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.

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