Saturday, 2 January 2016

Doormat Syndrome – the need to be needed and self hatred!

People will sometimes present with the ‘people treat me like a doormat’ syndrome. Doormats are used to wipe dirt from the soles of shoes. Not a very attractive analogy but this image of self, engenders strong feelings of anger and sadness in the sufferer.

The client will talk of feeling angry towards the other (s), of extreme sadness because of feeling ‘not wanted.’ Why is this the case? What can she do?

Talking to a trusted other is always a good start as she acknowledges that she doesn’t feel OK and wants to feel better but this is only the beginning of her journey of healing.

As counsellor I am interested in her story her. What are the significant events in her life and what hurdles have been placed before her and how did she deal with those challenges?

It will become evident as her story unfolds that she has developed some destructive, self-defeating personal philosophies (habits of believing) that she is not aware of at this point. My job is to help her become aware of these beliefs and how they drive her intense destructive feelings and behaviours. 

I will explain Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance and use it to:
  •           Identify what her constructed beliefs are
  •           Explain  how they have been constructed
  •           Parse out significant self-defeating and irrational beliefs she holds and maintains are true
  •           Help challenge and change those errant beliefs
  •           Set goals and teach tools that will help her onwards

It will not be easy to change habits of thinking feeling and behaving that have been practised over a lifetime and deeply embedded in the subconscious but it is possible; with hard work and application!

Albert Ellis said the job of therapist was to ‘cherchez le should,’ look for the implied or articulated should in counselling discourse. Our client has developed a few should beliefs that need urgent attention.

We agree that she has a firm conviction that she should always minister to others (I need to be needed) that she is a good person in doing good and that others should recognise that she is a good person for doing good. When she doesn’t get her just rewards she feels bad (they should acknowledge me!)

In a nutshell Ellis would say in his inimitable way that she is a love slob where the need to be needed reigns supreme over rational thought.
And so the work begins:
  •      Challenge her ‘need to be needed’ philosophy (where’s the evidence that supports this? Do you need an ambulance if someone takes umbrage if you assert want you want/prefer/say no?)
  •      Work on unconditionally accepting herself (I affirm of myself). Don’t give others consent to diminish you!
  •      Practise, practise, practise thinking rational self (and other) helpful thinking until they become automatic habits, characteristic of her new and confident self.
I am always aware that my interactions with others help me to hone my own counselling skills and I am grateful for these opportunities. It takes courage to reach out to another for assistance and I value that privilege. My clients are my teachers and they gift me the chance to become better at what I do. I’m getting closer to where Einstein says I can be, explaining in simple terms what I know!

 Isn’t that what teaching’s all about?

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