I believe I can; therefore, I am succeeding

I choose to start this article by sharing with you two quotes that illustrate the notion I want to cover below.

The first quote is by Dr Seuss from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself in any direction you choose!” 

The second is from a slightly different source of inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

These quotes illustrate the notion of self-efficacy described by Albert Bandura as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage any potential situations.” In other words, it is people’s belief in their own ability to succeed and influence events that affect their lives. It is determining how people think, feel, behave, and motivate themselves. Self- efficacy plays an essential role in how you approach every aspect of your life (academic, work, friendships, parenting, sports, hobbies, health, and wellbeing) and determines what goals you choose to pursue, how you go about accomplishing those goals, and how you reflect upon your own performance.

Self-efficacy is formed in early childhood, and its growth continues to evolve throughout the lifespan as people are confronted to new adversities, setbacks and frustrations.

Self-efficacy is a psychological skill that help you deal better with difficulties. You can foster and strengthen it by working on its four main foundations:

– “Mastery Experiences”: it refers to the experiences we gain when we take on a new challenge. By getting out of our comfort zone and trying out new things, we create an opportunity for growth. We are teaching ourselves that we can acquire new skills, improve and succeed. So it is important to celebrate our successes, big or small and reflect on how we made it possible like trough perseverance or continuous efforts.

– “Social Modeling”: According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.” Hence, find positive role models that are similar to you; observe them and get inspired. You can have several depending on your area of interest, and it can be anyone from your immediate environments like a parent, a teacher and a mentor to someone from the public sphere. 

– “Social Persuasion”: This refers to the positive impact that words can have on someone’s self-efficacy. Bandura explains that through encouragement and positive feedbacks, people are led to believe that they have or can develop the skills and capabilities to succeed. This drives them to overcome self-doubt and employ their resources to achieve the task at hand. So seek positive affirmations and listen to the encouragements and positives feedbacks you are getting.

– “Psychological Responses”: Bandura explains that “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted”. This means that by learning how to manage your thoughts and emotions, you feel a higher sense of control over the situation and over yourself, which make you feel more capable of managing potential threats. This improves your belief of self-efficacy and decreases avoidance type behaviour like shying away from challenges.

By developing high self-efficacy, you are able to look at difficulties as challenges rather than threats. Struggle, step-backs, and failure don’t mean defeat; instead, they reveal an opportunity for growth, a chance to cope, to adapt, to learn and to find new ways to overcome.

According to Albert Bandura, “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” He specifies that yes, “Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.”

Sources:
Bandura, A. (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. New York: Cambridge University Press
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Worth Publishers

Written by:
Lucie Ramet

Clinical Psychologist

Are you Playing? Play Therapy for Adults

Play is commonly acceptable and encouraged amongst children and as individuals develop across the life span, play is discouraged and frowned upon. Some of the key characteristics of play include spontaneity, the freedom of expression, and the provision of varied contexts (Gordon & Esbjorn-Hargens, 2005). Play is not goal-driven, threatened, or blocked by real-world consequences (Gordon & Esbjorn-Hargens, 2005). In my last blog post, I addressed play therapy for children, and for today’s blog post, I will be discussing the role of play in adults’ lives and its applications in therapy. 

Do Adults Play?

Even though play is not well-respected amongst adults, play is undoubtedly lurking in every corner of our lives. Play is manifested in board games, hobbies, team sports, theatre, and video games,  just to name a few. While we may not take to all forms of play, some play forms appeal to us more than others. Play allows us to make meaning of what is going on around us whether we engage in solitary play or playing with others. Play also provides a unique context for us to engage in symbols, stories, norms, and ethics, as well as varied perspectives.  

Play Therapy for Adults

When working with adult clients, I utilize different forms of play depending on their interests and preferences. For clients who are more inclined towards literary pursuits, we engage in poetry writing and narrative work through language to enable clients to craft and recraft their storied lives. For other clients who are predisposed toward experiential play practices, we engage in expressive art that allows clients to express themselves in non-verbal ways to process their issues in a safe way.  Clients learn a lot about themselves through different mediums of expression that words may not be able to express adequately. For clients who prefer to rehearse or engage in the discovery of different roles, regardless of whether these roles are make-believe or realistic, drama supplies creative ways for them to adopt multiple perspectives through role-play and improvisation.

