Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finding the Good

I broke down today. I don't think I've cried at the Counseling Center yet, but after I had one client no show and another cancel, I just couldn't help it. I tried to write it out in the moment, writing about why I felt incompetent and then anticipating all the counter arguments I'd receive. Picking up there, I wrote:

And I know all the counter arguments. That this is depression talking, that this is self-pitying narcissism, that I have numerous counterexamples  where at least other people think I have some degree of competence even as I thoroughly doubt the basis for those evaluations. I know that I place immense stock in how I’ve just performed while ignoring the baseline, I know that I disregard positive things (that I can’t even recognize positive things, much less hold on to them). I know these things. But even in acknowledging that, I think 
"And what does it say about you that you simply can’t correct course? It says you’re defective. On an essential level, you are broken past the point of repair. That no amount of validation, no amount of help-seeking, no amount of support will ever be enough to convince you otherwise. You are useless. You are a drain and a parasite and a shambling wreck of a human being who simply cannot change herself into anything else. There will never be enough to change. You will never be enough to change. 
And deep down, you’re ok with that. Because that means you can fully justify killing yourself. You can finally give up, like you’ve always wanted to do, and simply cease existing. You won’t have to fail or disappoint or hurt anyone ever again. And everyone else who, unlike you, is inherently worthy, who is whole and alive and wants to survive can keep doing so without you getting in their way."
It's actually rather clever, in its own way. Instead of holding on to the fact that I know this is a construction of my self-destructive mind, I turn what should be insightful and liberating self-awareness into further proof of my defectiveness. I may not be as good as Sylvia Plath is at dying, but if I may be so bold I think I do the self-defeating piece "exceptionally well."

Too well, actually. I realized today that it's even one of the reasons I love supervision so much: It gives me an opportunity every week to go in with another idea of how bad I am and get help from someone actually competent in trying to fix it, a perpetual cycle of failing to be perfect and pulling others in to implicitly validate the pursuit.

I am so incredibly skilled at convincing myself I'm bad.

But it's holding me back. Only by loving and trusting myself can I take risks, can I survive mistakes, can I lean into whatever strengths I might possess.

And to do that, I need to get better at recognizing the good. Not just shortcircuiting self-hate; I need to recognize and hold on to the things I do well. Or, to paraphrase Alex Haley, "find my good and praise it." I'm increasingly learning that that process is not exclusive with growth; it's an integral part of it. I'm not entirely sure how to do that or what it would look like, but as terrifying as it is I think I'm ready to start.

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