The Art of Being Influenced – Part 1 of 2
(How your thoughts about change either help or hinder you)
Cognitive Therapy teaches you to examine your thoughts and beliefs and restructure the irrational or distorted ones. I want to explore a common type of thought distortion called black and white (also known as all-or-nothing) thinking within the context of change or personal growth. Consider the following examples:
Thought: “If someone (my girlfriend, husband, friend, etc.) asks me to change a part of myself, then they do not value who I truly am.”
Belief: “I cannot (or should not) change who I am.”
These are examples of black and white thinking. Now let’s take a closer look:
These thoughts serve the purpose of protecting and preserving your sense of self and identify, which means they are inherently good. However, in doing so, they often act like quicksand by keeping you stuck and partially (or fully) hidden from yourself and others. Furthermore, the healthiest human connection occurs when two people are open to the influence of each other; particularly during instances where a pattern of behavior is negatively impacting one person or the relationship as a whole.
Here’s the beautiful and encouraging truth, though: You don’t have to resist changing who you are, because who you truly are is unchangeable.
The core of who you are is a unique, vast place, overflowing with an endless amount of potential and worth. These qualities do not change because of your circumstances (how much money you have, your experiences, your looks, your relationship status, your choices). Your core qualities of endless potential and worth are entirely separate from external factors, and they are unchangeable. Throughout your life, you become disconnected with your core self and hidden from your truest identity. You over-identify with things that don’t matter nearly as much as your core qualities. Your most painful experiences distort your own opinion of who you are. Or your identity is entirely attached to external, shifting circumstances. All of us are somewhere on the continuum of unraveling these distortions.
Identifying primarily with the qualities of your core self is a lifelong journey that you must choose to travel daily. Tending to the connection you have with your truest identity is what it means to have a good relationship with yourself. I imagine an old house restored to its previous glory and beauty. Even though the house is fully restored, it must be actively maintained.
On the journey of identifying primarily with the qualities of your core self, you must continually discern between positive and negative influences. There is no perfect formula to follow. You must incorporate and prune influences at a level and pace that feels personally honoring. This requires you to make very difficult choices and let go of old patterns or adopt new ones. This is a very personal, empowering, and sacred expression of art.
Yes, opening yourself to influence will change how you are. A positive influence aligns you with the core of who you truly are. A negative influence disconnects you from the core of who you truly are.
I will explore this process further in Part 2 of 2 – The Art of Being Influenced – How your thoughts about change either help or hinder you.
In the meantime, let’s take all of this perspective and restructure the thought and belief from the example at the beginning:
Thought: “Perhaps _____ (my girlfriend, husband, friend, etc.) cares enough about me and our relationship to be honest about where we’re stuck. I can be open to their influence while also maintaining control over what change looks like for me.”
Belief: “My work is to connect with my core self and truest identity. I understand this is an ongoing process.”
How does this land for you? What questions do you have?
I hope you find this blog post to be thought-provoking and helpful. Please share your thoughts and feedback with me! What would you like for me to address in Part 2 of The Art of Being Influenced?
Jacquie Drury MA, LPCC