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Vulnerable Self-Esteem (Part 1)
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this section, we will discuss how to increase your client awareness
of what I'll call, the Cost-Benefits of their Lifetraps. Think for a moment: Do
your clients who state, "I'm unlovable..." or "I am a failure?"”...in
their mind are they conducting a cost benefits analysis?
"Cost-Benefit Analysis" Technique
you found, like I have, that clients who create these Lifetraps or negative patterns
spend a lot of time assessing and evaluating themselves? In your clients assessing
and evaluating are they actually conducting, a "Cost-Benefit Analysis?"
By a Cost-Benefit Analysis, I mean measuring what they gain against what it costs
your client to keep living the same way. Let me repeat that...By a Cost-Benefit
Analysis, I mean your client is measuring what is gained against what it costs
to keep living in the same limited "I'm Unlovable" way.
you agree that the reason a client comes into therapy is the costs increase to
the point where the cost outweighs the benefits? I've found that clients have
developed many different ways of dealing with their "I'm Unlovable"
Lifetraps. I've found there are basically three ways clients cope. These often
cause clients to create situations in which costs outweigh benefits, and thus,
the "I'm Unlovable" Lifetrap is created. Here they are. See what you
Three ways costs outweigh benefits are:
#1. The Cost of Giving-In,
#2. The Cost of Avoiding, and
#3. The Cost of Deliberately Opposing.
♦ #1 - The Cost of Giving-In
Here's an example of how giving-in creates such a high cost that it outweighs
a 29 year old mortgage broker, found himself always "Giving-In" to co-workers. Karl stated,
"I feel ashamed and humiliated when something goes wrong.
Even if something isn't my fault, I take blame for it. For example, at work my
co-worker, Norton, figured in the wrong sales commission. Norton told our supervisor
Joel it was my error. So I just 'Gave-In' to Norton's pressure and took the blame
for him as if it were my fault."
Have you found like I have clients that are in
the "Giving-In" Lifetrap or frame of reference, are usually dependent,
submissive, clinging, avoid conflict, and are people pleasers? This, of course,
creates a formula which equals "I'm Unlovable." I found when working
with Karl, the best way to help him grow out of his "Giving-In" Lifetrap
was to increase his awareness of internal vs. external thinking.
♦ Internal vs. External Control Chart
Karl's situation, I felt that it was important for him to recognize the difference
between emotions that were internal as opposed to emotions that were external.
As you know, internally controlled emotions are described as originating from
and centered on the thinker. Externally controlled emotions are described as originating
outside of the thinker. Externally controlled emotions remove the thinker from
being in control of the emotions.
Karl stated, "Norton my co-worker, uses
me." As you can see this is an externally controlled state. I told Karl he
couldn't change the way Norton, his co-worker, treated him, but he could change
the way he acted and felt about the way Norton treated him. I asked Karl if he
could think of a way to express the same thought, but would allow him to be the
subject of the sentence. Karl stated, "I allow Norton to upset me."
This is an internally controlled emotional state, thus giving Karl a sense of
control over the situation.
reproducible client worksheet entitled "Emotional States and the Dimensions
of Internal and External Control" can be found in the manual that accompanies
this course. In this chart clients are encouraged to identify external causes
of emotional states in one column and internal causes of emotional states in another.
summary, only when Karl felt the cost of Giving-In exceeded the benefit of
getting along did he feel motivated to examine the difference between internal
feelings and external referencing.
Do you have a client who feels they're unlovable
and gives in? In your next session with "your Karl," would increasing
his or her awareness of the difference between saying, "They made me feel"
and "I feel," be beneficial?
In the next section, Zachary and the cost
of Avoiding will be discussed.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Orth, U., Robins, R. W., Meier, L. L., & Conger, R. D. (2016). Refining the vulnerability model of low self-esteem and depression: Disentangling the effects of genuine self-esteem and narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(1), 133–149.
Rohmann, E., Hanke, S., & Bierhoff, H.-W. (2019). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism in relation to life satisfaction, self-esteem, and self-construal. Journal of Individual Differences, 40(4), 194–203.
Sowislo, J. F., Orth, U., & Meier, L. L. (2014). What constitutes vulnerable self-esteem? Comparing the prospective effects of low, unstable, and contingent self-esteem on depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123(4), 737–753.
What is one insight you might provide a client who feels "I'm unlovable"
and creates the lifetrap of Giving-In? To select and enter your answer go to .