Foundations Part 10: Self Worth (Transcript)

This will be the last video for the Foundation series.  My hope is that everyone has a good grasp on the fact that they control themselves. That they think they way they feel. I further hope that I have given them tools through self-evaluation and distraction to start the process of living a more happy and healthy life.  In between everything, I tossed in a lesson on the universal truth that people do what they want to do which, like REBT, will tie into everything we talk about in further discussions.

The last thing I wanted to cover before moving on is the subject that people struggle with the most: self worth. We see a ton written on the subject. We see a ton of memes telling us we all need it and we can find a ton written about how we can go about increasing it, but there is very little out there telling us how to get it in the first place. There is also a ton written out there on  the subject that would be counterproductive to your goal of living a happy and healthy life and being in happy and healthy relationships.  I wanted to give everyone, as my leaving the Foundations series gift, the key to finding your self worth and maintaining it in a manner that is healthy for you.

Unlike what I have talked about previously, what I am going to talk about now is not backed by forty years of research, but instead is more about my personal journey and spending years thinking about this subject and how I could best approach it to actually help others on an issue that is paramount to us all finding happiness.

For myself, I don’t make a distinction between the terms self-esteem and self-worth.  Each are about how we view ourselves in a moment in time. For what I want to teach, it just isn’t important to make any distinction as you will soon understand.

Your self-worth is all about how you view yourself. One of the things I have spoken of in my “thoughts of the day” segments is the problem with labeling yourself.  I have to cover this topic again here because it becomes critical in the discussion about how we see ourselves.

So why are labels so detrimental to how we see ourselves?  Because they limit how we see ourselves.  We are not any one idea. We are not any one personality trait. We are not any one body part. We are not any one thing. We are not any  three or four things. We are instead a collective of thousands of things. We are the whole sum of our bodies and our personality. We are the sum total of our interactions with others. Not one, two, or more interactions, but instead the whole sum total of every interaction.

Why is this concept so important? It allows us to see ourselves as more than one action. It allows us to look in the mirror and see more than just one thing. We are not the “maybe a little too much weight around the middle”.  We are not the “maybe a little too big of ears or nose”. We are not our last failed relationship. We are not our last screw up. We are not our job.

On the other hand, we are not our successes. We are not the exceptional student. We are not just the sculptured abs. We are not our last promotion.

If we see ourselves as any one or two aspects of our lives we set ourselves up for issues. What happens when time erodes your looks? What happens when your success at work hits a speed bump? What happens if your perfect marriage runs into issues? If you have defined yourself and your self worth on only a few things, you are headed to disaster.  Your self-talk is going to take a serious hit if you see yourself as all that and it already took a hit if you never saw yourself as anything to begin with.

So, how should we be looking at ourselves that will provide a buffer against the highs and lows of life?

We have to see ourselves as a complete human – our bodies and our interactions with others. If we see ourselves as hundreds, if not thousands, of data points no one data point can define us. No one person is all roses. No one person is all crap, body or mind.  I might have dreamy eyes, but a droopy ass. I might be the life of the party but need to work on trust issues. I might be thick around the middle, but have the perfect little nose.

I am a combination of things some I will see as positive and some I will see as negative.  I am a sum of things I am okay with and things I might want to work on.  Our worth is that none of us are a sum total of negative, nor are any of us perfect.

We all have something we are bringing to the table, when it comes to life. None of us are devoid of all redeeming qualities and none of us are saints.

Self-worth and self-esteem are not about just finding things about yourself that you see as positive, but also about acknowledging the things you have to work on. We are all a combination of both. That is our value proposition. This is how we get through life – without condemning our shortcomings and at the same time not aggrandizing our accomplishments or physical traits because we understand that we are both. We are our shortcomings as much as we are our achievements. We are not one or the other, but both.

If we see ourselves in this way it buffers us against what life throws at us. It allows us to not get too high on who we are, while at the same time not get too low.  One thing to understand is that it is also very dangerous to get too high on ourselves. When we put ourselves on a pedestal, we have such a long way to fall and no foundation to lift ourselves back up. In many ways, it is just as harmful as not seeing any value in ourselves.

