Why do we feel anxious about beginning therapy?
In a recent interview (July 2016) Prince Harry said that he now regretted not having spoken about the tragic loss of his mother when he was only 12 years old. We can only speculate why he now feels that it would have been good to talk or why he felt not able to before. He was speaking in the context of raising awareness about mental health, and how despite there now being so much more media coverage of problems such as depression and anxiety yet still for so many there remains a stigma and a difficulty in asking for help. But maybe this stigma exists as much in our own minds than in our perception of what others will think of us?
Having the self-awareness to seek help and then the courage to actually do so, is incredibly difficult. Why should this be so? Seeking help means making the admission that we both cannot manage our troubles alone and that we need someone else, and this in turn exposes ourselves to anxieties about becoming dependent, vulnerable and even reliant. How can we know that this person will not let us down, or disappear, or leave us bereft? These are universal concerns that affect us when we contemplate having any sort of therapy or analysis. It is part of the very nature of the human experience that all of us were once infants who were reliant on a caregiver and who needed to grow and develop and to become independent, and it is this that makes us then fearful of becoming dependent again.
However, it is equally true to observe that it is in our relationship with others, in childhood with our parents that we once did grow and develop. Early difficulties, losses, disappointments, traumas even will all have had their impact and will greatly shape the anxieties that beset us when seeking help. Analysis can help deepen our understanding of the ways in which we behave and feel and think that will then allow for growth and change and development. This can be challenging and at times even painful, but the possibility for relief from mental suffering is also there too.
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About Catherine McCabe
Catherine McCabe is a psychoanalyst working in private practice in London. Her first training was at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust and she has a MA in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. She then trained at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and is a full member of the British Psychoanalytic Society (BPAS). She is a full member of the BPC and BACP.