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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Self-Discipline

 

Looking back, I was a peculiar child. In elementary school, I refused to take my toys outside for play activities with other boys, because I wanted my little replicas of reality to be neat and orderly.

 

As well, I didn’t like climbing trees or playing in the dirt like many of the other boys around whom I grew up. Rather, I liked playing alone, with my older sister, or with a select friend or two. Only those who respected my desire not to get dirty were children with whom I played.

 

I recall my older sister once criticizing how well-organized my room was, as though it wasn’t even lived in. At school, I developed a habit of counting each chew of food, insistent upon an even number before swallowing. To my knowledge, most other children weren’t like me.

 

As I transitioned into adolescence, I continued practicing ritualistic behavior whereby I washed my hands in a particular fashion, painstakingly scrubbing each hand an even number of times. My living space remained tidy and it took the threat of punishment for me to go outside.

 

I began a fitness routine and inflexibly stuck to it to the point whereby I temporarily became bedridden, because I was near starvation-levels of malnourishment. At school, I sat alone and drew pictures, carefully detailing etchings and tossing those drawings I deemed unacceptable.

 

On a daily basis, I once wear a black hoodie given to me by my dad. When it was stolen, I decided to wear black shirts daily for almost a year. Not long after that experience, I wanted to see how long I could refrain from other activities.

 

Thus, I stopped watching television for almost an entire year, meticulously avoiding even a glance at a screen during that period. I also practiced being mute for about a month, until I was threatened with punishment for not speaking in class.

 

I was teased, by members of a family who took me in from a children’s home, because I cleaned their home so thoroughly that lines in the carpet from vacuuming were continuously reestablished after people dared to walk on the floor I’d recently vacuumed.

 

Friends also took notice of my odd behavior. On many occasions, when at parties, I was the only individual not consuming substances. I was so concerned about what I ingested that I also completely cut out certain foods altogether and for no reason at all.

 

I wouldn’t drink after anyone with whom I wouldn’t make out (French kiss), I refused to drink from public water fountains, and sitting down on public toilets was forbidden. I’d rather go throughout my day in extreme discomfort than to defecate at school.

 

I carried a pocket-sized mirror to continually monitor for acne, the hat and jacket I wore were restricted from ever touching the ground, and I kept my car so clean that people expressed believing it had been taken to a car detailer. Also, no one could smoke cigarettes in my ride.

 

Transitioning into adulthood, my idiosyncratic behavior was well-masked when in the military. I had no problem passing uniform and room inspections. When required to iron undershirts and underwear, I was prepared, because I’d tended to my own laundry since fifth grade.

 

Unwavering adherence to monotonous rules was fairly straightforward to me, because one of the cottages in which I lived when I was a resident at the children’s home used a similar approach to living. Still, my actions created difficulty with the establishment and maintenance of friendships.

 

I was called an “odd duck,” someone who didn’t quite fit in. In fact, I was relieved from my post in Lima, Peru, for “psychological unsuitability” regarding my particular eccentricities. Still, I continued questionable patterns of behavior until I was eventually kicked out of the military.

 

Turns out, my behavior wasn’t well-masked. When working in the field of nuclear security while pending appeal of my discharge, other security police officers remarked upon my atypical mannerisms. One coworker nicknamed me “Twist Off,” because he believed I was volatile.

 

Another coworker gave me the moniker “Cool Breeze,” using antiphrasis—a phrase whereby its exact opposite would be appropriate. Although no one could legitimately criticize my work ethic, my distinctive behavior wasn’t a good fit for the jobsite.

 

When later seeking mental health treatment, a psychiatrist was the first person to ask me what I believed would happen if orderliness wasn’t achieved. For example, a buddy who visited my home would often disturb my carefully-positioned remote controls of itemized DVDs.

 

What did I believe would happen if inflexible conditions weren’t met? From that point, I began the uncomfortable process of self-examination in regard to my obsessive-compulsive behavior.

 

You may wonder why I’m admitting all of this. After all, people who seek help from a psychotherapist may want the individual to be in pristine psychological condition. Who wants a therapist with a history of mental, emotional, and behavioral baggage?

 

First, I’m demonstrating open, honest, and vulnerable communication in this post. Using openness, I’m willing to address a wide range of matters related to my past.

 

Using honesty, I’m presenting an authentic description of matters. Using vulnerability, I’ve opened myself up to potential criticism, though I’ve chosen to share my story nonetheless.

 

Second, I’m using this post as a shame attacking exercise. In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), this particular tool is used as an experiential approach to subjecting oneself to discomfort associated with irrational beliefs about a particular matter.

