This post is not intended just to be a place for me to gloat about having the incredible fortune to see Morrissey perform live in L.A. on Friday night, or to tell you how unbelievably AWESOME it was to sit just eight-rows away from him and to be able to see his eyes when he sang, “Everyday is like Sunday.” Nor is it even about how Morrissey is more like a beloved friend to me than a performer and how it feels a little odd to see so many people who also consider him the personal soundtrack of their life. And I wouldn’t even dare to try and explain to you my love for him or what he has meant to me since I first heard the Smith’s when I was 15—-it is just too big and, dare I say, transcendent to try and explain. Even after going to the concert with me, I don’t think Keith still fully understands my relationship with Morrissey. He knows that I love him. He knows that I swoon when I hear him and yet he is, I think, a bit baffled by the fact that I have no interest in meeting him ( I just couldn’t bear it if Morrissey the person did anything to ruin Morrissey the myth) and I am certainly not sexually attracted to him( not that he isn’t lovely—it’s just that my love for him is more pure and spiritual than that).
Yes, he sang many of my favorite songs. And I felt overwhelmed, as I do every time I see him, by hearing in person the songs that are the soundtrack to my life. However ,it was this song that made me think of so many things and really experience just how far I have come. And this is what this post is REALLY ABOUT:
In 2008, three days before I saw Morrissey perform in Chicago I had undergone an embryo transplant and when I heard this song I sang along as if it was a prayer. I thought maybe that hearing this song sung by Morrissey and singing along with him, that maybe…just maybe. Only it didn’t–our shared prayer didn’t give me what I wanted.
Ever since then that song has been associated with my infertility. However, on Friday night when Morrissey sang this song I didn’t feel sad. Yes, I felt some sadness about the past,and about not getting what I wanted. But I also felt an incredible relief that I wasn’t praying with Morrissey to get what I wanted. What I felt instead was a clarity that there was nothing that I wanted now. As soon as I realized that, then the tears came. You see, it is a lovely thing to want for nothing. Thank you, Morrissey, for helping me to see that “I haven’t had a dream in a long time”… and that is a very good thing.
As a therapist I am not in the habit of prescribing movies, but this is a movie that I have been prescribing with such frequency that one might think I was getting pharmaceutical company kickbacks. The movie, that is a mental health must, begins with Pat Solitano, magnificently played by Bradley Cooper, in a mental health facility. He is there because he has bipolar disorder and because he violently attacked his wife’s lover. Pat is determined to get his wife back. He is going to lose weight and he is going to be a better person. And, in an effort to better know his wife, he decides to read all the books on her high-school english syllabis. He is trying to prove to Nikki, his estranged wife, that he is lovable. I’m not going to ruin the movie for you and so I will say no more about what happens. I want you to see the movie and then I want you to come back and tell me how much you loved it and then I want to meet you for coffee and talk about each delightful moment and all of the incredible performances. I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago and I am still enjoying a Silver Linings Playbook hangover( Bradley Cooper pun intended) and I can’t quit thinking about the deeper meanings that the film offers.
The way that I define for myself whether I love a movie is whether or not is if I completely forget about my life for the two-hours that I am watching it. It is a rare movie that makes me forget that I have dry cleaning to pick up or a bill to pay or its dialogue goes uninterrupted by a nagging thought that I might have forgotten to give Lily her heart worm medicine this month. Silver Lining Playbook was not such a movie. That said, even though it had me thinking about my own life it was the BIG life issues that I see in my practice and not the little piddly issues like “Did I remember to DVR Homeland“? Silver Linings Playbook had me thinking of bigger issues in my life and in the lives of my patients and I was simultaneously engrossed with the film and seeing similarities in my life. The theme that I and, I would imagine, so many resonate with is the feeling of “If I become what they want me to become then I will deserve love.” This movie’s answer to the question of “If I become what they want me to be will they love me?” is maybe. Maybe they will love you. But maybe you don’t need to change. Maybe who you are right now in all your messed-up messiness is worthy of love. And maybe you don’t want them after all.
