Thing

My favorite part of The Addams Family (ABC, 1964-66) was the character named Thing.
A disembodied hand that lived in a box, Thing scrambled across tabletops like a spider and occasionally performed small favors for members of the family.
“Thank you, Thing,” Morticia Addams would coo.
In recent years I’ve grown my own version of Thing.
Mine’s not a hand, but a voice in my head.
There have always been voices in my head, as I’m sure there are in yours.  One’s the voice Gestaltists call Topdog, always ready to prod, judge or criticize.  Another’s the voice of Underdog, who whines (It’s too hard), makes excuses (I try my best) and promises (I’ll do it tomorrow).
For decades these guys were constant companions, engaged in endless Should vs Can’t battles that Fritz Perls called “the self-torture game.”
So the topdog and underdog strive for control.  Like every parent and child, they strive with each other for control.  The person is fragmented into controller and controlled.  This inner conflict, the struggle between the topdog and the underdog, is never complete….  There is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castigating.  It hides under the mask of “self-improvement.”  It never works.  (Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, 1969).
Thing’s voice is different.
Thing’s voice is soothing.
Thing forgives my mistakes, limitations, even my sins.
Thing reassures, encourages, and reframes problems in ways that let me be gentle with myself.
Thing gives me permission to listen to feelings and give myself what I need.
Thing is the voice of a parent I never had.  I began hearing it only later in life.  Partly it’s the voice of my own therapist, who years ago taught me to stop self-torturing.  Partly it echoes my wife and children, who love me as I am.  And partly it’s the voice I myself use with clients when trying to teach them self-care and self-compassion.
Thing’s good company.  I wish we’d had more years together.
I wonder who’d I be now if we had.
But hell.  Better late than never.
Thank you, Thing.
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