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Thursday, February 23rd

February 23, 2017

Second session with the mental health group this morning. We were asked to do an interesting exercise.

The first part was to write down on a piece of paper three or four negative things we regularly think about ourselves. Some members of the group wrote paragraphs. I just wrote four words: loser, useless, unlovable, empty. After completing our lists we were asked to consider turning to the person beside us and reading our list to them, as if this was how we saw them. Not surprisingly no one was particularly keen to do this, although a couple of the group members did to show willing. Of course we would never say these things to another person, even if we did think them. (It was sad to hear these members include stupid in their lists.)

The second part of the exercise was to write down what we would say to a friend or partner or close relative who told us the things we’d written down earlier. Again, many members wrote paragraphs and again my answer was more straightforward: “I’m here. I love you. And I’m picky about who I love.” Is this really what I would say? Yes, I do believe it is. It might not be all I would say, but it is the first thing.

The third part was being told to say what we’d just written down to ourselves. Interesting.

I am indeed picky about who I love. Do I love me? Tricky. If I’m being totally honest, no, not really. Do I hate myself? No, I wouldn’t got that far.

So I’m sitting here thinking about the times in my life when I could honestly say I loved me.

  • When I was cooking with gas, working on Unethical Practices and Rum Do. When the words were just flowing onto the page, the link between my creative mind and my fingers on the keyboard in overdrive.
  • When I was successfully chasing down a story as a journalist.
  • When my first short story was published in a magazine when I was in my twenties.
  • When I was giving a rabble rousing speech during my days as a campaigner.
  • When I held my own with Mel Brooks. (Long story.)
  • On the opening nights of the last three pantos.
  • After each of the performances of A Visit from Miss Prothero last year.

These, of course, are all times when I’ve been truly happy, felt an extraordinary sense of accomplishment. Is that the same thing as self-love? I don’t know. Is it possible to love yourself when you’re not happy? I don’t know, but I suppose that is what the group leaders are encouraging us to do.

I could probably spend another half hour on stream of consciousness hypothesis about this, but I have a rehearsal in less than an hour and I have to have some lunch before I go. I guess we’ll just put this on hold for now.

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