One of the great things about seeing ourselves as a collective of thousands of attributes is that it enables us to see others in the same light. We can understand that others are just as flawed and fallible as we are. That our family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances are also not just one thing, but instead a complex mixture of many things; some you will find likable, and others you will find wanting.

Why is it important to see others in the same way you see yourself? It eliminates sanctimonious behavior.  It eliminates you seeing someone as wholly unworthy, evil, or “bad”.  You can still decide that someone’s behavior towards you or your loved ones is not compatible to you living a happy and healthy life (label it toxic if you want), but at the same time understand that the same person might have value to their other friends, family etc.  They might interact with others in a completely different manner.

If you see that person as a whole human in this way, you can decide that they are not someone you want in your life without hate, anger, or other non productive emotions.  People’s bad decisions are never the whole story of that person regardless of how bad the decisions are just like your bad decisions are not you. They are instead one snapshot of time. One point of data in a much larger portrait.

If we are talking about photography, and those that know me know I am also a photographer, we can say that each decision we make in life, each physical attribute, each interaction with others is just one pixel of a huge photo. We can tell nothing of the photo by looking at just one pixel.

Having said all this, I must stress that this does not mean we should just accept who we are as a whole. I think we should evaluate each point of data and decide if we are okay with that aspect of ourselves or if we think it is something we should work on improving.  There will be three kinds of data about ourselves: those things we are happy with about ourselves; those things we would like to work on; and those things we might not be happy with, or want to work on, that are not changeable (this would be certain physical traits or maybe mental capabilities).

For myself, I want to continually improve on my whole. Those improvements are not for others, because I can only evaluate myself for myself.  They are things which, I think, can and should be worked on – my frustration tolerance comes immediately to mind.  I don’t believe however, that these improvements will make me a “better” human, but instead think these improvements will be productive in my goals to be a happy and healthy human.

This brings me to another important aspect of self worth. It is pointless to compare ourselves with others in any way. Why? Because it is impossible to know any other person’s whole self.  Comparing one of our attributes to someone else’s similar attribute is meaningless if we are seeing ourselves as a collective. We are not that one thing and they are not that one thing, which means comparison is useless. I am not a better person because I can run faster that someone else. I am not a better person because I can articulate my thoughts better than someone else. I am not a worse human for not making as much money as someone else. I am not a worse human because I weigh more than someone else.  I am not better or worse than anyone else because I cannot possibly evaluate myself or others based on any one, two or twenty data points.

The only thing I can say when I compare myself to others is this; I am not as fast as him. I do not make as much money as her. I have a larger house then they do. I have an older car than she does. I have more hair than him, but less muscles. All of these things say nothing about either of us as a whole. They are meaningless comparisons based on arbitrary attributes.  If I am seeing myself as a larger whole, and seeing them as a larger whole , I will understand that I am comparing two unlike things. I just don’t have enough information and could never have enough information.

All these types of comparisons are damaging to our goal to be a happy and healthy person and be in happy and healthy relationships.  If you see yourself as better than another, you set yourself up for a fall if and when that comparison point changes.  For example, go ahead and think yourself better than that woman you saw on Maury Povich who cheated on her husband with other men, but do it at your own peril. Life might come and bite you in the rear in ways you simply cannot comprehend at this moment.

It is exactly this that happens to people who at one time have money but then lose it. It is what happens to those who have fame and then lose it. When they are at their peak in fame or money they use that as a prop for their self-worth. They compare themselves with others that don’t have these things and see themselves as having more worth because of it. Their self-esteem is wrapped around it. When things change, their self-worth crashes. We all know the stories where people turn to drugs or even self harm when their circumstances change. It all has to do with these people never seeing themselves as a whole human, but instead choosing to value themselves on just a few data points.  Some people recover, some never do.

In the opposite,  some people dwell in the depths of depression because they cannot see themselves as the sum of a whole. They see themselves as their failed marriage. They see themselves as their lower paying job. They see themselves as but one or two attributes in the mirror.

If you want to start being a happier and healthier person you simply have to start thinking rationally. Seeing yourself as a whole is part of thinking rationally.  It might actually be the single most important step.

If you can see yourself as the sum of thousands of data points, you can see others in the same light. If you see others in this manner, you can then understand that they are fallible. You can see others’ value as more than just one or two interactions or incidents. It allows you to start to let go of your expectations that others will behave as you think they should.  As we now know, your expectations of others and yourself are your biggest obstacles to being happy.

