Session #3

Dear T,

You mentioned how much energy I spend seeking out what is negative about myself. And that I am very hard on myself (and consequently expect too much of others).

It’s not like I wake up in the morning and think, “okay, how can I make myself feel worse today” or “hmmm… I need to work on that negative self-talk.” I don’t do it on purpose. And so I guess it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to do affirmations, positive self-talk, on purpose. For some reason it seems to me that if I could heal whatever it is that birthed the negative stuff, it would stop. On the other hand I don’t know if that is really possible. I’ve already spent a lot of time (seems to me) digging in the dirt of the past, and while I’ve valued the work and the insights provided, it doesn’t seem to have healed anything (yet).

Perhaps you haven’t seen it yet, but I struggle as much with arrogance and grandiosity as I do with inadequacy, being difficult and unlovely, and being too hard on myself. I know the key is to integrate — to be able to accept the positives about myself, while giving due credit to God and others and not exaggerating, and to accept the negatives about myself, taking responsibility without condemning myself (I’ve been redeemed), remembering that I am more than my sin. This is what it means to love myself — to take care of myself, to regard myself as lovely and valuable (bearing the image of God), to assess myself realistically, to take proper responsibility for myself.

If all therapy can do is tell me the need to integrate, then thank you, I’m done.

I left our session today feeling discouraged and frustrated. Maybe I feel condescended to, or just sidestepped somehow, unhelped — “love yourself, don’t think so black and white, etc” — how? What are we doing, what is the goal, the method? What’s the point? All this talk. Are we at cross-purposes. Maybe it just takes a lot of sessions before the dust settles — maybe things are too swirly and big and spread out to make much headway in an hour.

I forgot to ask if you talked to Joe. If you have no intention to, I wish you would just say so.

Mark and I talked about the session on the way home. One thing is that I thought about how being hard on myself is not very fruitful. It doesn’t make me do more. It doesn’t make me a better person. And it doesn’t even entirely protect me from other people’s criticism. It may even replace action, encouraging laziness, fear of failure. It’s easier to feel shame, guilt, and inadequacy than to do something.

You gave me a good insight about social interactions. I tend to try to read social cues to find out if I am welcome, wanted, liked. Perhaps because I failed so often to get the “we don’t like you” message when I was younger, and so perhaps now I am extra-cautious, and wary that people might well be merely polite or tolerating me. But the way you talked about making friends and increasing the depth of some relationships, you kept talking like “is this someone I want to spend time with,” or “do I want to go deeper with this person,” and not “does this person like me,” or “does this person want to go deeper with me.”

Your perspective reminds me of how Joe talked about how often I see myself as an object, someone whose job is to observe and read situations and react appropriately. How instead I need to learn to be a subject, an agent, someone with a will and desires and preferences and choices of my own. Again, integration is needed; as I mentioned, I have some trouble understanding how to be a self in my relationships without trampling the other person — sometimes it seems easier and safer to minimize or unmake myself so as to not cause them pain.

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One thought on “Session #3

  1. Thanks for sharing these thoughts… I’m hard on myself too, but moreso because of my physical abilities (or lack thereof) and comparisons to those of others. Finding a balance is always hard. On the one hand, it’s natural to want to improve, but on the other hand realizing and accepting your limits is important too.

    I hope you’re able to sort out your thoughts and recognize whatever causes that never-ending stream of negative self-talk.

    Random tidbit: If you’re looking for a good book to read, I just finished “Love Walked Among Us” by Paul Miller.

    Okay, bedtime for me! ttfn!

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