NO – your real value!
These words came part way through a conversation I had with someone many years ago – and have obviously stuck with me. In fact, it was my ex-husband who had phoned for I cannot recall what reason and out of the blue announced that he was amazed to discover that he was only worth £xxxxxx. The figure didn’t take up permanent residence in my mind.
He then asked what I was worth. Mmm – I told him that I was worth having helped a lot of children who were struggling; I was worth having helped many survivors of abuse; I was worth having helped many couples have a calm positive birth….. at this he cut in to say – NO, what are you really worth, your true value.
SO what are you really worth? How do you ‘rate’ this worth – by monetary value or what I call decent human being value? Or completely back to the basics of getting through a day. Maybe what we have given rather than accrued in the bank? Maybe simply having not given up?
Many people that I work with who are battling with depression struggle with the concept that they have any value, any worth at all. Their self perception is one of a useless, worthless non-entity. To quote a client ‘a total waste of space’.
I was working with one man who in his past ran a business, but in his present was in the depths of depression. The measure by which he had judged his value – ie a good turnover in his business, employing others – had been taken away from him. So now, how to measure his worth? (in his eyes only – the eyes of others do not matter at this point).
I suggested that currently his worth could be measured by his courage – his courage to get out of his bed, to get up off his sofa, and walk to the corner shop to buy some milk. (In fact, it sometimes didn’t happen. He would get half way on his short – but to him VERY long – journey and turn round, going back home empty handed.)
He – and I should imagine most who have not done battle with depression and understood its vagaries – found this a really difficult concept to understand. Why the hell should he give himself a pat on the back for going out to get milk when he used to run a business? He looked at me as if I was a sandwich short of a picnic.
I explained that he was trying to compare apples and oranges. That got his attention – even if it was in a ‘what is she on about’ sort of way! I explained that when he was well, he was able to run his business and all that this involved. This was when he was an apple.
However, at present, with the depression dominating his life and making every simple act, every simple thought, a hard task - at times, a seemingly impossible task - he was an orange. Oranges haven’t the energy to do VAT returns. Oranges haven’t the energy to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Oranges haven’t the energy for much beyond just being! It’s a push for oranges to get out and get that milk, but they deserve a huge pat on the back when they do simple things like that. Oranges are therefore courageous in their own right.
It took some time for this concept to be accepted. Once it was, he was able to give himself a pat on the back for getting the milk and put away the big stick with which he beat himself when he saw such a simple task as a failure rather than a success.
He was, in his own time, and at his own pace able to gradually build on his success as an orange. To walk a little way beyond the shop, then to begin to ride his bike again. Initially this involved the orange getting off for any upward slopes (something the apple would have decried), but he had learned not to compare, rather to value himself as an orange.
The orange is now, at a pace right for him, beginning to gradually morph back into an apple – or maybe this time a peach? Who knows. Learning to value himself and recognise that although he may have found it hard to realise for a while, that he does continue to have great worth. An individual who is overcoming the darkness of depression.
Maybe the conversation with my ex was actually a conversation between a banana and a pear? But that’s another story.
PS apologies for appearing ‘orangist’.
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