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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Insufferable vs. Undesirable


Having attended Valleyview Junior High School in my youth, I witnessed a homecoming football custom for which students exchanged tokens of affection in the form of mums. I imagine this tradition wasn’t practiced in all states.


Describing the typical floral arrangement that signified one’s devotion to a particular romantic interest, one Texas source states, “Back in the day, a mum was a simple chrysanthemum with a few ribbons that would be pinned to a girl’s clothing. But nowadays, the gaudier, the better.”


Mum-giving continued through my transition to Randal High School. Girls who didn’t receive a mum to wear in school on game day would skip classes out of shame—an undesirable emotion stemming from one’s irrational belief about humiliation or distress in association with other people’s words, beliefs, or behavior.


I conceptualize shame as a secondary feeling to the primary emotion of sorrow. Think of shame as sadness plus a thought or belief about one’s behavior. Noteworthy, there’s a difference between guilt and shame.


Guilt is an undesirable emotion related to belief that one is responsible or regretful for a perceived offense, real or imaginary. It, too, is secondary to sorrow and manifests when a thought or belief about one’s behavior is present.


However, whereas guilt is an unpleasant emotion for one’s belief about having done something wrong, shame presents as an uncomfortable feeling for what others believe one has done wrong. As well, these unwelcome emotions can coexist in relation to a single event.


For example, suppose girl X doesn’t receive a mum for displaying throughout the school day and which is meant to represent the token of boy Y’s affection at a homecoming dance later that evening. She may experience guilt regarding her beliefs about not being good enough to receive a mum.


Likewise, when other students at the school notice that girl X doesn’t exhibit the same level of in-group signaling through use of a mum, and they ridicule her—thus excluding her as an out-group member, girl X may experience shame related to her beliefs about the other girls’ behavior.


Some people may think that the guilt or shame of not receiving a mum is an insufferable act—too difficult to tolerate. Because they convince themselves that they can’t bear this experience, they needlessly suffer.


When I began my sophomore year at Amarillo High School, the established practice of mum exchanges received attention from concerned parents and administrators. Apparently, some girls within the state had completed suicide in relation to shame and guilt related to mum-giving.


Although I vaguely remember giving a mum or two to whomever it was that caught my attention back then, I don’t recall taking the custom too seriously. All the same, I learned a helpful lesson I now use in my practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), as it relates to the ABC model.


Since I work solely with adults in my psychotherapeutic practice, allow me to transfer the example of teenage romanticism to that concerning adulthood. What better day of the year to address this matter than on the hyper-commercialized observance of Valentine’s Day?


Rather than going on an anti-Valentine’s Day rant, because I oppose holiday celebration altogether at any rate, I’ll instead discuss how one can stop the process of self-disturbance related to beliefs about this frivolous day. In layperson’s terms, let’s talk about how to stop upsetting yourself.


Suppose that when working in a public setting most of your coworkers of similar status receive floral bouquets, chocolates, and other gifts from their respective romantic interests. However, you either have no intimate partner or your special someone chose not to send any tokens of affection.


Using the ABC model—Action, Belief, and Consequence—the Action relates to coworkers receiving Valentine’s Day gifts while you receive none. Some people tend to think that such an occurrence causes an unpleasant Consequence such as shame or guilt, forming an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection.


However, rather than an A-C chain of events, REBT maintains that when we assume something about a situation, it’s our Belief that creates an undesirable Consequence by forming the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. In this way, we upset ourselves with unhelpful attitudes.


For instance, when your coworkers receive Valentine’s Day gifts while you receive none (Action), and you Believe, “I shouldn’t be left out, because it’s awful not receiving tokens of affection, and I don’t think I can stand this insufferable act,” your unproductive assumptions then create a shameful or guilty feeling (Consequence).


I work with clients at Disputing unhelpful narratives, such as the aforementioned example, so that the people with whom I work can achieve Effective new beliefs in order to stop disturbing themselves. After all, you can’t control who does or doesn’t give you mums or Valentine’s Day gifts, though you can impact how you respond to such events.


Therefore, I invite you to consider whether or not mums and other tokens of affection are worth the suffering caused by the B-C connection when your special someone doesn’t behave as desired. Is it truly an insufferable experience—one you can’t tolerate or accept?


Although it may not be an optimal outcome, is it actually intolerable? I suspect it isn’t. Rather, I’ll suggest herein that such an event relates to an undesirable act—something unwanted, objectionable, or unpleasant.


With a perceivably insufferable event, one literally cannot endure the act. On the other hand, situations which are undesirable are able to be tolerated even when we don’t like or love the conditions.


As such, it’s my hope that on this silly holiday people who experience unsatisfactory events, such as not receiving flowers at work or having someone who will overspend on a dinner date, will unconditionally accept the undesirable disappointments of life. The B-C connection you use will make a difference.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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