I believe that I have now covered what you will need to understand and incorporate in your life for you to comprehend everything I will speak of in my next few video series.

This will be, hopefully, the last video that I am reading from a script. From here on, I will be speaking  strictly of my own ideas and thoughts and will try and work from just a basic outline of what I want to say. I hope everyone got something out of my Foundations series – from here on I really take a huge turn when it comes to what you think you know about relationships and life and how one must operate in both.

For now, I am Diego Abrams and this is Triscele Life and Relationships.

Foundations Part 9 – Distraction (Transcript)


4964280843_89ed3c1f6d_oAs always, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Now that we have gone through the basics of REBT and the twelve self-defeating beliefs, I want to take some time and give you another tool in the fight against your self-defeating beliefs and the irrational self-talk they generate – Distraction.

How am I defining distraction?

Distraction is anything you can do that keeps you from thinking about a certain subject. For example, it’s hard to be thinking of your partner leaving you while paying attention to a movie or while reading a book.

How is this a tool in our fight against irrational thoughts? One of the hardest things about changing how you think is identifying your irrational thoughts while in the moment. Especially after those thoughts have generated non-productive emotions.  When you are actively in a negative feedback loop, it’s near impossible to just start thinking rationally. This is where distraction can help. Distraction offers a way to interrupt the feedback loop while it’s happening. Once you’ve interrupted the loop, you can then go back and examine the irrational thoughts and self-defeating beliefs that started your cascade downhill.

The single biggest obstacle you will encounter in your path to change how you think and thus change how you feel is stopping the chain reaction that inevitably occurs once you start thinking irrationally about an activating event.  What you must understand at this early stage of trying to think differently is that your goal, for now, isn’t to never have these events, but instead to form habits that will allow you to avoid them in the future.

What I am trying to say is that you are not failing when you have emotional disturbances. In fact, there is no way you can learn how to form new habits without having them. The first step in changing how we think is to identify our self-defeating beliefs and irrational self-talk about those beliefs. This is why I have told everyone that we must log our emotional disturbances.  To put it in the simplest terms, the first step into changing how we think is to get to know ourselves and our current patterns of thinking.  It is only once we understand how we think that we can then start to create rational substitutes   to our self-defeating beliefs.

Let’s look at a visual of how we think and feel –

Foundations Powerpoint

A feedback loop, be it positive or negative looks like this

Foundations Powerpoint

So we now want to take a look at distraction as a tool to break a feedback loop.

The activating event: Suzy, Karla’s best friend starts dating Doug, the guy Karla just broke up with last week.

Her likely self-defeating belief:  “People should always do the right thing. When they behave obnoxiously, unfairly or selfishly, they must be blamed and punished.”

Her likely irrational thoughts based on her self-defeating beliefs: “How dare Suzy date Doug, she knows that ex boyfriends are off limits!” and “If she thinks I am ever going to talk to her again she is sadly mistaken!”

Her likely emotional response is anger and possibly sadness.

That anger leads to additional irrational thoughts such as “I can’t believe that she would do this to me. She knew I still cared for him.”, “I bet she was seeing him while I was dating him!”, “I am going to get even with Suzy!” or a host other possibilities that will lead to even stronger emotional responses. In this example she has entered a feedback loop.

At the time of the feedback loop all Karla knows is that she is angry. She is too emotional to see that her thoughts are irrational and not productive. However she does know she is angry and because she is aware, somewhere in her head, that she is the cause of her anger, she decides to try to break the loop by using distraction.

In this case, she decides to crawl in bed and watch a comedy that she knows isn’t going to allow her to think about the activating event. She might also have decided to do yoga, call her mom to talk about her mom’s day, turn on the radio and sing happy songs, go on a long run or any number of things she knows will not allow her to return to thinking about the activating event.

Once you have broken the feedback loop by taking time to do something distracting your emotional response will also change until you start thinking about the activating event again. The goal here is to distract yourself for long enough to calm down. Once calm, you can then try and examine what you were telling yourself about the activating event that caused a non-productive emotional response.  You then, with a clearer head, can write them down and search out rational beliefs to replace the self-defeating ones you began with.

