Worth and Long-term Relationships-Part I
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have worked
with people for over two decades. The single most central
element, the one thing that pervades almost every other issue
is self-esteem. It touches everything--sex and
relationships, work problems, anxiety, depression, addictions;
you name it. There are four primary elements of self-esteem.
I call them "Powers" because when we develop any one of them,
we become more personally powerful. The Four Powers of
Self-Esteem are: Worth, Competence, Ego-Strength and
Self-Acceptance. This article is about the First Power and
its effect on long-term relationships.
"Worth is the First Power and the most common term used
to describe self-esteem. Specifically, Worth has to do
with your basic feeling of value. Are you a basically
good human being? You might even think of this
category as "Goodness" instead of Worth. Both work.
Are human beings worthwhile as a species? Are you
valuable? Important? What are the markers of your
Worth (and I don't mean lots of money, although that can
Another dimension of Worth is health. Are you
mentally or physically ill? You might have a basic
sense that you are defective. Are you adequate?
Or, do you feel useless or flawed?
Another dimension has to do with your
characteristics. Are you significantly different from
others? Are you too tall? Too short? Too many
freckles? Too smart or dumb? Are you not so
handsome or not so beautiful? Do you think you
are not the perfect weight?
The last dimension of Worth is behavior. Depending
upon how we were raised, we have tendencies to handle
situations, feelings and thoughts in characteristic ways.
While some of this is genetic and personality driven
(see this author's other articles on this subject
in this article directory), most of it is learned, and
learned from those who originally raised us.
Of the four powers, Worth is the first to develop and
tends to be most central to our functioning as adequate
It is important to understand how the strength or
weakness of our sense of Worth. This understanding
often provides one of the first directions in
psychotherapy, which is a process of talking about
and uncovering early experiences, and then looking at
how they play out in our current lives. Of particular
relevance to this article is how Worth influences
relationships. The direction Worth takes in its
expression and the strength of its expression forms
one of the first experiences of compatibility with our
partners. This can be good or bad, depending
upon the mixture of characteristics manifested by
either partner in relation to each other."
In an ebook, this author writes about Negative Loops, which
is a dynamic based upon Worth values, gleaned from
family-of-origin experiences. In this case the values of Worth
are negative and reflect in maladaptive behaviors. A Negative
Loop is when one partner does something that
irritates/angers the second partner. The second partner's
reaction, being negative, is expressed in behavior(s) that
actually make the first partner madder, because it was this
behavior from the second partner that originally made the
first partner mad. Now, the first partner does the very
thing again, this time with more anger, which of course is the
very behavior that made the second partner angry. But the
second partner's now frustration propels the second partner to
counter-behave also with increased amounts of frustration,
thus escalating the exchange. The first partner then takes
it from there, escalating even further by doing the same thing
again. This intensity increases at each level until one of
the partners does something more extreme. The relationship
This article is continued in Part II