I'm not myself today
It can be very difficult in an age of diagnosis to determine whether what we feel is ‘normal’ or whether we should be worried about something. One of these ‘somethings’ is the feeling that we’re different with different people... possibly to the extent that we feel almost like lots of different people or different versions of ourselves.
You may worry that you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID - formerly known as Multiple-Personality Disorder), or Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder. I’m not denying the importance of recognising these disorders, but I am throwing something else into the mix for you to consider.
There is a theory in person-centred counselling called ‘configurations of self’ which suggests that maybe all of us in some way or another have different versions of our self inside (Mearns and Thorne, 2007). Maybe there is a particularly ‘outgoing you’ that appears at parties, but when you’re alone you become very low and withdrawn – ‘depressed you’. Maybe there are certain friends you have that when you’re with them you become like a teenager again – ‘rebellious you’ but when you’re with your boss you feel like a child – ‘child you.’ Does this sound familiar? Throughout our lives, we learn to adapt our behaviours around what other people expect of us. This can leave us with some very distinct ‘selves’ that we instinctively pull out for different occasions or different people. Sometimes these selves can feel like polar opposites which can be when we start to worry, especially if these opposites mean that you have to cope with high highs and low lows.
So what can you do? How can counselling help with something like this? As I mentioned before, these different selves are often moulded around how we feel others expect us to behave or what we feel will please others. Counselling can help you to get in touch with your ‘true’ self; the you at the core of all these selves (this is not to say that these different selves are not genuine parts of you) and begin to explore the self that is there to please nobody but you. Exploring and understanding, and even accepting that you have needs and wants and likes that you are allowed to have, regardless of what other people expect of you, can begin to bring these different selves closer together, so to speak. The extremes may become less extreme or it may feel like these selves begin to merge together a little more to create a self that feels more coherent. The person you are can be more focused on who you want to be and not on what lots of other different people and situations demand of you.
As with anything in counselling, it’s a process and no-one will really know what these ‘selves’ look like or feel like except you - and the process will look different for everyone. Always talk to your GP if you’re worried. This is just another way of looking at who you are and another way for you to make sense of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which I hope may help you on your journey.
Mearns, D & Thorne, B. (2007). Person-centred Counselling in Action (3rd Ed.) London: Sage.
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About Laura Hughes
Laura Hughes is a qualified person-centred counsellor and Registered Member of the BACP based in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire.