Taking Ownership

I went to see my therapist today.

It was an odd session, in that I almost immediately became drowsy and stayed that way throughout. (Come to think of it, I did just wake up from the second of two naps I’ve had today, so I guess you could say I’m still drowsy.) We talked briefly about my success in completing my homework from last session, and we talked much more at length about the episodes that I had between sessions.

We discussed how episodes of irrationality tend to trigger when I’m already feeling down, and that one of the biggest causes for me feeling down is feeling lonely, something that can happen even in a room full of friends. The later it gets, the lonelier I feel, and the more prone I am to depression and resultant irrationality.

We also discussed my double standard that exists all the time at some low level but comes to the forefront during periods of irrationality. It came up that I compare myself in ability to others that don’t have physical or mental limitations like I do. My therapist asked me at one point if I have a best friend, and I told her no, my wife is the closest that I have. (While it’s true that my wife is also my best friend, I don’t have anyone else that I consider close enough to fill that role in addition to her.) She (my therapist) then asked me if I held my wife to the same standard that I hold myself, of having no limitations whatsoever. I immediately and definitively answered no, that my wife has many of the same mental diagnoses that I do and that it isn’t fair of me to compare her to someone that doesn’t have her challenges.

And then my therapist asked me why it’s okay for me to be considerate of my wife’s limitations but not okay for me to be considerate of my own. And I didn’t really have a good answer.

My therapist then suggested that I start treating myself like my own best friend, that I should do things that make me happy and be understanding rather than critical of myself when I have an off day. Then I mentioned something in passing that I had done, and gave credit to the situation rather than taking credit for myself. And that led to my homework for the week.

She noted the subtle change in language (I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t remember the exact statement I made)“it was a good thing” rather than “I did a good thing.” It was a positive experience and I was quick to deflect the credit to nothing at all rather than accept my role in the experience.

My homework is to take ownership of situations that I would ordinarily deflect, but that only hints at a bigger issue, something that I didn’t really realize until I sat down and started writing this post.

When my wife apologizes for something, I’m very quick to say “it’s fine” rather than explicitly accepting her apology. In my mind, accepting the apology is the same as acknowledging that she made a mistake, and I cannot abide anyone else accepting blame for anything that I could possibly put on my own shoulders. “I accept your apology” absolves me of responsibility in the situation; “it’s fine” leaves the issue of blame open to interpretation. This is something that we’ve discussed recently, and have agreed to meet in the middle – my wife will try to remember that I mean “I accept your apology” when I say “it’s fine,” and I will try to remember that she really needs to hear those exact words rather than my facsimile. It’s a compromise that we’ve put into place to give me time to make the change in my language that my wife needs me to make.

But now I’m freshly reminded of another subtle language difference – “it was a good thing” instead of “I did a good thing” – that hints at an overarching problem: my self-talk is pervasively negative in subtle, insidious ways that I don’t even realize, even when I’m having a good day.

Last month I wrote a post that touched on The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In that post, I focused on the Fourth Agreement, “Always do your best.” But it seems that I have a lot of work to do with the First Agreement, “Always be impeccable with your Word.” It’s not my interactions with others that I’m being disingenuous with, it’s how I talk to and about myself both to myself and to others.

So my second homework is to become more aware of what I’m saying and what it really means, especially when it regards my self-perception. This isn’t anything that I’ve discussed with my therapist, it’s an organic by-product of this blog post.

I can’t wait to share this with her next week.

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