Thank you, Thing

~~~ thing 2aMy favorite part of The Addams Family (ABC, 1964-66) was the character named Thing.

Thing was a disembodied hand that lived in a upholstered leather box.

It scrambled across tabletops like a spider and performed small services for members of the family, like answering the phone or playing castanets.

“Thank you, Thing,” Morticia Addams would coo.

In recent years I’ve created my own version of Thing.

Mine’s not a hand.

Mine’s a whisper in my head.

There have always been whispers in my head, as I’m sure there are in yours.  One is the bully Gestaltists call Top Dog, always ready to judge, prod or criticize.  Another is the whiny Underdog, forever complaining (It’s too hard) or making excuses (I try my best) and promises (I’ll do it tomorrow).

For decades these guys were my constant companions, engaged in endless battles of Should vs Can’t 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 and sins.

Thing reassures me, encourages me, 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 encouraged 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-compassion, self-forgiveness and self-care.

It was nice to discover, after years of self-torture, that I could grow my own Thing.

Thing is good company. 

I wish we’d had more time together.

I wonder who’d I be now if we had.

Oh well.  Better late than never.

Thank you, Thing.


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