Welcome to stren #29. Today’s stren offers a case study illustrating what I call our minimum daily requirement [MDR] for approval. Most people are aware of the term “minimum daily requirement” because we see it on food and vitamin labels: “One serving has 50% of the minimum daily requirement of vitamin C.” Just as our body has minimum daily requirements of thyroid hormone and certain vitamins, we require a minimum daily dose of emotional satisfaction to sustain our mental vigor. Today, we are very aware of our physical need for food, vitamins, warmth, sunshine, etc. and we know where and how to get them, but few of us recognize that we have a minimum daily requirement for approval to sustain our enthusiasm or how to provide for those needs. Are you such a person?
Caroline was having an especially difficult day. Before she left for work, her husband complained that she never showed any interest in his career. At the office, her boss rejected the proposal she’d put extra effort into, and her secretary quit, telling her she was impossible to work for. Caroline sat at her desk, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She pictured herself marching down Main Street, the VIP in a parade. A brass band playing, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” marched behind her. Two young women dressed in colorful costumes walked along in front of her, carrying a banner that stretched across the street. The banner read, “Hurrah for Caroline!”
After a few minutes of engaging in her “pick me up” fantasy, Caroline returned to reality with renewed energy and enthusiasm. She took problem-solving actions. She put in a requisition for another secretary, phoned her husband saying she wanted to discuss his complaint, and began revising her proposal.
Six months ago, if Caroline had been confronted with only one of the circumstances she found herself in, she would have dwelled on her shortcomings, mentally beat on herself, become depressed, and considered herself a failure. Now, she is able to look at criticisms from others objectively, without putting herself down.
Caroline came to see me because of her recurring bouts of depression and a variety of physical complaints, including headache, stomach queasiness, and insomnia. I soon discovered that Caroline’s mental and emotional state was usually dependent on others’ reactions to her. If people praised her or otherwise showed their approval, she felt good about herself and remained in a cheerful frame of mind. She seemed unable to cope with critical comments, however. Whether or not the criticisms were valid wasn’t the issue. Because she didn’t possess the skill of providing for her self-esteem, Caroline reacted to the criticism with a depression that was often incapacitating, causing her to stay in bed or lie down with a headache.
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