Everyone reacts differently to situations and events, as how we react is influenced by the underlying beliefs we have about ourselves. When we encounter a situation, we develop subsequent automatic thoughts about that situation—but those thoughts don’t develop out of thin air. Rather, they arise from a set of core beliefs that we hold about ourselves as a person, which have developed throughout our entire life starting from when we were very young.
Many of our clients’ core beliefs are characterized by self-doubt
, and it can lead them to interpret situations from a negative lens. When this happens, it causes them to react in distressing ways. Self-doubt typically revolves around two themes: desirability or competency. When a client doubts their desirability, they might think of themselves as unattractive, unlikeable, bad, unwanted, or unworthy. When they doubt their competence, they may think of themselves as a failure, inadequate, helpless, useless, or incapable.
In order for our clients to identify the core beliefs that underlie their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, it is imperative that they—and we
as their therapist—first understand their personality style and what they value. Personality develops from a combination of nature and nurture, and it falls somewhere along a continuum of sociotropy and autonomy. Clients with a sociotropic, or socially-oriented, personality value interpersonal relationships over everything else; these people long to be liked, accepted, valued, and desired. In contrast, clients with an autonomous, or achievement-oriented, personality value accomplishments, mobility, and independence. They desire to be thought of as competent, capable, and strong.
The following are examples of events that can bother socially-oriented (sociotropic) people:
- Disagreeing with others
- Feeling rejected or insulted, whether real or imagined
- Being left out or not included
- Having someone upset with them
- Feeling awkward in social situations
- Not being called or texted back
- Being judged or insulted, especially because of their character
The following are examples of events that can bother achievement-oriented (autonomous) people:
- Being criticized regarding their performance, whether real or imagined
- Feeling as though they have no control
- Losing their independence
- Feelings of being smothered
- Having difficulty achieving—or failing to reach—a goal
- Being told to do something, not asked
- Not living up to their own expectations
- Giving up control
So why is it so important that our clients understand their own personality? It affects what they value most in life—when their most important values are compromised or thwarted, it is likely to activate self-doubt within them. It’s important that clients identify these doubt labels, which are the nasty names they call themselves when insecurity takes over. Once we can help them to identify their doubt labels, our clients can learn to question them so that their faulty beliefs aren’t always getting in the way and causing them to needlessly overreact.
Help your clients to figure out their own personality styles with these FREE personality worksheets
. The more True
answers your client marks, the more sociotropic (or autonomous) they are in nature. The scale for scoring is as follows:
0 to 2 True answers – Mildly sociotropic (or autonomous)
3 to 6 True answers – Moderately sociotropic (or autonomous)
7 to 12 True answers – Extremely sociotropic (or autonomous)
If a client takes both quizzes, the worksheet with the higher number of True
answers may show a lean towards one side of the personality continuum. In fact, it is common for people to lie somewhere in the middle.
Remember to remind clients that neither a sociotropic or autonomous personality is “right” or “wrong.” Instead, knowing more about their personality, regardless of what it may be, will assist them in figuring out their values, questioning faulty beliefs, and taking control of self-doubt.
You can find more than 50 exercises and worksheets like this in our new, go-to resource, The Ultimate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook
. This book includes valuable materials to help your clients restructure their thinking, face their fears, curb their anger, resist unhelpful urges, and grow the most positive and accurate view of themselves.