Anyone who is or has been in “psychotherapy proper” will tell you that it can be really hard work.
First, you begin by telling a total stranger about the most intimate things in your life. Things you never even said out loud because it was all too difficult to admit to yourself, let alone to another human being.
Then, you find out that most things you were taught about yourself growing up turn out to not be true. Well, that’s a relief in most cases, especially since many of us are taught to believe pretty horrible and untrue things about ourselves like: “you’re stupid”, or “you’ll amount to nothing”, or something a bit subtler like “your sister is the good one”.
Next, you are encouraged to feel things you haven’t or couldn’t feel before because no one cared or knew how to deal with it. So, once you start learning that the stuff you swallowed in your childhood was more about your parent’s inadequacy rather than anything to do with you, you begin to feel pretty angry about this, or sad, or disappointed, etc
All of this inevitably leads to the painful realisation that your early life wasn’t as rosy as you thought it was, and therefore you are now feeling very anxious or depressed about seemingly unrelated things like work or your relationship. This then leads to more mourning of the loss of good experiences that you never had. And because you can’t go back in time and no one else can make up for these experiences, you then have to gradually come to terms with it.
Of course, this is all very uncomfortable and plus it turns your world completely upside down, which you weren’t expecting at all cause you just came here to talk to a lady (or man) with a nice face and (hopefully) a soothing voice.
But then, because you are feeling all this sad and angry stuff that you never felt before, you realize that you are also feeling other things, like relieved and happy. And that over time, you feel more and more alive and happy than sad and miserable.
This leads to you being more attractive to other people and them wanting to spend more time with you because you are a nicer and more interesting person.
You also get more secure in yourself and find better work, which in turn leads you to feeling even better about things and, oh gosh – a positive loop begins!
But of course, being sad and miserable has its advantages. People feel sorry for you and they try to rescue you. Plus, you don’t have to make any fundamental changes or feel very uncomfortable feelings and make some difficult realizations. It’s the devil you know, right?
Well, being in psychotherapy might change your life for good – it’s up to you whether you want to.
(P.S. The process of psychotherapy can take many different avenues, depending on what you are bringing and where you want to go. The above is only one general example).
Sam Jahara is UKCP Registered, CTA, PTSTA and is one of the Brighton & Hove Psychotherapy Co-founders. She is a Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist with experience of working with individuals and couples in short and long-term therapy. Sam is available at our Lewes and Brighton & Hove Practices.