Remember, our long term goal in all of this is to form habits . You formed your current habits of thinking, over time, and it will take time to form new ones. It will also take dedication. You can’t only do this once in a while, you have to do this each time you find yourself emotionally disturbed.  If you do, you will find that each time you feel yourself becoming upset you will start to automatically look to break the feedback loop, or if the emotional response isn’t too intense, you will start to examine what it is you are telling yourself and replace those irrational thoughts with their rational counterparts.

Once you have done this enough times over a long enough period of  you will find that you have the original self-defeating beliefs less and less. Your mind will have replaced them with their more productive counter-part.

It is this reason that I have asked you to catalog your irrational thoughts for a set period of time and look for patterns in your thoughts.  Those patterns will identify your most often used self-defeating beliefs. It is those most common self-defeating beliefs that you should start tackling first. If you can, over a six month period of time, consistently challenge your top two self-defeating beliefs, you will find that they happen much less frequently . As a bonus,  because you have created a habit of thinking rationally, you will find that tackling your next two or more most often used self-defeating belief will be much easier. Not only will it be easier, but it will take a little shorter period of time for those self-defeating beliefs to fade. The whole thing becomes a boulder rolling downhill.

However, all the above cannot happen without dedicating yourself to change. You have to do it each time you have non productive emotional responses. If you take a week or two off, you will find yourself working from the start. Forming a habit takes at least six months of dedication and to form habits that are lasting, you must be dedicated for at least a year.

So great, I did it for a year, I am all better! Not exactly. If you do it for a year, you will find that continuing to do it comes second nature. It does not mean that you will not have times where you catch yourself in a feedback loop. It just means that when you do, you will know how to easily and quickly get yourself out of it. If you get lazy, your old habits will start forming anew.

I have been practicing these techniques for over fifteen years now. I did not start out as dedicated as I should have been so I struggled for the first few years. I understood what the problem was, I just wasn’t doing the work I needed to do to make lasting changes. It wasn’t until about ten years ago I started to really dedicate myself to changing my top few self-defeating beliefs. After those, I hit the next two, then the next two. Today, I am seldom upset form more than a few minutes.  The techniques I lay out here are so ingrained in my head that I do them now without really giving them much conscious thought.

The results over time have been remarkable. My original top four self-defeating beliefs are gone. I just don’t find myself going there in my mind anymore.  About the only thing I really still have to consciously tackle from time to time is the belief that things should happen as I think they should and I only have issues with this self-defeating belief when I am very emotionally invested in an outcome of an event.  However, even that is fading with time and continued effort.

I also know that I am not an anomaly.  The fundamentals of REBT help those who are dedicated to applying it to their daily lives and study after study for the last forty years has proven this. What I have gone over in my foundation series is just scratching the surface of everything it has to offer and I would urge anyone to further study the subject. There is a wealth of information and books out there to find and go much more in-depth than I have.

For the Triscele way, this is but the foundation we are going to build upon. However without this Foundation being rock-solid, everything above it will collapse. Without a deep understanding that we feel the way we think, you will fight the concepts in the next series.

For this section, I’ve introduced an effective way to kick yourself out of a feedback loop. Let’s once more look at how it will work with a visual.

Foundations Powerpoint

The graphic perfectly illustrated the path to productive emotional responses.  One thing to understand is that distraction should really only be used when you are in a feedback loop. Identifying that is relatively simple. If you are experiencing intense emotions and cannot stop yourself from thinking about an activating event, you are in a feedback loop.

When you are just experiencing mild emotional responses, the best course of action is to just directly examine what you thinking that could cause the emotion.

The thing that is most important to understand is that distraction is not the cure. Meditation, yoga, exercise, etc. are tools to help you, but they are not the cure. If you are not figuring out what your self-defeating beliefs and irrational thoughts are and replacing them with their rational counterparts, using distraction is just a temporary fix. It might get you out of your head in the moment, but it isn’t going to prevent you from going right back there again.  Just because you feel better after using distraction doesn’t mean you are better.

In this section of Foundations we looked at a major tool you need to help you start changing how you think. For the last section in Foundations, part ten, we are going to take an in-depth look at the most common problem people have that prevent them from being happy and being in healthy relationships: self-worth.

For now, I am Diego Abrams and this is Triscele Life and Relationships.

