In my last post I wrote about the importance of checking in with yourself emotionally; however, emotions are only one piece of self-awareness. “Know thyself,” asks a bigger question. This bit of wisdom from ancient Greece is often attributed to Socrates, but is likely even older, and was reportedly carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
Does self-knowledge still matter?
Knowing oneself has always mattered. But a lot has changed over the past 2500 years, so this desire shows up today in ways that Socrates never could have imagined.
Consider the smart phone. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 77% of adults in the United States own a smart phone. Only fifty years ago, we all talked into identical black telephones with cords, without Caller ID or voice mail. In contrast, the smart phone’s ability to make mere phone calls isn’t the secret to its success. These palm-sized devices often become a miniature hub-of-self, comprising a person’s entire identity.
No part of the smart phone better represents our interest in self-knowledge than the camera, with which one can snap, save, edit, and then inevitably share, a selfie.
We have the ability to curate an endless number of carefully crafted images that shape the identity we choose share with the rest of the world. Selfies represent how we want to be seen by others. They do not show that we truly understand ourselves. We need look no further than the popularity of Snap Chat filters (even the puppy one) that smooth skin and widen eyes to prove this point.
I’ve got nothing against selfies. They’re fun. But they direct the desire to be known outward when it can go inward as well.
Self-reflection: a selfie for the soul.
The wish to know oneself becomes less daunting if you admit you don’t need to have all of the answers. Sometimes acknowledging mixed feelings about a life choice is a necessary first step to make if you want to make a change such as drinking less coffee or getting more sleep.
Whether you tackle self-reflection alone or work with a therapist, begin the process with a few simple questions:
What am I thinking right now?
What emotions do I feel?
What physical sensations am I experiencing?
How do these three answers affect my behavior?
These questions riff on Dr. Aaron T. Beck’s cognitive behavioral model. Asking these four questions in a variety of settings, from the everyday to the singular, generates important information about how you respond to life’s ups and downs. Slowing down long enough to answer them creates an opportunity to learn, grow, and hopefully make the kind of decisions worthy of authentic celebration.
A celebration which will, of course, be captured with a selfie.
Photo credit: Roderigo Olivera
Being a therapist for 25+ years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why people don’t go to therapy. Here are the top 5 reasons I hear people say they don’t go to therapy.
- I’m not that depressed, stressed, anxious, fill in the blank.
- I know what’s wrong with me. I should be able to deal with this myself.
- It’s embarrassing.
- It costs too much.
- It’s too hard find a good therapist.
Do any of these sound familiar? I thought so. Continue reading to hear my gazillion years of experience refute these reasons!
5 Reasons *Not* To Go To Therapy
I’m not that depressed, stressed, anxious
1. I’m not that depressed, stressed, anxious, fill in the blank. What drives me crazy is when I hear people say, “Wow, I should have come in months ago.” Yeah, I want to say, so why didn’t you? OK, well, that’s what this article is about. We feel stuck, like life is hard work, but that’s just life, right? This blah feeling is normal, isn’t it? Doesn’t everyone feel this way?
What is depressed enough? What is anxious enough? This is hard to say, in part because we’re the frogs in the pot so sometimes the worst judges. The first time I went to therapy it was at the suggestion of my dad. I was insulted! I was doing fine. To humor him I went and my therapist said, “You are depressed.” Still incredulous I heard him rattle off my symptoms, like, feeling lost, lack of motivation, listlessness, emotional flatness, no great sadness but no joy either. I did not like the image in the mirror he held up to me but he was right and something about how he talked to me, listened to me, sparked a long dormant hope.
I know what’s wrong with me
2. I know what’s wrong with me. I should be able to deal with this myself. All I need to do is work harder, write in my gratitude journal every day, stop eating too much, drinking too much, stop being lazy, get a new job, exercise more, be more positive… So yeah, this is all great and if we can do it we do feel better for a while. Then for some weird reason we go back to the old habits, not writing in our journal, eating and drinking too much, loosing motivation and the negative thoughts creep back louder than ever.
If we’re lucky, we know what we need. We may even know how to do it. So what stops me from doing what I know is good for me? A good therapist is like a good architect. You’ve got the tools, materials and desire to build a bridge. You can see the shore on the other side of the river where you want to go. The architect listens to you, gets behind your vision, sees the spot on the other shore where you want to go and gets to work with you to build the bridge to get there.
