I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Why Am I so Hard on Myself? (Part 2 of 2)

Back in the early 1980s, I saw a film called Ordinary People, for which Timothy Hutton won an Academy Award as the younger son, Conrad. Near the end of the film, Conrad faces his father, played by Donald Sutherland, and confesses that his brother, Buck, who died in an accident, got all the attention.

The father says Buck was irresponsible and took risks, and then goes on to say to Conrad, "I never worried about you. You were always so hard on yourself."

Recently I saw the film (probably for the fourth time) and I cried because I understood Conrad. In one sense I was Conrad—and so are many other survivors. While some give in and mess up their lives with bad decisions, we go the other way. Sometimes we're called uptight; other times we’re told things like "You really have your stuff together" (even though we don't).

I used to think, If only they knew. But instead, I smiled and thanked them.

A long time has passed with many struggles and failures since I started down the healing path. I've finally realized how hard I've been on myself. Too self-demanding, insisting on getting everything done right. Too obsessed with achieving results and rebuking myself for the smallest failure. Others could fail and I made allowances for them, but I held myself to a higher (impossible) standard.

Over the years, I've learned to feel more compassionate toward Cec. Now I remind him: This is who you are. You don’t need to prove anything to yourself. Now is your time to enjoy being who you are.

I used to be too demanding on myself;
now I enjoy being who I am.

37 comments:

Larry Clemson said...

My Pastor once told me "Let yourself off the hook".
I am learning to be easier on myself - letting it go.
It is still tough at times but taking steps forward!

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Martin said...

Reading the blog for the first time, and you got me. Not by the "being so hard on myself" comments, but simply the mention of "Ordinary People" reference. That film had an impact on me that I've experienced with no other movie.

Sometimes when you're watching a story unfold, the subconscious is tracking on an entirely different level. I remember being emotionally braced for the inevitability of an impending suicide, when the therapist scene came up. The Jewish doctor says to his young client, "When are you going to let yourself off the hook?"

I came unglued. Chest-convulsing sobbing. I had no idea what had just happened: cognitively, clueless, but emotionally undone.

For an instant, no longer watching a therapy session, I was the client, and the doctor's piercing stare and probing question thundered with the force of divinity offering the possibility of absolution.

After months of turning the scene over in my mind, I couldn't fully explain what had happened to me. But I had been made aware that I needed to "let myself off the hook," and that doing so was possible and that I held the key to shedding whatever bonds held me in shame. The part me I presented to myself and the world, met the me who had decided long before to never venture out into the light.

So grateful that you picked this oddly powerful film for today's discussion.

Cec Murphey said...

Martin and I saw the same film, and were touched by similar-but-different scenes. Martin responded to the therapist. I responded to the father's words. Interesting that both of us received the message but in different ways.

When I first saw the film in the 1980s I wasn't in touch with my childhood abuse. I also didn't have (and still don't) any relationship with a professional. When I saw the film, it was the father who played the hero for me--something my own father could never have done. My younger brother was like Buck, the one who died, and the family favorite.
So it's easy for me to see that Martin and I had similar reactions, but from different sources. That helps me realize one significant fact: We receive what we need when we're ready and from the source that speaks to us.

Thanks Martin. And thanks Larry, for your comment from your pastor--a totally different source.

jonathan ashton said...
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Cec Murphey said...

Jonathan, we've removed only one comment. We want people to be honest and transparent, but we also want them to say things without using what many would call vulgar language.

If you have any questions about my decision, email me at c.murphey@comcast.net.

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