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The Role of Self-Esteem and Well-Being
Life Traps continuing education social worker CEUs

Section 3
Vulnerable Self-Esteem (Part 3)

CEU Question 3 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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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.

In the last track we discussed the four steps of depersonalization. Now let's look at a client's cost-benefit analysis of Deliberately Opposing.

# 3 The Cost of Deliberately Opposing
A third way I've found that a client creates a lifetrap is when they conduct a Cost-Benefits Analysis and conclude that the benefits of Deliberately Opposing outweigh the costs of their adversarial behavior. As you'll see, David, a 28 year old department manager for a computer company, like Zachary, had problems at work. David fell into a Deliberately-Opposing Lifetrap.

Unlike Zachary who was in to avoidant behavior, David was what he termed a "rule breaker." He was having problems with his boss Stephanie. David stated angrily, "I didn't put the required personnel memo into Juan's folder. I just didn't think it was necessary. I assumed getting the work done was more important than following Stephanie's rule about the memo. As the department manager, isn't that my decision to make? Besides, we all know rules are made to be broken."

In talking further with David, it became obvious David felt that the benefits of disregarding Stephanie's rules or requirement about the memo created a feeling of control in his own life. David's need for control outweighed the cost of the reprimand he received for his failure to put the memo in Juan's folder. When I asked him why he felt a need for this control, he stated, "My supervisor, Stephanie, is always trying to tell me how to do my job, how to act and how to 'be a better person.' I'm my own person; I'll do things the way I want."

Take a minute to think of your "David," whose need for control creates a Lifetrap of Deliberate Opposition which results in a feeling of "I'm Unlovable." What's your therapeutic strategy with your "David?"

Ellis' Rational Emotive Therapy
For David, I decided to use Ellis' Rational Emotive Therapy, RET, to address this lifetrap he was creating for himself. I found RET allowed David to examine his Oppositional behavior. As a review, the four RET stages known as the ABCs with a "D" are: The A, activating experience; B, belief; C, the consequences of belief'; and D, disputing irrational beliefs.

-- A. The Activating Experience
Stage A is known as the activating experience. For David the activating experience occurs when Stephanie, his supervisor, gives him directives. David stated, "As soon as she starts in on me about I must do this or I must do that, I get tense and angry. Who does she think she is? I know my job and what it takes to run my department well! She treats me like some kind of a moron." Thus, for David, the activating experience was Stephanie's directives.

-- B. Belief
Stage B of RET examines what the client believes about the activating experience. When I asked David why Stephanie's directives made him angry, David stated, "Obviously, she doesn't think I'm good enough at my job, or even that I'm a good person!" Can you see in this statement how David validated his personal belief and insecurities about himself?

He believed Stephanie felt that he was inadequate, however what he was really doing was transplanting his own beliefs as being Stephanie's beliefs. By transplanting his personal beliefs to Stephanie, David was then able to justify continuing his Deliberately Opposing behavior. Think of a client you're currently treating, would examination of the B, Beliefs, be beneficial?

-- C. Consequences of Belief
Stage C illustrates the consequences of the client's beliefs about the activating experience. I asked David how he tried to counteract his boss' advice. David responded, "I try really hard to find other ways to do the things she wants. I want to prove to Stephanie that my way is just as good, that I am just as good as she is. That's why I don't follow her rules!" The consequences of David's belief and the result of his deliberate opposing behavior is that he is at odds with Stephanie. However, this results in a fear of losing his job. With a client whom you're currently treating, what is a consequence of a belief of theirs?

-- D. Disputing Irrational Beliefs
After the A, activating experience, B, belief, and C, consequences of the belief, is Stage D. Stage D is disputing irrational beliefs. Have you found that Stage D helps clients to see how their irrational beliefs keep them from clearly understanding the activating experience? With David, his feelings of inadequacy kept him from developing a positive working relationship with his boss. As you know, this can be a very tenuous stage in therapy.

Ask yourself, with a client who is caught in the lifetrap of deliberately opposing and feels they're unlovable, where do you draw the line of client confrontation so as not to risk alienating the client? Here is how I drew this line with David. I said to David, "Do you think it's possible that Stephanie was trying to give you information she felt essential for the smooth running of your department?"

David responded, "I guess that could be. I hadn't really thought about it that way. She reminds me of my mother who always laid down the law to me and my dad. You know the kind of thing mothers say, 'Scrape your feet before coming in, use a napkin, and all that b.s. I just react from the gut, just like when I was little, whenever I feel like someone is ordering me around."

On this track, we discussed Ellis' Rational Emotive Therapy (that is: explaining the activating experience, discussing beliefs held about the activating experience, examining the consequences of those beliefs, and disputing irrational beliefs) helped David who had fallen into a Deliberately Opposing pattern with Stephanie, his supervisor. RET helped David better understand how his adversarial actions reinforced his basic view of life that he was unlovable.

In the next track we will discuss presenting Affirmations to clients in a three-tiered format.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
McCarthy, M. H., Wood, J. V., & Holmes, J. G. (2017). Dispositional pathways to trust: Self-esteem and agreeableness interact to predict trust and negative emotional disclosure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(1), 95–116. 

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.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 3
When using Ellis' RET with an oppositional client, which stage of the ABCs could easily result in alienating your client? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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