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One of my journeys inside self hatred.

I saw my twelve o’clock client and in the course of our session he said, “I was telling a friend of mine the other day that you are the best therapist I’ve ever had…”. I took note but never said anything. Then, my three o’clock client bounces in singing, “It’s working, it’s working. The therapy is working”. We explored that a bit and she later said, “I’ve been to therapists for four years and this is the only thing that has ever worked. I almost gave up hope.” She left the room ecstatic and I left the room profoundly sad. I went to a colleague and said, “can you support me?” I fell into an abyss of tears, sobbing uncontrollably (not that I would want to control it) and not knowing why. Somewhere in through the tears, I and an image of myself holding a shotgun to my head. The ‘gun guy’ had his finger on the trigger, his face red, his body shaking as if it took every ounce of energy to not pull the trigger. With a tight jaw he was screaming at me, “Okay now, you better not fuck up. Those people (clients) are depending on you. You better be very careful with them and not hurt them.” I looked in terror at this image. A few moments later I saw another me on his knees shaking, scared, and pleading for the man with the gun at his head not to shoot him. I sobbed even more bitterly. After forty or so minutes, I emerged from this experience very shaken. I also got that this was a piece of self-hatred that was so strong that I had to deny it because it was so ugly and frightening to me.

Driving to work the next day, recalling the image I started crying and saying out loud to my dad, “you were wrong about me. You didn’t know who I was, You were wrong about me not being good enough”.

That week, I went to my therapist and told him that story. I also told him that gun guy hadn’t left me, and I still felt his presence and I was afraid that he would influence my sessions with my clients that was counter-therapeutic. I felt like I had to embody the image of the me with a gun in order to “own” this fragmented part of myself. I knew that I had to step into his shoes somatically, with my entire being. I had already contemplated going out and buying a shotgun (altering it so it could never be used to fire) so I could step into his world. If the therapy didn’t help, that was my next step. That would have been a very difficult thing - I am afraid of guns.

I was terrified to merge with him as he was all the aspects of the world that I run from; hateful and crazed. I stood up, and felt gun guy close by. Seeing his posture in my mind, I formed my body to match his. I could feel the tenseness, the holding, the anger, the resentment, the old betrayals, and his hatred for ‘Weak Wally’. His body was contracted and shaking as if it was being electrocuted. As I took his form, my hands were by my side. I knew I had to put my hands on the gun and hold it. Every time I raised my arms to hold the gun, my heart would pound, and I’d scream, “I can’t do it”. I would find some more willingness to access and own gun guy, take a breath, and raise my arms as if I were holding the gun. I could only hold it for a few seconds at a time before I would scream again, an drop the imaginary gun.

“He” was so hateful and scornful it was all I could do to find the courage to be him. After a lot of tears, I had the shotgun in my hand; I had become him. All I wanted to do in that moment was to kill that guy on his knees, yet I was afraid to do so. About then, my therapist said, “It hasn’t been okay to hate.” I fell to the floor sobbing. I found myself screaming to my therapist, “Hate kills”. Somewhere in there my therapist brilliantly said, “If you look at the gun you’ll notice that the safety is on”. I looked at the gun and saw the safety, but had no idea which was on or off. So, I had to go to the source: gun guy. I had to enter into his world, to feel inside of him to see if he secretly flipped the safety on. I felt into all the layers of anger, grief and hatred until I got under it all… and indeed, the safety was on. He didn’t want me, or him, to die after all. I wept tears of gratitude and releasement.

Somewhere in there, amongst my sobbing and reeling,  I saw how that part of me who was on my knees was the one who wanted to commit suicide several years ago because it would have been less violating to commit suicide than to die at the hands of another, even if the other was myself. I also saw that it was this image that was a large part of the creator of my underlying fears about not surviving, which came up the week before in my therapy session and has been pervasive in my life.

The following week, I felt something “short circuit” in my brain. Of course I can’t prove this as I’m not willing to allow scientists take core samples of my brain, but I could feel what I would call neurological shifts in a certain part of my brain. It was evident for about three days. The following week, I went into session with each of those two clients who had given me the compliments. In each case, I walked into the room asking myself, “where is the guy with the gun?” I stayed as aware as I could to any slight internal pressure to be different than I normally am with them. Gun guy has yet to make another appearance. I believe this is due to integrating the denied abuser with the victim.

For weeks following, I was dealing with deep sadness and regret for hating myself for all those years. Yet, it’s easier for me to be with sadness and regret than self hate. Joy and forgiveness are so much closer. At least I could see them in the distance, underneath the sadness. What a waste of time it has been to let the self hatred go on for so long. We just don’t have many resources to deal with it effectively in our culture and this paper is an exploration into finding a new way to bring acceptance for the unacceptable.


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