Self-Loathing is a bit less aggressive today than she has been over the past week. Sometimes she takes up all the space in the room, and it becomes impossible to do much more than try to keep her from swallowing me up. But when she’s a little quieter, I can rally others to help me work with her. Today it’s the Wise Woman (with Compassion whispering in her ear when she gets stuck).
WW: I’d like to talk to you, Self-Loathing, about the things you say to Q.
SL: I just say it like I see it. She’s terrible. She doesn’t belong here. She might as well die.
WW: Yes, I’ve heard that before. Except really when you say that, you don’t say, “You should just die.” You say “I should just die.” You become the person talking inside her head.
SL: It makes the message more personal for her.
WW: Maybe so. But I’ve been thinking about you and what those words mean when they come from you. I’m wondering what you really want to communicate.
SL: I think those words are pretty clear.
WW: In a way, yes. “I’m a terrible person” and “I should just die” are clear enough. But what is the purpose of saying them. You don’t really want to die…
SL: Sometimes I do.
WW: Sometimes you feel so tired you don’t know how to keep going. That’s not the same as wanting to die. I think maybe you want to get better but lose hope that it’s possible.
SL says nothing.
WW: I am wondering if the strong, harsh words are a way to call attention to something underneath that needs attention, something that triggers you to start your “I’m a horrible person” routine. I’m struggling though to understand what that is. But I’m willing to listen, if you want to go deeper than the usual routine.
SL: What makes you think there’s something there besides a realistic assessment of Q/myself/ourselves?
WW: Because Q is not a terrible person. She cares about the impact she has on other people. She does kind things for people. She doesn’t hurt anyone on purpose. She doesn’t do everything right, but “horrible person” is not at all an accurate description, and you know it. So what do you want to accomplish by using the harsh, judgmental language.
SL: That’s how I feel.
WW: You feel terrible about yourself/ourselves.
SL: A million reasons. Not being able to do everything that is expected of me at work. Not being a good enough mother, not helping my sons develop the emotional skills they need. Marrying a man who was cruel to me and can be cruel to his (my) sons. Not keeping up with all the things that need to happen in the house. Being complicit in my own abuse.
WW: It sounds to me like you are the bearer of guilt and remorse, the one who carries the burden of responsibility for any regrets. That must be a hard role to play.
SL: Um, yeah, kind of.
WW: It must be exhausting to carry all of it. No wonder you get tired. No wonder you think dying might be restful.
SL: It would be.
WW: Maybe. Well, actually, you (all of us) would be dead so we wouldn’t even get to enjoy the rest.
SL: So you are saying there’s never any rest.
WW: Not at all. I’m saying maybe I can work with you to help you give up some of that burden. And maybe I can help you find some ways to rest without dying or without harming yourself (ourselves).
SL: I doubt it.
WW: Well, of course you doubt it. You haven’t had much help up to this point. And I can’t fix it all for you today. In fact, I can’t fix it all, period. You’ll need to help me. But I’m certainly willing to help you, so you don’t have to be alone with it all.
SL: Maybe… I don’t know… I think it’s hopeless. Q’s so stupid. I’m so stupid. I can’t break these patterns at this late stage.
WW: Maybe you can’t. But possibly you can. We can try, at least. What’s the harm in trying?