Three Lessons from a year of Psychotherapy
One of my good friends thinks that most people now use therapy and mental health discussions as a ‘woke’ factor’. And I can see why. It’s now ‘cool’ to say that you go for therapy or speak to a therapist especially in the middle of conversations with peers or even better, online on social media.
Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change behaviour, increase happiness, and overcome problems.
Your body speaks too, listen
A friend recommended therapy to me in the midst of an extremely high pressure situation.
In hindsight, I now realise that my body had been yelling and loudly letting me know that something was wrong. I’ve learnt that mental health difficulties manifest in a myriad of ways; one of those ways that is grossly understated is physically. And it may not necessarily be in obvious, unusual ways, most times it’s subtle and understated. In mine, I was barely sleeping well, I lost weight and had gastrointestinal issues that I didn’t even take note of, until it was pointed out to me.
Mindfulness teaches you to be present and feel, including physically, do you check in with yourself and do a body check, to see and point out how your spine feels, your right knee, your left index toe, are you able to sense when something isn’t right in your body?
Very few of us are, and I learnt most times, your body will speak to you. Just listen
Full Facts Only
Therapy only works when you share full facts. This is one of my truisms, ‘ you will never get proper advice unless you share full facts.’ And this includes those in your close social circles. Those who love and care for you can only advise you and offer help and insights if you share full facts, otherwise their opinions are half truths relevant to half facts which doesn’t help anyone.
Now, you have no business telling every Dick, Tom and Harry what’s really happening in life but those you trust and worthy of that trust deserve that vulnerability in order to form deep connections.
For therapy, as with any medical practice, there’s immense value in being open and sharing to allow your therapist to rightly identify key issues and map out the right diagnosis suitable for your unique situation.
Is it brutally uncomfortable, yes. Is it for your own good, yes.
Traits v Disorder - Can just be normal, no need to overlabel
Just this week I had an aha! moment on the difference between the two.
With the recent wave of wokeness especially on mental health and well being, we have been taught to label. I first came across labelling in Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence.
According to Melody Wilding, ‘Put simply, emotional labelling (or affect labelling) refers to naming emotions with greater specificity and granularity.’ (I’ve just come from a season of referencing and footnotes, can you tell?)
One of our new normal - isms is labelling everything, including in mental health. We have a tendency to push a lot of unique character traits to the disorder box yet it’s important to note that not all character traits are a disorder - only when they’re at extreme ends of the spectrum may they be of concern and be considered problematic. Imagine sometimes it’s just a simple character trait peculiar to you and is not as magnified as we may think it is.
We, myself included, also have found a way to use some of our less pleasant character traits as a crutch for bad behaviour that should be unacceptable and unfortunately are often allowed to get away with it under the guise of, ‘it is what it is’, or ‘that’s just the way I am’. That’s a story for another day.
Now, these are just a few of my key aha moments. Every session is different, some more painful than others, some uncomfortable, some as breezy as the Diani beach but each insightful.
You don’t only need therapy because you’re in a troubled state or because you feel like shit is hitting the fan, it’s a form of psychosocial support, together with your family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances. It provides an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself from an objective point of view and hopefully tools you to deal with this thing we call life.
I highly recommend looking into a form of psychotherapy best for you and in line with this, my friend and namesake Terembe Cherono took some time to compile a list of therapists on her blog which is incredibly helpful and could be a good place to start from.
Writing what you wished was the most dangerous form of wishful thinking.
Amy Tan, The Bonesetter's Daughter