The ABC’s of Covert and Overt Self-Esteem, Our Self-Evaluative Mechanism
“Every person is worth genuine consideration and respect”
Joseph W. Ferrara, EdD


Fifty-seven (57) years of work as a psychologist in state psychiatric hospitals, comprehensive community psychiatric mental health centers/clinics, schools for the mentally retarded, teaching undergraduate and graduate psychology courses and private practice performing forensic, psychological examinations, mental health counseling and psychotherapy with children, adolescents, and adults has manifested the significance of the self-evaluative mechanism or self-esteem in human behavior.

Hidden deep in our common shadowy, dysfunctional unconscious mind are living many secret taboo wishes, forbidden desires and antisocial urges which our state of awareness and degree of self-esteem have to hourly cope with as our electrochemical brain through sensory-channel experiences becomes a cogitating human mind, they are our past and they are our future. These unthinkable and unspeakable primal wishes and desires are incessant, automatic and involuntary stressful demands on our self-evaluated mechanism housed in a mammalian body.

The oversimplification and overuse of self-esteem has led to misunderstanding and underestimating its nurturing or lethal antecedents and subsequent desirable or fatal consequences — a tragedy. Nevertheless, do the different psychogenic psychiatric disorders have a common denominator which can fit into a single treatment program? Can such a program bring happiness, success and a productive, loving life? Which psychotherapy theory is best or is there a common denominator among the major established theories which fit into a single treatment program? As the pituitary “master gland” on a physical level regulates and controls the behavior of our endocrine system, could there be on a psychological level a “master personality mechanism” which regulates and controls human behavior? Does a psychotherapist need separate theories and programs for individual, marriage, family and group therapy when treating anxiety/anger, depression/elation, schizophrenia, obsessions, eating disorders, dysfunctional relationships, alcohol/drug compulsions, dependency/passivity and related symptoms? How can the context, content, structure and function of the self-evaluative mechanism become rational, healthy and wholesome?


To answer the foregoing questions, a perusal of the relevant bibliographic research body of established clinical hypnosis, psychotherapy, psychopathology and personality/learning theorists essentially designate that regardless of its type, our core degree of self-esteem/evaluative mechanism acts as the “tap root”, “heart” or “backbone” and thus “master personality mechanism” which regulates human behavior and determines life’s desirable or undesirable consequences. With every beat of our heart, breath and step we take, our invisible self-evaluative mechanism is involuntarily, silently passing our introjected and imprinted value-judgment on us which in turn becomes our identity and destiny. Most commonly, self-esteem/acceptance is obsessively contingent upon the multi-axial intractive and interactive performance of the following cluster of symptoms or factors, i.e., common everyday sources of self-esteem:

Axis I. Body type/image, appearance, libido/sex, age, gender and race/nationality.
Axis II. Income, possessions/assets, popularity/recognition and awards.
Axis III. Intelligence, grades/education and achievements/publicity, sports/athletics.
Axis IV. Employment, occupation/profession/titles and fame/fortune.
Axis V. Family habits, social rituals, political customs, religious traditions/beliefs and/or civic group(s), membership(s).
Axis VI. Attention, compulsively pleasing others, approval/disapproval, acceptance/rejection and authority/power.
Axis VII. Insults, antagonism, humiliation, aggression, anti-social/criminal behaviors.
Axis VIII. Fear, threats, intimidation, insecurity, vulnerability and punishment.

Thus, the most important value-judgment we will ever make is the importance and healthy value our conscience part of the self-evaluative mechanism places on ourselves and others. How we regard and accept ourselves defines how we value and treat others, our happiness and sense of usefulness. Our level of awareness and degree of self-esteem acts as the origin and direction setter for what we think, feel, say and do. We communicate accepting and/or rejecting thoughts and affect/feelings with words towards and about ourselves and others both covertly and overtly. Through our sensory channels both our unconscious mind and the social DNA or context/content of our background involuntarily actuates Imax mental images which in turn generates needs, wishes, feelings and desires. These images are then automatically transmitted into the electrochemical neuron structure of the cells in the tissues of our brain. Our brain then forms an indelible, obsessive memory of the Imax image or context which, in turn, becomes a compulsive mental/emotional habit in our relationships with ourselves and others, dictating our present and future life.


This study defines self-esteem/evaluative mechanism as both covert and overt states of assessed conscious and unconscious thoughts, feelings, and actions towards and about ourselves and others of human worth, acceptance, belongingness, usefulness and adequacy. Figure No. I. is a cell describing the structure and function of the multiple cognitive, affective and behavioral growth areas of our self-evaluative mechanism and the three (3) types of sociogenic/learned self-esteem traits.

