Category Archives: something to ponder

thoughts on various topics related to wellness and mental health

no magic wand, no crystal ball

The therapist only knows what you tell them.  Sure, if the therapist has experience, they could probably surmise some things that you may not have spoken about yet, and hopefully, ask you directly to see if certain things are true for you.  The more you work therapy, the more it will work for you.  The amount of help a therapist can provide is directly proportional to how much work you are willing to do.  This is important to realize because at times, therapists are seen as having some form of magical qualities that will make you ‘better’.    This is not so.  YOU make yourself better by working at making the changes that you want to, and need to, make.  Therapy is useful when you need extra guidance, support or insight into how to make changes and/or address whatever blocks your path.

 

pass the scalpel, please

If you are contemplating going into therapy for the first time, chances are you are not in a good place in your life; and chances are that you are worried you are entering into psychotherapy hell – will you actually be helping yourself by spending all this money to talk about your past?  Will the therapist diagnose you as crazier than you had thought you were?  Or worse yet, maybe the therapist will laugh and think you’re silly.  Will they understand – and will you be able to explain?

All these are possibly valid questions related to the fears you are having, and ultimately it is up to you to enter and/or leave a psychotherapy relationship.  There is a financial commitment, a commitment to yourself.  If you have tried self-help books; talking to friends; late night postings on related-to-your-problem sites to no avail, maybe you need to try therapy.  The biggest difference is the fact that you will have a live human being in front of you; you will be having a conversation – in real time.

Therapy is not like surgery, however.  The therapist will not pick apart your brain and take the bad, diseased part out.  If only…

This is a core fear about therapy – about finding out there is something inherently wrong with you – some ‘diseased part’.  Actually, there is no ‘diseased part’.  The aspects of yourself that give you the most trouble are probably strengths taken out of context;  coping skills and other behaviors that no longer work for you;   survival skills that are no longer necessary; knee-jerk reactions from past events that you just can’t erase.

Therapy could also be about finding out what is right with you and how to use your strengths more effectively.  Who knows, you could even become happier with yourself just as you are.

 

 

inner child

I see this song as sung by the singer’s inner child to the singer.   In Pink’s Family Portrait, the child is her as they are dressed in the same clothes and even have the same beauty marks on their faces. It’s not until she acknowledges this inner child that she gets to a better place.

 Pink – Family Portrait

So much has been written about inner child work.  The main premise of inner child work centers on the idea that there is an aspect of the adult that remains a child and holds the emotional memories of events and experiences as well as reactions.  This inner child needs to be given a voice.  Usually, as adults, we reject ideas or feelings that intellectually we know are not ‘appropriate’ for us to feel, or that we don’t want to feel, and so these feelings are never verbalized.  They usually leak out, however, in ways that are difficult to control, like when we are very upset,  and that we usually later regret.

Therapy is a forum to give voice to all the illogical parts of you – in a safe, non-judgmental forum.  Parts of you that are exasperating because you already should ‘know better’, but you still cannot stifle.

making changes

Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Changing is difficult; taking risks; going down a new path.  Familiar misery feels safer than the unknown leap into something we desire.

At times, it is difficult to really see ‘why’ is nothing changing “even though I desire it so?”.  One difficulty is that an individual looks at the horizon, their goal or destination but then does not look at where their feet are planted, nor do they take the next step.   All these inspirational messages are for naught when we cannot apply them to our own lives.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.  Hmm – how does this relate to my own complicated life?  This sounds sweet, but my situation is unique.   The distance between the present and the destination appears insurmountable.  I’m different.  Or worse yet, I’m not different, I’m just a loser, a dreamer that won’t get anywhere.  I know better, but still I don’t do it.

Looking at this through a ‘cognitive -behavioral’ perspective, how you look at yourself and the steps you need to take is what ultimately helps or hinders you.  The most common reasons that an individual doesn’t take the ‘first’ or the ‘next’ step are:

it’s not enough

I need to do more than that

If it’s already months/years later and you are still saying the same thing to yourself, it’s time to look at this more closely.  It’s time to turn this around and do it even though you don’t think it’s enough.  Make the step so easy, that you know that you could do it with your eyes closed.  So small, that when you’re done, you feel like taking more steps.  Don’t!  But you already know the drill.  You then burn yourself out, and stop altogether.  Keep things slow and steady; take it very slow and keep it easy.

