The Unlovable



I stumbled across this graphic as the weekend was winding down. At first, it seemed odd, quite plain, and then I read, and re-read the words once again until I realized how truthful and beautiful and amazing these words were. The words seemed to make me reflect on my own work in both schools and private practice where most of the time I have to deal with these kids who do things in the most unloving of ways.

No other outlet

A 13-year old boy who had moved back to the Philippines after having spent more than half of his life overseas was suddenly sitting in my office at the school I was working in. He was smaller than most of the other kids in his year but his actions are nothing but small. He is smart, vocal, and opinionated. I liked the kid, he was someone who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, was quite frank, and just wanted to have fun. Then there was that day, when I found him sitting in my office, fidgeting around. A teacher had complained that he was being disruptive and that he had insulted some of the other girls in the class.

I looked over across my desk and tried to think about how I would start this conversation and get to the bottom of this boy’s story. He did try to evade the ‘charges’ brought against him. He blocked my efforts to get to the bottom of the story. After half an hour of evading, I finally said “Look, you’re in trouble, and as long as you keep evading and changing your story, I can’t help defend you. I know that there may be some misunderstanding that happened, so I want to find out so I can help you.”

Sadly, unlike in those Hollywood movies, there was no moment of clarity that led to this boy breaking down and bearing his soul. No, those scenes only happen in the movies. What happened next though was that he toughened up more.

I decided to let him have his victory for now. We were both at an impasse: he was not telling, and I was not giving up.

The silence. It’s a classic technique that many counselors and therapists use. While many new age subscribing people would champion silence as a meditative and regenerative tool, silence also has a purpose that disarms and lowers the inhibition and the defenses. Silence signifies a certain oneness and patience. But this doesn’t always work.

The gamble had paid off.

Later on I learned what happened from this kids point of view, and more. It turned out that he didn’t only get into trouble in school but at home as well. It’s difficult when your own parents mistrust you; when the core of your personhood, that institution which is supposed to be your ally for life mistrusts you, then there’s a problem.

Over the course of the year, I kept working with this kid. Progress was slow. The damage had been done and the there was much work to do. I tried to recommend for the parents to seek outside intervention with other specialists but the parents declined.

Eventually, the school year ended. The kid, made very little progress. I could only wonder what would come next.

This kid is just one of those kids that I have worked with. Many others have similar cases like his. We should then start recognizing the light in each kid and see how this light might have been hurt and work with them.

At the end of the day, most people would guard their most unlovable parts because these are the vulnerable points of themselves that open us up to hurt and suffering. It is in the kind of work that we do that we teach people to embrace their unlovable sides and be confident in making those sides work for them.

Raphael Inocencio is a founding partner at Better Steps Psychology, Inc. His research interests include child and adolescent issues, anxiety, and positive interventions. You can book a consultation with him and other professionals at Better Steps Psychology by sending us an email: or calling us at (02) 216 1586 or (0917) 894 3988.