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Low Self-Esteem

Understanding Low Self-Esteem

Healing From Low Self-Esteem With The Power Of EMDR – (Our Past Shapes Us)

Fear and anxiety of rejection, abandonment, negative evaluation by others, commitment and intimacy are the corner stone of Low self-esteem. Generally, all humans are all born with two natural fears; fear of falling and fear of noise, all humans inherent these fears as a survival mechanism to keeps us alive and to alert us to potential danger. The million-dollar question is if we were not born with low self-esteem fears, where do they come from?

The answer is rooted in our childhood; we all are shaped by our childhood experiences. Our past leaves a stamp on us, our beliefs are typically formed on the basis of what we have experienced and we see our worth through lenses tinted by our past. If we were involved in repeated abuse as children such as verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, regular intrusion and violation of physical or psychological space, bullying, stalking, harassment, domestic violence and/or belonging to a social group that other people are prejudiced toward, the result is our bad memories will permanently alter our outlook towards our lives and our future. Therefore as adults we remember every emotion and physical sensation from our earliest days, even if we have no lucidness about the events that took place, these memories continue to guide the way we operate our lives as adults behind our conscious mind. It is possible to have strong emotional reactions without conscious recall, even without consciousness! The past bad memories also continue to guide our response to situations, and events in our adult lives. Our thought process, mind set, attitude, aspirations, expectations, and social behaviour are all altered and shaped by our past memories.
The result is, as adults we are everything that we have been through, everything that we have seen, everything that has been done to us, and everyone that we have had relationships with during childhood.

All of the above traumatic Learning experiences become imprinted and stored in the part of the brain called the Amygdala (also known as the fear brain). The amygdala is part of the brain that processes unconscious memory and emotions. The job of the amygdala is to keep us safe, and it does its job extremely well. It remembers the facts of past events, recalls, emotions, feelings and bodily responses.  In particular it is highly sensitive to the memory of danger so that we can react to it rapidly if it happens again. It also controls the Fight or Flight or Freeze survival instincts response. The fear brain is continually assessing situation for danger, and threats. It integrates information from internal chemistry, external events, and memories, attaches the emotions, and decides an action. Childhood traumatic experiences are stored down from a young age, exactly as they are perceived at the time – often through a child’s eyes. This is how our childhood experiences shape who we are and who we become, influence what we think, believe and do as adults. Therefore, it is understandable that as adults, no amount of rational thinking will help us to “unlearn” those emotional memories or responses. Furthermore if our past experiences were destructive they destroy our natural sense of trust and distort our view of the world and the people in it, making it seem like a dangerous and scary place. They shape our expectations, values and assumptions about the way the world operates. It’s like the stored memories become part of our internal ‘guide to life’, telling us what to expect from ourselves, others and the world, how to behave and react to others and the world.  Without doubt, our past experiences holds us back, keeps us down, and paralysis our life. It’s comfortable and sometimes even satisfying to get caught up and live in our past because that is what our brain is accustomed to.

 Low self-esteem could be traced back to childhood traumatic experiences and it could be understood as part of the amygdala warning system that lets us know when we are in danger of being socially rejected or abandonment. While the evolutionary function of this detection system is intended to motivate people to stay socially connected, the constant anticipation of rejection and abandonment can run counter to this primitive survival function for people with low self-esteem, the mechanism might not only be unproductive but harmful.

As stated above the emotional warning system gets triggered at the slightest cues of rejection or abandonment and elicits defensive reactions that may sometimes be unjustified. Low self-esteem is heavy baggage that plagues people with feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Naturally, people with low self-esteem struggle in close relationships, as they are hypersensitive and hyper-reactive to rejection, dismissal and disapproval cues. For example a child who was physically abandoned by a parent or caregiver may develop negative cognitions (negative beliefs) such as ‘I’m unworthy’. ‘I’m unlovable’. Or a child who was sexually abused may conclude that ‘I’m vulnerable’. ‘’I’m a bad person and deserved it’. The world is unsafe’ ‘Others can not be trusted’. Consequently these beliefs and associated behaviours may push away potential intimate partners and friends creating a self-filing prophecy. Without conscious awareness, low self-esteem sufferers sometimes respond wrongly to current encounters as if they were the hurts they suffered originally in childhood. Low self-esteem can trigger the primitive fight-or-flight response because the brain has learned that rejection is dangerous, so it will react the same way as if there is a lion ready to attack. Low esteem sufferers cannot tolerate romantic or professional rejections, while a healthy degree of self-esteem can absorb the shock of rejection.

