RX for Insight: Silver Linings Playbook

As a therapist I am in the  habit of prescribing movies, but this is a movie that I have been prescribing with such frequency that one might think I was getting pharmaceutical company kickbacks. The movie, that is a mental health must, begins with Pat Solitano, magnificently played by Bradley Cooper, in a mental health facility. He is there because he has bipolar disorder and because he violently attacked his wife's lover. Pat is determined to get his wife back. He is going to lose weight and he is going to be a better person. And, in an effort to better know his wife, he decides to read all the books on her high-school english syllabis. He is trying to prove to Nikki, his estranged wife, that he is lovable. I'm not going to ruin the movie for you and so I will say no more about what happens. I want you to see the movie and then I want you to come back and tell me how much you loved it and then I want to meet you for coffee and talk about each delightful moment and all of the incredible performances. I saw the movie  a couple of weeks ago and I am still enjoying a Silver Linings Playbook hangover( Bradley Cooper pun intended) and I can't quit thinking about the deeper meanings that the film offers.

 The way that I define for myself whether I love a movie is whether or not is if  I completely forget about my life for the two-hours that I am watching it. It is a rare movie that makes me forget that I have dry cleaning to pick up or a bill to pay or its dialogue goes uninterrupted by a nagging thought that I might have forgotten to give Lily her heart worm medicine this month. Silver Lining Playbook was not such a movie. That said, even though it had me thinking about my own life it was the BIG life issues that I see in my practice and not the little piddly issues like "Did I remember to DVR Homeland"? Silver Linings Playbook had me thinking of bigger issues in my life and in the lives of my patients and I was simultaneously engrossed with the film and seeing similarities in my life.  The theme that I and, I would imagine, so many resonate with is the feeling of "If I become what they want me to become then I will deserve love." This movie's answer to the question of "If I become what they want me to be will they love me?" is maybe. Maybe they will love you. But maybe you don't need to change. Maybe who you are right now in all your messed-up messiness is worthy of love. And maybe you don't want them after all.
In my years of practice as a psychotherapist I have seen so many people who sit across from me and try desperately to convince me that they need to change to be loved and I sit there and I listen to them and I try and understand and have compassion for the urgency in which they argue for their unlovableness and yet all I see in front of me is how profoundly lovable that they are right now. Sure, many of us could benefit from some change---but that doesn't mean we don't deserve love right now. We do. And it is so easy for me to see that for my friends or patients or Pat Solitano, however it can be a bit more difficult for me to see it for myself.  I, like maybe you, have a list of things that I sometimes use as an excuse to see myself as unworthy. If I was fitter, more successful, or more x,y or z then I would be more lovable. But it's all a rouse, I know it is. The people who really love me don't love me more when I have a lower body fat percentage. No one who really loves me asks for an Excel sheet as a means of determining my worth, and yet I still often strive to prove my lovability. And when I don't feel like I am lovable, for example, last Friday when I was possessed by PMS demons and was on a diatribe of self-loathing, I, in those moments, don't let love in. I push people away with an aura of indifference. But the truth is that I am not indifferent at all, I am just, in those moments, convinced that I am not good enough or smart enough or whatever enough, and so I self-protect by pushing others away---not a good strategy.
I love Silver Linings Playbook for so many reasons. I love that it reminds us that the really interesting people are not the one's who seem to have it all together. Tiffany is lovable exactly for the reasons she's sure she isn't. Pat is lovable and interesting because he is honest and raw and broken and entirely himself. The people who love him are also broken and crazy and not at all perfect. But really, who is perfect? Who are these perfect people who require us to be perfect?  I don't know them. And I really don't want to know them. I like the broken and crazy people who are honest and raw and courageous, those are my people. I like them. No, I love them.
I am always telling patients that it isn't that exciting or interesting to love the perfect. Loving the perfect doesn't require anything of us. And if I was perfect it wouldn't seem so amazing that Keith loves me as he does. He loves me even though I am somewhat challenging and difficult and (in my words, not his) a bit overly-emotional about things. But he loves me even though I am those things and it makes the love more meaningful. What I find more amazing is what I might describe as my most unlovable parts, he sees as delightful. He loves my smile lines and asked me to never to put filler in them. I was baffled by this and yet I can't tell you how much I LOVE his smile lines. There are three beautiful and perfect smile lines that frame his smile. Whenever I see them I melt. Those lines tell me that he has lived a life that allowed him to smile enough to earn those and that makes me happy. There are other things about him or me that others might want us to change, we however find most of our crazy to be sort of cute and endearing.

So, dear and lovable you, do you think it is better to be loved for imperfections or for perfections? What unlovable thing has someone found lovable about you? What about you did someone love that you had previously thought was unlovable? Go and see this movie and see if you see yourself at all in it. See if you tell yourself that you need to change to be loved and maybe challenge that notion. And,  if you don't that is okay too, you are still lovable----just as you are.