Conclusion: 90 Seconds a Day - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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Conclusion: 90 Seconds a Day

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > Mirror Mirror- Self-Esteem Relationships

Mirror Mirror… Reflections of Self-Esteem in Relationships and Therapy
by Ronald Mah


1) I'm tired.  
"Yeah, but it's time to get up."

2) ………(yawn)………
"Don't forget your jacket."

3) Where's my brush?
"Over there on the dresser."

4) Where's my shirt?
"Over there by the dryer."

5) I can't find the matching sock!
"There it is."

6) Can you give me that please?

7) Can we have pancakes today?
"No time to make pancakes."

8) What are you reading?
"The newspaper article about the new school."

9) ……………………
"Time to go.  Get your stuff."

10) Is it going to rain tomorrow?
"Showers in the afternoon maybe."

11) What's to eat?
"There's crackers… and cheese in the refrigerator... and there's fruit"

12) How about going to the store Saturday?
"If we get the housework taken care of first."

13) …(watching television) …
"Don't forget soccer practice at 5 o'clock."

14) Can we have Chuck and Shirley over Saturday?
"Uh, we have Dan's recital on Saturday."

15) Can I watch the baseball game?

16) Whatcha doin'?
"Getting stuff ready for the picnic."

17) Who was that?
"It was Anna."

18) Good night.
"Good night."

When I was supervising other therapists at a community counseling agency, I would often conduct sessions at the coffee shop across the street.  The counseling rooms in the agency were usually fully occupied for client sessions and the coffee shop had quiet areas where supervision could take place in private.  Each week, we would always first order coffee or tea and sometimes a pastry or sandwich.  By the cash register was a glass display case with highly decadent killer chocolate truffles!  Although, I like a bit of chocolate occasionally, my wife loves chocolate, especially bittersweet chocolate.  She likes dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, and not don't-waste-my-time-with-white chocolate!  By the way, an ingredient in chocolate is very similar to THC- the active ingredient in marijuana.  And, that chocolate activates a hormone in the brain that is similarly activated when one is in love?  Hmmm… no wonder!  So whenever I went to the coffee shop, in addition to the coffee or tea, I would purchase a luscious dark chocolate truffle to give to my wife later.  It cost about $1.25 or $1.50 back then, not a huge expense.  I would stick it in my briefcase and sometime that night, I would give it to my wife.  Big deal?  No, not really.  BIG deal?  You bet… HUGE deal!  What did this small token of a massive dose of cocoa and sugar laced with liqueur, not to mention massive calories mean?  First, it meant that my wife is important enough to me that I think of her even when I'm not with her.  Second, it meant that I care enough to know her.  She's a major chocoholic and she likes, that is, craves! relishes! drools over dark chocolate!  Not milk chocolate!  Not don't-waste-my-time-with-white chocolate!  Third, it meant that I enjoy that I can delight her with this simple gift, this simple message.  What it all means or conveys is confirmation of and a reflection of her special place in my life, her value to me.  What happens to relationships when such messages of worth are conveyed with regularity?  What happens to relationships when such messages are a rarity?

Some people feel overwhelmed when contemplating how difficult and complicated it is to build the self-esteem of another including partners or children.  With the intensity and demands of day-to-day lives, they think they don't have enough time to give others or partners or children what they need.  The therapist can suggest the "90 Second-A-Day Self-esteem Prescription Plan" as a solution.  In 90 seconds a day, individuals can support each other's and children's self-esteem.  At work, school, or social situations, individuals can support the self-esteem of people in their other important relationships.  In any given day, there are numerous opportunities to support another's self-esteem.  Take any of the many simple interactions that occur during the day between partners or two people in some relationship.  "Do this… where's that?  How come?  Guess what?  I saw… George went…"  Suppose there are about eighteen such interactions each day.  Each response is a reflection back to the individual.  An individual can add a mere 5 seconds to each interaction or reflection.  The individual does not even have to devote a whole 90 seconds at a time from the day.  Five seconds times eighteen interactions equals ninety seconds (5 x 18 = 90) a day.  What does the individual add to those five seconds?  What can be mirrored?  The individual can add a simple "message of worth" to each interaction.

