Often, we think that how we react to things is just our personality, and it isn’t. I’ll say it again. Who you think you are in how you act and respond to things, how withdrawn or outgoing you are, how volatile or passive you become in arguments, this is not set in stone. These are a collection of coping habits that have just been left, without introspection. We must go deeper in our processing to find the origins of these ways of acting. Our true selves, our real personalities may have shades of the outward ways we deal in the world, but they are softer, kinder, more loving. Our true selves, the ones that have constant union with Jesus are at peace. If you’re not feeling peace, your in your maladaptive self. The adapted self is running on survival. It does what it needs to do to stay safe even it that means pull all the way back and say nothing, or scream in peoples faces. Neither is truly adaptive. Therapy is useful to figure out what elements of your personality are old coping mechanisms. Sarcasm, judgementalism, making jokes about everything, quick frustration, avoidance. These are all learned and perhaps worked once upon a time, but they block us from authenticity and intimacy.
We need to learn how to speak from our hearts, ladies and gentlemen. We need to learn how to say what we feel in risky ways and know that we can make it through the other side no matter how others respond. We get to have our full expression, as long as it is respectful. Some of us have our full expression but it’s pitted with rage. Others say nothing and fume silently. Neither is who we really are.
Are you outgoing because no-one paid attention to you? Are you shy because you witnessed a bunch of abuse in your home growing up? Was it safer to stay in your room, silent? Question your ways. Start to observe yourself and wonder why you are the way you are. Why did you choose your job? Are you in a powerful position because inside you feel weak, were told you were useless by people? Why did you choose your romantic partner? Was it because they seemed to have it all together, but inside of you is low self esteem (even though he or she is abusive, distant, addicted, broken)? These are obviously just examples of wonderings you might want to try. Leave no rock unturned. Examine your life to gain some wisdom and understanding.
Going to therapy can help because really good therapists make gentle observations about what they notice that might not be workin’ for ya. It might feel comfortable to act in certain ways and you’ve been doing it for so long it feels like who you are, but it’s actually just a character defect that needs to go once and for all. It’s going to feel so uncomfortable when you start asking God to remove these patterns of behavior that are actually hurting you because it’s all you might know as an adult. I think so many people avoid coming into therapy because change is scary. Who will I be without my fear? My anger? My jokey-jokey self? Who will I be without my dismissiveness? Will people love me if I stop helping them so much? Will people care about me if I stop playing the victim? The answer to all of these questions is that you will be you, the authentic you, underneath all the layers that life has left upon you. Most people will draw closer to this you because people love authenticity and vulnerability.
There’s no shame in having character defects, we all have them. Continuing to live with them without working on them and asking God to remove them, that’s where you’re going to keep ending up with the short stick. The maladaptive ways we coped as a child for security tend to push people further away from us and leave us with painful consequences as adults. Those areas that you know have caused you relationship problems are the ones it’s time to come in and work on in therapy. Some defects go away quickly, others take a lot of time. Some we hold onto really, really tightly because its terrifying to release them to God. Even those will change and be released if we work as if it’s all up to us and pray as if it’s all up to Him. It is possible to uncover who you really are underneath the “personality” you had to create to survive, and it’s worth it. You are worth it.