Sunday, 26 February 2017

When You Have the World at Your Feet - REBT and feeling OK

Delilah Types shares some thoughts about depression. It was prompted by recent media reports about swim Olympian Grant Hackett and his ongoing struggle with his mental health. 'Delilah' has had her own challenges which she has shared with us in her blog.

Some reports seem to express surprise that someone so talented and gifted and who presumably has substantial material wealth could possibly fall victim to depression. Others will say that depression will strike anyone any time no matter what their personal circumstances, material or otherwise. When the world is (seemingly) at their feet!

Dr. Albert Ellis (creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy) said that as constructivists we actively create our own habits of thinking. He maintains that our personal beliefs (knowledge) about ourselves, others and life (our personal philosophies) in general will affect how we respond emotionally and behaviourally to challenging events.

If we accept this theory then we can argue that any 2 people who have e.g. performed badly at a job interview, will experience the situation differently.


Poor interview performance

Thinking reaction:

Person 1: That was a shit interview. I'm a hopeless twat. What's the point!
Person 2: That didn't go so well. I may have to lift my game. Back to the drawing board.

Feelings/behaviour reaction:

Person 1: Depressed, angry and ashamed - excessive drinking, self harming
Person 2: Disappointed, annoyed - life as usual, review past performance and refine, fine tune

The same event is experienced differently by these two people. Why? Because they have constructed different 'belief rules,'  i.e. personal philosophies that are linked to how they feel and how they behave in response to life's happenings.

I don't know Grant Hackett but I can suggest an explanation as to why he may be feeling depressed and angry according to REBT.

He has been conditioned from an early age to hone and develop his athletic capacities to an elite level. He has learnt that his worth is linked to his and others high expectations of him. He has learnt to expect nothing less than his best times and performances and he believes that people rely on his prowess and achievements to feel good about themselves. He doesn't want to let them down. Their view of him becomes his main motivation for his drive to be consistently excellent. He doesn't just desire others approval he needs it. He will as a fallible human being fall short of his own high expectations and it is how he responds to these disappointments which is key to his well being.

Unconditional self acceptance is the antidote to self downing and feelings associated with low self worth. The hallmark of the perfectionist is to put all her self worth eggs in the same self worth basket which puts her on track to be the proverbial basket case! (I must do well. People should always think well of me). 

Developing and cultivating unconditional self acceptance is the goal. It can be a long road to wellness but it can be achieved by working hard at it.

In a sense we are the architects of our own depression; no one or nothing makes us feel as low as we get. It is how we estimate our worth as human beings that determines how we respond to failure. Can we be good? Can we be bad? Are not being and doing different? What's the difference between I am bad and I've done badly? If I am not what I do how can I be a failure for not doing well at that interview? Or If I am what I do then failing at an interview will mean I am a failure (I am what I have done ie a failure)!

These are the philosophical questions that we can choose to engage with because only in doing this will we be able the challenge and change those unrealistic and irrational ideas about ourselves and consequently we will feel better and act more self helpfully.

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