A particularly difficult part of many peoples’ recovery is taking the risk of allowing ourselves to be known.
Most people spend an awful lot of time hiding their true selves.
Most of us have received lots and lots and LOTS of messages over the years about how we are SUPPOSED to behave.
We’ve been bludgeoned with “should” after “should” after “should” when it comes to our speech and behavior.
And most of us— especially those of us who have experienced trauma or abuse— have gotten very, very good at putting up a convincing front when it comes to who we are.
(Some survivors of extreme developmental trauma have become so good at putting up a convincing front that their personalities have seemed to “split” into different “parts,” the most extreme variation of which is diagnosed as Dissociative Identity Disorder.)
The thing is, when we need help— when we need support putting our lives back together after trauma, or when we need to lift ourselves out of an addiction, or when we need to keep our heads above the water of depression— we often need to drop the front.
It’s hard for anybody to help us, either emotionally or behaviorally, if we’re unwilling to show them who we really are and what we really need.
I know many therapists— myself included— who have been frustrated and stymied when a patient walks into their office, intent on keeping their defensive shields intact. Intent on giving the therapist what they think the therapist wants to hear.
Intent on being their “best” selves, the self that they think will get them approval and acceptance…rather than their real selves.
As long as those defensive shields stay intact, very little work gets done.
It’s not the facade of you that needs the help.
It’s the real you, underneath that facade, behind that part, beneath that bubbly or surly exterior, that needs to recover and heal.
If I can’t see that you, I can’t help you.
If your recovery or therapy group can’t see that real you, they can’t help you.
If you can’t see and accept that real you— vulnerabilities, imperfections, and all— you can’t even help you.
The thing about these covers, these facades that we wear all the time, is: most of the time they are unnecessary.
Most of the time these facades and covers aren’t keeping us safe in the way we think they are.
We think they’ll help us not get hurt. They don’t.
We think they’ll help protect us from difficult feelings and words. They won’t.
We think that if we keep distance between our real selves and the problems we’re having, maybe we can keep those problems at arm’s length.
To heal, we have to let ourselves be known.
We have to let down our shields.
We have to let others see us. See our struggle. See our suffering.
And, yes, see our failings.
If we take the risk of letting ourselves be known— really known— we can also embrace our strengths.
We can embrace our power. (Yes, you do have power…no matter how it feels.)
We can start to enhance, in a real way, our resources. (Yes, you do have resources…no matter how it feels.)
We can finally, finally, start to heal.
(Yes, you can heal…no matter how it feels.)
You don’t have to let yourself be totally known, all at once, to everybody you meet. You should treat self-disclosure just like any sensitive matter— you should disclose and trust intelligently, carefully, intentionally.
Letting yourself be known doesn’t have to be a black and white, all or nothing proposition.
But it does need to happen.
You can’t heal if “you” don’t show up for the process.
The risk is worth it.
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