Avoiding Self-sabotage

Most of us demonstrate some level of self-destructive or self-sabotaging behavior at some time in our lives. Many actions are relatively harmless, such as nail biting, procrastinating, not flossing or brushing teeth regularly, or sitting instead of walking. Others, however, can be more dangerous: Smoking, using alcohol/drugs, gambling, refusing a vaccination or medical treatment, and excessive eating. If you engage in these latter types frequently to the point they become a lifestyle, you’re in trouble because the actions may be driven by unresolved emotional conflicts involving anger, shame, or anxiety. This process is how some people sabotage their relationships; how some suffer low self-esteem, convinced they are unlovable; how some avoid social interactions lest others manipulate them. These self-destructive beliefs lead to self-criticism, helplessness, and depression.

Brent’s life was self-destructive. He was an oppositional, impulsive child and adolescent, and never responded well to rules or authority. He underachieved in school and later in work, and was generally irresponsible and lacked motivation. He lived with a girlfriend long-term with whom he had two children. They had a chaotic, disorganized life, and used drugs. Their kids escaped to their grandparents’ house often. Eventually the girlfriend left him, and Brent fell apart. He harassed her and she got a PFA, which he promptly violated and eventually ended up in jail. He lost his job and lost the right to be with his children unsupervised. His second violation of the PFA put him in prison. After Brent was released from prison, he tried counseling. However, he lacked purpose, empathy, and commitment; he was unable to have healthy social and family relationships, and live a constructive life.

Brent’s case is extreme, but the underlying dynamics are the same we see in those who try to cope with stress every day in self-destructive ways: low self-esteem, uncontrolled emotional expression, and instability in relationships, coupled with lack of commitment and confidence, undeveloped values and goals, and fear of failure. This pattern is self-defeating and can evolve into increasing self-destructiveness as anxiety, guilt, frustration, and eventually depression, strengthen. 

It is much less stressful to “approach and chase” the challenges and responsibilities of life, rather than run from them. It is more productive to identify your values and commit yourself to work toward goals based on those values. Doing so will give you purpose and help you feel alive. There is no substitute for committed effort based on values, humility, and empathy. After all, what in life that is worthwhile and treasured comes easily? Psychological research confirms that those who are committed to a life of principled and purposeful action are healthier, have better relationships, achieve more, enjoy more positive and stable self-concepts, and have lower stress levels. Their life foundations are secure and satisfying.

Kevin is 56, widowed and on disability because of a work accident. He spends most of his days at home drinking beer and feeling sorry for himself. His self-esteem and initiative are in the toilet. He was once a burly, outgoing guy loaded with motivation, a can-do attitude, and a willingness to take on any job at his work site. One of his co-workers described him as someone who always “had a fire in his belly. When work needs to get done, Kevin’s the one to do it.” After his accident and his wife’s death from cancer, however, he switched from “out of my way, I can handle this,” to, “I’m not much good anymore.”

One day a friend, Jim, called: “Kevin! I need help. I have to deliver for Meals on Wheels, but I pulled my back. I can drive, but getting in and out of the car is agony. Would you come with me and deliver the meals?” Kevin was glad to get out of the house and said he would help. Turns out he had some unexpected experiences when he delivered the meals. One woman yelled out when he knocked, “It’s open! Just bring it in. I can’t get to the door very good!”  She was in the kitchen in a wheelchair and Kevin put the meal in the fridge for her. He started for the front door but she grabbed his arm and said, “Pray with me, please.”

Kevin returned to the car and told Jim: “I stood there holding her hand while she thanked God for me being there to help her. Prayed for me! I mean, no one ever thanked God for me! She prayed for me, Jim.” And on it went. No one else prayed for him, but at nearly every delivery one of them said, “God bless you,” or, “You’re a saint, sir. Thank you,” as he left. One old guy was on his computer, which surprised Kevin – “I didn’t know old people knew how to use a computer.” He printed out a page with inspirational sayings on it about the importance of taking care of your neighbor. He handed it to Kevin. “This is for you. Bless you for living these words. Thank you so much.” Kevin was speechless. He got in the car and said, “I swear to God, Jim, I thought I was going to cry.” Jim just smiled and nodded.

