As well as meditation, one of the most effective things that has helped me cope with difficult life situations has been to go and see a therapist for counselling. When I talk openly about this I get some interesting responses – some people look at me quite awkwardly then disengage their eye contact not knowing what to say, some tell me how brave I am to go to a therapist and some people just ask me about my experience. I find the first two responses quite interesting and it makes me wonder – why is it so taboo in our society to go and see a therapist?
It’s a strange conundrum because there’s a taboo around acknowledging all dark emotions, expressing them and reaching out for help when we need it. The thing is that as humans, we all have something in common – that we all feel good and bad emotions at one point or another. It’s like it’s one big secret that we all know about but if we acknowledge it then the World as we know it will combust into a tiny thousand pieces! Apart from, it won’t. In fact, the minute you start talking in a non-judgemental space is the minute that you start to heal.
Luckily I have some very supportive friends and family around me who supported my decision to go and find a therapist. I remember one of my friends saying “Just think you can anything you want to and get away with it, awesome” when I told her that I was booking in for my first therapy session. An interesting way to view it, I thought and it changed my viewpoint from negative shame to positive exploration.
The fact is that at some point everyone is going to go through a difficult life situation, and experience the negative emotions that come with those experiences. Emotions such as shame, guilt, anger and sadness and when that happens it’s damn right destructive to pretend they don’t exist and suppress them. So let’s all just step outside the closet for a minute and acknowledge that we’re human ok?
I guess being attacked allowed me the opportunity to seek help for my ‘difficult situation’, as though a classic traumatic event somewhat lifted the cloud of shame and weakness that hovers around seeing a therapist. Would I have gone to counselling if I was feeling trapped in a job or depressed about a relationship? No, I probably wouldn’t have, I probably would have told myself that I can deal with it and to carry on without addressing the problem – in fact, I have done this in the past. I remember a time when I worked in my first graduate office job where I was paid well, had good career prospects and a great benefits package but most nights I would come home deflated and in tears simply because I felt trapped in a situation and didn’t know how to get out it. The last thing I would have considered doing is talking to an unbiased professional to help me find a way out of my problem. However, had I had a more physical problem, like when my wisdom tooth was infected at the same period of time I wouldn’t have thought twice about seeking help from a professional to sort it out.
So why is it that we expect to fix a problem of the mind, with the mind and don’t seek external professional help? Would I try and fix my broken right arm with my broken right arm? No. Even if I was a Doctor I wouldn’t, because quite frankly that’s dumb. So why do it with the mind? I mean it’s only the part of the body which dictates how the rest of the body behaves and performs that we basically can’t full function without, surely it makes sense to tend to it like we do with the physical problems we have?
Back then I probably wouldn’t have talked about ‘feeling trapped’ as a problem, I was so ashamed and guilty for not feeling how I ‘should’ feel that I just suffered in silence and told myself that it was my fault. In the end, I quit my job but not without almost two years of putting myself through this personal torture. Had I seen a therapist at that time I probably would have found my solution a lot quicker because what a therapist does is give you the tools to explore those negative emotions and question why they’re there, which ultimately guides you towards your own solution.
The difference for me, this time, is that with so many traumatic events happening in such a short space of time, suppressing them was physically impossible. Being the ‘strong’ woman that I was, with a background in construction and sailing I didn’t view crying in front of people as socially acceptable, especially not in front of my male colleagues but with these traumatic events, I didn’t have a choice. The tears, aggression and panic attacks would come and there was nothing I could do to keep them at bay. It even got to a point where I couldn’t even trust my own judgement anymore because I couldn’t tell if I was seeing things through an emotion or not and this would ultimately affect all my thoughts and behaviour. After having therapy sessions for a while I realised how important it is to be able to talk a situation through in a non-judgemental space, which at the time was something that I didn’t have in my life because I just hadn’t reached that level of authenticity within myself to accept my own judgements.
Through counselling, I also realised how entrenched I can become in my emotions, to the point where it’s like I’m wearing blinkers which can be quite common especially in emotions life grief and (post-traumatic) stress but now that I’m aware of this I can see it in myself, and also strikingly in others. Others who tell me that everything’s fine, but deep down I know it isn’t. People, mostly men, who are locked in an emotional cave and don’t realise how beautiful their World could be if they stepped out. The thing here though is that people will only see a therapist when they are ready, so I can’t and won’t push people if they say that they’re fine. My mission, however, is to help clear the shame around dark emotions by openly sharing my story, standing tall and admitting that I feel shit sometimes too, but that when I talk about it I start to feel better.
Anyway, what’s the harm in going to a therapist just to find out what happens? Like my friend said it’s an opportunity to be in an emotionally safe space where you can say absolutely anything no matter how shameful or weird it is. Isn’t that first session worth it for the sake of a curious hour of productive mind exploration?If you’re ready for that kind of exploring then my article 3 Step Guide to Finding The Right Therapist is here to help you on your way. I guess, if you don’t like it, no one is forcing you to go again… although if you don’t like it then I would question why? It could be that it’s not the right counsellor or maybe it’s a judgement that comes from a protective mechanism that actually comes from the fear of being vulnerable. If you’re unsure then check out my article on When to Call it a Day With Your Therapist.
Enjoy exploring your inner psyche, I wish you well on your journey.