Monday, 8 September 2014

A Broken Heart and REBT - the need for approval

A young student entered my office sobbing, inconsolable. Her buddy from another class who usually works with her, chose to work with someone else. This was a major disappointment, catastrophic even and as the tears subsided and she composed herself she began to tell me her story. As I listened I was again reminded of the danger of relying on another's acceptance and approval to affirm ones worth. 

I attempted to help Sofia put into perspective the 'badness' of the situation and talked about other issues or problems that could possibly have been worse. One example we discussed was how a broken leg might be worse than the situation outlined above. After a moments consideration Sofia said the following before she again burst into tears: 'A broken leg isn't as bad as a broken heart and she broke my heart!'

When Sofia said that 'She broke my heart' she is applying an A=C philosophy i.e. she didn't choose to do what I wanted her to do (work with her). She is saying that 'because she is not giving me what I must have it is so terrible and I can't stand it. This is just awful.' The depth of 'heartbreak' she will experience depends on how much she believes at B, that she needs this other persons attention/approval. This would suggest an A=C belief that 'I am only worthwhile if this significant other is my friend, gives me approval.' Therefore the significant other who sometimes helps her is not making her (Sofia) so sad or so heartbroken. It is Sofia herself! This would suggest that Sofia needs a lot of confidence work (Unconditional Self Acceptance) so that she will eventually believe at B, that whilst she would like (strongly desire) the approval of significant others she doesn't need it to be worthwhile i.e. an A+B=C philosophy.

As long as Sofia believes others determine how valuable she is (her worth) she is at risk. Hence her emotional fragility and tendency to break down when things don't go so well for her.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Positive Psychology - according to the Gospel of St. Albert

The ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance illustrates how feelings and behaviour at C are determined by what happens A and B, what we believe. This is an A+B=C philosophy. What happens when our constructed view of ourselves equates to an A=C way of believing?

An A=C philosophy ‘I need you to like me …’ is problematic for our less resilient kids. 

A is what happens e.g. 'someone has rejected me!' and C is how I feel and act in response to A e.g. 'I feel really sad because she has rejected me so I stay at home etc' The depth of despair and how long it lasts will depend on how self accepting the person is.

If a child ‘needs’ the approval of others he/she is at risk of depression, anger, anxiety because their psychological well being depends on how others view them. We want students to have such a strong sense of self-worth that rejection and failure will not be as damaging as could otherwise be.

It is easy to say 'you're OK no matter what' but how do you demonstrate how this is true, factual? Here are some strategies you can try!

1. Draw the outline of 3 people with one full of pluses (+) one full of minuses (-) and one containing both (more pluses of course). Discuss which best represents us i.e. are we perfect, are we 'rubbish' or are we a composite of each? Does a negative attribute take away all the positive ones? Does someones negative opinion of you take away your positive attributes?

2. Let children know they are not their behaviour. Tell them they can act badly but that doesn't make them bad.

3. Tell them that another's opinion of them does not mean they are that opinion i.e. they don't have to accept another persons appraisal of them (refer to 1. above)

4. Always give behaviour specific feedback and don't use global rating terms like naughty, bad, lazy etc.

5. Train yourself not to say 'good boy/girl.' Why? Because they can choose good or bad behaviours but they are always worthwhile!