I am 28 years old and have been going to a psychotherapist for almost one year. I first decided to go when my drinking and other vices became unchecked and my loneliness following a move sent me deep into depression and hopelessness. I felt awful.
Well, I found a therapist and was very happy to simply have someone to talk to. I felt excluded at my work and had not made any friends with whom I felt I could be honest. I found myself going just to talk about anything with someone...which I suppose was indirectly beneficial.
Now, I get the sense that she feels frustrated with me because she knows I'm not completely forthcoming with her. And I'm not. I'm so overwhelmed by the potential certain embarrassment I'm going to feel when I reveal to her that it is the feeling of embarrassment itself that paralyzes me. I'll do anything to avoid it and I'm (almost) willing to stop therapy because I'm so terrified of looking foolish. What's more is that the reproach this creates makes me feel more powerless. How can I overcome this perceived danger of feeling ridiculous?
I know intellectually what I should do, but logic hasn't really played an enormous part in my emotional life (why listen now). Arrgh! Any suggestions?
Therapy can be indirectly beneficial or directly beneficial. So why not go for direct? You are obviously reaching out for contact and help, and that's the good news. It's within the realm of your uncomfortable feelings (that are coming up in the therapy context) that you will find the doorway to real change.
Somehow, up till now, you've made choices about keeping those feelings hidden that have kept you primarily isolated. Isolation is dangerous, and counter-productive. Again, the good news is that you're genuinely reaching out, and that you have a desire to change.
Therapy is a setting that can make that journey a safe one for you. It can be a place where you try out new behavior and new levels of self-revealing, and then learn how to integrate that into your larger life. Your intellect can only take you so far into the realm of uncomfortable feelings. Take some steps beyond that point. Let yourself be known. Sidney Jourrard, in his book The Transparent Self, said that a large part of a person's mental health rests on how well she lets herself be known by another. Do it. Take that leap. Or at least some small steps in the right direction. You may be surprised to find out that your therapist won't reject you or judge you the way you fear, but will actually help you explore your feelings of self-loathing and embarrassment, and help you uproot them from the hold they have on you.
Consciousness is the cure. If you keep your feelings hidden, you stay in the dark with them, and then not much, if anything, changes. Take some chances. Therapy can make that risky proposition of letting the truth be known, a safe one. Go for it!
This question was answered by Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT. He is a nationally certified counselor in private psychotherapy practice in South Florida working with individuals, couples, and families with a deep-feeling therapy approach. Andy's medical background as an ICU nurse contributes to his success with clients with difficult medical diagnoses and/or chronic physical conditions. He also serves as head of the Psychological Support Department of West Palm Beach's Hippocrates Health Institute.
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