Evan recently introduced me to the blog "After Psychotherapy" as a follow-up to our discussion on projection. He sent me a link to this article about splitting - an interesting read if you want to know more about projection and splitting. Exploring the blog, I found this post called "Can't or Won't" and I must share some highlights.
We talk about the defense "I did the best I could" often. In his post, Dr. Burgo talks about a debate he had with a friend about whether people are always trying their best. His friend said “We’re all doing the best we can … and we could always do better.” The author disagrees. He comes right out and says that he doesn't think people are always trying their best.
"...our culture has lost the distinction between exercising judgment and being judgmental. The very act of 'passing judgment' will bring denunciation down upon your head. People will accuse you of being 'holier than thou,' or arrogant for presuming to judge other people. It seems that for most of us, any kind of judgment is the equivalent of being judgmental. The problem also seems to be with the word itself: most of us can’t hear 'judgment' without investing it with harshness. My friend Marla Estes suggests I use a less charged word, such as “discernment”, to describe the process of making distinctions" (Source).
I find this clarification helpful because I often get tangled in the "don't be judgmental" jungle. I find myself thinking "but there must be standards of some sort!" Dr. Burgo breaks it down for us:
"From my point of view, to believe that people always do the best they can is to live in a world without genuine standards or expectations, without discernment. If we don’t voice the right kind of disapproval and hold our children to certain standards, how can we expect them to behave as they need to do in order to get by in our world? If there are no consequences, why should they change their behavior? What do you think will happen if you always tell your child, 'That’s okay, honey — I know you did the best you could. And next time you’ll do better!' The alternative is not to come down with harshness but rather to articulate standards and explain the consequences of not meeting them — to help your children discern the different possible outcomes of the choices they will make" (Source).
I know that I don't want to live in a world without genuine standards, including standards I hold myself to! Just the question "can't or won't?" is profound in my mind. To truly grow and expand, we must answer this question honestly.
I know I've been guilty of not doing my best - doing what's easy, what I want in the moment. Doing things that contradict my "greater will" or "higher ideals." And the Truth Campaign is about coming clean with myself. Admitting the truth, expanding my awareness of places I lie to myself. What I find empowering is knowing that I am capable of choosing. I may not always make the best choices, but I'm not going to lie to myself that I'm "doing my best" if I know, deep down, I'm not."It’s a crucial and delicate point in therapy, when can’t becomes won’t. The distinction is real. Not everyone is always doing the best they can; if you tell them that they are, they’ll know on some level that it’s untrue" (Source).