June/July 2011


The White Rabbit Says:

This month we have a spill-over from our last installment, when M asked – why do people drop out of therapy and does therapy really work?

Then we also have a new question from D who writes:

Most people who know me would never guess that I suffer from low self-esteem – guess I have been just about all my life. And yes, I know it is rooted in my childhood.

A question, I believe that that low self-esteem is not something that can be ‘cured’ but is something which needs to be managed, right?

Let me tackle D’s question first.

Dear D,

This is a challenging question. Before answering can low self-esteem be ‘cured’ or is it ‘something which needs to be managed’ such as an addiction, let’s unpack the nature of self-esteem.

One of the major differences between humans and other animals is that we have a capacity to think and as a result, define who we are and then decide whether we like ourselves or not. In other words we have the ability to be aware of ourselves, add a value to ourselves and then judge it to be good or bad.

When we judge ourselves to be bad we are saying ‘I’m not good enough’. This is another way of thinking that ‘I don’t accept myself’ and then placing a judgment that ‘I don’t like myself’. It is a rejection. It is one thing to dislike certain sights, sounds, tastes or sensations but when we reject ourselves or parts of ourselves we greatly damage the psychological structures that keep us alive.

This judging and self-rejection is like being psychically stabbed in the heart – it wounds us and causes us enormous pain. We all dislike pain and in the same way that we would favour and protect a physical wound, we erect a defense barrier to protect ourselves from psychological pain. We either find ourselves avoiding or acting out on anything that might aggravate the pain of self-rejection in any way.

Avoidance can take many forms such as taking fewer risks in our social, academic or career lives. It makes it more difficult for us to meet people, interview for a job or push hard for something where we might not succeed. It limits our ability to open ourselves to others, express our sexuality, be the centre of attention, hear criticism, ask for help and solve problems.

Acting out too can take many forms such as blaming others, getting angry, burying ourselves in being a perfectionist at work, bragging, making excuses or sometimes turning to alcohol or drugs. It too makes it more difficult for us to form healthy relationships.

The clue here to the question of whether low self-esteem can be ‘cured’ or is it ‘something that needs to be managed’ is that self-esteem is about how we perceive and feel about ourselves. Perception is a thought process. Thoughts can be changed and when thoughts change then how we feel about ourselves can also change. It is a ripple effect that touches every part of our lives.

At Change Matters we assist you to shift your perceptions, in other words examine your thought processes and therefore create new insights. We assist you in unpacking the ways you protect yourself – avoidance or acting out. We enable you to shift your value rating from ‘I am a person who has little value and worth’ to ‘I am a valuable and worthwhile person just because I exist on this planet’. We assist you in coming to terms with this new value of your self and encourage you to change your behaviour so that this value can be translated into a new sense of freedom. So to answer your question – yes, we believe that low self-esteem can be changed and therefore ‘cured’.

Now to answer M’s questions carried over from last month – Why do people drop out of therapy and does therapy really work?

There are numerous reasons why people drop out of therapy. We have found at Change Matters that some people just come because they want a ‘listening ear’ – they are not ready to change. At the first sign that they may have to address the issue that they have been complaining about and do some hard work, they run. Others drop out because they are scared of what they will discover if they ‘go there’, in other words face the wound or trauma. They don’t believe it when you tell them that the worst is already over – that you can revisit a wound/trauma as a ‘witness’ and honour the fact that what has happened has already happened and that you will simply be ‘witnessing’ the past event with a guide/helper who will hold and contain you. They don’t yet understand that by ‘witnessing’ and ‘naming’ a painful event you can begin to take back your power – becoming re-empowered. I admit this is a very courageous act that requires a leap of faith, but having done it myself I can only say it is worth doing.

Your last question – does therapy really work? Well that depends on you. You can go to the most famous and skilled therapist and nothing can happen. I guess you need to be desperate for change for it to work. You also need to be prepared to work hard at your recovery and healing process – after all, it probably took many years to get you to come to therapy, so what makes you think that a ‘magic wand’ can be waved and suddenly you are going to be and feel different?  Therapy is a process; it is something you go through. It’s about facing the things that originally scared and/or confused you. Our logo of a rabbit about to leap into a hole/tunnel that transports it into the constellation ‘Lepus’ (the rabbit) is a prime example of what it takes to make therapy work – a giant big leap of faith. Going through holes/tunnels can be scary, but they can help you find your way home. In my opinion, only the brave, desperate and/or committed reap the benefits that therapy has to offer.

So, from the constellation Lepus, home of The White Rabbit, I send you loads of encouragement – take a leap.

Yours truly,
The White Rabbit