a majority of New York City's homeless
population, some clients need additional support and enriched services in order
to make the transition from shelter to independent living. New York City's
Department of Homeless Services' (DHS) Next Step model is based on intensive case management and a more structured
approach. There is a smaller client to case worker ratio, providing the more
individualized attention these clients need. Staff are ostensibly available to
provide more one-on-one support, such as accompanying clients to housing or
other appointments and helping them overcome barriers to permanency. The Next
Step model revolves around the fundamental belief that clients are best served
living independently in their communities and works intensively to achieve this
goal. After visiting an intake center, trained social
services and professional staff assess the client's unique needs and assigns
that person to a shelter with expertise in addressing those needs. All programs
are designed to help clients overcome homelessness. Some of DHS' programs
include counseling, case management, employment training, mental health
rehabilitation, specialized services for veterans, substance abuse treatment,
and various programs for the elderly. Social workers, employment specialists,
housing/vocational counselors, and health coordinators work closely with
clients in an individualized approach that aims to provide clients with the
skills needed to achieve the highest level of self-sufficiency. All adults
entering the shelter system are expected to work with shelter staff to
accomplish this goal. Clients will be asked to follow an Independent Living
Plan, participate in programs that meet their needs, and follow shelter
guidelines that keep clients and staff safe (NYC Department of Homeless
contrast, here is Mr. Cyrus's description of the Next Step Program:
Next Step Shelters are designed for persons, like me, who
have abused the shelter system by not complying with service plans that provide
the means for moving on to independent living. In general people who are
transferred to Next Step are view as irresponsible persons who need to be
motivated by horrible living conditions so that they do not want to stay in the
shelter system any longer. Horrible conditions include an 8:00 pm curfew, no
ability to watch television, unsavory meals, regular forced drug testing, no
ironing boards or any appliances of convenience, and no hot water (not an
exhaustive list). The atmosphere of the environment is further maligned by a
staff that is unprofessional and demeaning. The level of control and
intimidation is high. Threats are often followed by actual physical violence.
The ability to have any stability requires that clients always make an 8:00 pm.
curfew, otherwise their belongings are packed up and squandered and often
belongings are stolen or misplaced by staff and/or other clients. There is a
strong "staff vs. clients" interpersonal dynamic operating at all times.
Having provided context for thinking about
what a Next Step New York City Shelter is like — both from the
perspective of the system that implements it and the contrasting perception of
one who it is meant to serve, Mr. Cyrus — the authors will turn to
looking at how expectations are affected by living in such a shelter.
Upon our initial interview with Mr. Cyrus he
reported the following critical incident that resulted in him seeking residence
in the New York City Next Step Program. Prior to Mr. Cyrus seeking residence in
the Next Step program, he lived in Brooklyn in his own apartment. However, his
addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol had progressed to the point that he
maintained his rather expensive addiction through his associations with
neighborhood drug dealers and prostitutes. His apartment had become a place
where crack use was daily and extensive. Over time, Mr. Cyrus lost control of
the events that took place in his apartment to the extent that drug dealers
were all but running their business out
of his apartment.
The living situation became intolerable for Mr.
Cyrus on the day he entered his apartment and saw guns lying on his kitchen
table. It was at this point that Mr. Cyrus decided to simply walk away from
ownership of the apartment. Mr. Cyrus never returned to that apartment again.
Thinking that this turn of events might very well
represent a breaking of a long-term — chronic — pattern of
substance abuse and failure, Mr. Cyrus walked out of the door that day
believing that he had left his problems behind him. However, he walked straight
into another crack den and then, the next day, made his way up to the Bronx and
into the shelter — and, as a result, into and through another two years
of struggling with not only his addiction, but also with how to maintain his overall
recovery while being homeless, unemployed, and severely depressed.
It is important to note that Mr. Cyrus had numerous
previous experiences where he had been able to reorganize his life —
after having gone through the whole cycle of addiction and recovery — to
what he considered and "acceptable" level of functioning. Each time he had
reached that particular goal, he had then come to believe that he might then
experiment with the notion that he can "use successfully" (that is, that he
would be able to maintain his overall functioning while under the influence of
alcohol and crack cocaine). Each time he reached a level of comfort and
satisfaction with his functioning (e.g., attaining an independent living
situation, employment, and so forth), it doomed him to further failure (e.g.,
relapse, homelessness, and overall behavioral dysfunction), which was a
repetitive pattern for Mr. Cyrus.
He told us, in our initial interview that his sole intention upon entering the shelter system "yet again" was to
"get off the street." It turned out, however, as we pursued this initial
intention, that he did, in fact, have a plan of action, that he did have a goal
to make his way through the whole of the shelter system process and obtain both
independent living and long-term abstinence from illicit drug and alcohol
abuse. He believed that, in his words, "I would do it on my own terms."
As we consider the Theory of Reasoned Action, it becomes clear that Mr. Cyrus's Behavioral
Intention (BI), prior to entering the
homeless shelter system, was to use successfully (that is, that he would be able to maintain his
overall functioning while under the influence of alcohol and crack cocaine).
This BI is common to addicts and alcoholics prior to seeking treatment
(Cappella, 2007; National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2009). This BI had a false
high expectancy value because although addicts often strongly believe that they
can use successfully, they more than often cannot. This speaks strongly to our
reversal on the construct of behavioral willingness. Mr. Cyrus had met up with circumstances that made it
clear that his high positive evaluation of his potential for success while
using could not be actualized. Regardless of his chronic history with relapse
and recidivism (i.e., repeatedly winding up in the shelter system), the social
norm held and maintained by most drug
addicts and alcoholics is to continue to try (to use successfully) (Feather & Newton, 1982; Fishbein, 1963). This
social norm had, in fact, become central to his thinking, feeling and behaving
(Ajzen, 1996, 2005b; Baker, 2009; Folkman
& Moskowitz, 2004; Layton, 2009; Sandlin, 2009).
