By the way, I’m actually asking the question, not answering it.
I have a very stubborn inner pessimist. Negative thinking has taken me to very many places in my life and it’s been largely a cold and dark experience. Sometimes dark and dank are just what you need though, so what exactly am I missing out on?
I’m told by the media, by my mother, by my therapist, by that labrador down the road that positive thinking is a good thing that you can learn, and that you don’t have to just (figuratively) shit all over everything including yourself. Though this is far more frowned upon as literal behaviour.
As it happens I am in the process of nominating someone for an award and so am having to overcome the cringe-inducing wince-fest that comes with open and borderline superfluous flattery. I recognise all these awesome qualities in people around me but I never tell them, and I’m unable to recognise them in myself.
Fortune peeked over my shoulder and decided that my therapist should get me to focus on the good things as about myself cos I figure I’m pretty sucky in most capacities compared to everyone else. The single admirable property that I will openly admit to possessing is honesty. The rest of that box remains bare. Sorry doc that’s it, the thesaurus has been scoured and there are no more appropriate adjectives. But low and behold a far worse challenge lay ahead. Due to my utter failure to get with the positivity program, I was tasked with asking a few close people to tell me what they like about me. Apparently this is not just attention-seeking…
Have you ever asked someone what they like about you? It’s fucking weird. I mean in Britain, you don’t go gushing about why you love your friends or family, you just stick by them and they should know that if you hang around long enough then you probably like them some. It goes unsaid, like some mystery current underlying your relationships. You’re never quite sure if your pal secretly thinks you are a wanker but they bought you a pint at the weekend so you’re probably ok in their eyes. So why are we so repressed and inhibited that it feels plain creepy to go listing the things you like about someone? In theory it’s a perfectly pleasant thing to do.
I’ve only got as far as asking two people, one of whom could only come up with one thing that they like about me and that is my nose, which makes me paranoid because I have kind of a big nose and is by far my least attractive facial feature. Sigh. I’m not going to list the things my therapist and other generous surveyee said because that would take this horrifying experiment to another level of unnecessary squirming to this most uncomfortable topic.
I can’t quite explain the emotional reaction I have to being given compliments, it’s something deeply awkward and dismissive, because I suspect there is some species-wide delusion psychosis or pity going on behind those positive words and I don’t want to be the one to burst the bubble. If you’ve seen the series braindead where people are being controlled by brain munching bugs? I imagine it’s something like that. On some level of course I really appreciate the comments even if I don’t believe them because it shows people care enough to try and boost my self-esteem. I assume others feel the same so I avoid dishing out compliments but maybe I’m the only weirdo who finds all this pretty nauseating because sarcasm has to be replaced with earnestness (real word) and that’s a damned big leap. I’m tempted to try reciprocity on this subject with my therapist as an experiment to see if she feels uncomfortable, partly because I want to give something back and partly to look for signs of squirming. Humans are bizarre.
I understand from old Freud’s theory that this kind of self-denial phenomena is due to a strong superego and weak ego. Superego being the morals that parents bestow in the early years and ego being the logical decision-making mediator between your mind’s chaotic self-gratifying impulses (Id) and reality.This seems fair because a weak ego is also considered the cause of anxiety. So this deflated balloon of a personal aspect needs a bit of air, even if I think it’s just hot air!
Ironically without a highly functioning logical sector, this challenge seems utterly abstract and unattainable. Maybe I’ll start reading Jung again, he seemed to have it all sorted.