The Unique Self: Part 2, I Need…I Need

Pic from Prairiewoods.org

 You accept who you are by beginning to find your unique self.

During the three months before I quit drinking I read Gordon MacDonald, Thomas Merton and Henry Nouwen. I had selected these authors from the library during a personal retreat at the Prairiewoods. Far from the encouragement I was hoping for, reading these great spiritual authors that weekend threw me into an identity crisis. The more I studied, the more desperate I felt.

As I said in the previous post, I was trying to find myself. It sounds clichéd and trite but I was in an existential crisis. I wrote the following, The (what are you living for?) question in McDonald’s book knocked me sideways. I guess I am living for the good times I have found in traveling, teaching and studying. When I ask myself what’s under that? I don’t know…making myself happy? Yuk. But it’s true. That’s my reality.

I’m glad I wrote out the answer, even though I am disgusted by my self-centered reality. It’s no wonder I was cracking up. I was living to please myself.

Above everything we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. ~AA p 62.

Selfishness isn’t just a character defect of alcoholics. In the AA book, there’s a chapter for wives of alcoholics and it states on page 116,

We wives found that, like everybody else we were afflicted with pride, self-pity, vanity and all the things which go to make up the self-centered person; and we were not above selfishness or dishonesty.

My journal continues, I watched What About Bob? The very well-delivered line ‘I want, I want, I want…I need, I need, I need’ struck home with me. I want and need so much! When I feel let down I get such intense self-loathing. It’s just pure oppression. I get immobilized and obsessive. I plan how to hurt myself or die because the pain feels like insurmountable rejection and abandonment!

After walking the labyrinth I realized that not only am I not making myself happy, I’m not able to bring happiness into anyone else’s life, either. The partial bricks look like so many sad faces. As I sat on the rock they looked at me. And I realized I’ve not been living up to my name that God helped me choose. My life is like the labyrinth, going in circles. I am not feeling rescued, enlightened nor fit for His service.

I’m not sure I would know any of this without my journaling. I’m a strong advocate of writing out one’s thoughts. Getting the jumble onto paper helps me. It shows me what I’m thinking at the time and reminds me later if I want to examine my thought life.

Writing can be the first glimpse into finding your unique self. Again, I suggest getting a journal or notebook and even if you don’t usually like to write; make yourself write a few sentences each day. Write about those thoughts that get stuck in your mind, the things that you keep mulling over.

You can keep it beside your bed. Jot a line or two each morning and each night. After a while I imagine you’ll find a pattern.