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I'm Unlovbable- Changing your Clients Lifetraps

Section 7
Self-Esteem and Motivated Perceptions of Acceptance

Question 7 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed power imbalances in relationships as a result of Lifetraps.

In this section, we'll explore the use of metaphors to help clients find closure.

Have you found that clients suffering from Lifetraps often become depressed due to self-comparisons? Christy, a 19 year old student who we discussed in the last section, stated she often felt depressed. Christy's depression seemed to stem from her feeling of being "Unlovable". As you recall, Christy was dealing with a power imbalance in her relationship with her now ex-boyfriend Jason.

Christy stated, "I start thinking about what is "lovable" about me, but the problem is that I also start thinking about how fat I am compared to Jason's new girlfriend, Jen." Christy went on to say "I think to myself, 'If I were more like Jen, Jason would be with me now.' Then I get caught up in thinking about how much I want my parents to apologize to me for the things they did when I was young that led me to feel that I wasn't good enough for Jason."

Cake-and-Icing Principle - 3 Steps
Do you agree? Clients often know what kind of an outcome they want, but knowing what they can realistically get isn't easy. Client's "wishful thinking" often gets in the way of, delays, or totally stifles their growth. How do you address wishful thinking in a session with a client? I call wishful thinking the Principle of Cake-and-Icing. The cake is the solid part, it has substance. The icing is the extra or the fluff. If you were hungry, you could feel satisfied with the cake more easily than the icing.

Step # 1 - The Cake: Clearly State How You Were Hurt & What You Want
Here's how this worked with Christy. I asked Christy to think about the Cake-and-Icing Principle in regard to the apology she feels she needs from her parents for making her feel she wasn't good enough for Jason. Christy stated, "I need to believe that they didn't really want me to feel unloved and unwanted. I need to believe that my parents making me feel unwanted or unlovable was an accident, or unintentional. I would like for them to apologize, and explain to me why I wasn't important to them or, I guess, important enough to them."

Step # 2 - The Icing: Eliciting an Apology
I've found that for a client, often the act of clearly stating how they were hurt by another is most important for closure or the cake so to speak. But actually eliciting an apology is the icing and may not be a realistic option. As you know, it's important for clients to understand that they may never get an apology from certain people. Have you found that this is especially true regarding childhood abuse or neglect when the victim seeks an apology years later? Clearly stating what they would want is the cake, and actually having the other person do it is the Icing. Another metaphor for this is having a person do what you want them to do might be the Cherry-on-top-of-the-Sundae.

I asked Christy if she could apply the Cake-and-Icing or the Cherry-on-top metaphor attitude towards not receiving an apology from her parents. Christy stated how she felt, "My parents feel so strongly about being right; they can't bring themselves to apologize for their actions to me." Christy stated, "Last week I was talking with my dad about how he called me a stupid kid as a child and how much that hurt me. I was hoping he'd apologize, but instead he just said, 'Well, you were stupid. I was just saying the truth. You know you never did well in school.'"

Step # 3 - Accept that There May Never be an Apology
Christy felt that it was important to express what she was feeling about her childhood in an open manner to her father. To do this, Christy found that she would have to accept that her father was not going to apologize for hurting her feelings. Christy knew this would be a difficult conversation, but that it was necessary for her to air these feelings before she felt that she could move forward in dealing with her depression and feeling she was Unlovable.

Think of a client you're currently treating. Would it be helpful to use the metaphors of Cake-and-Icing or Cherry-on-top-of-the-Sundae to help your client identify and set realistic relationship goals?

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Cameron, J. J., Stinson, D. A., Gaetz, R., & Balchen, S. (2010). Acceptance is in the eye of the beholder: Self-esteem and motivated perceptions of acceptance from the opposite sex. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(3), 513–529.

Poole, K. L., Khalesi, Z., Rutherford, M. D., Swain, A., Mullen, J. N., Hall, G. B., & Schmidt, L. A. (2020). Personality and opponent processes: Shyness, sociability, and visual afterimages to emotion. Emotion, 20(4), 605–612.

Rudolph, A., Schröder-Abé, M., & Schütz, A. (2020). I like myself, I really do (at least right now): Development and validation of a brief and revised (German-language) version of the State Self-Esteem Scale. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 36(1), 196–206.

Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Holmes, J. G., Wood, J. V., Forest, A. L., Gaucher, D., Fitzsimons, G. M., & Kath, J. (2010). The regulatory function of self-esteem: Testing the epistemic and acceptance signaling systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(6), 993–1013.

van den Brink, F., Vollmann, M., & van Weelie, S. (2020). Relationships between transgender congruence, gender identity rumination, and self-esteem in transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 7(2), 230–235.

What are two metaphors to assist your clients who feel they're unlovable? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 8
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