| Tool #2: Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA)
When people believe they haven't lived up to their own or others expectations, they feel SHAME.
Shame is an important feeling to discuss for a number of reasons. It's often the primary emotional
disturbance that people seek relief from by drinking or using and abusing drugs, or even attempting
suicide. It can also be a secondary disturbance in that:
1) It makes people want to keep what they think and feel, or even do a secret
2) It makes deny there's anything wrong, and pretend there isn't
3) It makes people less likely to accept or ask for help that is available
Dr. Albert Ellis use to sum of this effect by saying, "Shame blocks change".
Low self-esteem is often cited as the cause of much unhealthy, self-defeating behavior. What people call
low self-esteem is really
1) Shame about past and current performances or behavior
2) Anxiety about future ones because of the past
How we view a problem often dictates how we try to solve it. Too often, when we believe people suffer
from low self-esteem, we try to make them feel better about themselves. Unfortunately, for reasons
that will be discussed on subsequent pages, we technically can't do that. However, we can help them
reduce any shame or anxiety they feel.
Shame also often plays out as anger, as people try to protect themselves from feeling ashamed when
confronted by others. Anger gives people a false sense of power, righteousness, permission and
protection. As long as they stay angry, they don't have to feel ashamed. Unfortunately, teachers and
parents often react to the anger rather than recognize it as a way the person is simply trying to protect
him/herself against real and intense shame he/she is generating in their own minds.
The best way to combat shame, and low self-esteem, is to teach people to have Unconditional
Self-Acceptance (USA). You do that by encouraging them to believe that:
Anything they think, feel, say or do, have in the past, or might in the future, is
That doesn't mean it's helpful, healthy or acceptable to others. What people think, feel, say and do often
is not. Understandable simply means:
1) If we put anyone else through exactly what we have each been through, others would
probably end up thinking, feeling, saying and doing much the same things, and
maybe even worse
2) We'll never be the first person in human history to think, feel, say or do something
3) And we'll never be the last either
4) We'll always have a lot of company
This would hopefully help us logically realize that whatever we think, feel, say or do is simply part of
being human. Understandable also means:
5) We all do the best we can at the time, given what our lives have been like before we find
ourselves in situations. We could have done better, but...
6) No one's perfect, everyone makes mistakes. It's why we have so many emergency rooms,
paramedics, police, and therapists. It's why we need laws and consequences.
7) We're all what Dr. Ellis used to call Fallible Human Beings (FHBs) who at times
think, feel, say and do things that make our lives worse instead of better
Hopefully, someone would come to the logical conclusion that though whatever they think, feel, say or
do is not helpful, healthy or acceptable to others, it is understandable, part of being human, and nothing
to be ashame of.
Unconditional Other Acceptance (UOA) comes from looking at what other people think, feel, say or do
the same way. It has many pluses for us and them.
| Tool #8: Recognizing when people have Mistaken Goals
Rudolph Dreikurs watch children misbehave in classrooms, and said that when they do, they typically
have one or more of four "Mistaken" goals. He called them Attention, Power, Revenge, and Avoidance of
Failure. They were mistaken because the student got some immediate satisfaction or reward, but in
doing so, made it less likely they would get what they could, and might really want in the long run.
People have similar mistaken goals outside the classroom. Another common one is Withdrawal,
Avoidance and Relief. They often try to withdraw from or avoid unpleasantness in their lives, and get
relief from the feelings that go with such unpleasantness, if only temporarily.
| Tool #9: Evaluating your own thoughts, feelings and actions
As noted above, it's perfectly understandable for people to think, feel, say and do things that make them
feel worse than they need to, and that make their lives worse instead of better. It's part of being human.
However, no one reacts well to being told they are doing something wrong, especially young people,
and especially those who have been told many time that they are.
That's why it's much better for all concerned if people can learn to self-evaluate their own thoughts,
feelings and actions. They can do so by asking some simple questions of themselves:
1) What do I really want? How do I really want to feel?
2) How's it working for me to think, feel, say and do what I do now?
3) Does the way I think or look at things allow me to feel the way I'd really like to?
Does what I think, feel, say and do allow me to get what I really want
4) Does it make my life better or worse to think, feel, say and do what I do now?
5) If I keep thinking what I do now, and looking at things the way I do, will it be easier or harder
to feel the way I want to in the future? If I keep thinking, feeling, saying and doing what I
do now, will it be easier or harder to get what I really want in the future?
When someone is involved in a relationship, there's an additional question:
6) If someone else thinks, feels, says or does things the way this person does, am I likely to
ever feel the way I want to with them? Am I likely to ever get what I really want with them,
or from them?
The answers to these questions are usually obvious. They just need to be asked.
It's been said that if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always
gotten. Likewise, if you keep thinking the way you always have, you'll probably keep feeling the way
you've always felt. If you want to feel better, and have things turn out better, you have to think, feel, say
and do something different
"The problems of man are man-made. They can be solved by man" JFK
"You can't solve a problem with the same mind that created it" Albert Einstein
| Tool #10: Understanding why change is hard, and what it
takes to make changes
Everything we think, feel, say and do is the product of connections made between nerve cells in our
brains. If we use a connection over and over again, it becomes a RUT. It then become automatic to
think, feel, say or do something. That could be a good or bad thing. Ruts are why people recreate their
past, and why their history becomes their destiny. That could be good or bad as well. Brain
physiology can work for us, or against us.
Once we create such "ruts", we can't get rid of them. That's what makes it hard to change. We can
only make new ones. To change, we need to first make a new connection for thinking, feeling, saying
and doing things differently. Then we need to use that new connection over and over again until IT
becomes a RUT and can compete with our old ones. However, we can always slip back into our old
RUTS at any time, and often will. It's part of being human to do so. Remembering this can help us have
both USA or Unconditional Self-Acceptance for ourselves, and UOA or Unconditional Other Accpetance