When we consider the amount of effort that Mr. Cyrus was historically willing
to exert to reach an unlikely goal, we are now able to appreciate the power of
a BI. Unhinging (or dissociating) the BI from the actual outcomes was necessary
for Mr. Cyrus to maintain his false behavioral expectations in the face of contrary evidence (cf. Gibbons, 2009;
Romano & Netland, 2008). The intention to use successfully had become
associated with Mr. Cyrus's self-described "rebelliousness" and "arrogance"
which allowed him repeatedly to expect unrealistic outcomes. It is Mr. Cyrus's
false behavioral expectancy that gets confirmed by periods of comfort and
satisfaction that sets him up for failure. This is at the central core of his
repetitive cycle of substance abuse, homelessness, and behavioral dysfunction.
Studies of the adaptive impact of a wide array of developmental circumstances
have shown that there are common developmental antecedents, such as family
resources and interaction patterns, economic and social deprivation, other life
stresses, powerlessness, and an array of non-specific protective resiliency
factors (social support, sense of self-efficacy, hope), that all relate to the
probability that persons in a population will develop an extraordinary
assortment of mental and physical disorders (Creswell et al., 2005; Felner,
Farber, & Primavera, 1983; Kellam & Brown, Livert & Hughes, 2002;
1982; Perkins, Larsen & Brown, 2009;
Senge & Scharmer, 2001; Shure & Spivack, 1982; Taylor et al., 2000),
and that certain communities themselves are themselves "disordered" (Diener,
Lucas & Scollon, 2006; Latkin et al., 2009; Kellam et al., 1983; Sameroff
& Fiese, 1989). Mr. Cyrus, during his pre-entry stage, had already had
numerous encounters with the shelter system, and even though he knew first-hand
of its disordered nature, he came
into the system this time in what seemed to be a dissociated state. He dissociated
the trauma of his previous experiences, and was therefore in a state where his
expectations were clearly unrealistic and did not account for the traumatic
nature of the shelter system itself. We can now look back and see that Mr.
Cyrus's history of "doing it on (his) own terms" had proven many times over to
be counterproductive to his progress in previous attempts at sobriety as well
as in his attempts to "get off the streets." As we pursue our analysis of his
process — and follow the life-course of his expectation(s) — we
will see how far off course that philosophy took him, as well as the ways in
which it nearly proved fatal to Mr. Cyrus.
Upon arrival at the Next Step shelter, the first
order of business was to complete the intake procedures. Intake procedures
required the signing of an Independent Living Plan (ILP). The ILP is a service
plan outlining all of the things one will be required to do in order to obtain
independent housing. The plan includes means of obtaining gainful employment,
treatment planning for chemical dependency, rules and regulations of the
shelter, as well as scheduled contacts with a shelter case manager. The
remarkable aspect of this particular shelter's intake procedure was to have
clients sign a blank ILP. The signing of a blank ILP was simply, as Mr. Cyrus
was told, a matter of expediency. Mr. Cyrus was told that the form would be
completed at some time in the future after his case manager was assigned.
Mr. Cyrus had a strong reaction to this immediately.
His initial refusal to sign the ILP was met with threats that he would not be
able to obtain a bed at the shelter until he signed the ILP. Mr. Cyrus
vehemently resisted and reacted by commenting on the "unprofessional" nature of
such a practice. He went on to counter the threats made to him with his own set
of threats. He said that would report the house manager to the Coalition for
the Homeless, a watchdog organization charged with the protection of client's
right in the shelter system. Mr. Cyrus became engaged in an escalating exchange
of verbal threats and insults and was told to leave the shelter. Mr. Cyrus
stated that he was not willing to leave, and that he had a "right" to a bed.
At this point, Mr. Cyrus requested to speak with
the director of the shelter. The director was called and she agreed to meet
with him. Mr. Cyrus said that when she came out of her office, the director
looked "annoyed and disgusted by the fact that someone was not willing to
comply with the rules of the shelter." The director suggested that Mr. Cyrus
would be able to revise the ILP in whatever ways that he saw fit once he met
with his case manager, but that he would need to sign the form if he were going
to be able to obtain placement in the shelter at that time. Mr. Cyrus's
reaction to this was one of dismay and disbelief. He stated to the director
that he "could not believe that a director would uphold such an unreasonable
and unprofessional demand, and ignore a client's right to not sign a blank
document." Mr. Cyrus insisted that his complaint be attached to his blank ILP.
The director told him, "Do so, if you think that matters." Mr. Cyrus then
reluctantly signed the ILP.
These interactions set in place a backdrop of
provocation and retaliation that would haunt Mr. Cyrus throughout the rest of
his stay at this shelter.
One of the salient characteristics we can glean
from this incident is the fear that Mr. Cyrus experienced when he was asked to
sign a document regarding the expectations that the system itself was
implementing in his service plan without actually stating what those
expectations were. Upon analysis, we found that the underlying reason why Mr.
Cyrus did not want to sign the blank document was that he feared that the
document would hold him accountable for vague behavioral tasks that he very
well might not agree upon. Interestingly, and in a reversal of what one
generally means when using the term "literal inconsistency," Mr. Cyrus feared
that he would be required to commit to certain behavioral tasks, and then be
unable or unwilling to perform them. Therefore, at this point we can begin to
assess the ways in which literal inconsistencies in the system — as if it
had a voice (i.e., we are beginning to
get a sense of the contours of the community character) — began to effect Mr. Cyrus and impact his
behavioral willingness in ways that were consistent with his own history of
repeating problematic behaviors in reaction to "rules and regulations." He felt this would not
only thwart his goals, but would be personally damaging to him at all levels
(physical and emotional, most especially), creating a powerful focus on the
ongoing issue of safety.
