We All Want to Cut Out the ‘Bad Parts’ of Ourselves. It Won’t Work, and It Won’t Make Us Happier


From The Guardian: “It is a powerful fantasy, that we can excise all our vulnerability, trauma, need and dependency, that we will then be perfectly healed, stronger than before. It is also a very dangerous one. If we take the fantasy at face value, in all its concreteness, and we follow it through, we end up with lobotomies. In the first half of the 20th century, many neurologists believed that surgically removing part of the brain, or using a sharp instrument to cut the connections inside it, could heal their patients.

What I have learned from my patients, and from my own therapy, is that this cruel rejection of vulnerability is the opposite of strength. It is the opposite of repairing and growing, and it leaves us impoverished, neglected. My patients have shown me again and again that a better life is not one in which a person feels that they have successfully dispatched their sensitivities, that they are entirely self-sufficient and that they have never had any difficult or painful experiences.

If therapy has been meaningful, if it has been useful, a patient leaves more deeply connected to these parts of themselves. They have begun to mourn the terrible losses they had been trying to avoid, to understand why they are the way they are and why they have been doing the things they have been doing. They feel able to carry their painful experiences and feelings at once more lightly and more firmly, as a more integrated person who can feel genuine care – at times, at least – towards the parts of themselves they used to want to get rid of. Better mental health is about repairing internal connections, not cutting them.”

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