Working Through the Pain of Verbal and Emotional Abuse: Self-Disclosure in Therapy…A Question of Professionalism…Does It Hurt More Than It Heals?

Someone who loves me and supports me told me that I’m making myself look bad and unprofessional by writing these blog entries and sharing so much of my personal neurotic self. She questioned how I think I can look professional and be a respected author of a therapy workbook if I am presenting myself as so messed up. I’ve thought about this all along…and I did expect this point to be raised. I haven’t thought through it at a deep level though…so my thoughts about it aren’t so organized…so what I write now will be pretty raw…but here’s what I think at this moment in time.

I teach my patients that most normal people are messed up in some ways…that there are few VERY NORMAL PEOPLE who have no major emotional issues and concerns. I believe that ALL PEOPLE struggle with themselves in some way or another…at least at some points in their life. I don’t think that NORMAL people are perfectly normal. I think the kinds of emotional issues and concerns that I struggle with ARE NORMAL…that many people struggle with the same things…or similar things…or other things that dog them just the same. I think that normal people are messed up…I think being “ABNORMAL”…IS NORMAL. I think that people who are putting on a PROFESSIONAL FRONT are PUTTING ON a professional FRONT. I know that some people are highly self-controlled and very tightly wrapped…and, that’s ABNORMAL.

What’s wrong with them that they can’t admit or reveal their humanity, their weaknesses, their struggles…Why is it that they feel so strongly about presenting to the world as SO PROFESSIONAL and SO NORMAL? What is it that they don’t want people to know about them…or what are they so ashamed of that they’re hiding…or what is it that they don’t want people to think about them? What is so bad about their true self? Why do they have to hide their humanity and who they are as a person? Why is it that they feel the need to separate themselves from humanity and place themselves on a “I’ve got my life VERY WELL TOGETHER and I’m better than you…or different than you…I’M PROFESSIONAL…I’m DISTINCT…I’m in a different social class…I am one that is respectable…I have overcome my humanity” pedestal?

Boy am I going to piss these people off!

I think that if we can’t accept ourselves, our weaknesses, our humanity, then we have major, big, emotional issues and concerns. I think that if we have to put ourselves on a pedestal and create a facade of absolute professionalism and perfection…then there’s something wrong with us…something wrong that we feel we have to distinguish ourselves from humanity…from the “common people.” Has our sense of self been so beaten that in order to FEEL OKAY…we have to be SO self-controlled…and maintain such a professional self-image and presentation to others…so that we can feel a sense of integrity, wholeness, togetherness, and acceptability? Why would one have to distinguish and separate themselves from humanity in order to feel okay? Do we feel so bad about who we are…and our humanity…that we have to distinguish or separate ourselves from others…and humanity?

Why can’t I just feel okay about myself…and accept that my emotional and psychological weaknesses are okay and acceptable…and normal? Why would I have to CHEAT and DECEIVE my patients and book readers…and put on this facade of PERFECTION or near perfection…and interact with them in HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL ways…in order to gain their respect by deceit and trickery? Is my sense of self-respect so low that I have to heighten my sense of self-respect by conning other people into having over-esteemed respect for me?

Do I have to fill up my empty tank of self-respect with THEIR RESPECT for me? If my tank of self-respect is filled enough…I don’t need others to fill that tank for me…because it’s already filled enough. Granted and obviously…my tank of self-respect falls below what is healthy because I struggle with it so. However, I’m not going out in the world trying to get others to fill this tank for me. In order for my tank to be filled adequately and to stay that way, I must have the resources to fill it on my own…rather than begging, borrowing, and stealing respect and self-esteem from others.

I continually work on myself and continually struggle with my humanity and my emotional beatings and slaps from the past. I don’t want my reservoir of self-respect to be so vulnerable to the destructive whims and neuroses of others. I continually work on myself so my reservoir of self-respect increases over time…so I am not so needy of being filled with respect by others.

If I am truly to experience self-respect, it needs to come from within…it needs to be mine…else, the amount of respect I have for myself is going to be ever vulnerable to the waves of approval or disapproval from others. I’m tired of living that way. I’m tired of my sense of self being tied to what others think of me…because not everyone is so healthy as to treat us or to regard us consistent with our level of deserving. We all know that other people put us down in order to feel better about themselves…that others may blame us for things instead of blaming themselves…that others criticize or find fault with us because they don’t want to acknowledge or deal with their own faults and weaknesses…that they make us look bad so they don’t have to look bad…and they take credit for what we’ve done so they look better…or they don’t brag on us like they could because somehow it makes them feel less than.

