We Might Not Heal, But We Can Thrive

I was sitting in my graduate-level Psych class recently, and we were talking about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The details of how that therapeutic model works are unimportant in this story, but the core beliefs it can help with, are.

Stick with me for a sec.

The core beliefs fall into the following three categories: helpless, unlovable, and worthless.

Helpless core beliefs include:

  • I’m incompetent, needy, weak, defective

  • I don’t measure up

  • I’m a failure

Unlovable core beliefs include:

  • I’m unlovable, different, bound to be abandoned/rejected

  • I’m defective and others will not love me

Worthless core beliefs include:

  • I’m worthless

  • I’m bad

These three core beliefs commonly underlie depression and anxiety.

OKAY. That’s it for psych-talk. Let’s move into the epiphany they drew out in me.

As we were going over these core beliefs, I started to spiral a little bit. Because I have all of these thoughts. While they aren’t as constant as they used to be, all of these core beliefs are things that pop up for me, things I struggle with, feelings that never seem to go away no matter how much healing work I do.

I sat there and started to wonder what the point of any of this is. If I can learn the theories and go to therapy and change the behaviors but still struggle with thoughts like this, what the fuck is the point? Isn’t all of this work and all this knowledge supposed to stop these feelings, to heal them to the point that they go away? Why bother going to therapy if no matter how many years in I am, I still feel unlovable and defective sometimes?

And then it hit me: I’m never going to be able to heal the relational and attachment trauma I experienced.

I need to let that sink in for a second.

Because it’s a huge departure. I’ve been talking about healing for YEARS. I’ve believed I can heal my trauma, and have been so mad at myself every time my wounds reappear — “I HEALED YOU! GTF OUT OF HERE!”

But what I failed to realize: I can’t mend failed relationships by myself.

I thought I could. I thought I could will myself to overcome what has become my hard-wiring.

I don’t think I can anymore.

I listened to a This American Life awhile back where they interviewed a preacher whose whole life changed when he stopped believing in Hell. He lost everything he had built. His congregation left him. He needed to start something new, something smaller — but something that felt real and honest to him.

This new awareness feels like that.

Maybe we can’t heal our relational trauma. Maybe we just need to learn healthy ways to live with it and not pass it on to our children. Maybe that’s the work: surrendering and accepting and loving the next generation enough to not do it to them — while being gracious enough with ourselves not to hate ourselves for being who we now are.

The world doesn’t need us perfectly healed, loves.

It just needs us being as honest as we can be.