“People you’ve been before that you don’t want around anymore…they’ll push and they’ll shove and won’t bend to your will…” –Elliott Smith, “Between the Bars” (That’s the late Elliott Smith over to our left. If you’d like to listen to this really lovely song in its entirety, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPD-a1FjUtU)
I write a lot about the stories we live inside and how they define us. What I really mean to say is that if we could only wake up, just for a moment and see them as malleable, we would begin to re-author some of the worst narratives. We would stop defining ourselves in so narrow a fashion and begin to fill in the chronicles of whatever small successes are only unwritten hopes hanging around the corners of our heads.
Sometimes, when I’m driving home at night after a day of doing therapy, I listen to that song by Elliott Smith and marvel at how completely we cling to some of the people we’ve been before, no matter how unsatisfying those existences are. Even if they are disempowering, we’ve lived inside these emotional skins so long, it’s terrifying to think of shedding them. Are you worried that some of the past versions of you–the one who abused drugs, the one who cheated on your spouse, the one who was too shy to make friends…Are you worried that you can’t ever get out of that story completely? In what way do those shadowy doppelgangers hold you hostage?
One of the things that I can’t do as a therapist is offer you fairy dust that will make transitions feel natural and entirely safe. I’m not sure, but I think it might be an artifact of our current society to believe that all things that don’t feel easy are thereby treacherous waters. No, my friend. It isn’t true. You’ve already done what felt natural and it didn’t work. You have already taken the route that made the most sense, and it didn’t lead you home. So, now it’s time to make changes that might feel uncomfortable or bizarre in exchange for a story that casts you as heroic, successful and curious. I believe in you.
If you haven’t been a communicative partner in the past, you can let that old version of yourself go and learn new skills.
If you haven’t taken care of your health, you can rewrite the script as many times as you need to until you are fiercely protective of your body.
If you haven’t stopped using, you can build real relationships despite what alcohol or drugs whisper in your ear.
And, I could go on and on and on because a failure to launch into the next best version of yourself is a normal, human struggle. But, you don’t have to struggle alone.
Your Partner in Healing,
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