In my years of practice as a psychotherapist I have seen so many people who sit across from me and try desperately to convince me that they need to change to be loved and I sit there and I listen to them and I try and understand and have compassion for the urgency in which they argue for their unlovableness and yet all I see in front of me is how profoundly lovable that they are right now. Sure, many of us could benefit from some change—but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve love right now. We do. And it is so easy for me to see that for my friends or patients or Pat Solitano, however it can be a bit more difficult for me to see it for myself. I, like maybe you, have a list of things that I sometimes use as an excuse to see myself as unworthy. If I was fitter, more successful, or more x,y or z then I would be more lovable. But it’s all a rouse, I know it is. The people who really love me don’t love me more when I have a lower body fat percentage. No one who really loves me asks for an Excel sheet as a means of determining my worth, and yet I still often strive to prove my lovability. And when I don’t feel like I am lovable, for example, last Friday when I was possessed by PMS demons and was on a diatribe of self-loathing, I, in those moments, don’t let love in. I push people away with an aura of indifference. But the truth is that I am not indifferent at all, I am just, in those moments, convinced that I am not good enough or smart enough or whatever enough, and so I self-protect by pushing others away—not a good strategy.
I love Silver Linings Playbook for so many reasons. I love that it reminds us that the really interesting people are not the one’s who seem to have it all together. Tiffany is lovable exactly for the reasons she’s sure she isn’t. Pat is lovable and interesting because he is honest and raw and broken and entirely himself. The people who love him are also broken and crazy and not at all perfect. But really, who is perfect? Who are these perfect people who require us to be perfect? I don’t know them. And I really don’t want to know them. I like the broken and crazy people who are honest and raw and courageous, those are my people. I like them. No, I love them.
I am always telling patients that it isn’t that exciting or interesting to love the perfect. Loving the perfect doesn’t require anything of us. And if I was perfect it wouldn’t seem so amazing that Keith loves me as he does. He loves me even though I am somewhat challenging and difficult and (in my words, not his) a bit overly-emotional about things. But he loves me even though I am those things and it makes the love more meaningful. What I find more amazing is what I might describe as my most unlovable parts, he sees as delightful. He loves my smile lines and asked me to never to put filler in them. I was baffled by this and yet I can’t tell you how much I LOVE his smile lines. There are three beautiful and perfect smile lines that frame his smile. Whenever I see them I melt. Those lines tell me that he has lived a life that allowed him to smile enough to earn those and that makes me happy. There are other things about him or me that others might want us to change, we however find most of our crazy to be sort of cute and endearing.
So, dear and lovable you, do you think it is better to be loved for imperfections or for perfections? What unlovable thing has someone found lovable about you? What about you did someone love that you had previously thought was unlovable? Go and see this movie and see if you see yourself at all in it. See if you tell yourself that you need to change to be loved and maybe challenge that notion. And, if you don’t that is okay too, you are still lovable—-just as you are.
When I was in high school there was a boy whom I dated who was absolutely gorgeous. I wouldn’t think so now, as my types have seriously changed since I was in junior English( he would now be way too pretty boy for my taste, but at the time I was crazy for blond boys in Polo shirts). I think it was maybe our third time out and I felt what Molly Ringwald must have when in Sixteen Candles she got THE guy at the end. You remember the scene when they were on the dining room table and there was a birthday cake and the kiss? It was astounding to me that dorky-old- me was dating a high school deity. I was dizzy from the altitude sickness and overwhelmed by the oxygen differential that occurs when a mortal dates a resident of Mt. Olympus.
The date progressed and we were doing lots of kissing. I think the term for it was “making out”. Yes, we were making out( Do they still call it that?). And this deity started getting pushy about moving things to the next level. I stood firm in my resistance. It was too early. I didn’t know him well enough. And I didn’t want him to think I was a slut. So I continued to say no and he continued to push for yes. He grew tired of my noes and so he, between passionate kisses( as passionate as a 17 year old boy could be) began a different tact. He gave me the highlights of his sexual CV. Seriously. He did this. He began to tell me all the gorgeous and popular girls in my high school that he had slept with. The terribly and surprising and horrifying thing is that his who’s-who of high school actually worked on me. I was impressed with his impressive list of girls. I wanted to be on that list (any wonder I have needed years of therapy?) and so I slept with him.
