Scott’s brother didn’t know what hit him. It wasn’t that Scott’s words were terribly bad, but he didn’t recognize the man who was talking to him. This person was angry, loud and hostile. That wasn’t his brother. His brother was a good guy, a really nice individual. Someone who cared for everybody and always showed concern and love. He wasn’t one of those abrasive individuals you sometimes encounter in the world. He was the kind of person you could always depend on. Consequently, he thought, “Something is wrong with him. Where did the sweet guy I know go? Ever since he met and married Courtney, he’s changed. It’s probably her doing.” When he suggested that, Scott became more irate and asked, “Don’t you think I’m capable of changing on my own?”
What Scott’s brother didn’t know was that Scott had been in therapy for a period of time and things were beginning to crystallize. Scott discovered that there were really two of him, but that, throughout his life, he had only allowed one of him to show. That was the good guy his brother, mother, employees, friends and wife knew. If you needed help, Scott would be there. If you needed a loan, someone who would take time out from his own busy schedule to help you move furniture, or to resolve a problem, you could count on him. And, if you went to eat with him, eight times out of ten, he’d pick up the check. He was just that kind of guy. As a result, everybody loved him. There was only one problem. Scott also discovered that he hated himself, that the love he received, more accurately purchased and prostituted himself for, wasn’t worth the price he paid.
He also learned that he couldn’t go through life faulting others because they weren’t as generous as himself. Instead, he had to accept that there are any number of people who would use him, deceive him and benefit from his so-called generosity, but only if he let them. When he first realized that, his anger toward others started to increase. His brother was only the first in a long line of individuals he felt he had to confront. After several of his confrontations, his anger toward others began to subside. In its place came the realization that the person he was most irate with was himself, for having let people treat him so poorly.
Even more, he realized that, as a youngster, he was “the chosen child”, mom’s good little boy, who would meet her every need, never cause her problems and gain her favor by virtue of his availability, his agreeability and his willingness to put her wishes and demands before his own. Brother, on the other hand, was, from birth, viewed as “the weak child, the sick child, the slow child”. The one who needed extra care, attention and support. A “good boy” would understand that, and Scott did.
But , it was the same with everyone. He couldn’t count how many times he sat in a restaurant, lamenting the fact that he was going to pick up the bill, all the while hearing himself say, “Keep your cards in your pockets, this one’s on me.” Inside, he hoped someone else would beat him to the punch, but that rarely happened. He also resented those individuals who ordered the extra hors d’oeuvres, the expensive bottle of wine, or the off-the-menu special dessert, but were quick to tell the waiter, “Split the bill.” On those occasions, Scott felt the urge to say, “I don’t mind splitting the bill, but you pay for the wine, the dessert and the extra appetizer, the ones I didn’t order or eat.” But he feared the repercussions, the possibility that he’d be seen as a cheapskate, that they’d be angry with him, or that he’d lose the image he had constructed over 55 years, the one that gave testimony to him being a good guy because he was always willing to give more than he received.
Over time, that insight left a bitter taste in his mouth. He no longer wanted to purchase approval or sell his soul for it. It wasn’t that he wanted a free ride, or to keep score, but he resolved, no matter how difficult it was, to speak up in his own behalf and to demonstrate a rational degree of self-interest. The main problem he encountered was that any trace of selfishness was atypical for him. He had learned all too well during childhood that the only way to be accepted or loved was to be a selfless good guy. No wonder he hated himself, the life he lived heretofore was a lie. It also became evident why no amount of compliments, or letters of appreciation ever filled the hole inside him. It was because the problem wasn’t others, it was him. Therefore, it could only be alleviated if he learned to love himself. If he didn’t, he feared that, he’d eventually destroy himself. However, he wasn’t referring to suicide. He was acknowledging the fact that, so many times in the course of living his life, when things went best, when he was making money, when his business was extremely profitable, when his marriage seemed good, he sabotaged them. He did his best to ensure that he never fully realized his just rewards. Thus, he constantly fought his weight, invested in harebrained schemes that lost money, or agreed to participate in endeavors he had no interest in, or desire to do. It was all because he didn’t feel he deserved any “good” because, inside, he felt he was “bad”. The solution for Scott, and all of you, is to learn to recognize, forgive, accept and love yourself for who you are and then share him with those whose love you desire. If it’s returned, you’ll know you’re loved for you. If it isn’t, you have to be prepared to search out someone else who will love you all the more for having the courage to be you.
To learn more about Dr. Reitman, read more of his articles, or to obtain copies for family or friends, please visit his website, dredreitman.com.