Tag Archives: therapy

Choosing Your Friends

FriendsAs I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I spent some time in therapy back in 2011.  I ended up going because my codependency had reached a critical mass and my life was falling apart at the seams.  I have to say that making that choice and working through some of my own problems with the help of a professional was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made.  It’s certainly among the top five.

One of the things my therapist would occasionally ask me when I got talking about issues with a particular friend or acquaintance was, “Is this relationship really worth what you’re having to deal with?  What are you getting out of it?”  She never pushed me to answer the question in any particular way, but she insisted that I face the question.  I’d say it’s probably one of the best things she did for me.

You see, prior to going to therapy, I never would have thought to ask such a question.  In fact, I’d dare say that I never even considered that I was allowed to ask such a question.  I mean, if you’re friends, you’re friends, right?  Or that was my thinking.  Until I spent some time in therapy.  And then I realized, I get to choose my friends and I get to choose whether those friendships will continue.  That was a wonderful and powerful realization, albeit a scary one.

Sometimes, we’re better off without some people in our lives, no matter what our past with those people may have been.  It doesn’t matter if Roy1 and I have been friends since the second grade.  If he says and does things that tear me down, I have every right to protect my sense of self-esteem by telling him our friendship is now a thing of the past.  It doesn’t matter if Janet and I helped each other through some really tough breakups and a substance abuse problem.  If we’ve reached a point in our lives where we really have nothing in common, it’s okay to wish her the best and let our lives slip apart.

I’ve intentionally chosen two rather different situations in the last paragraph because I want to stress that there are many diverse reasons why I can end a friendship and am empowered to do so.  It can be because the friendship is toxic to me or because the friendship just isn’t what it used to be and trying to recapture the past may be a useless and exhausting endeavor.  My choice to end a friendship may be based on the fact that the other person is a source of pain in my life or it may be based on the fact that the other person is still wonderful, but simply not someone I have that special bond with anymore.  In either case, it’s okay.

Some days, the thought of ending a friendship really is scary.  I wonder if I’m making a mistake.  I wonder if I may regret it.  In some cases, I may wonder if I’ve really given the other person a fair chance.  But in the end, I take comfort in knowing that I ultimately have that choice and it’s okay to make it.

1All names in this post are randomly chosen and represent imaginary people.

The most terrifying thing my therapist asked me to do

[I feel like this entry might need a Content Note or two, but I’m not sure exactly what for.  If anyone wants to offer any suggestions, I’d be quite grateful.]

I figured that since I’m in a writing mood, I’d schedule a blog post or two to go up while I’m at the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat.  This is another personal reflection/tell you a bit about me post.  The events I describe happened a little over two years ago.

I was sitting in my first therapy session and it was almost over.  Felicia and I had discussed a few different things.  Mostly she had asked me probing questions and I answered them, somewhat briefly.  Then she sprung the trap on me.

“We’re just about out of time for tonight, so here’s what I’d like to do.  For the next five minutes, I’m not going to say anything.  I want you to talk about whatever you want to talk about.”

That was it.  She was done talking.  I had five minutes I had to fill with whatever I wanted to fill it with.  Whatever was on my mind that I felt like sharing.

I hated it.  I filled with panic (and it had already been an emotional and exhausting session prior to this point).  I wondered how she could ask that of me.  I mean, didn’t we already establish that I didn’t know what to talk about, that I wasn’t sure what people would find interesting about me, or even if there was anything about me that people would find interesting?  Plus, I didn’t know what to say to her.  I mean, I was coming to her to sort out my problems —  which I felt we had already established and discussed.  What more was I supposed to say?  What was she looking for?  Why couldn’t she just give me some script to follow.  Or at least a general premise I could ad lib from.  I needed a role to play!

I’m not sure when — whether it was days or months — that my need to be given a role to play was exactly the issue she was trying to get me to face (at least I think that was her intent).  Much of my problem was that I tended to think of my life and even my worth in terms of “roles” to be played — often roles assigned by other people.  I think asking me to go “off script” for even just five minutes and choose my own words and my own topic to speak of was her way of getting me to choose my own “role” for the first time in a long time.

It’s something I still struggle with from time to time.  I’m still more comfortable in some situations — especially in situations where I’m around people I don’t know very well — having a script or at least a pre-planned topic of conversation.  But I’m also more likely to have a few possible topics or scripts picked out that I can try to introduce.  I’m also more likely to change the subject or steer a conversation where I’m not enjoying am not interested in the current topic.

And with people I’m closer to, I’m more likely to take initiative in steering the conversation.  Or torture them with talk about the progress on my novel or even excerpts from my most recent writing spree.  I’m more likely to put my interests out there and see if there is any mutual interest rather than automatically assuming there won’t be any.

It’s still a work in progress for me, but I don’t feel the need for a role — and certainly not the need for a role someone else assigns to me — to function or feel included to the degree I used to.  I think Felicia would be pleased.  I know I am.  And of course, I know Felicia would say that’s ultimately what counts.