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  • Helen Dempsey-Henofer

#6: The Amazing Reappearing Act!

One surprising way to

strengthen relationships.


I'd like to share with you some insider-info on my life. Are you ready for it? Here it is:

I like getting what I want.

You too? OK, so it's not unique but here's where it matters: we like getting what we want and we assume giving people what they want is the secret to making relationships work. It's not.


 

Consideration is definitely useful in coming up with a recipe for a delicious relationship. Let's pretend it's my birthday and I've let the world know that I would delight in the presence of a gorgeous decadent Frangipane (I mean, that just sounds special) almond tart. My partner comes through with no dessert. That could be disappointing. Totally hypothetical.

So yes, we humans like getting what we want and we like to be considered, generally speaking.

Here's the catch: we often take this to mean putting what we think others want from us before our own boundaries.

Returning to my hypothetical situation: my partner doesn't like most desserts. Which, thankfully, I'm aware of. If I'd spent the last however many years with someone who was grinning-and-bearing-it while getting down in some cheesecake, I wouldn't be having a relationship with my partner. I'd be having a relationship with a make-believe lover-of-cakes.

So the question here, fiercely independent human that you are, is this: are YOU a make-believe cake-lover?

 

What could the consequences of fitting in be?

So you don't like what you don't like. I don't want to be misunderstood here. I'm not an advocate for verbally spewing every thought in your head into the world. Sharing every critical, judgy, unhelpful thought is unlikely to strengthen relationships. There is a difference between having a filter (boundaries guided by your personal values) and disappearing to blend in.

To strengthen relationships: trust is key.

Often people talk about blending in as a loss to themselves. When you go along with things that aren't true to you (remember my imaginary pretend cake-lover) you're not showing up authentically. You're not asserting your boundaries. You're not creating spaces that feel good to you. All this is true but it's ALSO a loss to the people you're in relationship with.

When you show up to a relationship as yourself you offer the other person/people in the relationship with you trust and intimacy.

If you've been a blender-inner: (e.g. you've been eating cake when you don't actually like cake at all) please don't start chastising yourself. We live in a culture that rewards conformity. Not standing out, not expressing yourself, is often rewarded with praise. In some cases, your safety depends on it.

That not every space offers safety is an unfortunate truth. While strong healthy relationships require trust, not every relationship is a good space for the gift of your trust and vulnerability.

 


What if your own discomfort prompts you to disappear or fit in?

First of all, welcome to being a human. Blog #3 touches on why this is.

Knowing that fitting in is not just a loss to you, but also to the connection in your relationships,

Here's an experiment:


Begin with choosing a space or relationship where showing up as yourself isn't a threat to your safety. See what happens when you begin to express difference. This is about giving yourself permission to show up differently.

If this sends you into a tailspin, Whoa that's uncomfortable!, it helps to be very clear with yourself on why you're setting new boundaries AND to start small and build on your successes as you continue to show up authentically.

And... a caveat. If you've been doing a fitting-in disappearing act and you finally start showing up, things could get a bit bumpy. Your mind is probably already telling you this along with a list of other reasons why not. While you don't have control of how others respond, you're making choices today about your own boundaries. You might ask yourself what the cost/benefit is if you continue to choose disappearing.



I write this for my fellow fiercely-independent humans working on growth and healing. While my heart is with the lone-wolves, DIYers, and those of us whose inner worlds are deep and rich, I also know that can contribute both to loneliness and anxiety. Like, how do you actually get help when you need it when you're so used to DIYing life?

Reading a letter or blog post isn't therapy. If I'm working with you in therapy and you're subscribed: Yay! I hope it's reinforcing what we're getting into in sessions. What the letter does is it puts therapy concepts into writing so that they can be accessed more widely. If you know someone who'd benefit, forward this on to them.

 

Finally, fiercely independent human that you are, let's take a moment here to notice you showing up for yourself right the f*ck now.

THAT inspires me.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Here you are, fiercely independent though you may be, reading a letter from a therapist on prioritizing yourself... of all freakin' things.





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