“Often people create faulty narratives to make themselves feel better in the moment, even though it makes them feel worse over time. Sometimes they need somebody else to read between the lines.” – Lori Gottlieb
I am a passionate advocate for therapy because, as a humans, we are often so oblivious of our own blind spots. Whether we are prone to viewing ourselves as the poor victim, the consistent victor, the perpetual screw-up or the infallible voice of reason, we are probably often mistaken. Things are very rarely as they seem to us, and attending consistent therapy sessions helps us to adjust the lenses through which we take in the world.
While many of us have well-meaning friends with a plethora of experience and insight, therapists are trained specialists, educated and well-versed in matters of the mind. They are equipped with tools to help you reframe your thinking. They are skilled at sifting through the smoke screens that may deceive the people in our everyday lives, and they can cut straight through to the heart of a matter.
Therapists are thoughtful, taking notes on what we share and how we say it. They spend time thinking of us, analyzing and considering us and the best ways to help us.
If we are not careful to repair our hurts, we will repeat them in the important relationships that make up our lives.
I have been in therapy for about 5 years, and it has helped me to get through major transitions. I began my sessions while I was in the first year of my marriage. I was bringing to my marriage all of my baggage from growing up with a mother who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Having a narcissistic parent results in someone who:
- Believes how they look is more important than how they feel
- Lives with debilitating self-doubt, never fully trusting their emotions
- Struggles with feeling seen or heard
- Has difficulty developing a healthy sense of self
- Never feels good enough
- Believes he/she is unworthy of love
…and that’s not even all the damage!
Needless to say, I needed to get some help with pulling it together if my marriage was going to have any chance at surviving. Attending therapy helped me to heal from my past, forgive my mother, and set healthy boundaries with her when she tried to assert herself over my life and my marriage.
Therapy helped me to grieve when my mother got really sick, and then again when she died. Therapy helped me on my journey to weight loss and overcoming food fixation. Therapy was there for my when I was pregnant with my son and full of fear that I would become my mother. Therapy was there for me when I stepped down from being the director of a preschool and began to pursue writing a book and public speaking about my wellness journey.
I would not be anywhere close to the woman I am today without therapy. My transformation has not been quick or easy, but it has been worth it.
If someone is not seeing progress with their therapist, I have two suggestions:
1. Try a new therapist.
Therapists are as unique as people are because, well… they are people! My first therapist was a nurturing, hispanic woman in her (I’m guessing) 50’s. She was kind to me and helped to piece me back together. With her gentleness, she helped me to see that my life had not, in fact, killed me. I was capable. There was hope for me. She was wonderful.
Due to a change in her scheduling, I was forced to find someone new, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. She helped me to see how life was making me stronger. She is a sassy, African American woman in her (I’m guessing) 40’s. She is not as gentle as my first therapist, but she is exactly what I need. She has helped me to overcome my fears, realize that I’m good with living, and now it is time to thrive. Under her care, I’ve begun to write my book, and I’ve started speaking at conferences to share my message.
If you are not getting what you want out of therapy, don’t give up on therapy. Try a new therapist.
2. Just keep swimming.
I reference the popular quote from the Disney Pixar character Dory as a means to say just keep on going to your sessions. It took a long time for your problems to form, and it could take a long time to untangle them. Like I said, I’ve been in therapy for 5 years, and I still need to go. Life is ever-evolving. Sometimes I talk about old issues, and sometimes I talk about what’s new. There have been times when I’ve been very close to giving up on therapy. “I have nothing else to say”, but that is not true. And even if it is, therapists are skilled at helping you find what to talk about. Don’t give up. There is true power in persisting.
There is so much stigma and unfortunate bad ideology surrounding someone attending therapy, especially in the south and in families of color. However, if you can break though all of that to begin add psychotherapy to your healing journey, there is so much benefit. Therapists help you to see patterns to which you may have been unaware, and they help you to see the ways in which you can take control of your life. Many aspects of our lives are out of our control, but what a therapist helps you to harness is the areas that are in your grasp and subject to your dominion. That makes all the difference.
Why would you not want to take advantage at the chance to finally feel in control of your own life? There is not a price tag for that.