This is an important topic, and one that I’m going to cover at a high level in this post. In the future, I will discuss this in greater depth.
Most people are driven to go to therapy because of relationship problems that have become unbearably painful. Examples can be:
a romantic relationship has become problematic or has ended.
family relationships are always troubled and never seem to improve.
friendships are strained.
you are worried that a new, good relationship is doomed based on patterns from your prior relationships.
there is a lack of relationships – a feeling of being unable to get a romantic partner, or close friends.
Regardless of the reason, therapy will surface (among other things) the underlying beliefs, both consciously and unconsciously held, that lead to these problems. As these beliefs are challenged, and prior related experiences are worked through, you will seek and create corrective experiences. Your self-sabotaging beliefs and/or the strengths of those beliefs will change. As a result, some of your relationships are likely to change too – sometimes for better, and other times for worse (but for good reason). Examples of this are:
If you have a weak self esteem and it becomes stronger…some people in your life will be happy to see you feel more comfortable in your skin. However, others may have been relying on your people-pleasing or acquiescent behaviors to feel better about themselves or remain in control of your relationship with them. They may feel threatened by your new strength.
If you are accustomed to taking a caregiving role among your peers, you may, during therapy, realize that your own needs are not being met. You may find you more strongly value balanced relationships, and strengthen bonds with people in your life that provide this. You may start to distance yourself from people who do not nourish you.
If you are used to picking fights to get attention and feel connected to others, you may become more aware of the discomfort this causes you and find other ways to have connection. Some people in your life may breathe a sigh of relief; there may be other people in your life who have a hard time feeling connected to you without aggressive energy present.
If you were used to holding your feelings in, and you start expressing them more spontaneously…some people in your life will appreciate seeing this, since they suspected that you were holding back and always wished you were more comfortable. They will support you in your journey and provide you with validation and security as you experiment with self-expression. However, others may have felt comfortable with you because you took up little space, and may not have the bandwidth or capacity to allow you to express yourself fully.
Although there are no universal experiences in therapy, you will probably see some of your relationships shift, or completely change, as a result of therapy. These changes tend to be gradual, so although you may feel as though you have sudden epiphanies, you actually build toward them over a period of time. You will allow yourself to see these fully hold these new realizations when you are ready. Trying to force yourself toward resolutions prematurely will not be effective – understanding is premature because there is still too much unresolved conflict for clarity to arrive. Remind yourself to be patient and kind toward yourself and to respect your journey.