lack of compassion

I was telling my therapist last week how I have no self-esteem and a very poor sense of self-worth. I define my worth by what others see in me, and I project my negative thoughts onto them. I assume they see the worst in me, and my inner critic reinforces those mistaken assumptions.

My inner critic has voices; sometimes it is my own voice, sometimes it is the voice of peers or strangers from my past, but most often it is the voice of my abusers who told me repeatedly how little value I have and how ashamed I should be. Several years ago I wrote that my anger had lost its hold over me, but that is not true for the voices of the past.

The therapist asked me if I could be more compassionate toward myself, and I told him truthfully that I have no idea how to do that. I don’t know how to give myself a pass for being an imperfect, fallible human without thinking of myself as defective and broken. What about others, he said; for example, how would I comfort my wife if she were feeling bad and was hurting emotionally? I told him honestly that other than an uncomfortable hug, I don’t really know.

My wife is very likely to lose an uncle to COVID in the upcoming days, and maybe her aunt as well. She wasn’t really close to them for the past 25 years, but I know she will be sad about it, and she might have some tears. I have no clue what I will do when that happens. I care about the feelings of loved ones and strangers, and I sympathize with their sadness, but I feel like awkwardly comforting people close to me is a duty I have to do.

It doesn’t seem very compassionate to say that her aunt and uncle brought this risk on themselves by choosing to listen to the Orange Cult Leader, and they are suffering the natural consequences of dismissing the danger caused from being anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. She knows that of course, and we share the same opinion, but that won’t stop her from being sad. I will feel like I have to comfort her because it’s my job as her husband, but I don’t feel comfortable doing so.

The inner critic is right: I am emotionally defective. My therapist better bring his A-game.

6 thoughts on “lack of compassion

  1. Meghan June 2, 2021 / 11:59 am

    I know what you mean – I’m not good at comfort. I think it’s because I generally want to be left alone when I’m grieving, so I generally give people space until they tell me what they need. I’m not good at reading cues and intuitively knowing what people need.

    • Meghan June 2, 2021 / 12:01 pm

      I also feel you on the low self-esteem. My therapist decided this week that we were going to temporarily halt what we were working on since I was making good headway, and work on that instead as that seems to be a more pressing issue.

      • fishrobber June 5, 2021 / 2:04 am

        I may have to redirect my therapy sessions also, but I don’t know how you fix low self-esteem. I guess CBT is the method he would use, but I’m pretty resistant to the “just think happy thoughts about yourself” approach. I’m just afraid my defective belief system is so well-entrenched that CBT just won’t work on me.

      • Meghan June 5, 2021 / 8:46 am

        Same. Although my therapist has started with the slightly comical “tell that voice to stfu because that’s a lie” 😂

    • fishrobber June 5, 2021 / 2:07 am

      “not good at reading cues” … definitely a problem for me. Every social interaction is terribly awkward for me, but especially those with heavy emotional weight. I always feel like whatever I say would be misunderstood and make things worse.

      • Meghan June 5, 2021 / 8:50 am

        I’m the same way. The last thing I want to do is make someone feel worse than they already do.

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