Describe and evaluate two approaches to the treatment of self-defeating behaviour
Any behaviour you engage in that is self-sabotaging, that takes you away from what you want, or that distracts you from your goals is behaviour that is self-defeating. These behaviours zap your vitality, leaving you exhausted and without access to the powerful energy you need to create your best life. Self-defeating behaviour is the idea that sometimes people knowingly do things that will cause them to fail or bring them trouble.
It is defined as “any deliberate or intentional behaviour that has clear, definitely or probably negative effects on the self or on the self’s projects” (Scher & Baumeister 1988).
Many theories as to why humans sometimes behave in a self-destructive ways have been examined by many psychologists. One proposed theory that answers this question is the Freudian argument, which states that “people have an innate death drive that impels them to pursue their own downfall and death”. This argument also concludes that people do harm themselves deliberately, even though they sometimes are not conscious of this. “Self-defeating behaviours are especially common when people feel that others less favourably than the people desire”. Self-Defeating Behaviours – General Characteristics
At one point or another, a self-defeating behaviour works to help an individual deal with a hurtful or threatening situation. Helps an individual deal with psychic discomfort. Helps a person deal with a situation that is a threat, it never the best behaviour that could be used in a particular situation Eventually, self-defeating behaviours guarantee the consequences that the person is trying to avoid in practicing it. Why People Choose to Defeat themselves? The speed of choice, seems easier A lack of information about alternatives Tunnel vision The cycle dominates their life I will give my example on self-defeating behaviour.
I always had difficulties on my relationships because it was very hard for me to trust a man. When I met my husband, even with absolutely no evidences that he was having any kind of affair, any lateness or the fact that he didn’t answer my calls could drive me absolute mad and in few minutes a could imagine a big scene on my mind, resulting in big arguments, tears, anger and frustration. I couldn’t live one day without checking his mobile, e-mails…. And I realize that he was doing the same with me, starting getting suspicious, asking too many questions, checking my calls, texts and e-mails.
We used to have a very tense relationship, full of ups and downs. A vicious circle. Because of my Counselling course, I started my personal therapy (psychodynamic approach) and we started talking about my childhood. I remember that when I was 7, 8 years old how my dad used to behave with my mum, having affairs and I witnessed many arguments about his behaviours. When I was 12, while looking for something in my mum’s drawers, I found her diary and I realized how she was suffering because of my dad’s behaviours.
I promise myself that I would never ever let a man behave like that with me. So, when I “suspected” that my husband was having an affair I became very hostile, paranoiac and extremely unhappy. This behaviour made my husband very sad and disappointed with me, resulting in a very difficult times in our marriage. I remember that on my previous relationship, my boyfriend told me that I built a “wall” to protect myself and I would never be 100% in a relationship, because I was too worried about how to protect my feelings.
Working on my self-development with my therapist, I realize the reason of my self-defeating behaviour and also how to deal with my “imagination or fantasies”. The communication with my husband improved a lot, now I can say that I am more aware of my feelings, my flaws, and we have a much better communication, when I don’t like something I talk and we try to sort out instead of be hostile and aggressive, and also with my improvement he stopped as well been suspicious about me.
It has been show in recent experiments, for example that when we meet someone new we impose preconceptions upon them based on our childhood relationships. Unwittingly, we confuse them with characters from the drama that was once our family life. In fact, the extent to which we repeat our childhood experiences is quite extraordinary. How we react to our friends as well as who we pick as a lover, our abilities and interests at work, in fact almost everything about our psychology as an adult is continually reflecting our childhood in our day-to day experience. Emotional understanding is a powerful tool.
An understanding relationship can allow an individual to develop their capacities to feel, to think, to understand themselves and others better. Facing feared reality, working through the associated feelings and fantasies and grieving for real losses brings long-term reduction in anxiety. Any kind of illusion or defence is maintained by and maintains anxiety. Problems can arise if very infantile phantasies do not get modified through play and through age-appropriate relationships with real people. Problems with our parents affect our phantasies about the world.
We have phantasy relationship with our parents even if they are not there, so someone whose father disappeared when they were two may expect all men to disappear from their lives after about two years, and may behave in such a way to make it happen. Their phantasies about sexual partners and fathers may remain on a level more appropriate to the knowledge and beliefs of a two year old. Later experiences may lead to modifications to such beliefs, but phantasies created very early on under painful conditions (such a loss) are hard to change since recurrence of the pain is feared.
Change depends on modifying the underlying phantasies we have about the world and which we use to orient ourselves. In therapy or counselling the client has the opportunity to experience a relationship in which her or his emotional state can be understood, tolerated, recognized and felt in a way which they have not been before. The aim of psychodynamic counselling is to increase the client’s capacity to use and accept more aspects of themselves; to free their process of thought and feeling and to remove existent damaging restrictions on them.
New, better possibilities for dealing with internal and external remain after counselling ends. It has long been recognized that psychodynamic psychotherapy is highly effective and leads to long-term changes, preserving a person’s identity while enabling him or her to live and relate more fully, and enjoy a deeper life experience while relieving everyday negative mood and anxiety symptoms. Focus on affect and expression of emotion. Psychodynamic therapy encourages exploration and discussion of the full range of a patient’s emotions.
The therapist helps the patient describe and put words to feelings, including contradictory feelings, feelings that are troubling or threatening, and feelings that the patient may not initially be able to recognize or acknowledge. Exploration of attempts to avoid distressing thoughts and feelings. People do a great many things, knowingly and unknowingly, to avoid aspects of experience that are troubling. Psychodynamic therapists actively focus on and explore avoidances. Identification of recurring themes and patterns.
