This is our truth, tell us yours
A common interview question is what are your weaknesses. Its a tricky one, you have to appear self aware, with a certain amount of honesty and authenticity, whilst at the same time coming up with a weakness which is actually a strength. No one has, I think, answered it as well as Spud did.
I am all to aware of my greatest weakness, it is a desire to belong, to not be the outsider perpetually looking in. As a child who was neither good at sports, thin and blonde or arty I grew used to not belonging. Always the last picked for teams, never quite fitting in. Carter pointed out once how the experience of childhood abuse also separates you, a secret you carry which isolates you from your peers. Additionally I was struggling to understand the rules of the playground, arbitrary and unwritten as they were.
This is not meant to be tragedy porn in blog form, my childhood was a long time ago. However if I am to understand the grip that needing to belong has on me, I have to understand how deep its roots go. Sometimes rationalizing helps with childhood learned behaviours, it is after all the roots of CBT. For me though knowing that logically I am no longer a child, and that it is better to have internal than external validation, does not help with the emotions not belonging creates within me.
I do not think I am alone in finding that knowing the cause of something does not prevent it still effecting me. Indeed I hope I am not alone, or this blog becomes exceptionally navel gazey. If self knowledge were enough I would also be better at belonging to groups as an adult. If we were simply rational actors in recognising my need to belong I would be able to by sheer effort find groups that would accept me. This, in my opinion, sums up the problems of the behaviorist approach both to therapy and humanity in general. It posits that if my issue is a need to belong to groups, then the solution is simple, identify groups, work out how to become an invaluable member of them, and ensure you remain a part of that group.
The problem with this approach is that it is the child within me that wants to belong, that wants to be just like everyone else, that wants the invitations to tea and approval of adults. As an adult I can split a movement simply by joining it. I have a set of core beliefs and values that I prioritise over the social grooming that seems to be vital to maintaining membership of any groups. And, frankly, I am not sure I want to be a member of any group that will have me.
This can perhaps be summed up by an experience a few years ago when I was in what I called this week my “desperately unhappy yummy mummy phase”. Except I was exiting this phase, and trying to become what might be described as an authentic me. On this particular day I dropped one of my offspring at their friends house for a playdate. The yummy mummies were in the garden and offered me a “naughty” glass of warm white wine. For a few seconds I contemplated joining them to drink overpriced wine and discuss house prices. I was tired though, I had spent the previous evening being fucked by total strangers in a swinging club. Ten in total if I remember right, ten cocks that I licked, sucked and fucked. SO I declined their offer of “naughtiness” and as I left one suggested that I needed to get out more, have more fun.
As I walked away that day I walked away from any chance of belonging to that group, to spending hours presenting a false face where car size and house price is an indication of moral worth. Its a choice behaviourism cannot embrace. Sometimes the choice is not about changing but accepting. That seems to be a huge issue for many who want to use therapeutic interventions to change people. Its clearly never occurred to whichever bright spark has decided to put therapists in job centers. Probably because behaviourist theories look neat, and simple, exactly in the way people arent.
Sometimes we cannot change, sometimes we dont want to. Sometimes we dont need to change. The things which make me me include prizing honestly, not liking social climbers and snobs, not giving a crap about the possessions someone has. All of these attitudes make fitting into most groups difficult. Even the so called social justice warriors act like offended golfers seeing breastfeeding if your values mean they dont get a free pass for bullying or unethical behaviour. The idea that people can be trotted into sessions with a therapist and changed into more productive little drones might make sense if you take a pure behaviorist stance, and have not ethics. Fortunately all the British counselling regulatory bodies have spoken against the idea. Which is probably why the government is turning to snake oil gurus. The very idea that therapeutic interventions can be reduced to “being willing to change the way you think” is so woefully ignorant and ill informed you would have to be a politician to not instantly dismiss anything David Rahman said.
Sometimes all we can do is learn to accept. I will always carry that loney excluded child within me. I will always feel the emotions she felt. The one thing I can do, and we can all do, is learn when my current emotions are welling up from those deep pools, and remember the wise words “this too shall pass”.