“We cannot change our childhood. We can make sense of what has been repressed and forgotten … If we remain conscious of ourselves and of the pull of early models, even if hang-ups of various kinds remain, as inevitably they must, we have a better chance of creating satisfying relationships with our mates and secure relationships with our children … we are only doomed to repeat what has not been remembered, reflected upon, and worked through.”—Robert Karen
Our relationships are reflections of our true self. The adage “you are who your friends are” is true. However, we aren’t who our friends are because they are shaping us, it’s because they are a reflection of who we feel most comfortable with.
If our earliest bonds dictate, in many ways, the health of future relationships, then our current ones with our friends, coworkers and spouse can be the best reflection of our greatest challenges. In fact, when you have no friends at all, and can’t seem to play nice with people, being self-reflective is your best bet in knowing why it seems nobody likes you.
For example, you hear yourself say something like, “She is so stuck up with those dagger eyes and speaks in that whiney know-it-all voice!” has no self-reflection at all. It is “other-blame”—you are merely stating your perception of someone else instead of considering how you may have created this situation.
Instead, open up to the possibility that this situation isn’t what you’ve just imagined. That she didn’t have dagger eyes and a whiney know-it-all voice. And, if she does, why does it cut to your core? What “buttons” were pushed in you? It’s obvious you feel wronged in some way, but why?
The gap between blaming someone else and mulling over what you feel is where the likelihood of change lies.
Change happens while you practice new behaviors with someone you trust. This is, in a sense, recreating the safe, trusting relationship you missed in your early years. Below are seven ways a counselor and counseling relationship provides a snug, stable backdrop for your personal remodeling:
1. Models a close relationship. The relationship with your therapist should be one of the healthiest you have with clear boundaries, trust, kindness, and respect. If you can’t be close and honest here, then why on earth would you spend time and money to go through such a challenging process anyway?
2. Teaches how to mull over your true personality. Knowing and stating how you fee, no matter how embarrassing, fearful, or angering is tough! But pondering your private inner-life teaches how to recognize your feelings, and teaches self-expression and reflection.
3. Provides “mothering” not received in childhood. Your therapist should accept you without judgment. Providing unconditional nurturing and acceptance mirrors your redeming qualities, which builds self-esteem, self-confidence, and greater self-awareness—all things you may not have received unconditionally in childhood.
4. Navigates unchartered waters with a little pressure. ”Nudging” you forward and into new behaviors is ultimately what creates change—your therapist will do that (and if they don’t, find someone who will!). Breaking old habits takes encouragement, guidance, love and a healthy dose of arm-twisting!
5. Helps face unattractive details of your personality. Holding yourself accountable in strained friendships and other relationships is uncomfortable. And in fact, it’s easier to find those who will gladly jump on your “negative bandwagon” than it is to find someone who can be honest about your true behavior. Your counselor helps you face the negative aspects of yourself that you’ve been avoiding.
6. “Shields” you from the outside world so you can practice new behaviors and emotions, in ways you weren’t comfortable doing before. Your counselor encourages you to discuss your feelings, perceptions, and fears—the ones you’ve felt comfortable showing before.
7. Provides a “retreat” from the outside world where all feelings are accepted, and do not create barriers to self-expression. Change depends upon self-reflection. Being able to openly state how you feel and what your opinions are is important. Your counselor can be the person you bounce ideas off of.
Ok, so I admit: “nobody” is an extreme word and it’s unlikely that “nobody” likes you in the world. But sometimes it can feel that way! When friends, coworkers and spousal relationships are strained, you are to blame – at least in part.
Change is tough. Even if you have a stroke of insight into your inner life, it doesn’t mean you’ll change your behavior because you feel too vulnerable and unsure. The relationship you have with your counselor, coach, “A friends” and spouse—if they are healthy and secure—can help with your personality reconstruction.