Over the course of the next three years I worked almost every group meeting. I was usually the first person to show up and I never missed a meeting unless it absolutely could not be avoided. I possessed a strong inner motivation to be there because on some level I knew it was working for me. Over time I began to see things about myself more clearly.
I saw that I grew up feeling deeply flawed and at my core I did not trust anyone. I developed an isolated and easily wounded personality. I compared myself to everyone else and found myself lacking. If I witnessed anyone succeed I felt ashamed that I never succeeded. If I did succeed, I down played my success as if there was a reason I could not fairly claim my success or else be branded a liar or a braggart. If I failed I felt cruelly and unfairly judged by the world and bitterly angry under the surface. If my anger surfaced I was made to feel ashamed for being weak and selfish. In short, I realized that there was no way to win in the world in which I lived.
As I became more aware of this anger within me, I could see how it manifested itself in my life. I found myself lashing out at former tormentors when I was alone. Interestingly, when Scott tried to get me to display this anger in a therapy session around other people I found it very difficult to fully get in touch with it.
I also became aware that I self-sabotaged myself when I did something that I wanted to do. At the time I had been trying to set aside time to write. But every time sat down to write I became easily distracted or my mind would blank out. I also became consumed by the potential reactions of other people who might read what I have written. I then felt ashamed. “What a stupid, self-indulgent, pathetic thing to write,” I would tell myself. All of this would cumulate and I would find myself not writing.
Scott and I did some “pillow work” on this subject. He threw a pillow on the floor, pointed to it and said, “That pillow is you and you want to write. Will you try to discourage the from writing?”
“Get your work done first then you can spend time on your hobbies,” I said to the pillow.
“But he wants to write,” said Scott addressing the force I impersonated, “why can’t he do that?”
“It is irresponsible to not get your work done first,” I answered as the force.
“Why are you smiling?” Scott asked.
I then noticed that I was smiling and felt amusement and shame at once.
“So you’re fucking with me?” said Scott.
“No,” I denied.
“Then why are you smiling?” asked Scott.
I said nothing.
“Who are you?” asked Scott. “Who is this force you are impersonating”
I knew the force was my father but I was reluctant to say this. It felt disloyal. At the same time I could picture him making me feel irresponsible for doing what I wanted to do. It surprised me that he experienced pleasure in doing this. I did not want to believe that.
“Okay,” said Scott, “now you be yourself and let the pillow be your father. What do you want to say to him?”
It feels very awkward but I summon the courage and say in an unemotional voice, “Dad, I think it’s really unfair what you did to me. I don’t want to carry this burden of shame around. I want to follow my passions and not constantly be derailed.”
“I hear what you are saying,” Scott said to me, “but it sounds more like reasoned discourse. Where is the anger behind it?”
I understand what he said to me but it seemed like an impossibility to display the depths of my anger in front of him. I think deep inside on a very basic level I do not fully trust that he would not shame me if I displayed my anger. Or perhaps I will shame myself.