'I Don't Want to Discuss It': When Therapy Makes You Uncomfortable
Human beings tend to avoid pain at all costs. When emotional discomfort affects your life to the point where you’re having trouble functioning, it’s probably time to see a therapist. Talk therapy is an excellent place to let out your emotions, including pain and anger. The feelings within you are intense, and maybe you feel frozen by them. It’s hard to get these overwhelming emotions out of your mind and put them into words. Perhaps you’re afraid to express them because when you say them aloud, it makes them “real.” A therapist has experience with people who are fearful to confront their emotions. You might believe something terrible will happen when you reveal your feelings, so it makes sense that you’re terrified to talk about them.
What could go wrong?
One of the things people worry about when they go to talk therapy, “What could go wrong?” In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), therapists teach us about cognitive distortions. These are common thoughts that influence us to think negatively and can lead to anxiety or depression. One of the distortions is called “catastrophizing.” It means you’re thinking about the outcome of a situation and all you can imagine is something awful happening. When a person is entering therapy and they’re afraid of what’s to come in a session, they could be catastrophizing.
Some of us have secrets we’ve never shared with anyone, even our close friends and family. Shame is a concern when it comes to seeing a therapist. There could be an issue that you don’t want to confront. Denial is a powerful force, and if you continue to tell yourself the lie that everything is OK, you’ll live in a perpetual state of denial. However, it isn’t healthy to continually lie to yourself. It’s crucial to accept who you are, flaws and all. If you have a secret you’re ashamed of, one of the safest places to reveal this secret with a therapist. That’s why seeing a counselor may be a way to find out who you are inside the good, the scary and somewhere in between those two things.
Who are you?
Have you heard of the term “existential crisis”? Many people experience identity issues when they are moving from childhood to teenage years. Adolescence is a typical time for people to wonder who they are and the adult they’re becoming. Teens aren’t quite children but not yet grown-ups. From 13-18 can be a tumultuous time or an enlightening one and at times a bit of both. This period is when many people solidify their identities. There are some people go through a “late adolescence” into their 20s, and that’s when they find their identity. I know of a woman who rebelled against her parents when she turned 23. She was a straight-A student in high school and had a high GPA in college. Once she left school, she had the opportunity to see who she was without her parents. She remembered the pressure they put on her to be academically successful and pushed back against this as a young 20-something by entering into the most non-academic career she could find: a lead singer in a band. She ended up finding her identity there and fell in love with performance. Eventually, her parents accepted her, and now she’s happy in her career as a music artist.
Finding yourself can take a lifetime.
In many cases finding out who you are is a lifetime of work, which brings us back to therapy. As we grow as people, we change. Change is the only constant thing in life; even though you have a core self, through experiences you grow and evolve as a person. Your identity will subtly (or in some cases radically) change as you age, meet new people, get into a long-term romantic relationship and develop your career. Still, change can be scary to many people. Sometimes change can be positive.
If you’re afraid to start therapy, you’re not alone. There are many others out there who are terrified to confront their problems. Remember your fear is natural, and that’s something you can talk about in your first session with a new therapist. To get the help you need, whether that’s with an online therapist or one in your local area, it’s crucial to be candid with your feelings. Talk therapy can help you in a multitude of ways. Honor your fear, and investigate mental health treatment anyway. You can discover how therapy can help you by giving it a try.
Getty image by sam thomas.