Do you ever find yourself avoiding people that you feel close to because you have a truth about yourself that you are afraid to share? In my practice I work with lots of people who are on a path of self-discovery and trying to live a life with integrity. This journey often brings new truths and/or challenges to important relationships because being open and honest about something that feels emotionally charged is scary. Sometimes it is about their identity (such as coming out as gay) or a desire (perhaps changing career or having children) or an emotional challenge (changing relationship). Whatever the issue, talking to others about it can raise anxiety, fear of judgment, rejection and loss.
When they finally find the right time to discuss the issue with family and friends, I hear things like “They will think I am crazy!” or “What if they think that everything I told them before was a lie?” or “They are going to be so angry and not talk to me anymore.” As I continue to work with them, I often remind them that they have had the luxury of time to think about the issue and gain some perspective, even if it still feels scary and uncomfortable. Helping them to remember that their supporters are just getting this information for the first time – even if they already suspected and are just getting confirmation – is an important step.
More often than not, people are surprised at just how accepting and open others can be. When they realize that the build-up was bigger than necessary, each coming declaration gets easier. However, if there is a reaction that is less than openly accepting, it is difficult not to personalize it. My advice in that moment is simple: QTIP! Quit Thinking It’s Personal!
People have to own their reactions. If someone has a reaction that is less than what you had hoped for, it isn’t about you. Negativity, anger, frustration, rigidity is about them and how they are reacting to your truth about yourself. They have to work through the new information, formulate new expectations, process through old understandings and try to understand what the new normal is. This may require a great deal of additional information, self-disclosure and support from you in the face of a seemingly lack of support. Again, remember you have been living with this knowledge for longer than they have!
Being able to remember that the end goal is to bring the relationship to a more open and connected place should be the guiding motivation. This might mean living through some difficult conversations, periods of adjustment and relearning how to connect. However, with guidance and understanding, you can be living more truthfully and openly with those you love.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, contact Elliott Kronenfeld at 617-834-4235 or email him at Elliott@insightbrookline.com.