How to deal with outgrowing people after starting therapy

Therapy changes you, or at the very least, it makes you see the world and the people in it a little differently.

Prince Harry gets it. He recently spoke frankly about dealing with his trauma through therapy, admitting the process altered some of his relationships.

Speaking to with trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté on a livestream, he said that while therapy has been good for him, it has made him feel more distant from loved ones. 

‘A lot of families are complicated, a lot of families are dysfunctional, but for me, when I was doing therapy regularly…I felt that I learned a new language,’ he explained.

Sadly, he soon found that those around him ‘didn’t speak that language,’ causing him to drift away from them. 

‘This is working for me and I’m starting to go back to the point of trauma and unpack everything so I can be truly happy…but at the same time I’m feeling more and more distant from my loved ones and my family,’ he said.

What Prince Harry described is often a sad (but sometimes necessary) byproduct of self-discovery. 

Becky Quaife, 23, started therapy around four years ago. 

After about a year of learning about herself and her mind, she began to come into her own, and started to notice big changes in her relationships as a result, particularly with her significant other. 

‘I felt like I was becoming a different person, but the person that I was kind of becoming and changing into didn’t align with the relationship I was in,’ she tells

The problem was that, while Becky was changing ‘a hell of a lot,’ her boyfriend wasn’t. 

‘He was very stuck and stagnant,’ says Becky. ‘So the more I grew and changed, the bigger the gap between us grew, and the more different our relationship became.’ 

Eventually, Becky ended the relationship, as she felt it was no longer serving her. 

While it isn’t always necessary to cut people off, feeling your relationship dynamics shift – sometimes to the point of no return – isn’t uncommon for people going through therapy. 

‘Being in therapy can be a transformative experience, but it can also lead to outgrowing certain people in your life,’ explains Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar, a relationship counsellor and parenting coach.

This, she tells, is because ‘therapy often involves gaining greater self-awareness and insight into the patterns and dynamics that shape our relationships’.

Essentially, we change – a lot – and sometimes we find that we’re no longer on the same page as those around us who haven’t taken the steps to become more aware of how their behaviour is influenced by their own patterns and life experiences. 

‘As we become more attuned to our own needs and values, we may find that some of our close friendships or relationships no longer align with who we are becoming,’ Yasmin continues. 

Some people may react negatively to your new self, especially if they feel intimidated or like they’re being left behind. 

Sometimes, says Yasmin, our loved ones aren’t able to ‘accept or understand the changes we’re going through’.

But, oftentimes, outgrowing people can lead to feelings of disconnect, even in close friendships and relationships, and that can be the most painful thing of all, and can lead to some people feeling alienated from their loved ones. 

So, how can you navigate these feelings? It comes down to compassion, patience and an understanding that not all relationships are forever, and that’s fine. 

Communicate with compassion

As Yasmn says, it’s important to be open with your loved ones about the realisations you’re having and the changes you’re experiencing as a result. 

However, you need to be mindful of how you communicate these feelings to others.

‘Communicating with some compassion can be helpful, especially if you know if they have been struggling with similar issues,’ explains Yasmin. ‘They may be more sensitive and feel you are rubbing their nose in it and, as a result, become defensive.’

Don’t expect everyone to see where you’re coming from straight away, and be sure to give them some space to understand and get used to the new you. 

Set boundaries but be flexible 

When going through therapy, it’s likely you’ll become more aware of the boundaries you want to put in place, whether that’s being less of a people-pleaser or expecting respect from all of your relationships.

‘It’s important to set healthy boundaries around behaviours or dynamics that no longer serve you, while also remaining open to compromise and negotiation,’ says Yasmin.

Again, you can’t expect people to understand and conform overnight.

Give people a chance to get used to your new boundaries and accept that there may be some teething problems.

With that being said, if someone regularly disregards your boundaries, it may be time to cut them off. 

Seek out new connections

Finally, Yasmine says, you should ‘seek out new social connections or communities that align with your evolving interests and values’.

Importantly, you can do this ‘while still maintaining meaningful connections with those from your past who support your growth’.

Not everyone is going to be on the same journey as you, and that’s okay. 

You don’t need to cut them off completely, but you can redefine the relationship.

As Becky says: ‘Eventually, you realise that you can have lots of different types of friendships and relationships with different people and they don’t all have to be the same thing – and that’s quite freeing.’

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