Self-confidence is based on a belief that abilities will allow you to realize
a goal and protect yourself against the consequences of failure and negative evaluation
by others. As long as your clients have a firm belief in their competency, they
are protected from the sabotage of uncertainty, self-questioning, and concern
However, regarding the context of the experience, their belief
in competence declines in front of a group. Technically, we can say that the self-confidence
frame of reference or cognitive map is replaced by a vulnerability frame of reference.
Vulnerability Mode in Private vs. Public
The change in context from private to public is responsible for
changing your client's frame of reference, the individual's belief in his own
competence. This change in content also affects the quality of his performance.
The vulnerability mode may have some merit in protecting the immature child lacking
in social skills from exposing himself to ridicule, but its persistence after
the person has acquired competence, is generally counterproductive. So how do
you get your client to recognize and change from their vulnerability mode?
Experience and Vulnerability
The notion of self-confidence and competence can be further clarified
if we examine the difference between a veteran soldier and a fresh recruit. Those
of you that have treated past clients can relate to the following. The "green"
soldier exposed to combat may well by swamped by a sense of vulnerability. He
loses his mental focus due to the danger aspects of combat and focuses on his deficiencies.
He finds it difficult to concentrate on the details of his assignment -- for example,
a scouting mission. Moreover, when confronted with an unexpected danger, his available
life-preservative mechanisms are limited to the primal responses: flee, freeze,
collapse, which he must overcome if he is to function at all.
soldier, in contrast, has a confident task-oriented frame of reference
or cognitive map. He is concerned with maximizing the probabilities of surviving,
mastering the challenge, and utilizing his skills. When confronted with an unexpected
danger, he is already programmed to respond appropriately, presumably because
previous exposure and practice in adaptive responses have forestalled the activation
of a debilitating anxiety response. Moreover, his confidence precludes activation
of the vulnerability map or frame of reference, which would predispose the client
to the anxiety response.
Why is the experienced professional or veteran
able to respond to his specialized emergencies without the activation of his vulnerability
frame of reference and resulting in anxiety behavior? The reason his cognitive
map or frame of reference in situations that other people would regard as
threatening, is essentially directed toward problem solving rather than toward
anxiety. His "reflexes" are not hindered by anxiety.
of a past client you have treated; if not a soldier, it might be an abused child,
rape victim, or battered wife. How does their frame of reference or cognitive
map operate? Is it one of vulnerability or confidence and task-orientedness?
Shifting from Vulnerable to Confident
How do you shift your vulnerable client to confident?
The problem of retaining
confidence is related to several factors:
1. The strength of the belief in one's own confidence counteracts vulnerability.
2. The change in
context from non-evaluative to evaluative may increase the sense of vulnerability.
3. The introduction of questions regarding the consequences of failure
will change the client's frame of reference from being one of danger-oriented
to one of problem-oriented.
As you know, adopting a confident attitude
involves focusing on the positives in a situation, minimizing the negatives, and
often assuming that one has greater control than one actually has. This mind set
usually maximizes the probability of success and neutralizes an attitude of vulnerability.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What is one problem regarding retaining confidence? To select and enter
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