There are elements of self esteem that are harmful for crisis situations.
There is supported reason to believe that self-esteem is related to thought suppression. Thought suppression is 'the process of deliberately trying to stop
thinking about certain thoughts'. An essential element of self-esteem is positive self evaluation. The current western culture** regards self-esteem as something we are all capable of and should strive for.
This encouragement to adopt positive self-evaluation naturally leads to thought suppression. Reasons for negative self-evaluation are minimized or ignored. This leads to a host of EVOKE-relevant problems, such as increased blindness to one's moral short comings. For example, the drive to positively self-evaluate can divert our energy from taking epistemic opportunities to consider our institutional contribution to racism or sexism.
However, this week's theme is crisis management. Therefore I would like to apply this problematic element of self-esteem to crisis psychology. In this week's reading, we encounter two common but polar maladaptive responses to crises: denial and panic. I am interested in relating the capacity for denial with the drive for self-esteem.
Denial is a suppression mechanism. It is generally accepted in western culture that self-esteem is for the most part a habit of mind. That's why everyone is supposedly capable of it. Since self-esteem is built on habit of mind, it follows that its constituent psychological elements are also habitual in nature - such as negative thought suppression. Therefore, a self-esteem centered culture is habitually poised for a maladaptive response to crisis. The psychological 'muscle' governing denial - thought and feeling suppression - has been pumping iron for a cut self-image.
In recent psychological literature, an inspiring alternative to self esteem is emerging as a more robust standard of psychological well-being. This alternative is self-compassion. Compassion is empathetic and caring. Both empathy and caring assume mindfulness of the weaknesses, constraints, and suffering felt be the other. Compassion as a psychological state is correlated with identification with a larger group, a we, rather than an isolated I.
How does self-compassion work then? It is constituted by a) mindfulness, b) caring, and c) acceptance.
a) negative thoughts and feelings, e.g. denial, must be acknowledged in order to for compassion to play-out; there can be no care without diagnosis
b) negative thoughts and feelings are integrated with other thoughts, feelings, and values - they are not suppressed; they are gentled, managed, or worked out to a manageable level, self-consciously overseen
c) the management of negative thoughts and feelings is facilitated by acceptance; acceptance is achieved through recognition that the condition is shared - that it is part of our in-need-of-management human nature to be scared, anxious, jealous or whatever it is
In conclusion, our ability to manage the psychological element of denial in crises will depend on the pre-existing prevailing social attitudes toward psychological well-being. A self-esteem culture will produce more and stronger denial mechanisms to address. A self-compassion culture will produce less and weaker denial mechanisms to address.
This week's crisis theme is exemplified by medical emergencies. We all know prevention is preferable to cure. Therefore, when we consider crisis management it makes sense to concern ourselves with what can decrease the elements of crises beforehand. One part of the answer is spreading the culture of self-compassion, replacing the culture of self-esteem.
**I refer specifically to the western culture because it is what I know. However, I believe that while the self-esteem movement is outmoded, it is a still a very strong global meme.