This week, I am only going to write about the following passage (from When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defenseless and Resource-full by David Richo) because it is so important:
Healthy people share their feelings directly with the people involved and tell their story to friends in order to process and let go of it. They do not use others to siphon off their own distress and to thereby grant them just enough relief so no final resolution is necessary (p. 65)
First of all, it is challenging to do the first part: to talk with people in our lives directly about what is occurring inside. I will write more about how to do this in future posts. For today, I want to focus on the second sentence.
Just pause and think about whether you are doing this: alleviating distress the point where solving the problem is no longer that important.
Let me be super blunt for a second. By doing that, you are cheating yourself. You are making a commitment to deal with the same issue again in the future. You are sending the message to yourself that you can’t solve things. One way to define self-confidence is how much you trust your ability to deal with challenges that come up in your life. So this pattern of behavior is actually deteriorating your self-esteem. You are not consciously making this choice, but that is what is happening. Did you want to do this?
I see people do this and talk about this in their experience with therapy: They do a couple of sessions, get some stuff off their chest, they feel a little better and then when things get real, they want to be done. Of course, there could be other factors involved beside this pattern. The important part is: I want you to know that you can get way more out of therapy than just getting things off your chest.
Here are a couple of ways to get more out of therapy:
- Find a therapist that you feel comfortable talking to, someone you trust. They are going to be guiding you. You need to feel like you can trust what they are telling you. You need to feel like you can be honest with them and give them feedback if there is something that isn’t working for you. Most therapists will offer a free 15-20 minute consult so you can get a sense of how you feel, ask questions and know how they work.
- Show up with an understanding that you are going to be doing the hard work. You are going to need your courage, your vulnerability, your honesty, your ability to accept responsibility and let your defenses down.
- Don’t let yourself off the hook by just venting and then walking out of there like “Whew, that feels better!” Or, don’t show up to therapy with the attitude of “You fix it, you’re the professional” or “give me some tips”. You could probably look up some tips on the internet and save yourself some cash. Seriously.
There are some great therapists out there, but if they are busy trying to engage you in doing the work or doing all the work for you, you are not accessing all they can offer you. I have seen people be unbelievably successful in therapy in a short time, but every time it is because the client comes in fully responsible for the work they want to do. That can be you.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".