capturing the beautiful calamity of healing in therapy

You Wanted To Know How To Love Yourself

You Wanted To Know How To Love Yourself

You wanted to know how to love yourself because you knew loving yourself was important. 

You also wanted to know why you hurt so much inside, and why, no matter what you did, you felt inferior, incompetent, and ashamed.

Unfortunately, you were also in love with the wrong person at the wrong time, and we both knew it. You felt tethered to this boyfriend, like a scared child clinging to his caretaker in a burning building, like a stranded person at sea desperately clinging to a broken life ring.

Maybe you loved him, but you definitely didn’t like him.

In therapy, you told me you wanted to work on codependency. For years, you felt it had defined the interiors of every intimate relationship. You also wanted to work on your self-esteem, because, at the time, you felt you didn’t have any sense of worth.

You hated yourself, and, being the logical person that you were, you also hated that you hated yourself.

But You Wanted to Know How to Love Yourself

You were so intelligent, nearly to your own detriment. You had the insight, the knowledge, all the tools and awareness any client in a therapy office can and should have.

In our sessions, you could and did vividly explain the grotesque toxicity existing within your relationship. You described your misery and expressed how you wanted something more.

I wanted that for you, too. I want that for all my clients. Healthy, loving relationships make the world go round- I believe that with every moral fiber that I have.

And, yet, you feared change. In fact, change terrified you- it was an impending doom striking down on your fragile self. Really, you feared loneliness, like we all do. Virginia Satir described this complex paradigm best: People prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty. 

You Had Confused Chaos for Love and Love for Chaos

They say if you want to learn how to love yourself, you need to spend time alone- absent from relationships, absent from external validation and attention. You need to be able to provide those needs for yourself by yourself.

I do believe that to be true. But, I also believe we have an evolutionary drive for intimate connection with others- we desire to find a warm sense of safety and security in the comfort of someone else.

We accept the love we think we deserve. 

Remember when we talked about that cliched quote? Remember when you started crying because it felt too true and because you identified how much you were settling for a relationship that only left you feeling depleted.

I remember how, as a therapist, I knew that this insight couldn’t change you if you didn’t change you. It remains the hardest part of my job. Session in and session out. Knowing we need to change, knowing we want to change, and still not taking the necessary actions to actually change.

You Fell into the Same Pattern with Men

You fell for the broken, bandaged boys with all the potential. They were the boys down on their luck- so down that they were the ones carrying the totem poles for everyone else. These boys trudged through life stacked against all odds. They had battle wounds, both internally and externally, and you wanted to be the one to provide the cure and remedy.

You liked dating projects. They gave you a sense of control and purpose.

You also thought it would help your confidence and keep your heart protected. With projects, you could theoretically hurt them before they hurt you, and, in a twisted sense of reality, you had a point. On the other hand, you didn’t realize just how much pain you were already experiencing.

Sometimes, when we fall for the projects, we fall in love with a fantasy of the best-case scenario. We fall in love with potential, which is an illusive pedestal that the person may never actually stand on.

While not inherently good or bad, it can breed a labyrinth of resentment and disappointment. For you, it always happened that way. You couldn’t learn how to love yourself when you always felt like fixing someone else.

You Left Me. Not Him.

Therapy only works as far as we want it to work. And, it stopped working in the ways you wanted it to work.

You told me that you didn’t feel ready to leave and let go of what you knew. And, I told you that was okay. It’s a part of the work I do, just a regular and normal occurrence in the cycle of change and growth. Sometimes, we just have to trust the timing of our processes.

You had the right to your beautiful journey- that’s how it all works, right? A long and complex and strange learning experience full of trials and lessons and tiny miracles- and I can’t tell you how to live your life. 

I do think about you and whatever happened to your relationship. Are you still trying to fix someone else’s project? Are you still so sad and angry- still so disappointed and resentful? Did you ever figure out how to love yourself? Wherever you are, I hope you figured some of that out. I hope you see just how wonderful this life and love can be.




*While based on a true story, all reasonable efforts have been made by this writer to protect utmost client confidentiality and safety. Because of this, particular identifying details in this piece have been changed, omitted, and/or embellished.