Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Self-Acceptance and the Resilient Child

Unconditional Self Acceptance (USA) is a habit of thinking that the resilient person has constructed over a lifetime. It is deeply held and is reflected in the behaviour and demeanor of the individual. You will observe the self-accepting person try new things readily, not being overly concerned about the prospect of failure, as she knows failing doesn’t equate with ‘being’ a failure. You will notice a self accepting person experience rejection philosophically, again understanding rejection or disapproval of others doesn’t render her a ‘reject’. USA affords the individual a degree of ‘psychological immunity’ to adversity. We all experience rejection, failure and challenges and it is the resilient person who is better placed to deal with these in a healthy way. Dr. Albert Ellis, creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, encourages us to help our younger people to develop the capacity to ride the hard knocks successfully, to work through problems, to hang tough and believe that things can work out. Jonas Salk (developer of the polio vaccine) is on record as having said that he would be interested in researching ways of psychologically immunising children and how this could enhance their physical well being. There is a large body of evidence that supports the link between mental well being and physical health, so USA is very important in promoting emotional and physical well being. Specifically individuals who unconditionally accept themselves experience sadness, disappointment, concern or annoyance rather than depression, anger or anxiety in the event of difficult circumstances. Conversely those whose self worth is tethered to how well they do at tasks or how much they are esteemed by significant others are prone to depression and other emotional and behavioural dysfunction. If you want more information on USA please refer to earlier posts. The remaining discussion will focus on some ideas we can use to help others who may have issues with self worth. Tell your students, yourself and anyone who’ll listen that:

·      Thinking feeling and behaving are intertwined, interlinked. In other words when we experience emotions they are attached to our thinking (perception, interpretation of events) and our choices of action (behaviour).
·      Helpful habits of thinking help us and unhelpful habits of thinking (believing) hinder us.
·      USA is a helpful (true) habit of believing i.e. ‘I believe I am always worthwhile even if you don’t or if I do badly at a task.’
·      Conditional Self Acceptance (CSA) is an unhelpful (untrue) habit of thinking i.e. ‘I’m only worthwhile if you think so and when I do well at important tasks.’
·      Always give feedback that is behaviour and not person based, i.e. ‘you did that well’ rather than ‘good girl!’
·      No one is good or bad but they are always worthwhile. They are human beings not human doings! I.e. 'doing' good is not 'being' good and 'doing' bad is not 'being' bad.

These ideas will help your children develop the belief that ‘my value is not diminished by rejection or failure. What I think about me is more important than how others may view me. I can fail at something but never am I a failure and I can be rejected but never am I a reject.’

Remind yourselves daily of this truism bequeathed us my the late Dr. Albert Ellis who said:

'Unconditional self-acceptance is the basic antidote to much of your depressed self-downing feelings.'

USA is a rational belief well worth cultivating.