This morning I was talking with a dear friend. She and I trained together in an alternative therapy over a decade ago. We had the kind of training that left us very doubtful of our ability ever to be very good practitioners of that particular therapy. (But that didn’t stop us being passionate about the therapy.)
Yesterday, someone called me to praise my friend to the hilt. She was an ‘absolute treasure’ who had ‘turned one particular client’s life around’. This person ‘couldn’t praise her enough’; she worked ‘magic’. This person said all the things about my friend that we used to hear about senior therapists in this field. In short, my friend is now spoken of as one of those amazing, senior therapists. I called my friend to celebrate her coming of age with her.
But did she believe it?
You’ve guessed it: she did not.
What she said was this: “It must be a case of mistaken identity. He couldn’t have been talking about me.”
You could say that my friend is terminally modest. I’d say something quite different. I’d say she is so focused on what she imagines to be true, that she can completely overlook what goes on in the world around her, and all the positive feedback she gets.
I’m not suggesting you should be falling off your seat to know more about my lovely friend the therapist, that is not what you read this blog for. But have you recognised your own pattern here?
Just in case you haven’t, let me spell it out for you. Abused women are gifted individuals in all sorts of ways. However, they respond to - well earned – praise as my friend does; rather as if someone had thrown a tarantula into their lap.
Right now I’m guessing that you are struggling with the ‘gifted individuals’ piece. I suspect that you may well have reacted by thinking: “Well, I’m sure some abused women are, but not me. There’s nothing gifted, or special, about me. (At least, not any more.)”
Predictable, or what?
Abused women are, in the end, just women; some are more talented than others, sure. But look at this way: to run uphill with a 50 lb rucksack on your back, requires you to be a better, stronger runner, than the person who runs, unburdened, up that hill.
An abusive relationship weighs far heavier on your shoulders than any 50 lb rucksack ever can.
So what happened to my friend, and to you?
I believe that Maxwell Maltz (The New Psycho-Cybernetics) has the answer. He says:
“Human beings always act and feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.”
What abused women imagine to be true about themselves and their environment, is what an abusive partner tells them.
Telling the truth is not part of an abusive partner’s job description. If it were, he’d be obliged to admit that he is an insecure, immature, destructive snit [sic] who gets his good feelings from making you feel bad.
Instead an abusive man paints your world in the way that is most supportive of his agenda.
You swallow his world-view. That is your misfortune.
And then you find yourself acting and feeling and performing in accordance with his imaginings.
To my friend I said: “Even if, by some chance, that person had got the wrong therapist, I would still encourage you to take their words on board. Believing in your own gifts will only enable you to be a better therapist, because your unconscious mind will take that judgement on board, and adjust what you imagine about yourself accordingly.”
To you I say: “I believe that you are far, far more talented, courageous, and resourceful than you believe you are. I base that judgement on a long experience of working with abused women. But even if you believe that I have got it wrong, I would still encourage you take my words on board.
“When you allow my words to change what you imagine to be true about yourself, you become able to act and feel and perform in accordance with that positive view of yourself.
“Be open to the idea that some time, very soon, people will talk about you, too,
in terms of ‘magic’ an ‘absolute treasure’ and not being able to praise you enough.
“It will happen.”