2008-07-05

Living by waiting: can perfection be attained - and maintained?

I’m face-to-face with that girl again. She smiles, entering my room quietly. “May I…?
“Sure.”
“I need to tell you something.”
“Go ahead.”
She one more time cries. One more time plays the victim. One more time overreacts when things go out of control.
“I didn’t intend to… I said I was sorry, but he said he wouldn’t forgive me.”
“What can you do about it?”
“I don’t know. I feel guilty. I don’t like it when people feel bad about me.”
“Are you guilty?”
“No.”
“Then why do you feel guilty?”
“Because he hasn’t forgiven me.”
The conversation could go on in circles still for a long time. Such is the life of an obsessive person. She’s not guilty, but so she feels. She’s always the victim of an injustice that randomly happened to her. She always does things right, so why do such injustices keep happening to her and only to her, always to her? She needs me to tell her she isn’t guilty. She asks for a proof of her value. She needs me to recognize her efforts. That’s where she rejoices.
But I can’t tell her that, in that way. Instead, I choose to recall our last meeting and the way she feels and reacts when changing a situation seems to be out of her reach. When talking about how negative (and impossible) it is to try to keep everything in place, she says: “It’s good to be prepared for everything.”
“What for?”
“To relax.”
“Are you relaxed now?”
“No… but I will be.”
“When?”
“When I fix this situation.”
“… until something else happens and makes you feel miserable…”
“… yes.”
“How much of the time are you happy?”
Silence is her answer.
“Is it worth it?”
By the expression in her face, one can tell she doesn’t think so.
Is it worth to worry about every tiny detail? Is it worth to try fixing everything that seems to be out of place? She seems to agree it isn’t. Sometimes, the best strategy is forgetting and letting it be. The next time she meets him, she’ll pretend nothing ever happened. She finally understands she doesn’t need to fix anything at all. If she knows she’s not guilty, then everything is “in place” to her standards - the only standards she’s responsible for, by the way. “But,” she says, “if he keeps insisting that I am guilty, I will talk to him. If it doesn’t solve the problem, I’ll go to higher instances, even to the newspapers. I try to show her that there is an infinite number of “ifs” and most of them won’t ever happen. She loses an absurd amount of time considering such possibilities, possibilities that won’t happen, except in her mind, because she gives them birth, life, energy. Here we have something she could really concentrate in fixing! She probably won’t, though: that’s how she is and how she’ll keep being. I just hope she puts an end to those endless considerations before they ruin her life by not letting her do anything but thinking and considering. I hope that she keeps thinking and considering, but knowing where to stop.
It’s not my role to be her therapist right now. We’ve already talked about how important it would be for her to look for a therapist. She agreed, but it’s up to her and not me to make the next move. That’s where I ought to stop, and I admit it’s not easy. It’s very difficult to deal with limitations of any kind, but we must accept them. It’s how grown-ups are expected to behave, isn’t it? It’s very beautiful and romantic to read things like “the impossible is something that has never been tried”. But it’s not completely true nor possible, in the name of health and sanity. We should, indeed, try - but we also have to know where to stop, frustrating as it may be. Dealing with frustrations is one of the most useful and most difficult lessons to learn. For her, for me - and probably for you, if I may guess.

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