Also of note, is how this incident made it clear to
Mr. Cyrus that he was being asked to make vague and uncertain commitments to
the shelter system (to which he would then be held accountable), while the
system itself — through the representation of the blank document —
would not be held accountable for its commitment to him, his case, and ultimately
shepherding him through the shelter system and into independent living. This
blank document itself then became the equivalent of a blank screen upon which Mr. Cyrus could then project his deepest held fears and anxieties, based on his
own actual experience of being abandoned, rejected and poorly treated by his
own family of origin. Therefore, regarding the commitment to a certain level of
service provision for Mr. Cyrus from the shelter, there would be no overt
literal inconsistency (as the blank document could be interpreted to mean that
there was no commitment to his actual care). Instead, this set up a chronic
state of uncertainty in the implicit contract between Mr. Cyrus and the system,
that would then sustain rather than confront Mr. Cyrus's deep fears and expectations
that the system itself (like everyone else in his life) would disappoint and
ultimately betray him, and would therefore thwart his goals (see Wrosch et al.,
2003 and Tversky & Kahneman, 1974).
With all of these dynamics in place, the blank
document came to represent a short-circuiting of Mr. Cyrus's Implementation
Intentions. At that point, and as a result
of how he experienced the blank document and what it represented, Mr. Cyrus was
unable to be specific or concrete about any of his intentions regarding how to
successfully complete the shelter system program and obtain independent
housing. Mr. Cyrus was therefore unable to ask about when behavioral tasks needed to be performed, as well as where
and how tasks would take place (see Gollwitzer, 1999; Hornik, 2007).
One aspect of Mr. Cyrus's strong emotional reaction
to the blank document is that it set up a circumstance wherein he felt unable
to act intentionally with regard to his goal of getting out of the shelter
system. Instead, he simply had a reaction to his newly established social
circumstances. This then created an openness to risk-taking opportunities (Achtziger, Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2008). What this meant, in Mr.
Cyrus's case, was that he was more likely to engage in self-defeating behaviors
which were consistent with his historical (behavioral) reactions to hopeless
Mr. Cyrus's capitulation provides a salient example
of how behavioral expectations and behavioral intentions can exceed behavioral
willingness to engage in risk. It was Mr. Cyrus's expectation to get into the
shelter and his intention to get a bed that exceeded his willingness to act out
and not sign the black document. As Gibbons, Gerrard, Ouellette, and Burzette
(1998) pointed out, BE and BI will eventually exceed BW in a person who wants
to attain a goal.
— Resident Vs. Staff
Mr. Cyrus's expectation that the shelter would
provide safety and security for him was shattered when on a day designated as
"Code Blue" (i.e., a dangerously cold day) by the city he was not allowed to go
upstairs to his locker to retrieve his coat. The house manager informed him
that since it was after 7AM no one would be allowed to go back upstairs. The
shelter had strict rules regarding leaving the building — that is, all
residents must vacate the sleeping floors upstairs no later than 7AM.
Mr. Cyrus explained to the house manager that he
was detained by a case manager at breakfast, and asked the house manager if,
under these conditions (and considering the weather outside), these five
minutes could be overlooked. The house manager responded with an emphatic,
"No!" Mr. Cyrus, in turn, became extremely indignant and pointed out that it
was a dangerously cold day outside, and that the house manager was "endangering
(his) life" with his apathetic — if not antipathetic — response.
The response of the house manager notwithstanding,
Mr. Cyrus began his determined march up the stairs. At this point, Mr. Cyrus
was "grabbed" by a security officer who prevented him from going upstairs. The
security guard cautioned Mr. Cyrus, saying, "If you do not comply with the
house manager's request, you will be suspended from the shelter and be unable
to return tonight." Mr. Cyrus then proceeded to escalate into a tirade, screaming
about his "right to shelter," stating, "You cannot put me out!" At this point,
the house manager told Mr. Cyrus that he must leave the shelter or be forcibly
Mr. Cyrus turned around, came down the stairs and
went out of the building yelling, "I'll bet you'd kill me rather than allow me
to get my coat." Mr. Cyrus went directly to the nearest subway — coatless
— to make his way to the Coalition for the Homeless where he proceeded to
compose a scathing letter of complaint.
It was Mr. Cyrus's hope that the letter of
complaint would be acknowledged and utilized to prevent others from being
endangered by the staff of the shelter.
We can see that Mr. Cyrus's primary expectation at play in this incident was simply that the staff
members at the shelter would do him no harm (e.g., send him out into the cold
with no coat). Suddenly the broken expectation that Mr. Cyrus would be safe in
this particular shelter began to interfere with (and unconsciously interact
with) his more long-term expectation and hope that he would manage to traverse
the whole of the shelter system process and ultimately obtain independent
Consistent with what Cooke and Sheeran (2004)
describe as moderating effects, we can
see that the moderating effects of these broken expectations lead to problems
with accessibility, temporal stability, direct experience, involvement,
certainty and ambivalence. The expectation that the staff members would do him
no harm, when broken, then began to interfere with Mr. Cyrus's ability and
willingness to think about — to plan for and toward — leaving the
shelter system at all. Mr. Cyrus could no longer perceive the shelter as a
stable environment wherein he could continue to consciously work toward his
overall goal of leaving the shelter. Instead, it resulted in Mr. Cyrus viewing
the shelter as merely "a place for him to come and go" — the shelter
itself becoming dissociated from its previous use-value. This resulted in a
significant change in his direct experience of the process of making his way
through the system and toward independence. The prospect of getting out of the
shelter then became an uncertain outcome
for Mr. Cyrus rather than an inevitable possibility. Mr. Cyrus was then in a
highly ambivalent state where he became increasingly conflicted between his
need for the shelter in order for him to achieve his overarching goal vs. his sense of impending danger and his increasing
hatred for the shelter itself. Since Mr. Cyrus's thinking and planning had been
disrupted (i.e., his sense of stability and safety were replaced by an
omnipresent sense of danger that was then dissociated and acted-out), he then
began to act-out in ways that were destructive to his overall goal of making it
through the shelter system.
Somewhere between Mr. Cyrus's initial intentions
and where he found himself at this point, there had been a dramatic shift in
his thinking and in his ability to cope with being in the shelter system. His
expectancy values had changed (decisions to act or not act that result from an
assessment of the likelihood of specific outcomes had resulted in a dramatic
change in what constituted his subjective norms) (Smith-McLallen &
Fishbein, 2009). Subjective norms refers to what "important others" want us to
do and their attitudes toward our behavior (Gibbons, 2009). In Mr. Cyrus's
case, one could now begin to predict a course that could very well lead to
total failure. As we stated earlier, many failures — system and other
— along the way to homelessness are already part and parcel of the
homeless individual's sense of self.
