Hello lovelies! I make mistakes so you don't have to, so please gather 'round while I share the most important things I learned while screwing up my relationships with my teachers, mentors, coaches, and therapists.
Right-Size Your Expectations
I was raised by a narcissist, so I have some wounding around relationships. When I first started running into mentors and teachers on my spiritual development path, I hadn't dealt with a lot of that wounding, and I often wanted my mentors to be everything: teacher, mentor, parent, friend, and more. I sometimes realized they were just humans, but often found myself feeling resentful (or worse, betrayed) that they weren't perfect, according to whatever definition of perfect I was using that day. You can read more about those embarrassing episodes here.
After many years and many different sorts of mentors, I know that it's important to understand what types of helping relationships there are, and what they're good for. Because I am an artistically-challenged person who uses Excel way too often, I've made the following handy chart:
The first question is, of course, the most important. It's tough to make meaningful progress in our lives with anyone other than a therapist when our lives aren't going well. After many years of therapists that weren't able to help me, I finally found a fantastic therapist who treated me for an intensive six months of EMDR-assisted re-programming. After that, it was a lot easier for me to engage with my teachers and mentors in an emotionally-healthy way.
When our lives are basically going well already, it may be appropriate to add to our knowledge or reach toward a new goal with the help of a teacher, mentor, or coach.
Wrestle With Your Discomfort
Just like lifting weights in the gym, if it's not a bit challenging, we're doing it wrong. If it's exceedingly painful, we're also doing it wrong. The goal is to arrive at just enough discomfort to prompt growth.
With most helping relationships, there is a point at which we begin to feel uncomfortable. It's important to understand the source of the discomfort and spend some time thinking about what to do about it. Some things of the many things we might feel are:
I am an idiot. I'm never going to get this right.
I can see the work ahead of me and I'm afraid that I won't be able to do it.
This hurts. I don't want to feel this way.
This person is a grade-A a-hole.
This is a waste of my time and money.
Some questions we can ask ourselves to help get to the root of the problem include:
Have I chosen the right type of professional to meet my needs?
What did I want to get out of this relationship, and what am I actually getting?
Am I expecting too much of myself, too soon in the process? Do I need to give myself the opportunity to practice more before giving up?
Do I feel comfortable talking to my teacher/mentor/therapist/coach about what I'm feeling? If not, why not?
Are my beliefs, values, and basic personhood respected, or do I feel steamrolled or gaslighted? In turn, can I respect their beliefs and values?
How likely is it that I would have the same experience with a different person in a similar relationship arrangement? In other words, is root of the problem me and not them?
And finally, is the pain that I'm feeling necessary to reach the goal I seek? If so, do I want to reconsider my level of commitment to the goal, or press onward despite the discomfort?
Choose Your Next Steps
After considering deeply, we might decide to continue working with our helping professional, or choose to make a change.
If you find yourself not able to make a decision and would like some help to tease out what's what in your troubling relationship, please feel free to schedule a session with me. (A 30-minute session is enough to discuss one relationship, but most people like to get into other topics also and they choose the 60-minute session.)