Ritual Penance and Feelings of Worthlessness
For several years now I've been developing what I like to think of as my own private "religion" to enable me to cope better with negative emotions, especially intense shame. I've made up rituals to punish myself symbolically (such as wearing a dunce cap, whipping myself or making little effigies of myself and burning them) and I'm writing a set of "scriptures" enumerating my faults and reminding myself of my worthlessness. Much of the time I'm relatively happy, but little disappointments overwhelm me and leave me worried that I have no right to live. I feel that if I can make up a way to punish myself in advance, regularly, I can protect myself from being hurt by other people and take control of what's wrong with me. I wish I could stop feeling this way but haven't found a good way to avoid periodically getting overwhelmed by the feeling that I'm unlovable and obligated to avoid people. How can I know whether I'm objectively worthless and obligated to keep this fact in mind or whether these feelings are something I can and should try to overcome? I've tried a couple of different therapists, but I always worry my therapist finds me annoying and my problems ridiculous or too strange to be worth addressing, so I end up quitting.
THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION WILL NOT BE DISPLAYED UNTIL YOU HAVE INDICATED YOUR AGREEMENT WITH THE DISCLAIMER PRINTED JUST BELOW. CLICK THE 'I AGREE' BUTTON TO AGREE TO THESE TERMS AND SEE THE RESPONSE.
- Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.