This all sets up the dynamic process wherein we can
see how Mr. Cyrus is beginning to perceive himself in this process through the
patterns of interaction — and what these say about him — that have
been transpiring between he and what is now perceived and internalized as The
System (what we call "community character"). The character of this system — the shelter
system — began to make itself more apparent as this system (with its
complex set of rules and regulations) began to communicate with Mr. Cyrus
through his interactions with various staff members. In other words, the
community character began to speak through
its representatives and convey powerful messages to Mr. Cyrus about how he was
not measuring up to its
— Resident Vs.
Upon entering the shelter, Mr. Cyrus reported that he was deliberate in
his efforts to maintain his privacy. He did not socialize with other clients
and worked diligently to set himself apart from the others so that he would be
perceived by staff as being serious about improving his life and moving on
— moving through the shelter system and toward independent living which
was his (conscious) goal. Mr. Cyrus was highly invested in appearing to be "a
cut above the rest." His initial interactions with staff and residents were
guarded. He did not want to disclose much about himself. Mr. Cyrus was
uncomfortable with the notion that people would know that he was single and
without children. This discomfort was supported by the fear that he would be
"outed" and ridiculed for his bisexual history and his present interest in
other men. Mr. Cyrus stated that, "At no time did I ever show any behavior that
would suggest that I was overtly gay." Mr. Cyrus clearly expected — or,
hoped — that through his own best efforts he could ensure that his sexual
orientation would be a non-issue in the shelter. He believed — or
wanted/needed to believe — that his general behavior was, without effort,
"more straight appearing than gay appearing."
After approximately two weeks in the shelter an attractive black man
began making attempts to engage Mr. Cyrus in conversation. Mr. Cyrus kept the
conversations short and tried very hard to not show signs of being attracted to
the man (we will call Bill). Bill was quick to notice Mr. Cyrus's discomfort
and standoffishness and, in a somewhat playful and sarcastic manner, suggested
that perhaps Mr. Cyrus was a snob. Mr. Cyrus's decision to ignore this question
and further distance himself insulted and angered Bill. He felt rejected by Mr.
Cyrus. In reaction to Mr. Cyrus's perceived rejection, Bill began to escalate
his dissatisfaction by verbally commenting upon (making sure that other
residents were within hearing range) the way that Mr. Cyrus walked and talked.
Soon thereafter, Bill told Mr. Cyrus to stop walking around the place
like a "sissy." Mr. Cyrus became very agitated by this comment —
especially by how the other clients began making allusions his assumed homosexuality.
This all came to a head one night when one of the clients confronted Mr. Cyrus
and called him a "faggot." Mr. Cyrus did not engage the person or the comment.
Instead, Mr. Cyrus went downstairs to report to the house manager that he was
being sexually harassed in the dorm. To Mr. Cyrus's surprise, the house manager
said that it was not possible to harass someone when they are being told the
truth. Mr. Cyrus became angry and retorted that, as the house manager, it was
his job to keep everyone safe in the shelter. The house manager told Mr. Cyrus
to get out of his doorway, go to bed, and to simply ignore people if he did not
like what they were saying. Mr. Cyrus then told the house manager that his
behavior was very unprofessional. The house manager responded, "We don't give a
fuck about professionalism."
Mr. Cyrus reported in the interview that he was shocked at the lack of
concern regarding the issue of sexual harassment. He stated that he was even
more shocked by the disregard for any type of professional ethic. Mr. Cyrus
realized at this point that he was in a dangerous place and that he needed to
change some of his behavior towards others if he was going to get through this
experience without getting hurt — physically and otherwise.
Mr. Cyrus's initial attempt to remain apart from his community of other
residents was a failed effort for him to maintain his safety. Mr. Cyrus was
trying to resist what Kurt Lewin (1935a) described as a natural relationship
between the character of a given situation and the character of a group which
dominates the behavior of the individuals in the situation. Mr. Cyrus's false
sense of security shattered when he was forced to interact with another
resident. His expectation that the staff would protect him was further broken,
completing the process that began in the previous incident (the "code blue"
weather incident). His disregard for the a priori plan of the community to engulf him forced him to acknowledge that he
was in a dangerous place. There was no real secure place or manner of behavior
that would allay his mounting anxiety regarding being different from most of
the other men in the shelter.
Mr. Cyrus was caught up in unconscious system-level dynamics which
regulated how behavior should and must be conducted and he was unaware of the
severe consequence for being noncompliant with the system's rules and
regulations. Neither Mr. Cyrus nor his resident counterparts had any awareness
that their interactions were under the influence of the community character of
the system itself — and how Mr. Cyrus and the other residents were
playing out patterns of interaction that repeated the very ways in which
society itself devalues and discounts its most marginalized individuals. Both
Mr. Cyrus and Bill were already in a category that had been severely
marginalized by society (homeless and mentally ill). Bill, and those who joined
him — including the staff who did not intervene — in ridiculing Mr.
Cyrus, could further marginalize Mr. Cyrus (and feel superior to him) by
"outing" him as a gay man. Hence, Mr. Cyrus became a scapegoat — a
receptacle — for the projections of what was most despised about all of
those in this marginalized category.
These dynamics demonstrate that at the heart of community character is a
recognition that much of our behavior is not intentional at all, but rather a
reaction to social circumstances (Achtziger, Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2008).
