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Vulnerable Self-Esteem (Part 3)
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Three ways costs outweigh benefits are:
#1. The Cost of Giving-In,
#2. The Cost of Avoiding, and
#3. The Cost of Deliberately Opposing.
In the last section, we discussed the four steps of depersonalization. Now let's
look at a client's cost-benefit analysis of Deliberately Opposing.
♦ # 3 The Cost of Deliberately Opposing
third way I've found that a client creates a lifetrap is when they conduct a Cost-Benefits
Analysis and conclude that the benefits of Deliberately Opposing outweigh the
costs of their adversarial behavior. As you'll see, David, a 28 year old department
manager for a computer company, like Zachary, had problems at work. David fell
into a Deliberately-Opposing Lifetrap.
Zachary who was in to avoidant behavior, David was what he termed a "rule
breaker." He was having problems with his boss Stephanie. David stated
angrily, "I didn't put the required personnel memo into Juan's folder. I
just didn't think it was necessary. I assumed getting the work done was more important
than following Stephanie's rule about the memo. As the department manager, isn't
that my decision to make? Besides, we all know rules are made to be broken."
talking further with David, it became obvious David felt that the benefits of
disregarding Stephanie's rules or requirement about the memo created a feeling
of control in his own life. David's need for control outweighed the cost of the
reprimand he received for his failure to put the memo in Juan's folder. When I
asked him why he felt a need for this control, he stated, "My supervisor,
Stephanie, is always trying to tell me how to do my job, how to act and how to
'be a better person.' I'm my own person; I'll do things the way I want."
Take a minute to think of your "David," whose need for control creates
a Lifetrap of Deliberate Opposition which results in a feeling of "I'm Unlovable."
What's your therapeutic strategy with your "David?"
Ellis' Rational Emotive Therapy
David, I decided to use Ellis' Rational Emotive Therapy, RET, to address this
lifetrap he was creating for himself. I found RET allowed David to examine his
Oppositional behavior. As a review, the four RET stages known as the ABCs with
a "D" are: The A, activating experience; B, belief; C, the consequences
of belief'; and D, disputing irrational beliefs.
The Activating Experience
Stage A is known as the activating experience.
For David the activating experience occurs when Stephanie, his supervisor, gives
him directives. David stated, "As soon as she starts in on me about I must
do this or I must do that, I get tense and angry. Who does she think she is? I
know my job and what it takes to run my department well! She treats me like some
kind of a moron." Thus, for David, the activating experience was Stephanie's
Stage B of RET examines what the client believes about the
activating experience. When I asked David why Stephanie's directives made him
angry, David stated, "Obviously, she doesn't think I'm good enough at my
job, or even that I'm a good person!" Can you see in this statement how David
validated his personal belief and insecurities about himself?
He believed Stephanie
felt that he was inadequate, however what he was really doing was transplanting
his own beliefs as being Stephanie's beliefs. By transplanting his personal beliefs
to Stephanie, David was then able to justify continuing his Deliberately Opposing
behavior. Think of a client you're currently treating, would examination of the
B, Beliefs, be beneficial?
Consequences of Belief
Stage C illustrates the consequences of the
client's beliefs about the activating experience. I asked David how he tried to
counteract his boss' advice. David responded, "I try really hard to find
other ways to do the things she wants. I want to prove to Stephanie that my way
is just as good, that I am just as good as she is. That's why I don't follow her
rules!" The consequences of David's belief and the result of his deliberate
opposing behavior is that he is at odds with Stephanie. However, this results
in a fear of losing his job. With a client whom you're currently treating, what
is a consequence of a belief of theirs?
Disputing Irrational Beliefs
After the A, activating experience,
B, belief, and C, consequences of the belief, is Stage D. Stage D is disputing
irrational beliefs. Have you found that Stage D helps clients to see how their
irrational beliefs keep them from clearly understanding the activating experience?
With David, his feelings of inadequacy kept him from developing a positive working
relationship with his boss. As you know, this can be a very tenuous stage in therapy.
Ask yourself, with a client who is caught in the lifetrap of deliberately opposing
and feels they're unlovable, where do you draw the line of client confrontation so as not to risk alienating the client? Here is how I drew this line with David.
I said to David, "Do you think it's possible that Stephanie was trying to
give you information she felt essential for the smooth running of your department?"
David responded, "I guess that could be. I hadn't really thought about it
that way. She reminds me of my mother who always laid down the law to me and my
dad. You know the kind of thing mothers say, 'Scrape your feet before coming in,
use a napkin, and all that b.s. I just react from the gut, just like when I was
little, whenever I feel like someone is ordering me around."
In this section, we discussed Ellis' Rational Emotive Therapy (that is: explaining the activating
experience, discussing beliefs held about the activating experience, examining
the consequences of those beliefs, and disputing irrational beliefs) helped David
who had fallen into a Deliberately Opposing pattern with Stephanie, his supervisor.
RET helped David better understand how his adversarial actions reinforced his
basic view of life that he was unlovable.
the next section, we will discuss presenting Affirmations to clients in a three-tiered
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
McCarthy, M. H., Wood, J. V., & Holmes, J. G. (2017). Dispositional pathways to trust: Self-esteem and agreeableness interact to predict trust and negative emotional disclosure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(1), 95–116.
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.
When using Ellis' RET with an oppositional client, which stage of the
ABCs could easily result in alienating your client? To select and enter your answer go to .