When You Get Better, They Might Get Worse

Client Lecture #57: As you become more healthy, those around you may become less healthy.

This is something I find myself saying to clients after they’ve worked hard and start to feel better about themselves. It is a warning that sets their expectations so they don’t start to believe they are doing something wrong or that they are not actually becoming more healthy.

What I mean by this lecture is that, in my experience, the more dysfunctional friends and family members of my clients often don’t really want them to get better. They like my clients just as they were when they first came to see me. They won’t admit this, but they like the doormat, the co-dependent, the submissive, the broken person my client used to be. They probably got benefits from my client being that way and wish my client would go back to being that way. They may do things, including increasing their own dysfunctional behaviors, to get my client to return to his or her original state. The more my client resists this and stays on the “healthy path,” the more they complain and make life difficult for my client.

This may go on forever and my client may just have to learn to live with it, or separate from those people. Or, those people may begin to realize they are not going to get enabled like they used to be and either find another enabler or (hopefully) seek out a healthier path for themselves.

At any rate, if you have seen or experienced this pattern, don’t worry. It seems to be a natural and expected part of the process.

Please let me know what you think of this posting. Thanks!

Copyright 2013 Daniel J. Metevier

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