Kevin got home that day, looked around the house, and realized that he was destroying himself. He suddenly felt more energized than he had since his accident and his wife’s death. He picked up the phone and called the Office of Aging. “I want to volunteer to deliver meals.” The lady said great and added that they also needed drivers to taxi old folks around to their doctor appointments, take them shopping…wherever they needed to go. Kevin said, “I’m your guy, ma’am. Just tell me what needs doing and I’ll get it done.” The confident, can-do Kevin of old was back.

When his world crashed, Kevin’s values of commitment to self-sufficiency and getting things done well were no longer fulfilled. He was adrift, with no direction, no sense of purpose – all of which led him down a road of self-sabotage, a road that was heading toward depression. But Kevin discovered that the key to renewing his values lay in empathy, humility, and service to others in need, and that discovery allowed him to “approach and chase” life with a renewed sense of purpose. Are you ready for the chase?

Do You Impose Your Will on Others?

Jennifer is 32, single, and generally unpopular among her peers. She likes to tell others what is best for them. Whether in the workplace or in casual conversation, she has an inability to put herself in others’ place, to understand how they feel – in short, to feel empathy. She simply can’t see things beyond her own perspective.

As an example, one day Jennifer saw three of her co-workers at a dress store in the mall. One of them, Jamie, has tried on a blue dress and is checking herself in the mirror. Jennifer blurts out, “Oh, God, Jamie, not blue and certainly not that that style. Makes you look pudgy, plus blue clashes with your skin tone.”

Irritated, Jamie says, “No one asked you, Jennifer. Blue is my favorite color and I’ve worn it all my life. As for pudgy, I don’t care what you think. I like the way I look in this dress, and I’m the one wearing it, not you! So, buzz off!”

When people think of empathy, and trying to see things from another’s perspective, they often think of sympathy. If you can understand how another person is feeling, you are more likely to feel sympathy toward them, and this feeling motivates you to help them. Maybe so, but in a coping context, empathy has a much broader meaning than simply feeling sorry for someone. When you use empathy to cope, you are acting with moral strength, an attribute that extends far beyond sympathy. Such strength allows you to respect others and value them as human beings; it allows you to see things from another perspective, even though that perspective might make you uncomfortable. Jennifer obviously has an empathy deficiency, a moral weakness.

Where might an empathy deficiency come from? Jennifer is a very angry person. She may have been mistreated early in life, or she may have had emotionally distant parents. As a result, she developed a working hypothesis: “People can’t be trusted with my emotions, so I must keep them at arm’s length or they will hurt me.” That hypothesis, of course, is self-fulfilling: Jennifer believes that people can’t be trusted, so she treats them in a way that makes them reject her. The hypothesis is also damaging to Jennifer because it prevents her from ever learning to be sensitive to emotional signals from others. No doubt, on many occasions, someone has reached out to her in a positive way, but all she sees is someone out to hurt her, criticize her, reject her. This misperception makes it difficult to cope with the inevitable stress Jennifer will feel in her social interactions.

I was talking with a woman acquaintance about this analysis of why some people insist on imposing their will on others. She obviously had another issue in mind because she gave a derisive laugh and commented, “Moral weakness? Reminds me of how I’m always fascinated at how men dictate to women about their health and well-being. There’s not a man alive who can say he knows what it’s like to have a woman’s body, what it feels like to be pregnant, and anticipate childbirth. Not one. No man alive can see those things from a woman’s perspective, understand her emotions, needs, and anxieties when she’s pregnant. And yet, men have no problem dictating to us what we should, or should not, do.”

I had never thought of empathy deficiency in the context this woman mentioned. But I think her comments about men imposing their will on women show how an insensitivity to social signals from others, how an inability to conduct constructive communication with others, and how failing to show empathy for others, is totally incompatible with effectively coping with stress.

Problem Solving with Actions, Not Emotions

            Your thoughts and feelings do not make you good or bad. They are natural and part of what makes you human. You do not have to feel guilty about your thoughts or feelings. They are your normal reactions to circumstances. Even extreme, distorted, bizarre, or self-centered thoughts that you may have from time to time do not define you. In small doses they are normal, and everyone has them now and then. What defines you are your freely-chosen behaviors, and it is those behaviors that you need to concentrate on, not your thoughts and feelings.

Instead of criticizing yourself for your thoughts and feelings, accept them as a part of who you are. Examine the benefits of your traits. Such an analysis can increase your sense of control, personal empowerment, and autonomy. Otherwise, self-criticism and self-denial become chronic and bring dishonor upon you. “This is not me,” leads to, “I don’t like myself,” which leads to, “I’m unworthy,” which leads to feeling helpless when confronted with a challenge, which makes you vulnerable to depression.

