Based on the title of this article, it seems that I should be sitting down to write about relational disconnect. However, now that I’m actually sitting down to write I’m discovering this article is not exactly about that. Instead, it is about a particular way we try to solve problems of relational disconnect that seems as if it should work, but does not. So perhaps a more appropriate title to this article would be, “Trying to Find Relational Connection by Being Who You’re Not – And Why That Doesn’t Work”… except that that is much too long.
The reality is that relational disconnect is everywhere and is experienced by everyone. Some say that with each passing generation the disconnection grows. All I know is that I see the painful results of disconnect every day, in conversations both in- and outside of the counseling office. And, whether it’s our particular culture, our generation, or a human-nature thing – we seem to have forgotten how to solve relational disconnect.
Are You Being Who You’re Not?
Part of the problem in trying to resolve relational disconnect is that the recipe for connection involves things that make us uncomfortable, such as vulnerability, authenticity, courage, and perseverance. And, if this is the recipe for connection, then any solution that omits one or more of these ingredients is not likely to work well. I’m not sure if this is true across the board, but in my experience the ingredients we like to omit most often are vulnerability and authenticity, and we do this by being who we’re not.
The tricky thing about being who we’re not is that it looks different for everyone. Here are a few questions to help you sort through whether this is something that you too are dealing with:
- Are you striving to be the person you think other people want you to be, or are you resting in the person you are?
- Are you making yourself get involved in activities you don’t enjoy because you want other people to have a certain image of you?
- Are you being quiet because other people expect you to be quiet, or are you being quiet because you want to be? How about loud?
- Are you disregarding feelings of hurt or anger in a relationship in order to maintain the peace?
Existing on a Surface Level
If this describes you, you’re in good company. On some level I think we all believe that if we’re just together enough, outgoing enough, peaceable enough – then people will like us and we’ll finally have the connections we long for. And, on a surface level, this sort of works. All of these things can make us easy to get along with and introduce us to more people who come to know our name and chat with us from time-to-time. However, there are many problems with seeking relational connection through being who you’re not:
- Being who you’re not is exhausting.
- Being who you’re not makes it harder to know yourself and listen to yourself well. Over time this will make you more and more like a chameleon or a ghost that lacks solidness.
- Being who you’re not makes it impossible for other people to get to know the full, authentic you. This may result in many relationships that exist on a surface level, but few or none that dive deep enough to get under your mask and alleviate some of the alone-ness you feel.
Listening to Your Own Voice Brings Freedom
The other problem with being who you’re not is that your life starts to be directed by the voices of others, rather than by your own internal voice. Pretty soon other people become the ones who determine whether you’re introverted or extroverted, quiet or loud, clean or messy, a leader or a follower – when in reality the authentic you is probably a mix of all these things, with variations from one day to the next. Listening to your own voice gives you the freedom to flex and stretch out within the borders of who you want to be.
Being Who You Are in Christian Counseling
So how do we solve problems of relational disconnect? This requires vulnerability, authenticity, courage, perseverance … and being who you are. One of the beautiful things about therapy is that is provides a context for self-exploration and healing like no other context in life. It offers an atmosphere that is both safe and challenging, vulnerable and protected. A qualified Christian counselor can also help you to sort through what it means to be you in Christ, and the identity you’re invited into as a Christian.
Provided by MorgueFile.com – “Morning Walk,” IMG_1543_SENTIER_2C_1L_NB.jpg courtesy of placardmoncoeur; “Just Me Hands,” DJFDKLJ.JPG, by greyerbaby