Psalm 137

Psalm 137 (Photo credit: Mouse)

One of the greatest problems that I have had my entire life is that I expect myself to be perfect.  This not only stems from my childhood but also from a culture that seems to demand perfection. Virtually every day I hear some celebrity saying that if I just take a positive attitude that all my dreams will come true seemingly without effort. There is a lot of talk about “The Law of Attraction” and if my life isn’t what it should be that it is somehow my fault because I haven’t thought the “right” thoughts.

Now let me make this clear: I am not totally against the concept of the Law of Attraction, but I am not sure that it always works the way many people seem to think. I think we attract into our lives situations that we need to learn from. I don’t think life is always meant to be easy. I also think that the subtle implication that if someone’s life sucks that it is their own fault is patently unfair and in fact a very uncompassionate and unspiritual point of view.

Even among those who don’t embrace the philosophy of New Thought, such as mainline Christians, there is a tendency to judge others when they are feeling down.  We are told that we have to “have faith” and if we don’t it is an affront to God.  I would challenge these people to read the book of Psalms, which is full of existential angst.  We often quote the inspirational parts of the book, however, the majority of it is actually quite pessimistic in nature. David was a man who was literally drowning in depression.

I have to admit that I often judge myself harshly for not being more positive, even though I know that I have this disease that at times makes this extremely difficult, even impossible. I feel like I should be better than this, even though I don’t expect that from any other people I know who have bipolar disorder. Even though I have dreamed of being a writer for a long time, I have held myself back because I felt that unless I could always be positive and have some piece of profound wisdom to give, then I would be a fraud. I am finding that the opposite is actually true, by being authentic and admitting that I don’t know all the answers, my writing is considerably more authentic and meaningful. I don’t have to be the expert, because I am simply sharing my journey with my readers. If there is something they get out of it then that is great, if not then they are free to look elsewhere for answers.

This seems to be a lesson that I keep having to learn over and over. When I was younger I had thought that I wanted to become a therapist. However I held myself back because I knew that I was really screwed up myself. I thought that if I became a therapist that I would be a “pretender” and a fraud. However, later on I had the opportunity to become a peer supporter with a local mental health center. This was not a professional position, but rather went along the lines of what the twelve-step groups do in that they share their “experience, strength and hope.” I jumped at the chance, because I did not have to be the “expert”. I could just be me.

The fact is that there is nothing wrong with having negative emotions because it gives us the opportunity to work with them and learn from them. I don’t have to be “Miss Mary Sunshine” all of the time.  I can be pissed off, depressed, sad, lonely, fearful etc. I can experience the whole gamut of emotions common to man as long as that doesn’t lead to destructive behavior on my part.

There is nothing spiritual about denying one’s thoughts and feelings. We should go easy on ourselves.  Life is about learning, not perfection.