by Edward L. Oriole L.C.P.C. C.A.D.C. N.C.C.

Much of what I have learned about developing emotional self-sufficiency comes from therapist and Ph.D. David Richo. He posits that good mental health comes with a durable sense of emotional self-sufficiency.

How I define emotional self-sufficiency for clients

An ability to maintain oneself without outside aid.
A capability for providing for one’s own needs.
An unshakable confidence in one’s own worth and abilities.

How I approach emotional self-sufficiency

The absence of any of the above coupled with a desire to change the status quo is the beginning of a therapeutic alliance. “Tell me,” I often begin, “how do you feel about yourself?” This is narrowed to address the three components of emotional self-sufficiency. “Don’t think in terms of high or low or good or bad, but rather in terms of strong or weak.” The answers are often paradoxical. The client often responds with “Good, high or strong,” but the behavior suggests otherwise. This is where the intervention begins.

If the strength of the therapeutic alliance is strong, we can rigorously examine the client’s behavior and interactions with important individuals within their life. The behavior is assessed according to whether or not it contributes or impedes emotional self-sufficiency. What I am looking for is to what degree the client depends upon others for praise or blame.

The behavior is often so deeply embedded that an otherwise mentally healthy client, is unaware that they seek much praise and little blame. The insight gained by the client often determines to what degree “my sense of self-sufficiency depends upon others.” “Is that dependence clinically significant?”. If the answer is ‘yes’ we move toward intervention.

During this session I ask, “Can we continue with this premise? Life is filled with positive and negative events. It is the unalterable human condition. Emotionally self-sufficient individuals are not de-stabilized by either one.” When the client is intrigued by this and commits to clinical work, I suggest a list of the hallmarks of emotionally self-sufficient individuals:

Emotionally self-sufficient individuals:

-Risk incomprehension and ridicule by others by stating their position assertively.
-Trust their instincts.
-Are willing to be disliked in the service of providing an honest assessment.
-Remain happy in their own company.
-Need to be social only to a reasonable degree and they
-Value wholeness and stability more than material goods and social status.

How to develop emotional self-sufficiency

So far, I have made the case that emotional self-sufficiency is valuable. Now I ask, “How do you achieve it?” Happily, David Richo provides a list. There are five ways that you can develop a sense of self-sufficiency. Also they all begin with the letter A.

Remember, these items are what we demand of ourselves.

ATTENTION: Pay attention to your feelings and emotions in all of your interactions. You observe, listen and notice. Assess if you are feeling ignored, invalidated or invisible. If true, take care of yourself by developing a fondness for yourself. Write and act upon what you feel a passion for. Enjoy the moment of doing what you do. Savor the things that give you pleasure and celebrate your successes with a ceremony.
ACCEPTANCE: Remember that this is an internal judgment. Do not be too harsh and do not be too lenient. Instead, be accurate. Pay the consequences for your errors and relish your triumphs. Rely not at all on outside judgments. It is only when “acceptance” is solidly in place that you can accept others. If “acceptance” is absent, you risk low self-confidence, low self-esteem and low deservability. When “acceptance” is in place, you gain stability and emotional safety.
APPRECIATION: Here is where mindfulness is important. What you are appreciating is your gifts, your limits, your longings and your unique and sometimes poignant human predicament.
How do you appreciate yourself? I suggest that you rigorously self-examine yourself and appreciate your gifts, your longings and your limitations. This is an internal process that is wholly outside of other individuals’ influence.
ALLOWING: In the modern, industrialized world, filled with overt and covert competitions, allowing is difficult. Nonetheless, allowing is valuable.
Allow life and love to be just as they are with all of their heartache and ecstasy. You “allow” them to occur without trying to control the uncontrollable. Allowing is not giving someone permission to do something, but rather allowing yourself to be yourself and refusing to let another define what you should be. An internal dialog that would assert something like this: “I am perfectly capable of living my life fully and deeply as me.”

In closing

Emotional self-sufficiency demands conscious choices, a sane fondness for others, firm boundaries and ruthless clarity.

The danger of failing to achieve emotional self-sufficiency is a chronic fear of either engulfment or abandonment by others. This can be avoided and emotional self-sufficiency achieved through the application of Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing in our daily lives. They are the pathways to that worthy goal.

Edward L. Oriole L.C.P.C. C.A.D.C . N.C.C.
Staff The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center
3205 n. Wilke Rd Suite 121 Suite 112 Arlington Heights Il 60004