A. I must be approved of by significant others.
B. I cannot stand the awkward moment of saying or doing what I really want when there is subtle pressure to do otherwise.
C. I must not appear odd.
D. I have to be popular and go along with the group even when I am inclined to do otherwise.
In REBT we encourage unconditional self-acceptance. This form of self-acceptance is not based on having others accept you. In REBT we acknowledge that acceptance by others is often good and advantageous but when we hold rigid beliefs about being accepted it can interfere with self-direction and our long term hedonistic goals. During our sessions we will discuss your self-limiting “need for approval” but the most efficient way to give up this belief is to do what Albert Ellis called shame attacking exercises. I prefer to call them shame and discomfort attacking exercises. Doing these exercises is where the rubber meets the road in therapeutic change. Our discussions will prepare you for this discomfort but sooner or later you have to do the uncomfortable behaviors and keep doing them to maintain your therapeutic gains. Psychological fitness is like physical fitness. If you a person who is prone to shame and discomfort avoidance then you will need to keep in shape once you have made some degree of progress. The way to keep in shape is to keep doing your shame and discomfort attacking exercises in one form or other the rest of your life.
With these shame and discomfort attacking exercises the idea is to say and do what you want as long as it does not hurt anyone, is not illegal, and is not against your long term personal goals. It is important to note that when you do a shame and discomfort attacking exercise you may inconvenience someone else. That is fine. Often in life inconvenience is the price you or someone else pays when we are dealing with each other. Accept this reality. It often comes down to who is inconvenienced.
Also some of these behaviors you may choose NOT to do at your place of employment if you wish to get promoted or stay on in the good graces of your supervisor. However, even at work it is prudent to do a shame attack by saying “No or No thank you” when it is best all things considered for you to do so. Judgment is involved and although you want your supervisors and colleagues to like and approve of you it is probably not in your long term best interest to be incapable of occasionally saying no to your supervisor or to your colleagues and friends. Often it is how you say no that makes the difference.
In order to do these essential behavioral exercises you will need to see that it is worth doing these things and that you are worth doing them for. Specifically you are advised to think “Although it is hard I can stand to do this uncomfortable thing and it has value to me to do so. The more I do these exercises the easier it will become for me to be assertive, set limits with others, and ask for what I want. Possession of this capability is in my long term best interest.”
Now the dreaded list of shame and discomfort attacking exercises:
1. Politely expressing your disagreeing point of view with someone who seems to be an authority on a particular subject
2. Saying no thank you when yes is the polite thing to say (if you really want to say no)
3. Electing not to applaud when you are not impressed by a performance
4. Not nodding agreement when the other person is encouraging you to do so by saying “Right, right…”
5. Firmly telling a sales person no thank you and hanging up the phone without waiting for a reply
6. Bargaining for a better price - You can always ask “May I have this at a better price?”
7. Not tipping when you get mediocre service
8. Politely asking for what you want without apologizing
9. Letting someone know how you would prefer to be addressed
10. Graciously selling yourself if that is something you are disinclined to do but need to do in order to accomplish a particular goal
11. Asking someone to help you when it might be inconvenient for them to do so
12. Asking someone to endorse you even though they may not know you well
13. Risking being rejected when you make a request from another person
14. Doing something imperfectly when it does not matter enough to you to be more exacting
15. Not assuming responsibility by saying “I am sorry” if you are not responsible for what has occurred. You may express empathy by saying “I am sorry that this mishap occurred” but that is different than saying “I am sorry” and implying responsibility when you did not cause the misfortune.
16. Not going along with what others want you to do when it matters to you
17. Telling someone the truth if that is what is called for
18. Wearing clothing you really like even if it is normally not what someone your age or gender would typically wear
19. Judiciously using four letter words if it enhances your point and if it is out of character for you.
20. Calling someone by their first name when you do not know them well.
21. Asking what might be considered a stupid question but one that you honestly do not know the answer to and not also apologizing for your ignorance
22. Not donating to a charity when disinclined to do so even when others are donating
23. Waiting for or asking for the change when you pay in cash and the cashier is slow to give you the change hoping you will drop it in their “tips” bin
24. Not participating in the office “shake downs” for money when you feel disinclined to participate
25. Telling a joke or acting silly if this strikes you as funny
26. Singing a song aloud while walking down the street if you feel inclined to do so
27. Saying or doing what you really want if it is unpopular but does not hurt anyone and is not against your long term interests
28. Politely pointing out when someone cuts the line you are standing in that the there is a line and pointing to where the last position is
29. Not being politically correct (allow me to again remind you this probably is best avoided at your place of employment)
30. Not going to church or religious services if these no longer have meaning to you
31. Giving your psychotherapist feedback on whether he or she is helping you
32. Requesting a change in schedule that suits your preferences for services you receive
33. Telling someone you love something positive which you really like about them if this is out of character for you
34. Doing public speaking
35. Asking someone for a date
36. Saying or doing something sexual if that is out of character for you
37. Initiating sex if that is uncomfortable for you
38. Wearing lingerie if that is out of character for you
39. Wearing a style of bathing suit you really like even if that is not what you typically wear
40. Politely asking someone a personal question if you are curious
41. Revealing your age
42. Politely asking someone their age.
43. Introducing yourself to someone you do not know (especially good in elevators or standing in lines)
44. Admitting your do not know the answer to a question but being willing to learn the answer
45. Admitting you have misbehaved or committed an error without trying to cover it up
46.Saying no to friend’s request for a favor when you really do not want to do this particular thing
The rule of thumb is – if you feel the shame or discomfort when something comes to mind to do that is probably an opportunity to consider the act a potentially worthwhile shame and discomfort attack. Just remember only do it if it is not hurting anyone, it is not illegal, and is not against your long term goals all things considered. For example, with a friend you may choose to inconvenience yourself and do them a favor. However, there may be times where even with a friend it is in your long term best interest to deny them a favor. Life is complex and you need to use judgment. Inconveniencing others is fine and sometimes cannot be avoided. Also remember not to take responsibility for other people’s feelings when you do a shame and discomfort attack. When you do a shame and discomfort attack the other party may get angry, shameful, convey disapproval, pout or sulk. So long as you are not acting unethically or illegally or terribly insensitively towards the other party they and not you are responsible for their feelings. The goal is not to alienate other people but to liberate you. Control what you can control – You!