Carson is the President of a division of a large company. Many nights she goes to bed with a brain filled with thoughts about how to increase productivity. Her ideas usually fall flat when presented to other company executives, and Carson is beginning to doubt her own leadership abilities. She discussed her issues with a motivational psychologist on the company staff, and he told Carson she was too hung up on emotional problem solving, that is, trying to use the power of her ideas and willpower to effect change. “Instead of relying on your thinking in that way, use it to design alternative courses of action, and then test each action to see which one gives you the best outcome.” Carson did just that. She designed three action plans and asked three of her department heads to implement one of the plans. She also assembled an independent evaluation team to assess the results. Rather than rely on just her thinking and gut emotions, she used action-outcome problem solving to obtain data. One of the strategies was clearly superior to the other two. Carson presented the results of her design to the Board and made a specific recommendation on how to implement her design throughout the company to increase productivity. The Board was impressed and gave Carson a budget to pursue her plan.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

You have probably heard of Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression, but perhaps not Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). The symptoms in PDD are less severe and dramatic compared to bipolar and major depression. For instance, suicide attempts, psychiatric hospitalization, and the need for anti-depressant medication are much more common with major depression and bipolar disorder.

PDD is largely a cognitive condition, a way of perceiving and thinking about events in your life in a negative way. If you think negative thoughts, especially about yourself, you are going to feel pretty rotten, and can become one of the “silent sufferers” afflicted with PDD. Do you go to work or school, care for your loved ones, and generally function OK, but have a gnawing feeling that others seem to enjoy life more than you do? Are you burdened with pessimism, guilt, lack of interest, low self-esteem, fatigue, social withdrawal, and concentration difficulties? Could be PDD.

The seeds of PDD are usually planted in childhood or adolescence, and can result from poor guidance in developing social skills, optimistic thinking, and a belief that you can deal with challenges. You grow up believing more and more that you are helpless; you dwell on negatives, and experience a steady build-up of stress. Laura is thirty years old and periodically physically abused by her husband. She never knows when she will be hit, slapped, pushed to the floor, or thrown against a wall. She would like to end her marriage but says, “I have no job and nowhere go, but even if I did, he’d find me and beat me. And I’ll never go to the cops because he said he’d kill me. I’m just depressed about it all and feel totally helpless.”

PDD is primarily an avoidance issue. You develop long-standing actions that allow you to avoid facing challenges and maintain your symptoms. You avoid the stressors that helped cause and sustain your life problems, the stressors that you must learn to confront. Your depression robs you of energy, motivation, and positive attitudes. Reggie is sixty-eight and lives in an apartment complex where drugs and gang activity are rampant. His apartment was burglarized, and he was robbed once while walking on the street. Reggie lives in perpetual fear of being attacked and feels totally helpless. In fact, the police captured the street attacker, but when asked to testify Reggie said, “No. What’s the use? He’ll just get off and come after me. I got nothin’ to fight him.”

 PDD drives many to seek psychological help, and frequently a diagnosis of depression results in a prescription for anti-depressant medication. Unfortunately, while medication can be effective with Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder, it is usually ineffective for PDD. If PDD is your problem, do not despair. Usually with the help of professional counseling, you can learn to challenge and face your demons.

Worry Too Much?

I don’t know what we were talking about, but I remember once when my grandfather said to me, “I’m just so worried.” I said, “About what, Grandaddy?” He answered, “I don’t know. That’s what has me so worried.”

            A lot of folks complain that they worry too much. Worry – a first cousin to anxiety – is another one of those stressful areas that presents a coping challenge; it’s one of those areas where you’re tempted to surrender to it and burden yourself with self-criticism: “I could do all right if I didn’t worry so much.”

            Stop being so hard on yourself. Remember, worry is an adaptive trait that increases survival chances. If you didn’t worry about being robbed, you wouldn’t install security devices in your home; if you didn’t worry about dangers to your children, you wouldn’t be attentive to where they are and what they’re doing; if you didn’t worry about completing a project at work to your boss’s satisfaction, you wouldn’t put in extra time and effort to produce a quality outcome; if you didn’t worry about future financial security, you wouldn’t make an effort to save. Worrying can give you and your loved ones a much better quality of life.

