"I'm not myself."
This is the reason clients most often give me for coming to see me. They have been waking up, wandering through their days with a vague sense of unease, some inherent knowing, that things are not the same as they were before.
"Not myself" looks different for everyone. For some people, it's feeling like they need to withdraw from the world. They don't want to talk or be seen by others. They want to be left alone. For others, it means they are raw with emotions like anger or anxiety, constantly trying to get out of their own skin even as they feel trapped by it.
Many times, "not myself" happens just when they think everything is as it should be. They may have achieved something important or been blessed with good things. Yet, they are not happy. They are not settled.
Human beings are so complicated when it comes to feelings of happiness, contentment and safety. We are further complicated in our understanding of what it means to "be myself". We are perhaps most complicated in this way because our "selves" that we are busy being are constantly in a state of flux, depending on what is happening around us and the meanings (both conscious and unconscious) that we make of that.
It's in these very complex places, that psychotherapy can be very helpful.
For instance, new parents often feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of the new life they are now responsible for. It brings stress, financial burdens and time burdens. It's also something they have longed for and perhaps worked very hard for. But in addition to these obvious things, parenthood can generate so many other shifts that end up creating a sense of being off balance, of "not myself".
Depending on their own experience of being parented, some people feel their childhood hurts and disappointments looming in ways they never expected. Some people respond to the sudden restriction in freedom in unanticipated ways. Some people feel they are loved less by a partner as attention turns elsewhere. In that new relational environment, with all that new information, the sense of self feels altered, and it is.
When we don't have the understanding of what is happening or when we lack the capacities to adapt smoothly, our function declines and our stability decreases. We start to use our most basic coping and our basic coping is not always nice to be around. We are not ourselves.
Psychotherapy can help you see how your patterns have shifted and how your environment has impacted your sense of who you are. Usually, the path back is not to "get back to your old self" but rather to help you adapt and grow into this new place. If you are "not yourself" who are you now? Is it okay to be this version of you and how can you be more resilliant within it? If there is pain here, what is it about? If there is change necessary, how do you effect it?
Within the frame of psychotherapy, we can see these things much more clearly together.
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