Because Mr. Cyrus was not aware that he (and the others in the incident) was
simply reacting to circumstances, he further lost sight of his initial
intention of getting through the shelter and ultimately into an independent
housing situation. Ironically, the character of this particular community
— a make-shift community which only exists to shelter people as they
transition from the street and into independent living — operates in a
manner completely contrary to what would be its overt primary task. Since the
community character cannot be seen or felt it is nearly impossible to
anticipate how one is going to manage oneself and one's goals —
especially in an environment where the community character operates in total
contradiction to its own overt goals: To safely provide shelter for people as
they transition from the street into independent housing. A community character
which operates at such high levels of internal inconsistency generates futility
— Resident Vs. System
Mr. Cyrus's efforts to influence change in the
shelter was met with strong resistance on the part of not only the staff at the
shelter, but also by the case workers at the Coalition For The Homeless (the
Coalition). The homeless service delivery system created the Coalition to serve
as a watchdog agency to protect client rights. The primary task of the
Coalition is to investigate client complaints. Mr. Cyrus did not receive any
response from the Coalition regarding a number of complaints that he formally
filed, not the least of which was the incident where he was unable to obtain
his coat on the "code blue" weather day. Consequently, Mr. Cyrus began to
recognize that the Coalition could not be counted upon to protect him and his rights
during his stay in the shelter.
There is an individual designated by the Coalition
as the "Shelter Manager" whose job it is to mediate when problems arise between
shelter residents and shelter staff. This person's role entails responding to
crisis. The woman in this role regularly visits the various shelter sites,
gives new residents her emergency phone number and makes it known that she is
"on call" 24/7. Mr. Cyrus attempted to contact the shelter manager and did not
receive a response. In previous face-to-face contact between Mr. Cyrus and the
shelter manager, he felt that she was implying that his problems in the shelter
were essentially due to his acrimonious nature and his unwillingness to "get
with the program."
Since Mr. Cyrus received no response from the
shelter manager, and because he had received no response to the complaint that
he filed previously with the Coalition, he decided to pay a visit to the
Coalition again. Mr. Cyrus then had the opportunity to speak with one of the
community outreach directors at the Coalition. He began to list a number of
complaints — and the lack of response that he had received regarding
these complaints — to the community outreach director. Mr. Cyrus
attempted to drive home the point that it is not the Coalition's job to point out and confront him on his personal
problems, but to help him with the resolution of (the now numerous) incidents
where his rights had been violated. Mr. Cyrus was willing to concede to the
possibility that he had brought some of these problems (not the least of which
was being homeless in the first place) upon himself, but Mr. Cyrus was having a
hard time accepting what seemed to be the general interpretation of events,
which was that any of his own problematic behaviors gave carte blanch
permission to the shelter staff (and/or system) to mistreat and abuse him. Mr.
Cyrus said, "No matter how badly residents behave, there are certain things
that staff are not allowed to do...such as physically abusing him, throwing him
out in the cold, nor withholding his belongings," etc. All of these things had,
in fact, been done to Mr. Cyrus by staff members at the shelter.
Mr. Cyrus charged the director and the Coalition as
a whole with being remiss in their responsibility to prevent or bring about
appropriate consequences to the staff at the homeless shelter for their chronic
mistreatment of him and the other residents. He indignantly asked, "If you are
not going to deal with the abusive behavior of the staff members, why then even
have the Coalition?" Mr. Cyrus went on to say, "The Coalition seems more
interested in its own preservation, than in the welfare of the clients in the
shelter." In response, the director said, "It does no good to attack the
Coalition." Mr. Cyrus ended his conversation with the director feeling
thoroughly pathologized and wondering who really cares about what happens to
people in the shelter?
In keeping with the attention to the expectation
for safety and security, we can now address the ways that the dynamics of the Community
Character were brought to life and were
influential in the events that took place in the above incident. Community
character is used as a construct that, ultimately, conveys to the individual
(or group) what behaviors are permissible in a given community (Borg, 2003c;
Borg et al., 2009). It is often the case, however, that one will not be able to
feel and articulate the impact of a specific community character (the mandates,
injunctions, rules, etc.), until he or she attempts to communicate a particular
interaction that occurred within the
community to an external source
outside the specific community. For instance, when Mr. Cyrus went to the
Coalition — a source external to the shelter itself — for help, his
expectation that the Coalition would ensure his safety and security was met
with a greater concern for his compliance with rules and regulation than it was
with violations of his client rights. Therefore, it was immediately apparent to
Mr. Cyrus that the Coalition was more interested in his compliance than with
his safety. However, it was only in his articulation of the problems that he
was experiencing within the shelter system to an external source that he
himself began to be able to delineate the structure of the shelter's community
The nature of a community character, at base, is to
maintain its own viability — even if at the expense of the individual.
The more Mr. Cyrus pointed out failure of the Coalition to meet his
expectations — to protect him, to help him navigate his way through the
shelter system — the more the case workers at the Coalition (similar to
the case workers at the shelter itself) focused on his failure to comply. We see this in Mr. Cyrus's encounter with one of
the directors of the Coalition when he returned after making numerous
complaints. The issue of upholding client's rights is repeatedly superseded by
the issue of ensuring client's compliance (with the rules and regulations
— expectations — of the system itself). It became increasingly
clear that the community character that underlies the system that delivers
homeless services does not provide permission for behaviors that are based on
the expectation that one's rights will be upheld. Instead, it operates in an
infantilizing manner which basically runs on the assumption that if a client
simply complies with the rules and regulations of the system, then the primary
client expectations (safety and ultimately independent living) will be met.
Here we can see clearly the collision of
expectation associated with this stage of the life-course of an expectation.
Mr. Cyrus believed that it was the protection of his client's right that would
provide him with safety and security in the shelter; while the system itself
believed that it was solely his compliance with its rules and regulations that
would protect him and lead to success. This is a powerful example of how
unconscious, unwritten, and ever present influences can lead the individual to
believe that client rights are important and necessary to one's safety and
security, even when his actual experience in the shelter does not support that
belief and all of the underlying expectations that undergird it (Borg, 2003c).
It is through these unconscious processes that we
experience a clashing of expectations between the system and the individual.