"I'm sorry honey, it's time to get up.  It's hard, but it's time to get up."  

"Your favorite shirt is over there by the dryer.  It's nice and clean."  

"Don't ruin your dinner. There's fruit… those purple grapes that you really like."  

"Soccer practice at 5 o'clock.  Give yourself enough time so you don't have to be rushed."  

OK, "Who's playing?"

"Good night.  Sweet dreams. Love you."

What are the "messages of worth?"  

Acknowledgement and appreciation that it is difficult to wake up…

Knowing and caring that someone has a favorite shirt, and being delighted that he or she would be delighted to have it to wear…  

Nourishing with food while nurturing with a favorite (and healthy) treat…  

Caring to forewarn to help him or her avoid the stress of rushing…

Caring that he or she is passionate about his or her baseball game… and that he or she be well-rested…

Caring to send him or her into his or her nightly rest with a last message of love…

Messages of worth are so important because an individual's self-esteem grows and solidifies when he or she knows that what he or she is, feels, and experiences matters to someone significant to him or her.  He or she matters to his or her partner, parent, friend, or colleague.  Bert matters to Terry.  Terry matters to Bert.  The therapist can present this concept and strategy.  Following through with messages of worth in daily communications becomes the individual, couple, or family's homework assignment.  The individual or each partner or family member needs to remember that any and every interaction shared with another person involves a communication or reflection about his or her worth.  The individual's tone, body language and facial expressions, and actions and lack of actions are also messages of worth, or unfortunately, of unworthiness.  The individual often responds to the comment, question, or request without regard to the self-esteem of the commenter, questioner, or requester.  Responses address the function of the communication without reflecting the worth of the individual.  Conscientiously adding the 5 second message of worth to each of the hypothetical 18 interactions a day with another will build mutual self-esteem in 90 seconds a day.  

Is this a "trick" solution?  Is it one of those "magic" fixes that are promoted all the time in the media?  Of course, it's a therapeutic "trick" but not because it would not work.  It does not even really require eighteen interactions or a five-second message each time.  It's a "trick" because to be able to follow through on it requires supreme focus and health.  It is hard to follow through on the 90 Second-A-Day Prescription Plan.  If the individual is emotionally stable and have done the personal work to address underlying psychological, childhood, and family-of-origin issues (that is, built the foundation to building self-esteem) then he or she can follow through with the guidelines to supporting the self-esteem of other important people.  However, if life is overwhelming… if the stress is debilitating… if the individual's focus is drawn to the crises of life… if the failed marriage remains devastating to Terry or Bert… it co-parenting with the ex is onerous, then it becomes difficult if not impossible to maintain focus and consistency to add "messages of worth" to each interaction.  To build self-esteem in the individual, couple, or family, the therapist encourages each individual to strive for personal health and stability.  Loving oneself and nurturing oneself enable the individual to understand, love, and nurture another with balance or without suffocating him or her.  The therapist asserts that without doing one's own personal development, the individual, for example Terry or Bert cannot support another person in a relationship effectively.  Personal development allows for the individual to be ideal self as the co-parent, partner, family member, friend, or colleague he or she aspires to be.  It takes more than a truffle a week to maintain a healthy or merely a functional relationship, but having the awareness and consistency that would allow individuals to communicate consistent messages of worth does portend a better relationship.  The therapist should carefully consider the role of communication and self-esteem when working with relationships.  Occasional praise and little gifts do not build, much less guarantee healthy self-esteem in the individual's partner, family member, friend, or colleague.  Successful relationships develop when individuals internalize the principles and practice of emotional nurturance.  Therapy often works to get the individual, couple, or family to mutually facilitate and support high self-esteem through improving communication skills.  And therapy often works through improved communication skills.

Mirror mirror in my life, who's an important person in your life?

You are.  You are important in my life!

3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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