I would like to share my personal experience with therapy. A good month ago I wrote about the Importance of Mental Hygiene and why I believe we all need some support in this area. Therapy with a Psychologist is one of the tool available and I would like to share the benefits I had with only 8 sessions.
I started therapy while I felt good overall. There are no red flags right now in my life, I’m not depressed nor feeling beaten up or down. Therapy wasn’t a must have at that point in time for me, it is a nice to have though! It helped me to understand that some of my behaviors and coping mechanisms are unhealthy and so far it isn’t a big deal, but who know with 20 more years of these? We can go on with unhealthy patterns only for so long… Until time catches up! Most of us have some and we are unaware of them in many cases too. If you never worked on yourself or on these patterns, they may be the invisible forces controlling you right now.
I would like you to a small break before I continue. Ask yourself or even better, write down what areas of your life are you unhappy with? Take a few minutes to really think about it. I am asking because I believe it would be interesting to see that if after I shared my experience, you may see more clearly the benefit of therapy.
Always come back to how I feel
“Take a step back and ask yourself how you really feel? Try to stay with it.”
One of the main reason I went to therapy is to explore my emotions. I witnessed that I do not leave them space at times, I do not live them fully. Here are a few examples of what I do:
- I almost never connect to my anger, I mostly suppress it
- I let in/out emotions to a certain “threshold”, I get rarely highly emotional
- I want my emotions to be in line with what my head think it should be
Let’s expand a bit of each of these points! First my anger, I mostly feel anger toward things but not people. The main source of anger is wasting time (slow computer, traffic jam, unclear instructions etc.), I like my time to be effective. With people, I am worried about others and not myself, I put their needs before mine so I can’t really get mad or upset at them. The downside for the lack of connection to my anger is that I could let someone step on my toes, I wouldn’t stand for myself. Some people live all their life this way and I could do it to, but it is also something i have the power to change if I want to.
Second, my emotions threshold! The easier way to understand it is with crying, I didn’t for probably 10 years. I am and was never ashamed of crying as a man. As a messy emotional teenager, I was even used to cry at times. Nowadays if I feel like crying, my eyes are getting wet and maybe my voice changes a bit and I stop it. Nothing consciously, it is happening in a split second, my head does that for me and its pretty good at it I have to say! It is still unclear when and how I build that anti-emotions personal system and that is something I could live with many more years. The risk though is that emotions we don’t handle, they come back in other forms: body aches, insomnia or other kind of health issues.
Last my brain wants to control my emotions. Isn’t he a smart one trying that so hard?! 🙂 If you come to me with a sad news, I may not feel much emotions and I could give myself shit for that, as I may not feel empathetic.
My therapist helped me with something very simple, always go back to myself. Ask myself: “How I do feel?”; “What do I want?”. That’s pretty hard when used to do a lot of people pleasing for many years. In comfortable relationships, it is easier and easier for me to do so. These are the first steps of a long journey!
She helped me understand the importance of anger. I had a wrong perception around it so I lived to not be an angry man. Anger was connected to lose of control and rage in my mind. But anger, like any other emotion, is just a signal. A signal that I can chose to react on, in the way I want. I now see anger as a signal for assertiveness. I’ve practiced assertiveness in the comfort on my love relationship first (whether or not feeling anger) then I could expand it to outside.
Going back to how I feel and learning how to be assertive more often changed many aspects of my life already and it is just the start. It allows me to express my need, to do less people pleasing and to be myself more, simple as that.
I touched a bit of that when explaining the suppression on my anger, I would let someone bully me verbally or emotionally at times. I wouldn’t stand for myself and just “take the hit”. This doesn’t need to be very serious to be considered as such. Verbal and emotional bullying are potent in our society. Our loved ones, colleagues or even strangers can do that to us, sometimes it is just a little wound but it is most of the time feeding a bigger one, a deeper one.
Boundaries are developed while growing up and many of us are confused around the topic. Usually we would let people in our boundaries but also, lack the awareness of other people boundaries and walk in them. Assertiveness here is key! For a long time I didn’t set clear boundaries with people of my life, as I didn’t wanted to be angry at them or push them back. I could take it and live with it quite well, I was nice enough to make such a sacrifice for them so I was the nice guy. At least, that was the story my mind built to make it okay.
I have a long way to go here, as I believe I was confused for most of my existence. But first, I am aware now and that’s one of the first step.I’m empowered too, in some situations I see how boundaries are an issue and I can make the choice to do something about it, so I can own my response to the situation and that’s very important.
This one is very interesting to me! I never really heard of self-soothing until a few weeks ago during one of my weekly session with my therapist. I knew about self-care: eat well, sleep, exercise and so on. But never heard of self-soothing. It came up as I brought a few times that my wife and I are shooting each other very well when needed. At times to be soothed, I need my wife to be around me for 1-2-3 hours and that considerable when she has other items, deadlines, appointments and so on. It was clear for my therapist that I wouldn’t self-sooth. I would distract or be soothed by my partner. When she mentioned self-soothing I probably made big eyes as she asked if I knew about it. Indeed I understood it as soon as she said it but I never picked up on it ever before.
My favorite way of distraction is when I come home after work, I can play 2-3 games at once. 2 on my PC and usually a mobile one on my tablet. I don’t play extremely fast paced games so I can “multi-task” them and progress more than if I was playing them one by one. I could do that for a few hours, until bed time and as soon as I stop playing, I would realize how tired I am. It is time to sleep though, so tomorrow is another day like they say. All the thoughts and emotions behind my distraction would stay unprocessed, they would stay suppressed and we touched on where it can leads when we keep going this way for years or decades.
If my wife would be available, I may instead ask her to go to bed with me. I like to rest in bed a lot, her in my arms or me in her arms. Chatting, kissing or just a lot of tenderness, softness, care and gentleness. A nap at times or watching something nice together (like the videos I share with you on this blog!^^). I may even fall asleep in such moments or just be very low in energy so we would just sit in bed and be nice to each other. These moments are how I like to be soothed by someone else but I wouldn’t sit in bed on my own and be nice to myself (whatever that means! :p).
Asking 3 hours of my wife could be an issue if she has other things to do and this isn’t a language she speaks very well too (around the end, about the Languages of Love). Instead of that, I could be one hour with her and look into other ways to be soothed. So far, taking a warm bath and watching something in it, is the first step and is working quite well.
The best part is that since both my wife and I started self-soothing conscientiously. We are feeling happy for the other when self-soothing. The first time, I went to take a bath instead of asking more of her time, she was excited and happy to see I take care of myself. It is a very interesting experience when you explain why you need that time alone, what you are trying to achieve with that time and that the answer you have is a smile of joy on your loved one’s face.
Today we looked at how therapy supported me around handling my emotions (going back to myself, to how I feel), about managing my boundaries and be mindful of others’, as well as the importance of self-soothing, which is a part of self-care.
If you connected to my own experience, I’d suggest to consider any kind of support to help you with these issues. We all have issues and there is nothing wrong about that, we really ALL do have some! I hope my openness and honesty will inspire you to make something happen for yourself as you are worthy of it!