I get asked this a lot and thought it might be useful to write a little something on it.
“I don’t know how to be, what should I be like?”
There’s sometimes a desperation in the question, a desire for the therapist to give a definitive answer. Any answer.
It is not for us as therapists to decide how someone should be. If we were to, we would be drawing on our opinions, which in turn are shaped by the society we live in, with all the historical, political, psychological shaping that has gone on over millenia. It wouldn’t even endly be our opinion.
But we’re social creatures and it can be so important to know we are “fitting in” “doing it right”, especially if we are prone to feeling judged or shamed, by parts of ourselves or by others in the present or past.
Maybe our use as therapist is in refining the question.
How much do I want to fit in? What morals should I adopt and should those be mine or society’s? How introvert / extrovert should I be? What should I wear? How pious, individual, amusing, self centred, selfish, weird, noisy, colourful, quirky, compliant, caring, militant should I be? Where is my comfort, and where can I push a little to explore other ways of being?
As a therapist, my job is to walk along side you as you begin to work this out for yourself and to provide a safe space for you to try on being different and reflect on how this is for you.