By David Joel Miller.
Everyone seems to keep telling me the same thing!
Ever had this experience? All over town seems like you keep hearing the same things. You go to your friend and they tell you something. Later that day a parent or spouse tells you something very much like what your friend says. When you ask your counselor they tell you more or less the same thing again. What is going on here?
Clients frequently remark to me after I have made a statement, “that what my — said.” There are some therapists who never tell clients anything. They just ask “how does that make you feel” and sit back and listen. I can’t and don’t do it that way. But I do sometimes provide the client with some information or my opinion.
We professionals try or should try to avoid telling clients what to do. It is your life not mine that we are talking about and what is right for me is not necessarily right for you. But sometimes clients are missing what is going on and I owe it to them to tell them if I am seeing something in them they don’t. That can be a good or a bad thing I see.
Plenty of clients come in depressed and discouraged. They don’t think they can do much of anything. I often see potential. I also see what they would need to do to reach that potential. I think they need to know both that I think they could accomplish a goal if they tried and also what trying for one goal might cost them in other opportunities given up. The choice is of course up to them.
When professionals do this sort of suggesting, we try to make it clear that this is your life and you are stuck with the results. You better make the decision that is right for you. Other people in your life may not be thinking that way.
So when you hear the same thing over and over you may need to consider who is saying it and why.
There is a saying in recovery circles that if several people tell you the same thing you need to take a serious look at that. There may be three reasons or more that this keeps happening.
1. We are never very objective about ourselves.
We tend to get into a rut in our thinking. We think we are doing things correctly. Not just you and I but people in general. So when someone says we should be doing things in our lives differently we tend to discount that advice.
If several people tell us this same thing they may be seeing something in us or in our situation that we have not been able to see. Take a look at how they perceive the situation. If these are friends or other recovering people they may be trying to be helpful telling you the way you appear to the world. Quite often we do not look to others anything like we think we do.
Sometimes the worst kinds of secrets we have are the ones we keep from ourselves. These are things we do not want to recognize about ourselves but they are painfully obvious to others around us. These kinds of truths are agonizing to hear but the worst kinds of lies are the ones we tell ourselves.
Don’t keep things about yourself a secret from you.
2. You may now be ready to hear this information.
Remember the old saying “When the student is ready the teacher will appear?” Sometimes we have not been ready or able to hear something, especially something negative about ourselves and our lives. Once we become open to hearing this sort of feedback people become more open and willing to tell us like it really is, not the way we would like to hear them say things are.
Your friends and family may try to avoid telling you things because they think you are not ready to hear them. They may also avoid telling you the truth because people who are not ready for the truth are likely to get angry or hurt.
3. Sometimes the people who are telling us things have ulterior motives.
If your drug using friends tell you something, they may want you to stay sick and using. Misery does indeed like company, especially if that miserable person can get something out of you.
People who are abusive or want to keep you from trying will be glad to point out all your faults. They usually do this by way of discouraging you from trying.
People who want you to be your best will not only point out your faults but may be willing to make suggestions on how you can overcome those obstacles.
If the message you are getting is don’t try, you will never be successful, discount that message. If the message you are hearing is that you have some defects of character that are holding you back, then seriously consider if those are things you are ready and willing to change about yourself.
If you have been hearing the same thing from multiple sources, take some time to consider if this is useful information that you need to hear.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- Hope is contagious (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Guilt and Shame (counselorssoapbox.com)
- The problem easy button (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Waiting for the Ah-Ha moment (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Would you want to go on a trip with you? (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Learning to feel (counselorssoapbox.com)
- 5 Rules for Helping and Being Helped (counselorssoapbox.com)
- That’s not what I meant – Words can interfere with communication – Denotative and connotative meanings (counselorssoapbox.com)