Yesterday I was talking to a lively and spirited young woman who I had the pleasure to meet a few weeks ago. She is one of those people who’s inner beauty just shines through, captivating everybody she meets, including myself.
As we spoke, she told me about her last relationship and how it still haunts her now, 2 years later, making her shy away from men and relationships altogether. Her feelings about marriage were so negative that she actually feels bad for friends and acquaintances announcing their engagement.
While we were talking, I couldn’t help myself thinking it was a pity that she, as well-reflected and balanced as she was everywhere else in her life, would be allowing emotional trauma to colour her interactions with men. Please don’t get me wrong – if you want to stay single, by all means, I’m the last to protest… But it should be a choice. A choice that you make because either you have not met someone you care about enough or because you just want some me-time. When fear becomes the core reason for staying alone, you sometimes need the help of a professional.
I allowed myself to impose this unsolicited opinion upon her, urging her to seek a therapist to overcome lingering pain and attachment anxiety. As most people, she wasn’t too thrilled to have me suggest therapy, saying that time would heal all wounds.
Yes and no, I thought.
I do think that time heals pain and helps us evolve through difficult and strenuous emotional turmoil. But if we never learn why things lead to us making the choices we did, we will never be able to change our strategies of dealing with relationships and end up repeating ourselves continuously.
If you have ever caught yourself thinking “why is this happening to me again?” or explaining “those kind of guys/girls always seem to find me.” to your worried friends and family, then you may be unwittingly using the same coping mechanisms and communication strategies over and over again, without being able to change the outcome: it’s a little bit like repeating the same sentence louder when being told that the person you are talking to doesn’t speak your language.
This is exactly where seeing a therapist helps. It doesn’t mean you are mentally ill (and even that would be manageable), it just means that you are not equipped with the right set of psychological tools…
Just imagine my new friend, let’s call her Samantha, comes from a loving and warm family, but her parents were very occupied by both working two jobs and, quite frankly, with themselves. Little Samantha learned many things but she never learned how to set boundaries because she desperately took advantage of every little bit of attention her parents could spare her. Our Samantha grows up to be a striking young lady who never learned how to keep healthy boundaries with her partners, repeatedly losing herself in relationships until she feels suffocated and close to self-dissolution. The thought of being close to a man makes her shudder, even though she still yearns for intimacy and warmth.
Had she had the psychological tools for constructing healthy and flexible boundaries she might yet still be in her first relationship, and quite happy at that.
Depending on our nature and nurture, we all grow up with a specific set of tools that allow us to build the ‘foundations’ and ‘houses’ of our selves and relationships. If you’re unlucky, you may only have a hammer and a screwdriver at your disposal, while other sport the inventory of a hardware store. But no matter if you’re missing the ‘pliers of dealing with rejection’ or the ‘wrenches of communicating anger positively’, a therapist has years of hoarding tools just to be able to hand them to you, so why not stack up your tool shed?!
In other words, please don’t be scared to seek out a psychologist or therapist: Rome wasn’t built with a canopener…
Silja Litvin was born in Germany but moved to southern California early in her life. The biggest influence to studying psychology was the suicide of a family friend when she was a teenager. Up to then Silja had never been exposed to mental illness and was worried and intrigued by the serious impact it can have on one’s life. It was then she decided to become a psychologist.
She began her Masters at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, graduating in Clinical Psychology and Systemic Family Therapy in 2013. You can contact Silja via Twitter
A child of the digital generation, Silja was looking for ways to use the new platforms of Apps and Social media to help people suffering from mental health issues, creating a psychological mobile app that helps users identify and self-manage mental health issues and find a therapist who can offer disorder specific treatment on demand. Publishing and distributing the app around the globe by creating PsychApps.