On Good Guys & Bad Guys: Can We Learn to Love Our Flaws?

I am a big fan of superhero stories. A good superhero story, well done, achieves the difficult feat of making a deeply flawed, sometimes outright unlikeable individual relatable – someone that you want to cheer on, someone that you want to succeed. In the best superhero stories, there is a very fine line between the heroes and the villains – should the story be told the other way round, the villain might just as easily become the hero. Goodness and badness are blurred – every character contains pieces of both.

If you can guess where I’m going, you might be aware that I’m going to suggest that the bad guys inside of us, the Parts of us of which we are ashamed, or that we deeply dislike – have some good in them. Turned on its head, the plot of our lives might frame them completely differently – making heroes of our least likable elements. Most people don’t love this suggestion…we want to be Captain America, not Thanos!  How can we think about our deficits differently to learn to love the bad guys inside of us?

Our greatest weaknesses are often tied to our greatest strengths.

In superhero stories, it is not unusual to discover that one’s weakest element also contains kernels of their greatest power or strength. This is not an unusual discovery in psychotherapy, either. As we rework the stories that we tell ourselves about our most disliked Parts, we uncover the ways in which they have protected us, saving the day (entirely unnoticed and unsung) time and again. One’s melancholic tendencies might also allow for heightened empathy and sharp emotional intelligence. One’s anxieties might insure that a deadline is met and the job is done extremely well. One’s procrastination might make room for fun and excitement that would otherwise be missed. One’s shyness might lend itself to the cultivation of rare intimacy amongst chosen trusted friends. When we spin differently, we can conceive of the notion that our attributes are lessened, or disappear altogether, without our flaws.

Even the most difficult Parts to love have the best of intentions.

When I work with clients, we often struggle together to see the positive intentions of the Parts of ourselves that we struggle with the most – the Parts that we do not like, that we wish to eradicate, or ignore, or smoosh deep down inside of use so no one can see them.

It’s important to consider the motivations of these Parts of ourselves – what are they trying to protect us from? Phobic Parts are often desperately trying to protect us from perceived frightening situations. The Part of us that binge eats is valiantly trying to numb a particularly painful memory or emotion. The Part that keeps us depressed and in bed might be trying to urge us to turn our attention to something inside us that needs extra nurturance or support. Our Bad Guy is on our team, he’s just going about his job in a way that isn’t super useful/logical/helpful.

A Bad Guy is a Good Guy in the wrong job.

Internal Family Systems work encourages us to ask our Parts, “What job might you like to do instead?”. If an Anxious Part was able to stop agitating, what might it do instead? Aid us in remaining sharp and disciplined? Propel us towards opportunities for fun or personal growth? Who knows? When we stop trying to get rid of the Bad Guys inside us, we might find that they are incredibly useful to us in another arena of life. If we can learn to appreciate those Parts of ourselves (and stop trying to blow them into the next galaxy), they might serve us in ways we never had never considered.

We are all always going about the business of writing our own superhero stories, and casting the good guys and the bad guys. Can we shift our perspective to recognize the fine line between the heroes and the villains? Can we learn to love our “flaws”?

Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych Central.com. To read more, visit https://blogs.psychcentral.com/common-humanity/

Useful Information

Some frequently asked questions and useful answers.

Online therapy works in the same way as in-office therapy, but is done online, similar to a Skype or FaceTime conversation. Clients are able to have sessions from home, work, or any other convenient location. We meet with clients using a HIPAA-compliant secure platform.

Online therapy allows you to work with us from the comfort of home, or any private location of your choosing. For some, the screen provides an added layer of comfort that makes the challenging work of being vulnerable in therapy a little easier.

Online therapy also creates the unique opportunity for you to work with us without the constraints of proximity! The practice was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but has since grown to service clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Online therapy is a great option for clients that travel for work, for college students that go home during the summertime and do not want a break in their sessions, and for anyone with a challenging or inconsistent day-to-day schedule. It is an excellent choice for clients seeking a therapist with a particular specialty that they are unable to find support for locally. Some of our clients report that online therapy makes the vulnerability element of therapy a bit less intimidating.

No. For some clients with more complex symptoms or safety concerns, having a local therapist that is readily available is important in case of crisis or the need for a higher level of care. Online therapy is also a challenge for clients that do not have access to a private, quiet space to be “in session” for the hour, or for those that do not have adequate internet connectivity.

There are several reasons why we don’t accept insurance. The most important are:

Confidentiality. Insurance companies require that your information be shared with them in order to pay for services. We prefer that clients’ information is kept as confidential as possible.

The pressure to diagnose. Insurance companies require that clients are given a mental health diagnosis in order to pay for therapy. We have found that many clients benefit from therapy, but do not meet criteria for a diagnosis. Not using insurance allows clients to access therapy without being given a mental health diagnosis.

Flexibility and freedom. Insurance companies dictate the length and number of sessions they will authorize, as well as when a client is no longer eligible for the benefits of therapy. Because we do not work with insurance panels, you and we can collaborate to determine your individual needs regarding session length, frequency of sessions, and when to terminate therapy.

While we do not accept insurance, many clients choose to submit receipts to their insurance companies to receive reimbursement via out-of-network benefits. We are happy to provide these receipts for you! Please check with your insurance company for details on your benefits.



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