It’s embarrassing to go to therapy
3. It’s embarrassing. Stigma is alive and kicking. Except for some neighborhoods in New York City, announcing that you see a therapist may be greeted by the sound of chirping crickets. Or worse. The culture we live in may be accepting and encouraging which would be great, but too often it’s really not. Embarrassment is a close kin to shame which is toxic to growth.
Over the years I’ve seen a change. Thank God. Younger adults are more apt to see going to a therapist like going to any professional for specialized services, an attorney, accountant, medical doctor. Where is the embarrassment in getting your teeth cleaned every six months?
Therapy costs too much
4. Also, I don’t have time. Going to therapy is an investment there’s no way to get around that. You invest more than money. You invest your time and energy. This is all about priorities. If we know the value of something, whether it’s a pair of shoes or new car, we find a way to pay for it. If we really want to do something, like attend a rock concert in Cleveland, we find the time to make it happen. Why is it so much harder to prioritize our own well-being?
It’s too hard find a good therapist
5. Too hard find a good therapist. This one is the easiest because you’re here. At EWN we do our best to get you to the right therapist for you. If we don’t fit what you need, that’s OK, we have the experience and know-how to help you find the best therapist for you. Call us.
Most of us say, “hey, how are you?” to at least one person each day. When was the last time you asked yourself that question? How do joy, sadness or frustration feel for you? If you don’t know, then it’s time to find out.
Learning to check in with your emotions can pay off in a number of ways:
1. Naming an emotion takes away its power. In The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves author Stephen Grosz suggests that unnamed emotions drive actions that create unnecessary chaos and pain. So much heartache could be prevented if we stopped to identify our emotions before acting rashly. Grosz compares these strong, unacknowledged emotions to the proverbial tail that wags the dog.
2. Checking in with yourself is an important first step to creating change. If you don’t know how you’re feeling it’s nearly impossible to respond thoughtfully to a difficult situation. Imagine you are lost in the woods. How are you going to find your way home if you don’t even know where you are? Once you know your current emotional location you will be ready to start the journey back.
3. Knowing that moods change makes it easier to tolerate the bad and savor the good. If you don’t pay attention to your feelings, you are likely to miss a positive emotion, especially if it’s fleeting. Positive emotions are like a cat basking in a pool of sunshine: beautiful, temporary, but thankfully still very real. Fortunately, no bad mood lasts forever. While it may sound counterintuitive, it can also be helpful to to stay with a bad mood, especially if you are still learning to name your emotions. It’s an uncomfortable, but important practice, especially for people who tend to avoid negative feelings.
4. You’ll be practicing mindfulness. If you check in with your emotional state in the here and now you’re also staying in the present. According to mindfulness expert Jon Kabat Zinn, “the only moment we’re ever alive in is now.” Learning to name the emotion you feel right now helps break the cycles of reliving the past or worrying about the future which prevent us from being fully aware of our lives in the present.
5. You will be kinder. Broadening your inner emotional vocabulary will allow you to be more empathic. It’s pretty hard to see things from the perspective of another if you don’t know what emotions actually feel like. Once you know how you’re feeling you may also be nicer to yourself. You will be able to respond to your own needs with greater kindness and understanding.
Learning to take your own emotional temperature can pay off in many ways. This useful skill can help you make better decisions, respond thoughtfully in tough situations, and it may even make you a better friend.
Photo credit: Tim Oller
It makes me so happy to welcome Emily Becker, LMSW, and Christine Frank, LMSW, to EWN! ~Dr. Aletta
Christine is easy-going, friendly, empathetic, non-judgmental. She’s funny and real in a wonderful down to earth way.
She can help pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults move through those difficult life transitions that can make a person feel lost. Most importantly she can hear your story. She’s a great listener.
Emily’s experience and skills cover treating mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, as well as eating disorders, and the issues around relationships or life stress. In your work together, Emily will use a number of therapeutic models including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy; however, she strongly believes that it’s the strength of the relationship you create together that generates meaningful change.
Emily will strive to greet each session with a curious mind and an open heart.
It’s not just how you feel about him. It’s about how he makes you feel about yourself.
It’s not about losing yourself in him. It’s about becoming true to yourself with him.
It’s not about how great he is. It’s about how great you can become along side him.
It’s not about how much you love him. It’s about how much he helps you love yourself.
