Urgent Evoke

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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.

Views: 287

Comment by Iyamuremye Jean de Dieu on April 29, 2010 at 8:47pm
Great post full of knowledge.
Comment by Catherine Gentry on April 29, 2010 at 8:50pm
Excellent article. I've rushing but will revisit this information again. You've explained the abundance of denial which I've noted is prevalent in Western society quite well.
Comment by sunnydupree on April 29, 2010 at 10:27pm
Thank you this is a very well thought out article! Great work!
Comment by Samiran Roy on April 29, 2010 at 10:40pm
Thank you for the wonderful post.
Comment by Yumna Moosa on April 30, 2010 at 4:25am
This is very insightful. And I agree, it does affect most of the Evoke issues. I am glad that we're discussing the human element...
In solving human problems, I often find that people forget it. Thanks for remembering :)
Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on April 30, 2010 at 8:40pm
@all. Thanks - I was psyched at the changed to write about healthy self-attitude!

And by the way, I realized I could apply the idea when reading this post by Catherine Gentry:

Comment by Ternura Rojas on May 2, 2010 at 7:21pm
Really good post Jeremy. I perfectly got your ponit as I come from a "self-compassion" culture (Bolivia) where we all are used to share our pains and we are able to cheer up more easily. This does not mean at all that this kind of culture is able to overcome crisis in a more effective way (which is one of the reasons we are still the poorest country in South America).
Now I found myself living in a "self-esteem" western culture (Spain) working as a Pharmacist, trying to help people to handle their fears realted to Swine flue epidemics for exmaple, and the approach that I have learned to take is completely different!!
Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on May 2, 2010 at 7:37pm
@Tenura - that's super interesting! how do have to deal did you have to deal with the self-esteem culture differently?

And I agree that a self-compassion culture is not, of course, all it takes to overcome crises. Only that when it comes to dealing with thought suppression (such as denial), people with self-compassion will be a little healthier off, emotionally speaking (eg, more demonstrative).
Comment by Ternura Rojas on May 2, 2010 at 8:48pm
@Jeremy, what I have to do is getting people to acknowledge that under their thick crust they are actually feeling insecure and vulnerable, but I am not aught to openly remark these feelings. What I normally do is making questions about the "logistic" or "technical" problems that they might be coming across with due to their underlying condition. I try focus their attention to the practical (material) aspects and how to deal with them, once they find the way to "solve" those problems, there is actually no need to talk about "weaknesses" :-)
Nevertheless, dealing with the denial of self-esteem culture at a health-service level is easier as people somehow come over seeking for your input and guidance. I am finding it a lot more difficult to find an effective approach for a non-health related crisis for my Mission 7 :-) Any ideas??
Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on May 2, 2010 at 9:22pm
That's super interesting. The practical way to deal with the situation is to ask leading questions "about the "logistic" or "technical" problems that they might be coming across with due to their underlying condition" instead of talking straight about the underlying condition.

And I wonder why "dealing with the denial of self-esteem culture at a health-service level is easier as people somehow come over seeking for your input and guidance". I wonder if there isn't some other reason, not yet thought of here, for why more more people seek help in the self-esteem culture in you experience, even when denial mechanisms are clearly present . Maybe the cultures that carry the self-esteem meme also have, culturally, high expectations. So that when something goes on, they expect something to be done (or doable) about it. Compare to less fortunate places where there usually isn't a reasonable expectation that a ready response will be available to crises problems. I need to think about that.

As for mission 7, I found that one difficult too. Having the right equipment prepared for the sort of dangerous natural phenomena probable in the area is one thing.


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