In summary Low self-esteem is associated with perfectionism, dependence on others, irrationality, rigidity, fear of negative evaluation by others, low self-confidence, pessimism, hypersensitivity to rejection, and of feelings of inadequacy/inferiority, impostor feelings, (feeling like a fake) and chaotic relationships. Low self-esteem is also linked to anxiety and depression and suicide. It is also associated with other mental health problems such as social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, performance anxiety, body Dysmorphic, eating disorders and substance misuse. Low self-esteem can put sufferers at a disadvantage in work and social life. If these feelings persist or become exacerbated they can lead to a sense of failure and despair leading to suicidal and/or self-harming tendencies. The question is how can we combat low self-esteem?

Psychotherapy to diminish low self-esteem fears:
Many people pursue therapy in order to address low self-esteem. There are a number of mainstream therapies and counselling methods that help to lessen the symptoms of low self-esteem. Most of these are mainly geared at avoiding or hushing the symptoms and emotional pain of low self-esteem. They give a sense of recovery, except that the recovery is often short lived as most people find themselves experiencing the same symptoms again after a while.
The key to stop the impact of low self esteem fears is to access and resolve them directly in the subconscious mind with the power of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which Steps To Rational Living http://www.strl-psychotherapy.co.uk/about.php, specializes in. The EMDR technique does two very important things.  First, it "unlocks" the negative memories and emotions stored in the amygdala, and second, it helps the brain to successfully process the experience. The result is that the feelings are re-experienced in a new way.

EMDR offers new hope for many people who have experienced an accumulative of childhood trauma. It is a therapy that offers the ability to walk right into the unconscious mind and resolve and dissolve all attachments to the traumatic memory. With EMDR you will discover that the past is not complex at all, but instead simple, and extremely easy to access and heal. At Steps To Rational Living we are confident in EMDR’s ability to heal the emotional and psychological problems linked to childhood trauma. Research shows that EMDR is fast, safe and effective and does not involve the use of drugs, or hypnosis.  EMDR processing can help with changing the meaning of early, painful memories, which have resulted in negative cognitions.

The questions to ask yourself are:  Do you feel relaxed and comfortable in the world? Are you peaceful and content? is your life fulfilling? Do you love and feel good about yourself? Is your life filled with drama and uncertainty? If you are not living the life you desire?

Then please do not hesitate to contact Steps To Rational Living by visiting our website.
Gean Viriri is an Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing 
(EMDR) accredited practitioner and accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
Gean is the founder of Steps To Rational Living Psychotherapy
website: http://www.steps-to-rational-living.co.uk/index.html
Email: mailto:help@steps-to-rational-living.co.uk

 

Article Sources:
1.Davis, M. 1992. The role of the amygdala in fear and anxiety. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 5:353 –375
2.Robin Grille What Your Child Remembers -- New discoveries about early memory and how it affects us - http://nospank.net/grille5.htm
3. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), (2007) Psychological ScienceSelf-Esteem (October 11, 2007)  
EruptingMInd; http://www.eruptingmind.com/understanding-overcoming-fear/

 

 

1. file CBT Suggested Self Help Strategies to Build Self (pdf)

 

2. file CBT- How Low Self-Esteem Is Maintained (pdf)

 

3. fileCBT Understanding Low Self-Esteem (pdf)

 

4. file Healing Low Self- Esteem (pdf)

 

5. file Healing Shame-Based Thinking (pdf)

 

6. file Healing the Roots of Low Self-Esteem (pdf)

 

7. file Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Model of Understanding Low Self-Esteem and Perfectionism. (pdf)

 

 

Please note: If you are thinking about harming yourself or someone else, please call 999 for immediate assistance.