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The Role of Self-Esteem and Well-Being
I'm Unlovbable- Changing your Clients Lifetraps

Section 2
Vulnerable Self-Esteem (Part 2)

Question 2 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples
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Three ways costs outweigh benefits are:
#1. The Cost of Giving-In,
#2. The Cost of Avoiding, and
#3. The Cost of Deliberately Opposing.

#2 - The Cost of Avoiding
The second Cost-Benefit Analysis after "Giving-In" is Avoiding. If you recall, by a Cost-Benefit Analysis, I'm referring to your client's measuring what is gained against what it costs to keep living in the same limited way.

Zachary, a 27 year-old graphic designer, came to me stating his problem was feeling an extreme amount of job stress. When I asked him what he felt was causing his stress, Zachary responded "It's my job, I don't think I'm really qualified for my graphic design job. Every time my boss Max tells me to do something, I pretend I understand even if I don't."

I asked Zachary why he didn't ask his boss to clarify. Zachary stated, "I don't want to ask questions, because I'll look stupid. It just feels safer not to ask." But the cost of trying to stay safe resulted in Zachary spending time worrying. As Zachary stated "I worry constantly about screwing up and losing my job."

As you know, clients develop many avoidant techniques to protect themselves from experiencing negative feelings. In Zachary's case, the benefit of his avoidance of looking stupid, outweighed the cost of poor job performance, as well as the cost of the stress resulting from trying to find the answer on his own.

Four Steps to Depersonalization
With Zachary I used four steps to help him "depersonalize" the actions of Max, his boss. The four steps were: objectifying the situation, describing feelings, verbalizing self-talk, and visualizing future outcomes.

-- Step # 1 Objectifying the Situation
The first step of depersonalizing with Zachary was to objectify the situation. I had Zachary describe the situation in which his boss gave him instructions that he didn't understand. I asked Zachary to describe this situation as if it were a scene in a movie or on TV. He was an impersonal observer. Zachary's impersonal description went something like this, "The owner of the company walks up to a grouping of four cubicles and tells his employee to utilize color-combinations that will cut down on marginal costs."

Do you see how Zachary's description, from the perspective of being a movie, objectified and depersonalized the events? Would a description as an impersonal observer give assistance to a client you're currently treating who is avoidant?

-- Step #2 Describing Feelings
The second step in depersonalizing was describing his feelings. When I asked how the employee felt in this situation, Zachary explained, "I felt inadequate; I went to art school, not business school, so I have no idea what Max meant by cutting down on marginal cost." I have found that this transition from impersonal to personal feeling statements helped Zachary get a clearer picture of his situation with Max. Zachary could now see that Max, his boss, was giving him instructions in a terminology in which he had not been trained. But Max's terminology was conducive to the business environment and was not intended as a maneuver to intentionally intimidate him.

-- Step #3 Verbalizing Self-Talk
After objectifying the situation and describing feelings, the third step in depersonalizing is verbalizing self-talk. I asked Zachary to verbalize his self-talk. I defined self-talk as being the manner in which he explained the situation to himself. Zachary stated "I told myself that Max knows I went to art school, and so he thinks that I'm stupid that I didn't go to business school. Max just uses business terminology to prove I shouldn't be working here." Verbalizing self-talk forced Zachary to acknowledge the negative interpretations he placed on the situation.

-- Step #4 Visualizing Future Outcomes
The fourth and final step after objectifying the situation, describing feelings, and verbalizing self-talk is visualizing future outcomes. I asked Zachary to describe how he would like the interaction to go the next time he was in a similar situation with Max.

Zachary stated, "I'd like to say to Max, 'I'm not sure I quite understand what you mean, could you explain that to me?'" As you can see, Zachary could now look at the situation objectively. Before he was convincing himself that Max thought he was stupid, due to his own insecurities about his an Art school education rather than a Business school education.

These four steps of objectifying the situation, describing feelings, verbalizing self-talk, and visualizing future outcomes, helped Zachary to realize that it was his perceptions of being inadequate, not his boss' perception of being inadequate. This allowed Zachary to work towards being able to ask questions without avoidant behavior.

On this track, we have discussed four step depersonalization to assist your client who feels he or she is unlovable. On the next track we will address the third Cost-Benefit Analysis of Deliberately Opposing.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Duffy, M. E., Lieberman, A., Wonderlich, S. A., Crosby, R. D., Mitchell, J. E., Crow, S. J., Peterson, C. B., Le Grange, D., Bardone-Cone, A. M., & Joiner, T. E. (2020). Identity problems and suicidal ideation severity among women with bulimic-spectrum pathology. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment.

Hassan, R., Willoughby, T., & Schmidt, L. A. (2021). Development of shyness across adolescence: Reactivity, regulation, or both? Developmental Psychology, 57(3), 421–431.

Orth, U., Robins, R. W., Meier, L. L., & Conger, R. D. (2016). Refining the vulnerability model of low self-esteem and depression: Disentangling the effects of genuine self-esteem and narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(1), 133–149. 

Rohmann, E., Hanke, S., & Bierhoff, H.-W. (2019). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism in relation to life satisfaction, self-esteem, and self-construal. Journal of Individual Differences, 40(4), 194–203. 

Sowislo, J. F., Orth, U., & Meier, L. L. (2014). What constitutes vulnerable self-esteem? Comparing the prospective effects of low, unstable, and contingent self-esteem on depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123(4), 737–753.

What are the four steps of depersonalization? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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