I have received many emotional beatings and slaps in my journey through this world. I’ve had many people in my life that have been very emotionally unhealthy and have been emotionally and verbally abusive and hurtful to me. I have sucked in…and have personalized what they’ve said to me, how they’ve responded to me, and how they’ve treated me. I derived a sick sense of self-respect and self-esteem as a result…a level of self-respect and self-esteem that does not match the reality of my life, my talents, my accomplishments, etc.

I have been very hurt by several authority figures. Some have been victims of emotional abuse and have come to derive a heightened sense of self and empowerment by putting others down…they feel powerful and in control when they weaken the self-esteem of others…they feel in control by overpowering and beating others….and some of these people are filled with so much unrestrained pain and anger…that they have major Emotional Mind eruptions…and they spew the hurtful and the ugly all over their environment.

I have also been subjected to some very narcissistic people as well…people that are so sick inside or so emotionally unhealthy that they interact with the world and present themselves…and on the surface think of themselves…as superior to others. Instead of giving other people due credit, instead of speaking of others in the positive ways they deserve, they demean us, take credit for our work, and don’t show us the positive regard we deserve. They psychologically esteem themselves at our expense. They so much need this to feel okay about themselves. This is a defense mechanism for them…a defense against experiencing their humanity and emotional vulnerability…and the pain and ugliness they feel inside. This is a destructive coping behavior…it is a narcissistic defense.

I have been so beaten and demeaned by my interactions with some of these people that I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of the anxiety, self-doubt, insecurities, and all the crap that I’ve felt and suffered through as a result. I’m so tired of the Emotional Mind beatings that I put myself through…that I’ve had to turn on Rational Mind to take a true look at myself…and to decide for myself who I am and what I have to offer to this world. I’ve decided to appraise my own self-worth and to protect my vulnerable sense of integrity. I’ve decided to minimize the impact these emotional unhealthy people have on me…and to rely on the positive regard other people have for me…and the positive regard I have for myself.

This psychological issue is something I will no doubt struggle with for a long time…it’s not an easy thing to overcome. I’ve spent most of my life tied to and deeply affected by how these people have regarded me or have treated me…that it is a rather engrained way of regarding myself. I am working on it…and I will continue to work on it. I will be affected by future insults…but, I will work to minimize the impact they have on me. When one of these insults comes my way, I will work to be Mindful of how it’s affecting me and I will work to disseminate the truth from it. I will ask myself, “Did I do something to deserve this? Is it undeserved and an unrealistic appraisal of me?” If I did something, I will own it…and I will work to continually improve myself in that area. If it makes me feel bad about myself that I keep doing things that cause others to have negative regard for me, I will work to soothe myself and to remind myself that I’m not perfect and that I’m a work in progress. I will try to come up with a Game Plan or a plan of action to better control myself so the same thing doesn’t continue to happen in the future. That’s all I can do. I refuse to destroy myself and my sense of self over it.

I write the things I do in this blog to reach out to other people who are hurting and are struggling with the pains of life…to recognize that in their abnormality, they are perfectly normal…that everyone or most everyone struggles with things…and that what separates the so called normal from abnormal in our mind is how much we know about them…and how much they are willing to know and acknowledge about themselves. I believe that in my abnormality, I am very normal. I feel defective, but I know I’m at a level of good repair…perhaps even better repair than most people…and that, I am a work in progress.

Further, I feel that I have the level of knowledge, skills, understandings, and achievements to be thought of by others as a “professional” and that if people know me, are around me enough…they will easily have that respect for me. I no longer feel the need to ACT professional so people will respect me. I think I can be myself and share myself…and do so while carrying out a professional job. My profession is to help people to achieve self-respect and to gain relief from all the pain and turmoil that drives destructive coping behavior, self-destruction, other destruction, and life destruction…so that they can feel okay about themselves and will begin to interact in the world in a productive, life-enhancing fashion. If I achieve that, then I’ve done good…and I’ve fulfilled my professional responsibility. If being “unprofessional” in appearance by revealing my struggles and weaknesses and my recovery journey…helps to reach a subset of hurting souls, then it is worth being regarded as “unprofessional.” Really, the unknowing opinions of others matter little in the big picture of the world…and any help given to tormented souls matters most.

Now, all this is not to say that I NEVER ACT professional. My profession requires I abide by an ethical code of conduct…and I am very invested in acting professional in that manner…because those things make a major difference in the care and treatment of those I serve. Further, when I’m around people that I am expected to impress or need to impress with my professionalism…I can generally do a good job of pulling that off. I CAN ACT professional for the sake of making a professional impression when I have to…I just don’t choose to live that persona otherwise.

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