Self-confrontation is a rare commodity in human beings. It’s the real reason people don’t want to go to therapy. It’s really hard to look honestly at yourself. Just recently a client laughingly reminded me when I had shared my observation that her anger had a lot of self righteousness attached to it. She was able to trust the process of therapy enough to take that truth in & digest it instead of pretending it wasn’t true. Digesting hard truths about yourself is no easy task.

Self Confrontation Will Improve ALL Your Relationships

Self-confrontation is a rare commodity in human beings. It’s really hard to look honestly at yourself.

Everybody avoids shame at all costs. Recognizing shame within yourself can be a tough beginning to real change. Shame is the most difficult emotion because it can stop you dead in your tracks. In order to confront yourself, you have to wade through shame. Facing our own shame is exactly why self confrontation is such a rare commodity. The reason Frank the ever drunk father in the TV show Shameless is so despicable is because he has no shame at all.

What do WE ALL do instead of confront ourselves? We justify why we did something, we make it ok, we make excuses for ourselves. You know that old joke you can go a day without sex but can you go a day without a good rationalization? We are slippery individuals, a bit weaselly if  you will. We are all so good at telling ourselves it’s ok when it’s not. Facing a harsh truth about yourself, makes you feel bad & that’s the point, the discomfort helps you to decide “I’m not doing that again.” It’s so much easier to simply launch into defense mode because you are so certain you are NOT BAD. It’s exactly this defensiveness that erases the opportunity for you to grow.

My favorite Gestalt Therapy saying is “Growing up is honestly facing painful situations.”

I deeply wanted to grow up & be a better person & it was hard. The question you must ask yourself is Do You? That’s my definition of real love, what I call living with love…..love makes you want to be a better person; like Jack Nicolson tells Helen Hunt in the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets. Love can motivate you to tackle your shame & win by finding the courage to face hard truths.

So let me say this again: Real love means being willing to do the work of being a better person.

The only way to be a better person is through self confrontation. 

Of course being able to confront yourself requires self awareness. Self awareness is the very beginning of change. If you or your partner lack self awareness you will have a very difficult relationship. Self awareness means you have the ability to recognize you need to wince at something you have said or done. The wince or pinch to do better is what helps all of us grow & transform.

My favorite stories are when characters transform. They evolve by struggling with life. This is why I’m bored with the fictional character Jack Reacher by Lee Childs. His struggles are always physical fights, he is always the smartest guy in the room with temporary relationships of great sex & he doesn’t change. The new choices he makes are only about his location. My favorite books are when characters evolve & change.

Choices weave the substance of our lives. Even bad choices are opportunities for learning & growing. An old client used me as a reference for a volunteer opportunity. I’m so thrilled she is making the choice to volunteer because so many people don’t seem to value that choice anymore. This podcast is my volunteering effort & while it’s a lot of work I get a lot out of it. Do you make an effort to give back to the world & if you don’t why not? It’s a choice that would make you a better person. 

What good choices interest you, really? One exercise that can help increase your own self awareness is to track your good & bad choices. I guarantee you can turn bad days around by sprinkling in more good choices even if it’s as simple as turn off the tv, get off the couch & take a 15 minute walk.

We all have choices that we give lip service to “I’m going to start exercising but my gym is closed, I’m going to stop my emotional affair or I’m going to lose weight”…..the choice to honestly evaluate how we can be a better person is hard work.

If you have kids,  ask each of your kids how you could be a better father or mother…..and hopefully they are willing to risk telling the truth. Ask your partner how things could be better or explore any resentments or unfinished business that still lingers. Ask your best friend how you could be a better friend. The choice to have those hard conversations is a fabulous choice!

A comfortable relationship is not the same as a successful relationship. A successful relationship makes you take a hard look at yourself. It stops you in your self reassuring, lying to yourself tracks. Your partner should not simply be a voice of validation. A real partnership has plenty of room for disagreement. Not fighting probably means someone is being too submissive. 

I’m always on a bit of a rant that avoiding conflict is a cultural disease. Conflict can contribute to growth because what you learn can be a beginning for improvement. When you are able to risk conflict because something matters to you the practice of standing up for yourself can help you believe in yourself more. Part of the path of growth is practicing knowing your own heart & letting others know who you really are….

Stop & ask yourself how willing are you to clean up your own behavior instead of just enjoying the comfort of blaming someone else? Everyone loves blame because it lets you off the hook. I think blame is an immature defense mechanism & it needs to be retired by your early 30’s. You simply can’t grow from your own mistakes if you are not honest with yourself. One of the very real benefits of an honest partnership is listening to feedback about how you have not been your best self. 

I repeat, Growing up is honestly facing painful situations. 

It’s very hard to face the harsh truth about our own contributions to our problems & yet it’s is exactly that discomfort, that pinch by reality that helps you make the hard choice to do the work of being a better person.

The psychotherapist Ruth on the Netflix show Russian Dolls in episode 6 says to someone who hates the idea of going to therapy: “Without therapists we are very unreliable narrators of our own story”. That’s why you want to work with a therapist who will challenge you & blow the cobwebs off your old tired belief system; that you are the misunderstood hero or victim. I still remember the gestalt flip that Miriam Polster gave me on my Dad never telling me he loved me but once. When I was in my 30’s & we were standing by the dishwasher & he said “I think people go around saying I love you too much.”  I was feeling a bit sorry for myself & Miriam said “What an endearing story of your father.” I call that a gift of a most lovely course correction that has remained with me my entire life. We are indeed unreliable narrators of our own story. I believe both therapy & a willingness to honestly self confront can lead to growth.

Self confrontation means that you stop making excuses for yourself. I’m not asking you to start up a self torture machine like perfectionists do. It’s a poke to do better, not burning yourself at the stake. Too often self confrontation either doesn’t exist or it is a very dark world of profound punishment. I’m advocating a more balanced approach. I’m asking you to be uncomfortable enough to consider the work of change without a deep dive into misery. Real change is not an easy path but the motivation of loving someone else & not wanting to spill over on them can help you take that path.

Self confrontation & conflict don’t have to include horrible amounts of pain or ugliness. Self confrontation is not about torture or penance or guilty self talk. Confronting yourself has to be generous & stern both. As I mentioned early on in the show, perhaps you are self righteous when you are angry with your partner……it may be a survival strategy from anger being dismissed or ignored growing up. What’s important now is to understand that being self righteous contaminates the message you may be delivering to a partner. So learning to be angry with more respect will benefit both of you. It’s all about the balancing of anger with respect.

There is a documentary about Carl Jung called A Matter of Heart that ends with an interview with someone who was his client & became a therapist. At the end of the movie the interviewer asks her do you believe people can grow & change without therapy? & she takes a long moment to consider & the movie ends with her thoughtful response “Yes, if they have the gift of honesty”.

Self confrontation is the way to acquire the gift of honesty. That’s why there are statistically less relapses after someone finishes the steps of taking a moral inventory & then asking someone else to witness it, then making amends. These are the steps of self confrontation that AA offers to keep people on the path of fighting addictions.

My challenge for you today is to take a moral inventory of how you have neglected your relationship with yourself, in your role at work, in your role as aunt/uncle, mother/father, friend & most importantly with your partner. Do this without either severe harshness or over generosity…….& then share some/most of it with your partner. You might consider keeping this in a notebook that you periodically look at once a year to measure your growth. It’s the deciding to work at it that can build a rich infrastructure for your relationships.

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