            No doubt about it, a little worrying can go a long way. From a coping perspective, though, things can go south when the worry becomes excessive. That’s not surprising because there are a lot of things that are good for us unless done to excess. Food and water are both essential for survival, but too much of either one can damage your body. Even extreme thinking can be your coping undoing, because it hides alternative actions from you and locks you into one way of meeting challenges. When it comes to coping with stress, moderation in your perspective will help you plan a more successful strategy. Moderate worrying? OK. Extreme, chronic, and unrealistic worrying? Get professional help.

            Control is also an important aspect of worry. Here’s a good rule to follow when it comes to worrying: Identify the source of your concern and determine if there’s any aspect that is under your direct control, either through your actions or your thinking. Focus on those parts of a troublesome situation that you can realistically confront – that is, parts that are mostly under your control – and take steps to allay your concern.             Jason and his wife, Linda, are taking a hard look at their family budget, a source of worry for both in this time of inflation. Jason says, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting that raise beginning next month. That should really help us increase the gas allowance.” Linda adds, “That raise will be a Godsend, but let’s face it, there’s no guarantee. No sense in worrying about it because what the company powers are going to do is out of our control. So, I say we stop putting money in our vacation fund. We have to be ready if the raise falls through. The vacation is something we can play with.” “You’re right,” says Jason. “Cutting out the vacation money will make us feel a lot better. Hell, even if I get the raise, let’s dump the vacation money for now. We’ll be in a lot better shape.” Note how their moderate approach – and realistically evaluating what they can control – lets them consider alternatives. If just one of them was extreme and irrational in thinking about the vacation – “There’s no way we’re touching the vacation fund, no way! I don’t care if we’re broke. We’ll all need a vacation in seven months!” – their stress about the budget, and their family interactions, would go off the rails

Hateful Politicians. What’s Really Their Problem?

Politics has always been a dirty business When the only measure of success is re-election, it seems that some politicians are eager to put personal honor and ethics on the back burner and devote themselves to vicious insults and lies about their opponent. Still, many observers are perplexed when a male politician calls his female opponent a whore, belittles her husband and kids, and even makes veiled threats against her safety and welfare. These observers ask, “How could he stoop so low with personal attacks just to win an election? Why can’t he stick to issues?”

            Well, here’s a thought: Maybe our male politician doesn’t know how to be sensitive, respectful, and caring because those qualities were never a part of his upbringing. In fact, maybe the ability to show emotions like understanding, consideration, and kindness is threatening to our male politician because these are areas where he feels inadequate and inferior. Thus, to avoid those feelings, he must rely on cruel, malicious, and brutish behavior toward those competing against him.

            But, how would this meanness develop? Imagine a 3-year-old asking his mother for help, or smiling at her, or saying, “I love you, mommy.” Most moms would be thrilled at these types of social signals, and they would respond accordingly – providing help, or showering the boy with affection. But what if mom is cold, rejecting, emotionally abusive? What if she finds such affectionate signals from her son as threatening and unpleasant? What if she feels inadequate to receive and give love? What if she resents the child, and finds him an intrusion in her life?

            Whatever mom’s problem, her son will quickly learn that displays of affection do not result in support, but in rejection, disappointment, frustration, even anger. He learns that emotions like love and affection are to be avoided because they are not rewarded. Consequently, he does not learn how to give and receive love. He learns that whether he reaches out lovingly to mom, or shows anger toward her, or tries to avoid her, the result is the same: anger and rejection aimed at him.

            As this child matures, when someone reaches out to him for support, he doesn’t know how to react. So, the reach-out signal from someone becomes aversive to him, a threat that reminds him of his inadequacies in dealing with this sort of social signal. He decides that other people, especially those who want to interact in positive, constructive, peaceful ways, are to be mistrusted. For him, hostility, rejection, and chaos become the comfortable, secure zone in which he prefers to interact with others.

            Does this mean that all those politicians who lash out viciously against their opponents are harboring insecurities, inadequacies, and fear of civil, polite, and friendly social interactions? Not necessarily. But when their hostility is extreme, chronic, and predictable, such an analysis seems to fit. When someone seems compelled to become a bully, and use profanity, threats, and insults to the opponent and their family members, and when that behavior is extreme – almost obsessive – and intense, there’s a good chance the opponent has unknowingly tapped into unresolved conflicts harbored deep within the mind of the bully.

