I stopped going to therapy about six months ago, for reasons mostly financial. I didn’t feel too concerned about it at the time because most of my realizations were starting to emerge in meditation and in dharma talks at that point. Recently I’ve found myself wishing that I could talk to someone again; I’ve been formulating questions and scenarios in my mind as if I were able to present them at my next session. I’m not convinced that it’s necessary that I go back, however. I think that it stems from a worry that I’ve hit a plateau, and that I’m not becoming a better person fast enough. That’s right, I can even find a way to overachieve in the realm of mental health.

I stumbled across this page earlier today and it reminded me of where I was when I started this journey a couple of years ago. I’m not the child of an alcoholic, and the abuse in my home was mostly of the emotional variety, but it’s striking to see how many of the personal characteristics listed there are demons I’m facing. Low self-esteem leading to merciless criticism of self and others? Check. Constant worry about what others are thinking or saying about me coupled with an almost paralyzing fear of being the center of attention? Check. Fear of rejection and difficulty establishing boundaries? Ugh, check.

One could say that, by virtue of acknowledging these old patterns, I am already on my way to recovery. And yet, my skin practically itches with the thought that I’m not shedding these personal hindrances fast enough. How will I ever find a sangha when I’m still so flawed? (Buddhism tells me that’s just the ego talking.) Will I ever be able to have an emotionally fulfilling relationship if my instincts keep subverting me? (Therapy tells me that I don’t need to be perfect to be deserving of love.)  As one of the commenters on Cary Tennis’s column, Since You Asked, put it so well:

“That’s one of the devilish things about having low self-esteem and having friendships- one often befriends the kind of people whose approval one could never get in the past.”

This I fear, more than I can articulate. So many of my friendships have crumbled and I am terrified that it will happen again and again.

Now that I can label these thoughts as harmful, what I want most in this world is to transform them, to purify them once and for all, so that I could find peace. Peace with my flaws as well as my strengths, and peace when interacting with others. To let go of the voice that tells me I’m responsible whenever relationships go awry, and to dispel that deep-seeded wariness that this person, too, will abandon me.

Once you’ve gotten this far, how do you go farther?

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