Sue came to me following the breakup of a long term relationship which she felt she was unable to move on from. Sue told me “I can’t understand it, I have lots of friends who are so supportive, I am financially secure and I know that in many ways this was not a good relationship for me. Why am I in such a bad place and why can’t I just get on with my life? I feel so guilty at needing to be here. I have always managed myself, in fact people come to me with their problems. I should be able to move on from this. Other people have far worse lives than mine.”

We agreed to work together and as Sue told me her story it became clear that she had learned early in life to mask how she truly felt and take on a role of ‘looking after others’ and in doing so it had made her feel good about herself. As she began to understand and learn that it could be safe to express how you feel – both happy and sad, pleased and angry. She also began to transfer this new openness to relationships outside of counselling. She began to recognise patterns in relationships in how and why she chose certain partners and the destructive dynamics that operated in these relationships and she began to value herself and own the importance of her own self care. Sue learnt that she could still care for others and also care for herself. She made changes in how she engaged with others and who she chose to partner with.

“I did not realise how much hurt and anger I had buried inside of me and how this had impacted on how I felt about being me and how I behaved with others. I now know that I can be loved for being me and who I am and not for what I do for others. As I have changed I no longer feel I have to please others in order to be loved and accepted. Now I feel freed up, I am making different choices and I feel content with who I am. I’m not striving to be what I think I should be or worrying about what others think about me. Being able to talk more openly with trusted friends has strengthened our relationships and they just feel so much more balanced. I am in a new relationship now and I can already see and feel that this is different and I have changed “