Effects of Play Therapy on Adults

Play allows individuals to express themselves and engage with a part of themselves that is not bound by the constraints of everyday life. Based on Gordon and Esbjorn-Hargens (2005)’s integral model, different play forms encourage the development of varied capacities that in turn allows us to grow and stretch towards our fullest potential. Not only do we engage in various capacities to connect with our emotions, but we also figure out morality, make sense of our existence in the cosmos, develop our thought processes, and enhance our interpersonal skills to help us relate better to others around us. Additionally, play allows clients to navigate difficult terrain in therapy through non-threatening ways at their own time and space. In the wise words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  

In my next blog post, I will touch on sand tray therapy, a play modality that can benefit clients of all ages and cultures. 

References

Gordon, G., & Esbjorn-Hargens, S. (2005). Are We Having Fun Yet? An Integral Exploration of the Transformative Power of Play. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 47(2), 198-222. doi: 10.1177/0022167806297034

Written by:
Isabelle Ong, Ph.D., LCMHCA, NCC (USA)
Clinical Mental Health Counselor & Psychotherapist for Individuals, Children, Adolescents and Couples

Radical Acceptance and how to get there

Radical acceptance is the practice of accepting things as they are and acknowledging that circumstances cannot be changed in the right now, including aspects that we don’t like and cannot control, when life is unfair and not as how it should be, when we fail to live up to our ideals of how we should live our lives, and the accompanying negative thoughts and feelings that come with any of the above. Radical acceptance is the act of giving in to reality as it is, and not adding further to our own suffering caused by our own reactions.

Sounds easy right?? Oftentimes this practice may seem easy in the beginning as we confuse it with the notion of tolerance, or just “putting up with it” or “putting it to the side” until it goes away. We often experience some measure of success as we start to feel better and an initial reduction in the negative thoughts and distressing feelings is reported. However where it begins to get harder is when we have been industrious in practicing radical acceptance as we understand it.. and “things are still the same” or “I am not getting better”!

So what went wrong?

Essentially, radical acceptance requires that the individual let go of all pre-conceived notions, judgments and expectations, that is, to accept things as they are now and more importantly, not place any expectations on when things may change, improve or pressure ourselves into being “better people”. As such it means acknowledging that we are “this person or this situation” right now, and to not place judgment or to ‘fight’ against our negative feeling or current reality as it is. Of course, this does not mean condoning behaviours or agreeing with things that run contrary to our values. It also does not mean giving up our needs or pretending that the situation does not exist or that changes are not necessary where they are possible. On a counterintuitive level, radical acceptance requires regular practice without expectation of success.

Radical acceptance is also about embracing ourselves as a whole, our strengths, areas of vulnerabilities, and everything in between. It involves acknowledging who we are at this point, and choosing to own our perceptions and reactions, and to forego judgment and the ever-present fear of negative evaluation of others on ourselves, of others by ourselves, and of ourselves on ourselves. Radical acceptance means making changes that align with where we want to be and what we want to be doing, rather than what we want to get rid of or feel pressured to do or become. Some steps that can assist us along this journey include:

  1. Seeing things for what they are – Identify your roles and that of others in the situation, and having a better understanding of how things came to pass. Refrain from blaming, judging or railing against aspects that you don’t like or seem unfair, notice when your own expectations or ideals are not met, or when there are fears involved.
  2. Consciously choosing to accept the situation, ourselves – Make a conscious decision to embrace and acknowledge the pain, not so much to stop it, but more because the pain is part of the process, just like how our vulnerabilities and parts of us that we don’t like are also part of us.
  3. Planning and making changes where we can in alignment with our dreams, desires –Make changes where is possible for a better outcome, to consciously begin to love the whole of yourself and to make changes that resonate with your values. Stop judging or castigating yourself on your flaws and beware the monkey mind that tries to stop you from trying things through ruminations, self-blames, catastrophisations, “what ifs” and “if onlys”.
  4. Making time to reflect on our choices and becoming aware of any expectations or judgments that we may unconsciously begun to place on ourselves, others etc – Take time out to identify any roadblocks or internal pressures that may have subtly begun to take hold especially after the first two weeks of practicing radical acceptance, and in the next three months that follow. Often we tend to feel that things don’t work when the emotions or negative thoughts do not abate or disappear. Remember, those are signs that we are not actually practicing radical acceptance in its intended form, but as a means to get rid of what it is we do not want.
  5. Repeat from Step 1 again.

    Those who are interested in learning more about Radical Acceptance and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) can read and try the exercises here:
    https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com/distress-tolerance/radical-acceptance/
    https://themighty.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Radical-Acceptance-DBT.pdf
    https://www.psychbytes.com/how-to-practice-radical-acceptance/
    https://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_1.html
    https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html
    (on how Marsha Lineham, creator of DBT, came up with radical acceptance)

Written by:
Dr. Daphne Goh
Clinical Psychologist