It can be difficult to maintain old friendships when we change and grow. As authenticity, awareness, self care and confidence increase, it doesn’t work so well being around those who continue with self defeating thinking and behaviour. We naturally start to see the blocks we and others put up, and no longer want to participate in or collude with those.
I find it harder to tolerate anger, addictions and distorted unconscious thinking now. It was tolerable before when my self worth was lower and I had the distorted belief that it was okay, even if it was uncomfortable or even painful.
Even the healthier long term associations with friends and family can be tricky to navigate as we change. There are many many shared ‘norms’ and expectations. These can weigh heavily as habitual responses are always present and easily triggered. And we are doing this to others too!
The familiarity of mutual expectation is an enjoyable aspect of old friendships and family relationships too. Knowing someone well and knowing what to expect of each other allows a feeling of being secure and comfortable with others.
However, habitual expectations that make old relationships so cosy and familiar can make some interactions feel ‘scripted’. And responding in the habitual way can start to jar if it is no longer resonates with us.
What do we do when there are beliefs or values we once shared that we no longer share now that we have changed?
Or become less apologetic when others are used to the way we have always apologised excessively? Or express ourselves more confidently, experience greater happiness and success?
Much of the time others adjust and the relationship is maintained, it can feel restrictive though at times as we naturally don’t want others to feel uncomfortable and often there’s a temptation to just be the way we have always been.
There’s a freedom in being around new people. They don’t know us, don’t know what to expect and so we can experiment all we want. And in that experimenting we can discover new ways to express our altered self that can be uncomfortable with the old familiars.
We can play with our way of expressing ourselves, perhaps striking notes that are more in harmony with our matured self. And gain confidence as we practise hearing ourselves without old habits we have developed. Perhaps less self apology and more confident and see how we sound, how this feels.
In the Carlos Castaneda books, his teacher, Don Juan Matus, insisted on the extreme step of making him ‘erase personal history’ and that meant leaving everything and everyone behind. This was in order to escape from the restrictive influence of the past and become transformed. I see some people do a version of this by moving to a new city or country and starting afresh. This includes my own sister who has blossomed in her new life when she moved 25 years ago.
It can be experienced in a less extreme way though. There are ways of mixing with new people and groups of people, on courses, workshops, classes. That’s the route I’ve chosen and it has been so interesting and expansive experiencing the freedom from mutual expectation.