For every step forward – you will still have to contend with your self esteem and self confidence that will start clamoring for you to go back to bed or to do more than you planned.

Making changes is difficult; one cannot do this alone – if you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.  It’s important to get others involved in the changes you want to make.  Sometimes it’s good to get someone outside of your primary support network.  Sometimes they may have their own stakes in whether or not you change.  Getting involved in a support group with others who are trying to make similar changes is one way to expand your network of support.  Getting a therapist is another.

What changes have you been wanting to make?   Do you keep making the same plan over and over again, expecting it to be different this time?  Do you stop yourself before you even start?  It’s time to turn to the sun and unfurl your petals.

 

practice makes progress

Practice makes progress.  You can aspire to perfect, possibly, but only if this aspiration does not leave you feeling like you are eternally falling short.  Self esteem and self confidence come from doing esteemable things.  Doing those things that you would admire yourself for if you were to do them regularly, if they were part of your identity.  What could those things be?  Having plants that live because you are able to take care of them.  Pets that thrive and are happy.  Calling people back.  Not gossiping.  Saying no when you want to say no.  Asking for what you need.  Asking for a raise.  Being a hard worker.  These are only a few.  Some are big and long term – like having a pet, and some involve less steps, but not necessarily less intense – like calling someone back.

The other aspect to this is that you may be very successful in one area of your life – you may be very successful on your job; or successful as a parent or very outgoing.   Sometimes people hang their hat on their strengths and avoid looking at their limitations.  Part of becoming well rounded – emotionally, physically and spiritually fulfilled – you need to look at the aspects of yourself that are not working for you.

Working on improving some aspect of yourself does not take away your successes or your strengths.  In fact, often times, your strengths are usually the source of your weakness when in a different context.   Take a look at your strengths and your limitations.  No matter what you may be thinking, you do have both.  Are you feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually satisfied with what you are doing?

 

shame and isolation

Shame and Isolation:  these two states exacerbate mental unwellness.  Shame is essentially, believing in your own low self-worth; your ‘wrongness’; and often, shows your inability to forgive yourself – your sense that possibly you ought not to be forgiven.  If you are ashamed of yourself – your thoughts or your actions, it is very difficult to tell someone else.  There is the fear of being judged or scorned.  Isolation keeps you apart from others that may be able to give you a different perspective on your situation.

Shame and isolation are obstacles to healing because they block learning new ways of coping; of viewing the situation differently; or even of looking at yourself in a less harsh way.  The thing that keeps shame and isolation alive is your own belief that what you are thinking is true, is correct, and that there are no alternatives.  People close to you may also be telling you the same thing which only serves to keep things as they are.

Psychotherapy is one way of exploring these issues in a setting that is safe and free from judgment.  One of the tasks in psychotherapy is to identify and take responsibility for your role in your problems but let go of the immobilizing guilt or blame for things that you are not in fact responsible for.

When an individual is in depression/anxiety and/or a dysfunctional family system – it is hard to see the forest for the trees.  It seems easier to remain ashamed and isolated than to risk some unknown consequence for saying out loud the things that are weighing you down.

The biggest risk you now face is finding an individual you can trust.  It could be a therapist, a friend, a priest, or a family member.  It’s up to you to take that step.

doing the next right thing

Setting goals; thinking about making changes can be very overwhelming.  We can write lists; read books; talk to others and get suggestions and after all is said and done, nothing happens.  Or, more precisely, we don’t do anything differently.  ‘Doing the next right thing’ is a simple way around complicated thinking on the change we want to make.  If we get caught up in whether what we want to do is THE right thing, we can remain stuck forevermore.  Maybe psychotherapy will not bring you the answers to all your questions.  Actually, it probably won’t – because no one thing is the answer.  Psychotherapy is simply one tool to add to your toolbox.  You probably have some other tools already that you know how to use welll; possibly some thing-a-ma-jigs that you are not quite sure what they’re for.  Psychotherapy can help you see your existing strengths and skills, as well as help you to develop new ones.