I was thinking about the work I do and it occurred to me that people who go into therapy usually have no idea how hard it is. As a therapist, I ask my clients to delve into their most painful memories, get in touch with their most repulsive feelings and learn to tolerate the most intolerable thoughts and experiences.
So why would anyone want to do this to themselves?
1. It’s about awareness
People don’t come to therapy because they already know what their problems or patterns are. They come to therapy because either a) someone has indicated they need to go, b) they feel like their lives aren’t going that well, or c) they have any number of symptoms that they want alleviated.
But very often, sometimes even in the first session, they will discover things about themselves that they never knew before. It is likely that these insights might contain information that you really don’t want to know about yourself. Very often therapy uncovers your vulnerabilities, your foibles, or your bad habits. But with awareness comes the ability to shift any unwanted tendencies and make adjustments to the ways in which you deal with your thoughts and feelings.
2. Your relationships will change
Psychology is about the individual and how each of us thinks, feels, and reacts to things in our environment. Therapy will bring awareness to your patterns and relationship styles. This might feel really uncomfortable as you will have to face and own up to the fact that you might make shitty life choices or that you might be responsible for hurting others. It’s never nice to realise that you are responsible for your relationship choices and that your own psychology is to blame for some of the shit in your life.
But on the upside, being made aware of these patterns and having the chance to re-think some of your decisions or be conscious enough to make a different choice in the future could make it all worthwhile. Sometimes we have to face our demons head on in order to know fully that we don’t want to choose that which does us harm.
And if you are able to take ownership of your thoughts, feelings and actions in your relationships then you will see the results instantly. Not only will you feel happier, clearer and more in control but you will find that people respond to you with greater respect and acceptance.
3. Learning to accept
On the topic of acceptance, I would say that the therapeutic process is much like some spiritual/esoteric practices in that it requires you to face yourself full on and to learn how to accept yourself, unconditionally.
First, you will come to therapy a total mess. You will either be totally defensive or you will be collapsed. Either way, you will get to see parts of yourself that you have been avoiding. This is going to be painful. You are going to come face to face with your insecurities and your self-loathing. Horrible, horrible concept.
But through the constant, reassuring presence of the therapist (who is available, loving, fair and compassionate) you will start to experience yourself as loveable and worthwhile. In time, you will start to experience yourself more positively and little by little the negative thoughts will start to lose power and positive self talk will take up more space in your mind.
Once you start to accept yourself, including all the yucky parts that you’ve been trying to avoid thinking about or being aware of your whole life, then you will start to see the magic in the world again. And then you will be on your way to being free.
4. The tough times pass
The biggest surprise that most people get when they come to therapy is that “process” and “change” do not occur without the individual going through a bit of a bad patch during which they will most likely cry, feel sad, feel exhausted, feel drained, and feel just about every negative emotion there is. Therapy gets you in touch with your pain and there’s no way around it. Well there is, but then you probably won’t benefit as much. But the good news is that “this too shall pass” and “the only way out is through”. Two of my favourite sayings. Once you’ve gone through the shit and seen the darkness that lies within your soul, the release and relief that you will feel will make it all okay.
Then you will realise your own strength and your capacity to confront all manner of horrible, scary feelings and SURVIVE! Suddenly, the idea of crying or being in touch with deep grief won’t seem so threatening anymore because “hell, that’s just another therapy session”. You learn to tolerate pain and difficulty. And then, hopefully, the difficulties start to wane, the pain starts to fizzle out and pale in comparison to the joy and beauty in the world and the next thing you know you’re on the other side.
5. You will learn to cope better
All these awful and wonderful realisations and experiences might feel like being taken on an emotional roller coaster or being put through an emotional washing machine but this is just life. Therapy may be difficult but it is no harder than life itself. Once you realise that you can handle all of this stuff in the safe confines of the therapeutic space then you will feel more equipped to deal with the ups and downs that inevitably occur in all of our lives.
The lessons you’ve learned through therapy will help you navigate life’s emotional obstacle course that much better, with greater awareness and with more resources. You will find that you are braver, more confident in your abilities and more capable of handling any life crisis. And this experience in itself is validating and affirming, whereby strengthening and perpetuating the positive self experiences you’ve been having.
So why don’t you give it a go! You are welcome to contact me with any questions. Perhaps you’re thinking about going into therapy but not sure who to see or what kind of therapist to look for? Maybe you just want to find out a bit more about the practical side of things? How does therapy work? Can you fit it into your already busy schedule? Whatever your questions, feel free to hit me up. You can also check out my website for more details about the kind of work that I do.
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