I went to a spiritual retreat last weekend. It was a mind opening experience and challenged me to look at myself, my family, and my work life as a psychotherapist. One of the questions asked is if there is anything keeping you from being free? If you’re not used to such questions, you may be looking for some examples. Some examples are: self-acceptance, negativity, control, arrogance, etc, It can be any number of things. If one of these behaviors works for us, we will not change the behavior. You need to ask yourself are you still getting pleasure out of these “defects of character?” I call them defects because they are negative behaviors we have that prevent us from becoming the best we can be.
All of this relates to the relationship we are in with ourselves. How many of us tell ourselves we are not good enough. That is like an addiction in of itself. How often do we tell ourselves this? It keeps us from being free. Many times I am with a client and I find myself not knowing how to proceed. Then, I ask if I am good enough for this client. I leave the session second doubting myself. If we are talking to our peers for peer supervision, seeking supervision and keeping up on our training, we are doing the best we can do. It is not about being good enough. Can we build rapport with this client and provide unconditional positive regard. It is all in the relationship with the client. Then, we are good enough.
What about the rest of our lives? Are we good enough for our parents? Did they give us the message we were never good enough? I see this over and over with the adolescents that I treat. The parents set unrealistic expectations for their teens and the teens feel like failures because they cannot live up to the expectations. While some may be reasonable, for this particular teen it is not. They often act out or punish themselves trying to live up to perfection, through cutting and/or having an eating disorder. I am not saying that parents do not know their kids and what can be expected from them-but when a child has a mental health diagnosis, it becomes ever so much more complicated. Of course we as parents do not want our children to fail. I am also saying that the parents do have their child’s best interest in mind, but they are going about it the wrong way.
It is not like I have a ready answer. We have to be kind enough to ourselves and know within our hearts that we are doing the best we can. Then, we have to translate this good enough to our clients. Once they start feeling good enough about themselves, they start getting better. It is all in the relationship and we have to know who we are, where we come from, and evaluate what is keeping us from being free. Once we lack focus on this question, we stop being real and in touch with ourselves.