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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Self-Deprecation

 

When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I’m privy to the inner-dialogue of individuals who say some of the meanest things people could express to themselves. As such, I’m made aware of their self-deprecation—disparagement or undervaluation of oneself.

 

According to page 135 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion, REBT practitioners are invited to use the client’s words of self-deprecation when disputing these irrational beliefs. Use of one’s personal terms may be more meaningful to a client, as exemplified as follows:

 

Client: I’m pathetic! I mean, no one else in my life seems to struggle half as much as I do. So what am I missing? What do they know that I don’t? I’ll tell you what, I’m pathetic. That’s it!

 

Suppose I were to reframe the client’s expression in my own terms:

 

Me: You’re telling me that your existence is woeful, because you seem to miss something that other people apparently grasp – some hidden source of knowledge of which you aren’t aware. It may seem like you’re inadequate, though I’m wondering if that’s a factual assessment.

 

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with my reply. Nevertheless, it doesn’t adequately captivate the inferred meaning of the client’s expression. Therefore, I haven’t effectively reflected the self-deprecating sentiment. Now, consider an alternative reply:

 

Me: You believe you’re pathetic? Maybe you are! After all, you’ve made the case that other people don’t struggle nearly as much as you. Maybe you are – to the very core of your being – a pathetic person.

 

This response may surprise some people, because it appears to endorse self-deprecation. What competent mental, emotional, and behavioral health care provider would dare to reinforce a client’s undervaluation in such a manner?

 

Whereas my initial response reflects a slight reframe while assessing the empirical nature of the client’s expression, the latter response uses the elegant solution by going along with what a person proposes. I use the client’s words to connect and then rely on paradox to begin disputing.

 

How this technique works is by validating the irrationality of a person’s beliefs and then introducing unconditional self-acceptance (USA) to determine whether or not a client can tolerate and accept the proposed expression. Does this approach seem counterintuitive?

 

Essentially, I’m saying, “Okay, so you’re a worthless, low-down, no good, fallible human being. Can you practice USA to accept your own imperfect nature?” I enjoy practicing this technique, because I usually receive mixed responses.

 

A client may respond, “Wait a minute, you’re a therapist. Aren’t you supposed to disagree with what I’m telling myself?” This bit of insight acknowledges that on some level the client is aware that self-deprecation isn’t healthy.

 

Another client may reply, “If you’re a therapist and you’re agreeing with how pathetic I am, I guess I have bigger problems than I thought. I really do need help!” Here, the client expresses awareness of how unproductive the self-deprecating belief is and remains open to change.

 

Still, an alternative response from another client may be, “I can’t believe you’re agreeing with me!” To this, I’d reply, “Yet you believe it when you tell yourself that you’re pathetic?” This brief exchange opens the door to disputation of irrational beliefs.

 

The important takeaway here is that by using the client’s words, an REBT practitioner is able to better facilitate the process of disputation from a client’s starting point rather than by immediately correcting or reframing the individual’s self-deprecating expression.

 

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


 

References:

 

Danielo. (2024, April 11). Anime-style illustration [Image]. Playground. Retrieved from https://playground.com/post/anime-style-illustration-girl-clutching-a-pistol-tears-str-cluv1i61601n8s60155iq0fsq

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2024, April 2). Four major irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/four-major-irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, November 4). Human fallibility. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/human-fallibility

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2024, April 22). On disputing. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-disputing

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2022, September 19). The elegant solution. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-elegant-solution

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/tna

Hollings, D. (2023, March 1). Unconditional self-acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-self-acceptance

Hollings, D. (2023, November 23). Validation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/validation

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