That’s basically today’s suggestion. I mean it. Maybe not literally, but at least for you and those you trust to know what is on your hypothetical-if-not-real-therapy t-shirt. I have had bad ideas when it comes to t-shirts in the past, but I don’t think this one is so bad.
Last time there was a lot of talk about negative self talk and the vulnerability we try to hide from. So putting our biggest vulnerability on a t-shirt is a sign that you are no longer willing to accept your own mind’s perceived status quo. It’s strange, I admit, but also totally fearless. Bruce Lee would be, I imagine, proud of us.
I can’t take credit for the origin of this idea. A fellow counselor in Portland shared the idea in what seemed to be a rather spontaneous suggestion. So, thank you for that.
The message on our t-shirt—metaphorical, literal, or otherwise, is the vulnerable belief, fear, worry that when triggered, we feel our most vulnerable. And then from that vulnerability we react defensively, emotionally, critically, angrily, to whoever it was that triggered our vulnerability.
In past blogs, and in Gestalt therapy, I have used the term introject. An introject is a belief, idea, or process that we have about ourselves that can have a negative affect on our behavior. Introjects come from our environment, from what people may have said about us, maybe by how we were punished, or praised, or just observed. We can pick up introjects from anywhere really. But influential people and close relationships are the usual suspects involved. We can have many, many introjects, just like vulnerabilities. The introject is what goes on the t-shirt. The word vulnerability is just clearer and more of an obvious concept. I can’t imagine an honest person admitting to having no vulnerabilities whatsoever. Unless I was talking to Superman. But most people would just shake their head at you if you asked them what their introjects were.
Because we may have many if not dozens of vulnerabilities, try to distill yours down to a central theme. There could be a lot of similar sounding branches of the same vulnerability tree.
Examples of what your t-shirt might have on it. Feel free to email me with what you come up with, and I will add it to this list.
Am I important?
Am I good enough?
Does anyone love me?
Am I loveable?
Everything is my fault.
I am broken/lazy/bad/etc.
I have a secret.
I can’t fail.
What if I fail?
What if I am wrong?
I feel empty.
I am empty.
I gave up.
No one cares.
Do I matter?
No one listens to me.
I have to make others happy.
I am afraid.
I don’t know what I am doing.
I am trapped.
I destroy things/people/happiness.
Obviously there is potential for a lot of our messages to be very close to others, just derivations of the primary message. That’s okay. It is your message, remember. No one can tell you that you are wrong.
What we secretly believe and experience as our vulnerability may in fact surprise the heck out of those we share it with. That speaks volumes to how well or effective we might be at hiding that particular vulnerability. It also speaks to the nature of vulnerability. What we are secretly afraid of being vulnerable about, no one else thinks we are that thing. So, that kind of unexpected reveal is really a very important thing to find out!
Go forth and be brave. Just admitting our vulnerabilities to ourselves is all we need to do first.
Next time, we are going driving. Honest.
That’s a really good list! I have a few to add (although they’re really just variations of the ones above): I’m a mistake; I have to be perfect; I’m not interesting; I have nothing to offer; Do people really like me? I can remember being told, “You’re too smart to act that dumb,” when something didn’t come naturally to me. And, “You’re book smart, but common sense stupid.” Not sure of the t-shirt version of those two, but they’ve definitely stuck with me through the years.
Thank you, Sarah. I will add your suggestions to the list.