As I was laying in bed (not sleeping) last night I couldn’t stop thinking about this podcast I’d heard earlier in the day where the guest of the show being interviewed went on a long rant akin to,
“But does therapy actually DO anything? I mean, does it really work? I mean really, has it helped anyone?”
These babblings were the quick-flowing fears of someone who both had some pretty fantastic issues and a skepticism for the notion of therapy.
I know the idea of therapy is something that scares a lot of people. Many people seem to fear that opening up to a complete stranger will just mean a cauldron of boiling hot judgement will be poured upon them. Some people fear that they will have to face the conclusion that they have more problems then they’d like to admit, while others fear that they will conclude they have less problems than they expected and will feel unjustified and like a whiney bitch.
The way I like to think about it, though, is that therapy is like college for emotions and behaviors.
For probably my entire life, emotions have ruled me. Sometimes fear (fear of judgement or failure) has left me stopping short and unable to pursue the things I want to, or say the things I mean to say. Sometimes anger (and being unable to express it) has caused me to end relationships with people prematurely in an attempt to avoid confrontation. Sometimes depression (and the void of hopelessness and meaninglessness) has sucked me down to a place where everything I touch seems to turn to dust. And for whatever reason, I had no idea how to stand up to these things.
I think there are many people out there who have the usual amount of emotion and never learned how to handle it in a healthy way, but there are also a lot of people like me who (for whatever reason, we could say due to bipolar disorder) have overwhelming emotions far outside the range of their control. For some of these people, even learning at an early age of how to deal with their (normal) emotions may not be enough, because when these emotions are extreme they become a whole new beast.
So the boss of my life has been my emotions. I have acted as a slave to them, doing whatever they told me to do, which led to countless situations of horror and heartbreak to both myself and those around me.
And that’s where therapy came in.
I am sick of this job, and I have been sick of the man (unruly emotions) getting me down.
So what does anyone do in a situation where they want a new kind of job? Go to school, get training, get a new degree, and be the boss of your old boss.
Therapy is a great place to learn how to deal with emotions, and for people who never learned that skill elsewhere, it can be an extremely powerful tool.
Being able to turn a blind eye to fear can mean the difference between being its slave and being its master. Tinkering healthy ways to express anger means less explosions. Knowing depression’s tricks can allow you to laugh (or chuckle, if that is all you can muster) when being told that life isn’t worth it.
At that point, the true difficulty comes in realizing that not everyone has been to this school. Not everyone has taken a course to learn to communicate well, or to say no when they mean it, or to consider your feelings or what you’ve accomplished. It quickly becomes apparent that no matter how much you see someone struggling because their life is ruled by fear, there is no way you can express the things it has taken you a lifetime to learn to someone in a few minutes.
So, I think the simple answer is yes. Therapy can help you do things, it has helped people, but being willing to learn is half the battle.