Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Faith: The Evidence of Things Unseen

Me: It's very difficult for me lately to see myself as a good person... whatever that means.

Therapist*: You see the problem there, don't you? "Whatever that means." You're judging yourself by a standard you can't even define.

Me: Yeah, I know.

Therapist: When you were a child did you believe you were a bad person?

Me: No, not at all. I worked very hard to be sure I was a good person.

Therapist: [laughing] I think that answers the question, doesn't it?

Me: Yeah, I guess there was some sense of insecurity there--that I needed to prove I was a good person.

Therapist: Which would not have even occurred to you if you believed you were a good person.

Me: No, I suppose not. I guess that's the problem--my whole life my sense of self-worth has relied on this view of myself as a good person, which was dependent on what I did. That worked fine as long as I was doing those things that made me a good person, but now suddenly I'm not doing those things anymore.

Therapist: Perhaps what you need to do is prove that you're a bad person.

Me: Should I rob a bank?

Therapist: No, prove it with the evidence that you already have. List out the evidence that suggests to you that you're a bad person.

Me: Hm. The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is that I'm leaving my wife. I'm hurting her. I--

Therapist: Can you think of anybody who has made it through life without hurting anybody else?

Me: Well, no, but--

Therapist: Do you believe it's possible to make it through life without hurting other people?

Me: No.

Therapist: Then you believe that all human beings are inherently bad.

Me: No. I suppose the problem is that I judge myself by a different standard than the rest of the world. I can forgive other people for hurting each other, even for hurting me, but it's harder to forgive myself. I expect more from myself.

Therapist: Is it that you think you're so much better than everyone else, or so much worse?

Me: Both, I guess.

Therapist: What makes you so special? What makes you so different from everyone else on earth, that you deserve this special standard of judgment?

Me: I don't know. Now I feel like I'm a bad person for believing I'm so special.

Therapist: [smiles] And yet you don't even know what it means to be a bad person, or what it means to be a good person. You don't have evidence, and yet you cling to this belief that you are bad. You're a man of great faith, you know.

*Although my Therapist has the same blogonym as Samantha's Therapist, they are not actually the same person, at least to my knowledge.


mark said...

I relate to so much of this conversation. Like you, I have for a very long time if not always expected more of myself than I expect of others. To be honest, there is part of me that wants to be special, to be better than others, to feel superior. But I'm not sure entirely why that is. My psychiatrist has suggested that some of it comes from wanting to have control; I punish myself before I let anyone else do it. This need for control is really a need to protect oneself from being hurt, I think particularly when the hurt seems to the recipient to be totally undeserved. To put it another way, if you have experienced situations where no matter what you did, you were punished by someone, or now matter what you did, you were never good enough for someone, then you learn to protect yourself by these control mechanisms.

Samantha said...

Are you sure he's not the same person? Therapist is cute, funny, and a genius. And he left me--for you, maybe?

I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.

Th. said...





Me too.

(not to what sam said, but to your post)

Queen Zippergut said...

Oooooo. Mark said something wise in that last sentence. Yikes. That clears up some things. Thanks for the insight. And good luck with the bad/good person thing, MF. It'll be worth the struggle to work through. My vote is that you're human. Like the rest of us. Darn!

Melyngoch said...

All the best Mormons (of all degrees of Mormonness) that I know are closet Calvinists.

Chris said...

Oh, Mr. Fob...when I think about all of the energy I've spent in my life proving that I was good while secretly knowing that I was actually bad, I get very, very tired.

I can relate.

Kristeee said...

I was indoctrinated in my family with the belief that I'm "fat, dumb & ugly" - and I've been struggling to be "enough" for many years. I've been looking at myself through the fat, dumb & ugly filter for so long that it's really hard to change it. It's so easy to feel that we've been measured and have been found wanting.

A class I had in college had the motto "I am enough, and there is more", which is daunting for me. I'm starting to learn to make more realistic goals and expectations for myself, and to not try to compare my weaknesses to others' strengths to "motivate" (read: punish) myself.

Katria said...

I admire you for going to therapy. It's something that I've tried (multiple, MULTIPLE times) and never got anything from. Except for a few very confused therapists.