How to Work with Self Defeating Behaviours

Topics: Psychology, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Clinical psychology Pages: 9 (2721 words) Published: June 23, 2012
Word Count:2452

Describe and evaluate two approaches to the treatment of self-defeating behaviour. The approaches should be selected from those introduced in module 5 Introduction
In this essay I plan to describe and evaluate two approaches to the treatment of self defeating behaviour. I will do this by describing self defeating behaviour, including its origins, causes and maintenance and then I will proceed to describe two treatments that might be offered by a therapist working with this and how it would impact on the behaviour presenting itself.

Ever wondered why people engage in seemingly self-destructive behaviour? That is, why do people do things that appear to be against their best interests? Why do they continue to engage in troublesome behaviour even though it consistently leads them into a state of utter misery? We have all seen this in our friends and even, regrettably, in ourselves.

For example, consider the following scenarios:

A) The friend who always chooses dead-beat partners. Why should someone who is very bright and outstanding in their field, always choose "dead-beat" partners? While their unemployed friend relaxes and "lives high off the hog," she is busily working, paying living expenses and taxes for two. Eventually, she questions the wisdom of her ways and finishes her relationship with her partner, only to replace them with a "look-a-like". To everyone else, the warning signs are apparent, but she is ignoring them. Why can she not see what is transparent to those closest to her?

B) What about those smart and talented colleague with unique skills? Why does she always end up underpaid and overworked? She admits that she would like to find another job, but she feels it would be disloyal to cut back on her 80-hour work week to make time to pursue that goal. So, she subordinates her own goals and ambitions to the "higher goal," while her boss is out developing his consulting business. Although she sounds angry, she seems unaware of her growing bitterness

C) Someone has been trying to lose 20 pounds for 10 years yet somehow they find that they are never able to hold on to a wellness routine. They do not like the way they look, nor the way they feel. They are concerned about health risks, but something stops them from successfully sticking to the fitness program.

Why do people engage in self-limiting or seemingly self-defeating behaviours? How can these behaviours be understood? And, more importantly, how can they be mastered?

Before we answer these questions we have to understand what self-defeating behaviour is. Of all human psychology, self-defeating behaviour is among the most puzzling and the most difficult to change. After all, everyone assumes that people strive towards happiness and pleasure. Have you ever heard of a self-help book on being miserable?

What is Self-Defeating Behaviour?
Some of the clearest case studies of self-defeating behaviour come from books written by psychologists as self-help books. Two such books are ‘Self-Defeating Behaviours by Milton R. Cudney and Robert E. Hardy’ and ‘Your Own Worst Enemy: Understanding the Paradox of Self-Defeating Behaviour’ by Steven Berglas and Roy F. Baumeister’. Each text defines self-defeating behaviour in different ways by describing examples of various types of such behaviours. Berglas and Baumeister offer a broader definition of self-defeating behaviours, describing what they call a continuum of self-defeating patterns rather than attempt to trace all instances of self-defeat. The philosophical study of irrationality gave up many important insights into the workings of the human mind. A particularly interesting issue within irrationality is the phenomena of self-defeating behaviour. This self-defeat, and the behaviours which lead to it, may take many forms. Self-defeating behaviours are a class of behaviours which have one thing in common: they all result in some kind of failure to achieve one's...
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