You can’t change others; you can only change yourself. I was explaining this to a couple in for marital counseling.
I shared with them that modern day therapy is not about wallowing around in the past. Instead it is about changing behavior. That’s why counseling is no longer referred to as mental health. It’s now called behavioral health.
In listening to them and trying to find one behavior that I could target for change – I realized that they were both bossing each other around as if they were each others’ children. When I pointed this out, they had to agree and admitted that they bossed their friends around too.
If the marriage had any hope of succeeding this had to stop. So I sent them home with an assignment. Stop trying to change each other, fix each other, dominate each other.
I explained that we would work on each individually. You can’t change others; you can only change yourself.
The wife texted me after the session and thanked me profusely for relieving them both of this heavy burden. I would agree profusely. Taking care of ourselves is a full time job. Who has time for another full time job?
This of course applies to adults over age 18. Children? We have a mandate to boss them around but please do this in a healthy way. At 18 however, they get the same respect we give other adults.
That is, no advice unless asked for and even then – be careful. Giving advice to other adults, unless licensed to do so (that’s me) can become addictive.
Another client of mine told me her whole family was bossy and told everybody else what to do and how to do it. This behavior was so ingrained in her, she never once questioned whether it was healthy. And healthy it certainly was not, as she had spent most of her adult life mad at others who didn’t do things her way.
Further, she told me that her entire country of origin (not the US) was bossy. I said surely you’re joking. She said most assuredly she was not. Now she’s on the road to bossiness recovery and happier and healthier for it.
So whether it’s your marriage, family, friends, or your entire country, let your mantra be: You can’t change others; you can only change yourself.