Sunday, April 22, 2012

is this what they mean by narrative therapy?

I am irritated and jumpy because I can't seem to get away from myself and I want very much to get away from myself. I don't like myself very much. I know that. And I know from all the wisdom of self-help advice that I am supposed to like myself and that I can't expect anyone to like me if I don't like myself first. Well, I can't. So I don't tend to expect people to like me. I'm delighted when they do (or seem to). And I am often very lonely. I won't deny that either. I also know that I am lonely to the extent that I don't much like myself; when I am least annoyed with myself, I don't feel lonely at all.

I have been trying to learn to like myself. I don't make much progress. Every time I look for things to like, I am vexed by all the emptiness: there simply doesn't seem to be anything there. What is "me"? I am crabby, prickly, aloof; a know-it-all, a procrastinator and a perfectionist; I am suspicious of people who are very cheerful or friendly. I am difficult. I have no job to speak of, no hobbies. My social life lies comatose. This, if you will believe it, is progress.

Given how I see myself, as I said, I am not terribly surprised when people find me hard to like. Still, it would be something to have a group of friends. Another way of saying it: it would be something to be a member of the kind of group that is hard to disband. To have a group of people who have to put up with me (and with whom I, too, have to put up). The way kids sit together in a lunchroom and become, for years, a group. I remember not liking some of the kids in my group of friends. Sometimes no one liked certain members very much--we'd even go out of our way to avoid including them. Still, they always were there and we never kept them out too often or too long: they still belonged to us. Even if they were a little weird or annoying or dumb or mean, they were still ours to find weird and annoying and dumb and mean. I miss that.

It would be nice to have a web of relationships--people who know me and know each other--into which to fall when I feel, as I do now, that I simply can't stand myself another moment. To have people who care about me (even when they don't like me) to talk about me to me and to one another so we could all bear a little of the burden of being me and of knowing me. That is something I miss having. It isn't that I haven't got friends. But I have friends here and there. My friends, generally speaking, don't know one another. They aren't able to gossip about me in ways that can then get back to me and let me know that I need to figure things out.

I do need to figure things out. I suppose I don't need a gossipy web of friends who sometimes do sometimes don't like me to tell me that. It may be that saying out loud, no longer trying to hide the fact that I just don't like being me might be an act of friendship toward myself. Maybe I can just stop trying to like myself, self-help blogs be damned. I wonder if that is progress. One of the reasons I don't like myself is that I don't like myself, and that is foolish. Now I can accept that I don't like myself and that gets to be a step toward self-acceptance. How funny. And how foolish all this now seems. Maybe it doesn't matter at all whether or not I like myself. Maybe it doesn't matter, generally speaking, what I think about myself at all. And maybe when I feel, as I do now, that I simply can't stand myself another moment, I should just breathe.

What do I want to be, anyway? What would I need to be in order to consider myself someone I could like? Easygoing. Relaxed. Happy. The kind of person of whom I am suspicious. Neither clingy nor aloof. I think that I will not be able to learn to develop those qualities or to see any ways in which I might have them unless I spend more time with more people.

I have been drawn to novels lately, particularly, it has turned out, to novels about family relationships, small towns, marriages, siblings. The book I am putting off but enjoy is one full of solitude (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek). I want to read books by women and about women. I loved Olive Kitteridge. I don't want to become an Olive. She is difficult, suspicious of other people's expressions of emotions and cheerfulness and empathy; she is crabby and a bit cold. She gets angry when her feelings are hurt and she turns that anger loose on her husband and son. By the end of the book she is in her late seventies and only then does she finally see that she let herself become a difficult person. Maybe I have an advantage: I know now, in my early thirties, that I could easily become cantankerous. But then I am also at a disadvantage: I don't have many people who have to put up with me. My social world has been shrinking.

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