Why therapy? An appointment for the over privileged navel gazer?
Who is therapy for? The mentally ill? The privileged? The weak? By others as navel gazing?
'Look after your mental health' - a message that is shouted at us from Instagram, Facebook, to a billboard at the bus stop. Yet, when many of us (myself included) take that scary first step to get a little help with our internal struggles, we can be met with a range of assumptions that we are either overthinking, oversensitive, have too much time on our hands, too much money in our pockets and are just indulging more then we should in regards to our own needs.
So, let's begin to have a look at some of these assumptions if only to expose them for what they are - assumptions without value or meaning.
1. You are overthinking it
What is the measure of overthinking? How can someone else be the judge of what is OK or not OK to think about and for how long?
Only we know when we are ruminating to the point where our tired minds long for a break. And therapy is the perfect place for a tired mind to find rest. In your experience when has tiredness ever been lifted by someone else telling you to stop being tired? Never. If a person is thinking on a subject that appears to be stalking their mood and thought life like a hungry raptor from Jurassic park then it's time to come to therapy.
To talk to someone who can offer them a space to breathe and to say those incredible life-changing words from one stranger to another: 'you're not the only one', 'you're going to be OK', 'let's find a way through this'.
2. You are oversensitive
Maybe the person you're talking to is undersensitive. As in, they could try to understand you better and themselves in the process.
If you are feeling that you are constantly hurt and upset by those around you, that does not make you overly sensitive. It means that your emotions are guiding you and helping you, telling you that something is out and you are unhappy.
Another version of this assumption is 'you are being high maintenance'.
I must confess that this statement makes my blood boil but actually in my experience of being on this earth for the last 44 years and spending a lot of time around human beings well. Newsflash - we all need maintenance!
Physically, mentally, spiritually, and intellectually to name but a few. A person who has the courage to access therapy, to find someone who they never knew before that they trust to talk about their lives with is anything but high maintenance. (still not sure what that means btw).
They have the wisdom to know something is wrong and they need to get help. If your car breaks down and you take it to a garage nobody says 'wow he's high maintenance getting his car fixed'. It's common sense to get it fixed so he can move throughout life safely and ease himself and others. As is the case with going to see a therapist if you are feeling that something ‘under the bonnet' isn't right at the moment.
3. You are privileged
Privilege is a word that seems to be banded around a lot at the moment.
Is it a privilege to be able to pay for private therapy? Yes. If you can afford it, then yes, that's a wonderful privilege that many don't have. But as is being able to feed your family three meals a day, have 24-hour access to the NHS and currently being able to fill your car with fuel without worrying about it.
Many of us pay for different privileges. Let's not waste our energies in looking over and judging therapy as a privilege as it could change someone's life and possibly one day yours.
4. Do you have time for therapy? I'm too busy to navel gaze
This is the assumption that people who choose therapy have endless time to sit and think about their problems. The thing is we all have the same amount of time. We spend time on what we choose to spend it on and no one is entitled to tell you how to spend yours. The second part of this - navel gazing.
Have you noticed that gym signage is never hidden? As far as I can see gyms are pretty obvious for all to see. No one is embarrassed walking into a gym. No-one generally keeps it a secret. Why? Because if you're doing physical exercise then it is a positive thing. Everyone knows this.
Then why do some people feel they have to be at the point of suicide before they can go to see a therapist? Because seeing a therapist if you are not in crisis is often considered to be an indulgence. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, others and the world around us affect us and others constantly and if we don’t talk about and address these thoughts/behaviours then it could have serious consequences for us and those around us.
Does everyone need to go to the gym? No.
Does everyone need therapy? No.
Does everyone need to move and find a way of physical movement that will help their bodies fight disease? Yes.
Does everyone need time to find out more about themselves and others, what their psychological needs are and how they can get those needs met? Yes, they do.
Sometimes that happens through a therapist or it can be a whole life without therapy because the person has taken the time, the thought and their emotional cues to work out what they need to mentally and emotionally navigate this tricky wonderful crazy messy beautiful life on their own or with some close friends. The person who does it alone is not stronger than the person who has therapy; they have just found a different route up the mountain (life!).
Either way, it's not for us to judge people who go to see a therapist or those who don’t. Judgements such as the former only create a division between people and can stop people from accessing the help that could actually change and benefit their lives in incredible ways.
So who is therapy for? It's for me. It's for you. It's for anyone who is tired of being typecast to a role that they don't feel comfortable with playing anymore. It's for those who are done with dancing to the tune of other people's assumptions. It's for those who want change
Privileged, overthinking, over sensitive, navel gazers... I'm looking forward to meeting you.