A tale of two therapists and what I learned about myself by going consistently
This article was published on 21Ninety .
I was on my second therapist when I walked into the 1970s-esque building for my first appointment with the new one I had found online. The first one, let’s just say we didn’t have much in common culturally. After having one session with her and filling out paperwork the old-fashioned way with a pencil, I knew I wouldn’t be back on her couch after that. I walked through a creepy hallway lit with fluorescent lighting and found my way into a small waiting room with a couch and a sliding window much like one found in a doctor’s office. My therapist appeared from behind the door, donning a short haircut with gold highlights and I was instantly relieved when she led me to her office and started our conversation giving me all the “auntie” vibes.
The year 2016 was a very rough year for emotionally. I experienced a breakup and the ending of a long friendship through the fault of my own. I was just all around dragging others into my madness of not knowing what I truly wanted in life and relationships. Also, the bomb of societal pressure was ticking and led me to have a flurry of anxiety-filled thoughts on why I wasn’t where I thought I should be at the age of twenty-eight. In 2017, I recovered from the physical realm of these situations but was still left with mental residue and that started to cause friction in my new relationship. My main reasons at the time for seeking therapy was just to figure out what I needed to let go of to really step into growing myself personally and just to get an overall objective opinion on how I can manage my mental health.
Therapy has helped me to open up to a whole new state of being. It has helped me understand that certain patterns of thinking and acting that were learned through adolescence will no longer be useful as I enter the next realm of my life as an adult. Therapy alone will not solve your problems, but you will be made aware of how problems might keep recurring and it will enable you to stay out of the cycle that you keep meeting. There are three key things that therapy has helped me with so far:
1. No longer be on the defense: In therapy I take constructive criticism from my therapist and it’s opened me up to be much less on the defense in other areas of my life. I admit I’m wrong more when called on my bull and also I’m less prone to take what others say personally. The practice of knowing your ingrained beliefs and realizing that you are trying to separate them from the person you’re becoming is very powerful.
2. Assertiveness: Pre-therapy I had the tendency to be very passive and allow whatever or whoever to happen to me. My therapist does a role-play practice where she acts as me and says what I can say to others in a way that asserts my boundaries, but tends to what the other person needs to hear. This has helped me be more confident in having difficult conversations and not back down as I would have before.
3. Translating my feelings into action: This is personal to me and also another reason why I chose to start therapy. Long story short, I’ve been able to understand that just saying that I love people or care for them is sometimes not enough. Demonstrating that love and making it specific so that it resonates with the person I’m showing it to in their own way is most valuable.
There are many myths to therapy and they are exactly that, MYTHS. Therapy is not just for those who suffer from mental illness, you won’t be deemed weak if you go and it’s not all about laying on a couch and telling a stranger your problems. Tons of people go to therapy for relationships, stress-related issues or life transitions. Therapy is the most helpful when you let go of these beliefs and focus inward on what you know you want to accomplish and not continue to give in to societal stigmas that may keep you suffering in silence. Think about a time when you judged someone or something before you experienced it for yourself. What was it like after going through it and realizing it’s not so bad after all? Keep that in mind if you are considering therapy but are too scared of what others may think.