I was talking to my therapist on Tuesday, as I always do, and I mentioned that I’ve been reading about self-compassion, but I wasn’t finding it very helpful. The key piece of advice it seems to be based upon is “comfort and reassure yourself the way you would a trusted friend who has the same issues.” It’s one of the only concrete pieces of advice I’ve been able to find in my self-compassion literature, and it’s the one I have no idea how to actually do!
See, I don’t have trusted friends, and even when I did, we never shared emotional issues that way. Not only that, but there were no healthy models of compassion (or anything emotional whatsoever) around me when I was growing up, so I’ve never heard anyone do the kind of “comforting and reassuring” that I assume the authors have in mind.
Unfortunately, my therapist wasn’t much help either, because it turns out she doesn’t do that either. Her version of comfort boiled down to “it’s okay. It may not be what you want, or what is ‘correct’, but it’s okay. It will be okay.”
Aaaaaand…that really doesn’t help me any. Because a) I wouldn’t believe it anyway, and b) I find that neither comforting nor reassuring. To me, there’s no emotional resonance in that, either. So, apparently I don’t know one single person who actually understands and is capable of doing what these self-compassion books tell me to do. My therapist gets halfway there, but quits right before the useful part. My family doesn’t even get that far. And my friends don’t know how to get to the starting line, let alone onto the track.
So, I’m thinking about this a little bit as I’m listening to some spiritual podcasts and meditations, and suddenly, my own goddamn words come to me and I GET IT.
What would I say to Dean Winchester?
Dean Winchester is the only person, fictional or otherwise, that I know who hates themselves more than I do. He barely acknowledges that he has any good qualities at all, and the ones he would admit to would be expressed entirely in relative terms to the rest of his family’s. He has no self-esteem whatsoever, and he has a stronger death wish than mine as well.
So if I were trying to comfort and reassure him about his latest screw-up, what would I say to make him feel better?
Well, there’s some things that definitely won’t work. “Hey, at least nobody died,” isn’t always factually accurate. “You can try again tomorrow,” might not literally be true either. “It’ll all be okay” — same problem.
I’m going to do this in fairly general terms, because Supernatural might not be your thing, but let’s just say that Dean (and Sam and Cas) haven’t achieved a non-Pyrrhic victory in about a decade now. If they’re lucky, they end up taking one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes it’s more like seven or eight steps back. And sometimes they’re on the cusp of causing the literal Apocalypse.
So what do you say to a guy who, at best, has solved one problem by causing anywhere from one to five much larger ones? A guy who has undeniably screwed things up beyond repair? What do you say to a guy who can’t forgive himself because it really was a matter of life and death — and death won? What do you say to a guy who is in actual, literal God’s bad books?
Maybe something like this.
Okay, so yeah, things look pretty bleak right now. But you’ve faced these odds before, and you found a way to fight through it and win. You’ve got the brains and the skills to take on this challenge, I know you do. And even if you don’t win the challenge, you are a winner. You’re a winner because you’re a human and you’re still alive. Sometimes, that’s all we’ve got going for us, but as long as that’s the case, you’re ahead of 70 billion humans who aren’t alive right now. You might be behind the other 7 billion, but hey, that’s still the top 10 percent! As long as you are breathing, you are winning. You are worthy. You are important. You are loved. You have your family, 1 And remember, family don’t end in blood. Insert “found family” as necessary. and even if the entire rest of the world is against you, they’ve got your back. It ain’t over till it’s over, and as long as you’re standing, it ain’t over. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and be the amazing human I know you are. I love you, and I believe in you.
It’s true for Dean. It’s true for me. It’s true for all of us. There isn’t a person alive right now for whom none of this is true. If all you can do is wake up in the morning, keep breathing for 16 hours, and go back to sleep, that’s enough. You’re winning at this “being human” thing. You’re in the top 10 percent. YOU GOT THIS.
I get it now. Sometimes the only way to win is just to play. And sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re all winners.
Because we are.