Foundations Part 8 –  Self Defeat Conclusion (Transcript)


As always please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

In part 7, we spoke of four different self defeating beliefs and how we can go about exchanging those beliefs for rational ones. In this section we will continue this and finish up on Dr. Ellis’ twelve self-defeating beliefs.

I can be happier by avoiding life’s difficulties, unpleasantness and responsibilities.

This isn’t one I generally tell myself but I know of a lot of people that do.  To many people avoidance is a perfectly legit way to handle many of life’s issues. I believe that most people think if you avoid a problem for long enough the problem will either go away or solve itself.  Of course this rarely if ever happens.  The reality is that avoidance most often makes matters worse in the long run and most of us know this already .

What can we do to combat this? We can tell ourselves rational things instead. “The longer I wait to tackle a difficult situation the more difficult it is likely to be. I can’t procrastinate if I am going to live a happy and healthy life.

Everyone needs to depend on someone stronger than themselves

As a big strong man, this self-defeating belief is also not one I have suffered from, but I can imagine it might be for a lot of people. There are a few problems that crop up immediately when we examine this belief. One is that it allows an individual to shirk self responsibility. If things don’t go as planned, they can then blame the person they are dependent on. Another is that it likely to stunt growth. It’s unlikely you will learn to be a fully self sufficient person if you rely on others. Lastly, this belief is a sure fire ticket to dependent behavior and lack of self esteem.

There is nothing wrong with leaning on a person from time to time, but to really lead a happy and healthy life you have to get to the point where you trust your own decisions.  You should be telling yourself something along these lines “It’s ok to seek help from time to time, but I need to learn to be able to help myself. It’s the best thing I can do for myself.

Events in my past are the cause of my problems and they continue to influence my feelings and behaviors now.

I have probably spent the most time on this one as I think it’s the biggest and most prevalent self-defeating belief in the modern world. I also believe this has lead to our modern problems with victim mentality and not taking personal responsibility.

I mean it’s great to have a catch all dump for all the bad decisions you make, all the bad behaviors you do, and all decisions and behaviors you will make and do in the future.

However forty plus years of research into this issue has thoroughly debunked this notion. We feel the way we think about a subject or event. The past effects your now only in that it influenced how you currently think.  You are choosing to keep viewing your past in a way that is detrimental to you being a happy and healthy person today. You can, with time, replace those thoughts with new ones that do lead to you having healthy emotional responses.

So what are the rational things we should probably be telling ourselves? Well a lot of that depends on your specific situation, but here are some blanket statements that are rational.

“I cannot expect that life should happen the way I wished it would. Everyone has something in their past that they can dwell on, but I refuse to make past events say anything about who I am now”

“Yes my past is unfortunate, but things that  happened to me then or things I did to others then do not have to be things that will happen to me now, or things that I would do again. I have a choice each day I wake”

“Just because a certain type of person did something wrong to me in the past does not mean that everyone of that type will do the same. I need to evaluate each person as they come on a clean slate until they have given me a reason to do otherwise.” Or if I were to share one of my personal ones

“What my mother did to me is unfortunate but it has nothing to do with who I am or was as a person. It was her dealing poorly with her own issues. What she said to me was about her reality and I refuse to make it my reality by giving it validity.”

See what you can come up with for rational statements about your past.

Next we have I should become upset when other people have problems and feel unhappy when they are sad.

Talk about making a bad situation worse.  I cannot think of a single positive result that could be possible by us running down the same rabbit hole as our friends or partners. The only way we can possibly help others is by staying rational ourselves.  We can then objectively look at their issues and help them replace their self-defeating beliefs and irrational self-talk with rational beliefs and self-talk.

Our rational belief counterpart to this self-defeating belief is simple; there is no way I can possibly help anyone be rational or help them with complex issues if I am not being rational myself.

I should not have to feel discomfort or pain. I can’t stand them and must avoid them at all cost.

One of the most rational things I tell myself might be a surprise to most listening or reading this. “I am allowed to fail at being rational every moment of every day. I will slip up often. It is what I do when I slip up that is important.”  This means I’m not beating myself up for feeling discomfort and pain. I allow myself to, at times, be in the moment and think irrationally.  It’s what I do next that matters.

