Coming clean on the couch isn’t easy. And what do I mean by that? This is a post about self deception and how it stops you cold from achieving your best self. Self deception exists in many forms. We tell ourselves it won’t matter if we just have this extra helping of mashed potatoes or purchase this designer handbag on sale. The credit card bill is already high–what the hell. But how about self deception as a form of [false] protection?
Lately the world is abuzz with talk of narcissism. Politics aside, sometimes I see this in the therapy room. It is more subtle than you might expect. These behaviors are not as black and white as this yin/yang symbol. Indeed, this set of emotional behaviors is more like 50 shades of gray! Why? Because it is often difficult for a partner to pin down why they are the ones feeling exhausted and depressed when dealing with a narcissist. Is it Oz? The comparison of Oz as the epitome of the narcissist is used by Eleanor D. Payson in her book The Wizard of Oz And Other Narcissists. She sees the wizard from the movie The Wizard of Oz as a glowing example of narcissism, and Dorothy as the “codependent” who repeatedly and desperately tries many ways to please him in her goal of getting back home. In this classic example, both parties fit together in a yin and yang manner, perpetuating this painful dance.
How many times have you obsessed over how to say just the right thing in just the right way so as not to offend someone you care about? Or perhaps tried to say something in a way that would not upset or offend your boss or coworker? Knowing what you need and saying it without sounding defensive or aggressive isn’t always easy. But life’s too short to be subtle! Leaving your fate to chance is like taking the long way around with the possibility that you may never arrive. It’s never too late to set new goals and go after your heart’s desire.
Depression is beastly, but you can start to manage it a bit if it has a grip on you. I think of it as the “do-nothing disease.” It takes a toll in many ways, from causing you to withdraw to postponing making decisions because of a sort of paralysis that sets in. It has physical ramifications as well: too much sleep, too much food (or not enough), too little exercise, too much TV or screen time. In short, self care goes into the toilet.
Appreciate the boring, the routine, the mundane, the ubiquitous features of your daily life. If they were removed, you would grieve for the normalcy lost. This is in fact a thread in some of the testimonies recorded by Holocaust survivors in the memory foundation created by Stephen Spielberg as a part of living history. His USC Shoah Foundation has filmed about 52,000 two-hour eyewitness accounts in 34 languages and in 58 countries. What most struck me in some of the recordings is their gratitude for mundanity, the “everydayness” of the lives that were stolen from them. This Thanksgiving I see these testimonies as urging us to appreciate what we have.
One thing that bothers me about therapy and self-help books is their focus on nice, tidy stories and methods that neatly tie up experiences and outcomes. Cue music! Cue lights! It is as if the authors are saying, if you follow my step by step program, you will be cured! They might as well put a cherry on top.
“Professor Binns opened his notes and began to read in a flat drone like an old vacuum cleaner until nearly everyone in the class was in a deep stupor, occasionally coming round long enough to copy down a name or date, then falling asleep again.” – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
What kind of boredom are we talking about here? And is it linked to depression?
Q: What is possibly the worst thinking habit people with anxiety engage in?
A: The tendency to overestimate the intensity and duration of their emotional reactions to future negative events, deciding the impact will be much greater than it is in actuality.
The expression “you can’t see the forest for the trees” is all wrong when it comes to individuals with depression. They can’t see the trees. All they can see is a big, overwhelming forest.
Recently I was speaking with a client who was frightened of her ability to shift into a mood of despair that was so dark she disdained any possibility of the idea that she has control over this. She pursued research into depression (on the Internet) and drew even more attention to her low mood.
PAGE RUTLEDGE, LCSW, CHt | Anxiety Therapy
5006 Randall Parkway (close to UNCW)
Wilmington, NC 28403
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