There is nothing wrong with you: That was the title of a book I read in 1997 when it was first published. The full title at the time was: There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Regardless of What You Were Taught to Believe. It has since been republished and the subtitle has changed to: Going Beyond Self-Hate. I prefer the first title since as a person labeled by psychiatry I came to that book believing something was deeply wrong with me. Recently I realized that this little book, written by Cheri Huber, planted revolutionary seeds that I still carry with me today.
We will attempt to explain that you have been unable to fix yourself because there is nothing wrong with you, but there is quite a lot wrong with what you have been taught to believe about yourself and about life.
The reason acceptance isn’t more popular is that in acceptance, there is nothing to do. In acceptance, there is nothing ‘wrong’ that needs to be changed, fixed, worked on or otherwise improved. And the simple, astounding, mind-bogglingly amazing fact is that as soon as you accept yourself exactly as you are, all of those ‘character flaws’ begin to fall away because those ‘flaws’ exist only in non-acceptance, in self-hate.
Over the years I’ve come to see that what I’m doing as guide is trying to get folks to turn loose the conditioning that says they are bad, wrong and inadequate long enough for them to catch a glimpse of who they really are. It is only after years of learning to trust my perceptions that they begin to accept that their beliefs about themselves and their world might be less than completely accurate.
Every spiritual path tells us that what we are seeking is inside us. When we are children, we learn to stop looking to ourselves to know what is so for us. We rely on others to tell us. We look to parents, teachers, friends, lovers, husband, wife, children, Jesus, the Buddha, God–all “out there.” Love, acceptance and approval are out there and must be earned somehow.
Once we complete the turn away from ourselves, away from our heart, we experience ourselves as separate and find ourselves in a fight for survival. “I am now a small self adrift in a threatening world. My focus must be on surviving.”
I’ve known that Cheri Huber identifies somewhat with the label “bipolar” because I once went to a retreat at her center in Mountain View and I’ve met others who know her. What makes her an effective teacher, in part, is that there is a deep understanding about how the phenomena that gets labeled bipolar is part of the normal spectrum of being human and coming to understand it allows one to understand their own humanity and that of others while freeing themselves from whatever suffering it might be causing.
Of note, however, is that it took me about an hour of searching on the internet to find some documentation of her experience with the energetic experience that gets labeled bipolar. It’s not the way she generally talks about her experience. This is because it’s not an issue for her anymore and it’s because she understands how it works and how it applies to the nature of being human.
From an interview with Tami Simon, Cheri talks about her experience with bipolar-like energy:
TS: Now let’s unpack one thing that you said. You said that there was too much energy in your body, and that your body would then shut down. Now normally, I think that when people are depressed, they feel like they don’t have energy. So you attune to that? What do you mean “There was too much energy,” and what created the shut down?
CH: So my form of depression is manic-depression, so if there had been this diagnosis then, I would be diagnosed as bipolar, and so I would go from huge energy—just wild, wacky, don’t sleep for days on end, and just have more energy than I know what to do with—then into these states of not being able to get up out of the chair and walk across the room.
I realized that—it seems silly when you think about it, but until you’ve seen it, it’s terribly mysterious—how did I get from manic to depressive? Of course the way that I did it was that the energy system collapsed. And the first time I watched it collapse, watched it go from all of that energy just rocketing around in my system to no energy whatsoever, I saw what happened, and that’s how I knew that it would be possible to begin to—not to manipulate the energy, but to monitor it in a way that takes care of the system instead of turning it over, again, to conditioned mind to talk about what’s going on with me.
TS: Mm-hmm. Now, you also made this interesting comment that you would posit that self-hatred is always at the root of depression, or is one of the key roots of depression. Now, that’s based on your own experience, from working with other people?
CH: Yes, certainly from my own experience. Now, keep in mind that when I was figuring this all out about depression, I didn’t know yet about self-hatred. There were those voices, certainly, but I didn’t have a way in to think about them or talk about them. I just thought it was me thinking, which is pretty much the orientation that most people have to it. It takes a long time of watching, of paying attention, to realize, “Wow! That is a voice in my head talking to me, and that voice in my head really doesn’t like me, doesn’t talk to me in nice, supportive ways.” I was just going through the depression piece of it without that knowledge. If I’d had that knowledge then, it would have been very helpful, but I don’t know that anybody had that knowledge then.
So yes, I have never met anyone—and since I wrote a book on depression and spirituality, I work with a lot of depressed people—I’ve never met one of them who didn’t suffer from severe self-hatred. Now, I don’t know whether I just meet a particular segment of the population, or self-hatred is as rampant as I think it is in our culture, but there’s a lot of it that people are living with. It will take various forms, so some people have eating disorders. Some people have problems with alcohol. People have all sorts of manifestations of attempting to cope with all the abuse, the internal abuse, that goes on.
Her books are rather redundant often having similar messages directed to somewhat different issues. If one of the titles makes sense it may be enough to get what you need. I read several of them many years ago now and as I said, she helped lay a groundwork for me that has served me very well.
● The Depression Book: Depression as an Opportunity for Spiritual Growth
● What You Practice Is What You Have: A Guide to Having the Life You Want (Mind Body Spirit Thought Pract)
● Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline
● Suffering Is Optional: Three Keys to Freedom and Joy
● When You’re Falling, Dive: Acceptance, Freedom and Possibility
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