FIGURE No. I. – Cell of Multiple Growth Areas of Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Sociogenic Self-Esteem Traits of Self Evaluated Mechanism

Our every thought, feeling and act is an effort of our level of awareness/what we know to gratify our core need to feel worthwhile, accepted, useful and adequate. Our level of awareness is the clarity with which we perceive both consciously and unconsciously all the factors that affect our lives. Our level of awareness determines our degree of self-esteem which in turn decides our choices which set in motion the desirable or undesirabe consequences we, our loved ones and society will have to cope with. The bipolar terms of drive is motivation and mismotivation which are coexisting choices passing first through the unconsious prior to any choice and action/consequences. Motivation is operationally defined as the ability to perceive healthy, wholesome and desirable benefits arising from any proposed choice or action. Mismotivation is defined as any choice which sets in motion unhealthy, undesirable or unwholesome consequences.

The white corpuscles of our immune system is intolerant of germs and makes an immediate value-judgement to attack without doubt when our bodies are invaded by infection. Doubt, tolerance or appeasement of germs by our immune system’s value-judgement would be fatal to our bodies. Thus, as blood is life to our bodies, self-esteem/evaluative mechanism is to our personality’s health. This research has identified three (3) major types of self-esteem/evaluative mechanisms as being:

I. Sociogenic/Learned Type-A self-esteem/Conditional (most common)
II. Sociogenic/Learned Type-B self-esteem/Unconditional (uncommon, Rx. objective/learned)
III. Sociogenic/Learned Type-AB self-esteem/Mixed Transactional (experienced during Rx.)

Self-esteem/evaluative mechanism is determined by the attachments or conditions our level of awareness uses as sources that generate thoughts, feelings and actions/performance which in turn define our human worth, acceptance, belongingness, productiveness and adequacy. By knowing the multi-axial antecedents or sources to which our level of awareness attaches and defines our degree of self-esteem/acceptance, we are able to both control and predict our behavior.


This study was a male and female group of 25 patients from the general public between the ages of 16 and 63 with a mean age of 31 years and a range of 47 years, indicating a positively skewed age distribution. Their Shipley IQ findings were in the middle Average (100) range to high Superior (128) with a mean level within the Bright-Normal (117). Their Shipley Cognitive Quotient, CQ i.e. thought disturbance/impairment scores were a low of (69) profound impairment, a high of (87) slight impairment, with a mean score of (77) moderate impairment. The range of this set of scores is (18) points. Brain dysfunctioning was ruled out as designated by Bender Gestalt test results. Their educational levels ranged from high school students to those who earned bachelor and master’s degrees, while their occupations reflected skilled and professional positions.

Their intake cluster of common problems, complaints or symptoms and psychogenic psychiatric diagnosis were as follows:

I. intake problems — alcohol/drug abuse, rage/hostility, suicidal ideation, rejection, compulsions, self-consciousness/withdrawal, passivity, separation/divorce, dependency, poor-judgment, depression, failure, impulsivity, alienation, physical/sexual abuse, anti-social behaviors, daytime and nighttime dreams of suicide, homicide, “pornographic” sex and a terrorizing hell.
II. complaints/symptoms — poor attention and concentration, confusion and disorganization of thoughts, worthlessness, insecurity, aggression/hostility, indecisiveness, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, uselessness, guilt/judgmental, shame, blame, blan/flat affect, suspiciousness, uselessness, inferiority, and inadequacy, obsessions,
III. psychogenic psychiatric diagnosis — schizophrenia, affective adjustment reaction/bipolar depression, mixed-neurotic, psychoneurotic and personality disorder.

Patients mental/emotional conditions were biogenetic/medically unrelated.


ASSESSMENT: All patients were given a pretest and a post test for both covert and overt degrees of self-esteem to determine whether they had sociogenic Type-A or Type-B self-esteem, and IQ test, House-Tree-Person projective test and a Bender Gestalt Visual-Motor test of organic functioning.

THERAPY: These patients received 60 hours of voluntary or court ordered individual, marriage, family or group outpatient private practice psychoanalytic/Rogerian/Behavioral-oriented psychotherapy with this writer, combined with their trained and monitored use of sociogenic Type-B degree self-esteem copyrighted home study materials consisting of 3 fractionalized audio hypnosis tapes treating the cognitive, affective and behavioral growth areas of the self-evaluative mechanism, monthly self-testing and progress chart book, daily study manual and relationship skills workbook which they studied and filled-out between their weekly sessions.


Hypothesis tested were:

I. That post test scores for both covert and overt levels of sociogenic Type-B degree self-esteem would be significantly higher than intake pretest scores
II. That as covert and overt levels of sociogenic Type-A degree self-esteem decreased, there would be a corresponding increase both covert and overt Type-B degree self-esteem producing an elimination of intake psychogenic psychiatric symptomalogy.
III. That as both sociogenic covert and overt Type-B degree self esteem increased, patients would experience a happier, more successful and productive, loving life.


As demonstrated by Table I., the mean test scores for this study were: covert state of sociogenic Type-A degree conditional self-esteem pretest, -35.76 and covert state of sociogenic Type-B degree unconditional self-esteem post test 59.12, yielding (t=4.75, df=24, p<.0001); overt state of sociogenic Type-A degree conditional self-esteem pretest, 34 and overt state sociogenic Type-B degree unconditional self-esteem post test, 129.88, yielding (t=97.84, df=24, p<.0001).