This is what internal inconsistency is
made of — expecting, for instance, that client rights will be a
protective set of accepted standards of practice, even when there is no
empirical evidence to support that assumption. We see how the system
communicates at a conscious level the importance of such protective mechanisms
as client rights, but that the community character unconsciously operates with
a completely different set of rules and regulations. While the homeless
services delivery system is itself a catalyst for helping its residents get off
the streets, establish security (including helping people recover from
addiction, obtain employment, etc.), and ultimately obtain independent housing,
we can see in the development of its own unique community character, that its
survival now takes precedence over the success of those whom it was established
We can also see that when one fails to comply with
mandates/injunctions — the rules and regulations — of a community
character, the community character's primary way of discipline is to drain the
individual of all significance. In a symbolic sense, then, the individual
ceases to exist. In fact, Slavoj Zizek (1999), paraphrasing Jacques Lacan
(1999), referred to the place that one resides when one loses socio-symbolic
significance as the space between two deaths (p. 170).
Therefore, at this point in the life-course
of an expectation, Mr. Cyrus finds himself experiencing a kind of death and he
was plummeting into a hopelessness and helplessness that had all but killed his
— Resident Vs. Self
In the final incident, we find Mr. Cyrus two years
into his sojourn through NYC's homeless shelter system. He has now been in, and
been kicked out of, numerous shelters. He has relapsed into crack abuse many
times as well. Mr. Cyrus had come to believe that he could not rely on the
shelter system, nor the Coalition, to help him get out of the shelter system.
Mr. Cyrus realized that he had himself great
ambivalence about successfully traversing the whole of the shelter system
process and obtaining independent living. Once he realized this, he was able to
begin to assess his progress (or lack thereof) from a new perspective. Although
he acknowledged that there had been much abuse perpetrated upon him by the
system and its representatives throughout the course of his residence(s) thus
far, he was also able to assess that solely focusing on those abuses had gotten
him nowhere. In doing so, he was also able to question to what degree his
previous failures were fueled by what he admitted was a profound history of
self-sabotage. He began asking himself: 1) How am I going to prevent myself
from sabotage this time? 2) How am I going to manage my anxiety related to both
the possibility of continued failure as well as potential success? 3) What is
the most important thing about me that needs to change if I am to be
Mr. Cyrus's answer to that final question was: "I
need to be more humble," and "I need to accept help." Mr. Cyrus acknowledged
that he knew very little about humility, much less about how to make decisions
regarding what kind of people he might be able to rely upon for legitimate
help. Mr. Cyrus was able to recognize how his history with painful and severe
abandonments had established patterns of both ineffective self-reliance as well
as a tendency to make impossible demands upon others (which was really a
cover-up for his deep sense of "neediness" combined with his severe expectation
that no one would or could meet his needs). As a starting proposition for
himself, Mr. Cyrus told himself that he would "stop telling people how to do
their job, accept what people were willing, and able, to offer." He also told
us that it was at this point that he also learned "how to hold (his) tongue."
Soon thereafter, Mr. Cyrus decided to find an ally
in the shelter. He approached his case worker and asked for help. He said, "I
was finally willing to accept my part in the problem." He asked his case worker
if she would help him. She explained that she would only be able to help him if
he would be willing to follow some "very simple rules." Mr. Cyrus was requested
to meet curfew on a regular basis for at least a month, that he would need to
meet with her at least twice/week, and that he would avoid all confrontations
with staff and other residents. This would give his case worker time to help
him amend the negative consequences of his previous violations and would allow
her time to complete the housing application. Mr. Cyrus was able to comply with
her requests, and in one month Mr. Cyrus had a referral for an apartment.
By taking his experience outside his immediate
situation/circumstance in the shelter and coming face to face with a community
character that rendered him insignificant, Mr. Cyrus found himself embedded
within the Lacanian space between two deaths (Lacan, 1992, p. 270; see also Zizek & Milbank, 2009). There is the
death of his expectation that he can be safe in the shelter and there is the
death of his expectation that the system will uphold his rights. Mr. Cyrus then
was faced with his need to act on his own behalf to secure his safety and
accept that whatever his rights are, those rights have nothing to do with
getting out of the shelter.
Mr. Cyrus began to see himself differently. He no
longer looked to the system or the shelter for safety. He began to see himself
as the agent of change in/for his life. He decided to find an ally in the
shelter system, and accepted that he would need to adhere to rules and
regulations in return for completion of systemic tasks that only a shelter case
worker could complete.
In a way, we can see how the death of an
expectation might signal that it was an unrealistic expectation all along. It
is the realization that one has been dealing with an unrealistic expectation
that is shattering then transformative. And this is the point at which he was
able to refer back to his original process of making implementation intentions
— he was able to increase the predictive power
of his intentions going forward at that point by making them more concrete
(cf. Achtziger et al., 2008; Gollwitzer, 1999; Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006;
Holland, Aarts & Langendam, 2006). Using his experience in the system thus
far, he began to add items to his behavioral repertoire regarding the specific
ways in which his behavior could be performed and his goals attained. In
other words, he began to make a plan — with the collaborative support of someone with actual power
in the system — regarding when
certain goal-oriented behaviors would be performed, as well as where and how these would
When we consider the circumstance that result in an
unmet expectation, such dead ends can lead to transformation on the one hand,
or it can lead to repetitious and ineffective behavioral and interactive
patterns (cf. Freud, 1914, 1937). The latter was exemplified through Mr.
Cyrus's attempting repeatedly to force the system (e.g., case workers,
Coalition staff, and so forth) to act in a manner that was in synchrony with
his own expectations. It is the internal inconsistencies generated by the community
character that supports and negatively reinforced (Iwata, 1987; Michael, 1975;
Mistry, Jacobs & Jacobs, 2009; Skinner, 1974; Tucker, Sigafoos &
Bushell, 1998) Mr. Cyrus in such a way that he continuously felt compelled to
force his expectations into/onto the system (Borg, 2002, 2003a, 2003e; Borg et
al., 2009) — and perhaps this was his own defense against an increasing
sense of institutionalization (Huber & Stephens, 2001; Zucker, 1977).
