Sunday, February 19, 2012

Does what I tell myself matter?

February 19, 2012

Dear Friends,

Did you hear Kevin Costner’s eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral? He spoke movingly of her genius, that incredible voice, and her beauty, then, gently, of her fears and insecurities. Speaking out of the deep relationship between them, Costner commented that whatever the heights of Houston’s success and public acclaim, she continued to ask, “Am I pretty enough? Did I do well enough? Do they like me? Am I good enough?” Costner paused, then, near tears, added sadly that the “good enough” question both drove Houston’s climb to a brilliant career and contributed to the tragic disintegration of her career and personal life at an early age.

Another “enough” story continues to circulate in the academic mythology of many graduate schools of psychology.

Carl Rogers was a gifted psychologist and a brilliant therapist. To the frustration of his students, however, Rogers was unable to explain precisely what it was that he did that permitted his clients to make such extraordinary progress toward healing. At length, Rogers’ colleagues and students videotaped a number of hours of Rogers’ work with clients hoping to catch on tape the elusive secret of his clinical success. The results were disappointing. Tapes made clear Rogers’ ability to set his client at ease and his empathy with their pain, but other therapists also demonstrated these skills. Peers and students (and Rogers himself) were little closer to identifying a unique quality of interaction that would account for Rogers’ effectiveness.

However, the tapes did show that as a session began, Rogers would characteristically still himself for a moment, sitting silently. Watching the tapes, it was clear that in that moment Rogers’ focus was not on the client but on himself.

“What are you thinking about when you do that, Dr. Rogers?” asked a curious student.

Rogers sat thoughtfully for some time before he answered. Then he said with his characteristic humility, “I suppose I find it necessary to remind myself that while I am not perfect, I am enough.”

Jesus pointed out that what we say (and the questions that we ask) flows out of the deep wells of the heart. That is why what we say to ourselves matters—we are shaping into language the reality of our hearts, our deepest sense of being. And it is this deep sense of identity that serves as the essential foundation for relationships. How we think about the “enough” question shapes decisively our expectations and longings in relationships, and, in subtle but powerful ways, influences the relational skills we seek to develop.

Thinking with you about the necessary bed-rock wisdom that is required to be able to remind ourselves in times of serious relational process, “I am not perfect, but I am enough.”

See you next week.


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