Psychodynamic therapists work to identify and explore recurring themes and patterns in patients’ thoughts, feelings, self-concept, relationships, and life experiences. In some cases, a patient may be acutely aware of recurring patterns that are painful or self-defeating but feel unable to escape them. Discussion of past experience (developmental focus). Related to the identification of recurring themes and patterns is the recognition that past experience, especially early experiences of attachment figures, affects our relation to, and experience of, the present.
Psychodynamic therapists explore early experiences, the relation between past and present, and the ways in which the past tends to “live on” in the present. The focus is not on the past for its own sake, but rather on how the past sheds light on current psychological difficulties. The goal is to help patients free themselves from the bonds of past experience in order to live more fully in the present. Focus on interpersonal relations. Psychodynamic therapy places heavy emphasis on patients’ relationships and interpersonal experience (in theoretical terms, object relations and attachment).
Both adaptive and no adaptive aspects of personality and self-concept are forged in the context of attachment relationships, and psychological difficulties often arise when problematic interpersonal patterns interfere with a person’s ability to meet emotional needs. Focus on the therapy relationship. The relationship between therapist and patient is itself an important interpersonal relationship, one that can become deeply meaningful and emotionally charged. To the extent that there are repetitive themes in a person’s relationships and manner of interacting, these themes tend to emerge in some form in the therapy relationship.
Exploration of fantasy life. In contrast to other therapies in which the therapist may actively structure sessions or follow a predetermined agenda, psychodynamic therapy encourages patients to speak freely about whatever is on their minds. When patients do this (and most patients require considerable help from the therapist before they can truly speak freely), their thoughts naturally range over many areas of mental life, including desires, fears, fantasies, dreams, and daydreams (which in many cases the patient has not previously attempted to put into words).
All of this material is a rich source of information about how the person views self and others, interprets and makes sense of experience, avoids aspects of experience, or interferes with a potential capacity to find greater enjoyment and meaning in life. Strong emotions interfere with our brain and stop access to the logical thinking part of the brain. Take for example someone who is afraid of talking in public and finds it difficult to join in. They become nervous, anxious, and fearful as a result and this shuts down the creative part of their brain.
And there is a possibility that such a person lived through a kind of trauma when young for example being shut up by a teacher when trying to come up with an answer, being told off not to interrupt while the teacher was talking. Such a small child most probably felt terrified and humiliated and from then on every time when trying to say something in public a little voice from the unconscious warns that it is dangerous and should not be attempted. In other words we let our subconscious mind run our lives and become slave to our habits.
Our conscious mind should really run our lives, but it rather likes to hide in the background as it feels vulnerable and afraid of getting hurt. It is our ego which runs everything for us and the only way it can do it is by distracting us from accessing our consciousness, therefore all the rushing when we find ourselves in the doing mode. It is like as if we had an inner critic voice that would constantly criticize and we become anxious or pessimistic. I would therefore support any client whose progress is blocked by self-defeating behaviours to learn how to stop doing and learn how to just be.
They can learn more about themselves and their thoughts just by observing them in meditation. They would become aware and learn what type of thoughts they have and if negative ones, steps could be taken to change these to positive ones. Sigmund Freud thought metaphorically of the mind as an iceberg and only the very tip of it he would think of as our conscious mind. He would imagine a water line in that very top bit and this line would be separating the bottom majority of the iceberg covered in water as the unconscious mind and the top above water would be our conscious mind.
Naturally with the unconscious mind being as much as ten times bigger than the conscious mind it has a much bigger say. So if our unconscious mind is storing mainly negative messages and we are trying to re-assure ourselves that we are OK, there will follow a huge attack from the subconscious mind outweighing the positive messages with the negative ones. While meditation can help gain insight into the nature of our negative talks CBT can help to start changing our thoughts from negative to more positive ones. It is usually not events which are the problem but the way we respond to them.
Because people are listening to their inner critic voice they often make claims which are not supported by evidence in other words their thoughts are irrational. If I was conducting a CBT with a client I would question their irrational beliefs, as these lead to unconstructive behaviour. What will also happen is that the original emotion associated with the irrational belief is negative and unhealthy in nature and will turn into a much healthier negative emotion if the irrational belief can be changed to rational.
Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) claims that it is always best to address our emotional problems before dissatisfaction. I think perhaps one of the reasons people make slow progress in their therapy is when they are not able to acknowledge that their behaviour is self-defeating and blame everything on everybody else. They are shifting the responsibility of their life onto other people. “A CBT program for change” Identify your problems Estimate their difficulty Identify the specifically behaviour that is causing the problem.
Identify when, where, and/or with whom the behaviour is practised. Identify the specific inner, outer, minimizing, and disowning techniques that are used to put the behaviour into practice. Catch the behaviour while it is being practiced. Develop replacement techniques. Set goals to challenge them effectively Analyse conclusions and fears. Acknowledge setbacks and breakthroughs. In this essay I have described an example of self-defeating behaviours and the possible treatment.
In CBT there is the possibility to discuss and identify clients’ self-defeating behaviours. Once identified their irrational thoughts can be questioned and changed to rational thoughts which will result in helping them eradicate sabotage. But people have to be ready to accept responsibility for their lives. In my example I would find the above approach difficult because I was not ready to acknowledge that I projected my own faults on other people and ends up isolating myself, getting frustrated, angry, as falling out with them by playing the victim.
With clients I would choose more the psychodynamic approach when I would examine with them relationships with parents and give them space to express their feelings which they have been repressing. I found that really works with myself, and the communication between me and my husband really improved and also my self-awareness. To summarize it is not only about which approach works better but about employing the right one according to clients’ needs and time.