Dream number one was a bit on the X-rated side. I won’t go into lurid detail. I will just tell you that Javier Bardem and I were doing things that birds and bees and educated fleas do. What felt important in this dream was the level of connection Javier and I had. And Javier’s instructions to me felt VERY important. Javier was very keen on me “opening up to him”. It seemed that he was trying to open me up so he could fill me up(metaphorically). Please, stay with the metaphor—this isn’t about sex, it’s about metaphor—really. In the dream it felt like Javier and I were very connected and I trusted him and I did open up to him. I told Igor all of these associations. Continue reading ‘Three Types of Men: Foreign lover/Abusive father/Good father’
While the title is certainly true this post is not about you—it is about positive projection. Remember last week when I wrote about the Snag that I went to school with? You remember, negative shadow projection? Quick reminder: Shadow projection is where the ego splits off the aspects of itself that are unacceptable onto another person since the ego cannot tolerate to see these aspects in itself. Well, the ego tends to do the same thing with positive aspects. There are positive aspects of the ego that for whatever reason( usually comes from some mother or father complex) the ego can’t own and so it projects these qualities onto another.
This happens a lot when we fall in love. I am sure you know someone who has said something like this,” He is PERFECT.” And then there are a long list of all his highly lovable qualities: “He is the best at _______. He is the most wonderful ________.” Etc, etc. When I here someone saying all these wonderful things about another I tend to tune out the object(He) that they are speaking of and instead notice what the qualities that Mr. Perfect has that they so love about him. Why? Well, what they LOVE about Mr. Perfect are shadow aspects that they have split off from themselves and are now idealizing in him. It is possible that it is not even him that they love. What they love is that he is a container for all these elements that they haven’t been allowed to be. If she loves that he is an artist it is likely that she wants to be an artist. If it is intelligence that she prizes then at some point she learned that to survive in her family of origin that she had to split off her IQ into the shadow and hence the first guy who could do long division became the mirror for her intelligence.
Idealizing and positive shadow projection doesn’t sound so bad up front. It sure is a lot more socially acceptable than negative shadow projection. People wisely prefer to have someone think they are the cat’s pajamas than to have them be so irrationally irritated by them that they have considered smashing a guitar over their head( hypothetically speaking). But here’s the problem with idealizing and positive shadow projection, usually, after some time…often after there has been a big party and a white dress and registering at Macy’s for silverware and Crockpots, one or more of the parties in the legally binding contract figures out that he or she really isn’t so (fill in the idealizing adjective)___________. This is the beginning of what we psychotherapists in our fancy psychotherapasizing ways, like to call “withdrawing the projection“.
Withdrawing of projections can happen with jobs, institutions, friends, and even a lipstick. He/she/it is not all of the wonderful qualities you projected onto he/she/it. It can take longer with friends than with live-in loves as the more you are around someone the more quickly you realize they are not exactly what you have projected them to be. A usual reaction to learning that he/she/it is not what you expected is disappointment, rage, resentment, anger, and perhaps even breaking some of that china you got as gifts and maybe calling on divorce attorneys.
But there is a real opportunity when the china is swept up and the temper tantrum is over, you get to see that it this was your projection and that it is you that is so smart, funny, artistic, or whatever else you projected onto he/she/it. That’s not to say that your friend/lover/or lipstick doesn’t have these qualities too and if they don’t that they may have other qualities worth staying legally bound or related to in some way. It’s just that they aren’t holding the projection anymore and you either have to own your wonderfulness or you have to find some other guy/girl/lipstick to be the new holder of all your projections. My recommendation would be to own your wonderfulness and stop the cycle of projection.
Do you want to know why 50% of marriages end up in divorce ? The answer is withdrawal of projection. You see, the real work of relationship begins after the shadow projections and idealizations have been withdrawn. Most people don’t get there. It isn’t easy to see that you are so fabulous (and also not so fabulous which is what you learn when you are forced to see your negative shadow projections). And it isn’t easy to be in a relationship with someone who is just an ordinary and imperfect other who has also been projecting onto you. That early time in a relationship when he/she/it is holding all your positive shadow feels the most alive and exciting. It feels good to see yourself in this other and it ain’t too bad to have them projecting all of their good stuff onto you—until you really get that it is all or mostly projection and then it doesn’t feel so good.
It is my argument that as delightful as that “He is so perfect” stage is, the “I see myself and own my negative and positive shadow aspects and I love him for what he is and not because he is willing to hold my projections for me” is a MUCH better stage—it is a stage where you have integrated your shadow and you are able to love the other person for who they really are and not for what you need them to be.
My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .