Face it, midwinter is not your finest hour. Many of us are putting off our vows and ambitions for the new year. Some of us are unhappy with our bodies (holiday overeating, relentless blizzards and flus limiting effective gym time), and some just burying our heads like ostriches in order to avoid the winter blues -- or what some call seasonal affective disorder (SAD). You hibernate, isolate, avoid invitations -- preferring the couch to the concourse -- all because right now you just don't feel like being "you" and certainly don't want to expose your sorry state to anyone else. Fortunately, television producers know exactly how you're feeling, and obligingly offer you a buffet of exciting special events -- in order to lose your blues in someone else's excitement -- including the Super Bowl, the Grammys and the Oscars.
The Oscars are perhaps the most alluring spectator sport of all, since we get to observe our beautiful heroines and heroes of the screen as they enjoy a surprise moment of unequivocal attention and lauds. Witnessing the Oscar winner seize this moment of grand deference, in a speech of three minutes or less -- speaking from the heart as she expresses gratitude, shares her passions, and takes a moment to mention the ideals and social issues that are important to her -- transports us from our SAD obscurity into a thrilling moment of receiving vicarious reverence. Of course the big hangover comes when the show is over, you return to your own life... and realize that it's very late, on a very cold Sunday night.
For those of you who connect with the above experience, here's what I suggest: Give your own Oscar acceptance speech to the bathroom mirror. In three minutes or less, tell your looking glass how grateful you are, why it is so meaningful to win an award for "this" particular project, thank all of the people to whom you are indebted, blow kisses to all those who enrich your life, share what you value most about the work you do, and emphasize one or two important issues to which you'd like to bring international attention. If you feel it wanders or bombs the first time, take advantage of the fact that there is no orchestra to bully you off the stage (or out of the powder room) and give it another go until it feels right.
I know what you're thinking: (1) "Isn't this behavior narcissistic?"; (2) "Isn't this behavior psychotic?"; and (3) "How can this be healthy?" My answers to these are: (1) "Yes, but there is such a thing as healthy narcissism. If you repeatedly thank yourself, as opposed to other people, in your "loo" speech, that would be the unhealthy kind." (2) "Only if you do it every day, and at the exclusion of conversations with other people." (3) "Because we all need our emotions, urges, and creative desires mirrored back to us, in order to feel secure, integrated, and motivated. If we're not getting this mirroring from our relationships, we can at least imagine how we would express ourselves if given the opportunity to be showered with infinite positive attention. Besides, most of you have done this already anyway, so..."
The goal of this exercise is certainly not to replace social relationships with a reflective surface -- the literally fatal moment of the Narcissus myth -- but rather to motivate you to get off the couch and engage with others more purposefully, meaningfully, and effectively. We can't really see other people and offer them generosity, love, and support if we're not feeling seen, loved, and supported in our own skins. Perhaps your private Oscar moment will inspire you to surround yourself with people who are better reflectors than your current friends, or maybe it could open up significant topics to be discussed in your therapy. Whatever the outcome, at least you will have given yourself a moment to reflect on your potential as an individual and as part of a community. Just take it easy at any imagined "Oscar afterparties" after you've finished your "speech."
This piece originally appeared on the author's website, markoconnelltherapist.com.
For more by Mark O'Connell, L.C.S.W., click here.
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