Discharging “Superman” Distress

I want to share some work I have been doing related to

expectations and being a Jewish man. I have been working on how disappointed in myself I feel. From a young age I internalized an incredibly high set of expectations for myself. I refer to them now as my “superman” material.1 I have thought I should be able to do anything and everything: cure cancer, end world hunger, end all forms of humans harming humans, and so on. I remember a mealtime discussion with Harvey Jackins in which I fought as hard as I could against his direction to be pleased with myself. I remember arguing that I could not be pleased with myself—not while X, Y, and Z (oppression of people in various ways) were present in the world. I intellectually understand and try to live by Tim’s2 tenet of being pleased with ourselves, but I still, deep-down, struggle to believe it applies to me. I recently created an understatement: “It sometimes happens that a Jewish man, raised with the highest expectations for himself, is actually pleased with himself no matter what he does or does not do.”For as long as I can remember, I have tried to get rid of how disappointed I feel in myself by doing things, and no matter what I have done, it has not taken away the chronic distress. We all know, and I need to be continually reminded, that the only way to rid oneself of a distress is to discharge it. No actions, no matter how big or how many, will take away this distress of being disappointed in myself. So I have been trying to openly show how disappointed I am. It feels yucky to put my attention there, but it seems to be helpful. In my mind I am whipping myself forward, yelling at myself to move and get stuff done, but I fear that if I let go of that I will become a “worthless good-for-nothing.” The contradiction3 does not seem to be to do nothing (although I have tried that, in and out of sessions). It seems to be to think and discharge about what I want to do and to be pleased with myself no matter what. I’d be interested in how other people have thought and discharged their way through distressed expectations and feelings of disappointment.

Mike Markovits

Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-maildiscussion list for leaders of Jews

(Present Time 171, April 2013)


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Last modified: 2017-05-31 15:30:37-07