photo by Kira auf der Heide
Stop saying you don't need therapy - everyone does!
I was a born in the 80s, a generation where crying was shameful, and most men did not express a lot of emotion.
The problem was I was a sensitive child, so crying came very naturally to me, and I distinctly remember coming home from school one day, and explaining to my mum how my teacher had shouted at me for talking in class.
Instead of consoling me, the first words that came out of her mouth were "did you get upset"?
I stumbled over my words as I could sense her frustration, but eventually admitted that I did.
The look of disappointment on her face was one that stayed with me for many years after that.
Don't get me wrong I don't blame my mum for wanting her daughter to have a tougher exterior; I’ve had enough therapy now to understand that if the 80's were a silent generation, just imagine what the 60's were like!
“If we spend our time blaming others - we just stay stuck in victim patterns”
This is exactly what she had been taught by the society and generation she grew up in, and therefore she didn't know any different.
In short - she was raising me the best and only way she knew how!
The only reason I grasped an understanding of this and can now feel complete empathy towards my mum is because I went to therapy!
This very understanding has then enabled me to bring up my very sensitive son in a completely different way.
You see, if we don’t get to the root cause of why we behave in certain ways, then we just repeat the same patterns as we go into adult hood, and raise children of our own.
Now a therapist myself, I have lost count of the times I have heard people tell me that they don't need therapy, and they believe it's only for people who are having some kind of emotional and mental breakdown.
But how do you think those people got to that mental state in the first place?
Here are some reasons;
By being shut down by others (throughout their lives) and not being allowed an opinion, or to make their own decisions.
Not talking things through to allow their brain to process why other people have hurt them, controlled them, criticised them, etc.
By suppressing all of their feelings and emotions every time they ever felt angry, sad, or confused.
By not crying and breaking down when they just needed to let it all out.
By not releasing all of that built up frustration, anger, resentment, that they have buried deep inside their bodies for so many years.
Imagine your mind is like a backpack. Now imagine filling up that backpack with lots and lots of rocks.
Eventually you have to take out some of those rocks to be able to carry on, without collapsing with complete exhaustion right?
Well our minds are just like the backpack, and get so clogged up with thoughts, that as the years tick by, if we don't release some of those thoughts, everything becomes so jumbled up, and confusing that we are just heading for an emotional and mental breakdown ourselves!
Throughout our lifetime, we come into contact with so many people, and many of those people will leave a scar (i.e. by criticising us, controlling us, judging us, belittling us etc.)
These people can be our parents, school teachers, other kids in the playground, work boss/ superior (the list goes on)
But Instead of allowing our brains to process why they have acted this way….
(i.e. because we are children and we don’t know any better, or because we have low self-esteem and don’t believe our points are valid)
….we bury all the hurt – and believe what they say is true.
The anger and resentment however, still festers - just waiting for a time when it can all come back up again.
This may be triggered by a traumatic event (i.e. a bereavement) and may cause us to have panic attacks, anger outbursts, anxiety or deep depression.
Over the years, I have had a number of clients come to see me who have never been taught to express their emotions.
One client turned up with a walking stick because the pain of not expressing emotion was now coming out physically and taking its toll on her body.
Another client told me how he would talk to himself or would sit in the dark at home just staring at the tv, not realising he hadn't turned it on.
Now I'm not saying it's an easy process.
How can you begin to do something you have never been taught to do?
I know many of you may also feel that talking to your loved ones is all the therapy you need, however friends and family have so many different opinions, judgements, and biases on a situation, that we often end up even more confused than when we started.
Also if you put yourself in this situation, (and it was your friend coming to you for help) many of us, (if not all of us), will go into some kind of ‘rescue mode’, and instead of just listening, we will tell them exactly how to handle the situation and what we would do if we were them.
As much as our intentions are good, we are actually hindering a person by doing this.
For example; by rescuing a person, we are taking away their power, and the ability for them to realise that they can cope on their own.
“We draw our strength from rescuing other people because it makes us feel wanted and needed, and therefore we are actually just doing it for ourselves”
They will then constantly rely on other people’s opinions to guide them through life, and never truly believe that they have the resources (within them) to sort it out themselves.
"For real change to happen, it must come from within"
A therapist however, has been trained to understand that we are the best experts on ourselves, and nobody knows our back story like we do.
“All the answers you will ever need are within you right now”
When we start talking in a space that feels safe and non-judgmental – all your problems will start to unravel and it will soon become clear as to what the real issue is.
A therapist is also taught to go underneath the presenting issue (i.e. money worries, relationship breakdown, childhood issues) and look for the root cause of our problems – (i.e. which is often low self-esteem).
Once we work on the root cause of our problems, we won't keep repeating the same patterns of behaviour - because we will now understand the reasons why we keep on hurting and punishing ourselves.
I recently had a client whose mum had passed away somewhat ten years ago now, but he had pushed his grief aside and carried on with his life the best and only way he knew how.
The problem was he could only suppress his grief for so long, before it reared its ugly head once more.
He began to tell me how he struggled with the guilt and the shame he now felt towards himself because he felt that he was never there for her.
She struggled with a terminal illness for over 2 years but he would go out drinking with his friends instead of visiting her in hospital.
For so long he pushed his feelings and emotions aside, but now that he had children of his own, he had a different perspective on life, and was becoming anxious, depressed and withdrawn.
"What would she say to you right now if she were here" I asked him.....
As things started to unravel, he told me how his mum had also brought him up to show little emotion and how everything was swept under the carpet and never spoken about.
“big boys don’t cry” she would say to him every time he had tears in his eyes.
A common theme I knew only too well.
The more and more he spoke (out loud in a space that felt safe and non-judgmental); the more he began to come to his own conclusions.
He had continuously been blaming himself for something he had never been taught to do...
For example: Visiting her in hospital, buying her gifts, talking about how she was feeling....
All of these things involved emotion, but for 26 years, he had been taught to suppress all of his feelings and emotions, and now he was racked with guilt, shame and fear.
"She would tell me that she understood and that I shouldn’t feel guilty anymore, because I didn’t know any different” he said
After just 6 sessions of therapy he walked out a different man.
Now that he had a clearer picture of why he behaved the way he did, he was facing his future with a different set of beliefs that his own children would now benefit from.
Going on a journey of self-discovery is one of the most exhilarating experiences you could possibly do with your life, and the only way you will ever find true happiness.
This all starts with going for a counselling session and figuring out who you are, and what you want, and not relying on other people to guide you through life.
Once we have that self-belief – we become unstoppable!
Rebecca McCaffrey, a married, working mother living in Leeds, West Yorkshire is no stranger to tragedy in her personal life and has a huge passion for helping others by drawing on her own experiences. In addition to working for Cruse Bereavement Charity and the Well Woman Charity Rebecca is a Person Centred therapist in her final year of training,