TABLE I . Pre and Post Test Measures of Central Value and Variability of Patients Covert and Overt Degree of Sociogenic Self-Esteem


Statistical hypothesis testing were used in this study to assess the probability that observed frequencies within covert and overt self-esteem categories significantly different from what is expected under the null hypothesis as listed below.

I. This study identified a common denominator associated with the different psychogenic psychiatric disorders as high levels of both covert and overt sociogenic Type-A degree self-esteem, i.e. conditional human worth, acceptance, belongingness, usefulness and adequacy.
II. That direct, prescriptive treatment of the core multiple-growth areas of sociogenic Type-A self-esteem eliminated intake symptoms associated with the various psychogenic psychiatric disorders by increasing life-enhancing covert and overt levels of sociogenic Type-B degree of self-esteem.
III. That the major established relevant body of psychotherapy, psychopathology and personality/learning theories have as a common denominator the identified core multiple-growth areas of self-esteem as depicted in Figure I.
IV. That core degree of self-esteem whether sociogenic Type-A or Type-B acts as a master personality trait or conditional or unconditional direction setter which decides our choices in determining control and prediction of human behavior.
V. That these findings confirm both covert and overt core levels of sociogenic Type-B degree self-esteem as a single, unitary trait for the treatment of psychogenic psychiatric disorders whether one is receiving individual, marriage, family or group therapy.
VI. That sociogenic Type-B degree self-esteem inoculation is essentially what every person needs most, i.e. unconditional human worth, acceptance, belongingness, usefulness and adequacy which, in turn, produces a happy, successful and productive, loving life.


Self-esteem opinion is far more discussed than any clinical and/or cross validated empirical findings are understood.  Should there be more of the later and less of the former, self-esteem’s profound role in human behavior would be understood and validated.  Self-esteem is not to be confused with narcissism.  Thus, for the first time in the history and empirical research of the self-evaluative mechanism, the following law is formulated and presented.  Our self-evaluative mechanism is composed of our state of awareness and degrees of both overt and covert self-esteem.  Consequently, the amount of stress which the self-evaluative mechanism can tolerate is in direct proportion to the unconscious and social forces acting upon it.  Levels of stress are measured by testing the strength of both covert and overt degrees of self-esteem. Increased stress beyond the structural limit of both its state of awareness and degrees of self-esteem will change the function of the self-evaluative mechanism which can be permanent.  See Figure No. 2.



This study indicates if we choose to learn and put into action today the above transforming traits of Type-B Self-Esteem, our families, nation and our world can be more rational as expressed in the below constructs.

A.  If there is equal worth, acceptance, a sense of belongingness, usefulness and adequacy in our personhood, there will be equal worth, truth, honesty and justice in our individual character.

B.  If there is worth, truth, justice and honesty in our character, there will be insightful judgment/choices, acceptance and harmony in our families.

C.  If there is insightful judgment/choices, acceptance, honesty and harmony in our families, there will be kindness and a loving order in our nation.

D.  If there is kindness, and a loving order of acceptance in our nation, there will be equal worth, dignity, honor, freedom, peace and beauty in a just world.


  1. Cameron, Norman. Personality Development and Psychopathology – A Dynamic Approach. Yale University: Houghton, Mifflin Co., Boston, 1963.
  2. Coopersmith, Stanley. The Antecedents of Self-Esteem. San Franciso: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1967.
  3. Ferrara, Joseph W.  The Functioning of Immediate Verbal Feedback in Paired Associative Learning with Normals and Retardates,  Masters Degree Thesis – North Texas State University, Denton Texas, 1965
  4. Gay, Peter. Freud, A Life For Our Time. First Edition: W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1988.
  5. Hall, Calvin S. & Lindzey, Gardner. Theories of Personality. Tenth Printing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. May 1963.
  6. Hilgard, Ernest R. Theories of Learning. Second Edition, Appleon-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1956.
  7. Hull, Clark L. Hypnosis and Suggestibility – An Experimental Approach. Yale University: D. Appleton-Century Company, New York, 1933.
  8. James, William. Principles of Psychology. New York: Hold, 1890.
  9. Millon, Theodore. Disorders of Personality DSM-III: Axis II. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1981.
  10. Patterson, C.H. Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy. University of Illinois: Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1973.
  11. Rogers, Carl R. and Dymond, R.F. Psychotherapy and Personality Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.
  12. Sullivan, H.S. The Psychiatric Inteview. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1954.
  13. Teitelbaum, Myron. Hypnosis Induction Technics. Fourth Printing, Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Springfield, Illinois, 1978.
  14. Wylie, R.C. The Self-Concept. (Revised Edition) Vol 1. A Review of Methodological Consideration and Measuring Instruments. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1974.