behaviourism, Counselling, psychology, self defeating behavior, self defeating behaviours, Uncategorized

26. Self Defeating Behaviours (part 2)

Self Defeating Behaviours: the origins

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Self Defeating Behaviours (SDB) originate often, for example, during childhood with overly critical parents where the child is not allowed to talk or have a different opinion, leading the child to eventually feel like he is always doing/saying the ‘wrong’ thing and is always in the ‘wrong’. Thus, in adulthood, the person, believing that they are always in the ‘wrong’, is likely to have adopted several SDBs that they subconsciously believe have previously helped them to ‘cope’. For example, they may live with ‘ostrich syndrome’ where they continuously have their head in the sand to avoid facing situations that they believe are too challenging for them to cope with. They may even believe subconsciously that their presence will ‘only make matters worse’.

Similarly, an individual who has been badly treated or raised by a violent father may, as an adult, be attracted to violent partners who are going to mistreat them in a similar way. This is common in children who are raised to believe that they are incapable of doing anything properly. The child then becomes so dependent on another person believing that only someone else can carry out tasks properly and thus, this is what is subconsciously required in finding a partner. Their lack of self esteem will contribute further to this, believing that they don’t deserve to be treated any better.

Preservation of SDBs

The preservation of these SDBs is due to the underlying mechanisms of the mind, which is, of course, at the centre of everything. As one experiences life in general and the variety of (often very emotional) events that occur, ‘coping’ strategies, which have been helpful during a previous similar experience, are stored in one’s subconscious. This enables the conscious mind, at any subsequent similar situation, to quickly ascertain the best course of action to be taken by the individual to ‘survive’ through it in the ‘best’ way possible. The conscious mind does this through considering both internal (e.g., psychological reasoning) and external methods (e.g., eating chocolate) where the subconscious can be relied on to adopt stored coping strategies that were previously successful and the conscious mind attempts to manage behaviours etc. that are appropriate in response to any novel circumstances. This is usually very effective. For example, after you burn your hand in the fire, your subconscious stores the strategy of avoiding touching flames (!) but when a new type of heating equipment is brought into the house, your conscious mind aids in the process of not getting burnt by being extra careful…to begin with at least. I will continue on this next week.

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1.Baumeister, R.F. & Scher, S.J. (1988) Self-Defeating Behaviour Patterns Among Normal Individuals: Review and Analysis of Common Self-Destructive Tendencies. Psychological Bulletin, 104 (1), 3-22.

2.Brownson, C., & Hartzler, B. (2000) Defeat Your Self-Defeating Behavior Understanding & Overcoming Harmful Patterns (T1 082). The clearing house for Structured/Thematic groups and Innovative programs. Texas, USA. Accessed 6/1/19.;jsessionid=BAECD64A429CAC98207F80C0FE3868CF?doi=

3.Rogers, C. R. (1951) Client- Centered Therapy, London, Constable and Company Ltd.


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