It’s been almost two years since I started seeing a counsellor, and a year since my last session. I’ve had days when I was unable to drag myself out of bed. Days when it felt like if I took one step out of the house, the world would collapse on me. I had always thought of myself as cheerful, outgoing, and optimistic. But for the first time in my life, meeting people, even friends, induced panic and dread.
I was scared at the thought of having to relate to people. My fear had roots in various experiences, some of which revolved around loss. I had lost many close friendships and relationships that I valued - people who had relocated overseas or changed their priorities. When they left, I felt abandoned. The belief that “people will leave” and therefore “people are undependable” became ingrained, extrapolated from those experiences.
It was difficult to identify and articulate that. I struggled with guilt:
"I should be more understanding."
"I shouldn’t be too quick to judge."
"People leave all the time, it’s no big deal."
I was afraid and ashamed to admit that I was affected by what seemed trivial to everyone else. I felt terrible that I thought even my closest friends were undependable.When I wasn’t denying my emotions, I came up with all kinds of crap to justify them. Ironically, I became undependable.
At the start, my counsellor spent hours patiently asking me questions about myself. Questions were her search tool. I just shoved ‘model answers’ back at her. I’d picked up from school that my answers weren’t important unless they were ‘right’. Yet, for the first time in my life, my model answers were patiently rejected. She was instead, looking for me. Her questions helped me to find myself, where I was, what beliefs I had.
Identifying the beliefs undergirding my thoughts and feelings was empowering. No matter how trivial the experiences might have seemed, I realised how quickly I generalised and formed beliefs from such experiences, which in turn impacted my emotions and actions. With this awareness, instead of a mysterious heaviness, I found myself looking at something tangible I could deal with. I had the opportunity to address these experiences. I talked things out with friends, asked for forgiveness, and offered forgiveness so that I could be free of the past.
It’s ok that we haven’t met our own standards. We may even need to question where those standards come from, and why we subscribe to them in the first place. But first, it’s important to be honest about where we stand. After all, finding where you are on the map is the first step to knowing how to get to where you want to go. How can we help one another find and accept where we each are so that we can better journey together in friendship?