Therapy has been one of the greatest parts of my life for many years now, and whenever a friend indicates an interest in starting, I can’t recommend it enough. Whether or not a person feels like mental health is something they struggle with, it’s so enlightening to have someone to talk to that has no bearing on your life outside of their hour with you — they are there to listen and advise. I think a lot of people get a skewed impression of therapy because of how it’s historically been portrayed in media — the patient laying back on a chaise longue and an old dude with glasses sitting with his clipboard asking, “And how did that make you feel?” Therapy is a place to laugh, to vent, to cry, whatever you need it to be. The ultimate goal is for the therapist to give you the perspective and the tools to be the best possible version of yourself. Sometimes, this means hearing some things that are a bit hard to stomach, but it’s thinking carefully about yourself, your thought patterns and your actions that allows for the deepest kinds of growth. Here are some things my therapist said to me and what I’ve taken from them.
“Well, you are quite self-indulgent…you do not deny yourself. If you’d rather not do something, you don’t do it. If you have the urge to do something, you do it. There’s no question about it.”
Yikes! Tell me how you really feel!
This was during a period where I was feeling quite low for quite a while and was feeling pretty stuck. If I woke up with fear or anxiety about facing the day, I would often just stay in bed. I had to tell myself that although what I was feeling was valid, I ultimately had the power to do more to try to change it. Even if getting up one morning felt impossible, a few mornings later, maybe it would start to feel easier. I find that it’s all about finding a happy medium between being hard on yourself and forgiving yourself when you fall short. I try to accept that sometimes my emotions will get the best of me, but I also do well with being critical and asking myself what will be best in the long run.
“Were you more frustrated with him? Or were you more frustrated with yourself?”
Plot twist: I was more frustrated with myself.
This was during a tough lesson where my teacher was giving me a lot of different things to try and I was having difficulty keeping up. What I told my therapist was that the teacher was giving me way too much to think about to the point where it was impossible for me to internalize any of it or know where to start in my practice at home. As she asked more questions about how it went and the things he said, I thought more about the thoughts going on in my head at the time and how impatient I felt. He was introducing technical aspects different than what I had been working on, so naturally they wouldn’t click right away, yet what was really going through my mind was, “Why can’t I do this? I’ve been taking lessons for so long now!” Although my impatience was tough for me to acknowledge, it was helpful to replay the scenario and think closely about why I was so upset and what to do next.
“Stop worrying about men unless you find one. Start worrying about finishing your master’s and applying for your doctorate.”
This one was actually a relief to hear…but easier said than done…“stop worrying about men!”
A dear friend recently called me a “hard lover” and unfortunately he was right. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose feelings for someone can take up a bit too much of their brain. While it can feel good to be excited about someone and feel lousy to not have things pan out like you had hoped, sometimes it’s best to try to snap out of it and learn to redirect your energy elsewhere. At this moment, I really had no choice but to move on, and I also had talked a lot with my therapist about my ambitions for the following year of my life. So, I knew I would do well with saving as much brain space for my work as possible and was thankful to hear this put so simply. As a wise woman once said, “Boy, bye.”
“I got to see you heal before my eyes. It was such an honor.”
This was the most touching moment in therapy that I can remember. This was almost a year after the first quote that I mentioned where I was feeling low for a long time. In the few months before this session, I had started my master’s degree, was feeling really excited about my career path, found new friends and new passions, and generally was in a really good place. I noticed that there had been a change over time, but I hadn’t really thought about how the change was something I had achieved, or that it was something other people saw happening. It was so gradual that it took her telling me how far I had come for me to really believe it. It can be hard to notice when there’s so much that we think about day to day, but this was so affirming to hear and reminded me that progress is something to be celebrated, no matter the rate at which it happens.
“You are very talented. I know it’s hard for you to believe because you’re so anxious
about…everything…but you really are!”
This was right before a concert cycle I put together that I was feeling quite nervous about. My therapist asked me to explain more about it, and as I answered her questions, it started to occur to me that was I had done was actually pretty cool, and that I ought to have a bit more faith in myself. “So, you found all these musicians on your own? Who finds the rehearsal space and the performance venue? You do all of that on your own? And you’ve done this before? And they came back to play again?” Oh…yes! Yes, they did! It took me taking a step back and looking at the situation through telling someone else about it to give me the energy and excitement that I needed to enter the first rehearsal.
The best therapist is one that keeps you honest with yourself. They ask tough questions to help you arrive at tough answers. But, they also stress the importance of being kind to yourself. They encourage you to be proud of your strengths and to celebrate all areas of growth. Some sessions leave you feeling uneasy, and others leave you feeling empowered. For all folks that think and feel very deeply, it’s so nice to have someone to help you make sense of it all.
Written by CMRT Team Member, Eric Goldberg