What I do next is knock that crap off. I recognize that I am experiencing non-productive emotions and I quickly examine what I might be telling myself to cause them. I then evaluate the rationality of what I am thinking and change them if need be.  It’s a process. It will always be a process. No one thinks rationally at all times. It’s what we do after we experience non productive emotions that defines if we will be happy people.

Now that I have said that, I will say this. Not all discomfort or pain is non-productive.  You can lose a loved one and go down the rabbit hole of self-defeating beliefs for a short time. Let me explain.

I have lost a lot of loved ones in my life.  My last big loss was my grandmother, whom I saw more as my mother that I ever did my biological mother.  My mother had me when she was 19 and her mother had her young so I was the oldest grandchild. Our relationship really blossomed after I returned from the military at 19 (I went in at 17) and I was blessed to have twenty years of quality adult time with her. She was one of the last of my relatives to die and the last relative that I was even remotely close to. I saw this as the loss of my family. I saw it as a loss for my children as I was not going to be able to offer them the benefits of an extended family on my side. Both of those statements are true and rational.

What I told myself about those rational and true statements wasn’t as rational and some part of me understood that at the time. However, I wanted to allow myself to be irrational in that moment. I wanted to allow myself to have my rather selfish thoughts – as mourning the loss of someone is really about us being upset that we no longer receive the benefits of that relationship. It’s by definition a selfish thought. However, at that time, it’s ok to examine what that person really brought to my life. It was ok for me to miss those interactions. It was good for me to really see that our personal interactions are what make life worth living.

To me, life is all about our shared experiences.  Without those, I see no purpose. Me allowing myself to feel the pain of her loss and miss what she brought into our relationship reminded me, and still reminds me why relationships are so important and why I am doing what I do for others.

We just can’t allow ourselves to remain in that place for any prolonged period of time. Learn what the loss has to teach you and snap back into your rational self.

So no, don’t avoid discomfort and pain. Each time we feel them it teaches us and allows us to grow. My  rational belief around this topic is as follows. “I do not fear discomfort and pain. Each time I see myself there it allows me the chance to learn from the experience. Most times it teaches me about my self-defeating beliefs  and allows me the chance to get in the habit of replacing that belief with a rational one. With time, I’ll stop having those irrational beliefs.”

The last self defeating belief is; Every problem should have and ideal solution and it’s intolerable when one can’t be found.

Ah to live in such a black and white world sure would make life easier wouldn’t it? I mean everything would have such clear cut answers and we could all make split second decisions.  Our world just isn’t anything close to this. Many times a problem just doesn’t have a great solution and we have to make gut wrenching decisions.

The way to really get your head right about this is to remember that it’s ok to make mistakes. We can choose poorly because rarely are decisions irreversible and even when they are, there are likely other choices you can make to take you down a different road. We have to unafraid of failure.

One of the greatest messages to ever come out of television was on the show Mythbusters. They would say – failure is always an option.

In science, failure is often the key to success. It often gives us a better understanding of how something works. As I say often; I learn more from my mistakes than I ever do my successes. It isn’t just a saying for me, I live by that.

So what would be some rational self-talk we can use to replace this self-defeating belief? We could tell ourselves “There are generally no clear cut answers to complex issues. It’s ok to make an educated guess and be wrong. The worst that happens is that it then shows us a clearer path.” or “Inaction generally solves nothing. It’s better to make a decision on what I know now than wait for the problem to get worse.”

It’s okay, to make bad decisions. It’s what we do after that defines our happiness. We can either berate ourselves or others, or we can learn from the error and use that information to make better decisions next time.

We’ve now taken a better look at Dr. Albert Ellis’ twelve self-defeating beliefs and how we might counter them.  There is a pattern that emerges when you look at our irrational self-talk. It almost always leads us to non-productive emotions or other irrational thoughts.  By now many of you have probably figured out that spotting your irrational beliefs is about as easy as recognizing when you are emotionally upset and then questioning how you got there. You should be able to trace back your thoughts and find a self-defeating belief at the core.

I’ve already laid out how to start changing our patterns of thought by giving you a step by step systems that will lead to change and in the next section I am going to add something new to our tools to help us get past our emotional disturbances and help us calm ourselves so we can identify our negative self-talk and replace it with rational thinking.

I am Diego Abrams and this is Triscele Life and Relationships.