When I last saw my therapist we went over a self evaluation he’d previously given me. It was an inventory of spiritual and emotional maturity taken from the book, The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero. Taking this test has shattered the fear and mystery surrounding one of my most embarrassing traits.
I talk about myself too much. When I hear a story? I rush in and tell a related story. Got an aunt with skin cancer? I had a step-dad with lung cancer. Caught your finger in the car door? I once fell off a curb. Sometimes I’m thinking so frantically about what to say next, that I miss half of what the other person is saying. Or I completely blow over some serious thing she has just said, because, Oh guess what! me too! and let me tell you about it…
I am insanely self conscious about this habit, but when I see it coming it’s like a train wreck happening in warp speed and my brain is stuck in slow motion. I can’t seem to help myself, but just after the words come out of my mouth I feel like an idiot. I spend a lot of time in the ladies room at social events, smacking my forehead and chanting, “STUPID STUPID STUPID GIRL! SHUT UP A LISTEN, FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
Just the other day a friend blogged about reaching a physical and emotional milestone in training for a 5K run. I know her personally and I follow her blog, so I’m well aware that this milestone is not just about running, but about discipline and overcoming dysfunctional habits as well. But instead of commenting on her success or encouraging her, I dive right into a story about my own kid’s latest swear word because she mentioned her son said “crap.”
I seriously did that. Go ahead, click on that link and scroll down. Not only did I do that, but I commented first, and it was, like thirty seconds after she posted.
Who the fah cares?
I was horrified when I checked back into the conversation a day later to find that, like, millions of other people congratulated or encouraged her, only they didn’t say one frackin’ thing about themselves! Because it’s not! about! me!
Back to therapy. The inventory is designed to evaluate whether you are an Emotional Infant, Child, Adolescent, or Adult. On all accounts except one, I scored that I am an Emotional Adolescent (on the one, I scored as an Emotional Child, to which that description also fits me well). Here is the description I read of an Emotional Adolescent, the description which I seemed to have defined:
Like a physical adolescent, I know the right ways I should behave in order to “fit in” mature, adult society. I can feel threatened and alarmed inside when I am offered constructive criticism, quickly becoming defensive. I subconsciously keep records on the love I give out, so I can ask for something in return at a later time. When I am in conflict, I might admit some fault in the matter, but I will insist on demonstrating the guilt of the other party, proving why they are more to blame. Because of my commitment to self-survival, I have trouble really listening to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs without becoming preoccupied with myself (italics added).
Really, I could write an essay on how each sentence of this description nails me. Especially the sentence about mildly accepting blame while taking the opportunity to take the other person (Bryan) down with me.
But this essay is about my self preoccupation.
And there it is. It is Named. It is no longer something I wonder why about, or something to smack my forehead over, because now I can learn more about why I do it and how I can stop. I feel empowered.
When I actually read the whole book, I will let you know how it goes.
[Excerpt taken from Pete Scazzero with Warren Bird, The Emotionally Healthy Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). For more information contact www.newlifefellowship.org or www.emotionallyhealthychurch.com.]