Consistent with this fear/defense, Henry Giroux (2000) argues that "Domination
is never total in its effects; contradictions arise within all public spaces,
even those that appear most oppressive" (69). It seems as though the further we
move from social investment, the closer we come to policies of social domination
or containment, in which state services are reduced to the repressive functions
of discipline, control, and surveillance (Aronowitz, 1996; Foucault, 1977;
Israel et al., 1998; Price-Smith, 2001; Said, 1993) — and this has all
the makings of what Ivan Illich (1976) referred to as "iatrogenesis."
Simply, iatrogenesis is when the "cure" makes the
patient "ill," and we can see that the dynamics associated with Mr. Cyrus's care
from/by the system and its counterparts
were not only impeding his progress toward his goals, but were in many ways
making him ill. Along with the chronic and consistent pattern of internal
inconsistency enacted from within the system, there was also a state of what we
can term behavioral unwillingness to meet the expectations of those it was
created to serve (cf. Bock, 2001; Drake,
Goldman & Leff, 2001; Duckett, 2004). We can see that this created chronic
emotional states of crisis for Mr. Cyrus, which matched the external state of
chronic crisis (internal inconsistencies and behavioral unwillingness) in the
system itself. Might this mean that in some way, the dynamic pattern —
enactment — that Mr. Cyrus found himself caught up within, was also a
dissociated aspect of the shelter system itself? In a way, Mr. Cyrus's maladaptive
(per the system) behavior actually lets the system off the hook. Through
behavioral unwillingness and internal inconsistencies generated by the
community character, Mr. Cyrus was finally (and consistently) labeled a "Fuck
Up," which in turn allowed the system to, in a sense, punish him — and
certainly to no longer feel required to or responsible for meeting his
expectations. Was Mr. Cyrus a scapegoat for the system, which in a larger
sense, actually represented the state of hopelessness and powerlessness in the
system itself to be legitimately helpful to its clientele?
The ability to recognize that an expectation's
life-course has come to an end seems directly related to the community
character's various forms of resistance. Mr. Cyrus's story illustrates that the
style of engagement with the community character is all important to the ways
in which an individual's expectations are managed by the community character.
At core, the community character is the sum total of psychological (and even
social) defenses that a community unconsciously utilizes to protect itself
— its various members — from insecurity and anxiety. Mr. Cyrus's
ongoing resistance to simply follow the rules and regulations of the community
character provoked a reaction from the community character which brought its
dynamics to light. After all, a community character would not be detectable
— as it exists to protect/dissociate awareness of a chronic crisis in a
particular system — if an acute crisis did not arise to provoke a
reaction from it. Therefore, by labeling Mr. Cyrus a "Fuck Up," the system was
able to scapegoat him (suppress an acute manifestation of its own ongoing
crisis), and to simultaneously dismiss its chronic crisis and continue its
unconscious operations in its customary unregulated manner.
Mr. Cyrus's individual transformation takes place
at the point where his expectation for safety in the shelter dies and he
changes his expectations from being outwardly focused to being internally
directed. The difference between expectations of others vs. self is the
beginning of making adaptive changes that allow the individual to escape
vicious cycles and maladaptive styles of engagement. The individual is then
able to see his situation — and his/her position in the situation itself —
differently. In Mr. Cyrus's case, going to the highest level of authority in
the system and finding no relief, finally allowed him to acknowledge the ways
in which his previous expectations had not been realistic.
For actual transformation to occur, the struggle between
the individual and the community character is necessary in a pathological
system. It is this struggle out of which transformation is born. Mr. Cyrus
finally began to view himself as a resource — the resource which could and would lead to his finally making his
way through the shelter system. Instead of viewing some "Other" as being solely
able to accomplish his primary task, Mr. Cyrus changed his style of engagement
with the system and sought an ally — an ally who was willing to actually
help him if he was willing, also, to help himself. He was then able to
negotiate compliance in return for effective systemic change which ultimately
led to Mr. Cyrus obtaining independent living and being discharged from the
Based on our analysis of
the life-course of an expectation we have come to understand that an
expectation is born out of a thinking pattern of anticipation that gets
associated with emotional states. Through repetition, a thinking pattern
emerges as a cognitive structure that appears regardless of the content —
the cognitive structure is the expectation. The authors refer to this as the vessel
— in Sausserian terms, a signifier
— in and through which new content
of expectation begins to appear on a habitual basis. When we are discussing the
life-course we are discussing the
content of the vessel itself. When expectations — cognitive structures
— remain un-(ful-)-filled they can take on a life of their own. This
essentially means that one can have expectations simply for the sake of having
expectations — keeping in mind that we have stressed that it is only the
individual in his/her specific social context that makes up the content of the
vessel. The notion of expectation for the sake of expectation means that we approach each circumstance with an a
priori expectation. We simply get into the
habit of having particular expectations, and such habitual expectations do not
leave room for new ways of filling in the vessel. This is an important
distinction because our analysis has led to a significant finding: Expectations
for the sake of expectations do not
have a life-course; they are rigid and repetitive, cycling through a history of
prior experience but static and stultified, and generally only replaying
historical experience as a means of defending ourselves. This is especially so
when previous experience has been of a traumatic nature. We were also able in
our analysis of Mr. Cyrus to recognize how the social context generated by a
community character shapes the content of vessels — expectations —
that do have a life-course (and are then, therefore, amenable to change).
Mr. Cyrus arrived at the
shelter due to faulty goal states where his behavior was inconsistent with his
own stated expectations (both of himself and the system within which he was
operating). The primary example of this was his drug and alcohol abuse. His
self-regulatory behavior was deficient. His drug and alcohol abuse often led to
unpredictable affective states that made the formation and implementation
— and associated intentions — of a plan for actually completing his initial task (obtaining an
independent living situation) impossible (Cooke & Sheeran, 2004; Gollwitzer,
Bayer & Mc Culloch, 2004). Unbeknownst to him,
Mr. Cyrus's expectancy values were not primarily focused on getting out of the
shelter — and certainly did not account for the underlying character
structure of the shelter and the system within which it operated, and/or the
rules and regulations which were (often painfully) at play throughout his journey
through the system and its complexities. Instead, Mr. Cyrus simply wanted to
make his way safely and productively through the shelter without regard for
shelter subjective norms. However, due to the enzymatic nature of the (Next Step)
shelter, Mr. Cyrus began to feel the effects of being broken down by the system
— remember, it is the unconscious intervention of the community character to implement its power in ways
which will bring the individual into alignment with the its own subjective
norms. Here "enzymatic nature" refers to all of the implicit and
explicit implementation intentions that
serve to create a behavioral unwillingness to meet any individuals' personal
and specific expectations if they are not aligned with the dictates of the
community character. This is so even when the system proclaims that it is its
primary task to do so (creating sustained literal inconsistencies in the system itself).
