- Thomas Bien
Loving the Unlovable in Ourselves
Chances are, there are things about yourself that you would have trouble admitting to anyone, things that are kept in the deepest corners of your soul. These aspects of self may involve feelings you don’t like to admit, such as anger, envy, jealousy, loneliness, or fear. Quite often they involve forbidden sexual fantasies.
I remember very clearly that, in starting my professional psychology practice, I found myself contemplating the many therapists in town who were busy, while I wasn’t. I don’t think of myself typically as an envious person, but there it was: envy, staring me right in the face. At other times, we may just not want to admit to others that we are feeling sad and lonely, or to tell someone we are experiencing difficulties. We feel a pressure to appear stronger and more together than we really are.
Fantasies are by definition publicly unacceptable. But like envy, they exist nonetheless, often in profound contradiction to the person we think ourselves and hope ourselves to be.
What we cannot admit to ourselves tends to operate in dark corners of our consciousness and control out behavior unconsciously. Suppressing these aspects is therefore not only unbeneficial but even dangerous. The parts of ourselves that we have the most trouble accepting are the very parts that are most in need of our kindness, acceptance, understanding, and love.
Let me be clear though. This does not necessarily involve acting these aspects of ourselves out. Sometimes this may be okay, but it must be done with great care if it all. While we need to accept and love these aspects of ourselves, we don’t want to let them be in charge. While loving and accepting ourselves and all that we are, we don’t want the inmates to rule the asylum. We want to let the best and wisest part of ourselves be in charge.
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