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In the last section, we discussed the pathological critic. I find that these critics begin with an arsenal of shoulds which can be linked to five determining factors of the strength of the self critic. These five factors are the degree to which issues of taste, personal needs, safety, or good judgment were mislabeled as moral imperatives, the degree to which parents failed to differentiate between behavior and identity, the frequency of the forbidding gestures, the consistency of forbidding gestures, and the frequency with which forbidding gestures were tied to parental anger or withdrawal.
In this section, we will discuss responding to the critic. Once your client, like Sam, begins to hear internal criticism as dysotonic, he or she can begin responding. I find that ineffective response styles manifest in three different ways. These are passive response, aggressive response, and passive aggressive response. To foster effective response styles we will discuss techniques for acknowledgement, clouding and probing in later sections. As you listen to these three cognitive behavior therapy techniques for effective response styles in the next two sections, consider your client. How might you implement these techniques to help your client improve his or her self esteem?
# 1 - Aggressive Response
# 2 - Passive Response
# 3 - Passive Aggressive Response
Two ways passive aggressive responses lower client’s self esteem:
Would you agree that a consistently passive aggressive response style is hard to change? I find that because passive aggressive response styles are so indirect, it can be difficult to break the cycle and foster honest, straightforward communication. Let’s discuss ways to do this through effective response styles.
♦ Effective Response Styles
♦ CBT Technique: Acknowledgement
4 Steps to Help Sam Acknowledge Accurate Criticism
Here’s an example of how Sam responded to criticism with a simple acknowledgement. Sam stated, "When I got in my car to drive to work last night, the tank was on ‘E.’ I almost ran out of gas and was late to work because I had to stop and fill up. I kept hearing my critic downing me for not filling it up the day before." I asked Sam, "How did you respond to your critic?"
Sam answered, "Well, I just thought, ‘You’re right. I noticed I was low on gas and I should have either put some in then or I should have planned to stop on my way to work. Thanks for the thought." Would you agree that is all that needs to be said? Essentially, no explanation or apology or pledge to reform is needed. The responding client, like Sam, acknowledges a minor lapse, thank the critic and the case is closed.
Advanced acknowledgement takes this CBT technique a step further and turns an external critic into an ally. For example, a client’s supervisor states that the client’s office is a mess and asks how the client ever finds anything. The client may state, "You’re right. My office is a mess, and I can never find what I want. How do you think I could reorganize my filing system?"
Using acknowledgement as a technique for effective response has several advantages. How might your client benefit?
In this section, we discussed responding to the critic. I find that ineffective response styles manifest in three different ways. These are passive response, aggressive response, and passive aggressive response. To foster effective response styles we discussed a technique for acknowledgement.
- Lee, J., Joo, E., & Choi, K., (2013) Perceived Stress and Self-esteem Mediate the Effects of Work-related Stress on Depression. Stress & Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 29(1), 75-81.
In the next section, we will continue our discussion on effective response styles by focusing on the technique of clouding the critic. As you will see, clouding is done by agreeing in part, agreeing in probability, and agreeing in principle.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
McGrath, D. S., Sherry, S. B., Stewart, S. H., Mushquash, A. R., Allen, S. L., Nealis, Logan J., & Sherry, D. L. (Jul 2012). Reciprocal relations between self-critical perfectionism and depressive symptoms: Evidence from a short-term, four-wave longitudinal study. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 44(3), 169-181.
“Self-critical perfectionism and depressive and anxious symptoms over 4 years: The mediating role of daily stress reactivity”: Correction to Mandel et al. (Mar 2017). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(2), 232.