ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Giving Oneself a Break from Self Persecution

Jack Bragen
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 05:30:00 PM

While many of us are making an effort at making our lives better and at living in a responsible way, none of us can control the outcome of our efforts. We ought to feel proud of ourselves when we make a good effort toward a constructive goal or endeavor. However, when our efforts seem to be futile, when the outcome isn't what we had hoped for, we ought not berate ourselves.

If mistakes are made, if we slip up on something, one hopes that at least that the intent was where it ought to be. If an error is made, we ought not punish ourselves with negative or self-derogatory thoughts.

If we have symptoms that get in the way of fulfilling expectations, whether these are self-imposed expectations or come from someone else, we ought not blame ourselves. Persons with psychiatric disabilities may often have days in which we do not feel good, or do not feel up to doing very many tasks.  

We shouldn't be hard on ourselves when we have an off day. And if someone else is giving you a hard time about it, whether this is a supervisor at work, a family member, or someone in the mental health treatment system, we should not internalize this. If the person is a supervisor and if you haven't disclosed your disability to your employers, you may not be able to confront the source of unreasonable expectations, and you may have to get through it whatever way you can. However, if the source of unreasonable expectations is yourself, you should not be giving yourself a hard time.  

The problem that we may have with following the advice above is that many persons with mental illness, as well as people in general, do not have much control over their thoughts. However, the first step is to at least identify the thoughts. Many people have not developed their capacity to reflect on their thoughts, and this means that they could be unaware of what the thoughts are.  

You read correctly in the above paragraph--many people are unaware of many of their thoughts. While some thoughts are in the forefront of consciousness, others are on the periphery, while still other thoughts take place on a deep level, are assumptions, and present themselves in our minds as being a basic reality.  

Therefore, before we are able to root out self-persecuting thoughts, we must find those thoughts. This may be achievable in therapy, if the therapist is good.  

(There are numerous individuals who practice psychotherapy, either with a license or under "supervision" who have entered that profession for the wrong reasons and who have no business counseling another human being. It takes experience to spot bad therapists, and it takes initiative to switch to another therapist.)  

If you can identify and discontinue the self-trashing thoughts, you will probably feel a lot better. You should see yourself as an acceptable person. If other people do not accept you, it is due to their agenda. We do not need to take sides with other people against ourselves.