Sunday, 1 February 2015

Rational Emotive Behaviour Counselling - anxiety in young students and what to do about it

I find with some students that their anxiety is driven by the mistaken belief that somehow they themselves are responsible for how the teacher feels. Where would this idea come from? As discussed in many previous posts the young person would have constructed a set of personal beliefs that explain how and why others feel and act as they do. 

Consider a moment what a child might deduce when exposed to the following statements from adults around them:

'You make me happy when you do that.'
'You make me angry when you do that.'
'You make me feel whatever when you do that ...!'

They would conclude that 'my actions; what I do is responsible for how my mum/dad/teacher feels. I will try hard to be 'good' so that they feel good (because it's my responsibility). I don't want to 'make' them sad or mad so I'd better be on my best behaviour. I must behave and 'be good'.'

I'm OK!
As Albert Ellis reminds us when we have must expectations about ourselves (musturbation), others and the world we set ourselves up for great discomfort because we place ourselves often in a no win situation. What's the chances of our little friend stuffing up sometimes and making the odd mistake. Highly likely I'd say and when that happens 'back to shithood' she goes as Ellis would say!

Once she understands that as constructivists we make the strength of our feelings and the behaviours we make because of how we think she will be free of this affliction. The following is a transcript of counselling sessions I have had with students:

Me: You look sad.
Sofi: Yes I feel sad.
Me: What happened?
Sofi: The teacher shouted.
Me: How'd you feel?
Sofi: Scared.
Me: You feel/felt sad and scared because the teacher shouted?
Sofi: Yes. I do/did.
Me: Why was the teacher mad?
Sofi: Because someone talked and we shouldn't talk when the teacher is talking.
Me: So the students made your teacher mad is that right?
Sofi: Yes

Six year old Sofi believes that she and her classmates are responsible for how the teacher feels. She is in a high state of anxiety a lot of the time because no matter what happens she feels responsible and 'really doesn't want anyone to talk when the teacher is talking.'

It is important for teachers and adult role models to let students know that how they feel and behave is their own personal responsibility i.e. their thinking makes them act and feel as they do. Then children like little Sofi will not feel so bad and not take responsibility for how others feel so readily. 

Unconditional Self Acceptance

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