After "getting off the
streets," Mr. Cyrus's original primary goal for entering the shelter at all was
to obtain independent housing. However, when the effects of enzymatic
break-down had reduced Mr. Cyrus to despair and hopelessness, his main concern
was simply maintaining his safety. He had lost sight of his original
implementation intentions, and, in a sense, his original behavior intentions
became unmoored and existed in a state of disarray that operated in a manner
that was in contradiction to his long-term goals. Yet, it was at this point
that the life-course of this particular expectation began. This was clearly a
dramatic shift from his original expectation (and coinciding behavioral
intentions) which was to obtain independent living with very little awareness
of what this would require of him. Efforts to force the system to meet this
expectation were met with profound resistance and overt hostility. Repetitive
and continued attempts to force the system to respond to his safety
expectations led to social labeling. Mr. Cyrus was labeled a "Troublemaker" and
finally a "Fuck Up." These labels stuck with him throughout his sojourn through
the system. These labels served to scapegoat Mr. Cyrus, and made it permissible
for all elements of the system to withhold help and effective assistance. He
had become a kind of repository for all of the misplaced projections from the
system itself regarding its own ineffectiveness. The more that Mr. Cyrus's
efforts were met with negative reinforcement, the stronger were his efforts to
force the system to respond in alignment with his expectations. The cyclical
nature of this interactive pattern resulted in a struggle between the community
character and Mr. Cyrus. The struggle between the community character and Mr.
Cyrus is the field upon which the life-course of the expectation —
specific to his safety issues — comes to an end.
The expectation for
safety finally ended as a realization that Mr. Cyrus's safety expectation had
become unrealistic and that he would not be able to develop a strategy which
would induce the system — or any facet of it — to respond to him in
a way that would actually result in his safety. Mr. Cyrus could also recognize
that his overall journey through the system had been short-circuited there, and
that for as long as he was stuck on the issue of his safety and his "rights,"
he would be engaged with the system in a way that thoroughly ceased his
progressive movement through it. It was within this struggle — that often
felt like, and was, a life-and-death struggle — that Mr. Cyrus's
behavioral intentions were dissociated from his implementation intentions. We
underscore the importance of this struggle as providing the mechanism by which
Mr. Cyrus moved from maladaptive to adaptive behavior. In addition, the
realization that he must rely upon himself (his own perceptions of his
experience with/in the system) instead of the system (and how it had been
unable or unwilling to meet his needs) became a new realization for Mr. Cyrus
that then began to transform his goal state. This allowed him to develop a new
set of implementation intentions that would and could be supported by an ally
in the system who actually possessed the power and the willingness to help him
under conditions which made his compliance more bearable. By changing his
manner of engagement with subjective norms, he was able to identify an ally and
negotiate a functional partnership that required him to obey rules in exchange
for effective systemic help. Mr. Cyrus was unable to do this while he was
attempting to force the system to respect his rights and to unequivocally take
responsibility for the whole of his well-being (including taking care of him,
meeting his needs and even his desires). It is through this self-directed
change in behavior that Mr. Cyrus was able to make his way through the shelter
system and ultimately obtain independent living.
distinctions within expectations themselves — habitual expectations vs.
expectations that have a life-course — has been an important task in this
chapter. The implications of this distinction allows for evaluating the
significance that expectations have in the individual's life. It will help to
distinguish those whose expectations have life-courses in contrast to those
individuals who remain stuck in expectations that are habitual, repetitive and
therefore very resistant to change. Having offered this distinction, we can now
ask some important empirical questions. How do people differ in their habitual
development of expectations? To what extent does the life-course of an
expectation end in adaptive changes?
As we have seen, Mr. Cyrus's
expectations did (and let us hope do) have a life-course, and the development
of this life-course was founded upon Mr. Cyrus's willingness to take in and
learn from his experience — even and especially when such experiences
brought up painful and even traumatic emotions. Consistent with the most
contemporary research on the theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior,
Pomery et al. (2009) state, regarding the most important aspect of the movement
from willingness to intention, that "experience moderates the shift from
reactive to reasoned behavior" (p. 894). If the
life-course of an expectation ends in a personal transformation, then
expectations that have a life-course are clearly more advantageous than ones
that do not. Of course, there are risks involved. An expectation devoid of a
life-course, allows a person to have a standard set of operating procedures
that makes the world — and one's movements through it — appear to
be (to be experienced as being)
predictable and under one's own control (whether imagined or real). Yet it
turned out that Mr. Cyrus had to reclaim his own previously dissociated
experience — from both inside the system and out — in order for his
expectations to develop a life-course, and in order for him to achieve his
long-term goals. Expectations that have their own life-courses, do indeed
require a tolerance for a certain level of anxiety that is part and parcel of
any movement that we make that brings us into new and novel experience. Also
involved, we have seen, is evidence that when the behavioral intentions
associated with expectations — especially in a long-term process that is
traumatic and complex — become disconnected from the implementation
intentions that sustain them, expectations are doomed to repeat old patterns and
derail the process long before goal attainment is achieved. We have seen that
for Mr. Cyrus to transform his expectation into one which possessed a life of
its own, he came dangerously and quite literally close to death. However,
having survived and worked through the chronic despair and trauma that he
painfully experienced during the death of his previous habitual and ultimately
limiting expectations, Mr. Cyrus is now able to take a whole new process of
expectation — which now includes hope — into his new life outside
the shelter system.
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