Dr. Goldman: Lauren wanted very much to maintain close relationships with family and friends, and over the years her strategy for feeling close was to avoid conflict. Conflict, in her eyes, was not a potentially constructive way to change relationships but instead something potentially damaging.
Lauren: I remember once telling Dr. Goldman about my relationship with my father. She asked me about him and I gushed, saying all these wonderful things about his personality, who he was and how much he supported and understood me.
Then in subsequent sessions, I told stories about how he hurt my feelings by creating different standards for me compared with my siblings. After a number of sessions, Dr. Goldman just said to me point-blank: "Is it possible that your father is different from the perfect person you wish he was?"
Whoa! It was as if a bell went off: I had set up this dependence on people who weren't who I thought they were—and then I'd get upset when they didn't give me what I expected from them. I needed to align my expectations with actual people and not my ideas of people. Especially since I probably was not who they thought I was, either.
I eventually moved to another city. I left a comfortable job in a law firm and moved into a different field of law. These moves were not things I had necessarily consciously wanted to make. But therapy helped me realize that I had to change my life to become more engaged.
Taking the leap was hard. I felt as though I was being really selfish. I would get resistance from my family and just say, "Thank you. I will think about that." I also had to learn to express what I needed out of my relationships. I would say over and over, "Dad, I have to work this out on my own, and I need you to respect that."
Dr. Goldman: Part of the work, from my perspective, involved your hearing your own inner voice more loudly. It involved trusting your feelings and being able to assert yourself.
Lauren: That is absolutely the thing I feel the most. Sure, there are still issues I need to work on, but I trust my inner voice one hundred percent now, whereas before I didn't at all.
As for romance, I'm still looking, but at least I'm putting myself in situations where I'm more likely to find someone. I'm not perfect at it, but I'm moving in the right direction. Plus, I'm having a lot more fun.
We Hear You!