            One thing for certain, when it comes to your own efforts to cope with stressful social situations, you might do well to think about how you perceive social signals from others, and how they make you feel. Are you threatened by them? Do those signals make you feel inadequate? Do they produce feelings of mistrust? Do you wish you could be more effective in reacting to them? How do those signals differ from those that do make you feel warm, lovable, and needed? Considering those questions and attempting to answer them honestly will not only help you deal with the stress of a particular situation, but will also assist you in finding humility, empathy for others, and reaching a higher level of self-understanding.

Find Those Coping Values

The psychological glue that holds everything together is acceptance; and it is acceptance based on values and standards that you must decide are important to you and essential for your personal growth and satisfaction. Growing to accept yourself and nurture your emotions is a process, a way of living and interacting with others, a way of holding a great conversation with life. It takes preparation, practice, and effort. Acceptance grows out of a type of thinking and acting that focuses on being realistic, not irrational; it emerges from facing your challenges, not avoiding them; it is based on positive – not negative – and realistic actions and thoughts, not pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

When you base this acceptance on the values and standards that provide you with a social conscience and give your life purpose and meaning, you will feel tremendously empowered. You will feel more confident and assured. Your values will give you the ability to act independently, and result in actions and thoughts that will provide you with a sense of satisfaction and productivity. Effective coping with life’s challenges flows from cultivating values that guide you and allow you to venture confidently outside of yourself.

At work, Maribeth is a supervisor who is very popular with members of the team she leads. She believes in explaining strategies and plans carefully to her team; she asks for and listens to their feedback; she involves each member of the team in the work they must do, and she feels it is important to give each of them a sense of ownership. Those are her values, embedded firmly in a social conscience that makes respect for others a part of her leadership style. She easily spreads her sense of purpose and meaning in her work to her colleagues. It is no surprise that Maribeth’s team is the most productive in her company.

Authoritative Parenting and Accountability

“When confronted with criticism from another, insult your critic with generous doses of profanity. When facts contradict your beliefs, hold on to your beliefs. Never apologize or accept responsibility for your mistakes; always blame others.”

Parents, if these statements describe your childrearing philosophy, prepare yourselves for the inevitable day when your grown children point an accusing finger in your face and correctly declare, “You are responsible for my problems.”

When teaching kids coping skills, you have three parenting styles to choose from: (1) Indulgent/enabling – “Whatever you want to do is OK with me. Just stay out of trouble”; (2) Authoritarian – “You will do what I tell you to do because I’m in charge of the rules”; (3) Authoritative – “Let’s discuss your curfew and agree on what’s best for all of us. If you violate our agreement, there will be consequences.”

 The authoritative style, of course, is best for instilling coping skills because it grants the child autonomy appropriate to his/her age, but requires conscientiousness when they exercise freedom. Larry and Janice say they always tried to be authoritative parents when raising their kids. Janice says, “We gave the kids freedom, but always within limits that we felt were appropriate for their age. And we were strict with our rules, but always fair and we made sure the kids understood the rules. But then there was that terrible day when our 17-year-old son announced that he was gay. That night, in the privacy of our bedroom, Larry looked at me and said, ‘What happened? What did we do wrong?’” Of course, as authoritative parents, they did nothing wrong. Larry and Janice need to remember that accountability does not mean that you accept blame when things happen that disappoint you. It means that you are accountable for realistically and critically analyzing and evaluating your role in an event.

There is a second reason that Larry and Janice should not blame themselves for their son’s declaration. In the case of homosexuality, psychologists say that there is no parental action that caused the orientation. Larry and Janice did not do something wrong. Being gay is not something that happened to Larry and Janice’s son because of their actions; it is the person he is.

Oh, Those Embarrassing Moments

One day at lunch, Charlie and a couple of colleagues were talking about embarrassing moments, and one of them asked everyone at the table, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?”

