On not always knowing what is wrong ...
We learnt recently of international cricketer Jonathan Trott sadly withdrawing from the national game due to a recurrence of a stress related problem that surfaced on the winter tour of Australia.
As tends to be the way, this has prompted much media speculation as to the exact nature of the problem that Trott is suffering. Depression, anxiety, stress and burnout are used interchangeably, with strong opinions on the differences between burnout (viewed as more benign) versus the unknowns such as depression and anxiety.
Despite upbeat media interviews from Trott stating that he needed a rest and thought burnout was the probable reason for his problems, his very brief return to the sport has been cut short.
It is quite likely that Trott himself has no idea what he is suffering from and it is our need to label and diagnose (particularly in the media) which drives the endless speculation.
Several themes emerge from his career as a prolific batsman which may chime with many people in more everyday settings.
In cricket, failure on the international stage is very public. There are also lengthy periods of rumination post failure. Team mates may not know what to say. A lot of these themes can play out in our own lives. If we take time off work we may feel a sort of public shame amongst colleagues, time away from work may be unstructured in recovery and therefore we may ponder what has happened in greater detail. Lastly, our identities are bound up in our jobs especially in Western culture.
Many people may be offering opinions on what to do and offer cures. But often we do not know ourselves what is going on, especially in the grip of depression, panic and anxiety.
Although unfashionable in our current times, sometimes, not knowing can be a positive step to allow thoughts, feelings and emotions to emerge over time and hence gain some clarity on our situation.
Rather than rushing to knowledge, we allow ourselves time to see how things lie and maybe settle. This process can be very difficult and is especially challenging on our own. Real healing tends to happen with “an other”, this is one of the central tenets of psychotherapy. The relationship is where the healing can lie.
Also a good therapist will be relatively comfortable in “not knowing” so two people may come together in “not knowing”, giving space for discovery. Neither party claim to be experts in what is going on. Avenues remain open to discovery rather than closed down with diagnostics. Of course therapists will have seen many similar issues with other patients and clients but each person is held in a place of discovering.
This space can be incredibly creative for clients and indeed therapists, and great discoveries can be made. Hopefully something will emerge from this space of unknowing, the client and therapist are always changed by the experience. Sometimes these changes can be small but they are usually significant.
If you are seeking therapy, think about how change tends to occur in us and our friends, often it is in quite small increments and we not even be aware of the changes. It may be our nearest and dearest who make the initial comment.
Many people come to therapy not quite knowing what is wrong, they may be carrying diagnostic labels or may simply feel that something is not quite right anymore.
Therapy may be a good option, in helping you to get curious about yourself.