 

By sharing tales of my lived experience, I’m aware that some people may judge me harshly. Challenging my unhelp attitude about such judgment, I’m laying bare details of my life so that I can build high frustration tolerance (HFT).

 

Last, this post is designed to differentiate between rigid behavior stemming from trauma in child- and adulthood, and healthy self-discipline—correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement in regard to one’s personal interests and goals.

 

The behavior I exhibited, which understandably earned me the nickname “Twist Off,” wasn’t healthy. Rather, my level of unproductive demandingness – predicated by use of should, must, and ought-type beliefs about myself, others, and life – caused significant problems in my life.

 

Additionally, use of awfulizing didn’t serve me well. Illustrating demandingness and awfulizing, throughout life I likely believed something like, “I must maintain control, because it’s an awful experience when others have mastery over me!”

 

As well, I experienced low frustration tolerance (LFT), effectively believing that I couldn’t stand, tolerate, or accept the unpleasantry of life. Likewise, I probably incorporated global evaluations into my unfavorable beliefs.

 

Illustrating LFT and global evaluation, I undoubtedly believed something like, “I can’t stand that others have the ability to hurt me and everyone who hurts me is evil!” Demandingness, awfulizing, LFT, and global evaluations lead to unhelpful rigidity, not helpful self-discipline.

 

Using an REBT approach to getting better, correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement relies on two principle beliefs, per page 134 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion: 1) “It’s worth doing.” 2) “I’m worth doing it for.”

 

Whereas before I met with a psychiatrist of disputed my irrational beliefs, I foolishly believed that since I didn’t have control over abuse, neglect, and oppressive treatment I endured outside of myself, I could thoroughly wield authority over matters occurring within me.

 

To the uninitiated, a third grader who methodically chews each bite of food 30 times before swallowing may seem like one who acts on self-discipline. However, what drove my behavior was the unhealthy belief that I wasn’t worth self-compassion.

 

Therefore, I ended up punishing myself internally while being punished by others externally. Had I known how to practice HFT and understood the principles of healthy self-discipline, I could’ve chosen alternative beliefs which would’ve resulted in better outcomes.

 

For instance, rather than rigidly controlling what I ate, I could’ve journaled about why I believed I was compelled to command mastery over my body to such a degree that I became anorexic. After all, the healthier alternative was worth doing.

 

Likewise, instead of completely refraining from participation in social gatherings around television shows, I could’ve joined in with others, because I was worth doing it for so that I could connect with people instead of pushing them away. I didn’t need self-punishment.

 

Although self-discipline may evoke negative connotations of rigidity, likely due to use of the word “discipline,” I submit that the harsh self-restraint practiced for much of my life was what qualifies for consideration of a negative attribute, not one’s attempt to better oneself.

 

Given an REBT perspective on self-discipline and having used a number of personal anecdotes, I hope to have openly, honestly, and vulnerably shame-attacked my concerns while simultaneously differentiating between rigid behavior and self-discipline.

 

Perhaps you, too, have used negative self-punishment in place of positive self-discipline. Are you ready to stop abusing yourself so that you may get better? If so, I’m here to help.

 

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:

 

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, November 18). Big T, little t. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/big-t-little-t

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

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

Hollings, D. (2023, September 13). Global evaluations. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/global-evaluations

Hollings, D. (2024, February 24). High frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/high-frustration-tolerance

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

Hollings, D. (2024, January 2). Interests and goals. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/interests-and-goals

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2022, December 9). Journaling. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/journaling

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

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Lived experience. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/lived-expereince

Hollings, D. (2022, December 2). Low frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/low-frustration-tolerance

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

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-truth

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. (2024, January 4). Rigid vs. rigorous. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rigid-vs-rigorous

Hollings, D. (2022, September 8). Shame attacking. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/shame-attacking

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

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

Hollings, D. (2022, November 15). To don a hat. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/to-don-a-hat

Wayhomestudio. (n.d.). Good looking female has Afro haircut takes notes in notepad, writes down own ideas, sits on chair near white desktop with necessary things for work. Studying, education concept [Image]. Freepik. Retrieved from https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/good-looking-female-has-afro-haircut-takes-notes-notepad-writes-down-own-ideas-sits-chair-near-white-desktop-with-necessary-things-work-studying-education-concept_12702118.htm#fromView=search&page=1&position=5&uuid=d1c07859-cb7d-414a-bc0f-6843020f54d3

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