"If you are serenely willing to bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter" Saint Theresa of Lisieux, as quoted by M. Scott Peck in People of the Lie
Who goes on to say: “The evil do not serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to themselves. In fact, they don’t bear it at all.”
The content of the story is not important here. There is a deeper Story from which the particulars of my story spring which is that there are people around who cannot bear their own failings. So they outsource the burden to the people around them—turning others into mirrors who’d better only reflect back the images of themselves they want to see. If these people become parents, their child never knows anything different. All s/he knows is that s/he is punished if something reflected back is an unflattering truth. They learn quickly what is acceptable. What does a child do when it realizes that its perception of the Truth is at odds with the 'truth' that more powerful people want it to believe?
Some exceptional people are able to stay with their Truth, and can swim against the current of belief which would also have them believe that they are bad people. And some accept without question that good people do whatever it is that pleases the people who have power over them. They are good people to the extent that they can deny anything they encounter that contradicts what they are supposed to be reflecting, and behave as if.
Self-doubt is the most potent of methods for tolerating giving to others what feels false to give. If I’m not liking something someone is asking of me it must be because I’m selfish, or mean. If my experience tells me different from a received truth, then I must be mistaken. If my gut calls “pudding” shit, then it must be because something’s wrong at my very core. Maybe it’s because there’s shit inside of me and I’m projecting it outward onto innocents. Maybe I’m not accepting enough, too judgemental. Maybe I’m not enlightened enough. These people would rather I believe these things about myself, than face the truth about themselves.
I don’t know if everyone lives some version of this, or if it’s just an obscure psychic corner of the universe I was born into. I’m not entirely sure what to do with this, or to what extent it continues to be invested in my life.
It does pose a puzzle about what to do about the people who continue to insist that only the image that flatters them is reflected back to them. I can't avoid them forever.