After having resisted writing about this topic for 70 days, and returning to it yesterday, I am going to stay on it, for at least one more day.
One of the reasons I listed yesterday, of why feeling too good was scary, was this:
- I’m afraid that I will be disappointed.
And sure enough, I was disappointed yesterday.
A client at the psychiatric day program where I used to work used to talk very eloquently about her fears about that fall from grace — the fall from feeling too good. She would sometimes make the argument that it wasn’t worth feeling too good, because the fall felt so bad.
And yesterday, I felt that drop very deeply, to the extent that I was affected all day. I felt bad. I felt shame.
But, what I’m realizing today, after I’ve slept on the experience (and spoken to several people on “my team”), is that the fall was something I constructed.
And what I mean by that is this: in my mind, I constructed the dimensions of the fall AND the meaning of it.
Here are the facts. The meeting I wrote about, in my post yesterday, was cancelled.
That is the data, pure and simple.
What I did, in my mind with that fact — that the meeting was cancelled — was all internal construction.
Boy, that’s noisy! I couldn’t turn that sound file off while I was writing this, and that felt annoying and somewhat disturbing.
But not as disturbing and painful as my internal constructions, yesterday:
Arrrgh! The meeting got cancelled. Of course. Here I thought I was important enough that somebody I respect so much and see at such a high level would actively want to meet with me. Obviously, I miscalculated. I’m not that important. I’m not seen as that important. Who did I think I was? And I wrote about the meeting in my blog! Arrrrgh! How humiliating. When I wrote that post, and left for the day, I felt so …. good, so full of myself — setting off for work, looking forward to that meeting. Hah! Well, I hope you learned your lesson. It’s not like you haven’t learned this before. You keep thinking you are more important, more valuable, better than you really are.
Ouch. And I felt shame, all day long. I tried to fight it, battling the distorted thinking with thoughts like these:
Come on! It’s just a cancellation. You’ll meet again. The person wrote you and told you they want to meet with you. Why not believe that e-mail? This is a familiar feeling. It’s shame. You talked about this yesterday with friends — how this is so inbred in you — the shame about feeling too good. This is an understandable and expected reaction, but that doesn’t mean your worst fears are true — that you need to beat yourself up all day.
And those thoughts helped, a little. But the shame remained.
I still got things done yesterday at work. I interacted with patients in a way that I think was authentic and maybe even somewhat helpful.
But when I got home from work, I said, “I had a bad day. I feel bad.”
And when I was asked the question, “What happened?” The answer was, “My meeting got cancelled.”
And those were the facts.
And today, I can see clearly again, and see that those are the facts. No more, no less.
But yesterday, I thought I was seeing clearly, too.
So that’s the dilemma. How can I monitor and interpret my importance? How can I figure out how much I matter, and how good I can feel about myself and still be safe?
Maybe the answer is this.
Maybe those are the wrong questions.
Maybe I can stop monitoring so closely. Maybe it’s not a matter of life or death for me to figure those things out.
Maybe I’ll just be disappointed some times. And maybe I’ll be delightfully surprised sometimes.
But no matter what, my essential worthiness does not fluctuate.
That, dear reader, stays the same.
Thanks for reading.