Jerry had been studying Real Love for several months and practicing the principles with his wife, Marge.
"I just keep screwing it up," Jerry said. "I know the right thing to do, but when Marge starts in with criticizing me, it's like I go to pieces. I feel like such a . . ."
"Screw up?" I asked.
Jerry hung his head and nodded.
"When you make mistakes," I said, "you feel like garbage, don't you?"
"You're not garbage."
"I don't know how you can say that," Jerry said. "I can say some pretty ugly things to her."
"And each time you get angry at her, how do you feel first? When Marge criticizes you, how do you feel about yourself?"
"So you feel like garbage, because Marge is telling you with her criticism and her tone that you are garbage, right?"
"And the only reason you'd believe that message is if the people you trusted early in your life—almost certainly your parents—communicated to you that when you made mistakes, they thought you were garbage and made you feel bad about it. Still true?"
"I have the advantage of not being in the conflict. I'm not afraid, and I don't have an agenda, so I can see what is really happening. Do you believe that?"
"That makes sense."
"When you make mistakes, YOU are NOT garbage, but you've had so many people tell you that you are, that you believe them when you make mistakes. Then, hearing that you are garbage makes you feel unloved and afraid, and you respond in ways to protect yourself. The ways you respond to your fears ARE garbage—in that they are unloving and unproductive—but it's your past judgments and FEARS that are garbage, not YOU. See the difference?"
You are not garbage, but when you made mistakes, many people convinced you that you were less worthwhile—garbage. Then you learned to respond with behaviors that ARE garbage, and many people use those responses to prove that you're garbage. Ironically, those are often the very people that falsely convinced you that you were garbage in the first place, the same people who made you afraid and taught you to respond to your fears in unproductive way—garbage.
We must begin to associate with people who see us as being more than our mistakes, who can see who we really are and help us to break our falsely negative opinions of ourselves. When that can happen, our fears disappear, and our harmful reactions disappear with them.
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