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Is poor self-confidence giving you back pain?

Posted Nov 07 2009 2:41pm

  Dennis fears of being criticized brings on back pain

The night before Dennis was to meet his successful friend, his lower back started aching. His left eyelid went into a uncontrollable spasm.  Dennis was overwhelmed with anticipatory anxiety that Morgan would criticize him. He worked really hard to impress Dennis, his long time guru. Getting Morgan's praise and encouragement to start his new business was the key to taking the risk.

Morgan's approval was the air that Dennis breathed

Dennis had been here before. He recalled Morgan's harsh judgments and belittling comments every time Dennis put out an opinion or idea. The more Morgan knocked him down, the harder Dennis tried to win his approval. Getting Morgan’s attention and being part of Morgan’s life was crucial to Dennis’s sense of self-worth. If Morgan’s eyes and words of acceptance didn’t fall on him, Dennis felt diminished. Morgan became the source of all positive feedback and validation from the world.

Keeping Morgan on a pedestal was vital for Dennis's self-worth

 Idols retain their flawless image because the beholder needs to believe in their perfection. Dennis’s mistreatment was viewed as nothing other than a reflection of Dennis’s inadequacy. To view it any other way would be to remove  from the pedestal that Dennis had built and sustained over the years. If his idol crashed, what would become of Dennis?

 Morgan responds making the backpain worth every twinge

Dennis’s body came to the rescue. Morgan showed great concern when he noticed Dennis's pale face, his pained face and his spasming eye lid. Morgan was very worried about Dennis’s  back trouble that kept him out of action for days. He encouraged Dennis to go to the doctor, he researched  low back pain on the internet and took time to be with his friend. Dennis got his needs met without having to destroy his ideal.

Dennis was allergic to standing up for himself

 Dennis was not allergic to anything except standing up for himself. The eye tic, and back ache were his ticket to getting  Morgan’s caring attention. Dennis had to be sick before he was treated in a decent way because he couldn’t bring himself to speak his true feelings.

 Self-worth and equality or backaches and eye tics?

 Dennis can keep getting chronic back pain and other physical complaints, or take baby steps to discover why self-validation doesn't feel appealing?

Dennis chooses to build his confidence and speak for himself

Dennis started therapy when Morgan got fed up of pandering to his backaches. In psychotherapy Dennis discovered that he didn't want to validate himself. It didn't feel nearly as good as when others did it. He learned that the thrill of the chase to get Morgan to notice and acknowledge his existence was an immensely powerful motivator. He had been willing to suffer excruciating and debilitating back pain just so that Morgan would be attentive.

 Building his confidence made the backaches unnecessary

 Now that Morgan was no longer willing to play the game, Dennis was forced to take care of his own self-image. It was hard and it didn't feel real for a long time. Eventually, Dennis took ownership of the power to make himself feel good. He learned how to check in with himself, and honor what he thought and felt. He began respecting his ideas and was willing to express them.


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Copyright © Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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