Trauma Therapy Session 19: Post day 3. Realistic goals for compliments

Much of todays discussion focused around compliments. We had a really good conversation about how I am progressing with the homework, which realistically I was not doing as well as I would like at. The limiting compliments to one a day appears to have had little benefit other than once it passes I can relax a little more into my day.

As always Chris challenged my logic and encouraged me to consider the broader perspective. Why do I like to give compliments? …Because they make other people feel seen and recognised. That it is a sure way of instilling some good in the world and there is always room for more of that. I understood my logic for giving and I get that compliments are a good thing they just never land like that with me.

Chris asked how I would explain to someone else why compliments impact me the way they do. At first I started to talk about their impact, the physical discomfort they can cause or the balancing mental beating I often follow up with.

Chris asked again but why… The answer obvious…

  • I never received many compliments as a child
  • When I did they often came with a hidden agenda
  • If sometimes I allowed myself to buy into the idea that perhaps I was a good kid the fall that inevitably came when I was told the opposite felt that much more crushing.
  • Or if I sat on my laurels for a moment and stopped constantly trying to be better I would find myself stuck again in an impossible situation with no perceivable way out. (Of course I still found myself stuck in impossible situations but at least sometimes I had the sense I had tried my best to be a better version of me who managed to find a way to fix it).

So compliments have never been my bag.

I found it helpful to explore what might be a realistic goal in relation to receiving compliments and we landed in a more comfortable place. Perhaps I wouldn’t ever enjoy receiving a compliment but the two aims I want are

(1) To not to reply negatively to someone when they give me a compliment. To not say things you must be desperate, don’t be stupid, as if, I wish…

(2) To not have to actively manage or control the negative internal response. To not beat myself up and endure a mental onslaught of, don’t my an idiot, you are a waste of space, they are lying and you would be stupid to buy it, you are useless…

So the goal to create a neutral space. They don’t make me feel great but they don’t make me feel rubbish either. This feels like a really realistic goal.

We also talked about the recent tweak I had made to the approach Stephen and I were taking. In addition to only receiving one compliment a day I have also asked Stephen to warn me before he compliments me. The warning let’s me try and prime my thinking to receive it. I only need a few seconds, just enough to be able to try and gear myself up for it. To tell myself compliments are safe and good and real. It feels like that is helping. We are going to carry on for this and then consider upping the limit too two.

We also touched on again why I want to tackle this issue. This one for me is all about Stephen I can imagine how frustrating it is for him at times and he has done so much to support me through this process, learning to receive a compliment feels like the least I can do.

For more trauma therapy reflections…


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