"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman
At times I notice all of the ways I judge and castigate myself. How I somehow have this underlying belief that I need to be perfect in order to be worthy. How I often "should" on myself, about small things, actions that don't matter so much in the long run. I think it must be a holdover from my Puritanical ancestors, but all I can say is, I am ready to stop.
And I think I may have an idea about how to do it.
Do you sometimes find yourself doing this? Maybe berating yourself for that extra bite of chocolate, or shaming yourself for having feelings of neediness? What is it for you?
I've been drinking a lot of coffee lately, and recently decided I need to cut it out completely. Whenever I make a decision like this, I immediately start obsessing on whatever it is I am not letting myself have. I convince myself I am having withdrawal symptoms, I get depressed, lonely, I WANT. I fantasize about the taste, the warmth, the giddy caffeine rush I will feel after drinking some of this godly nectar.
And then, when I break my promise to myself (which is eventually inevitable), I feel ashamed, like I don't value myself enough to be 100% controlled and basically...perfect.
It's a strange game to play, this all or nothing. What ever happened to moderation?
As I went through this internal battle, this back and forth talking in my head, I suddenly remembered something I learned from a training I attended with Bill O'Hanlon, called Resolving Trauma without the Drama.
And I said to myself, "It's okay if you drink the coffee. It's okay if you don't drink the coffee." So simple, yes? And I felt immediately better, because really, the more important thing in my life is not whether I drink a little bit of coffee. The more important thing is feeling okay with myself, accepting the decision I make, realizing it is a choice, not an action I am forcing myself to take. And then, surprisingly, my obsessive thoughts about how I just NEED some coffee lighten up a little, and I start thinking that maybe I don't really need that coffee after all.
Think about it. Someone tells you that you HAVE to do something. Do you want to do it? Of course not, even if it is the absolute best thing for you to do. And the more passionately someone tells you that you HAVE to do it, the more deeply you dig your heels in and decide that you most definitely do not. Or think of a time when someone told you that you couldn't do something. What was your reaction then? If you're anything like a normal person, you probably thought, "Yes, I can damn well do that thing. Watch me!"
Then, imagine that person saying, "Well, of course you don't have to. I just thought you might like to try, but it's up to you." And then maybe something shifts inside you. You may start thinking that maybe, just maybe, you want to try what this person is suggesting.
The time to use this inclusive validation work is when you:
This is how you use inclusive validation:
And that is essentially what this work is all about: bringing light to the shadow.
The shadow. As termed by Carl Jung, referring to all of the disassociated, unowned parts of ourself. The devalued, inhibited, suppressed, should-nots. The parts that, undealt with, turn around and bite us, acting as intrusive thoughts or compulsive, self-destructive actions. The parts that, when integrated, give us great strength and wisdom, that thank us for finally recognizing them as something other than monsters, the parts that, when finally un-shamed and re-valued, make us whole.
Leilani Jefferies, LCSW