One of the most amazing things about being a therapist is the chance to see so many dynamics at play from an outside perspective. That perspective is significant because when we look at things from inside of the dynamic, as a participant in it, it is so much harder to see a bigger view. The analogy I often use is the difference between standing inside of a forest versus standing outside watching the people inside. When you are inside you see only so much. But from the outside you may see one person running into the trees and another running out. Things the person in the middle can’t see.
One of the perspectives that can be so challenging to see is how we build our own walls and barriers that limit us. So often clients see how the people around them are “holding them back” or “controlling them.” And that is often true. But the perspective from the outside shows another part. The fact that the client chose to surround themself with those people. They chose to interact with the very people that are the barriers. This can be a very difficult thing to acknowledge. And even if you do, it is a whole different thing to deal with it.
This often happens a person grows. They realize that they want their life to be different. They may realize that they no longer want to spend their time at bars but would rather be active outdoors or spend their time having intellectual conversation. Or maybe they realize that they are tired of being taken advantage of or only being valued because of their willingness to have sex. It doesn’t matter what it is. They make changes.
When they do make changes, the people around them may not be happy. Their friends still want them to go out drinking or continue to want to continue to take advantage of their kindness regard for their well-being. Maybe they get upset because the person will no longer be sexual on demand.
That can all be very frustrating and it becomes easy to blame everyone else for inhibiting change. And the truth is, they are. But the other part of the truth is that many people choose to be friends with us because of who we are not because of who we are becoming. Not all, but many. AND, we allow people to be around us based on what we believe about ourselves. If we didn’t think it was okay to be treated a certain way then we wouldn’t let ourselves be treated that way. We have allowed those people to be around us. We have created our own walls.
When we grow, change and have new expectations of the people around us, a couple of things can happen. Ideally the people around us are happy for us and support us and give us room to change. But others won’t. They prefer you the way you were. That is why they were around you in the first place. They are going to work hard to hinder your growth. And, yes, we can be frustrated by them.
But the bottom line is that it is up to us. When grow we sometimes have to knock down the walls we have built and find new people that support who we are becoming. We build our own walls…and you get to decide how and where they are built.