I didn’t know how or even if Psychotherapy could help me. However, I decided to see a Psychotherapist anyway.
In doing so, I have been able to identify 3 ways Psychotherapy can help anyone struggling with any aspect of their life.
Before going into the three different ways Psychotherapy can support you, I thought it would be helpful to go through why you might choose to see a Psychotherapist.
So I’ve added a Tedx Talk by Sam Fowler called ‘Wasted: Exposing the Family Effect of Addiction’.
Shame, secrecy and silence
My story is not one of substance abuse.
Similarly to Sam Fowler, my story is instead of deciding (at a young age, and continuing to do so in my adulthood) to be anonymous, to keep a secret what I was thinking and feeling.
My reasoning, however, wasn’t to protect my family from additional stress. My reasoning was to protect myself from the stress, shame, embarrassment and fear I would feel if I were to disclose what I was thinking and feeling, firstly to family members and secondly, to others.
In particular, I was ashamed, embarrassed and afraid I would be bullied, that my vulnerable disclosures would not be heard or met with kindness, understanding, support, acceptance, belief, or respect, as these were common reactions I was used to getting.
The trauma I faced, as a result, led me to engaging in bullying behaviour too when I felt hurt and angry at others.
Why did I do this? Because I interpreted the bullying behaviour I was experiencing by family members and others, to mean something about me, to mean, I wasn’t worthy, good or smart enough, you name it, so to cope with the stress of this, I bullied others to make myself feel better.
I believed bullying was the only way to behave when angry and hurt as I observed it first hand towards me from family members and family members reacting this way towards each other, above all other coping strategies to stress.
It didn’t make me feel good doing it and is most probably the cause of why I pushed many people away, including people I cared about, but it became an automatic habitual pattern before I became conscious to it with the support of a Psychotherapist.
I’m not proud of it, I’m not happy about it, however, I believe the first step to stopping yourself from engaging in bullying behaviour is to acknowledge you do engage in bullying behaviour when you feel hurt and angry at others and to ask yourself why you engage in it. The most likely reasons being that you too have been bullied, or you desire to have power and control over others to make yourself feel better because you feel unworthy.
If you resonate with what I have said, and you don’t have someone in your life who you can turn to for support, advice and guidance, in the same way, I didn’t, Psychotherapy will provide you with the support, advice and guidance you need.
So don’t hesitate any longer and choose to engage with Psychotherapy.
1. Shine a light
One way Psychotherapy, therefore, can support you is to shine a light on the issues in your life causing you pain and misery.
When you experience a traumatic event, which isn’t challenged by the people around you, like family members or teachers, those events cause you to be a certain way with yourself and others, because of the beliefs you form about yourself and other people more widely.
For instance, as a result of the bullying I faced, I chose to believe the bullying meant I wasn’t worthy, so I decided to be anonymous, to bottle, hide and avoid what I was thinking and feeling, to keep to myself, in a bid to not draw any attention to myself and to bully others when I felt hurt and angry.
Therefore, it was difficult for me to see myself, others and the situations in my life through a different lens, a perhaps less so ‘innocent’ image of myself, until I started seeing a Psychotherapist for over a couple of years.
This included seeing and admitting to myself that I engaged in bullying behaviour, not only with certain types of people, like family members but people more widely, because it’s not possible to separate your personal life from your public life. The two are intertwined.
The best way for me to describe this is, imagine you lived within a bubble with spikes for as long as the age you are reading this, and all you ever saw, day in day out, were these spikes, therefore, becoming so familiar with the spikes and the pain caused by them, that you accepted the pain without questioning what you could do to stop the pain.
On another occasion, I shared with my Psychotherapist a bullying situation I was faced with at work, to which she asked, whether I had been previously been bullied. My answer to this was ‘No, except when I was at school’.
However, this wasn’t the whole truth.
The truth was, I was (and still was), being bullied by family members, but I was too ashamed to admit I was being bullied by them, until another related situation presented itself in my life and it dawned on me that I was engaging in bully behaviour because I was (and still was) being bullied by family members, and my response was to choose to ignore it and put it down to being ‘nothing’, rather than stand up for myself.
Also, we may be brought up to believe family members would ‘never harm us’ or that ‘we’re good people’, and so because of this, we dismiss their’s and our actions.
Therefore, in my case, I became so used to being treated a certain way by family members (and others) and choosing to blindly accept their treatment of me without sticking up for myself, I viewed their behaviour and my response as ‘normal’, which prevented me from seeing their (or my) behaviour from any other perspective.
Once I finally admitted I was bullied, however, the beliefs I had about myself and my family (i.e. we were ‘good people’ and ‘didn’t do anything to hurt others’) burst, which was a real bee sting to the ego.
However, in doing so, I was able to obtain further support, advice and guidance from my Psychotherapist and some of the previous discussions we had together, began to make much more sense to me.
2. A safe space to be vulnerable
When you learn it isn’t safe to disclose what you’re thinking and feeling to family members for fear your disclosures might be met with laughter or they (and you) might be called ‘stupid’, you learn to suppress, bottle and keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself. This was the case for me anyway.
In doing so, it became second nature to suppress, bottle and keep my thoughts and feelings to myself when with others too, rather than reach out for support.
It didn’t even dawn on me that reaching out for professional support from someone like a Psychotherapist would provide me with relief. I didn’t believe it would make any difference to my life.
However, when I began seeing a Psychotherapist, I realised I didn’t need to be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed about what I was thinking, feeling and experiencing in my day to day life because my Psychotherapist provided me with understanding, acceptance, compassion and support.
This, as a result, freed me from keeping the burdens of my struggles to myself and could do the same for you.
3. Un-learning and re-learning
Lastly, through both shining a light on what is causing you pain in your life and providing you with a safe space to be vulnerable, Psychotherapy supports you by giving you space to un-learn the unproductive thoughts and feelings you have been accustomed to thinking and feeling throughout your life to teach you, new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Therefore, changing your beliefs about yourself and others.
A great way to exhibit this is through Daryl Davis Tedx Talk on his experience of Racism.
One particular line, which resonated with me and my experience of Psychotherapy, is when Daryl Davis says ‘if you can learn racism through dialogue, then you can unlearn it through dialogue’.
However, what isn’t necessarily possible for all of us to do, is to take the same approach Daryl Davis did because what often stops us, as he rightly mentions, is our fear, which depending on the person, the fear may be so paralysing, it stops them from taking action, from initiating conversations with those they fear.
Therefore, translating into a lack of confidence and lack of openness to listening and respecting other people’s perspectives.
Psychotherapy, therefore, can support us in relaxing our paralysing fears through giving us direct access to a dialogue about our beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions and where they originated from, so we can become conscious of them.
As a result, dismantling our perceptions of ourselves and others, in the same way, Mr Kelly dismantled his perception of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) through his dialogue with Daryl Davis.
- How Psychotherapy can help you to change your life for the better
- 3 qualities you need to make the most of your Psychotherapy sessions
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- The truth about what happens in therapy
- Why you need to engage with therapy to change your destiny
- Transform your life by changing this one belief