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As sometimes happens, there’s been a theme cropping in my therapy sessions: “This is not who I am” (said vehemently). This attitude comes from a fixed (versus a growth) mindset (https://www.karenrkoenig.com/blog/fixed-versus-growth-mindset) which is the belief that you have an identity and traits you’re stuck with that will never change.
This view allows no room for events or insights to impact us that will modify how we think, feel and behave. It’s like never allowing computer updates or uninstalling programs or having a TV that works only on a few channels. We’re all more than our current identity—different at various stages of our lives (childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, old age). We’re not made to have immutable personas. Naturally, there’s a basic “me” that we recognize as ourselves and a “you” that others recognize as “us,” but it’s the antithesis of growth or healing to say, “That is so not me.”
Here are two examples:
* You’re going through a rough patch professionally and maritally and life is in flux.
Frightened and anxious about the future, you can’t fathom why you’re not reacting in your usual way to uncertainty—ensuring that order is maintained at any cost, trying to control all outcomes and focusing care on others rather than yourself. Instead, you don’t want to do much of anything. You do what’s expected of you, especially for your children, but for the most part, all you want to do is to sit around and read romance novels. You can’t imagine what’s gotten into you. “This isn’t who I am,” you tell me.
* You’re an avid rule follower, someone who’s always on time and says please and
thank you. You avoid making waves and work to squash most of your anger which you learned to do in childhood around your authoritarian father. But, over time, when your nasty boss is replaced by another meanie, you find yourself being sarcastic and not even trying to be nice to him. You can’t figure out what’s gotten into you, but it’s scary so you insist to me, “This is not normally who I am. I’m not this kind of person.”
In both instances, change is afoot. In the first example, you’re finally tiring of working so hard to control what can’t be controlled and of putting others’ needs before yours. Your desire to do nothing but read is your way of saying, “I want me time.” Hurray! In the second example, you’re fed up with authority figures belittling and shaming you and won’t stand for it. Your sarcasm is your way of telling the world, “I’m not taking this kind of guff anymore.” Hallelujah! These are positive shifts, though they certainly may feel strange. Stay with and try to understand them. You’re moving in a positive direction. Just hang in there and let them take you where you need to go.
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