As I recently stated, I started going to therapy. My decision to be open about going to therapy isn’t a ploy to gain concern of my well-being, but to hopefully help others understand that you don’t have to be broken to be in therapy. We will go to a doctor for anything from something acute to chronic, a cough or a cold to cancer, yet we believe psychologists are reserved for a specific population. We’re all humans with struggles. It’s important to remember that we never have to go through anything alone. I’ve only been going for a short time, but I wanted to share some of the things I have learned and begun working through.
Boundaries are big. The biggest thing therapy has given me so far is the permission to set boundaries. In several of Brené Brown’s books, she mentions how boundaried people are compassionate people. At first read, it doesn’t make sense. How can you be caring and loving towards others if it appears that you’re pushing them away? Well, it works in a ‘my cup runneth over’ type of way. Every time we allow someone to trample on our peace by crossing a line we’re too scared to openly set or uphold, resentment builds. On the outside, you appear as though you’re giving and always there for people, but on the inside you’re miserable and anxious. When we set those boundaries and are firm in them, we show up for those around us wholly. If we picture our boundaries like a fence surrounding our house with a no trespassing sign, we can play out a few scenarios. There will always be people trying to push those boundaries. The more we let them, the less serious they’ll take us. Why are you upset now when you’ve let me do it 127 times before? They won’t react favorably and will try to shame or guilt us into letting them come in. I would let you come over to my house whenever even if I had a no trespassing sign. I’ll only do it this one time, I swear! What are you hiding that you won’t let me in? Don’t you want to see me and spend time with me? You’re being selfish and/or a bitch.
For those of us who want approval from others, setting boundaries can provoke some fear. What happens if they don’t like us? Aren’t happy with us? Resent us? It’s not for us to remedy and ease everyone’s personal disturbances as a result of our peace. I am a big approval person. I want it when it comes to what I should be doing with my life, who I’m dating, how I dress, what activities I spend my free time doing, and so on. I’m working towards understanding and being okay with the fact that I can’t live my life making sure everyone approves. If you’re an approval person, you know the tailspin you can end up in talking to one person, then another, and another who all have different qualifications for what would make them approve of you. As much as I hate acknowledging it, it is impossible to gain everyone’s approval, yet some of us will try. Go back to school! Work towards this career! Date someone like this! Go do something you don’t enjoy and all because that’s what people expect of you! And trust me, those people know what shame cards to play to make you buy into their messages.
What’s helpful in all of this is to have a vision of where your life is headed. I had done a meditation/hypnosis exercise in therapy where I was picturing myself in a movie theater, just me, and the day’s film was my future life. I won’t be going into details of it because it’s personal to me. However, the visualization of it is a powerful tool. Feeling today’s burdens and struggles not present in the future gives hope, direction, and faith that the transformation is possible. It doesn’t feel like it’s just an idea or a dream of yours, it seems as though it’s already yours, you just have to take the steps to get there. Whether you choose to do a similar exercise or simply take the time to write down who you want to be and visualize it, I believe it’s an astoundingly powerful practice.
With boundaries, casting off the desire for approval, and visualizing this person you’re becoming comes transitions. Transitions happen throughout life. We’re no longer the athlete and have to adjust to a new identity. We’re no longer single and are learning the ropes of a relationship. Other times we’re newly single and navigating that. We’ve finished up being a student and are thrown into finding a career. Sometimes we’re leaving that career we worked so hard for, expectedly or unexpectedly, and feeling out a new field or abundant free time. Parents are adapting to new roles as children go from dependent babies to determined toddlers to adults learning their place in the world. With any transition comes shedding the old skin for the new, which will undoubtedly involve discomfort and friction. Friction with ourselves, friction with others. So often, we want to keep people in the box we’ve always known them to inhabit. When we see them shifting out of it, we might do our best to shove them back in or calm our uneasiness by showing them a place nearby that we’ve already approved of for them to stay in. Remember who you used to be? Remember who you’ve always been? You’ve changed. Why are you changing? What if you do xyz instead? No, you can’t move there. Don’t take that leap of faith, you’ll probably fall! When it comes to transitions, there’s a lot of guilt, shame, and doubt being marketed to us. Transitions aren’t easy for anyone, but if you’re not molting, you’re not growing. Remember that.