Counselling myth #4 – Keep calm and carry on! You’ve failed if you need therapy
Now that’s harsh. Nothing will stop us getting help like the thought of failure. But hang on a moment: can you fix your own car and teeth and boiler? Unlikely, I’d say, that you can do all three (and please give me your number if you can!). Seeking help for those things doesn’t make us feel like we’ve failed, does it? So why is it that seeking help for our emotional difficulties creates this terrible feeling of being somehow less than other people? Being unhappy and feeling that we aren’t coping is a bit of a taboo – we think everyone else is just fine and therefore much stronger/better/more able than we are. If we can’t sort it out ourselves, we must be weak and weakness is something to hide. So we dare not seek help... The thing is that most people have periods in their lives when it’s hard to cope. We’re taught to hide it or we distract ourselves from our difficult feelings (caring for others, alcohol, humour and shopping are common distractions).
But they don’t simply go away – without resolution, difficult feelings come back to haunt us in some form because they need proper acknowledgement and processing. Just like a physical illness, they’re real and need attention. Without attention, a mild illness can become a major one. Natural feelings of grief and anger at the loss of a loved one, for example, if they aren’t acknowledged, can turn into permanent bitterness, perhaps, or suspicion of the world in general.
Therapy can support you when you need it and free you to continue in your life when you’re ready. Far from being a failure, seeking help means that you’re taking a responsible course of action and doing a bit of maintenance – just like having your car, teeth and boiler looked at periodically.