Several months ago in the midst of a distressing break-up I made the decision to start counseling. I have pursued counseling numerous times in my adult life—most notably after the demise of romantic relationships, once after a client of mine killed himself and again during a period of profound unhappiness in my life.
I struggle to understand the stigma that is attached to counseling in our society. If we are unhappy with our physical bodies we hire personal trainers, nutritionists and plastic surgeons. If we are unhappy with our appearance we hire personal shoppers and cosmetologists. If we are unhappy with our bank accounts we hire financial advisors. If we are unhappy with our homes we hire designers and contractors. So then why, if we are unhappy with our hearts and our minds, do we often refuse to hire ourselves a therapist?
Earlier this week I completed my last counseling session (for now, anyway) and it dawned on me that the shit my therapist says is insanely insightful.
My therapist says that we cannot get to the bottom of anything, no matter the issue, without first learning to take care of ourselves in difficult and painful spaces. To start the work of self-improvement we must first develop a strong sense of self-compassion. We must accept our vulnerability and capacity to feel pain. My therapist says that our goal is never to feel the absence of pain but simply to take really good care of ourselves when we hurt.
My therapist says that once we have the knowledge and skills to practice self-compassion we can begin to examine our narratives, the stories that we tell ourselves time and time again. These tales are an often inaccurate assembling of damaging experiences we have had. We allow these narratives from the past to dictate our presents and our futures. My therapist says that with a little work we can change our narratives to help us grow and thrive.
My therapist says to believe people when they first show you their true colors. My therapist says that people are not all good nor all bad and that the actions of others are not a reflection of our true selves. Though it is easy for us to paint people who have hurt as villains, it is not necessary to do so. My therapist says that we will heal without an explanation for the behavior of others if we simply focus our attention to the version of ourselves we show the world.
My therapist says that no one is perfect and that every human is doing the absolute best that they can do in the moment. My therapist says that when another human’s best is not good enough for us, we are responsible for deciding how we handle ourselves and how we proceed on with life.
I want to thank my therapist for inspiring me to proceed on with life wholeheartedly, curiously and with a hell of a lot more self-compassion that I have ever had before.
I think that everyone could do well to listen to some of the shit that my therapist has to say.