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Self-Loathing | How’s ‘Bout Some Warmth, Light, and Hope?

Borderline Personality Disorder

Self-loathing can make “life” the darkest “living” hell. Perhaps psychotherapy, depression medication, or whatever else haven’t provided relief. Heck, maybe you’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or PTSD. Who knows? But, it’s hard – all so hard, isn’t it? How’s ’bout some warmth, light, and hope?

As a counselor, and an anxiety and mood disorder vet, I have a heart for those who endure self-loathing. Needless to say, I frequently see varying degrees of it in my client work. That motivated me to bring the issue to Chipur last week, as I posted Self-Loathing | Thoughts on a Dark “Living” Hell. If you haven’t already, why not give it a read?

So, then – now to that “What you can do about it.” I promised…

Okay, so what’s more annoying (naive, insulting) than someone, including a counselor, suggesting you tap-in to some self-compassion or self-care when you’re in the midst of self-loathing – and have no idea how? “Uh, sorry, we’re not going to make s’mores while we sing ‘Kumbayah’ just now.” Right?

I mean, come on, people!

Well, much to discuss here, but before we kick it into full gear, I want to repeat something I stated in last week’s’ article…

As I began putting this piece together it occurred to me I was treading on hallowed ground. Self-loathing, and its manifestations, are deeply personal – at the very core of who we perceive we are. That said, I write with great respect for those in the midst, and don’t pretend to know their pain and torment.

Folks, I don’t have all the answers when it comes to self-loathing (actually, only you do). And, frankly, self-loathing may be so pervasive in some that the leaning toward indulging may have to be managed for a lifetime. But, hey, I long ago accepted that reality as it applies to my anxiety. Okay, I’d rather it be otherwise, but it isn’t. So on I go.

K, ’nuff table-setting. Let’s get after it…

In the first of the series, I featured the thoughts of Alex Lickerman, MD. He blogs at Happiness in this World: Reflections of a Buddhist Physician. And I’m going to ride the same horse (sorry doc) here.

Not a stretch to place self-esteem and self-loathing in the same ballpark, right? Dr. Lickerman believes we human-types have a tendency to dip the wrong well when it comes to acquiring and sustaining self-esteem. And so he directs us to examine what Nichiren Buddhism (remember, the “Buddhist Physician”) refers to as the “smaller self.” That would be the parts of us we perceive to be better than those of others.

Thing is, we become over-the-top attached to them. Simply, we fill our self-esteem pails with things we happen to view as special – looks, skills, accomplishments, etc. But then there’s the possibility of our pails springing a leak if we experience a perceived loss of even one of those things.  

Lickerman suggests we ground our self-esteem in positive qualities, the value of which aren’t dependent upon comparisons to the qualities of others. This calls for an awakening to our essential goodness – the “larger self.” So it’s about working hard on the manifestation of our larger selves throughout each and every day. And, according to Lickerman, we have to generate the wisdom and compassion to care for others to hold us over as we transition to who we’d like to become.

Straight from the doc…

In other words, if we want to like ourselves we have to earn our own respect. Luckily, doing this doesn’t require that we become people of extraordinary physical attractiveness or accomplishment. It only requires we become people of extraordinary character – something anyone can do.

Is he spot-on? Well, he offers a thought experiment as support. Lickerman asks us to think of our favorite person and inquire what it is about her/him that creates the attraction. He believes it isn’t likely their physical appearance, or even their accomplishments. No, it’s about their unselfish/generous spirit. According to Lickerman, that’s the key quality that makes people likable – even to themselves.

Hmmm, so what, then, is the expressway to healthy self-esteem – the adios to self-loathing? Treating others well. So if you’re a self-loather, put the kibosh on focusing upon your perceived icky qualities. I mean, who doesn’t have ’em? And Lickerman points out there’s certainly nothing special about your particular state of ickiness.

I like it!

That’ll do it from Dr. Alex Lickerman’s side of the fence. However, I want to bring you something from mine. We can’t forget about the power of cognitive work. It’s likely we came by our self-loathing very early in life. And, sans intervention, an ever-intensifying pattern of negative thought was learned and firmly established.

Identifying these erroneous – distorted – thoughts is essential. And then it’s about coming to understand them, establishing truth, and creating new patterns of thought (emotion and behavior). Please take the time to learn more.

That’s All Folks

Are you a self-loather? Heck, I don’t know – borderline personality disorder, PTSD, failed psychotherapy and depression medication may be factors. Doesn’t much matter, actually.

A dark “living” hell it can be. But I bring you the potential for warmth, light, and hope. You really can have them, you know. So reach-out and partake. All isn’t lost…

Let’s see, now – some 600 Chipur titles are contained within. Come on, take a look. So goood for what ails you.