Monday, 4 October 2010

APPROVALISM – the philosophy of the ‘love slob’

An approvalist is one who practices the philosophy of Approvalism. An approvalist lives life for the service of others seemingly without thought for self, ministering to the needs of others, making life ‘better’ for them. A good approvalist needs to do for others and her worth is measured according to how others view her and how helpful she can be to others. Approvalists say ‘yes’ to others demands and requests and are ultra sensitive to the needs of others (they must be rescued and saved). If they don’t perform to their own lofty expectations or (quelle catastrophe!) others don’t seem to value them (as they should) then they tend to harshly judge themselves as being ‘bad’ and may down themselves harshly! They will think, ‘I should have known that he needed support. I should have been there. I should have done better. I am a loser. It’s my fault he is in such a mess.’ They may also experience deep anger and direct it towards those ‘who do not appreciate me, after all shouldn’t they be grateful for what I am doing for them?’ (‘They are not good like me they are bad!’).

The approvalist has a ‘help’ compulsion, seeking out others to help even when not invited to. They tend to over empathise with the other, feeling what they feel, experiencing ‘their pain’. Such ‘empaths’ seek to be continuously approved of. They will forever revisit the bottomless ‘well of approval’ as each fix of affirmation is never enough. They don’t believe that they are that worthy of others appreciation and will find it difficult to accept their thanks and praise.

Why would this be so? How could it be that a person would become so dependent on others for their quick and fleeting ‘feel good’ fix? How does one become an approval junkie?

Dr Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy refers to ‘love slobbism’ to describe a person’s self-defeating tendency to think they need the approval of others to be worthwhile. This behaviour is driven by a ‘must’ or a ‘should’ belief based philosophy internalised over years of socialisation amid role models who may have themselves suffered the debilitating effects of ‘musturbation’ i.e. ‘My son/daughter should always ‘make’ me proud and they should always be highly regarded by others. They must not let me down as that would shame me.’ If any of these irrational demands are not met it’s considered to be catastrophic and awful, so awful ‘it cannot be tolerated.’

The approvalist has been taught as a young person that she is 'good' when she does good. When she does as she is told, follows instructions and conforms to rules and expectations she is rewarded and she feels good. She works hard at school and gets good grades but when they are sometimes not good enough, she feels she has let others down and she must try harder next time so they will be pleased. She believes doing bad is being bad!

'The codependent-in-training is taught to walk on eggshells. To ensure survival, the child learns to be extraordinarily sensitive in reading the moods and thoughts of others. The child learns very early to pay attention to and tiptoe around the dysfunctional family members - at the child's expense. These interactions take place silently, implicitly. The child learns to ignore the self's inner needs, instead pretending that all is OK.' Why Be Codependent? by Dr. Irene Matiatos

Her mentors comment on the behaviour of others, expressing approval when they behave correctly, as they should do. They will scoff at those who don’t behave accordingly and may judge them unfairly. They may even feel angry and aggressive when someone happens to be driving in ‘their’ lane on the highway or feel unfairly treated if the person they open the door for does not acknowledge them as they should!

She will notice how her mentors will feel aggrieved when things don’t go their way. The weather, the government, their in-laws etc appear the ‘make’ them so unhappy. She will be harshly criticised when she doesn’t live up to the expectations of her role models and may be compared to other siblings who ‘always do the right thing.’ She will try harder to be the person others want her to be because she believes her value is dependent on the views of others.

In time our subject will have constructed a set of philosophical beliefs that will undermine her efforts to be happy and successful. She believes she must achieve the lofty goals she sets herself, she must meet others approval (or she is hopeless/worthless/a dud). She will often feel overly anxious as she tries to solve the problems of others who must be saved (as she is the only one who can save them!)

The approvalist has learned to be co-dependent, needing, not preferring the approval of significant others. She needs someone to need her, someone to rescue and to depend on her, someone who needs to be needed. If someone needs her then she can indulge her own need to needed. Co-dependency …

'… is a dysfunctional relationship with the self characterized by living through or for another, attempts to control others, blaming others, a sense of victimization, attempts to "fix" others, and intense anxiety around intimacy.'

REBT deems this irrational to the extreme, as the person who has this affliction will feel and act in ways that are self-defeating. She will continue to be at risk as long as she believes that her worth is inextricably linked to the approval of others. What are the options for the approvalist to rehabilitate herself? How can she be delivered from self-sabotaging Conditional Self Acceptance to the light of self helpful Unconditional Self Acceptance?

The approvalist may question how she feels when she doesn’t get the recognition she ‘must’ have. Or maybe not as she may already ‘know’ that she feels angry because a significant other has made her angry. Maybe she doesn’t know at all why she feels as she feels as her only focus has been on others feelings and never her own. She perhaps will direct anger at them either overtly and/or passively. After all someone else has made her angry and therefore he/she deserves to be treated accordingly. What makes her anxious or angry? It is those who don’t agree with her, who don’t acknowledge her, as she believes they should! They are not feeding her addiction to be needed or approved and are therefore a threat to her well being. If they are making her feel this way then it would be logical to remove them from her environment (if they are not there they can’t hurt her however this is not a practical option). Just like a splinter makes inflammation and infection, just remove the splinter and all is well!

Alas physical hurt and emotional hurt are different. In a physical sense if I pinch you, you feel hurt and this would be true of the majority of people. If I don’t acknowledge you, you may feel some degree of emotional hurt. An approvalist will experience more extreme emotional discomfort than a person who is not when they don’t win the approval of significant others. Why? Because the approvalist needs approval and the self-accepting person does not! If the belief that ‘I need the approval of others to be worthwhile’ can be constructed over time then it can be deconstructed and replaced with Unconditional Self Acceptance and as Dr Albert Ellis would say this will deliver the sufferer from the despair of ‘shithood’ to the hope of ‘self worthyness.’

Whilst the co dependent has learned over time to control others and her environment and minister to the needs of others she could now turn her attention to something that has been hitherto ignored: her needs.

This is a major undertaking and the beginning of a journey that will require a lot of hard work and support to get well. The process will be enlightening and challenging and will be explored in a blog to be posted soon.

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