Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chamberlain: The Ugly Stories We Tell Ourselves

Richard Chamberlain appeared as the compassionate, dedicated Dr. Kildare on television
Aspiring actor Richard Chamberlain had a problem. Growing up with an unstable, overbearing, alcoholic father, he became emotionally withdrawn and guarded, presenting a false image of perfection and fearing his own feelings. And that proved to be no way to win over an audience with the truth of a performance.
“This is a near perfect example of how we endlessly torture ourselves and distort our lives with our own faulty thinking,” wrote Chamberlain in his memoir Shattered Love. “There I was, a reasonably talented young actor trying to get work in Hollywood, ruthlessly sabotaging my efforts with distant memories of mean old Dad. My father was far away busily saving people in AA, but I couldn’t help dragging him back into my life. In his absence, I took on his role of suppressing and making me fell impotent. Dad was gone, but I couldn’t let go or all my painful stories about the damage he’d done me and about my inadequacy in his presence. I continued to hate him even though I had assumed his nefarious ways.
“We bamboozle ourselves with largely fictional stories all the time. My father despises me (how can I know that for sure?); anyone who really knows me couldn’t possibly love me; my children don’t appreciate me; my husband doesn’t listen to me; my religion makes me better than you; they should have dealt with me fairly; I’m more important than you because I’m famous; I’m too addictive or stressed to quit smoking; life is so unfair; they should have taken better care of me.
“Byron Katie, a savvy teacher I know, suggests putting our mental stories and beliefs to the test with three questions: 1) Can I really know this is true? 2) What do I get from this story or belief, what does it do for or against me? 3) Who would I be in this situation without this belief?
“Then she suggests we turn it all around and take full responsibility for all the stuff we’re blaming on others. For instance, the story ‘You don’t love me enough!’ becomes ‘I don’t love myself enough, and I don’t love you enough.’ My story ‘My father suppressed and weakened me’ becomes the much more accurate ‘I suppress and weaken myself with my thinking, and I also suppress my father by probably misunderstanding and misrepresenting him.’ 
“In other words, being a grown-up means taking responsibility for my own life and my own integrity. My father’s integrity or lack of it is none of my business. My business is to come to understand the stifling fictions of my thinking and learn to prefer and honor reality, truth, what is.”

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