Sunday, July 27, 2008
When Our Friends Hold Us Back
All of us are made up of many 'selves', but other people generally get to see only one of them - our trusty persona. Our persona is the face we present to the world. We're constantly buffing it up to make sure it remains the same. The 'nice guy' must always be seen as nice. Bright kids will dummy down, adopting the persona of their more intellectually challenged schoolmates in order to fit in. Cynics never reveal an iota of faith in humankind lest they be labelled closet Pollyannas.
Frequently, when people try to step out of the boxes they've created around themselves, their friends sabotage their efforts. For example, people who have lost significant amounts of weight report being subtley and/or blatantly rejected by their fat friends. Perhaps they fear they'll be judged for remaining overweight. Or maybe it's just a case of misery loving company.
Several times in my life I've removed myself from my social circle in order to make it easier to reinvent myself. Now, I'm well aware that 'real' change must come from the inside. However, external changes can sometimes make our efforts at personal growth a lot easier. For instance, there was a point in high school when I felt myself becoming more and more alienated from my friends. My interests had broadened. I became more creative - writing and painting - spending more time alone in nature, and focusing on my spiritual journey. Activities such as, hanging out with my pals in our favorite pizza place, and competing to see who could wolf down the most pizza (one friend could actually eat two large pies, and still want more), just weren't doing it for me. As the bond between my cohorts and me lessened, I became increasingly more depressed. One day, acting on a whim, I took the Metro North train from Ct. into Manhattan. For reasons I still don't understand, I began pouring out my angst-ridden soul to the guy sitting next to me. I told him all about my unhappiness at no longer fitting in with my peers. As fate would have it (I really don't believe in accidents) my fellow traveller turned out to be a shrink. Here is a paraphrasing of the simple, but powerful advice he gave to me. He said, "Relax. In a couple of years, fitting in with your current friends will cease to be an issue. Once you,re on your own you'll gather friends around you who share your deeper interests - people who support your emerging self." Being a neurotic adolescent, I didn't assimilate the lesson immediately. Nonetheless, his prediction did come true.
Two years later, I postponed college and became a member of that crazy, diverse, and hyper-creative community at the very tip of Cape Cod. I was never happier. It was a rich, new, life filled with magic - 'real' magic- ( I'll get more into that in future blogs) and mystery. Practically everyone I knew was an artist, writer or musician, and - more importantly - they were focused on inner elightenment.
Summing up the lesson I learned from the commuting shrink: If you want to make a fundamental change in yourself, or maybe just shake things up a bit, consider a change of environment. You could move to a new location, or - if that's not feasible - take a vacation in a place markedly different from where you are now. In the same way that fasting at the onset of a diet can dial-up your metabolism, a different environment - free of old ties, and old patterns - can jump start your process of personal growth. Give it a try. It just might work. Life is all about change. Good Luck! See ya, Glen