I Did Something Weird In Therapy Today

Normally I talk about all the things I hate about myself.

This week I was asked about the things I liked about myself. In five minutes, I found about 30 things. And as I listed them off, I got this peaceful easy feeling.

I’m not such a bad guy. Really. I’m OK.

Therapy ended five hours ago, but I’m still serene. I just want to be nice to people. I don’t want to do anything bizarre to get attention. I don’t hate anyone right now. I’m just calm and happy.

Here’s what I like about myself:

* I have above-average looks
* I can be funny
* I’m smart and well-read
* I’m good at reading people
* I’m responsible. I meet my commitments. When I borrow something, I return it.
* I’m generally ethical.
* I can be courageous.
* I’m zealous for the truth.
* I’ve kept a lot of friends since childhood.

Over the next week or two, I’m going to take a lot of the things I like about myself and turn them into mantras that I’ll use when I get a shame attack (I usually get these around beautiful young women — crones and fat people don’t bother me at all — such as Danielle Berrin and Orit Arfa, I just often get the sense that they think I’m a creep, and really, though I am often creepy, that is not what I am truly about).

Here are some mantras so far:

* I’m OK.
* I’m sufficient.
* I can handle the challenges life throws at me.
* I have a lot to give (aside from chlamydia).

I’m reading this new book by psychiatrist Stephan B. Poulter, The Father Factor: How Your Father’s Legacy Impacts Your Career. He writes:

The superachiever fathering style is the emotional foundation for developing a shame-based personality. One of the developmental reasons for your shame was the constant emphasis on the appearance of success and achievement. Large parts of your personality, your self-esteem, and your emotional independence tend to be underdeveloped and ignored by the constant mandate to excel and look good. Now…when you encounter a problem at the office, suddenly you are immobilized with a flood of shameful emotions ranging from feeling worthless, no good, phony, and fraudulent, to believing you are a horrible person, and you should quit your job immediately. These feelings are deeply rooted in trying to live up to the invisible standard set forth by your super achieving father many years ago. It is an impossible hill to conquer until the issue of shame is healed, understood, and actively removed. Shame is one of the most insidious emotional issues adults will ever deal with in order to heal in their personal lives and careers. There is no quicker way to develop a more productive and functional self in the workplace than by resolving your feelings of shame and inadequacy. Shame is considered by many mental health professionals…the biggest emotional cancer that a person will develop in his childhood, which may last well into his adult life.

…Nearly all your shameful feelings and actions originate in your belief system about yourself and your early father-child relationship. The most powerful and lasting wayt o shift your shame-based beliefs is to change your core beliefs about yourself. The key is to start liking and accepting yourself. Shame and the need for perfection are based in self-loathing. You need to expose these faulty core beliefs by writing them down. Once you put them on paper, they will not seem as powerful or as emotionally consuming. The rebuttal will be necessary to start a new inner dialogue with yourself.

Keeping a journal of your inner thoughts and positive rebuttals to those negative inaccuracies is mandatory. Remember that your thoughts precede and influence your feelings.

Third, create a mantra, motto, or saying that reminds you of your new core feelings, thoughts and actions. This mantra can be anything, such as "I can do this"; "I am good enough"; "Everything is fine, and everything will work out." Be creative with your mantra because it will become an unconscious reminder of how you are changing your father’s influence to a more balanced view of yourself. Fourth, consider the value of nurturing yourself. What this means is to be more compassionate, accepting, and supportive of your abilities, gifts, and dreams. Consider anything that gives you a sense of empowerment or that refreshes your energy and perspective.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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