Counselling, over eating, psychology, self defeating behavior, self defeating behaviours, Uncategorized

30. Self Defeating Behaviours (part 6)

Self-defeating behaviours: in (Humanistic) counselling

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In this final part of self defeating behaviours, I try to describe how the counselling process might look. This is a difficult task because each person is unique but this is a (very) rough idea!

The person, with the counsellor, could explore how they feel as they experience uncomfortable feelings where the self-defeating behaviour (SDB) would usually come into play. From this, the person may remember a previous occasion where they felt this same feeling but adopted a SDB to help them cope. Often, when they realise that his SDB aided them, at that time, through, for example, a painful situation, they can see that this SDB, residing in their subconscious, manifests in similar situations (or due to certain triggers), which produces physical feelings of unpleasantness or anxiety/fear associated with the previous experiences. Once the person realises that these negative feelings are not in fact associated with the current situation, but reflect the ‘wrong’ choice of action, i.e., the SDB, in response to the situation, they can often see that their maladaptive coping mechanism is just that…a mechanism that they employ in a threatening situation…a SDB.

Through recognising the consequences, associated feelings, and gaining a better understanding of the SDB’s origin, the person may become aware of the underlying basic human need, which they are attempting to fulfil. The person may also want to take a look at their ‘core beliefs’, underpinning the SDB, which may be out of date, allowing them to look at how to adapt the SDBs. New strategies can then be adopted, ensuring that their basic needs are satisfied and aiding their motivation to maintain them. As they develop healthier core beliefs, an awareness of their thoughts and moods, and the ability to try out alternative strategies and behaviours, they will gradually feel more confident in maintaining the new strategies and will be able to identify situations that involve feeling vulnerable.

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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.

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=

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


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