It’s not about his finding room in his heart for you. It’s about his finding room in his life for your energy, drive, ambition, passions and interests.
It’s not just about how good he is deep down. It’s about how you experience his goodness as you live your life together.
It’s not about how he makes you hungry to be with him. It’s about how much he makes you feel at home when you are with him.
It’s not about the love you share. It’s about your ability to fully, equally, deeply share your life together.
It’s about falling in like.
Yup, times have changed. What used to be considered a cute duet between a couple sharing a winter evening together has a wee bit of an uncomfortable feel these days. I heard about this new version on NPR and thought it was worth a share in case you haven’t heard it yet. Merry Christmas!
This quote (one of my favorites) is all about avoidance and procrastination. Avoidance and procrastination, the twin demons of my psyche, generate anxiety and guilt. Dr. Brown offers the antidote to anxiety driven by guilt in her concise, direct way. If I were a tattoo kind of girl I’d tattoo that quote into the palm of my hand so I could see it everyday. Choose discomfort over resentment.
“But I don’t want to be uncomfortable!” I whine. Uncomfortable sucks. Is it really better than resentment?
Yeah. I’m afraid so. Discomfort is a moment to work through. Resentment is forever. Discomfort is like a sleepless night before confronting a task at work or presenting a report to the boss or picking up the phone to say “No” to the latest request from a friend, the kids’ school, a cause you really believe in. Oh my God, my heart is beating faster just imaging this! Does yours?
When we push through the guilt and nerves, we make the phone call and keep our promise to ourselves to say “No”, we feel relief, maybe even pride. No resentment; anxiety gone. What’s left is an eye blinking moment when we admit to ourselves that that wasn’t so bad. We sleep like babies.
What if the stakes are higher? Starting a new business, taking the first step in breaking up a relationship, facing those monstrous obstacles that get in the way of our happiness… The higher the stakes the greater the discomfort and the potential resentment.
We all know people who have “If only” syndrome. “If only I did this when I was younger,” or “if only I did that when I had the chance.” If we’re lucky we know a few people who did choose discomfort over resentment. They say, “Yup, I quit that soul sucking job, one of hardest things I ever did, and then I did something I’d been wanting to do all my life.” Or…”When I finally left him I was scared to death, but here I am free to make my own way and I’m so excited for the adventure of it all.” Often they are the same person, which can be very cool.
The Explore What’s Next logo represents a hill which itself represents a well-loved metaphor about confronting anxiety. The thing we avoid is at the top of the hill. The hardest part is putting one foot in front of the other, believing in your worthiness and strength even when every cell in our body wants to turn around and run back down. Therapy is often about learning that you’ve got what it takes to lean into that discomfort, get to the top of the hill and enjoy the view.
Waking up a little draggy this morning I turned to RuPaul. She perked me right up, so of course I had to share!
Five more Inspirational Quotes from Momma Ru:
- “True wealth is having the knowledge to maneuver and navigate the mental obstacles that inhibit your ability to soar.”
- “When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.”
- “Rise up and be a Masai warrior. Stake your claim in this lifetime. Remember who you really are. Unleash the dragon and let these bitches have it!”
- “…You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!”
- “Biggest obstacle I ever faced was my own limited perception of myself.”
And one of the best positive calls to find a good therapist I’ve ever heard:
“Learn to love yourself, ’cause if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Did I miss your favorite RuPaul-ism? You must share, too! Click on the Comments button above the post to pass on the wisdom. <3
“He is a wise man
who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has.”
~Epictetus, Greek philosopher and a very wise guy
There are lots of reasons not to be crazy about this holiday. Putting up with kids that aren’t yours, in-laws who have an uncanny ability to push all your buttons, license to over-eat and over-drink, conversations that are either too intense or too boring and, my personal favorite, a lot of tongue-biting just to get through the day in one piece.
I can only imagine that for many of us this post-election 2016 Thanksgiving may rise to new heights of stressful. The confusion, grieving, fear and anger are still raw. For the sake of the children, and our own state of mind, let’s refocus. Thanksgiving is a time of healing, bringing together and above all love.
Give yourself permission to feel OK. Allowing yourself to be happy does not mean that you’ve accepted a situation you do not like, or that you are done trying to figure out your place in a changed world.
Here are some articles for you because there may be people who aren’t as wise as you are and won’t know when to shut up…