What does it mean to feel unlovable? Undeserving? Is unlovable often heaped on top of a helping of undeserving? How is it possible that both unlovable and undeserving dove tail neatly into low self-esteem, self-recrimination, and unworthiness? How is it that all of these create the mantle of never good enough? It often seems as if never good enough leads to depression, anxiety and the never-ending search for perfection. That ever present belief that “if I do this, then I will no longer feel unworthy, unlovable and undeserving.
These weighty, unkind words, the “uns”, have been a running theme in the stories of many of the clients that I work with. Oh, and by the way, they are also popping up in my stories as well. Once again, my clients remind me of work left undone. They remind me of the necessity to address the distortions in my thinking, they remind me to claim too, the life I need to be living, the life that would nurture me, and give me a soft spot to land every day. It is because of my clients, that I learn, it is because of my clients, that I wade into the deep water, that I push through the tangle of dense undergrowth in my private forest and that I can envision soaring above, free from the “uns” that threaten to drag me back down.
Clients trust that I will help them to clear away their own mistaken beliefs, to erase the errant messages of long ago, and to help free them from the weighty words of the past. I recall the still childlike woman who closes her eyes often in sessions to travel away from the feelings of not good enough that we discuss. I think of the young man who struggles each day to convince himself that he is likable, lovable, and worthy of having good things happen to him. I sit with the older woman who continues to search and yearn for the missing pieces of herself, like a puzzle strewn across the floor. Each of them brings their pain with them, most often wrapped in packaging that requires herculean efforts to open. Most times the packages sit there, piled on the table, silently taunting, “open me, open me”! Some weeks they are given a glance, some weeks picked up, and then shaken, all as preparation for the day to come.
When the day arrives, both the client and I are ready to tear the wrappings, and open the box to uncover the gift. Gift you say? Yes, a gift – finally the moment to face the “uns” that have been the awful sound track of life. Opened, examined, and put aside. The “uns” no longer fit, they no longer match who we are. The “uns” are no longer useful; they no longer fool us in to believing we are unlovable, undeserving, and unworthy. The “uns” no longer have us in their sway. The “uns” can no longer hurt, their power gone. We have finally wrestled them into their rightful place, to the land of unbelievable.
What have you sent to the land of unbelievable?
Kathy Renfree is a counselor in a community mental health setting, teaches in a graduate counseling program as needed, and is looking forward to building a private practice.