Charlie said, “That’s easy. I went to prep school about 100 miles from home. My parents hardly ever visited the school except for special occasions like Parents Weekend and that kind of stuff. One Saturday, though, they decided to make the drive and watch me play basketball. I was 16 and on the JV team, with hopes of making the varsity the next year, but I was really psyched they were coming to watch a game against another school. A neighbor couple also came along and they brought their daughter, Wendy. Ah, Wendy. We had one date the previous summer, but I was hoping for more this coming summer. Here was my chance to impress mom and dad, but especially Wendy! So, there they all are in the stands. Miraculously, the opening tip went a few feet in front me and I caught it on the fly and without breaking stride, flew down the court and laid it in. The stands erupted in cheers! Life was good! Wendy was no doubt thinking, ‘The boy of my dreams.’ But as I ran up the court to go on defense, my coach was screaming at me, ‘That was the wrong basket!!’ Oh, my God, I scored for the other team. I looked for a hole in the floor to crawl into. I was never so embarrassed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed since then. But a couple of strange things happened. We exchanged foul shots with the other team, and then the gods gave me another chance and I managed to sink a lucky shot and get fouled. Made the foul shot. We were up 4-3 and that score held until the end of the first quarter. We ended up winning the game by 20-some points (thank God we won!). At halftime I was walking off the court toward the locker room and here comes dad, with this huge grin on his face. He said, ‘That’s the best thing I’ve seen since a guy ran the wrong way for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl. It happens, son. It’s all just a game. Enjoy it. And by the way, do you realize that at the end of the first quarter, you were high scorer for both teams? You had two thirds of their points and three fourths of our points. Now that’s impressive!’ Good old dad. The man always had a way of comforting me and helping me put things in perspective. My embarrassment melted away.”

One of Charlie’s colleagues asked, “Were you the butt of any jokes or taunting around school?”

“Oh, yeh, a couple, but I would just laugh it off and hit them with dad’s high-scorer routine. I’d ask them, how many people do you know who were high scorer for both teams for a whole quarter? I told them the poor team was so bad I wanted to help them out a bit. I also said Wendy thought the whole thing was pretty cool. I didn’t tell them she had a steady boyfriend by the time summer came around. Anyway, when they realized the goof was no big deal for me, they gave it up.”

Charlie’s story is true (I should know!) and it has a few lessons about coping with the stress of making a really big blunder in front of others. First, he had a support network (dad) who helped him put everything in perspective. Second, he was able to put a positive spin on things (high scorer). Third, he injected some self-effacing humor into the event (helping out a poor team). Fourth, the girl didn’t hate him.

In everyone’s life, good things happen and bad things happen. Being able to cope with those latter experiences is the essence of character. But whether it’s in a prep-school gym or on national TV, the dynamics are the same: To be true to ourselves, we must use Acceptance, Accountability, Empathy, and Humility to maintain our integrity, character, and honor. And those values will always help us cope.

Values Important for Healthy Coping

In the 2020 election, President Trump lost the state of Georgia to opponent Joe Biden. During a one-hour phone call on January 2, 2021, President Trump pressured Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State, to find 11,780 votes for Trump so he could overturn the election results and win the state of Georgia. Raffensperger, who says he voted for Trump, would not agree to the request. He maintained that Trump had lost Georgia fair and square, and to “find votes” would violate his oath of office.

Raffensperger was obviously experiencing what we would call cognitive dissonance – mental discomfort. The man he voted for lost the election, and a lot of people were claiming the loss was due to election fraud. Furthermore, the President of the United States was asking him to help rectify what he claimed was a fraudulent election outcome. Raffensperger could “find” missing votes for Trump in Georgia, swing the state from Biden to Trump, and reduce his dissonance.

But Raffensperger could also reduce his dissonance by choosing another road. First of all, he could find no evidence of any ballot fraud in Georgia. He was completely confident that Biden had won the state. Furthermore, he had sworn an oath of office as Secretary of State, and that oath carried with it responsibility to act with integrity, honesty, fairness, and honor. Therefore, he could refuse the request to “find votes.” Note that this dissonance-reduction strategy required Raffensperger to act in a way that was consistent with his values.

Raffensperger chose to be true to his values. He told President Trump that he lost the state of Georgia, and there was no way of turning that around. Keep in mind here that, from a psychological perspective, you can rationalize your way out of just about any dilemma; you can reduce dissonance by choosing either a constructive or destructive course of rationalization. Unfortunately, the latter – destructive – choice usually requires hypocrisy, denial, reality distortion, and other ego-protective actions that will maintain your stress levels and hurtful emotions. Destructive choices make effective coping with life challenges difficult and painful.

The coping lesson here is clear: Do the right thing for the right reasons. And what are the right reasons? They are reasons consistent with your values that are based on a social conscience, ethics, morality, and your sense of self-esteem and self-security. The right reasons are those that bring you, not others, feelings of competence and satisfaction as a constructive participant in the human family.