Two nights ago, Dave and I watched the season premier of Homeland, a show about a brilliant but terribly flawed CIA agent played by Claire Danes. At one point in the episode, her sister, who happens to be a doctor, says to her something like: “What’s wrong with you is so wrong there’s not even a diagnosis.”
Ha! I thought this was such a funny line. Then I realized it was kind of familiar, too. It sounded exactly like the kind of thing the mean voice I hear in my head on a regular basis would say: You’re such a fraud and a failure! You’re bad and broken in ways that go way beyond what it means to be a regular human.
My sister has a lot of experience with this mean voice, too. Lately, she’s been going to Alanon, which has been a great help to her—and me, too. Last week, she called to tell me something she heard a woman say after a meeting that was so powerful to her she thought it might change her life.
Really? I thought. A single idea could change your life? And then she told me what the woman said: “I’m single and I live alone, but I’m in an abusive relationship.”
Meaning, with herself.
Wow. My sister was right. This idea could change my life, too. Of course, the notion that we’re hard on ourselves is nothing new, but putting it in terms of being in a potentially abusive relationship is a fresh, helpful way to look at the importance of how we talk to and treat ourselves.
Especially when you consider that, apart from God, the relationship we have with ourselves is the most constant, lasting, and influential one we’ll ever have.
No wonder in recovery we emphasize self-care so much. Being in an abusive relationship with yourself is pretty much the definition of addiction, don’t you think? So it goes to reason that healing this relationship would be a big part of what it takes to achieve long term recovery.
This was brought home to me in a real way yesterday when I got a call from a friend who’s in the same treatment center I went to seven years ago. She, too, was asked to write a letter to herself about her alcoholism and how she intends to stay sober.
I’ll never forget how much I cried and how surprisingly healing it was for me to write that letter. And it was the same for my friend. Something about intentionally talking to yourself in an encouraging, compassionate way makes you realize how much of the time you unintentionally talk to yourself in ways that bring you down.
So maybe it’s worth asking questions like these more often: If that voice in my head were incarnated into a person—what would our relationship look like? What do I put up with that I shouldn’t? How might I set better boundaries about how I let myself think and behave toward myself?
And since that voice in my head isn’t about to reform or leave any time soon, how can I respond to her in a way that doesn’t just antagonize her further? How can I show that hurt, fear-driven part of myself the kind of compassion I’d show a sick friend?
I need to think a lot more about this, and maybe you do, too.
In the meantime, as we watch out for the mean voice in our head, we can also listen—with all our heart—for the voice of love that comes from our soul, created in God’s image.
I hope you hear that voice often.
Hugs and love, Heather