Here’s what happens. In high school, we can’t be picky. Literally. We don’t have the tools to. We are just discovering who we are. There’s no way of knowing who will contribute to our growth because we don’t know what growth looks like. Combine that with the force of peer pressure and our natural desire for acceptance and approval at that age and friends become labels, how we identify ourselves. Skaters, cheerleaders, jocks, band geeks, gangsters. This is the social model that sets us up for life. According to Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development, our basic strengths at this age are devotion and fidelity. Instead of finding ourselves in friends, we lose ourselves in them. Then, in college, we start to form beliefs. We have ideas, opinions, and choices. Now we’re able to give instead of take. We have tools to start looking for mutual, satisfying relationships. This means we can slowly peel our labels off. Or at least there’s an opportunity for that. For many, it’s make up time, a chance to redeem what you missed out on in high school. Now that you’ve blossomed, you can be the prom king. And this is where the road forks. If that “make up time” never gets made up here, meaning you don’t get your crown and realize it’s made of plastic, it carries on into our twenties. I believe this is when our Pseudo Self is the strongest. We posture, perform, desperately try to prove ourselves to others. There is a danger in this. We drift further from our Solid Self. We try to redo instead of reinvent. This keeps us from finding our Top Five, friends that will make us the best version of us.
Now, if you fall in love and get married in your twenties, your picket fence takes you down another road. Priorities get rearranged and you only have so much spare time. Your Pseudo Self clips your friends as if they were expired coupons. It tells you that all you need to be happy is your wife. Friends are extra. They become a spare, like the tire in your trunk. This is when you fall into codependency. You and your wife become enmeshed. You begin to live one life instead of two. Everything goes through the other person. Schedules, plans, money. You lose yourself in the relationship. This stunts personal growth, which means your container is cracked.
We must be aware of what may be preventing our growth. Back to transparency muscles. The stronger they are, the easier it is to shed labels, de-mesh from our lovers, attract friends that will call you out on your shit, support your strengths, challenge you, and accept you, completely.
You can’t build a safe container by yourself or just with your partner. Like any therapeutic community, you are rebuilding yourself through others. Finding your Top Five is a crucial piece in building your new container.
Keep leaning forward,